Robert J. Matthews, “Major Doctrinal Contributions of the JST,” in The Joseph Smith Translation: The Restoration of Plain and Precious Truths, ed. Monte S. Nyman and Robert L. Millet (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1985), 271–89.
Robert J. Matthews was dean of Religious Education and professor of ancient scripture at BYU when this was published.
It is a privilege to participate in a symposium devoted to a wider understanding of Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible. I am reminded of the words of President Brigham young when he spoke of his high regard for the Prophet Joseph Smith. He said: “Would he not take the scriptures and make them so plain and simple that everybody could understand?”  President Young was never to busy to stop whatever he was doing and listen to the Prophet Joseph. He considered the Prophet’s words and opinions to be of unequaled worth. Said he on various occasions:” Angel never watched him closer than I did, and that is what has given me the knowledge I have today. I treasure it up, and ask the Father, in the name of Jesus, to help my memory when information is wanted.”  In 1868: “[I never let] an opportunity pass of getting with the Prophet Joseph and of hearing him speak in public or private, so that I might draw understanding from the fountain from which he spoke.”  And in 1877:
From the first time I saw the Prophet Joseph I never lost a word that came from him concerning the kingdom. And this is the key of knowledge that I have today, that I did hearken to the words of Joseph and treasured them up in my heart, laid them away asking my Father in the name of his son Jesus to bring them to mind when needed. . . . I was anxious to learn from Joseph and the Spirit of God. 
The reason President Young was so willing to listen was that he knew Joseph Smith offered something no one else could offer. We feel the same way about the Prophet and we honor his blessed name and memory. We know what Joseph Smith can tell us about the Bible is very significant.
To do well in this presentation is important to me, and I have sought sincerely for the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord to direct my preparation and delivery. My motive for wanting to do well is prompted by the feeling that if I do not do well it might reflect adversely upon the reputation of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. Or at least it might give the impression that the translation is not very important or has little to offer. For that reason, I deeply wish to have the power of expression and clarity of speech so that the Spirit of God will carry into your hearts the testimony and conviction that Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible is a unique production, divinely inspired, worthy of study and of importance to every soul who wants to understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. I alone am responsible for what I say here, but I believe it to be correct.
The reader of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible will be thrice blessed. First, he or she will gain an insight into the Prophet’s understanding of various scriptures; second, he or she will learn many things about the gospel not found in other sources; and third, he or she will obtain a clue as to the meaning and content of the Old and the New Testaments in their original form.
As one takes in his hands a printed copy of the Joseph Smith Translation he has to wonder how and what it is, and what it has to offer that other bibles do not have. It has been my experience that while other editions of the Bible contain much of the historical part of the ancient record, they are often flat or weak on doctrinal matters. Or to say it another way, the other Bibles generally tell what, whereas the JST not only tells what but also tells why. As we proceed with this discussion, I hope to be able to demonstrate some of the doctrinal contributions of the JST and how it often adds not only new historical perspectives and information, but also tells why certain things are so. That is, it gives the doctrinal substance or foundation.
First, let us read an excerpt from 1 Nephi. This is the Book of Mormon explanation about the history of the Bible text.
And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hand of all other nations. [These are the early colonists of American.]
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that they did prosper in the land; and I beheld a book, and it was carried forth among them.
And the angel said unto me: Knowest thou the meaning of the book?
And I said unto him: I know not.
And he said: Behold it proceedeth out of the mouth of a Jew. And I Nephi, beheld it; and he said unto me: The book that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; and it also containeth many of the prophecies of the holy prophets; and it is a record like unto the engravings which are upon the plates of brass, save there a not so many; nevertheless, they contain the covenants of the Lord, which he that made unto the house of Israel; wherefore, they are of great worth unto the Gentiles.
And the angel of the Lord said unto me: Thou hast beheld that the book preceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew; and when it proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the fulness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record; and they bear record according to the truth which is in the Lamb of God.
Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God.
And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.
And all of this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the heart of the children of men.
Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.
And after these plain and precious things were taken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest—because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God—because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, and exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them. . . .
Neither will the Lord God suffer that the Gentiles shall forever remain in that awful state of blindness, which thou beholdest they are in, because of the plain and most precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that abominable church, whose formation thou hast seen.
And it came to pass that I beheld the remnant of the seed of my brethren, and also the book of the Lamb of God, which had proceeded forth from the mouth of the Jew, that it came forth from the Gentiles unto the remnant of the seed of my brethren.
And after it had come forth unto them I beheld other books, which came forth by the power of the Lamb, from the Gentiles unto them, unto the convincing of the Gentiles and the remnant of the seed of my brethren, and also the Jews who were scattered upon all the face of the earth, that the records of the prophets and of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are true.
And the angel spake unto me, saying: These last records, which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved. (1 Nephi 13:19–30, 32, 38–40; emphasis added.)
We could add to that the words of the Lord to Moses:
And now, Moses, my son, I will speak unto thee concerning this earth upon which thou standest; and thou shalt write the things which I shall speak.
And in a day when the children of men shall esteem my words as naught and take many of them from the book which thou shalt write, behold, I will raise up another like unto thee; and they shall be had again among the children of men—among as many as shall believe. (Moses 1:40–41.)
We reverence the Bible. You note that the angel asked Nephi if he knew the meaning of the book. When he said the did not, the angel explained that it was a record of the Jews, the Jewish prophets and the Twelve Apostles (Old and New Testament), that it contained the covenants of the Lord to the house of Israel and they were of great worth to both Israel and the Gentiles. This Jewish record in its original purity “contained the fulness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record,” we revere the Bible as a sacred record, not only for its history but as a witness for Jesus Christ, and because it contains many parts of his gospel and the plan of salvation. But we recognize, as the angel pointed out to Nephi, that the Bible has not come to us in its original completeness, and some things are lost from it we should take special note, however, that not only do the scriptures speak of a loss, they also promise a return, a restoration of the lost material because it is so vital to salvation.
My intent is to discuss the doctrinal contributions of the JST. There are so many that even in one entire symposium we could not touch them all. We will cover a few that seem to be basic and which are representative, hoping that in so doing it will be like standing on a mountain peak on a clear day, where you can see almost forever, with the long view before us kindling an intense desire to explore not only all of the other peaks but also the valleys. Each of us will have to discover those things for ourselves, with our own books. We are thrilled, we are fed spiritually, and our interest grows when we make our own discoveries.
First let us consider the fact that the gospel of Jesus Christ was taught to Adam.
We learn from the JST that the gospel, with its ordinances and the holy priesthood, was taught to Adam and was had among all the early patriarchs, from Adam to Abraham. This concept is only hinted at in the King James Version and other translations. Instead of it being forthrightly stated and the crux of the message, it is at best something that an alert student of the Bible might arrive at circumstantially or by inference, but it is never taught convincingly. By contrast, in the JST the central message is that Adam was taught the gospel by an angel from heaven and also by other revelations from God. The JST states that Adam personally asked the Lord why repentance and baptism in water were necessary. The record goes on to show that subsequently Adam himself was baptized in water and received the Holy Ghost. This is an unmistakable message and the JST is more clear upon that subject than anything that can be found in any other source. I will read part of it from chapter 6 of JST Genesis:
But God hath made known unto our fathers, that all men must repent.
And he called upon our father Adam, by his own voice, saying, I am God: I made the world, and men before they were in the flesh.
And he also said unto him, If thou wilt, turn unto me and hearken unto my voice, and believe, and repent of all thy transgressions, and be baptized, even in water, in the name of mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth, which is Jesus Christ, the only name which shall be given under heaven, whereby salvation shall come unto the children of men; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, asking all things in his name, and whatsoever ye shall ask it shall be given you.
And our father Adam spake unto the Lord, and said, Why is it that men must repent, and be baptized in water?
