The Atonement Further Revealed: Truths from the Joseph Smith Translation

Chad Morris, “The Atonement Further Revealed: Truths from the Joseph Smith Translation,” in Selections from the Religious Education Student Symposium, 2004 (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2004), 107–129.

The Atonement Further Revealed: Truths from the Joseph Smith Translation

Chad Morris

Joseph Smith personally knew the great men of the New Testament. John the Baptist visited him, instructed him, and gave him the Aaronic Priesthood (see Joseph Smith—History 1:68). Peter, James, and John conferred upon him the higher priesthood (see D&C 27:12). John Taylor reported that Joseph Smith was personally familiar with the other Apostles of Christ’s mortal ministry. [1] He also knew Paul and described him from his “large Roman nose” to his “whining voice.” [2] Lorenzo Brown recorded that Joseph Smith said, “The whole [Bible] passed before me like a grand panorama. . . . I saw it all.” [3] Most importantly, Joseph Smith knew Jesus Christ. Joseph saw Him several times, knew of His reality, and received instruction from Him directly.

Under the inspiration of Christ, Joseph Smith made corrections and additions to the Holy Bible. [4] The Lord directed the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) for the salvation of souls. The Lord promised, “And the scriptures shall be given, even as they are in mine own bosom, to the salvation of mine own elect” (D&C 35:20; emphasis added). Nothing could be more relevant to salvation than understanding the sacrifice of Christ. Joseph Smith taught that all other principles “are only appendages to [the Atonement].” [5] This paper will analyze how the JST fulfills this purpose by further revealing truths about Christ’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, His death on the cross, and His glorious Resurrection. [6] These changes can be categorized into six groups: first, prophecies relative to the Atonement; second, Christ’s knowledge and teachings about the Atonement; third, Christ’s personal qualifications to be the Messiah; fourth, corrections and additions pertaining to the events of the Atonement; fifth, insights into the Resurrection; and sixth, the perfecting and saving power of the Atonement.

Prophecies Relative to the Atonement

The Atonement of Christ was foreseen and prophesied by ancient prophets. The JST attributed knowledge of such prophecies to Herod, the same man who tried to kill the infant Christ. When the Wise Men came to Bethlehem searching for the infant Jesus, Herod called his chief priests and scribes demanding “of them where Christ should be born” (Matthew 2:4). The JST added an insightful change to Herod’s question: “Where is the place that is written of by the prophets, in which Christ should be born?” (JST, Matthew 3:4; italics indicate changes from the King James Version, or KJV). [7] According to the JST, Herod knew of the prophecies of the Savior before the Wise Men came, though he did not believe them (see JST, Matthew 3:4). The priests responded to Herod’s demand, not explaining prophecies about “a Governor” who would “rule” during His mortal ministry as the KJV stated, but “the Messiah” who would “save” (KJV, Matthew 2:6; JST, Matthew 3:6).

Simeon, however, knew that the Christ child would save mankind. The JST altered his testimony to Mary. As it stands in the KJV, Simeon made a disjointed prophecy: “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34–35). This passage insinuates a sword would pierce Mary. The JST clarified this prophecy to point to Christ’s body on the cross: “Yea, a spear shall pierce through him [Christ] to the wounding of thine [Mary’s] own soul also” (Inspired Version, Luke 2:35; emphasis added). Simeon prophesied that Christ would be pierced by a spear, which was fulfilled on Calvary (see John 19:34). Christ’s death pierced Mary emotionally as she anguished over her son’s death.

Before Christ’s ministry and death, John the Baptist prepared the way. The JST depicted John as bearing stronger and clearer testimony of Jesus than is found in the KJV (see JST, Matthew 3:38–40; JST, John 1:21–30). The Savior Himself testified that John bore record of Him and that those who would not believe John would not believe Him (see JST, Matthew 21:32; JST, Mark 9:11; JST, John 5:35; JST, Matthew 21:32–34). In addition, the JST completely restored John the Baptist’s quotation of Esaias, prophesying of the Atonement: “For behold, and lo, he shall come, as it is written in the book of the prophets, to take away the sins of the world, and to bring salvation unto the heathen nations, to gather together those who are lost, who are of the sheepfold of Israel; yea, even the dispersed and afflicted . . . and to be a light unto all who sit in darkness, unto the uttermost parts of the earth; to bring to pass the resurrection from the dead, and to ascend up on high, to dwell on the right hand of the Father” (JST, Luke 3:5–7). [8] Interestingly, Joseph Smith made no correction or insertion to that verse in the Bible. [9] John taught not only of one greater than himself, but of a Savior who would “take away the sins of the world” and “bring to pass the resurrection from the dead.”

