Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible, Part V

By Marvin W. Cowan

In Deut. 4:2, Prov. 30:6 and Rev. 22:18-19 the Bible warns not to add to or delete from what God has revealed. Those who believe the Bible obey it, but Joseph Smith added, deleted and changed many parts of the Bible in his Joseph Smith Translation or JST (also called the Inspired Version). Do you think he really believed the above Bible texts? When Smith made his JST all he had was a copy of the King James Version (KJV) Bible, so he didn’t really “translate” anything. Yet, he made more changes in Genesis than any other book in the Bible, so did he intend to make more changes in the Bible but didn’t because he got tired, distracted or didn’t have the time? Or, was Genesis more corrupt than the other books in the Bible? Smith still made so many changes in the Bible that we can only discuss a few of them. LDS often claim that they have a “living prophet” and “latter-day revelation” which clarifies many things in the Bible. Let’s look at a few examples of some of those “clarifications” that their “living prophet” and “latter-day revelation” have recorded in the JST and elsewhere.

Although Joseph Smith “translated” his JST Bible, the official Bible of the LDS Church is still the King James Version (KJV) published in 1611 AD. Genesis 2:7 in the KJV Bible says “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” In his JST Smith added some material before that text so it is Genesis 2:8 in it. It says, “And I, the Lord God, formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul; the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also;” The JST has some of the same content as the KJV, but it also has things that are not in it. It says that man was “the first flesh upon the earth,” but Genesis 1:22-26 in Smith’s JST as well as the KJV says that fish, fowls and all other animals were created before man. How can man be “the first flesh” if Gen. 1:22-26 in the JST is true? LDS doctrine says that Genesis 1 is about a spiritual creation which took place before the physical creation of the world and Genesis 2:5 & 9 in the JST is used as proof. LDS also use Moses 3:5 & 9 in the Pearl of Great Price which says exactly the same thing as Genesis 2:5 & 9 in the JST. But the creation of the sun, moon stars, water, air, earth, plants and animals in Genesis 1 and Moses 2 sounds like the physical world we live in when read in context. Smith’s “translation” of Genesis 2:7 into the content in Genesis 2:8 in his JST conflicts with what he taught on May 17, 1843. On that date he said, “The 7th verse of the 2nd chapter of Genesis ought to read—‘God breathed into Adam his spirit [i.e. Adam’s spirit] or breath of life…” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 301; History of the Church, vol. 5, pp. 392-393). If that is the way it “ought to read,” did God reveal it that way to Smith when he translated his JST? If God did reveal it that way, Smith ignored it. But if God didn’t reveal it that way, Smith must have known more than God when he said it “ought to read” that way!

Brigham Young, the LDS Prophet who succeeded Joseph Smith as head of the LDS Church, also had some things to say about the same text. He said, “Though we have it in history that our father Adam was made of the dust of this earth and that he knew nothing about his God previous to being made here, yet it is not so; and when we learn the truth we shall see and understand that he was the chief manager in that operation. He was the person who brought the animals and the seeds from other planets to this world, and brought a wife with him and stayed here. You may read and believe what you please as to what is found written in the Bible. Adam was made from the dust of an earth, but not the dust of this earth. He was made as you and I are made, and no person was ever made upon any other principle” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, p. 319). Joseph Smith said that the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price was revealed by God, and Moses 3:7a says exactly the same thing as Genesis 2:8 in the JST, so two LDS books of scripture agree. But LDS Prophet Joseph Smith said that text “ought to read” as stated above. And LDS Prophet Brigham Young explained it in a completely different way. So, have LDS “Prophets” and “latter-day” revelation really clarified the Bible as Mormonism claims? Some LDS try to explain contradictions like the above by saying that when their Prophets say something it may or may not be a revelation. But that raises another question: Who determines what is or is not revealed by God? The living LDS Prophet is supposed to be the final authority for LDS people. Both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were LDS Prophets when they gave the above messages!

Genesis 2:11 in the JST says, “And out of the ground , made I, the Lord God, to grow every tree naturally, that is pleasant to the sight of man, and man could behold it, and it became a living soul; for it was spiritual in the day I created it; for it remaineth in the sphere in which I, God, created it; yea, even all things which I prepared for the use of man; and man saw that it was good.” That verse and verse 12 are based on Genesis 2:9 in all other Bibles but the content is very different. However, that JST text supports what Mormon leaders have taught. For example, Orson Pratt, one of the original Twelve Apostles of Mormonism declared, “Both animals and vegetables consist of two substances, very different in their nature, viz: body and spirit…If the spirit of an apple tree were rendered visible when separated from its natural tabernacle, it would appear in the form, likeness, and magnitude of the natural apple tree; and so it is with the spirit of every other tree, or herb, or blade of grass, its shape, its magnitude, and its appearance, resemble the natural tabernacle intended for its residence…we are compelled to believe that every vegetable, whether great or small, has a living intelligent spirit capable of feeling, knowing, and rejoicing in its sphere…When the spirit first takes possession of the vegetable or animal seed or embryo, it contracts itself into a bulk of the same dimension as the seed or tabernacle into which it enters…Spirits, therefore, must be composed of substances, highly elastic in their nature…When the limb of a tree or of an animal is severed from the main body, the spirit, occupying that limb, is not severed from the other parts of the spirit, but immediately contracts itself into the living portions of the body, leaving the limb to decay” (The Seer, pp. 33-34, 36). Such teachings may interest some who worship “Mother Earth,” but do they really help to know the one true God?

People familiar with the Bible notice that the changes Smith made in his JST support things that he wanted to teach. Since no Biblical manuscripts support his changes, was he trying to make the Bible say what he wanted it to say? The Apostle Peter said this about scripture: “Knowing this first, that, no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (II Pet. 1:20-21).

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