This is certainly something to rejoice over, express gratitude for, and celebrate!
Although there are many versions of the "Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible" (or JST) in existence, all include only a portion of the total number of revisions that Joseph made to the Bible. For example, although it is estimated that Joseph Smith made edits to more than 3,400 verses in the Bible, only about 600 of those changes are included in the KJV currently used by the LDS Church. The LDS church has only officially canonized the Book of Moses and Joseph Smith's revision to part of the Gospel of Matthew in their scriptures, both published in the Pearl of Great Price.
The importance of the New Translation of the Bible to the LDS church is summed up by this statement, published in the church-owned Church News on December 7, 1974: "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." Yet, in 1984, and speaking of then created LDS JST of the Bible with its roughly 600 edits included, Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated the following:
"The Joseph Smith Translation, or Inspired Version, is a thousand times over the best Bible now existing on earth. It contains all that the King James Version does, plus pages of additions and corrections and an occasional deletion. It was made by the spirit of revelation, and the changes and additions are the equivalent of the revealed word in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. For historical and other reasons, there has been among some members of the Church in times past some prejudice and misunderstanding of the place of the Joseph Smith Translation. I hope this has now all vanished away. Our new Church Bible footnotes many of the major changes made in the Inspired Version and has a seventeen-page section which sets forth excerpts that are too lengthy for inclusion in the footnotes. Reference to this section and to the footnotes themselves will give anyone who has spiritual insight a deep appreciation of this revelatory work of the Prophet Joseph Smith. It is one of the great evidences of his prophetic call" (The Bible - A Sealed Book, 1984).Indeed, the New Translation contains corrections that shed light on countless issues, problems, questions, and doctrines, and also restores many lost truths. Many of the revelations in the LDS Doctrine & Covenants are in some way connected to Joseph's work on the New Translation, including background on the Apocrypha (LDS section 91), the three degrees of glory (LDS section 76), teachings on baptism for the dead (LDS section 124), the Book of Revelation (LDS sections 77 and 86), and various revelations on priesthood (LDS sections 84, 88, 107), as well as other sections (LDS sections 37, 45, 73, and 91).
Scriptural Basis for the New Translation of the Bible
LDS 1 Nephi 13:26-29 And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away. And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men. Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God. And after these plain and precious things were taken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest—because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God—because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.
LDS 1 Nephi 14:23 Wherefore, the things which he shall write are just and true; and behold they are written in the book which thou beheld proceeding out of the mouth of the Jew; and at the time they proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, or, at the time the book proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, the things which were written were plain and pure, and most precious and easy to the understanding of all men.
LDS Doctrine & Covenants 6:26-27 (April 1829) Verily, verily, I say unto you, that there are records which contain much of my gospel, which have been kept back because of the wickedness of the people; And now I command you, that if you have good desires—a desire to lay up treasures for yourself in heaven—then shall you assist in bringing to light, with your gift, those parts of my scriptures which have been hidden because of iniquity.
LDS Doctrine & Covenants 42:14-15, 56-58 (February 9 and 23, 1831) And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach. And all this ye shall observe to do as I have commanded concerning your teaching, until the fulness of my scriptures is given....Thou shalt ask, and my scriptures shall be given as I have appointed, and they shall be preserved in safety; And it is expedient that thou shouldst hold thy peace concerning them, and not teach them until ye have received them in full. And I give unto you a commandment that then ye shall teach them unto all men; for they shall be taught unto all nations, kindreds, tongues and people.
LDS Doctrine & Covenants 45:60-62 (March 7, 1831) And now, behold, I say unto you, it shall not be given unto you to know any further concerning this chapter, until the New Testament be translated, and in it all these things shall be made known; Wherefore I give unto you that ye may now translate it, that ye may be prepared for the things to come. For verily I say unto you, that great things await you;
LDS Doctrine & Covenants 73:3-4 (January 10, 1832) Now, verily I say unto you my servants, Joseph Smith, Jun., and Sidney Rigdon, saith the Lord, it is expedient to translate again; And, inasmuch as it is practicable, to preach in the regions round about until conference; and after that it is expedient to continue the work of translation until it be finished.
LDS Doctrine & Covenants 90:12-14 (March 8, 1833) And now, verily I say unto you, I give unto you a commandment that you continue in the ministry and presidency. And when you have finished the translation of the prophets, you shall from thenceforth preside over the affairs of the church and the school;
LDS Doctrine & Covenants 93:53 (May 6, 1833) And, verily I say unto you, that it is my will that you should hasten to translate my scriptures, and to obtain a knowledge of history, and of countries, and of kingdoms, of laws of God and man, and all this for the salvation of Zion. Amen.
