The Joseph Smith Translation and the Book of Moses


Having addressed Joseph Smith’s translation of ancient scriptural texts generally and the influence of the King James Version on them, we now turn our focus to the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. In March 1830 the publication of the first edition of the Book of Mormon was complete. Just three months later the Prophet Joseph Smith began working on what the Lord later described as “the new translation of my holy word” (Doctrine and Covenants 124:89) or a “New Translation” of the Bible.[1] In October 1829, while the Book of Mormon was being printed, Oliver Cowdery purchased a Phinney edition of the King James Bible from E. B. Grandin that Joseph Smith would subsequently consult in his translation of the Bible.[2] In June 1830 Joseph received the revelation that would be described as the “visions of Moses,” now known as Moses chapter 1.[3] This revelation appears to have sparked Joseph Smith’s work of translating. About a month later, Joseph began producing manuscripts of this Bible translation beginning with Moses 2 (= Genesis 1).[4] Thus, shortly after the publication of the Book of Mormon and the organization of the Church, in a three-year time span from June 1830 to July 1833, the Prophet Joseph Smith labored at the work of translating the Bible.[5] In a revelation given to him and Sidney Rigdon in December 1830, the Lord explained the purpose of this translation: “the scriptures shall be given, even as they are in mine own bosom, to the salvation of mine own elect” (Doctrine and Covenants 35:20).[6]

Of course, this Bible translation was not a typical, narrowly defined translation process from one foreign language to another using grammars and lexica, but rather a translation relying primarily on revelation from God.[7] At the time, Joseph did not possess the requisite training and skills to carry out an academic translation. As discussed in chapter 2, later in Kirtland Joseph and other Church members would undertake the study of Hebrew and German while engaging with additional ancient languages such as Greek and Latin, but the New Translation took the form of revelation from God revealing his word to his prophet.[8] It is further possible that Joseph’s use of seer stones as a mechanism of revelation was instrumental in initiating his translation of the Bible. At least one account preserves this tradition:

After I got through translating the Book of Mormon, I took up the Bible to read with the Urim and Thummim. I read the first chapter of Genesis and saw things as they were done. I turned over the next and the next, and the whole passed before me like a grand panorama: and so on chapter after chapter until I read the whole of it. I saw it all![9]

Beyond this 1880 account, which may reflect the earliest stages of Joseph’s Bible translation, at some point he reportedly became so attuned with receiving revelation that he eventually told Orson Pratt that he “did not need the assistance of that instrument [the seer stone]” to translate the Bible.[10] Thus, while Joseph had relied heavily on seer stones to translate the Book of Mormon record, his translation of the Bible may have primarily entailed a different form of revelation, one that did not involve the use of seer stones.[11]

As part of the translation process, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery had purchased a Cooperstown Bible and eventually would begin working their way through the Old Testament.[12] Attention to what would become Moses 1 seems to have initiated that translation process, and some scholars refer to that material as a preface, prologue, or introduction to the Bible.[13] The restoration of lost truths like those found in the Book of Moses, as well as the new understandings the revelations shed on the book of Genesis, significantly situates the Restoration as a revelation of what actually was, and not as an invention or attempt by Joseph Smith to “Christianize” the Bible.[14] Joseph Smith was not making religion up as he went along—he was revealing what God had revealed to him about “things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:24; see Jacob 4:13), including things as they were anciently.[15] Michael McKay and Nicolas Fredrick have articulated this concept as follows:

Joseph Smith’s Restoration scripture projected Mormonism back to an ancient religious past that justified, prophesied, and promised he would restore the gospel in the last days before Christ returned. In particular, the Book of Mormon revealed founding figures in an ancient past who prophesied of Joseph Smith and his role in the Restoration (see 2 Nephi 3; 2 Nephi 27). Joseph Smith’s revelations also showed how the authority he was given connected him to an ancient tradition and authority that went back to Adam (see D&C 84; 86; 88). . . . The essence of a restoration of all things insists that Joseph Smith reveal an ancient past to a modern world. It was a doctrine that empowered Mormonism and offered them that which had been lost.[16]

A Restoration of Truth and Prophetic Calling

In two 1829 revelations, the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that there were additional “records which contain much of my gospel, which have been kept back because of the wickedness of the people” and that Oliver Cowdery would assist Joseph “in bringing to light” these scriptures.[17] The importance of viewing the content of the Book of Moses as an essential component of the Restoration cannot be overstated. Richard Draper has summarized and emphasized the significance of the Book of Moses thus:

From the Pearl of Great Price we learn how much Adam, Enoch, Moses, and other prophets knew and taught about God our Father and his Son, our Savior. We see that the Saints of this earth’s earliest era fully understood the doctrine of the Godhead and knew that the Son, Jesus Christ, would make an atonement for mankind. Many Latter-day Saints may not understand the significance of revelation showing that Adam had this knowledge. But nowhere in the Old Testament, as it stands today, do we find a stated connection between the law of sacrifice and the Atonement. It is not there because, as the Lord told Moses, certain individuals “shall esteem my words as naught and take many of them from the book which thou shalt write.” The Lord assured Moses, however, that he would remedy this problem, for “I will raise up another like unto thee; and they [the Lord’s words] shall be had again among the children of men—among as many as shall believe” (Moses 1:41).[18]

