Share This Episode
Viewpoint on Mormonism Bill McKeever  Logo

Joseph Smith as Translator Part 2

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever
The Truth Network Radio
August 23, 2021 9:29 pm

Joseph Smith as Translator Part 2

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 662 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.

August 23, 2021 9:29 pm

This week Bill and Eric interview Sandra Tanner (Mormonism: Shadow or Reality) as we consider Joseph Smith’s track record as a translator, including: The Book of Mormon The Bible The Book of Abraham The Book of Moses The Kinderhook Plates Should Joseph Smith be trusted? Or were his translation abilities suspect? Tune in this week!


Mormonism 101, a book by Mormonism Research Ministries, Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, has helped many who want to understand what separates Mormonism from the Christian faith. In 1979, Mormonism Research Ministries has been dedicated to equipping the body of Christ with answers regarding the Christian faith in a manner that expresses gentleness and respect.

And now, your host for today's Viewpoint on Mormonism. We've been talking this week about Joseph Smith as a translator. Yesterday we were talking about how the Book of Mormon came forth with the Urim and Thummim slash Rock and a Hat and the questionable practice involving that, but today we want to talk about the Inspired Version or the Joseph Smith translation of the Bible. First of all, we know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has always been skeptical when it comes to our Bible. They use officially the King James Version, the 1769 edition, as most people who use the King James Version are using today. But it's not so much as Article 8 says that they believe the Bible as far as it's translated correctly.

They really believe the Bible as far as it's transmitted correctly. Mormon scholars and even some leaders have admitted that's really what is being discussed in Article 8 of the Articles of Faith. But putting all that aside, you would think if it's not really translated or transmitted accurately, why wouldn't God allow Joseph Smith, who allegedly has this ability to translate, to give us a new Bible? Well, according to the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 73, verses 3 and 4, God allegedly commanded Joseph Smith to give us a new Bible, and I'm going to cite from it. It says, 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.

That is the command, until it be finished. Now Joseph Fielding Smith, the 10th President of the Church, said that the Prophet Joseph Smith's translation of the Bible is one of the greatest tangible evidences of his spiritual insight and divine calling. But at the same time, we have a citation from J. Reuben Clark, who was a member of the First Presidency, in his book, Why the King James Version, page 228. He says, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has never issued the inspired version of the whole Bible, since apparently the Prophet Joseph never finally finished his revision. When you were in the LDS Church, just based on your memory, do you recall any time where the Joseph Smith translation or the inspired version was pointed to in a sermon or in some lesson that you had?

How often was the Joseph Smith translation referred to as when you were a member of the LDS Church? I don't remember having it mentioned at all. And you would think if this was really, as Joseph Fielding Smith says, one of the greatest tangible evidences of his spiritual insight and divine calling, that it would be referenced more and more. Now, it's not that it hasn't been referenced.

Certainly there are citations of it in some manuals, but not being a member, I would tend to agree that you probably didn't hear it a lot. But when they say that it wasn't finished, does that seem a little bit odd considering the commandment given to Joseph Smith in Doctrine and Covenants 73 tells them that he's supposed to finish it. Would that mean that God gave Joseph Smith a commandment that couldn't be fulfilled? And why wouldn't Joseph Smith's God know this ahead of time?

Well, beyond that, supposedly every successor to Joseph Smith is also ordained as a prophet, seer, revelator, and translator. If it was important to God to have the thing printed, even if it weren't finished, why don't the other prophets finish it? God wanted it printed in Joseph Smith's lifetime. Seems like he thought it was an important project.

So why wouldn't anyone ever finish it? When we talk about the translation, again, I think that word even needs to be defined if we're going to have an intelligent conversation on this. Because as with the Book of Mormon, we know Joseph Smith did not know Reformed Egyptian. There is no such language as that, so how could he ever be expert in it? Well, when it comes to the translation of the Bible, did Joseph Smith have the expertise in the Hebrew and Greek to give us a good translation of the ancient text? No, he was not a linguist or a trained scholar in any language. He did study Hebrew a little bit in 1835, but that would be a couple of years after he supposedly finished the new version of the Bible.

So if one brings up that he studied Hebrew, it's too late. It's after he does his work on the Bible. We probably should mention that this was commanded by God to Joseph Smith in the year 1830, and he works on it for about three years.

Right. Many Mormon apologists and even scholars, and even here we have J. Reuben Clark, who was a member of the First Presidency. They try to argue that Joseph Smith never finished it, but yet Joseph Smith himself said he finished it in July of 1833. That's volume one, page 368 of the documentary History of the Church.

That's the blue volume, the seven-volume set. If Joseph Smith is saying he finished it, shouldn't Latter-day Saints take that into consideration? I mean, I know they argue, well, he went back and he did some fine-tuning, but wouldn't the bulk of it be, you would think, trustworthy? As we were talking off-air, you had mentioned how they still used the Book of Abraham, and he never really completed that task.