LDS Doctrine & Covenants 94:10 (August 2, 1833) And again, verily I say unto you, the second lot on the south shall be dedicated unto me for the building of a house unto me, for the work of the printing of the translation of my scriptures, and all things whatsoever I shall command you.
LDS Articles of Faith 1:8 We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.
"From sundry revelations which had been received, it was apparent that many important points, touching the salvation of man, had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled." History, 1838-1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805 - 30 August 1834], p. 183. January 25 - February 16, 1832)
"From what we can draw from the scriptures relative to the teachings of heaven we are induced to think, that much instruction has been given to man since the beginning which we have not...We have what we have, and the Bible contains what it does contain; but to say that God never said any thing more to man than is there recorded, would be saying at once, that we have at last received a revelation; for it must be one to advance thus far, because it is no where said in that volume by the mouth of God, that he would not, after giving what is there contained, speak again." (Letter to the Church, circa March 1834, p. 143.)
"[There are] many things in the Bible which do not, as they now stand, accord with the revelation of the Holy Ghost to me." (The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, ed. Andrew F. Ehat & Lyndon W. Cook , 211; From 11 June 1843. spelling and capitalization modernized).
"I believe the bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers; ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors." (History of the Church, 1838 - 1856, volume E-1 [1 July 1843 - 30 April 1844], p. 1755. October 15, 1843).
"God may correct the scripture by me if he chooses." (Words of Joseph Smith, 191).
"I have the oldest book in the world and the Holy Ghost. I thank God for the old book, but more for the Holy Ghost." (Words of Joseph Smith, 345).
Thus, the work on the New Translation began in June of 1830, starting with work on the Book of Genesis and the vision of Moses. This was just after the Book of Mormon was published and the church was organized, both in the Spring of 1830, which was a very busy time for the work of the Restoration. The translation and review of the New Testament was completed on February 2, 1833 and the Old Testament was completed on July 2, 1833.
Why Was the New Translation Never Published?
Although the New Translation work was completed 11 years before the prophet's death, it was never published in its entirety during his lifetime. During that time, Joseph continued to revise the manuscripts to prepare them for printing and excerpts from the New Translation were published in early church periodicals and various verses were also used in the Lectures on Faith. The failure to publish the New Translation was not due to any lack of effort on Joseph Smith’s part, but was rather due to the saints inability to provide the temporal support to Joseph so that he could complete the work. As early as 1831 through nearly the end of his life, the Lord instructed the saints to temporally support Joseph's translation of the Bible as well as it's publication. Regarding the way in which the New Translation should be published, Joseph Smith said the following: "It is not the will of the Lord to print any of the new Translation in the Star; but when it is published, it will all go to the world together, in a volume by itself; and the New Testament and the Book of Mormon will be printed together." (April 21, 1833, Letterbook 1, p. 35). As early as August 6, 1833, a month after the New Translation was completed, Joseph Smith stated the following: "You will see by these revelations that we have to print the new translation here at kirtland for which we will prepare as soon as possible" (Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams to Edward Partridge, August 6, 1833, Joseph Smith Collection, Church History 235 Library). This statement had reference to the printing press owned by the church that was destroyed in July of that same year just as the translation work had completed, and that a new printer would need to be sought for. Such an approach would require the enlistment of a printer to typeset the entire Bible, a very costly endeavor in those days. Thus, the primary reason for the New Translation not being published during the lifetime of the prophet Joseph Smith was a lack of available funds and temporal support of the prophet. The saints also faced many other challenges and difficulties during this period, which made the accumulation of sufficient funds difficult. However, several sources show that Joseph felt an urgent desire to publish the New Translation and regularly expressed disappointment that the Saints could not raise the money to get it printed:
- The following revelation was received in February 1831, “And if ye desire the glories of the kingdom, appoint ye my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and uphold him before me by the prayer of faith. And again, I say unto you, that if ye desire the mysteries of the kingdom, provide for him food and raiment, and whatsoever thing he needeth to accomplish the work wherewith I have commanded him.” (LDS D&C 43:12–13.) The "mysteries of the kingdom", as a direct result of the knowledge revealed in the translation, were promised as the saints sacrificed to support the work that Joseph was asked to do.
