One of the teachings of the Book of Mormon that is well known among the members of the Church is that the Bible has suffered a loss of many plain and precious parts. This fact was revealed to Nephi when he was given the vision his father had seen of the nations and kingdoms of the Gentiles. (1 Ne. 13).
He saw that after the record of the Jews had gone forth in purity, the great and abominable church took away "many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away." (v. 26.) Taking these things away has caused "an exceedingly great number to stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them." (v. 29.)The information given in this vision is one of the basic tenets of the eighth Article of Faith which states: "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly. . . ."
There is another important message given in that vision that is not as well-known to the membership of the Church, and that pertains to how much of the original material (from the plates of brass) was literally "taken away."
As Nephi beheld in vision a book carried by the Gentiles upon the land of America, the angel explained: "The book that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; and it also containeth many of the prophecies of the holy prophets; and it is a record like unto the engravings which are upon the plates of brass, save there are not so many; nevertheless, they contain the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; wherefore, they are of great worth unto the Gentiles." (1 Ne. 13:23; italics added.)
Nephi said the Bible was a smaller book than the plates of brass. A comparison of the two records reveals that there appears to have been a tremendous loss of material compared to the plates of the brass record by the Nephites.
Even though the plates of brass contained records of the Jews only down to the "commencement of the reign of Zedekiah" and the prophecies of the prophets for the same time, including many spoken by Jeremiah (1 Ne. 5:12-13), they contained more than the record of the Jews (the Bible), which the Gentiles brought to this land. And that record contained an additional 139 pages of the later books of the Old Testament and 290 pages of the New Testament.
The taking away of many parts of the Old Testament is supported from the Bible itself and from modern revelation. The King James Version (KJV) translation of Jeremiah 8:8 reads: "Lo, certainly in vain made he it; the pen of the scribes is in vain." Other versions translate this verse to more directly show the taking away of precious truths. "But, behold, the false pen of the scribes has made it into a lie" (Revised Standard Version); "Indeed the lying pen of the scribes hath wrought falsehood" (New Catholic Version); "When actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?" (New International Version); "the false pen of the scribes worketh for falsehood" (Marginal Reading KJV). The Savior chastised the lawyers "for ye have taken away the key of knowledge." (Luke 11:52.) The Joseph Smith Translation added, "the fullness of the scriptures." (JST Luke 11:53.)
As Joseph began his translation of the Bible, it was revealed to him that Moses was shown that his writings would have many words taken from them: "And in a day when the children of men shall esteem my words as naught and take many of them from the book which thou shalt write, behold, I will raise up another like unto thee; and they shall be had again among the children of men - among as many as shall believe." (Moses 1:41.)
The person raised up to restore Moses' words was, of course, Joseph Smith. The book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price and other additions in the Joseph Smith Translation show the Prophet's work on the books attributed to Moses. The amount of material restored in the eight chapters of Moses and the JST throughout the book of Genesis confirms the statement that many words were taken away from Moses' words. Had Joseph Smith had more time to work on his translation of the Bible, there undoubtedly would have been more words restored.
It was probably this work that led Joseph Smith to declare: "I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 327).
The Book of Mormon also gives us insight into some of the things that were taken from the original records both in books and in topics. Zenos is an oft-quoted prophet in the Book of Mormon. Jacob chapter five is the single longest chapter in the Book of Mormon (6 1/2 pages), and is a quotation of the allegory of Zenos teaching the destiny of the house of Israel. The fact that it was part of the plates of brass but not in the Bible illustrates a loss of the knowledge of the covenants of the Lord to the house of Israel from that record. It is a testimony of the building upon the sure foundation of Christ. (Jacob 4:15-18.)
Zenos also taught of the signs of Christ's death both in America and Jerusalem. (1 Ne. 19:10, 17.) He further taught of worship through prayer. (Alma 33:3-11), and also spoke of the restoration of the Lamanites to a knowledge of the truth. (Hel. 15: 11; 3 Ne. 10: 16.) All these references are another illustration of a loss of knowledge of the covenants to the house of Israel from the Bible.
Other prophets frequently mentioned in the plates of brass include Zenoch, Neum and Ezias. (See 1 Ne. 19:10; Alma 33:16-17; Hel. 8:20; 3 Ne. 10:16.) The Bible itself testifies of the titles of 11 books which are no longer included and of others that are alluded to which do not include those mentioned in the Book of Mormon. (See Dictionary in the 1979 LDS edition of the Bible, "Lost Books" page 725.)
Because the Lord has granted humans their agency, He has allowed these parts of scripture to be taken away. However, He has compensated for this loss by preserving other records to come forth in the latter days to "make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away." (1 Ne. 13:40.)
In addition to the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith's work in restoring the Bible (which includes the Book of Moses, and the rest of the Joseph Smith Translation) the Lord provided manuscripts of the writings of Abraham and Joseph, though Joseph translated only a part of them. (See the Book of Abraham.) He informed Oliver Cowdery that there were "engraving of old records, which are ancient." (D&C 8:1.)
Book of Mormon restoration of plain and precious truths includes the long quotation of Zenos and the prophecies and covenants made to Joseph of Egypt. (2 Ne. 3 and 4.) The Doctrine and Covenants also restores knowledge of biblical texts. (i.e. D&C 45 and 93.) While we have much restored, there will still be many more records and revelations come forth including the plates of brass themselves. (See 1 Ne. 5:17-19; 2 Ne. 29:11-14; and Alma 37:3-5.)
As Nephi said, the Bible is "of great worth unto the Gentiles" (1 Ne. 13:23), but it is of more worth when read with the other books that have come "forth by the power of the Lamb."
The purpose of these other records (Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price) is to convince the Gentiles and the remnant of Nephi's seed ". . . that the records of the prophets and of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are true . . . and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved." (1 Ne. 13:39-40.)
As Latter-day Saints, we are indeed fortunate to have access to these restored plain and precious materials. We ought to use them extensively in studying the Old and New Testaments.