The Prophet Joseph Smith himself viewed this work of translating the Bible as an integral part of his divine calling as a prophet. As Philip Barlow has observed, “The Joseph Smith Translation (JST) was unique in that both the commission to translate and the means of performing the translation were the result of revelation from God.”[19] In his journal entry for December 1, 1831, Joseph wrote, “I resumed the translation of the Scriptures, and continued to labor in this branch of my calling with Elder Sidney Rigdon as my scribe.”[20] Several revelations to Joseph Smith direct him to continue in the translation endeavor:[21]

  • In December 1830 the Lord commanded Sidney Rigdon, “A commandment I give unto thee—that thou shalt write for him; and the scriptures shall be given, even as they are in mine own bosom, to the salvation of mine own elect” (Doctrine and Covenants 35:20).
  • On February 9, 1831, the Lord stated: “All this ye shall observe to do as I have commanded concerning your teaching, until the fullness of my scripture is given. . . . Thou shalt ask, and my scriptures shall be given as I have appointed, and they shall be preserved in safety” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:15, 56).
  • On March 7, 1831, the Lord commanded Joseph to pause the translation of Genesis in the Old Testament and to begin work on the New Testament: “Behold, I say unto you, it shall not be given unto you to know any further concerning this chapter, until the New Testament be translated, and in it all these things shall be made known; wherefore I give unto you that ye may now translate it, that ye may be prepared for the things to come” (Doctrine and Covenants 45:60–61).
  • On January 10, 1832, after a pause in the translation process, the Lord commanded Joseph that “it is expedient to translate again” (Doctrine and Covenants 73:3; see v. 4).
  • On February 16, 1832, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon received one of the greatest revelations recorded in scripture today (Doctrine and Covenants 76). This occurred while they were “doing the work of translation, which the Lord had appointed unto us” (v. 15).
  • On January 19, 1841, the Lord commanded William Law to assist Joseph Smith in “publish[ing] the new translation of my holy word unto the inhabitants of the earth,” adding “and if he will do this I will bless him” (Doctrine and Covenants 124:89–90).

In addition to those instructions, the Lord continually revealed to Joseph the significance of scripture translation, emphasizing that this divine commission was “a branch of [Joseph’s] calling”[22] as signaled by the Lord’s expressions “my scriptures” and “the fulness of my scriptures” in the revelations that directed Joseph to proceed with the work of translation (see, e.g., Doctrine and Covenants 42:15, 28, 56, 59; 93:53; 94:10; 104:58). The Lord even told Joseph what not to translate:

Joseph Smith soon came to a section in his King James Bible containing a collection of 14 books known as the Apocrypha. While most Bibles in Joseph Smith’s day contained these books, there was a growing movement at the time that questioned their status as scripture. Given this dispute, Joseph wanted to know if he should seek to translate the books and took the question to the Lord. The resulting revelation, now Doctrine and Covenants 91 [March 9, 1833], taught Joseph that while “there are many things contained therein that are true and it is mostly translated correct—there are many things contained therein that are not true which are interpolations by the hands of men verily I say unto you that it is not needful that the Apocrypha should be translated.[23]

The Lord was constantly guiding this work of translation and, as Elizabeth Maki notes, supplied Joseph Smith with additional encouragement, optimism, and instruction while he was finishing it.[24]

Joseph’s divine calling to translate the Bible constituted an important part of his preparation and training to preside over the Church amid the still-unfolding Restoration. Although the Prophet was not directly translating from a foreign-language text, he and the Lord considered this work as one of translation (Doctrine and Covenants 124:89), particularly in its resultant restoration of meaning and intent of ancient scriptural texts and revelations.[25]

The Translation and Its Recording

The Prophet Joseph Smith worked his way through Genesis 24 when the revelation now contained in Doctrine and Covenants 45 was received on March 7, 1831. Up to this point, the New Translation of the Old Testament was recorded in what is now referred to as OT1.[26] Instruction was now given to begin work on translating the New Testament, and glorious visions pertaining to the Lord’s Olivet Discourse were received (now Joseph Smith—Matthew and the account in Doctrine and Covenants 45).[27] With the Lord’s commission “ye may now translate it, that ye may be prepared for the things to come,” and the encouraging words “great things await you” (Doctrine and Covenants 45:61, 62), the Prophet felt driven to begin work on the New Testament translation. He began the very next day.

As the work moved to the New Testament, John Whitmer made a backup copy of their work on the Old Testament, this at least partly because of experience gained with other lost manuscripts (see Doctrine and Covenants 3). This backup manuscript we now know as OT2.[28] As the Prophet Joseph Smith continued the work of the translation and fulfilled his duties to lead the Church, he was instructed in January 1832 to continue the translation of the New Testament “until it be finished” (Doctrine and Covenants 73:4).