The JST included many more references to Christ as a fulfillment of prophecy. John the Baptist’s disciples asked Christ, “Art thou he of whom it is written in the prophets that he should come?” (Inspired Version, Matthew 11:3). The JST added to the Gospel of Luke an instance when Christ rebuked them for grossly misunderstanding scripture: “Ye know not Moses, neither the prophets; for if ye had known them, ye would have believed on me; for to this intent they were written. For I am sent that ye might have life” (JST, Luke 14:36). Two verses later, the JST explained, “These things he said, signifying that which was written, verily must all be fulfilled” (Inspired Version, Luke 14:38). At least six other references changed in the JST of the New Testament reestablished that the Savior came in fulfillment of earlier prophecies (see JST, Matthew 4:18; JST, Matthew 11:14; Inspired Version, Matthew 23:39; JST, Luke 16:16–17; JST, Luke 22:16; JST, John 3:18). [10]

Christ’s Own Knowledge and Teaching of the Atonement

The ancient prophecies testified of Christ, but it is significant to study what the JST revealed that Christ Himself knew and taught. The Gospel of Luke contains the precious little in the New Testament that tells of Christ’s boyhood (see Luke 2:40–52). [11] In the Gospel of Matthew, the JST added further information about Christ’s youth. It indicated that “many years” before Christ’s ministry, He “needed not that any man should teach him” and “neither could he be taught” (JST, Matthew 3:25–26). Surely by this time Jesus knew the words of the prophets and knew of His great mission to fulfill the many prophecies of the Atonement. [12]

The JST clarified and heightened accounts of Christ’s own testimony of His role as Savior. In the KJV of John 5:31, the Savior stated, “If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true” (John 5:31). The JST of the same verse removed the “not” (Inspired Version, John 5:32). John also recorded that Christ said to His Apostles, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4). This verse appears to be a message about doing work while one still can. According to the JST, however, Christ said, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while I am with you; the time cometh when I shall have finished my work, then I go unto the Father” (JST, John 9:4). Christ knew that He would give up His life as part of the Atonement, and He taught that to His disciples. [13]

Finally, at the Last Supper, Christ instituted the sacrament to encourage His Apostles to remember His Atonement. Matthew recorded that after Christ blessed and broke the bread, He said, “Take, eat; this is my body” (Matthew 26:26). The JST added Christ’s teaching on the Atonement to this verse, “Take, eat; this is in remembrance of my body which I give a ransom for you” (JST, Matthew 26:22). This ransom, Christ continued to explain, was to make possible a “remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). After passing the wine, Christ taught His Apostles that He drank with them for the “last time in [His] ministry” (JST, Mark 14:24). Interestingly, the JST gave an indication that perhaps the Apostles understood at least to a small degree that death awaited the Savior: “And now they [the Apostles] were grieved, and wept over him” (Inspired Version, Mark 14:26).

Christ’s Qualifications to be the Messiah

The first verse of John states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The JST clarified Christ’s role in this verse, “In the beginning was the gospel preached through the Son. And the gospel was the word, and the word was with the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was of God” (JST, John 1:1). Several verses later the JST also added, “For in the beginning was the Word, even the Son, who is made flesh, and sent unto us by the will of the Father” (JST, John 1:16). These verses spoke of the premortal Christ, that His gospel was preached through Him then, and He came to the earth in obedience to the Father. [14] Christ was qualified to perform the Atonement because He was chosen “in the beginning.” [15]

Angels, visions, and a new star in the heavens all declared Christ’s birth. [16] It was the birth of the literal Son of God. Christ’s divinity was a necessary attribute for Him to be able to endure the Atonement (see Mosiah 3:7). Many have taught that Christ was the Son of God. For example, the first eighteen verses of John use the phrases “only begotten of the Father” and “the only begotten Son” to describe Christ (see John 1:14; 1:18). Though these phrases clearly state Christ’s divine ancestry, the JST gave Christ the title of “the Son” an additional eight times in those verses (see JST, John 1:1, 7, 10, 16, 18). The JST testified of Christ’s divine sonship in several other changes [17] and elaborated on its importance. In John, the JST moved Christ’s words, “For I can of mine own self do nothing” to the sentence “because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (Inspired Version, John 5:31; compare with KJV, John 5:30). The JST further highlighted the fact that Christ was the literal Son of God and that His completion of the Atonement was entirely dependent upon His divine Father.

