When we hear discourse in the church about the legitimacy of the prophets’ words, inevitably, this scripture comes up.
“What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” (D&C 1:38)
It is usually used to support the inerrancy of the prophets’s words. After all, if God’s voice and the servants’s voice are the same thing, then it stands to reason that what the prophets say is literally God’s words.
There is a problem with this traditional interpretation however. While the common interpretation of this scripture amounts to something like “mine own voice and the voice of my servants are the same,” we can see that the scripture doesn’t actually say that.
What is the central message of this verse? “my word shall not pass away”.
Everything before and after that phrase and ties back to it. Consider what comes before it:
“What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself.” But why does he not excuse himself? The answer lies in the next phrase:
“and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away”
He doesn’t excuse what he says because what he says last forever; it’s eternal and will never fail.
What about the rest of the verse?
“my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled”
Not only will his words last forever, but instead of failing, they will be fulfilled.
Then finally: whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same. In this instance, the Lord isn’t saying that his words are the same as the prophets’ words. What he is saying is that whether his words are fulfilled by his own voice or whether his words are fulfilled by the voices of the prophets (or literally, his servants), the result will be the same, his words will be fulfilled.
I think it so important that when we read our scriptures that we always put forth effort to determine what is meant by what we read, and we should always be careful not to project on what we read traditional interpretations just because we assume they are correct interpretations.