- Later that year on October 25, 1831, also during the process of translation, at a conference of the church in Hiram, Ohio, Joseph Smith petitioned the saints for temporal aid to enable him to do his work, specifically mentioning the translation of the scriptures: “Brother Joseph Smith, Jr. said … that the promise of God was that the greatest blessings which God had to bestow should be given to those who contributed to the support of his family while he was translating the fulness of the Scriptures...that God had often sealed up the heavens because of covetousness in the Church...and except the Church receive the fulness of the Scriptures that they would yet fail.” (Far West Report, p. 16, quoted in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1938, p. 9).
- The journal entry of Reynolds Cahoon of November 9, 1831 indicates he was sent on a mission to gather funds for the translation work: “Started for hiram to fulfill my mission to the churches which was given to Br. David and myself to obtain mony or property for Brs Joseph and others to finish the translation.” (Journal of Reynolds Cahoon, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
- On 25 June 1833, the Prophet wrote to Brother W.W. Phelps in Missouri: “In regard to the printing of the New Translation: It cannot be done until we can attend to it ourselves, and this we will do as soon as the Lord permits.” (History of the Church, 1:365).
- Again on April 23, 1834, the Lord asked the saints to publish the New Translation: “And for this purpose I have commanded you to organize yourselves, even to print my words, the fulness of my scriptures, the revelations which I have given unto you.” (LDS D&C 104:58.)
- Again on June 18, 1840, the plea went out to support the work of Joseph in the spiritual affairs of the church, including the publication of the Bible: "[for] the time has now come, when he should devote himself exclusively to those things which relate to the spiritualities of the Church, and commence the work of translating the Egyptian records, [and] the Bible.”
- And again in July of that same year, two elders were called to collect money for the publication of various books, including the New Translation: “To all whom it may concern:—This is to certify that Elders Samuel Bent and George W. Harris are authorized agents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, being appointed by the First Presidency and High Council of said Church to visit the branches of the Church … to obtain donations and subscriptions for the purpose of printing the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, hymn-books, the new translation of the scriptures. … We do hope the Saints will do all in their power to effect the object proposed. [signed] Joseph Smith, Jun., President.” (History of the Church, 4:164).
- And again, on September 1, 1840 an “Epistle of the First Presidency to the Saints Scattered Abroad” included a call to the members of the church to provide financial contributions to the building up of the kingdom and specifically “the printing and circulation of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, hymn-book, and the new translation of the Scriptures.” (History of the Church, 4:187; also Times and Seasons, vol. 1, no. 12, Oct. 1840, p. 179).
- On January 19, 1841, in a revelation to William Law, the Lord spoke about publishing the New Translation: “If he will do my will let him from henceforth hearken to the counsel of my servant Joseph, … and publish the new translation of my holy word unto the inhabitants of the earth.” (LDS D&C 124:89.)
- On January 15, 1842, the Times & Seasons contained a notice that the “Trustee [Joseph Smith] needed time to arrange the scriptures, including the New Translation of the Bible … for the press.” (Vol. 3, no. 6, p. 667).
- In February of 1842, the Council of the Twelve published a notice in the Times & Seasons, requesting assistance from the saints, especially in the building of a temple and supporting the prophet so that he could work on projects “such as the new translation of the bible, and the record of Father Abraham [can be] published to the world.” (Vol. 3, no. 9, March 1842, p. 715.
- On October 15, 1842, another announcement was made in the Times & Seasons “the new translation of the bible, and the book of Doctrine and Covenants are entirely dependent on the liberality of the well-disposed for the cause of our Redeemer.” (Vol. 3, no. 24, 15 October 1842, p. 958.)
- On March 1, 1843, the Council of the Twelve issued another epistle requesting financial and material aid for the prophet to enable him to bring forth the spiritual things of the church, specifically mentioning the “revelations, translation, and history”:
- “BELOVED BRETHREN:—As our beloved President Joseph Smith is now relieved from his bondage and his business, temporarily, and his property, too, he has but one thing to hinder his devoting his time to the spiritual interests of the Church, to the bringing forth of the revelations, translation, and history. And what is that? He has not provision for himself and family, and is obliged to spend his time in providing therefor. His family is large and his company great, and it requires much to furnish his table. And now, brethren, we call on you for immediate relief in this matter; and we invite you to bring our President as many loads of wheat, corn, beef, pork, lard, tallow, eggs, poultry, venison, and everything eatable at your command, (not excepting unfrozen potatoes and vegetables, as soon as the weather will admit,) flour, etc., and thus give him the privilege of attending to your spiritual interest.