Christ also needed to be without sin in order to atone for the sins of the world. [18] Peter described the Messiah as “without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19). Hebrews 4:15 confirmed that He was “without sin.” The JST heightened this qualification. It added a statement that Christ gave to Judas during the episode of the Last Supper: “and he [Christ] said unto Judas Iscariot, What thou doest, do quickly; but beware of innocent blood” (Inspired Version, Mark 14:30; entire text added in JST). Not only did this statement indicate Christ’s foreknowledge of Judas’s betrayal, but it also showed the Savior clearly referred to His own blood as “innocent.” [19] The JST included stronger evidence of Christ’s sinless state: “He [Christ] needed not offer sacrifice for his own sins, for he knew no sins” (JST, Hebrews 7:26). The Savior paid for the sins of the world but had no sin of His own.

Corrections and Additions Pertaining to the Events of the Atonement

The JST made many corrections to the events surrounding Christ’s time in the Garden of Gethsemane. The JST added the declaration that Gethsemane was a garden, and it attributed the adjectives of “sore amazed” and “very heavy” not to the Savior but to the Apostles (Mark 14:33; JST, Mark 14:36). The JST also added an intriguing doubt to the Apostles: “And the disciples began . . . to complain in their hearts, wondering if this be the Messiah” (JST, Mark 14:36). After three years of walking with Jesus, hearing His teaching, and witnessing His miracles, the Twelve doubted that Christ was the Messiah while He was in the very act of saving. [20]

Perhaps even more telling is what effect this doubting had on the Savior. The JST added that Christ knew what was in His Apostles’ hearts (see JST, Mark 14:37). As Christ began the Atonement, He was alone spiritually and emotionally, while only a stone’s cast away from His sleeping friends. [21]

Luke’s account of Gethsemane is the only Gospel that speaks of the Savior’s sweat and blood: “And his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). The JST changed the use of the word sweat from a noun to a verb, therefore emphasizing the blood and not the sweat. It read, “and he sweat as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (JST, Luke 22:44). [22] The Savior literally sweat blood for mankind’s sins.

The JST brought many other insights to life surrounding the story of the Atonement. It answered, in part, why Judas betrayed His Savior: “He [Judas] turned away from him [Christ], and was offended because of his words” (Inspired Version, Mark 14:31). [23] When Pilate asked if Christ was the “King of the Jews,” the JST strengthened the Savior’s answer from “Thou sayest it” to “I am, even as thou sayest” (Mark 15:2; Inspired Version, Mark 15:4). In the JST, when Pilate allowed the Jewish multitude to choose between Barabbas and Jesus to be set free, the crowd first cried to “deliver Jesus” (Inspired Version, Mark 15:10). It was the chief priests who then convinced them to demand Barabbas’s freedom for what appears to be the second time (see Inspired Version, Mark 15:13). Pilate not only believed Christ to be innocent but also urged the angry crowd to “do nothing unto him” (Inspired Version, Matthew 27:26). Though scribes encouraged Pilate to post a sign over the dying Christ saying that He merely claimed to be the King of the Jews, Pilate instead wrote simply, “JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS” (Inspired Version, Matthew 27:39–42, Mark 15:29–31).

All of these events led to the cross and the end of Christ’s mortal ministry. The four Gospel writers recorded seven things that Christ said while on the cross. His first words,”Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” were clarified in the JST with the phrase, “meaning the soldiers who crucified him” (Luke 23:34; Inspired Version, Luke 23:35). Before Christ’s second statement, the JST added words to the thief who defended Him: “This man is just, and hath not sinned; and he cried unto the Lord that he would save him” (Inspired Version, Matthew 27:47). Christ promised this thief that he would be with Him in paradise (see Inspired Version, Matthew 27:48). [24] The JST did not change any of Christ’s other final statements, but it made one addition. To Christ’s last words, “Father it is finished,” the JST added the significant phrase “thy will is done” (JST, Matthew 27:54). The Savior’s final words were to His Father, speaking nothing of the pain of the Atonement but only of God’s will.

The JST made changes to the story of the Atonement. In the JST, the Apostles are weaker. Christ is more alone during His suffering. Pilate and the Jewish multitude are more sympathetic to Christ. The chief priests are more conniving and condemning. One thief on a cross is taunting, while the other is faithful. Christ is more submissive to the Father.

Doctrinal Insights about the Resurrection

The JST clarified several confusing biblical teachings on the Resurrection. In Mark 12, Christ appeared apathetic to the dead when He taught disbelievers of the Resurrection that God “is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living” (Mark 12:27). The JST added, “for he raiseth them up out of their graves,” clarifying that the dead would live again (JST, Mark 12:32). [25]

Peter wrote of the Atonement, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18). This verse could be interpreted to mean that the process of bringing souls to God and the Resurrection are two separate ideas. The JST changed the order of these thoughts to clearly include the Resurrection in the process of the Atonement: “For Christ also once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit, that he might bring us to God” (Inspired Version, 1 Peter 3:18).