Joseph labored throughout 1832 and early 1833 to see the New Testament translation project through to completion. He did this while working vigorously with other Saints amid trials, persecutions, and setbacks to ensure that other revelations (or commandments) hitherto received were also published in a timely manner.[29] Terryl Givens chronicles these efforts as follows:

In March 1833, while laboring through the New Testament, he (Joseph Smith) had announced that his new edition of “the New Testament and the Book of Mormon will be printed together.” Then in May a revelation affirmed his commission to proceed with preparations for “the printing of the translation of my scriptures.” Two months later, a mob destroyed the church’s press in Missouri. In October, Smith sent Oliver Cowdery to New York with $800 to secure a new press for printing operations in Kirtland. After its purchase and the dedication of a new printing office, Smith prayed with his colleagues that “the Lord would protect our printing press from the hands of evil men, and give us means to send forth his word, even his gospel that the ears of all may hear it, and also that we may print his scriptures.” A subsequent revelation, Smith said, again urged him “to print my words, the fulness of my scriptures.” Certainly, the Missouri crisis and the fracturing of the church in Kirtland made progress difficult on this and other fronts. Nevertheless, a first printing of the Doctrine and Covenants proceeded in 1835 and a Kirtland edition of the Book of Mormon two years later.[30]

In June 1835 Joseph pleaded with the Saints to help move forward the work of publishing the New Translation by lending their financial support:

Kirtland June 15, 1835

Dear brethren in the Lord,

I send you my love and warmest wishes for your prosperity in the great cause of our Redeemer.

We are now commencing to prepare and print the New Translation, together with all the revelations which God has been pleased to give us in these last days, and as we are in want of funds to go on with so great and glorious a work, brethren <we> want you should donate and loan us all the means or money you can that we may be enable[d] to accomplish the work as a great means towards the salvation of Men.

My love to my relatives &c

your brother in the bonds of the New Covenant. Joseph Smith Jr[31]

When several years later the translation was not yet published, an “1841 revelation once again reaffirmed the Lord’s will that Smith ‘publish the new translation of my holy word unto the inhabitants of the earth,’ and the next year he delegated Willard Richards ‘to arrange the . . . translation of the Bible . . . for the press.’”[32] Again in 1842 Joseph described the great worth of the New Translation and other revelations he was attempting to publish:

In future. I design to furnish much original matter, which will be found of enestimable adventage to the saints,— & to all who— desire a knowledge of the kingdom of God . . . so that the honest in heart may be cheered & comforted and go on their way rejoi[101]ng.— as their souls become exp[an]ded.— & their undestanding [understanding] enlightened, by a knowledge of what Gods work through the fathers.[33]

Although Joseph Smith never saw his Bible translation published in his lifetime (owing in part to persecution and lack of funds), he viewed those revelations as invaluable and to the end of his life solicited the Saints’ help in publishing them to the world.[34]

Completion of the New Translation

The Prophet Joseph Smith, with the help of several scribes,[35] worked his way through the entire Bible, recording inspired revelations associated with many passages. In all, 3,410 verses received treatment, 1,289 in the Old Testament, 25 corresponding to the additions in Moses 1, and 662 in Genesis in general.[36] When the translation was completed, the fact was duly recorded on July 2, 1833: “We this day finished the translating of the Scriptures, for which we returned gratitude to our heavenly father.”[37] Upon completion of the translation, however, Joseph and his scribes continued the editing process.[38] Emma Smith later commented that Joseph was still performing various work on the translation in his later life.[39] This does not contradict the fact that Joseph had completed the Lord’s instructions to finish the translation of the Bible as recorded above. In fact, as Terryl Givens has concluded,

Evidence suggests that he (Joseph Smith) did consider the work complete and was on the cusp of printing it. One such indication is that in the summer of 1833, Frederick G. Williams, Smith’s assistant for much of his translation work (and counselor in the First Presidency), wrapped up his work on the project and began a kind of topical guide to the new translation, “classifying the different Subjects of the Scriptures and reviwing the same [sic].” A few weeks earlier, Smith had assured the Saints that even as scribes were doing final edits, “the printing of the New Translation” would take place “as soon as the Lord permit.”[40]

Joseph never saw the New Translation published in his lifetime. That day came in 1867 when Joseph and Emma’s son Joseph Smith III and the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS) published the translation in its entirety, a work sometimes known as the “Inspired Version.”[41] After the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the New Translation remained behind with Emma Smith as the Saints headed westward; she would preserve the translation until its publication by the Reorganized Church.[42] As it happened, several of the translations provided by Joseph Smith would not make it into that work.[43] Sometimes this was the result of mix-ups in the use of OT1 and OT2:

In preparing the New Translation for publication, editors from the RLDS Church, particularly Joseph Smith III, checked the Book of Moses text against the translation manuscripts that his father and his scribes had created. However, in doing so, these editors introduced into the Moses material textual discrepancies in both grammar and wording. In some cases, Smith’s later corrections were unwittingly dropped and his earlier wording retained.[44]

