PROPHET JOSEPH SMITH’S ROLE IN BRINGING TRUTH TO LIGHT
generation shall have my word through you.”
his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and
We must have a testimony of Joseph Smith if we are to have a
testimony of any of the restored gospel. Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Restoration, has been the vessel through which a great amount of new scripture came into the world. Being uneducated did not matter to this cause because he was connected to God, the Author, but this was not always apparent to those around him who had more schooling.
“At a conference of
members in Hiram, Ohio, in November 1831, there was a…challenge to Joseph’s
authority. Some of the brethren believed that someone with more learning could
write the revelations from God better. The Lord promptly issued a counter challenge
(recorded in D&C 67:5-8).”
(Latter-Day History, p. 96) “After the foregoing was received, William E. McLellin, as
the wisest man, in his own estimation, having more learning than sense,
endeavored to write a commandment like unto one of the least of the Lord’s, but
failed; it was an awful responsibility to write in the name of the Lord.”
(Joseph Smith, History of the Church 1:225, quoted in LDH, p. 96) Those who
witnessed this attempt were strengthened in their testimony of Joseph Smith as
the spokesman for Jehovah on the earth.
Young never had a problem with his testimony of Joseph Smith’s role as a revelator. He always
regarded Joseph Smith as the mouthpiece of the Lord, and later in life, as the
prophet himself, he said, “What I have received from the Lord, I have received by
Joseph Smith” (John A. Widtsoe and Brigham Young, Discourses of
Brigham Young, Deseret Book, p. 458).
describing the Prophet’s ability to understand and teach the gospel, he said, “Joseph Smith,
the Prophet of the last days, had a happy faculty of reducing the things of
heaven to the capacity of persons of common understanding, often in a single
sentence throwing a flood of light into the gloom of ages. He had power to draw
the spirits of the people who listened to him to his standard, where they
communed with heavenly objects and heavenly principles, connecting the heavenly
and the earthly together—in one blending flood of heavenly intelligence. When
the mind is thus lit up with the spirit of revelation, it is clearly discerned
that the heavens and the earth are in close proximity—that time and eternity
are one” (Brigham Young, Journal
of Discourses, 9:310).
“…Joseph [Smith] has
been instrumental in bringing us more holy writ than Abraham, Moses, Isaiah,
Matthew, John, Paul, Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni put together” (George A Horton, Jr., 1/93 Ensign, p. 11).
This lesson examines the canonized scriptures that have come through the mouth of Joseph Smith, Jr.
BOOK OF MORMON
First Edition Book of Mormon
Lord said to Joseph of Egypt:
"But a seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and unto him will I give power to bring forth my word unto the seed of thy loins--and not to the bringing forth my word only, saith the Lord, but to the convincing them of my word, which shall have already gone forth among them. Wherefore, the fruit of thy loins shall write; and the fruit of the loins of Judah shall write; and that which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah, shall grow together, unto the confounding of false doctrines and laying down of contentions, and establishing peace among the fruit of thy loins and bringing them to the knowledge of their fathers in the latter days and also to the knowledge of my covenants, saith the Lord." (2 Nephi 3:11-12. This prophecy is also
contained, nearly word for word, in the Old Testament JST, Genesis 50.)
Not only would
Joseph help bring forth the Book of Mormon, his works would also convince men
of the truth of the Bible they already had. He would help this generation
understand those things which are in the Bible. In addition the Bible and the
Book of Mormon will “grow together.” The longer the Bible and Book of Mormon
are used together, the better we will get at cross-referencing them, and our ability to use their sacred knowledge and power will be
compounded and expanded continually. (Read also 2 Nephi 3:3-16.)
JOSEPH SMITH TRANSLATION OF THE BIBLE
Joseph Smith's New Translation of the Bible,
by Herald House Publishing
1:70-71—“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.”
“No study of the Bible
would be complete without a thorough familiarity with the information and
doctrines contained in the JST [Joseph Smith Translation]—especially in the five books of Moses, Psalms,
Isaiah, and the four Gospels of the New Testament” (George A. Horton, Jr. Ensign, January 1993, 12).
Book of Mormon was mostly translated and published in the year 1829. The next
three years, 1830-33, Joseph Smith translated the Bible, beginning with the Old
Testament. He continued to revise and edit this translation until his death in
1844. Scribes for the work of the Bible translation included Oliver Cowdery, John
Whitmer, Sidney Rigdon, Emma Smith, and Frederick G. Williams. The manuscript
of the JST is 467 pages long and contains notes as to dates and geographical
locations indicating when and where certain parts were being translated. Joseph
completely rewrote some of the parts, in some he just wrote in some things and
crossed out others. In several places, he wrote little notes and pinned them to
the manuscript (since paper clips had not yet been invented).
Smith put significant effort into protecting the manuscript of the JST,
even tying it under her skirts in a bag to safeguard it while traveling 200
miles to safety from the mobs. At Joseph’s death, she still had the original
manuscript with Joseph’s revision, and she gave it to her son, Joseph Smith
III, who became the president of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ, now
called Community of Christ. In 1867 the RLDS Church published the Inspired
Version, or what we now call the Joseph Smith Translation (Ensign 1/86, p. 46). It is through the generosity of the Community of Christ that LDS Scholars have
been able to use the JST in recent years, and add excerpts into our LDS scriptures.
Joseph Smith Translation, published by the Community of Christ’s Herald House Publishing, contains at
least 3,410 verses rendered differently from their counterparts in the King
James Version. These are additional verses or enlargements of existing verses.
The account of Enoch in JST Gen.6-7 (Moses 6-7) contains 5,200 more words
about Enoch than the King James Version does. One Old Testament book is omitted in the JST
because, the manuscript states, the Song of Solomon is “not inspired”…More
than 700 passages from the JST are provided in the footnotes and the appendix
of the LDS edition of the KJV first issued in 1979 (Arnold W. Garr, Donald Q. Cannon, and Richard O. Cowan, Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History, p. 591).
Scriptures Publications Committee (which published the 1979 edition of the LDS
scriptures that included the JST), consisting of Elders Thomas S. Monson, Boyd
K. Packer, and Bruce R. McConkie (with many others called to assist), was
appointed by the First Presidency. To meet the space limitations, they did not
attempt to include the bulk of the JST. “While there were several reasons why the entire
text of the Joseph Smith Translation was not incorporated in the 1979 LDS
edition of the Bible, unreliability of the JST text was not one of them”
(Robert J. Matthews, Ensign, 6/92, p.
29). The RLDS Church preserved the manuscript exactly as Joseph Smith had left
it at his death.
The Scriptures Publications Committee used the following
guidelines to determine what to include:
must be doctrinally significant
must contribute something not readily apparent in the other standard works
should be given to passages that clarify the mission of Jesus Christ, the
nature of God, the nature of man, the Abrahamic covenant, the priesthood, the
antiquity of the gospel, and the latter-day restoration.
8 lines or shorter were placed in footnotes. Longer sections were printed in
the Appendix. And the two large sections that were already included in the
Pearl of Great Price (Moses 2-8 and JS-M) were left there (Robert J. Matthews,
Ensign, 6/92, p. 29).
REVELATIONS IN THE DOCTRINE & COVENANTS
First Edition Doctrine and Covenants,
The D&C contains a index entitled "Chronological Order of Contents of the D&C." “Most of the
revelations dealing with doctrinal subjects [found in the Doctrine and
Covenants] were revealed to Joseph Smith…from June 1830 to July 1833, which was
exactly the time he was working on the Bible translation. While the Prophet was
engaged in such a concentrated study of the scriptures, it was natural for him
to ask questions and ponder on various subjects, inquire of the Lord, and
receive divine revelation in answer to his inquiry” (Robert J.
Matthews, “A Plainer Translation,” BYU Press, quoted in Ensign, 1/86, p. 42).
“The Joseph Smith
Translation is not just a better Bible; it was a channel, or the means, of
doctrinal restoration in the infancy of this Church.” (Robert J. Matthews quoted in Robert L. Millet, The Capstone of our Religion: Insights into
the Doctrine and Covenants, 64).
COMPILATION & PUBLICATION OF THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE
First Edition Pearl of Great Price,
These were all just individual
writings and revelations, not connected to each other in any significant way,
and the way that they came to be published together in one volume is an
interesting story. And first we have to understand the significance of
newspapers in America in the mid-19th century.
- The Book of Moses was translated from the Old Testament Genesis in
1830-31. Joseph Smith – Matthew would have been translated later.
- The Book of
Abraham was translated from papyri between 1835 and 1842.
- Joseph Smith’s
History was written beginning in 1838.
Articles of Faith were written in 1842.
Alexis de Tocqueville, a contemporary of Joseph Smith's,
reporting on his travels in America for his European readers, wrote, “The influence
and circulation of newspapers is great beyond anything known in Europe. In
truth, nine-tenths of the population read nothing else. Every village, nay
almost every hamlet, had its press. Newspapers penetrate to every crevice of
the nation” (Tocqueville, Democracy
in America, 168, quoted in Garr, et. al., 72). Newspapers did not attempt to be neutral, but were highly editorialized--prejudiced, if you will--to match the
beliefs of the editor and his intended readers. Newspapers would feud
with each other, and they could certainly stir up mobs and riots. For these
reasons, it was very important for the Church to have its own press, to defend
the doctrines of the gospel and teach them to the saints. In Independence,
Missouri, it had The Evening and
Morning Star; in Nauvoo, The Times
and Seasons; and in Great Britain, The
versions of the sections of our current Pearl of Great Price were printed
individually by the Missouri press in 1832-33, or ten years later by the Nauvoo
press. Just as the tales of Sherlock Holmes and Charles Dickens were
published in installments in periodicals, so was Joseph Smith’s History. The Book
of Abraham, as we have it, was also published in three installments, and more
of that translation was to be published, but mob violence derailed that
plan. Parts of the Book of Moses were published here and there.
wasn’t until 1851 (seven years after the Prophet’s death) that these “miscellaneous”
writings were compiled into one body, The
Pearl of Great Price, similar to the way that it is today. So who thought
of the name, The Pearl of Great Price?
And who thought to put these revelations together? Well, surprise!--it was not the
Prophet Brigham Young. It was not even done under the direction of the First
Presidency! It was a mission president who thought of the idea, Elder Franklin
By that year, 1851, there were 31,000 members of the Church in
Great Britain (twice what there were in all of North America) and 2/3rds of
those had been members of the Church for four years or less. They had never had
access to those revelations published in the early Church periodicals. So Elder
Richards, as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve and President of the British
Mission, put them together, titled it The
Pearl of Great Price, and distributed it among the British saints (James
R. Clark, The Story of the Pearl of Great Price, Bookcraft; quoted in Ensign, January 1986, 44). This publication included the Books of Moses and Abraham, as well as the
History of Joseph Smith, the Articles of Faith, Joseph Smith – Matthew, some
selections from the D&C, and a poem entitled “Truth.”
1878 Elder Orson Pratt, the Church historian, edited and rearranged The Pearl
of Great Price, putting the Book of Moses in chronological order, similar
to how it is today. What is now Moses 1 was titled “Visions of Moses,” and the
rest of Moses (chapters 2-8) was titled “Writings of Moses.” In October
Conference of 1880, The Pearl of Great Price was accepted as scripture and
became part of the standard works. “Canonizing did not increase its truth or
worth but did make it official Church literature” (Garr, et al., p.
TRUTHS CLARIFIED IN THE BOOK OF
concise explanation of the Abrahamic Covenant (2:6-11)
account of the vastness of God’s creations, including the order by which the
various planets and stars of his kingdom are governed (3:1-13)
doctrine of the premortal existence of man and his eternal nature (3:18-22)
doctrine of foreordination (3:23)
concept of the earth as a testing ground for God’s children (3:24-26)
The account of Abraham's escape from death at the hand of Pharoah’s idolatrous priest (1:7-20)
The understanding that the earth was organized out of already existing materials rather than being created out
of nothing (3:24)
than one god participated in the creation (4)
creation was planned in a heavenly council before it was carried out (5:1-3)
TRUTHS CLARIFIED IN THE BOOK OF
purpose in creating man and the earth (1:27-40)
things were created spiritually before physically (3:4-7)
premortal council in which the Redeemer was appointed and Satan rebelled (4:1-6)
effects of the fall (5:9-12, 6:47-56)
introduction of the gospel among fallen man (5:4-15, 58-59)
baptism of Adam (6:53-68)
wickedness of Cain and his deal with the devil (5:16-41)
intelligence of Adam and his righteous posterity, including their pure spoken
and written language (6:5-6)
visions of Enoch (6:24-8:1)
about the ministry of Noah (8:8-32)
sacrifice as a similitude of the Sacrifice of Christ (5:7)
Children are saved without baptism (6:54)
The concept of Zion introduced through the story of the City of Enoch (7:18)
EXAMPLE CLARIFICATIONS PROVIDED
BY THE JST OF THE BIBLE
4:24 “God is a Spirit” vs. JST John 4:25 (in footnote) “God hath promised his
7 “I am carnal, sold under sin…” (verse 14-16) vs. JST “when I was under the
law, 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
is a great deal of increased knowledge about Jesus Christ’s mortal life and
teachings that the JST of the New Testament provides. it also sheds a lot of
new light on John the Baptist’s life (January 1995 Ensign).
IMPORTANCE OF USING THE REVELATIONS GIVEN TO US
Image from ChurchofJesusChrist.org
without the benefit of the JST…would be something like [eating] a T-bone
[steak] with much of the meat cut off”
(Horton, 42). And yet, we don’t spend very much time studying it. If you’re like me,
you’re too lazy to look up the references, and if they don’t require you to
read it for Sunday School class, you never get around to it on your own.
(Suggest that sometime this year class members study The Pearl of Great Price
and the Joseph Smith Translation Appendix. Also, suggest they find a way to
highlight JST footnotes in a manner that will make them obvious when studying
the Bible. On my paper scriptures, I
colored the footnote letter in the text and its corresponding letter at the
bottom of the page blue, an idea I got from Logan Insitute teacher, Jerry Wilson. You can do the
whole Bible as one project, starting at Genesis and going through Revelation
and then you have them all. If you don’t
do it, you won’t see the changes. I also
drew a blue slash through any large passages that are seriously altered by the
JST, such as the entire chapter of Romans 7. With my electronic scriptures, I underline the word or passage in dark blue to draw my attention to the footnote.)
August 27, 1842, Joseph Smith said, speaking for Heavenly Father, “…no good thing
will I withhold from them who walk uprightly before me, and do my will in all
things—who will listen to my voice and to the voice of my servant whom I have
sent; for I delight in those who seek diligently to know my precepts, and abide
by the law of my kingdom; for all things shall be made known unto them in mine
own due time, and in the end they shall have joy” (Joseph F. Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Deseret Book, 257).
“[Joseph Smith] has given us more revealed truth than
any prophet who has ever lived upon the face of the earth” (Elder LeGrand Richards, Ensign, May 1981, 33). Do we crave it? Do we use it? If your answer is yes, keep doing what you are doing! If your answer is no, I invite you to figure out one way (small or great) in which you can incorporate more of the scriptures into your daily life. If you have time, add more study. If you are a young mother with small children, think on a single scripture as you go throughout your day. If you have always read the scriptures slowly and deeply, verse by verse, try switching it up and reading a whole book as fast as possible--you will see patterns you missed before. If you have always read fast, try reading only a few verses at a time and digging deep into the meaning of the words. Whatever your approach, if it has become less fruitful, try changing just one thing.
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