Chapter 3

Scriptural Traditions

While serving as a full-time missionary in Australia, my companions and I would frequently come across members of other Christian faiths who were active in their religions and content with their level of spirituality. They studied the Bible every week in their churches, obeyed the commandments and felt that they were walking on the right path back to God. They were good people who were living in accordance with the righteous truths they had received thus far in their lives.

Our approach as missionaries was to share with them the further testament and truths concerning Jesus Christ that were contained in the Book of Mormon. Surely anyone who was a practicing Christian and who loved to read Jesus’ teachings in the Bible would be interested in reading other accounts of Christ’s teachings and visits here on earth. Or so we thought. Our dialogue usually ran something like this.

Missionaries: “If you are a member of the _____ faith, you believe in the Bible, right?”

Christian: “Yes, I study the Bible regularly and try to live my life by its teachings.”

Missionaries: “Do you enjoy reading Jesus Christ’s words as recorded by His disciples?”

Christian: “Sure. I think it’s great to have a record of his words to his followers. I probably enjoy the New Testament the most because it gives us Jesus’ words exactly.”

Missionaries: “Then if you knew that there were other books containing Jesus Christ’s words that were not included in the Bible, would you also be interested in reading those scriptures as well?”

Christian: “Yes, I suppose I would if I knew they were really His words.”

Missionaries: “We have a copy of the Book of Mormon which contains Christ’s exact words and teachings to people who lived in the America’s anciently. The Savior visited these people shortly after his resurrection and taught them His gospel, too. The people’s prophets recorded His words to them and if you will read it, you will see that it is a second witness to Jesus Christ’s teachings and role as our Savior. Would you like a copy to look at?”

Christian: “No thanks, I don’t believe in the Mormon Bible. I think I will just stick to my own Bible and what I know is true already.”

It would always amaze me that such strong Christian believers would reject even looking at the Book of Mormon without knowing one word that was in it. It was depressing as a missionary to see such close-mindedness when I could plainly see that these good people were trying to live righteously according to the truth they had received. What was it that stopped them from wanting more truth?

Prophets in the Book of Mormon in 500 BCE prophesy of this precise attitude toward receiving further truth in our day. In 2 Nephi chapter 28, the prophet Nephi sees our times and the divisions of religions that lead to rejection of the truth. “Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!” (BM 2 Nephi 28:29) “…Many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.” (BM 2 Nephi 29:3)

What follows this verse is a very strong injunction from the Lord not to reject His further teachings to any people to whom He has spoken. “Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord, your God have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all nations of the earth? Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also. And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever. Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible, ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written.” (BM 2 Nephi 29: 7-10)

The rationale behind giving so many diverse words to separate peoples is explained by the Lord as necessary because of the differences of level of understanding that each group has. The Lord will not give higher laws to those who are not yet ready to receive them, but gives “unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.” (BM 2 Nephi 28:30)

In speaking about the differences in revealed truths between faiths, the Quran mentions that God has “ordained a law and assigned a path for each of you. Had Allah pleased, He could have made you one nation; but it is His wish to prove you by that which He has bestowed upon you.” (Surah 5:48) Additionally, God “will charge no soul with more than it can bear.” (Surah 23:62) Each revealed scripture contains what is necessary for the next step in spiritual understanding and progress for that people, not truths that are miles above their grasp or impossible for them to live by in the context of their current lives. Just because one group of people is not ready to receive more light and truth than another group, it does not mean their scriptures are any less true or that they should be discarded as something other than God’s word.