And the Lord said unto Adam, Behold, I have forgiven thee thy transgression in the garden of Eden
Hence came the saying abroad, among the people, that the Son of God hath atoned for original guilt, wherein the sins of the parents cannot be answered upon the heads of the children, for they are whole from the foundation of the world.
And I have given unto you another law and commandment; wherefore teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in no wise inherit the kingdom of God.
For no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence; for, in the language of Adam, Man of Holiness is his name; and the name of his Only Begotten is the Son of Man, even Jesus Christ, a righteous judge, who shall come in the meridian of time.
Therefore I give unto you a commandment, to teach these things freely unto your children, saying, that by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death; and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so become of dust a living soul;
Even so ye must be born again, into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye may be sanctified from all sin; and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come; even immortal glory.
For, by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified; and by the blood ye are sanctified.
And now, behold, I say unto you, this is the plan of salvation, unto all men, through the blood of mine Only Begotten, who shall come in the meridian of time.
And it came to pass, when the Lord had spoken with Adam our father, that Adam cried unto the Lord, and he was caught away obey the Spirit of the Lord, and was carried down into the water, and was laid under the water, and was brought forth out of the water; and thus he was baptized.
And the Spirit of God descended upon him, and thus he was born of the Spirit, and became quickened in the inner man.
And he heard a voice out of heaven, saying, Thou art baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost; this is the record of the Father and the Son, from henceforth and for ever;
And thou art after the order of him who was without beginning of days or end of years, from all eternity to all eternity.
Behold, thou art one in me, a son of God; and thus may all become my sons. Amen. (JST Genesis 6:51–56, 59–65, 67–71; emphasis added.)
You may recognize that passage as part of the book of Moses from the pearl of Great price. As you know, the book of Moses is an extract from the JST of Genesis. This material was revealed to Joseph Smith and was in the JST for years before there was a publication called the pearl of Great Price.
The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants inform us that all of the prophets from the beginning knew of Christ (see Jacob 4:4; 7:11; D&C 20:25–28), but the uniqueness of the JST is that it actually presents the details and puts the gospel into the narrative of the Old Testament setting. The passage we just read from JST Genesis was really from a discourse by Enoch, seven generations after Adam, which shows that this clear exposition of the Fall, the Atonement, the mission of the Savior, and the very gospel of Jesus Christ was had among the early patriarchs in written form as well as by word of mouth.
As an extension to and a corollary to the antiquity of the gospel and its presence in the very beginning of the earth, we learn from the JST that each of the ancient dispensations were connected and associated by the gospel and the covenants, and that there is continuity and order in the kingdom of God. There is no difficulty in the entire plan of salvation being revealed from the very beginning of man on the earth, because the plan is older than the earth. In fact, the earth was created in cooperation with the provisions of the plan of salvation.
If one had only the Bible translations known throughout the world, there would be no hint that the ancient patriarchs had the fullness of the gospel or that there was continuity in the way the gospel was handed down and communicated from one generation to another. In other Bibles, the first time the word covenant appears is with Noah in Genesis 6;18, which reads as follows: “But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou and they sons,, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee.”
In the King James Version there is no hint of nay covenant between God and Adam, or any of the patriarchs between Adam and Noah, a space of some fifteen hundred year. And even the covenant that is mentioned in connection with Noah is not spoken of as a gospel or a priesthood covenant. And there is no visible connection between Adam, Enoch, Noah, Melchizedek and Abraham. By contrast, the JST speaks of Adam having the priesthood and the gospel, and this continues. Enoch, and then to Noah, and then to Melchizedek, and then to Abraham—the same covenant, the same priesthood, the same gospel. I will briefly read a few of these from the JST.
And thus the gospel began to be preached from the beginning, being declared by holy angels, sent forth from the presence of God; and by his own voice, and by the gift of the Holy Ghost.
And thus all things were confirmed unto Adam by an holy ordinance; and the gospel preached; and a decree sent forth that it should be in the world until the end thereof; and thus it was. Amen. (JST Genesis 5:44–45.)
