Joseph Smith—Matthew
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“Joseph Smith—Matthew,” The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual (2017)

“Joseph Smith—Matthew,” The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual

Joseph Smith—Matthew

What Is Joseph Smith—Matthew?

Joseph Smith—Matthew is the Joseph Smith Translation of Matthew 23:39–24:51.

“For December 1, 1831, Joseph Smith wrote the following note in his journal: ‘I resumed the translation of the Scriptures, and continued to labor in this branch of my calling with Elder Sidney Rigdon as my scribe’ [see History of the Church, 1:238; italics added]. This is a most important comment because it reveals how the Prophet himself viewed his work of translating the Bible—it was part of his divine calling as a prophet of God. … In December 1831 the Prophet had been at the translation some eighteen months and would continue working with it for another eighteen months. After that he would refine and prepare it for publication for the remaining eleven years of his life. Although he did not live to publish the entire work, it was the most unusual translation of the Bible ever attempted and stands as one of the witnesses to the world of Joseph Smith’s mission as a prophet of God in the last days” (Robert J. Matthews, “A Plainer Translation”: Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible, a History and Commentary [1975], 3–4).

When Did the Prophet Joseph Smith Translate This Portion of the Bible?

“The exact date on which the Prophet started to translate the Bible has been lost to history, but the translation was probably under way as early as the summer of 1830” (Matthews, “A Plainer Translation,” 26). On December 7, 1830, the Lord commanded Sidney Rigdon to become the scribe for the Prophet Joseph Smith in the work of making the inspired changes to the Bible (see D&C 35:20).

Prior to His Crucifixion and Resurrection, the Lord Jesus Christ answered His disciples’ questions about His glorious Second Coming (see Matthew 24:3–25:46; see also Luke 21:7–36). On March 7, 1831, the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith portions of what He told His disciples (see D&C 45:16–75). In that revelation, speaking to the Prophet Joseph Smith, He said:

“And now, behold, I say unto you, it shall not be given unto you to know any further concerning this chapter [Matthew 24], until the New Testament be translated, and in it [the Joseph Smith Translation] all these things shall be made known;

“Wherefore I give unto you that ye may now translate it [the New Testament], 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).

With that direction, the Prophet began the next day, March 8, 1831, the work of translating the New Testament, beginning with Matthew 1.

A date written on one of the manuscripts of the New Testament translation indicates that on September 26, 1831, the transcription and refinement of Matthew continued, starting with Matthew 26:1 (see Matthews, “A Plainer Translation,” 32). The translation of Matthew 24 may, therefore, have occurred sometime during September 1831.

What Are Some of the Changes the Prophet Made to Matthew 24?

The Prophet Joseph Smith made more changes to Matthew 24 than to any other chapter in the New Testament. Matthew 24 in the King James Version contains 1,050 words, while Joseph Smith—Matthew contains some 1,500.

A major difference between Matthew 24 and Joseph Smith—Matthew is that Joseph Smith—Matthew clearly separates the statements Jesus made concerning events that would take place in Jerusalem in the years shortly after His death (see Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:5–21) from the events that would take place in the last days, prior to His Second Coming (see verses 21–55).

Three statements are each repeated twice in Joseph Smith—Matthew (see verses 10, 12, 23, 28, 30, 32), but only once each in the King James Version (see Matthew 24:6, 12, 15). Also, verses 6–8 of Matthew 24 became Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:23, 29, 19, respectively. The Joseph Smith Translation of Matthew 24:55 is the only verse for which there is no correlating verse in the King James Version.

How Did Joseph Smith—Matthew Become a Part of the Pearl of Great Price?

The first edition of the Pearl of Great Price was printed in Liverpool, England, in July 1851. It was compiled as a pamphlet for use in the British Mission by Elder Franklin D. Richards, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and president of the mission. In the preface to the pamphlet, Elder Richards explained that nearly all of its contents (which included Joseph Smith—Matthew) had appeared earlier in various Church publications in the United States, but with limited circulation. It is presumed that Elder Richards had access to these publications; however, he did not identify any of his source documents.

Why, among the Many Parts of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, Did the Translation of Matthew 24 Become a Part of Our Standard Works?

In Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:5–55, the Savior answered questions His disciples asked concerning the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, the scattering of the Jews, and events that would occur prior to His Second Coming. It is a chapter of scripture that should be of intense interest to every Latter-day Saint. It tells of the latter-day dispensation, including the gathering of Israel prior to the Second Coming of Christ. The text of Matthew 24 in the King James Version has many unclear passages and its organization is confusing. The Prophet Joseph Smith’s work makes both the historical chronology of this prophecy and the doctrinal significance of its teachings plain and inspiring.