Mormonism and Eternal Truth

Truth is not only
violated by falsehood;
it may be equally
outraged by silence.
(Henri-Frederic Amiel)


Joseph Smith maintained that an angel named Moroni had quoted scriptures that differed from the way they were rendered in the Bible.This gave him an idea of how these passages should have been translated. (Joseph Smith History; 1:36-41; Latter-day Saints Messenger and Advocate, Volume 1, No. 7, April, 1835, pages 109-112.)

At the time he began his translation (round about 1830), he had no knowledge of Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic. Nor did he have access to any of the ancient manuscripts. He merely marked the sections that he disagreed with, in his 1828 King James Version of the Bible. Then “by inspiration” he re-wrote the offending passages on sheets of paper which he called his manuscript. He had no scholarly reasons for any of the alterations, which amounted to 477 pages.

In 1836, three years after he’d claimed to have finished his translation, he studied Hebrew for a period of six weeks under Joshua Seixas.

To illustrate how inaccurate and unnecessary his amendments were, we will look at Mark 15:22:

“And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull.” (Mark 15:22, KJV)

Smith changed this verse to say that Golgotha is interpreted as the place of a burial. But the equivalent of the original Aramaic word Golgotha (meaning skull) is Calvaria (the upper part of the cranium), in Latin. And far from being a burial ground as Smith had imagined, Easton’s Bible Dictionary tells us that Golgotha was “a little knoll, rounded like a bare skull.”


Joseph’s translation included major alterations to important doctrinal sections of the Bible. He also inserted additional sections. The LDS has justified his right to add to scripture, by quoting Jeremiah chapter 36 as a precedent. (When the king threw the scroll of Jeremiah’s prophecies into the fire in 36: 21-23, God commanded Jeremiah to write these same prophecies down again, and then to add more words to them.)

But we are talking about two different things here: Firstly, when Jeremiah re-wrote the prophecies the king had destroyed, he didn’t alter them. Just as God had given him the prophecies the first time around so He repeated them to Jeremiah again, the second time around. And the extra words that God had commanded him to add to the prophecies weren’t Jeremiah’s own words. Nor were they words suggested by an angelic being. (We need to bear in mind that the great deceiver, Satan, is an angelic being.) The extra words formed an additional prophecy given to Jeremiah by God Himself. This time God pronounced His judgment on the King for treating His previous prophecy in such a disrespectful manner. Here is the relevant passage, so that you can check this out for yourself:

Jeremiah 36:27-31, KJV
27 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, after that the king had burned the roll, and the words which Baruch wrote at the mouth of Jeremiah, saying,
28 Take thee again another roll, and write in it all the former words that were in the first roll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah hath burned. [Note by Editor: He was commanded to re-write exactly the same words that were on the first roll. Then after that comes a new prophecy, that God wants Jeremiah to record.]
29 And thou shalt say to Jehoiakim the king of Judah, Thus saith the Lord; Thou hast burned this roll, saying, Why hast thou written therein, saying, The king of Babylon shall certainly come and destroy this land, and shall cause to cease from thence man and beast?
30 Therefore thus saith the Lord of Jehoiakim king of Judah; He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David: and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost.
31 And I will punish him and his seed and his servants for their iniquity; and I will bring upon them, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and upon the men of Judah, all the evil that I have pronounced against them; but they hearkened not.

Jeremiah never ever altered scriptures that had been written either by himself or by any other servant of God. Jewish folk had the utmost respect for scripture. And there is no precedent anywhere in the Bible for doing such a thing.

“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 spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:20-21, KJV)

In Jeremiah’s time, the canon hadn’t yet been closed. His own prophecies, as well as other scriptures, were still being compiled for inclusion in the Bible. But the time came when, guided by God, holy men closed the canon firstly for the Old Testament and then later on for the New.

The meaning of the word “canon,” as it applies to the Bible, is primarily a straight rod, a rule, a regular principle. The people of God have always looked upon the canon of scriptures as an infallible, sacred and divinely inspired guide; a rule of truth revealed by God for the instruction of men, perfect for its purpose (c/f The Canon of the Bible, by Samuel Davidson).

Notwithstanding this, Joseph Smith radically altered many important sections of the closed canon, from Genesis all the way through to Revelation. What made his offence even more heinous was that he changed the recorded words of trusted and proven great men of God in order to make it seem as though they backed up his own ideas.

Here we have Joseph Smith, whose “translations” of the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham have both been proved to be fraudulent; re-translating the Bible, that has been proved to be truthful, accurate and reliable.


To give the reader some idea of Joseph’s motives, we will examine his amendments to John 1, verses 1 to 5. The first quote is from the King James version, followed immediately by his own translation:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. (John 1:1-5, KJV)

In the beginning was the gospel preached through the Son. And the gospel was the word, and the word was with the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was of God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made which was made. In him was the gospel, and the gospel was the life, and the life was the light of men; And the light shineth in the world, and the world perceiveth it not. (Joseph Smith Translation, John 1:1-5)

The reader will note that Smith deprecates Christ and gives prominence to his own heretical LDS gospel. And this was only one of the many scriptural casualties that resulted from Smith’s so-called “translation.”

Add thou not unto His [God’s] words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. (Proverbs 30:6, KJV)

By the time Joseph had reached 1 John 5:7 and Revelation 19:13 quoted below, he’d forgotten all about the alterations he’d made to the gospel of John about “the Word” not being Christ but being the [LDS] gospel. So this time round he left the translation of “the Word” exactly as it is reflected in the Bible:

“And he [Christ] is clothed with a vesture dipped in blood; and his name is called The Word of God.” (Revelation 19:13, JST)
“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one.” (1John 5:7, JST)


The History of the Church, Volume 1, pages 368-369 records a letter from Smith, confirming that his translation work had been completed on the 2nd July, 1833. This was countersigned by all three members of the then LDS Presidency (c/f Times and Seasons, Volume VI, page 802).

However, radical changes in his theology had been building up in his mind. And he realized that if he published his translation as it was, it would invalidate his new ideas. So he held back its printing. And in spite of having previously certified in writing that his translation had been completed, he carried on making changes to it right up until his death. This was rather like his ongoing changes to the story of his first vision. But truth never changes. That’s why we can rely upon it.

After his death in 1844, there was a split in the LDS church. And in 1866 his widow, Emma, handed over his marked KJV together with his manuscript, to the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They published a copyrighted edition of his version in 1867, followed by editions that included corrections. In 1970 a parallel column edition was released, of his Inspired Version and the King James Version.

In 1979 the Utah based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the LDS) published a new edition of the King James Version of the Bible, incorporating many passages from Smith’s translation as footnotes. Lengthier passages were included in an appendix. Their 1981 publication of Doctrine and Covenants also contains references from the Joseph Smith Translation in the headnotes and footnotes, as well as summaries of many sections.

The Joseph Smith Translation has not gained any acceptance at all apart from in Mormon circles, for obvious reasons.

The first article below discusses the trustworthiness of the Bible. The second is about Joseph Smith’s claims that the Bible had been corrupted. And the third article concerns the controversy surrounding his first vision:

This site is dedicated to helping Mormons understand the Bible.

Copyright © 2013 by Yvonne Gibbs. All rights reserved.

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