Sometimes we simply cannot explain why Joseph Smith III made some of the changes he did to his father’s work.[45] At other times, changes made by editors who had published excerpts of the Book of Moses in 1843 in the Times and Seasons were adopted in later copies, conflating the various versions:

Nothing more was printed from the Book of Moses until early in 1843, when a chapter appeared in the Church’s Nauvoo, Illinois, newspaper, the Times and Seasons (TS). In January of that year, an installment in the serial publication of Joseph Smith’s history included the full text of Moses 1. That text is unique among the early publications. It was not based on OT1 but on a copy that someone had made, about a decade earlier, of OT2 prior to the insertion of Joseph Smith’s corrections. Thus it includes some of the unique characteristics of John Witmer’s transcription. Like the earlier publications The Evening and the Morning Star and the Lectures on Faith, this publication was not always carefully done and not always identical to the text on the original manuscripts. In several places, editors or typesetters changed words in these early printings, often for reasons that are not apparent now. Among other changes, the Lectures on Faith remove the first-person voice from the Creation account and modernize much of the language of the text.[46]

These occurrences account for the variations found in the original 1851 publication of the Book of Moses by Franklin D. Richards, who was working with OT1. Subsequent publications included material found in the 1843 Times and Seasons, the 1867 Inspired Version, the 1878 edition of the Pearl of Great Price, and various editions of the modern Pearl of Great Price that followed these earlier publications:[47]

When Richards’s committee (perhaps largely deferring to Orson Pratt) created the 1878 version of the Book of Moses, . . . Pratt in effect copied material from the RLDS Church’s published text into the Pearl of Great Price. Along the way, he corrected some of the RLDS Church’s errors but also inadvertently imported many others, which have been retained in the modern editions of the Book of Moses.[48]

It was during the 1960 and 1970s that Robert Matthews began gaining access to the manuscripts of Joseph’s New Translation that remain with the Community of Christ church to this day.[49] It was not until 2004 that all the JST manuscripts were brought together in one volume (which included the texts for what became the Book of Moses) and the complete text of New Translation was published.[50] When the 1981 edition of the scriptures was published, some of the New Translation was included in the footnotes and in an appendix. Today, although not all of Joseph Smith’s work can be found in the current edition of the Book of Moses, it can be found in publications that reproduce the variants arising from the book’s complicated textual history.

Revealed Truths and Revelation

As Joseph Smith worked through the Bible and translated, many truths previously unknown to the young prophet came to light. He had already experienced revelatory processes that gave him glimpses into the “fulness” of the biblical record during events leading up to the translation of the Book of Mormon and surrounding the restoration of the Priesthood and its ordinances. For example, Joseph Smith—History 1:41 states that Moroni’s quotation of biblical prophecies included “explanations” of those texts: “He also quoted the second chapter of Joel, from the twenty-eighth verse to the last. He also said that this was not yet fulfilled, but was soon to be. And he further stated that the fulness of the Gentiles was soon to come in. He quoted many other passages of scripture, and offered many explanations which cannot be mentioned here.”[51] In other words, Moroni gave Joseph a great deal of revelatory data regarding “many” passages of the Bible. Joseph Smith—History 1:73–74 describes how Joseph and Oliver, after they were baptized and “filled with the Holy Ghost,” understood scriptures in new ways:

Our minds being now enlightened, we began to have the scriptures laid open to our understandings, and the true meaning and intention of their more mysterious passages revealed unto us in a manner which we never could attain to previously, nor ever before had thought of.

As the work of the restoration progressed and Joseph Smith immersed himself in the Bible project, the Lord revealed a plethora of doctrine that would affect the Church:[52]

Some of the revelations deal explicitly with passages, people, and events from the Old and New Testaments. One, for example, contains a new account of the Olivet Discourse from Matthew 24 and another, an explanation of the parable of the wheat and the tares from Matthew 13. A revelation fleshes out an account recorded in John 21, and others provide explanations for passages in 1 Corinthians. Joseph Smith’s doctrine of different degrees of heaven in the afterlife springs from a passage in John 5. Biblical priesthood is discussed, as are the lives of Adam, Enoch, Moses, and other luminaries from the Old Testament. Even the organization of the Church comes from revelations relating to the Bible, with the Twelve, the Seventy, and “the same organization that existed in the primitive church.” And the Prophet said that his ideas for governing councils came to him in a vision of Peter administering the church in ancient times.[53]

The number and quality of unique doctrines taught in the Book of Moses make it one of the most significant parts of the New Translation. Some of the most precious Latter-day Saint doctrines taught therein include these truths: women and men are “indeed in the image of God, the Father’s work is without end, and his worlds are ‘without number.’”[54] We also learn of Satan’s motives in the premortal existence and in the Garden of Eden, the necessity of the Fall of Adam and Eve, and many other unique teachings and doctrines. Besides the doctrines formally presented in the Book of Moses, divine revelation flowed to Joseph Smith throughout the translation period as answers to important questions were received, and Joseph and his associates recorded them. These vital revelations now reside in their canonical forms in the Doctrine and Covenants as sections 76 (degrees of glory), 77 (commentary on the Book of Revelation), 84 (Melchizedek Priesthood), 86, 88, 93, 102, 104, 107 (priesthood), 113, and 132 (celestial marriage).[55] Concerning the Doctrine and Covenants, the Bible “translation process served as the direct catalyst for many revelations contained in that book, which includes more than a dozen sections that arose directly from the translation process or contain instructions for Joseph and others pertaining to it.”[56]

