One of the most underrated and overlooked of the inspired canons of scripture that sprang forth from the LDS Restoration Movement is the inspired revision of the King James Version of the Bible.
I have personally found the inspired revision of the Bible to be an essential and integral part of my spiritual and doctrinal journey. It has provided many of the missing pieces of the puzzle as i have labored to better understand the secret history of Mormonism. It also contains some critical secrets about the events of the end times that we need to understand in order to be more fully prepared for what is about to happen.
I have received countless ah-has!!! while reading it.
The LDS Church generally refers to it as the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (JST).
The RLDS Church which nows calls itself the Community of Christ Church refers to it as the Inspired Verison of the Bible (IV).
I personally sometimes refer to it as the Inspired Revision of the Bible.
During this series I will probably not be uniform in how I refer to it.
Many people have been critical or at least uncomfortable about Joseph Smith characterizing it as a translation because we have all been conditioned to define the word translate to refer to the act of transferring the meaning of a text from one language to another; For instance, translating the German Bible into English or the Hebrew Old Testament into English.
Since Joseph Smith was simply making inspired corrections to the English version of the King James Bible, it seems nonsensical to many for the Lord and Joseph Smith to use the word translate when there was no transcribing of content from the language of one country or class of people to another.
What many people fail to realize is that the English language has evolved during the last four generations which is why serious students of the gospel will use the 1828 version of the Websters Dictionary when studying the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants.
1.express the sense of (words or text) in another language.“the German original has been translated into English”
Two of the Definitions in the 1828 Websters
6. To interpret; to render into another language; to express the sense of one language in the words of another.
7. To explain.
As you can see from definition number seven above, back in the 1820 and 30″s, the word translate sometimes simply meant to explain something.
That is exactly what Joseph Smith was doing with the translation of the Bible. He was correcting and clarifying things to provide a better explanation.
Also, with regard to definition number six, it may not mean what you think it means.
According to the 1828 Websters Dictionary, the primary definition of the word language, was “human speech; the expression of ideas by words or significant articulate sounds, for the communication of thoughts…“. It was not until the third listed meaning in the definition that we are informed that the word language can mean “The speech or expression of ideas peculiar to a particular nation“.
By understanding the definition of the word language, we can see that the meaning of the sixth definition in the 1828 Websters, as shown above, does not necessarily always refer to the act of transcribing the meaning the language of a foreign nation to another. It could also include the act of using different words within the same language to change the meaning or interpret what is being said.
Therefore, at the time that Joseph was making the inspired revision of the Bible, the word translate, in the context that the Lord was using it, was perfectly in compliance with the accepted English language of the time, and it simply meant to explain and interpret.
Joseph Smith was providing an inspired explanation and interpretation of what the Old and New Testaments were trying to convey.
Some people think Joseph was strictly doing so by exclusively restoring the texts to what was originally conveyed, word for word. Others think he was simply providing inspired reconstructions that also included additional intelligence not necessarily originally conveyed by the ancient prophets, patriarchs and other writers.
I am not sure I have an opinion and I am not sure how much it really matters.
The important thing is that major corrections in content and context needed to be made and they were. The major errors needed to be corrected and in some cases, it appears as if additional clarifications were made.
Those familiar with the history of the Nauvoo period realize that at the time of the martyrdom, the unpublished work of the Bible translation that Joseph had been doing was in the possession of his widow Emma. It consisted of large King James Bible with notes and corrections in it and also a huge manuscript.
Brigham and his brethren of the Twelve attempted to get Emma to hand it over to them before and after they left for Utah but she refused.
She and her son Joseph Smith the Third eventually united with the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints and possession of the work was given to them so they could publish it and own the copyright on it.
In recent times the LDS church was able to negotiate the right to include selected passages from the Inspired Version of the Bible into the official King James Version of the Bible that they publish.
Why Doesn’t the Church Take the Joseph Smith Translation more Seriously?
I believe it was a real coup for the LDS church to be able to include some of the more important revisions into the footnotes and also some of the longer revised passages and new inclusions in a section that follows directly after the LDS Bible Dictionary,.
I have been perplexed as to why the leaders, scholars and teaching manuals of the church have not placed more emphasis on the importance of always reading and studying from the Inspired version when studying the Bible. Perhaps it is because the leaders of the Church don’t want to encourage an interest in reading scriptures that are not published by the Church. There is also a very real monetary issue as well.
I was recently corresponding with a rather high profile LDS apologist about a few issues and he made a comment I found curious. This prompted the following response from me-
It seems to me that to suggest that the JST might have been changed to agree with the published Book of Mormon after the original printers manuscript of the Book of Mormon had been incorrectly altered by an uninspired printer, is to question the revelatory process and accuracy of the JST. I find that hard to believe.
He responded thusly-
Of course it questions the revelatory process of the JST. The fact of that process is that there is a lot in that “translation” that wasn’t revelatory (and the reason so much was left undone).
One of the problems with discussing Joseph as a translator is that everyone assumes that they know what he did. If we want to have a better idea, then we have to question the process. We don’t have to question the source, and we don’t have to question that revelation was involved–but the process is absolutely open to question.
The idea that Joseph received things word for word is popular and getting reinforcement from Skousen and Carmack. My studies suggest something different.
In any case, the value of the JST was clearly in the revealed texts on Moses’s vision. After that, no one pursued it because there isn’t a lot of evidence that the changes in the text were made for revealed reasons in most cases. There are certainly similarities to the Book of Mormon, but only in limited areas.
I responded to his comments in the following way-
Fascinating… it is helpful to understand that you feel that way.
