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Why does the LDS edition of the Bible not contain all of the corrections and additions made by Joseph Smith?

TitleWhy does the LDS edition of the Bible not contain all of the corrections and additions made by Joseph Smith?
Publication TypeMagazine Article
Year of Publication1992
AuthorsMatthews, Robert J.
Issue Number6
Date PublishedJune 1992
KeywordsJoseph Smith Translation

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Why does the LDS edition of the Bible not contain all of the corrections and additions made by Joseph Smith?

Robert J. Matthews, professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, and Gospel Doctrine teacher in the Lindon Third Ward, Lindon Utah Stake. Several factors had a bearing on the amount of Joseph Smith Translation (JST) material that was included in the Bible published by the Church in 1979. Early in that decade, the Scriptures Publications Committee, 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. Its purpose, as expressed later by President Spencer W. Kimball, was to “help Latter-day Saints better understand the Bible.”

The First Presidency decided that the new edition of the King James Version would be supplemented with various study helps, which worked out to be a ready reference and concordance (now called the Topical Guide), chapter headings, a Bible dictionary, a new footnote reference system to all standard works, explanatory footnotes clarifying Hebrew and Greek terminology, and excerpts from the JST (then commonly known as the Inspired Version).

A major factor in compiling such a comprehensive reference work is lack of space. Brevity and clarity are essential. To meet space limitations in selecting JST passages for the LDS edition of the King James Version of the Bible, the following guidelines were used:

  1. Selections must be doctrinally significant.
  2. Selections must contribute something not readily apparent in the other standard works, thereby avoiding duplication and saving space for unique JST contributions.
  3. Priority should be given to passages clarifying 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.
  4. Excerpts up to eight lines in length should be placed in the footnotes, and longer items should appear in a special appendix. (Note that the actual text of the JST appears in the LDS Bible, whereas other references therein give only source citations.)

On the basis of those guidelines, almost every JST passage of doctrinal significance was selected. Because the book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price is an extract from the JST and is readily available to LDS readers, only the source citation is given in reference to the book of Moses in the footnotes of the Bible. Thus the first JST textual footnote occurs at Genesis 6:18, because that passage goes beyond the book of Moses coverage. The same principle holds true for Matthew 24, which is presented in the Pearl of Great Price as Joseph Smith—Matthew. In like manner, some excerpts from JST Matthew 5–6, and 7 (the Sermon on the Mount) were not included because clarifications are available from a similar sermon recorded in 3 Nephi 12–14. [Gen. 6:18; Matt. 24; JST, Matt. 5–7; 3 Ne. 12–14]

In using selections rather than an entire text, continuity is weakened, and various subtleties and nuances are often lost. However, some of that is lost anyway as a result of placing material in footnotes, which interrupt the natural flow of thought. Rather than mourn the lack of completeness, we rejoice in the thousands of JST passages that are now in the standard works.

The translation of the Bible was made by the Prophet Joseph Smith between June 1830 and July 1833, with occasional revisions after that time until his death in June 1844. The manuscripts and a marked King James Version of the Bible still exist.

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. Passages of doctrinal significance were given preference, and since space was a major factor, not everything was included.