Not surprisingly, the Quran also includes similar passages in which God speaks about the rejection of the Quran by people who would say that they already have enough truth. “And now that a Book confirming their own has come to them from Allah, they deny it, although they know it to be the truth and have long prayed for help against the unbelievers…To deny Allah’s own revelation, grudging that He should reveal His bounty to whom He chooses from His servants!…When it is said to them: ‘Believe in what Allah has revealed,’ they reply: ‘We believe in what was revealed to us’. But they deny what has since been revealed, although it is the truth, corroborating their own scriptures.” (Surah 2: 89-91)

It seems that a common problem with people of all ages is the desire to walk only in the traditions of their fathers, whether they be righteous or not, according to what truth, if any, they have received. This was a major difficulty during the Prophet Muhammad’s time in overcoming the traditional pagan and idolatrous beliefs in pre-Islamic Arabia. It was also a recurring theme in the Book of Mormon that stood in the way of the efforts of countless prophets to declare the truth to the Lamanites.[1]

The Quran further states: “When it is said to them: ‘Follow what Allah has revealed,’ they reply, ‘We will follow nothing but the faith of our fathers.’ Yes, even though Satan is inviting them to the scourge of Hell.” (Surah 31:21) “Thus, whenever, before you, We sent an apostle to warn a nation, those who lived in comfort said, ‘This was the faith our fathers practised; we are merely walking in their footsteps.’ Each apostle said: ‘What if I bring you a religion more enlightened than your fathers’?’ But they replied: ‘We deny the message you have brought.’ So we took vengeance on them. Consider the fate of those who disbelieved our warning.” (Surah 43:23-25)

Perhaps the reason for such narrow vision is the comfort that this verse mentions. We are all comfortable with the words of scripture we have received thus far because we know they are true and it is easy to believe in them because our fathers believed in them and taught us the truth of them. So why should we seek for more?

If one set of scriptures would have been sufficient for all of God’s children to learn the truth for all earthly time, then He would have revealed it only once in one language and that would have been adequate. Unfortunately, through time, many of the records have become changed, hidden, lost or mistranslated. The truths have become clouded and obscure and people do not have enough of the original truth left to follow. This is why it has been necessary for new prophets to come forth to restore the truths in their purity once again.

The Quran mentions the Biblical teachings of the Christians that had become altered by the sixth century and that the straight path could be found again through the teachings of the Book that Muhammad revealed. “People of the Book! Our apostle has come to reveal to you much of what you have hidden of the Scriptures, and to forgive you much. A light has come to you from Allah and a glorious Book, with which He will guide to the paths by His will from darkness to the light; He will guide them to a straight path.” (Surah 5:15,16) Considering the doctrine of the Trinitarian essence of God that came out of the counsel of Nicea in the fourth century and the various debates over which books should be included in the Bible compilation, it is little wonder that the Quran teachings as revealed afresh would be considered a more pure source for truth than the Bible during those times.

The Book of Mormon states that many plain and precious truths were taken out of the book that contained the record of the Jews and that “because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble…” (BM 1 Nephi 13: 29) The Lord further declares that He will bring forth the truth once again to the gentiles (non-Jews) through other records that He will cause to be written.[2]

Whenever doctrines have been lost or changed through men’s interference and corruption, the Lord has replaced them with a new book through a new prophet. But not every truth will be revealed to every group of people. Again, this depends on the level of their readiness and spiritual preparation. The main difference in what was given to Muhammad as compared to that which was contained in the original Gospel as taught by Christ and also the doctrines revealed to the people of the Book of Mormon is the doctrine of atonement[3] and the ordinances of salvation.

Given the Arabian peoples’ idolatrous beliefs and female infanticide (killing of babies), it makes sense that the first step would be to reintroduce the true character of the One God and a basic set of commandments to follow. The “Law of Moses”, also known as the “lesser law”[4], is what is taught in the Quran (with the modification of forgiveness being better than seeking just recompense under the law of retaliation and retribution), not the higher doctrines of atonement and priesthood keys.