And then began these men to call upon the name of the Lord; and the Lord blessed them; and a book of remembrance ws kept in the which was recorded in the language of Adam, for it ws given unto as many as called upon God, to write by the Spirit of inspiration;
And by them their children were taught to read and write, having a language which was pure and undefiled.
Now this same priesthood which was in the beginning shall be in the end of the world also.
Now this prophecy Adam spake, as he was moved upon by the Holy Ghost. (JST Genesis 6:5–8.)
Next from Enoch:
And death hath come upon our fathers; nevertheless, we know them, and cannot deny, and even the first of all we know, even Adam; for a book of remembrance we have written among us, according to the pattern given by the finer of God; and it is given in our own language.
And as Enoch spake forth the words of God, the people trembled and could not stand in his presence.
And he said unto them, Because that Adam fell, we are; and by his fall came death, and we are made partakers of misery and woe. (JST Genesis 6:47–49.)
Then from Noah:
But with thee will I establish my covenant, even as I have sworn unto thy father, Enoch, that of thy Posterity shall come all nations.
And thou shalt come into the ark, thou and thy sons and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with them. (JST Genesis 8:23–24.)
You will recall that we read earlier the corresponding verse from the KJV which mentioned a covenant with Noah but it did not say what the covenant ws. In the JST the statement is clarified to show that it is the same covenant that wad given to Enoch, which was the same as was given to Adam, and so forth. Let us read from JST Genesis the instructions from the Lord to Noah:
And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, And I, behold, I will establish my covenant with, which I made unto your father Enoch, concerning your seed after you.
And I will establish my covenant with you, which I made unto Enoch, concerning the remnants of hour posterity.
And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant, which I made unto they father Enoch; that, when men should keep all my commandments, Zion should again come on the earth, the city of Enoch which I have caught up unto myself.
And this is mine everlasting covenant, that when thy posterity shall embrace the truth, and look upward, then shall Zion look downward, and all the heavens shall shake with gladness, and the earth shall tremble with joy;
And the general assembly of the church of the first-born shall come down out of heaven, and possess the earth, and shall have place until the end come. And this mine everlasting covenant, which I made with thy father Enoch. (JST Genesis 9:15, 17, 21–23: emphasis added.)
This instruction is given to Abraham in JST Genesis 13:13: “And remember the covenant which I make with thee; for it shall be an everlasting covenant; and thou shalt remember the days of Enoch thy father.” Then to Melchizedek:
Now Melchizedek was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of loins, and quenched the violence of fire.
And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which god made with Enoch.
It being after the order of the Son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God. (JST Genesis 14:26–28.)
And in JST Genesis:
And it came to pass, that Abram fell on his face, and called upon the name of the Lord.
And God talked with him, saying, My people have gone astray from my precepts, and have not kept mine ordinances, which I gave unto their fathers;
And they have not observed mine anointing, and the burial, or baptism wherewith I commanded them;
But have turned from the commandment, and taken unto themselves the washing of children, and the blood of sprinkling;
And have said that the blood of the righteous Abel was shed for sins; and have not known wherein they are accountable before me.
But as for thee, behold, I will make my covenant with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
And I will establish a covenant of circumcision with thee, and it shall be my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations; that thou mayest know for ever that children are not accountable before me until they are eight years old.
And thou shalt observe to keep all my covenants wherein I covenanted with thy fathers; and thou shalt keep the commandments which I have give thee with mine own mouth, and I will be a God unto thee and thy seed after thee. (JST Genesis 17:3–8, 11–12.)
All of these references, including the verse content, are available in the footnotes or the appendix in the new LDS edition of the King James Version. As you can plainly see, there is continuity in the account of the JST Genesis that is not found in any other bible. The JST gives an account of the early patriarchs in gospel context and setting, with the fullness of the gospel, the priesthood, and faith in Jesus Christ and the same covenant. These ancient patriarchs knew of each other and had a common bond, a common faith—a oneness that we would never have suspected or known about or understood without the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. This is the same concept taught so clearly in the first and second lectures in Lectures on Faith, and the JST is no doubt the source for the doctrine in these lectures.