Before Joseph Smith began to translate the New Testament, the Lord had already revealed that all mankind would be resurrected. [26] However, in the New Testament there are several passages that appear to contradict this view of resurrection. Christ’s words in Luke 20:35 intimate that mankind has to be worthy to be resurrected. The JST clarified that “through resurrection” the worthy obtain their reward (JST, Luke 20:35). This teaching did not exclude the unworthy from resurrection but merely spoke of the ultimate eternal blessings for the worthy. Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians that he wished to “attain” the resurrection of the dead as though it were some reward for righteous doing (Philippians 3:11). The JST did not change the word “attain” in this passage but altered the reward from “the resurrection of the dead” to “the resurrection of the just” (JST, Philippians 3:11). Finally, Paul wrote inspiring episodes of those who endured great suffering by faith “that they might obtain a better resurrection,” which Joseph Smith changed to “that they might obtain the first resurrection” (JST, Hebrews 11:35).

The first resurrection began when Christ resurrected. Others resurrected afterward. Matthew 27:52 reads, “the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose.” The JST taught, “The graves were opened; and the bodies of the saints which slept, arose, who were many” (Inspired Version, Matthew 27:56). This change indicates that perhaps all of the Saints who were dead at that time arose. [27] The concept of differing resurrections is an immeasurable contribution the JST makes to the doctrine of the Atonement. While translating John 5 on February 16, 1832, Joseph Smith felt inspired to change verse 29 from describing two resurrections, one of life and the other of damnation, to describing one resurrection of the “just” and one of the “unjust” (Inspired Version, John 5:29). Joseph Smith then recorded, “This caused us [Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon] to marvel, for it was given unto us of the Spirit. And while we meditated upon these things, the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about. And we beheld the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father, and received of his fullness; and saw the holy angels, and them who are sanctified before his throne, worshiping God, and the Lamb, who worship him forever and ever” (D&C 76:18–21).

What followed is now recorded as section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Though this vision was not in the New Testament text, the ancient writ was the catalyst. There was no break in revelation between the correction of John 5:29 and the vision. This revelation explained the different resurrections as well as the three different degrees of glory that resurrected beings will eternally inherit. The first resurrection will bring forth both those that will inherit the celestial glory as well as those who inherit the terrestrial (see D&C 76:62–65; D&C 76:71–79). The second resurrection, or that of the unjust, will include “they who shall not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection” (D&C 76:85). These are they who will inherit the telestial glory.

Joseph Smith returned this concept of just and unjust resurrections to many biblical verses from which it had been removed. The JST of John 6:40 stated that those who believe in Christ will be part of “the resurrection of the just.” Four verses later the Savior described those in this resurrection as those who do the will of the Father (see JST, John 6:44). JST, John 6:54 included in the first resurrection those who partake of the sacrament. JST, Mark 8:38 excluded those who are ashamed of Christ and His words from the resurrection of the just.

The JST also showed how knowledge of the resurrection could affect the living. In the JST of 1 Corinthians 15:31, Paul testified of “the resurrection of the dead; and this is my rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord daily, though I die.” The resurrection had a profound effect on Paul. It caused him daily rejoicing, which he claimed would continue if he were dead or alive. Not only would Paul rise from the dead, but the JST also clarified that Paul defined the Resurrection as part of the process necessary to “go on unto perfection” (JST, Hebrews 6:2–3).

The Perfecting and Saving Power of the Atonement

Paul taught, “no flesh [will] be justified” before the Lord based on actions alone. Adding to this concept, he wrote, “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:20, 23). All mankind was doomed to live eternally without glory according to Paul. However, the JST added to this particular account that the world could be “justified only by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (JST, Romans 3:24). The JST heightened the New Testament doctrine that Christ’s Atonement is the “only” way to salvation, glory, and the Father. [28]

Everyone except for Christ needs forgiveness. The KJV of Mark recorded that Christ taught that “all sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme” as long as the sin in question was not blasphemy against the Holy Ghost (Mark 3:28). This scripture intimates unconditional forgiveness. The JST, however, included further requirements for forgiveness to the same verse: “All sins which men have committed, when they repent, shall be forgiven them; for I came to preach repentance unto the sons of men. And blasphemies, wherewith soever they shall blaspheme, shall be forgiven them that come unto me, and do the works which they see me do” (JST, Mark 3:22–23). The JST restored to these verses the doctrine that Christ forgives sin only on the conditions of repenting and following Him.