The important point here for Mormons is that the lack of mention of these doctrines in the Quran does not in any way discount or invalidate the rest of the true Quranic teachings simply because they are not present. The same similarity exists between Old and New Testament teachings. Many tenets of the Mosaic Law as found in the Pentateuch (first five books of the Old Testament) were given as basic commandments and types fore-telling of the “higher law”[5] which was to come. When Christ came, as recorded in the New Testament, He referred to Himself as fulfilling the lesser law - not destroying it.[6] He then personally revealed the higher laws to the people, many of which are contained in the beautiful teachings of the Sermon on the Mount.[7]

Islam upholds all the teachings of Christ as found in the Bible as far as they have not been altered (or translated incorrectly) save those with reference to His divine nature. While the Quran speaks of Christ in His prophetic role in restoring and bringing the gospel light and truth to the Jews, it does not reveal Him in His divine role as the Savior. The responsibility that this knowledge carries and the higher laws that would result have not been included. However, the Quran does refer to Jesus as the Messiah which is a direct reference to His divine mission and Muslims believe that one day He will return to teach them once again.

So, if Islam requires a lesser law than what we feel we have been given, why should Mormons study its doctrines? What can be gained on our end by studying the Quran if it does not contain our basic principles regarding salvation and the atonement? The same question I asked my contacts as a missionary is a valid point to consider here. If Mormons believe and follow God’s teachings and love His truths, should we not also be interested in anything He has said at any time to any people? Should we not take the time to study His words that He has deemed important enough to be recorded and that serve as His guidebook for one fifth of the world’s population today? Or do we feel we have enough with our scriptures as they are and don’t need any more? Are we as guilty as any other who would answer, “A Bible, a Bible! We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!”

The same set of questions could be asked equally of Muslims. Would it not be of benefit to read more of God’s words that He has given through His prophets in different ages to different peoples? “Of some apostles We have already told you (how Allah spoke directly to Moses); but there are others of whom We have not yet spoken; apostles who brought good news to mankind and admonished them, so that they might have no pleas against Allah after their coming.” (Surah 4: 163-166) If this surah is true, would it not be important and helpful to know more of the words of these other prophets whom Allah has also commanded to speak His words? The invitation to learn more truth from each other’s scriptures is extended to of us.

Through my study of the Quran over the years of my tenure in the Middle East and through many conversations I have had with Muslims regarding its teachings, I have come to appreciate the beauty and power of many of the verses that teach gospel principles. It is like looking at the hub of a wheel through another spoke or the view of the valley from the opposite mountain height. I have gained a deeper understanding of the many fundamental aspects of the truths that our religions share. Several times in recent years, our LDS prophets have counseled us to stick to the basic teachings of the gospel and work on following them rather than delve for deeper mysteries. The Quran is full of these foundational principles that our Father requires all of His children to follow and we should be grateful for any additional insights we can gain by reading it. Similarly, such truths are also found in the Book of Mormon and would provide deeper understanding from a different perspective for Muslims as well.

This is not to say that either of us should neglect or supplant our daily study of our own scriptures or even attempt to read some other record before we have read and understood our own first. But we can enjoy and even strengthen our testimonies by looking at the same principles through different contexts and broaden our understanding by comparing them with our own revealed word.

For example, the first chapter of the Quran known as the fatihah (translated as “the opening”), is one of the most beautiful and comprehensive passages that has been given to man in any age. Muslims recite this chapter every time they pray and it is considered to be the essence of Islam contained in just seven verses. “In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Praise be to Allah the Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds: Most Gracious, Most Merciful; Master of the Day of Judgment. Thee alone do we worship, and Thine aid we seek. Show us the straight way, the way of those on whom Thou has bestowed Thy Grace, those whose portion is not wrath. And who go not astray.”[8]

The commentary included in the Saudi Arabian King Fahed Center translation of the Quran explains the importance of this Surah by noting that when using these verses in prayer, “…we can pray aright, [and] it means that we have some knowledge of Allah and His attributes, of His relations to us and His creation, which includes ourselves; that we glimpse the source from which we come, and that final goal which is our spiritual destiny under Allah’s true judgment: then we offer ourselves to Allah and seek His light.”[9]

