We are fond of quoting an Article of Faith to the effect that we believe the Bible as far as it is translated correctly. It provides a nice escape hatch in the event someone brings up a scripture that seems to contradict a cherished Mormon doctrine. I wonder how many Mormons can actually point to a specific place where the Bible hasn’t been translated correctly? While we have the opportunity to take a very nuanced approach to scripture it seems we more often operate unreflectively as “selective literalists.”
So what do we do with Alma 40:20-21, which raises an interesting question about the way we Mormons view scripture:
“Now, my son, I do not say that their resurrection cometh at the resurrection of Christ; but behold, I give it as my opinion, that the souls and the bodies are reunited, of the righteous, at the resurrection of Christ, and his ascension into heaven. But whether it be at his resurrection or after, I do not say; but this much I say, that there is a space between death and the resurrection of the body, and a state of the soul in happiness or in misery until the time which is appointed of God that the dead shall come forth, and be reunited, both soul and body, and be brought to stand before God, and be judged according to their works.”
Here we have explicit canonized opinion. Paul does a bit of this explicit opinion stuff in the New Testament, too. And we have Nephi saying he filled his small plates with the things he thought were sacred (1 Nephi 19:6). It seems there are at least three ways to reckon with this phenomenon.
1. The opinion was included in the Book of Mormon precisely because it is true. Otherwise it would not have made it through the selection and editing process. Its canonization verifies its accuracy.
2. The opinion is a singular instance; all other scriptures do not contain such opinion else they would carry the same disclaimer.
3. The opinion could be true, or false, or incomplete, based on the principle that the book contains the “mistakes of men” which we are asked to overlook on the book’s title page.
If (3), what are the implications for scriptural exegesis considering the possibility of canonized speculation? Of course, all such responses will be understood as constituting the author’s own opinion.
 The phrase appears in a really cool book slated to be republished very soon: Phillip L. Barlow, Mormons and the Bible: The Place of the Latter-day Saints in American Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 32.