Richard Bushman summed up Joseph’s attitude toward all the revelations he received: “Judging by his actions, Joseph believed in the revelations more than anyone. From the beginning, he was his own best follower. Having the word of God at his back gave him enormous confidence.”[57]

The result and significance of the New Translation of the Bible has been stated as follows:

Latter-day Saints read the Bible with a view of antiquity informed by Joseph Smith’s revelations and his reading of the Bible. Together, those sources create a vision of the ancient world and its history that contrasts dramatically with traditional Christian views. To Joseph Smith, however, his nontraditional interpretation came naturally from the text and was not something he imposed on it. “We teach nothing but what the Bible teaches,” he said. Yet again, for him the source of his interpretation was not the text itself but the revelation he received to guide him to understand it. He said, “God may correct the scripture by me if he choose,” and, “I have the oldest Book in the world & the Holy Ghost [.] I thank God for the old Book but more for the Holy Ghost.”[58]

The New Translation has been described by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as “a member of the royal family of scripture” that “should be noticed and honored on any occasion when it is present.”[59] This restoration and revelation of truth as contained in the Book of Moses truly has indeed become a pearl of great price. The British Saints yearned for it, and now we are the heirs of its precious content. Its true value has well been described in its namesake parable: when we find that “pearl of great price,” we yearn to go and sell all that we have that we might obtain it (Matthew 13:45–46). The next chapter will explore how Joseph Smith’s translation of Genesis revealed indispensable truths pertaining to the ancient nature of the gospel and its value throughout time as a “pearl of great price.”


[1] Such descriptions by the Lord underscore the sacred and intimate nature of the revelation Joseph Smith would receive and record through this translation of the Bible. See “Letter to Church Leaders in Jackson County, Missouri,” 25 June 1833, p. [2], The Joseph Smith Papers, where the term is styled “New translation,” and “Letter to Church Brethren,” 15 June 1835, p. [1], The Joseph Smith Papers, where the term is styled “New Translation.” Herein the term New Translation appears capitalized and without quotation marks unless it is being directly quoted; it is synonymous with Joseph Smith Translation. For an early reference to the Bible translation, see “To the Elders of the Church of the Latter Day Saints,” Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate 2, no. 3 (December 1835): 229. For revelations describing Joseph’s work as a translation, see, e.g., Doctrine and Covenants 73:4; 76:15; 90:13; 124:89.

[2] See Jackson, “Joseph Smith’s Cooperstown Bible,” 41–70; and Maki, “Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation,” 99–104.

[3] See Visions of Moses, June 1830 [Moses 1], p. 1, The Joseph Smith Papers; Jackson, “Joseph Smith Translating Genesis,” 12–13; and Jackson, “Visions of Moses,” 161–69.

[4] See Maki, “Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation.” This new translation would become fundamental to the doctrinal development of the Church. “Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible shows that it was the means by which many important doctrines of the gospel were revealed to the Prophet. He was translating the Bible, not because he already knew the answers and doctrines, but because by the process of experience of the translation he would learn things important for him to know.” Matthews, “A Plainer Translation,” 32. Since 1823 when the angel Moroni had begun citing Malachi with some variation from the Bible, Joseph began learning of clarifying truths pertaining to the Bible. For the discussion of the earliest lessons Joseph was learning about then-current variations in the Bible that angels, God, and revelation would eventually reveal and restore through him, see Givens and Hauglid, Pearl of Greatest Price, 30–32.

[5] For an overview of the process, see Old Testament Revision 1, p. 3, The Joseph Smith Papers; Jackson, “New Discoveries in the Joseph Smith Translation,” 149–60; and Matthews, “Plainer Translation,” 21–54. See also Millet, “Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible,” 23–47.

[6] See Revelation, 7 December 1830 [D&C 35], p. 47, The Joseph Smith Papers.

[7] A recent publication has asserted that Joseph Smith’s translation relied heavily on Adam Clarke’s scholarly translations. See Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon, “Recovered Resource,” 262–84. Some have been quick to accept these conclusions; see Givens and Hauglid, Pearl of Greatest Price, 30; and Grey, “Approaching Egyptian Papyri,” 449n228. These claims have recently been refuted; see Jackson, “Some Notes on Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke,” 15–60. It appears that the translation reflected how Joseph first studied passages using his intellect (see Doctrine and Covenants 9:8) and then labored to record a translation that provided scripture in an English translation of what the Lord had instructed him. This editorial process would ensure that the text reflected what the Lord wanted the original revelation to convey. See Jackson, Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts, 7. “The amount of editing, emending, and correcting to OT2 [a backup copy of the original manuscript made by John Whitmer, which eventually became the primary document and the one that was edited and published] reveals the hard work undertaken by the Prophet and his scribes as they sought to make a smooth-flowing text that reflected the whisperings of the Spirit.” Draper, Brown, and Rhodes, Pearl of Great Price, 14.