The footnotes on these verses further state that “By universal consent it is rightly placed at the beginning of the Quran, as summing up, in marvelously terse and comprehensive words, man’s relation to Allah in contemplation and prayer. In our spiritual contemplation the first words should be those of praise. If the praise is from our inmost being, it brings us closer to Allah. Then our eyes see all good, peace, and harmony. Evil, rebellion, and conflict are purged out. They do not exist for us, for our eyes are lifted up above them in praise. Then we see Allah’s attributes better (verses 2-4). This leads us to the attitude of worship and acknowledgment (verse 5). And finally comes prayer for guidance, and a contemplation of what guidance means (verses 6-7).”[10]

By reciting this passage five times a day as a preamble to their prayers, Muslims are able to block out the world’s distractions and focus on the reality of the spiritual world and what all of us are really doing here on earth.

As far as LDS gospel teachings are concerned, the fatihah is a good example of how man should respectfully address God in prayer, praise and thank Him for His role in our lives and ask for His continued help in guiding us back to His presence. It is a powerful passage of scripture to ponder and from which to gain insights about our Heavenly Father’s character and dealings with us.

Other gospel truths addressed in the following 114 chapters in the Quran include the important topics of prayer, repentance, faith, the Holy Spirit, tithing (alms), word of wisdom (health law), fasting, family unity, resurrection, Day of Judgment, paradise and heaven, chastity and the ten commandments. There are also references to temples, covenants, Gog and Magog, the Books of Abraham and Moses[11], eternal family (family relations in paradise) and what many LDS scholars believe to be the Prophet Lehi (Hud in the Quran)[12] which are of special interest to Mormons.

Some of my personal favorites that correlate strongly with LDS scriptures and teachings include the passages on God’s omniscience[13], our sins of ingratitude for His blessings[14] not living on borrowed light[15], the presence of guardian angels[16], enduring to the end[17], the need for trials and chastisement[18], sacrifice of the heart[19], and guarding against pride and arrogance[20]. Additionally, the Surah of Miriam (Mary, mother of Jesus) gives a beautiful account of the birth of the Savior starting with the story of Zacharias and John the Baptist’s birth.[21]

There is also a wonderful parable of two vineyards[22] (which seems to be a favorite topic for parables in most of the scriptures we have) and all the way through the Quran there are enlightening accounts of the lives of all the major dispensational prophets: Abraham, Moses, Noah, Adam, Enoch, and Christ. Examples and teachings from Lot, Job, Jonah, Elijah, David and Goliath, Solomon and David, Joseph in Egypt, Isaac and Ishmael, and Cain and Abel are also told in story form throughout many Surahs.

There are many spiritual insights that can be gained by reading the Quran prayerfully and with understanding. It is a good idea to also read the commentaries from Muslim scholars that are included in most fully translated copies. Four versions are recommended. The first, which is used primarily for reference in this book, is the Penguin paperback edition The Koran, translated by N.J. Dawood. Although this version only contains brief footnotes with no commentary, the English is very readable in modern language style and for a first attempt, might be easier to understand if you want to read quickly for general comprehension. Being a Penguin book, this version is usually the one most frequently stocked in bookstores without having to special order.

For comparisons and research into specific passages and commentary, two other versions are normally used world-wide. The first is a huge volume by Abdallah Yusuf Ali, The Glorious Quran: Translation and Commentary, and the second is by Mohammad Marmaduke Pickthall, The Meaning of the Glorious Koran. Both of these volumes provide thorough commentary although the English translation is a bit more challenging (like reading Biblical English as compared to the more modern English found in the Doctrine and Covenants). They should be readily orderable through most bookstores sources and

The fourth version is entitled Interpretations of the Meanings of The Noble Qur’an in the English Language, published by Dar-us-Salam in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 1996 & 2011 (available online at The translation is said to be the most accurate and it contains a summary of commentaries and hadith from Al-Tabari, Al-Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir and Al-Bukhari, all of whom are notable historic names in Islamic doctrinal matters.

The Quran is organized in such a way that the longer chapters (surahs) are at the beginning while the shorter chapters are towards the end of the book. Surah number two is the longest at 286 verses and Surah number 114 only contains six verses.