A related doctrine is reflected in a beatitude that the JST added to the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are they who shall believe on me . . . and come down into the depth of humility, and be baptized in my name; for they . . . shall receive a remission of their sins” (Inspired Version, Matthew 5:3–4). Christ promised that forgiveness was possible through Him, not to all, but specifically to the humble who believed in Him and were baptized. [29] Repentance and baptism are essential for a remission of sins. Paul is a dramatic example of repentance. The JST added to his anguish about his past and to the blessings that followed his conversion. The JST recorded that Paul wrote, “For once I could have wished that myself were accursed from Christ” (JST, Romans 9:3). This is Paul’s confession that before his conversion he wanted nothing to do with Jesus. In fact, in several places the JST added to Paul’s writing the imagery that his past actions condemned him to spiritual death (see JST, Romans 7:10, 11, 13). These additions make Paul’s realization of his past actions more vivid. The JST also showed the difference in Paul after he truly was converted: “I was yet carnal, sold under sin. But now I am spiritual; for that which I am commanded to do, I do; and that which I am commanded not to allow, I allow not; for what I know is not right, I would not do; for that which is sin, I hate . . . Now . . . through the assistance of Christ . . . it is no more that I seek to do wrong, but to subdue sin that dwelleth in me. . . . And now I see another law, even the commandment of Christ, and it is imprinted in my mind” (JST, Romans 7:14–15, 20, 23).

As a convert missionary, Paul preached boldly and tried to motivate the Galatians toward perfection. In the KJV, Paul seemed to contradict this message and talk himself in circles: “Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are” (Galatians 4:12). The JST showed that Paul had practiced what he preached: “Brethren, I beseech you to be perfect as I am perfect” (Inspired Version, Galatians 4:12). Paul changed from a man condemned to die spiritually to a man who was dead to sin. He was then able to deem himself “perfect” through and because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The Atonement leads not only to forgiveness but also to perfection.

The Prophet Joseph Smith recorded that Jesus Christ’s sacrifice is not limited to our planet. Spurred on by the translation of John 5:29, the Prophet received a vision and recorded that Christ was the Creator of many worlds, “and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:24). The “begotten” in this verse refers to the process of using the Atonement to be saved. We do not need to rely on this interpretation to know that Joseph Smith reached this conclusion: he commented on this revelation, saying that by Christ “the worlds were all made . . . whose inhabitants, . . . from the first to the last, are sav’d by the very same Saviour of ours.” [30]

Conclusion

The Joseph Smith Translation gave further insight to all aspects of the Atonement. [31] It restored and testified of a long list of invaluable truths. It showed that all the ancient prophets testified of Christ’s saving sacrifice. It added insight to Christ’s own knowledge and teachings of the Atonement. It proclaimed that Christ was chosen before this world was, is literally the Son of God, and lived a sinless life. It taught of the resurrections of the just and the unjust, as well as of Christ’s saving power. It encouraged mankind by teaching that, like Christ and through Christ, we can become perfect.

Joseph Smith knew more of Christ than changes on paper could possibly indicate. He and Sidney Rigdon received a great vision of the Savior during the translation, and they bore the following testimony: “He lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father” (D&C 76:22–23). Joseph Smith knew that the Savior completed the Atonement. The entire process of translation was under Christ’s direction. [32] Joseph Smith restored the Savior, the Lord he truly knew, to the pages of the Bible.

Notes

[1] See John Taylor, in Journal of Discourses (London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854–86), 21:94.

[2] Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), 180.

[3] Joseph Smith, Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Richard C. Galbraith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993), 9.

[4] Joseph Smith began his translation of the Bible in June 1830 (see Robert J. Matthews, “A Plainer Translation”: Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible [Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, 1985], 96). He had translated the opening chapters of Genesis when on March 7, 1831, the Lord commanded him to stop translating the Old Testament and begin on the New (see D&C 45:60). According to the date on the translation manuscript of Matthew 1, Joseph began his work on the New Testament the next day (Matthews, “A Plainer Translation,” 31). He finished on February 2, 1833 (see Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, comp. B. H. Roberts, 2nd ed. rev. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957], 1:324).

Throughout his life, Joseph boldly taught the need for his translation. He wrote on February 16, 1832, “From sundry revelations which had been received, it was apparent that many important points touching the salvation of man, had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 1:245). He further taught on October 15, 1843, “I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors” (Smith, Teachings, 327). Earlier that same year he also commented, “There are many things in the Bible which do not, as they now stand, accord with the revelations of the Holy Ghost to me” (Smith, Teachings, 310).

