Why don’t we use the Inspired Version of the Bible in the Church?
April 1977

“Why don’t we use the Inspired Version of the Bible in the Church?” New Era, Apr. 1977, 46–47

“Why don’t we use the Inspired Version of the Bible in the Church? Would it be helpful to me to read it?”

Answer/Brother Robert J. Matthews

In answer to the first question, I would say that to some extent we do use Joseph Smith’s Inspired Version of the Bible (or, as he called it, the New Translation). For example, the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price is an extract from the Prophet’s translation of the book of Genesis. Also Joseph Smith 1 in the Pearl of Great Price is an extract of the new translation of Matthew, chapter 24. So anytime we use these materials in the Pearl of Great Price, we are using the Prophet Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible.

Or to speak in greater detail, whenever we use quotations from the Book of Moses, such as “This is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39), or refer to the book of remembrance as kept by Adam and his family (Moses 6:46), or speak of Adam having a language that was pure and undefiled (Moses 6:5–6), or talk of Cain as Master Mahan (Moses 5:31), or recognize the origin of animal sacrifice (Moses 5:5–8), or discuss the details of Enoch’s great ministry, and of Enoch and the Lord weeping for the waywardness of mankind (Moses 7:28–41), we are actually using Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible. However, the two excerpts that are in the Pearl of Great Price represent only a fraction of the thousands of corrections, revisions, and additions made by the Prophet Joseph Smith in translating the Bible.

Perhaps the principal reason why the Church has not published or officially adopted the new translation is that the Prophet Joseph Smith was unable to attend to an authorized publication of it before his death. The Church records show that the Prophet wanted to publish the translation and was in the process of preparing the manuscript for that purpose at the time of his death but was hindered by persecution and lack of finances. As recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord indicated that He wished to have it published. (See D&C 124:89.) It is also very probable that the Prophet would have made some additional corrections had he lived longer.

However, at the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the manuscripts and documents pertaining to the translation were retained by Emma Smith, the Prophet’s widow, who would not give them to the Quorum of the Twelve although Elder Willard Richards, apparently acting on behalf of President Young, requested the new translation of her. Consequently, when the Church moved to the Salt Lake Valley, it did so without the new translation of the Bible.

Subsequently, the Reorganized church (RLDS) was organized in Illinois, and in 1866 Sister Emma Smith gave the manuscripts into the custody of that church. In 1867 the RLDS published the first edition of the translation and obtained a copyright for it. The RLDS church still has the original manuscripts and the copyright and is therefore the sole publisher.

Since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has had neither the original manuscripts nor the copyright, it would have been quite difficult, if not impossible, for the Church to publish the translation, even if it had wanted to. In Nauvoo in 1845, Dr. John M. Bernhisel made a partial copy from the original, and the Church has this in its offices in Salt Lake City, but it contains less than half of the corrections and is not suitable for publication.

Because the translation was published by the RLDS church, some questions have existed as to whether it had been published accurately. However, research in the past few years with the original manuscripts has indicated that the Inspired Version of the Bible, published by the RLDS church, is an accurate representation of the sense of the original manuscripts prepared by Joseph Smith and his scribes. Furthermore, it seems to be increasing in use and acceptance in our church today. An official editorial of the Church News, dated December 7, 1974, contained these words:

“The Inspired Version does not supplant the King James Version as the official Church version of the Bible, but the explanations and changes made by the Prophet Joseph Smith provide enlightenment and useful commentary on many biblical passages. …

“When the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price offer information relative to biblical interpretation, these should be given preference in writing and teaching. But when these sources of latter-day revelation do not provide significant information which is available in the Inspired Version, then this version may be used.”

These expressions from the editorial certainly permit members of the Church to use the translation in writing and in personal study.

In answer to the second question as to the help that would be obtained from the Inspired Version of the Bible, the following items are of some significance: (1) The Prophet Joseph Smith’s translation bears a much stronger testimony of the divinity and the mission of Jesus Christ than does the King James Version and places the ancient patriarchs of the Old Testament in a clear gospel setting. (2) It reveals much interesting information otherwise unobtainable about Adam, Eve, Enoch, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, Joseph, and Moses. (3) It clarifies many passages from the writings of Isaiah and the Psalms. (4) It enlivens many events in the mortal ministry of Jesus and explains many of his parables. (5) It reveals a much closer relationship of Jesus and the prophets than is found in any other Bible. (6) It unfolds the background and true meaning of many of Paul’s statements, especially concerning his comments about women and marriage. (7) It enlarges upon and clarifies many items dealing with the nature of God, the nature of man, the nature of the devil, the priesthood, premortal existence, the innocence of children, the resurrection, and the plan of salvation—all in a Bible setting. (8) And last, but certainly not least, the translation gives the reader a feeling for the work of the Prophet Joseph Smith and stands as one of the strongest tangible evidences of his divine mission. The Prophet himself referred to the translation as “a branch of his calling.” (History of the Church, 1:238.)

  • Chairman, Department of Ancient Scripture, Brigham Young University

Photo by Lonnie Lonczyna