I’m a fan of Dan McClellan’s YouTube channel—he posts a lot there (nearly everything is a repost from TikTok), and I watch most of what he posts. Yesterday, he posted an interesting video on the “Lucifer” name and character in the Bible, describing how traditional Christian ideas about the figure are all post-biblical innovations that don’t neceessarily line up with the text. In particular, the name “Lucifer” is an artifact of the Vulgate, and even in the Vulgate, the name itself is a reference to a Babylonian king, not to a fallen angel who became the devil. Here’s the video in its entirety:
It’s a good and interesting video on its own, but it also got me thinking about how a conservative Latter-day Saint might respond to what McClellan had to say. Lucifer is specifically associated with the devil in Latter-day Saint scripture (see, e.g., D&C 76:25-28), so one possible response would be to express gratitude that scripture like the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants contribute truths that are unclear in the traditional Christian canon. This is a pretty standard view in that faith; for example, the Preach My Gospel handbook that I used as a missionary encourages Latter-day Saint missionaries to “Use the Book of Mormon to clarify and explain Bible passages.”
Yet, there’s an interesting tension that emerges from cases like this (i.e., about “Lucifer”). On one hand, Latter-day Saints believe that their scripture introduces and restores truths that are missing from the traditional Christian canon. On the other hand, these introductions and restorations often double down on concepts that emerged in the post-New Testament period, a period that is typically considered by Latter-day Saints to be a time of dark apostasy, when true Christian doctrines were being lost. Thus, it’s a bit awkward for the clarifying contribution of the Doctrine and Covenants to be a confirmation of a traditional Christian belief that emerged during an age of apostasy. Given orthodox Latter-day Saint doctrine, we might expect instead a correction of that traditional belief established by “apostates.”
In Charles Harrell’s book This is My Doctrine, he notes a number of examples where the Book of Mormon confirms common Christian ideas of the time, rather than bring forth some entirely new truth. In particular, he writes:
The earliest LDS theological ideas (1828-1830) are articulated most plainly in the Book of Mormon and are not unlike many evangelical doctrines being taught in Joseph Smith’s own community. Initial attacks against Mormonism were not direct so much at its theology as they were at the claim that Joseph had received ancient gold plates from God. The Book of Mormon employs familiar early nineteenth-centruy rhetoric to address doctrinal issues being debated during Joseph Smith’s day, prompting Alexander Campbell’s cynical comment that the Book of Mormon “decides all the great controversies,” including “infant baptism,” “the trinity,” “the fall of man,” “the atonement,” and many others. In spite of the impressive evidence assembled by LDS apologists linking the Book of Mormon to ancient Judaism, Mark Thomas has contended that “on all major theological issues (the doctrines of god, humanity, and salvation), … the Book of Mormon consistently takes the nineteenth-century position most foreign to the ancient Jewish thought from which the book purports to spring.”
My love for the Book of Mormon and the Restoration tradition is pretty well-established, so I don’t necessarily mean this as a criticism. Rather, it strikes me as one further example of the fragility of claims to exclusivism within the Restoration tradition.
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