The primary documents already existing dealing with doctrinal aspects of the JST are as follows: Matthews, “A Plainer Translation.” Matthews outlines the history, discusses the different manuscripts and original documents of the translation as well as copies of them, and analyzes the publication by the RLDS Church, its accuracy compared to the manuscripts, and key doctrinal contributions that the translation gives. He had access to original documents. Rudolph Etzenhouser, The Three Bibles: Scholarship and Inspiration Compared (Independence, MO: Herald Publishing House, 1894). This is an early work on the subject that primarily discusses clarifications and the superiority of the Inspired Version. (Matthews reviews this source on page 14 of “A Plainer Translation.”) Robert J. Matthews, “A Study of the Doctrinal Significance of Certain Textual Changes Made by the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Four Gospels of the Inspired Version of the New Testament” (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1960). The title is sufficiently descriptive of this work. Matthews had no access to original documents for this particular study. Joseph Smith, The Holy Scriptures, Inspired Version: Containing the Old and New Testaments, an Inspired Revision of the Authorized Version (Independence, MO: Herald Publishing House, 1991). This is the Community of Christ’s printing of the Inspired Version. This will be considered a primary source, as it is printed from the primary documents and has been compared to them and found to be remarkably accurate. Robert L. Millet and Robert J. Matthews, eds., Plain and Precious Truths Restored: The Doctrinal and Historical Significance of the Joseph Smith Translation (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1995). This is the published version of papers presented at the BYU Symposium on the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. Chapters of import to this paper include “Scripture Reading, Revelation, and Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible” by Dallin H. Oaks; “Restoring Plain and Precious Truths,” by Joseph Fielding McConkie; “Doctrinal Contributions of the Joseph Smith Translation of the New Testament,” by Andrew C. Skinner; “The Joseph Smith Translation and the Doctrine and Covenants,” by Larry E. Dahl. Doctrine and Covenants (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981). This work is helpful for the continuation of revelation as well as guidance of the Bible translation. Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957). This work contains specific references to the process of translation and the feeling of those involved.

[5] Smith, History of the Church, 3:30.

[6] The Lord Himself taught that the Garden of Gethsemane was part of the Atonement. He revealed that His suffering would bring salvation to man, and that the same suffering caused Him to “bleed at every pore” (D&C 19:18). This bleeding is the same as that spoken of in Luke 22:44, which occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane. Christ also taught that His Atonement included His crucifixion and death. There are multiple examples of this teaching. Joseph Smith translated one such example in 3 Nephi 11:14. It stated that the resurrected Christ appeared in the Americas, showed His marks in His hands and feet, and testified that He had been “slain for the sins of the world.” The Lord also revealed through Joseph that “there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ” (Mosiah 16:8). The Resurrection is also part of Christ’s saving Atonement.

[7] Most of the JST excerpts in this paper come from the footnotes or appendix in the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James version of the Bible. A few come from the Community of Christ’s edition of the Bible (Inspired Version). To help the reader, we have used Latter-day Saint edition references wherever possible.

[8] It is worthwhile to note the value of John’s quotation of Esaias. Esaias is a Greek form of the name Isaiah, and the verse preceding and following these appear to be a quotation of Isaiah 40:3–4.

[9] Either the JST quotation refers to another prophecy of the Atonement, which is unusually similar, or these verses of the New Testament provide an inspired version of the Old where the Atonement of Christ is at the forefront!

[10] Another noteworthy verse warns that if there were ancient leaders who did not testify of Him, they were not prophets at all, but “thieves and robbers” (JST, John 10:8).

[11] The JST changes the perception of the young Christ in this story. The KJV text indicates that Christ, at this point, was an astonishing student, “They found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46). The JST, however, made the twelve-year-old Jesus greater: “and they were hearing him, and asking him questions” (JST, Luke 2:46). Christ was no prodigy student. He was the teacher.

[12] The JST restated this idea that at the beginning of Christ’s ministry: “He knew all things” (JST, John 2:24).

[13] On another occasion, Christ responded to Pharisees’ counsel to leave Perea or Herod would kill Him. He said, “I cast out devils and do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. Nevertheless, I must walk today and tomorrow, and the third day; for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem” (Luke 13:32–33). The JST ended this teaching with, “this he spake, signifying of his death” (JST, Luke 13:34). Christ testified that contrary to Herod’s design, He would not die in Perea but in Jerusalem. He would rise again on the “third day,” and be “perfected.” On a related note, three times Christ prophesied that He would rise again on the third day with the imagery of the story of Jonah in the KJV (see Matthew 12:39–41; Matthew 16:4; Luke 11:29–30, 32). The JST added one more: “There shall be no sign be given unto this generation, save the sign of the prophet Jonah; for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so likewise shall the Son of man be buried in the bowels of the earth” (Inspired Version, Mark 8:12). Again, there are three days of time passing and Christ prophesies that He will be three days in the earth, or entombed.

