Mormonism and the Bible/Joseph Smith Translation/As the Church's official Bible

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Use of the Joseph Smith translation of the Bible

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Question: Why don't Mormons use the "Joseph Smith Translation" as its official Bible?

The primary reason is that there is no revelation that has directed the Church to replace the KJV with the JST

The answer to this question is a complex one. There is no single reason why we don't use the JST as "our" Bible. Here are a few reasons, however:

  1. The primary reason is that there is no revelation that has directed the Church to replace the KJV with the JST. Such a change would certainly require such a revelation to be submitted at General Conference and sustained by the members of the Church.
  2. The original manuscripts for the JST were retained by Emma Smith when the Saints went west. She later gave them to her son, Joseph III, and he had the first JST Bible printed under the auspices of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. At this time there was a great deal of animosity between the LDS and RLDS churches; Brigham Young believed that the RLDS church had tampered with the JST text and that it didn't accurately reflect Joseph Smith's original translation. This mistrust — along with the fact that the LDS Church did not own the copyright to the work — kept the Utah Saints from embracing the JST. It was only through Bruce R. McConkie's interest in and use of the JST, along with Robert Matthews' research on the JST manuscripts in the early 1970s, that these attitudes were reversed.
  3. From a practical sense, adoption of the JST would be a stumbling block for converts. Not only are we asking them to accept Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, etc., but we'd also be requiring them to abandon their traditional Bible. We already do that to some extent — readers of the NIV have to learn to adopt the KJV — but we'd be asking them to go a step further and accept Joseph Smith's translation of the Bible, which no other church uses. In this sense, the KJV serves as a connection between the LDS Church and the remainder of the Christian world.
  4. Portions of the JST have been canonized: Our Book of Moses and Joseph Smith—Matthew are excerpts from the JST.


Question: Is the Church "embarrassed" by the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible?

This claim is contradicted by an enormous amount of historical evidence

It is claimed by Jerald and Sandra Tanner in their critical work The Changing World of Mormonism, that the Church is "embarrassed" by the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. [1]

This claim is contradicted by an enormous amount of historical evidence. The Tanners published their book in 1977. In 1978, the Church produced its new version of the KJV after years of work. Thus, the JST was the focus of serious attention by the Church long before the Tanners began to insist that leaders were ashamed of it.[2] It had multiple footnote and appendix entries from the JST.

The Church magazines also launched a concerted effort to introduce Latter-day Saints to the JST material that was now easily available, and to encourage its use. Some examples of this effort published around the time the Tanners were making their claim include:

  • Robert J. Matthews, “The Bible and Its Role in the Restoration,” Ensign, Jul 1979, 41 off-site
  • Robert J. Matthews, “Plain and Precious Things Restored,” Ensign, Jul 1982, 15 off-site
  • Robert J. Matthews, “Joseph Smith’s Efforts to Publish His Bible ‘Translation’,” Ensign, Jan 1983, 57–58. off-site
  • Monte S. Nyman, “Restoring ‘Plain and Precious Parts’: The Role of Latter-day Scriptures in Helping Us Understand the Bible,” Ensign, Dec 1981, 19–25 off-site

The Church is not, and was not, embarrassed by the JST. In its historical context, the Tanners' claim is incredibly ill-informed.


Question: What have Church leaders said about the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible?

Bruce R. McConkie said that it was a "marvelously inspired work"

Bruce R. McConkie was especially vocal about the JST. In 1980, he said:

[Joseph] translated the Book of Abraham and what is called the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. This latter is a marvelously inspired work; it is one of the great evidences of the divine mission of the Prophet. By pure revelation, he inserted many new concepts and views as, for instance, the material in the fourteenth chapter of Genesis about Melchizedek. Some chapters he rewrote and realigned so that the things said in them take on a new perspective and meaning, such as the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew and the first chapter in the gospel of John.[3]

In 1985 McConkie told members during a satellite broadcast:

As all of us should know, the Joseph Smith Translation, or Inspired Version as it is sometimes called, stands as one of the great evidences of the divine mission of the Prophet. The added truths he placed in the Bible and the corrections he made raise the resultant work to the same high status as the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. It is true that he did not complete the work, but it was far enough along that he intended to publish it in its present form in his lifetime.[4]


Notes

  1. Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Changing World of Mormonism (Moody Press, 1979), 385.( Index of claims )
  2. Lavina Fielding Anderson, "Church Publishes First LDS Edition of the Bible," Ensign (Oct 1979), 9.
  3. Bruce R. McConkie, "This Generation Shall Have My Word Through You," Ensign (June 1980), 54.
  4. Bruce R. McConkie, "https://www.lds.org/ensign/1985/12/come-hear-the-voice-of-the-lord?lang=eng Come: Hear the Voice of the Lord]," Ensign (December 1985), 54.