We read earlier from 1 Nephi 13 that many plain and precious things had been taken away out of the record of the Jews (the Bible) and that many covenants of the Lord had been lost in that process. We have just observed by reading these last few passages a small amount of what Nephi was referring to and we can see that the covenant is being restored. Nephi said the Jewish Bible, before it was altered, was like unto the record of the plates of brass (see 1 Nephi 13:23). We read also that the Lord would bring forth other books to make known the plain and precious thing that had been lost from the Bible. The JST would surely be one of those other books, along with the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the pearl of Great Price. It would follow, therefore, that the JST reads more like the plates of brass than does any other Bible we know about. Another example is 2 Nephi 2:17 in which Lehi tells how Lucifer became the devil this is similar to JST Genesis 3:1–5. Further, Lehi tells us that Adam and Eve would have had no children (see 2 Nephi 2:22–25). JST Genesis 5:11 says the same. Lehi said he read these things from the brass plates. There can be no question that the JST is closer to the plates of brass than is any other Bible.
Joseph Smith could not have restored these things without the spirit of revelation. He had that spirit. He held the keys of salvation. Let us read what the Lord said about this in the Doctrine and Covenants:
And I have sent forth the fullness of my gospel by the and of my servant Joseph; and in weakness have I blessed him;
And I have given unto him the keys of the mystery of those things which have been sealed, even things which were from the foundation of the world, and the things which shall come from this time until the time of my coming, if he abide in me, and if not, another will I plant in his stead.
Wherefore, watch over him that his faith fail not, and it shall be given by the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, that knoweth all things.
And a commandment I give unto thee [Sidney Rigdon]—that thou shalt write for him [Joseph Smith]; and the scriptures shall be given, even as they are in mine own bosom, to the salvation of mine own elect. (D&C 35:17–20.)
There are some very basic doctrines that are prominent in the JST that are not presented so clearly in other Bible translation. In some cases the JST material is completely new, as in the early chapter of Genesis, detailing the secret oaths of Cain (see JST Genesis 5) and the ministry of Enoch (see SJT Genesis 6–7). In most instances, however, the JST consists of enlargement or clarification of existing material, as is the case in the Epistles or the Sermon on the Mount.
Often there is a third level of benefit that comes as a result of the enlargements and additions. This arises because of the fact that the more we know, the more we are able to know. Thus, many of the clarifications in the JST are valuable not only in their own right, but because they supply key information enabling us to understand and see new significance to other passages that were not textually changes in the JST. This is the case with John 8:1–11 about the Pharisees condemning a woman taken in adultery. There are no clarifications in the JST in this passage relative to the Pharisees. But substantial clarification in JST Luke 16:13–19 sets a pattern for the hypocritical life of the Pharisees that sheds much light on the Savior’s statement: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7).
The JST has everything any other Bible has, and the JST supplies addition al information about the nature of God, of man, the origin of Satan, the premortal existence, the grand council and war in heaven (see JST Genesis 3:1–5; JST Revelation 12:6–10) and the gospel being taught to Adam and the early patriarchs.
In the JST God does not need to repent (cf. Genesis 6:6 with JST Genesis 8:15; also cf. Jonah 3:10 with JST Jonah 3:10), nor does he harden men’s hearts (cf. Exodus 7:3, 13with JST exodus 7:3; 13; Isaiah 63:17 with JST Isaiah 63:17). Little children are saved by the atonement of Jesus Christ (JST Genesis 6:56; JST Matthew 18:10–11; 19:13).
One of the major contributions of the JST is the insight it give about the personality and ministry of Jesus Christ. Jesus is more alert, more compassionate with sinners and more stern with the perfidious Jewish rulers, and is reflected as a greater person in the four Gospels of the JST than he is in any other Bible translation.
Little information is given in any Bible about the ministry of Enoch, and there is no mention of his city or of a people called Zion; but in the JST there is eighteen times more column space than is given to Enoch and his preaching in the KJV, and it says much about his city Zion. This marvelous information about Enoch was revealed to Joseph Smith in November and December 1830 and forms an example and pattern for the building of Zion in our dispensation.
In like manner, little is given of Melchizedek in any other Bible; much is given of him in JST Genesis 14:16–40 and JST Hebrews 7:13.
On 7 March 1831 the Prophet received a revelation now identified as Doctrine and Covenants 45, a major topic of which is the second coming of the Lord. In this divine communication the promise is given that through the translation of the New Testament the Lord will yet reveal to the prophet (and thus to the Church) much more about the Second Coming. The passage is as follows:
And now, 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.
For verily I say unto you, that great things await you. (D&C 45:60–62.)
Just what “chapter” is meant, we do not know, but given the subject matter of Doctrine and Covenants 45, this revelation clearly indicates that the JST will give considerable information relative to the Lord’s second advent.
Another major contribution of the JST is its emphasis on the first principles of the gospel. Many of the clarifications and inserts, both in Genesis 5, 6 and 7 and in the four Gospels, emphasize the messiahship of Jesus, faith, repentance, baptism in water, and the need we have for the influence and power of the Holy Ghost. We have dealt with the Genesis passages earlier in this article. Other passages are found in JST John 1; JST Mark 1:1–6; JST Matthew 3, Luke 3.
Now, why are these concepts and clarification snot in the Bibles the world uses? Were not the ancient biblical writers, apostles and prophets able to express themselves more clearly than the present Bible record shows? If the current Hebrew and Greek manuscripts of the Bible are anywhere near being correctly recorded, then we have to conclude that either those ancient writers did not have a clear knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ, or if they did they did not tell it.
I cannot believe that they did not know it nor can I believe they did not tell it—or write it. What I do believe is that their writings as found in all known ancient manuscripts have been altered and diluted so that what presently is regarded as their writings no longer contains many of the plain and precious and the “more particular parts of the gospel” that once where there.
The major problem, it appears, is not one of translation but of transmission. There are today able scholars who know well the ancient languages and who have the ability to translate clearly what is on the manuscripts. They do a great service in citing may technical points and updating the changes in language and clarifying different words and passages. But that is not the heart of the problem. The pivot on which the whole subject turns is the absence of an adequate manuscript. There is no way that a translator using existing biblical manuscripts can get out of them the fulness of the gospel, with plain and extensive statements about the nature of God, man, the devil, premortal existence, the Second Coming, the Resurrection, and so forth. There simply is no way that a translator can make current biblical manuscripts read the way that the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price teach these same doctrines. What is it then? Did the Bible prophets—Moses, Enoch, Abraham, Paul, Matthew, John, and others—not know the gospel as clearly as the Book of Mormon prophets, or is it that the records of the Bible prophets have not been preserved in complete clarity and accuracy?
Thus, logically we are forced to conclude that if the current available biblical manuscripts are correct, either the ancient biblical writers did not know the gospel in its clarity, or if they knew it, they did not write it. The testimony of the Book of Mormon, however, is that they did write it, but (1) much of it has been lost through faulty transmission, both willful and accidental, and (2) much of it has now been restored through the Joseph Smith Translation, the Book of Mormon, and the other revelations.
Frequently people ask me if the Joseph Smith corrections are supported in the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. An answer to that seems to be that if the JST offered no more than the biblical manuscript or if it were completely supported by them, there would have been no need for a JST. Of course it is not supported by the manuscripts. That reminds me of an experience I have every now and again when I go for a hair cut. Often some unappreciative young man has preceded me in the chair who has more hair than three men ought to have. Generally some comment is made about my own contrasting lack of hair, and I say to the barber, “Make me look like him.” The barber laughs, and the answer is always the same. He looks at me and says, “It is too late for that.” And that is why the existing Hebrew and Greek manuscripts cannot provide the light and truth that once were there, and why there had to be a restoration of the Bible if a correct Bible were to be had. Present Bible manuscripts simply do not have the luxuriant supply of doctrine that the original had. It is too late for them to do so. They lost it centuries ago.