[14] Three concepts validate the conclusion that this verse spoke of a pre-mortal Christ. First, John’s two statements began with “in the beginning.” Second, John’s next subject was the Creation, and the JST clarified that Christ is the Creator (see John 1:3; JST, John 1:10). After introducing the fact that John the Baptist would testify of these things, this chapter then testifies of the Savior’s birth (see John 1:14; JST, John 1:13). It appears to be a chronological procession from premortal life to the Creation to later Christ’s birth. Third, also in this chapter, and directly before one of the verses in question, John the Baptist proclaimed that Christ was “before” him (John 1:15). John was born before the Savior, therefore he must have referred to a time before Christ’s birth.

[15] Previous to Joseph Smith’s translation of the New Testament, he had already translated verses that taught of a premortal Christ who accepted God’s will and agreed to perform the Atonement (see JST, Genesis 3:3 or Moses 4:2; JST, Genesis 7:44–45 or Moses 7:39). The translation of this scripture added to this doctrinal foundation.

[16] According to the JST, Joseph the carpenter had a “vision,” not a “dream,” in which an angel appeared to him (Inspired Version, Matthew 1:20, 24; 2:3, 7; Matthew 1:20, 24). The angel told him to take Mary to wife and that he would be the mortal father of the Christ child. The JST remained consistent with this change and stated that Joseph had a “vision” when an angel appeared to him and commanded him to take his family to Egypt to save the infant Christ’s life, and also when he appeared to tell Joseph to return (Inspired Version, Matthew 3:13, 19).

[17] There are several other changes related to Christ as the Son of God. Peter proclaimed that Christ was “the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16). The JST added those very words to the same account in Mark and added that Christ was the Son of God to the account in Luke (see Inspired Version, Mark 8:31; Inspired Version, Luke 9:20). The JST also added the title “the Son” to Christ in John 6:44 (Inspired Version, John 6:44). Christ Himself boldly declared that God was His Father. Though in Mark 10:23 Christ spoke of the “kingdom of God,” according to the JST, Christ spoke more personally of the “kingdom of my Father” (Inspired Version, Mark 10:22). Christ obeyed the will of His Father to allow mankind to enter this kingdom. There are six additional references in the JST that depicted Christ as the Son of God (see Inspired Version, Matthew 12:44; JST, Luke 9:26; JST, Luke 21:36; JST, John 6:44; JST, John 6:65; JST, Revelation 1:7).

[18] During the translation of the Old Testament, the Lord revealed through Joseph Smith that the sacrifices of the Old Testament symbolized the sacrifice of Christ (see JST, Genesis 4:7 or Moses 5:7). By law the ancient sacrifices had to be without blemish (see Exodus 12:5; Leviticus 1:3). Christ had to be “without blemish,” or without sin, in order for Him to pay the price for others. First Peter 3:18 states that Christ “once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust.”

[19] It is unclear as to whether this verse implies free from all sin or just free from the charges of treason that would condemn Jesus. Either interpretation contributes to our knowledge of Christ’s sinless state.

[20] In order to understand such a change, a few of the other changes in the JST in reference to the Twelve Apostles are insightful. They are made surprisingly human with vivid weaknesses. According to JST, Luke 12:10, the Apostles had “spoken evil against him [Christ] before the people, for they were afraid to confess him before men.” JST, John 11:16 showed that the Apostles worried prematurely that Christ would be killed, “for they feared lest the Jews should take Jesus and put him to death, for as yet they did not understand the power of God.” The Apostles were human with doubts and shortcomings that reached their climax when they doubted Christ’s ability to fulfill His grandest purpose.

[21] This insight comes from Skinner, “Doctrinal Contributions,” 88.

[22] Matthews, “A Plainer Translation,” 373.

[23] The JST continued to reveal more on Judas. As the story continued, after Christ was crucified and Judas realized truly what he had done, he returned the thirty pieces to his partners in betrayal. Judas clearly admitted that he had sinned, but in the JST those to whom he betrayed the Savior also acknowledged Judas’s actions as sinful. Still, they placed all the responsibility on him (see JST, Matthew 27:4). Matthew recorded that in his sorrow Judas “went and hanged himself,” but Acts records that he fell “headlong, [and] burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out” (Matthew 27:5; Acts 1:18). The JST reconciled the difference between these verses by stating that Judas “went, and hanged himself on a tree. And straightway he fell down, and his bowels gushed out, and he died” (Inspired Version, Matthew 27:6).

[24] In 1843 Joseph Smith made further change to this scripture. He changed the phrase “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise,” to “This day thou shalt be with me in the world of spirits: then I will teach you all about it and answer your inquiries” (Luke 23:43; Smith, Teachings, 309).

[25] Interestingly, the KJV of Matthew 22:32 is left unchanged. It is it very similar to the KJV of Mark 12:27, which received these alterations.