One of the few conundrums I can think of is in Hebrews 11:40 where the passage “they without us should not be made perfect” was changed and negated and yet Joseph later taught the doctrine from and pulpit and even re-canonized it in Section 128! go figure 😦
This was his response
The JST clearly served as a jumping off point for revelation. As for all of it being inspired, the evidence doesn’t really bear that out….. I would never say that there is nothing inspired, but the value was in providing Joseph thinking material more than a real translation…..Clearly, it was important at the beginning, but Joseph lost interest in the project. I believe that was because it had served its instructional purpose, and Joseph went on to better things.
I was absolutely stunned at his responses.
I had previously assumed that most faithful LDS scholars unanimously accepted the JST of the Bible to be credible and revelatory.
This scholar was suggesting that Joseph may have made changes that were not for revelatory reasons.
He seemed frustrated with some of his fellow scholars for promoting a more faith promoting view of how the JST took place and how inspired it is.
Why else would a prophet make changes and clarifications to the text if not for revelatory reasons?
Here is my bullet-point take away from what this scholar had to say-
- LDS scholars are not in agreement as to the accuracy and importance of the JST
- Not all of the changes that Joseph Smith made are considered “revelatory”
- The JST was never finished.
- Joseph lost interest in it.
- There is disagreement among LDS scholars as to whether Joseph Smith received “word for word” revelation regarding the changes he made
- The JST was only meant to be an initial instructional exercise for Joseph, not a significant revelatory canon of scripture that had been commanded for the benefit of the Saints.
My research has led to vastly different conclusions than the ones that he has arrived at.
My research indicates that virtually every change or additional clarification of text within the JST had a revelatory purpose and was inspired. The fact that the church has included many passages of scripture, from all over the Old Testament and New Testament in the footnotes, would indicate that the leaders of the church considered the work to be inspired and very important.
(Personally I can only think of a few issues with the work that I have come across that I have not been able to make sense of.)
Although I agree that large portions of the Bible appear to have been left unchanged, and in that sense, it does appear as if the JST was not finished, there is strong reason to believe that it was finished according to what the Lord wanted Joseph Smith to do with it.
To my knowledge, there is no additional historical evidence to the contrary, to my knowledge.
Furthermore, church history has Joseph and the Twelve attempting to accumulate donations and offerings from the saints to publish the JST during the Nauvoo period which indicates that it was finished and that Joseph had not lost interest in the project.
To claim that the JST only had a temporary purpose having to do with instructing Joseph Smith is completely contrary to what the Lord was saying in the revelations. Joseph was clearly commanded to teach from the inspired canon of scripture as soon as it was finished. It was to be published to the whole world. The D&C intimates that there was critical information contained in the JST pertaining to the events of the end times.
As I have pointed out in a recent post, Joseph warned in 1831 that if the saints did not receive the fulness of the scriptures the church would fail.
“Brother Joseph Smith, Jr. said … that the promise of God was that the greatest blessings which God had to bestow should be given to those who contributed to the support of his family while he was translating the fulness of the Scriptures … that God had often sealed up the heavens because of covetousness in the Church … and except the Church receive the fulness of the Scriptures that they would yet fail.” (Far West Report, p. 16, quoted in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1938, p. 9.)
According to Joseph Smith, the content within the inspired revision was so critical to the salvation of the church that the Church would fail if the content was not made available to, and accepted by the Saints.
With a few exceptions, the Lord had told Joseph he was not allowed to teach from the content of the revision until they Joseph had received all of the necessary corrections
“Thou shalt ask, and my Scriptures shall be given as I have appointed, and they shall be preserved in safety; and it is expedient that thou shouldst hold thy peace concerning them, and not teach them until thou hast received them in full. And I give unto you a commandment, that then ye shall teach them unto all men; for they shall be taught unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people”
Again, we see from the above declaration of the Lord, that this project was not just meant for the personal instruction and edification of Joseph Smith. The inspired revision was meant to be read by the saints. It was to teach and instruct the Saints.
I believe the above passage embeds an unconditional promise that Joseph will one day return to complete that project and then he will teach them to all men.
It is not my intent to be contentious or try to belittle what this scholar had to say about the JST. I believe his area of expertise is not related to the JST and he was simply sharing his personal opinion without taking time to gather his thoughts or do research to substantiate his claims.
The reason I am sharing this conversation is because it is a timely one that brings up some very important issues and I think his perception about the revision is indicative of many, if not the majority of LDS scholars. This explains, at least in part, why there are not more faith promoting articles encouraging the saints to always use the JST in their scripture studies.
Several weeks ago I felt impressed to do a blog about the JST and why I accept it to be a revelatory canon of scripture that plays a critical role in dispelling false doctrines and in preparing the elect for the events of the end times. This is why I am doing this series at this time.
In part two of this series I will provide a brief summary about what the revelations say about the JST and why it is so important. I will also discuss the history about how the RLDS church ended up with the copyright and how the LDS church eventually negotiated an agreement with them that enabled the LDS Church to include numerous inspired changes contained in the JST into the official King James Version of the Bible that is published by the Church.
In part three of this series I will bullet-point many of the most revelatory and game-changing changes in the JST that have had a profound impact on my understanding of the gospel and the LDS restoration movement.
In the final part of this series I will provide a commentary on an amazing section of the JST that explains what is going to happen when the servants return and present the next portion of the record of Lehi.
Very few people are familiar with it and even fewer understand what it is saying but I will provide a translation (explanation and interpretation) of what is being said by using content from modern revelation and other scripture.
I encourage those who are interested this topic to be reflecting how the JST has impacted your study of the Gospel. Feel free to share any favorite changes with me and if they are not already on my list of favorites, I will include them in the next part of this series. I c an be contacted a onewhoiswatching [at] gmail.com