Even the meaning of the Arabic words for chapter and verse have a religious focus implied. The word for chapter, Surah, translates to “degree or step by which we mount up” and the word for verse, ayat, means “sign” which refers to “a verse of revelation as a sign of Allah’s wisdom and goodness just as much as Allah’s beautiful handiwork in the material creation or His dealings in history are signs to us, if we would understand.”[23]

Each verse of the Quran can be taken as a separate unit in which there is a teaching of truth that points to God. While the Bible and Book of Mormon are written principally in narrative form telling stories through the linking of several verses together (as befitting a journal or other written forms), the Quran is compiled primarily from many separate verses covering diverse topics arranged together by date of revelation rather than content. So, a verse addressing prayer might be sandwiched in between two verses addressing divorce and the treatment of widows.[24] Then, in a later revelation, there will be other verses addressing these same issues that are similar to the first ones. This may seem rather disjointed and hard to read for those of us accustomed to narrative scriptures.

The reason for this is two-fold, first because the Quran was revealed through oral transmission, that is, the Angel Gabriel speaking to Muhammad and then Muhammad reciting the words to others to memorize, it would have been nearly impossible to transmit that much information all at once. So, the Quran was given in many smaller separate parts that were easier to remember and could be reinforced by other verses later on after the first ones had been committed to memory. Also, in a discussion between two people, it is normal to jump from one topic to the next, so the Quran follows the format of human speech when having a conversation. All the topics are linked, however, to the main focus- that of man and his relationship to God, how to worship Him and be guided to live properly in this life.

The second reason deals with the principle of abrogation or replacement as explained in the Quran. The principle of abrogation came into play if there were any mistakes in the transmission and memorization by the prophet or his followers, or if there needed to be more information revealed in later years about that specific subject in addition to what had already been brought to light (keeping in mind that it was over the space of 22 years that Muhammad received the Quranic revelations).

The later verses do not nullify the earlier ones so much as make clearer the doctrines contained therein. But this is why there are so many verses that seem to be repetitive and speak about the same points in different places throughout the Quran. God declares, “If We abrogate any verse or cause it to be forgotten We will replace it by a better one or one similar.” (Surah 2:106) It is interesting that God would cause verses to be forgotten, but if they were wrongly memorized, it makes sense to replace them with new ones that were more correct.

The Quran also has many verses that are intentionally ambiguous. This is explained by God as a means of separating the wise from the true disbelievers. “It is He (Allah) who has revealed to you the Koran. Some of its verses are precise in meaning - they are the foundation of the Book - and others ambiguous. Those whose hearts are infected with disbelief follow the ambiguous part, so as to create dissension by seeking to explain it. But no one knows its meaning except Allah. Those who are well-grounded in knowledge say: ‘We believe in it: it is all from our Lord. But only the wise take heed.” (Surah 3:7) This passage is similar to the reason the Savior taught in parables so that “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (KJV Matthew 11:15)

But the Quran overall was initially revealed as “a book uniform in style proclaiming promises and warnings… We have revealed it in the Arabic tongue, a Koran free from all faults (crookedness), that they may guard themselves against evil”. (Surah 39:23, 28) The Quran was given aurally, made to be heard rather than read. The matching intonation, rhythm and rhyme of the Arabic language in specialized recitation (qira’at in Arabic) is beautiful to listen to and causes the hearer to be “filled with awe as they listen to its revelations, so that their hearts soften at the remembrance of Allah.” (Surah 39:23)

This is why the Quran is considered the literal word of God to Muslims if it is recited in Arabic, as any other language translation simply could not compare to the original spoken word of God that has power to pierce the heart. The fact that Muslims recite the Quran in their prayers five times daily also makes sense in order to insure the spoken retention of the original words as well as having to commit several verses to memory in order to pray. This perpetuates the oral tradition of the Quran from generation to generation and helps to maintain the consistency of the original text.