Could you talk about that a little bit? Right. So it's not a valid argument to say, well, he didn't finish it, because there are other scriptures that aren't finished. The Book of Mormon isn't finished as far as that goes.

There's supposed to be more of that yet to come out. He didn't do all of the Book of Abraham. There was supposed to be more translation, and that didn't work out. But beyond that, at the back of their own printing of the King James Bible, they have extracts from the Bible translation. So if they feel those extracts are of value and important to put in the back of their Bible, then why wouldn't it be important to use all of the work that he did accomplish on it, even if it wasn't finished? Sandra, do you think many Latter-day Saints who do have the Mormon, we call it the Mormon Bible, the Quad, realize that there are portions of the Joseph Smith translation in their Bible? I find that a number of the people I talk to have not bothered looking at the back of the Bible and don't even realize the extracts are there.

And when they do know they're there, I find they very seldom have looked at them to even see what they are. We need to remember that he is not dealing with any Hebrew or Greek manuscripts. This is not a translation in any sense that a scholar would recognize. Because Bible translations are all done by people who know Greek and Hebrew.

They're able to work with the oldest manuscripts to come up with their rendering. Joseph had none of those abilities. He had no manuscripts to use. I find it very ironic that they want to qualify the value of the Bible by saying as far as it's translated correctly. Well, why don't they say that about the Book of Mormon or any of their other scriptures?

Great point. If he didn't have expertise in the Hebrew or the Greek, then how did Joseph Smith come about with this inspired version? Well, Bruce McConkie, who was a Mormon apostle, wrote the book Mormon Doctrine in his 1966 edition on page 383.

He gives us the answer. He says, In consequence, at the command of the Lord, and while acting under the spirit of revelation, the prophet corrected, revised, altered, added to, and deleted from the King James Version of the Bible to form what is now commonly referred to as the Inspired Version of the Bible. Of course, Inspired Version is just another name for the Joseph Smith translation. Based on that explanation, why would anybody outside of the church want to take Joseph Smith seriously? Even if you're a member of the church, based on that description, why would a Latter-day Saint want to take the Joseph Smith translation seriously? It sounds like Bruce McConkie has just given Joseph Smith carte blanche. He can say whatever he wants. All he has to do is claim that there was some kind of spirit of revelation involved in that.

Well, and that's what a Mormon would say to me. They believe he was inspired to give his rendering, and yet they don't know what he gave. They haven't read the Inspired Version. They don't know what he changed. They don't realize that some of the changes he made wouldn't support their current theology. He made some changes on the doctrine of God that weren't against their current interpretations. He adds in a whole prophecy about himself in Genesis. When they want to say the Bible's true as far as it's translated correctly, nothing he's doing is translated correctly. Correct by whose standard? Not by any scholar's standard. He's just free to make revisions as he chooses.

Well, let me throw this out to you, Sandra. The Joseph Smith translation, or Inspired Version as it's known, was done relatively early in Joseph Smith's, I hate to use the word ministry, so I will use it in quotes, quote, ministry. Do you think his Joseph Smith translation would read very differently had he done this in 1844, right before he died?

Well, yes, because the theology in Mormonism changed over 14 years. You see in the Book of Mormon and in another work he did, the Book of Moses, that there is a teaching of just one God. It's when you get to the Book of Abraham, which he works on in the 1840s, that you see this development of this plural God's doctrine. If he had done it in the 40s, I'm sure there would have been a very different tone to the verses on the nature of God. Another fascinating thing that I've noticed, and one of the reasons why whenever I'm on the streets witnessing to Latter-day Saints, if I remember to bring it with me, because it's kind of bulky and big, but I have a Joseph Smith translation, Inspired Version, and I find that many of the verses that I'm going to probably use in a witnessing situation, Joseph Smith left those verses intact. He doesn't really touch the Isaiah passages.

He doesn't touch Ephesians 2, 8, and 9. He doesn't touch Titus 3, 5, a lot of verses that I will probably end up referencing as I'm talking to Latter-day Saints. You would think if Joseph Smith was really inspired to give what we have, and we know that he touched some of those verses because some of the words are changed ever so slightly, that a Latter-day Saint would respect those verses that we are going to bring up. But yet still, I find many Latter-day Saints just want to blow them off and give them an interpretation that certainly the context doesn't allow for. Well, to the Mormon, everything is covered by having a testimony. The details become irrelevant because if I've prayed about it and have had some sort of an emotional experience, then that is more proof than anything you would bring up on a piece of paper. And yet they want to say they only believe the Bible as far as it's translated correctly, which is an appeal to scholarly work.

So if you're going to appeal to scholarly work, then you have to look at what all the scholars have said regarding their translations. We've been talking with Sandra Tanner. She's the founder of Utah Lighthouse Ministry. Check out her website at, and tomorrow we're going to continue this conversation regarding Joseph Smith as a translator. Visit where you can request our free newsletter, Mormonism Researched. We hope you will join us again as we look at another viewpoint on Mormonism.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-13 18:02:22 / 2023-09-13 18:07:27 / 5

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime