In June 1830, Joseph Smith began creating a new "translation" of the King James Version of the Bible. However, this was not a literal translation from one language to another. It was a revelatory experience using the English text. Joseph Smith had learned from 1 Nephi 13:20-39 and Moses 1:40-41 that important pieces of the Bible manuscript had been removed or altered over time. Moses 1:40-41 states,
- 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 menâamong as many as shall believe.
The work of translation proceeded from June 1830 until July 1833. Joseph originally translated chapters 1 - 17 of Genesis. He had been working for months on the early chapters of Genesis, when he received a revelation from the Lord (March 7, 1831) instructing him to begin a new transmission of the New Testament (Doctrine and Covenants 45:60-61). Joseph worked through the entire New Testament and then returned to the Old Testament. As work progressed in fits and starts, due to persecutions, Joseph was instructed to hasten his work.
Joseph was preparing the translation for printing at the time of his death in 1844. His translation included 477 pages of manuscript and a King James Bible with notations. The manuscript was mostly written by scribes including Oliver Cowdery, John Whitmer, and Sidney Rigdon. Sidney Rigdon appears to have been the principal scribe. The Joseph Smith translation differs from the King James Version in "at least 3,410 verses, and consists of additions, deletions, rearrangements, and other alterations that cause it to vary not only from the King James Version, but from other biblical texts" (Matthews, EoM, p. 764). In fact, The Church has never published the entire translation. Portions of the translation of the Book of Genesis became the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price, and Joseph Smith-Matthew became a separate section in the Pearl of Great Price. Other translated scriptural verses and small changes appear as annotations to the King James Version of the Bible and in the appendix of the volume.
Joseph Smith explained, "I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors....From sundry revelations which had been received, it was apparent that many points touching the salvation of men, had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled" (TPJS, pp. 9, 10, 327).
Examples of Annotations in the King James Version from Joseph Smith's Translation
- 2 Samuel 24:16 (KJV)â
- And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing-place of Araunah the Jebusite.
2 Samuel 24:16 (JST) â
- ...the LORD said unto him, Stay now thine hand, it is enough; for the people repented, and the Lord stayed the hand of the angel, that he destroyed not the people.
- Mark 3:21 - 25 (KJV) â
- And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.
- And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.
- And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan?
- And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
- And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.
Mark 3:21 - 25 (JST) â
- And then came certain men unto him, accusing him, saying, Why do ye receive sinners, seeing thou makest thyself the Son of God.
- But he answered them and said, Verily I say unto you, All sins which men have committed, when they repent, shall be forgiven them; for I came to preach repentance unto the sons of men.
- And blasphemies, wherewith soever they shall blaspheme, shall be forgiven them that come unto me, and do the works which they see me do.
- But there is a sin which shall not be forgiven. He that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, hath never forgiveness; but is in danger of being cut down out of the world. And they shall inherit eternal damnation.
- And this he said unto them because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.
- Robert J. Matthews, "Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible," Encyclopedia of Mormonism, MacMillan, New York.
- Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith.
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