So, it is important when reading any English translation of the Quran to remember that it will only be a close approximation to the original Arabic words, but not really a literal one equal in meaning or style. In fact, even the three recommended translations mentioned above are widely diverse in their choice of words for any given verse. Discrepancies in translation can cause misrepresentations in meaning as well. The commentaries are helpful, but the best aid in reading the Quran is to do so with the spirit and an open heart toward understanding God’s truths.

Similar difficulties will be presented for any Muslim who reads the Book of Mormon or other LDS scriptures in Arabic. Translations are proximal at best for words that are not found in Islamic texts and will be hard to gain exactness of understanding at first. There is a new translation currently in progress, but even when it is available, it will still take a certain familiarity with LDS terminology or Arabic approximations to be able to really comprehend the full meaning. 

I have found that the more I read the Quran, the easier it becomes to understand. I am sure the same is true for a Muslim who reads the Book of Mormon. But the benefits far outweigh the difficulties and hopefully the understanding will follow without too much additional effort on either part.

There is much we can gain from reading each other’s scriptures. Perhaps the biggest benefit of all is in developing an attitude of compassion and charity for each other in striving to live by the teachings of these books. If we understand what God has given us and see how closely these basic principles follow our own revealed truths, we can join together on a common righteous ground against the adversarial forces that confront us in today’s world. We can work on building those bridges of respect, understanding and righteous commitment to revealed truth that will allow for positive interactions and dialogue between us. This will permit us to look past the individual points of doctrine that bear any discrepancies and focus instead on the true principles that we both uphold.

In the Quran, God proclaims, “Children of Israel, remember the favours I have bestowed upon you. Keep your covenant, and I will be true to Mine. Revere Me. Have faith in My revelations, which confirm your scriptures, and do not be the first to deny them.” (Surah 2:40,41) If all people would be willing to accept all of God’s words here on earth, it will be that much easier for us to accept the further revealed truths that He has yet to grant us through living prophets and in person when Christ will come again to teach us all as one.

[1] The Lamanites were another group of early American peoples who split off from the Nephites shortly upon arriving in the Americas. For examples of difficulties in overcoming former false traditions, see entries under “tradition” in the LDS King James Version Bible Topical Guide and indices.

[2] BM 1 Nephi 13: 35-41

[3] “atonement” refers to Christ’s role as Savior and Mediator and will be discussed at length in chapter 6.

[4] The “lesser law” or “Law of Moses” dealt primarily with the doctrine of just retribution- an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, where mercy was not employed.

[5] The “higher law” was based on mercy through forgiveness of sins as brought about by Christ’s atonement. See BM Alma 34, BM Alma 42 and BM 2 Nephi 9 for further clarification on the LDS viewpoint and definition of atonement, mercy and justice.

[6] BM 1 Nephi 13: 35-41, Matthew 5:17

[7] KJV Matthew 5-7

[8] Quran, King Fahed Translation Center, Saudi Arabia, pp. 3,4

[9] Ibid, p.2

[10] Ibid, p.3

[11] The books of Abraham and Moses are contained in the LDS Pearl of Great Price and are considered scripture.

[12] Lehi was the Prophet Nephi’s father at the beginning of the Book of Mormon who traveled with his family through Arabia to the Hadhramaut. His story in the Book of Mormon parallels the account of the prophet Hud in the Quran. See

[13] Surah 64:1-4

[14] Surah 14:32-34 compare to BM Mosiah 4

[15] Surah 57:12-15 compare with parable of the virgins in KJV Matthew 25: 1-13

[16] Surah 13:8-11

[17] Surah 13: 20-24; Surah 3:199, 200

[18] Surah 2: 214, 216 compare D&C 122; Surah 57:22,23; Surah 32:21,22

[19] Surah 3:92

[20] Surah 31:18, 19

[21] Surah 19: 2-34

[22] Surah 18:32-44

[23] Quran King Fahed Translation, p.2

[24] Surah 2:237-240