One of the beautiful aspects of latter-day revelation is the way in which it illuminates and clarifies ancient scripture.
Such is the case with the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, excerpts from which are included in footnotes and an appendix accompanying the LDS edition of the King James Version of the Bible.
Consider, for example, Matthew 7:7-11. Herein is the well-known verse, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you."
Then follows the Savior's analogy: "What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
"Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"
A footnote to this passage in our edition of the King James Bible refers us to the Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 7:12-17. Here, we learn that, in this incident, the Lord was instructing His disciples in what they should teach the people. "Say unto them, Ask of God; ask and it shall be given you ..."(see verse 12, JST).
In verses 14-15 of the Joseph Smith Translation, we read His disciples' response: "And then said his disciples unto him, they will say unto us, We ourselves are righteous, and need not that any man should teach us. God, we know, heard Moses and some of the prophets; but us he will not hear.
"And they will say, We have the law for our salvation, and that is sufficient for us."
Jesus then responds to such false thinking with His bread/stone, fish/serpent analogy.
In our day, we have a rather striking parallel to this. In denying the doctrine of ongoing revelation both general and personal some religionists today say, in effect, "We ourselves are saved, and need not that any man should teach us. God, we know, heard some of the people in the Bible, but us he will not hear. We have the Bible for our salvation, and that is sufficient for us."
The Savior's analogy, teaching us that God will give good gifts to those who ask Him, is just as applicable today as it was anciently.
Some who would seek to undermine the faith of the Latter-day Saints trivialize and contradict our teaching that an individual can pray and ask God concerning gospel teachings and that He will reveal the truth to the seeker by the power of the Holy Ghost (see Moroni 10:3-5). They argue that what Mormons sometimes describe in scriptural language as "a burning in the bosom," indicating a manifestation from the Holy Ghost, cannot be trusted because, they say, the heart of man is wicked and deceitful. They assert that one must rely exclusively on intellectual understanding of the word of God as written in the Bible.
In making this argument, though, they contradict the very "word of God" they claim to uphold, for the Bible clearly teaches through the above-cited analogy from the Master that God truly will answer the prayer of a humble truth seeker and, figuratively speaking, will not give a stone or a serpent to one who asks for bread or fish.
Surely, diligent scripture study and thoughtful pondering are necessary in this process. But the trouble with depending on Bible text alone to ascertain truth is that one quickly runs into the same quandary experienced by a youthful Joseph Smith, who found that "the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passage of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible" (Joseph Smith History 1:12). Ultimately, one must apply the counsel in James 1:5, as Joseph did.
In Moroni's exhortation, cited above, he admonishes the reader of the Book of Mormon to remember how merciful God has been through the ages. (See Moroni 10:3.)
In other words, if God has been merciful to His children since the days of Adam, we can take courage and rest assured He will show mercy to us and answer our sincere prayer for knowledge, wisdom, understanding and personal revelation.
Let us never succumb to the falsehood that God will respond with a stone when we ask Him for bread.