[8] Revelations the Prophet received also referred to his work on the Bible as a “translation” (see Doctrine and Covenants 45:60 and 73:3). Accounts of the Book of Mormon translation by means of revelatory seer stones seem to suggest that, at least in part, English words or phrases at times appeared on the stones during the translation process, guiding Joseph through the translation. For discussion of the translation process and the extant accounts, see MacKay and Frederick, Joseph Smith’s Seer, 46–64; and MacKay and Dirkmaat, Darkness unto Light, 61–78. Concerning the Joseph’s Bible translation, “there is no evidence that [Joseph Smith] used the Urim and Thummim or a seer stone of any type during the actual translation. Elder Orson Pratt made a statement to the effect that seer stones were not used. However, there is a report that prior to the translation the Prophet used the Urim and Thummim to ‘look at’ the Bible. . . . So far as we have any evidence, Joseph Smith did not use Biblical languages and manuscripts in the translation. His learning of Biblical languages came after his initial translation (ending in July 1833) and may have been employed by him in making some of the revisions and corrections in the manuscripts between 1835 and 1844.” Matthews, “Plainer Translation,” xxvii–xxxii. For a full description of the different accounts and history of the translation of what became the Pearl of Great Price, see Jackson, Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts, 2–3.

[9] Smith, “Sayings of Joseph.” This recollection of a conversation with Joseph Smith that took place in 1832 was related by Lorenzo Brown in 1880. This is a thirdhand account but may offer some insight into the revelatory process of Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible. If this is the case, it is remarkable to imagine what the Prophet was seeing as he was translating the record of the Creation and the early chapters of Genesis. See MacKay and Frederick, Seer Stones, 126–27; and Flake, “Translating Time,” 506.

[10] Pratt, “Two Days’ Meeting at Brigham City,” 498–99. See MacKay and Frederick, Seer Stones, 126. Joseph Smith did continue to use seer stones throughout his prophetic career, including on December 27, 1841, when he showed his seer stone to the Twelve Apostles and encouraged them to obtain their own seer stones (he said this while introducing the concept of the white stone of Revelation 2:17 in relation to the temple endowment). See MacKay and Frederick, Seer Stones, 127.

[11] “The Lord gave him the Urim and Thummim when he was inexperienced in the Spirit of inspiration. But now he had advanced so far that he understood the operations of the Spirit and did not need the assistance of that instrument.” Pratt, “Two Days’ Meeting at Brigham City,” 498–99.

[12] See Jackson, “Joseph Smith’s Cooperstown Bible,” 59–60; and Draper, Brown, and Rhodes, Pearl of Great Price, 12–13.

[13] See Clark, “Prologue to Genesis,” 129–42; Jackson, “Visions of Moses,” 161–69; and Jackson, “Joseph Smith Translating Genesis,” 12, the last describing the “Visions of Moses” as “the prologue to the biblical Creation account.”

[14] Thom Wayment, in “Intertextuality,” 76–98, views Joseph Smith’s revelations as efforts to Christianize the Bible. This assertion is simply incorrect. Ancient scripture such as the Book of Mormon and the New Testament had already established the concept that Jesus Christ had manifested himself in pre-Christian times (see, e.g., John 8:56–58; 1 Corinthians 10:2–4), that his doctrine was known and practiced (see, e.g., 2 Nephi 31; John 1:24–25; compare John 3; Jacob 4:4–5; Mosiah 18:8­–17), and that pre–New Testament prophets testified of him (see, e.g., Jacob 7:11; 3 Nephi 20:24; John 12:41; Acts 3:24). See Barlow, Mormons and the Bible, 37. “None of the details of [Joseph’s] New Translation are as important as the one fundamental principle that came to underlie much of his biblical teaching throughout his life: the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ was revealed in the beginning of human history and always was the only means of human salvation.” Jackson, “Joseph Smith’s Biblical Antiquity,” 177–78.

[15] Kent Jackson explains: “Most of Joseph Smith’s career as Mormonism’s founding prophet was related in some way to the Bible. The simplest explanation for this is that the Bible contains the record of God’s dealings with people anciently, and Joseph Smith saw his career as the renewal and continuation of that work in modern times. For him, the key term that described his work was restoration, a word that he and his followers adopted to identify early Mormonism in general. Mormonism would be the restoration—the restoration of truth that God had revealed since the beginning of human history, the restoration of the ancient authority to speak anew in God’s name, and the restoration of God’s ancient church to represent his will on earth.” Jackson, “Joseph Smith’s Biblical Antiquity,” 165. See Flake, “Translating Time,” 499–500.

[16] MacKay and Frederick, Seer Stones, 131.

[17] See Visions of Moses, June 1830 [Moses 1], pp. 204–205; Account of John, April 1829-C [D&C 7]; Revelation, April 1829-A [D&C 6], p. 16; and Revelation, April 1829-B [D&C 8], The Joseph Smith Papers. See Doctrine and Covenants 6:26–27; 8:1, 11.