Since all the other things of this dispensation are true: the First Vision, Book of Mormon, restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods, temple endowments, and so forth—the whole package of the Restoration—it is inevitable that the Prophet would also make a divinely inspired correction and supplemental edition of the ancient Bible. Not to have done so would have been the surprising thing. Not to have corrected and restored the Bible would have left Joseph Smith’s mission incomplete.
Revelation is progressive, and one revelation builds upon another. For example, as part of the JST the Prophet made a manuscript correcting certain passages in the book of Revelation. Then more information is given about the book of Revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 77, and still more application and explanation is given in Doctrine and Covenants 88.
This reflects a very real relationship of the JST to the Doctrine and Covenants, for much of the doctrine of this dispensation came to Joseph Smith while he was translating the Bible.
How can anyone take lightly what Joseph Smith says about the Bible and about scripture? If he were a great athlete, or a coach, or a famous actor, his opinion would be sought throughout the nation on all kinds of things—what cereal he preferred for breakfast, what toothpaste he used, and the car that he drives, and those are not even areas of such a person’s expertise. Yet scripture and the Bible, and the gospel and its restoration, are mainstream and of central importance to a prophet—the Prophet Joseph Smith—and his opinion and teachings on such matters ought to be given the highest priority by anyone who wants to understand the scriptures.
The need for using all of the standard works when interpreting the Bible is illustrated in what I am pleased to call the “Apollos Principle.” Apollos, as you know, was a bright and capable man from Alexandria. He was a believer and very gifted in speech. The following is recorded of him in Acts:
And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.
This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.
And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whim when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.
For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ. (Acts 18:24–26, 28.)
I will paraphrase the passage so as to illustrate the point:
And a certain teacher, named Apollos, born in Salt Lake City [or anywhere], an eloquent man, and might in the scriptures, came to the Church Educational System.
This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spoke and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the King James Version.
And he began to speak boldly in the classrooms and in firesides: whom when his supervisors and teacher trainers had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly, using the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, the JST, and the teachings of Joseph Smith and of the living prophets.
And afterwards he mightily convinced the students and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.
We see that Apollos had many of the valuable tools and skills helpful to be a great teacher. He was fervent, dedicated, eloquent, and had a knowledge of the scriptures. But as long as he was acquainted with only a portion of the scriptures, he could not put his great skills to fully benefit the work of the Lord. We need not only eloquence, skill, and dedication; we need the sources, the facts, and the substance of latter-day revelation if we wish to properly teach and interpret the Bible.
We now have a second chance. The JST was offered to the Saints in its entirely in the early days of the Church. They did not reject it; they just neglected it. As a church we therefore essentially lost it for about a century. We now have it again in the new LDS edition of the Bible. We should be careful to not neglect and lose it again. It is an idea whose time is come.
The JST is a witness for Jesus Christ. It is a witness for the divine calling of Joseph Smith as a prophet and apostle of Jesus Christ. Many people seem to go about it backwards. They want to test Joseph Smith by the content of the inadequate manuscripts. Actually the restoration of the gospel in this dispensation is as great as any other dispensation and can stand on its own record. Joseph Smith had an independent revelation of his own. The Book of Mormon and the JST are the proper standards by which to measure the accuracy of the ancient Bible. We are not measuring the prophets, but the quality of the ancient record that tells bout them. I think we should be more like President Brigham Young and not ignore the Prophet’s teachings.
I am grateful for the opportunity to have all the books—all of the standard works—and a testimony of the Spirit. I have a testimony that what I have said is true. Studying the scriptures will not always answer all our personal problems, but it will increase our spirituality, and with that increased spirituality we can then see our way more clearly to gain the inspiration for the Lord for our immediate problems. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.