[26] Joseph Smith had already translated Alma 11:41, which clearly states that “all shall rise from the dead.” Also, Joseph Smith had already received the revelation now recorded as D&C 29, which states this same doctrine in verse 26.

[27] Years after translating the Bible, Joseph Smith confirmed this notion by teaching the following: “We read that many bodies of the Saints arose at Christ’s resurrection, probably all the Saints” (Joseph Smith, discourse, May 16, 1841, reported in Times and Seasons June 1, 1841, 429).

[28] The JST clarified to Latter-day Saints a doctrinally troublesome verse that is related to this concept. The KJV of John 1:18 reads “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” Similarly, the JST included the statement, “No man hath seen God at any time,” but added the condition, “except he hath borne record of the Son; for except it is through him no man can be saved” (JST, John 1:19). All are saved through Christ, and all that see God will testify of Christ.

[29] The JST provided another related insight when Christ instituted the sacrament. According to the JST, as Jesus passed the cup of wine, He taught that His blood would not be shed for “many,” but for “as many as shall believe on my name, for the remission of their sins.” (KJV, Matthew 26:28; JST, Matthew 26:24).

[30] Joseph Smith, “The Answer,” Times and Seasons, February 1, 1843, 85. Also, the rationale of this paragraph follows that of Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig J. Ostler, Revelations of the Restoration (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000), 520–21.

[31] The JST provided many other significant doctrinal insights about the Atonement not discussed in this paper.

Before the translation of the New Testament, the Lord revealed through the first chapters of the Old Testament that Christ’s sacrifice would free spirits trapped in a prison (see Moses :38–39). The JST of the New Testament builds on that foundation. In 1 Peter 3:18, Joseph Smith changed the sequence of thoughts within the verse to clarify that the Resurrection along with Christ’s suffering for sin allows “that he [Christ] might bring us to God.” Peter continued, “For which cause also, he [Christ] went and preached unto the spirits in prison” (JST, 1 Peter 3:19). Just after Peter taught of the Atonement, he taught of Christ in spirit prison continuing His work of salvation. In Acts 2:2, Luke quoted David praising our Savior for not leaving his soul in “hell.” The JST changed the word to “prison” (JST, Acts 2:2). Luke later stated that David’s redemption from this prison was due to the Resurrection (see Acts 2:31). No spirit could leave the prison without the Atonement.

Peter indicated that many disobedient souls had been in this spirit prison since the days of Noah and the flood (see 1 Peter 3:20). The JST added an interesting description: “some of whom were disobedient” (JST, 1 Peter 3:20). Obviously, if some were disobedient, some were not. Christ’s visit to the spirit world was to help not only the rebellious but also those who were obedient. Though the details of Christ’s visit to the spirit world, with all of its doctrinal ramifications, would not be revealed and recorded for years, the JST is an early indicator of the Atonement’s vast scope for both the living and the dead.

In addition to teaching of the salvation of the dead, the JST also instructed on the salvation of little children. As early as 1829, the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that children “who have arrived at the years of accountability” needed to repent of their sins (D&C 18:42). Yet when exactly were little children to be held accountable? Joseph Smith translated in the Book of Mormon that baptizing children is a “solemn mockery” before the Lord (Moroni 8:9). King Benjamin taught that the Atonement covered the sins of these little ones (see Mosiah 3:16). When would this coverage reach its limit and the children need to repent? During the translation of the Bible, Joseph Smith learned more on this subject. He added to Genesis 1:11 “that thou mayest know for ever that children are not accountable before me until they are eight years old.”

The JST of the New Testament reinforces this doctrinal point. Not only was this doctrine revealed to Joseph Smith in latter days, but the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ taught it Himself. In Matthew 18 the Lord warned against offending the “little ones” and proclaimed that He had come to call all people to repentance. The JST adds the following words of Christ, “but these little ones have no need of repentance, and I will save them” (JST, Matthew 18:11).

This ancient doctrine is also plainly displayed when Christ’s Apostles attempted to keep a group of children from meeting the Savior. This was not an episode of mean-spirited men oppressing children; rather, the Apostles wanted to deny the children access to the Savior simply because it would be a spiritually inefficient use of the Savior’s time. The disciples said, “There is no need [for the children to come to Christ], for Jesus hath said, Such shall be saved” (JST, Matthew 19:13).

[32] This instruction is found in the Doctrine and Covenants. The Lord directed who should be scribes (see D&C 25:6; 35:20; 4:1), when and where Joseph should work on the translation (see D&C 3:1; 3:3), not to translate the Apocrypha (see D&C 91:1–6), and to build a house for printing the translation (see D&C 41:; 94:10; 104:58; 124:89). This insight comes from Robert Matthews, “A Plainer Translation,” 256.