[18] Richard D. Draper, “Remarkable Book of Moses,” 15. See also Jackson, “Joseph Smith’s Biblical Antiquity,” 178–80.

[19] Barlow, Mormons and the Bible, 46–47. Elder Franklin D. Richards, who was instrumental in compiling the texts that would comprise the Pearl of Great Price, highlighted in his preface to the volume the “Divine calling, and holy ordination, of the man by whom these revelations, translations, and narrations have been communicated to us.” The Pearl of Great Price (1851), preface. See Matthews, “Plainer Translation,” 3.

[20] History, 1838–1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805–30 August 1834], p. 175, The Joseph Smith Papers. Jackson, in “Cooperstown Bible,” 59, and Barlow, in Mormons and the Bible, 46–47, also discuss the divine calling and commission of the Prophet Joseph Smith to translate the Bible. Some have endeavored to claim that Joseph Smith received no such divine calling (Wayment, “Intertextuality,” 88), but the Prophet Joseph Smith took this divine commission very seriously.

[21] See Muhlestein, “Revelations Surrounding the ‘New Translation,’” 49.

[22] For November 1831, Joseph Smith had Willard Richards record in his journal, “After Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer had departed for Jackson county , Missouri, I resumed the translation of the Scriptures and continued to labor in this branch of my, <calling> with elder Sidney Rigdon as my scribe.” History, 1838–1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805–30 August 1834], p. 175, The Joseph Smith Papers. Robert J. Matthews, in “Plainer Translation,” 173, observes, “This is a most important comment because it reveals how the Prophet himself viewed his work of translating the Bible—it was part of his divine calling as a prophet of God.”

[23] Maki, “Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation”; and Doctrine and Covenants 91:1–3.

[24] See Maki, “Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation”; Joseph Smith, Letter to William W. Phelps, 31 July 1832, p. 5, The Joseph Smith Papers; and Revelation, 8 March 1833 [D&C 90], p. 2, The Joseph Smith Papers. “In July 1832, Joseph wrote to W. W. Phelps that ‘we have finished the translation of the New testament.’ ‘Great and glorious things are revealed,’ he wrote, adding that they were ‘making rapid strides in the old book and in the strength of God we can do all things according to his will.’ . . . In March 1833, Joseph received instruction that when the translation was finished, he should ‘thence forth preside over the affairs of the church.’ So he eagerly pushed ahead.” Maki, “Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation.”

[25] As previously discussed, “The translation was not a simple, mechanical recording of divine dictum, but rather a study-and-thought process accompanied and prompted by revelations from the Lord. That it was a revelatory process is evident from statements by the Prophet and others who were personally acquainted with the work.” Matthews, “Plainer Translation,” 39.

[26] See discussion in Jackson, Book of Moses and Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts, 20–38. “OT1” refers to the Book of Moses and OT Bible translation through March 7, 1831. See also Matthews, “Plainer Translation,” 60–80. For a discussion on the types of changes made in the Joseph Smith Translation, see Faulring, Jackson, and Matthews, Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 8–11; Matthews, “Plainer Translation,” 233–54; and Jackson, “Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 1830,” 51–76.

[27] See discussion in Millet, “Joseph Smith and the Gospel of Matthew,” 68.

[28] The backup copy of OT2 was completed on April 5, 1831, by John Whitmer, who was called to help in the work of transcribing as Church historian (see Doctrine and Covenants 47:1). See Matthews, “Plainer Translation,” 64–66. Once work on the Old Testament continued, OT2 became the primary document on which the translations were recorded.

[29] For an overview of the sequence of events and preparations for publication, see Maki, “Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation.”

[30] Givens and Hauglid, Pearl of Greatest Price, 32–33.

[31] Letter to Church Brethren, 15 June 1835, p. [1], The Joseph Smith Papers.

[32] Givens and Hauglid, Pearl of Greatest Price, 32–33.

[33] Editorial, circa 1 March 1842, Draft, p. [1], The Joseph Smith Papers.

[34] See Matthews, “Joseph Smith’s Efforts to Publish His Bible Translation,” Ensign, January 1983, 57–64.

[35] For a list of Joseph’s scribes and the passages translated, see Bradshaw, In God’s Image, 3; Faulring, Jackson, and Matthews, Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 57–59; Matthews, “Plainer Translation,” 96; and Jackson, “How We Got the Book of Moses,” 138.

[36] Matthews, “Plainer Translation, 19, 425; Jackson, “Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 1830” 51–76; Bradshaw, Image and Likeness, 3.

[37] Letter to Church Leaders in Jackson County, Missouri, 2 July 1833, p. 51, The Joseph Smith Papers; Jackson, Cooperstown Bible, 59–60; and Jackson, “How We Got the Book of Moses,” 138–39.

[38] See Matthews, “Plainer Translation, 41–48, 209.

[39] Emma Smith to her son Joseph III, February 10, 1867, cited in Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible, 11. See discussion in Matthews, “Plainer Translation,” 208–9.

