Joseph Smith Translation Class Notes

I’m working a lot from memory here, so forgive if I’m not 100% accurate. I was getting engaged at the time I was taking the class, but the subject has come up a lot, so I thought I’d share what I remember from the class (along with the references I can find).


The bulk of Joseph Smith’s work on the JST took place between June 1830 and July 1833. By 1833 he sought to publish the work, believing it complete enough to be published:

“I COMPLETED the translation and review of the NEW TESTAMENT on the 2nd of February, 1833, and sealed it up, no more to be opened till it arrived in Zion” (LDS “Prophet” Joseph Smith, February 2, 1833, and Times and Seasons 5:723).

As well in the History of the Church: “We returned gratitude to our Heavenly Father… having finished the translation of the Bible a few hours since…” (Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon and Frederick Williams. July 2, 1833. History of the Church, Vol. 1, pp. 368-369).

In the class we learned that Joseph entreated the Saints to put up the money for publishing, but the Saints voted on putting the money into a mill instead. The mill was destroyed shortly after completion, thus showing that they should have invested in the JST instead.

The JST is intimately connected to the Doctrine and Covenants. Much of the class was spent studying how a particular revelation came out because of questions during translation. The most apparent of these being D&C 77.

The very apologist heavy wiki article says this:

During the process of translation, when he came across troubling Biblical issues, Smith often dictated revelations relevant to himself, his associates, or the church. About half of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants are in some way connected to this translation process, including background on the Apocrypha (LDS D&C section 91 CoC D&C 88), the three degrees of glory (LDS section 76 CoC Section 85), the eternal nature of marriage and plural marriage (LDS section 132), teachings on baptism for the dead (LDS section 124 CoC Section 107), various revelations on priesthood (LDS sections 84, 88, 107 CoC Sections 83 104) and others.

Hence, more than half of the changed verses in the JST Old Testament and 20% of those in the entire JST Bible are contained in Moses 1 and Genesis, with the most extensive modifications occurring in Genesis 1-24.

That means that evaluations of the retranslation can pretty much focus in the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price, where God speaks in first person.

Why the LDS only have part of it in their Bible

The wiki article states:

At the death of Joseph Smith Jr. the manuscripts and documents pertaining to the translation were retained by his widow, Emma Smith, who would not give them to the Quorum of the Twelve although Willard Richards, apparently acting on behalf of Brigham Young, requested the new translation from her. Consequently, when Young’s followers moved to the Salt Lake Valley, they did so without the new translation of the Bible.

Joseph, in 1832, says the translation was intended to restore what Smith described as “many important points touching the salvation of men, [that] had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled” (Joseph Smith, Jr. 16 February 1832. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. p. 10–11).

The wiki article continues:

Following Joseph Smith’s death, John Milton Bernhisel asked permission of Emma Smith to copy the notes that were made into his own Bible. He spent much of the spring of 1845 working on this project. The LDS Church has this in its offices in Salt Lake City, but it contains less than half of the corrections and is not suitable for publication. For many years the Bernhisel Bible was the only source for LDS Church members living in the Salt Lake Valley.

Older members of the church were unwilling to trust the JST, as it was taught to be incomplete, and unreliable since Emma or others may have changed it.

For example McConkie said:

Important changes were made in several thousand verses, but there are yet thousands of passages to be revised, clarified, and perfected. After his work of revision, the Prophet frequently quoted parts of the King James Version, announced that they contained errors, and gave clarified translations — none of which he had incorporated into his prior revisions of the Bible (Mormon Doctrine, Bruce R. McConkie, p.384, under Inspired Version of the Bible).

The CoC Church still retains the original manuscripts and publishes the Inspired Version through its publishing arm, Herald House Publishing, so there is no question as to the authenticity of the JST as published. LDS scholars have seen the original documents and can verify that no changes or edits have been made at this point. Richard P. Howard and the LDS scholar Robert J. Matthews verified it in the 1960s.

In January – March 1836, Joseph Smith started his first study of hebrew with Joshua Seixas so any study of Hebrew came after the JST was complete (studies with Hugh Nibley’s relative were in Nauvoo).

Joseph Smith Mathew and the Book of Moses in the PoGP are both from this translation of the JST. Further, the JST did not make any changes to Esther, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Malachi, Second John or Third John, all of which were deemed “correct” by Smith. However, at the top of the page of The Song of Solomon, a note reads “not inspired writing.” The handwriting of the note has not been identified.

As of December 7, 1974, the Church news stated:

The Inspired Version does not supplant the King James Version as the official Church version of the Bible, but the explanations and changes made by the Prophet Joseph Smith provide enlightenment and useful commentary on many biblical passages.

Bruce R. McConkie’s quote, printed in 1977, was reprinted in 1999 in the Ensign: “The Joseph Smith Translation, or Inspired Version, is a thousand times over the best Bible now existing on earth.”

Red Flags

One quick red flag is in the beginning of Moses:

I am the Beginning and the End; the Almighty God. By mine Only Begotten I created these things.

Yea, in the beginning I created the heaven, and the earth upon which thou standest.

“I am the Beginning and the End” and “only Begotten” are Greek terms from the New Testament. Although the concepts may have existed, they certainly would have been phrased differently.

Further red flags are pretty well listed here.

Other Notes

As part of the class, we added the sections of the JST that were not complete into our Bibles and discussed the differences at length.

The Book of Enoch revisions in their entirety come from the JST and match pretty closely a Book of Enoch published in 1828 (I’ve posted on this before).

In the class we were strongly encouraged to correct anyone reading from the KJV of the Bible in favor of the JST.

This entry was posted in Early Church History (1800s). Bookmark the permalink.
Last edited by EmmaHS on March 29, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.