[40] Givens and Hauglid, Pearl of Greatest Price, 33. Additionally, “beginning in July 1833, Joseph Smith no longer spoke of translating the Bible but of publishing it, which he wanted and intended to do ‘as soon as possible.’ . . . The best evidence points to the conclusion that when the Prophet called the translation ‘finished,’ he really meant it, and no changes were made in it after the summer (or possibly the fall) of 1833. The primary evidence is in the handwriting on the manuscripts. In the process of translating the Bible, Joseph Smith made an initial dictation of the text and then later went back over parts of it to make further refinements and corrections. He called that second stage of the process the ‘reviewing.’ The historical sources tell us that the review of previously translated material was going on while the initial translation of other parts of the Bible was still under way. In July 1832 Joseph Smith announced the completion of the New Testament translation and the shift back to the Old Testament, which had been set aside some time earlier. Then in February 1833, during the time he was engaged in the Old Testament translation with Frederick G. Williams as scribe, he announced that the ‘reviewing’ of the New Testament had just been completed, for which Sidney Rigdon was the primary scribe. . . . Elder Rigdon served as the Prophet’s scribe only until the fall of 1833, which is therefore probably the last possible date for any translation changes,” 156–57.

[41] “In December 1867 the edited transcription of Joseph Smith’s entire Bible revision was published in Bible format, titled The Holy Scriptures. This publication is still in print today, with its most recent edition having come out in 1991. Since the nineteenth century, it has been popularly called the Inspired Version, a name that was added officially to the title page in 1936.” The official title of the volume was The Holy Scriptures, Translated and Corrected by the Spirit of Revelation. By Joseph Smith, Jr., the Seer. See Jackson, Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts, 20.

[42] See Jackson, “Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 1830,” 67.

[43] “When one compares the editing on the RLDS Committee Manuscript with the earliest publications of New Translation material, one can see the origin of the changes that Joseph Smith III made. After preparing the Committee Manuscript to match OT2, he decided to check it against the texts as they were published in The Evening and the Morning Star in 1832–33 and the Times and Seasons in 1843.” Jackson, Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts, 27.

[44] Givens and Hauglid, Pearl of Greatest Price, 34.

[45] For more information on the changes made by Joseph Smith III, see Jackson, The Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts, 20–28.

[46] Jackson, The Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts, 14.

[47] Later editions (1902, 1921, 1981) descend from the 1878 edition, which had limited access to original manuscripts. Some changes are missing from those later editions because OT1 was sometimes used to make corrections that were never transferred over and thus are absent from today’s current edition.

[48] Givens and Hauglid, Pearl of Greatest Price, 34. See discussion in Jackson, The Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts, 20–38.

[49] “Because the Saints in Utah knew little about the Joseph Smith Translation and did not have access to its original manuscripts, for many years the translation was not widely used within the Church, except for the excerpts that are part of the Pearl of Great Price. During the 1960s and 1970s, Professor Robert Matthews conducted exhaustive research on the manuscripts. His study confirmed the general integrity of the printed Inspired Version and taught us many things about the New Translation and how it was produced. In the process, Professor Matthews brought the JST to the attention of members of the Church.” Jackson, “How We Got the Book of Moses,” 144.

[50] For the complete published version of the New Translation, see Faulring, Jackson, and Matthews, Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible.

[51] Oliver Cowdery listed more than thirty Old Testament passages that he claimed Moroni discussed with Joseph: Isaiah 1:7, 23–24, 25–26, 2:1–4; 4:5–6; 11:15–16; 29:11, 13, 14; 43:6; Psalms 100:1–2; 107:1–7; 144:11–12, 13; 146:10; Joel 2:28; Deuteronomy 32:23–24, 43; Jeremiah 16:16; 30:18–21; 31:1, 6, 8, 9, 27–28, 32–33; 50:4–5; 1 Corinthians 1:27–29. See “Letter IV,” Messenger and Advocate 1, no. 5 (February 1835): 77–80; and “Letter VI,” Messenger and Advocate 1, no. 7 (April 1835): 108–12. See also Jackson, “Appearance of Moroni to Joseph Smith,” 339–66; and Jackson, From Apostasy to Restoration, 114–15.

[52] For the effect of the Joseph Smith Translation on the theological development of the Church, see Barlow, Mormons and the Bible, 54–55; Matthews, “Role of the Joseph Smith Translation in the Restoration,” 42; LeFevre, “Education of a Prophet,” 99–120; and Matthews, “Plainer Translation,” 255.

[53] Jackson, “Joseph Smith’s Biblical Antiquity,” 174.

[54] Jackson “Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts,” 173.

[55] See Peterson, History and Commentary, 28–29. More than half of the sections of the Doctrine and Covenants were received during the translation period. See Matthews, “Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible,” 2:767.

[56] Doctrine and Covenants 35, 37, 41, 42, 45, 73, 76, 77, 86, 93, 91, 94, 124. See Maki, “Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation.”

[57] Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 173.

[58] Jackson, Joseph Smith’s Biblical Antiquity, 183.

[59] Oaks, “Scripture Reading, Revelation, and Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible,” 13.