Inspired Version 

Joseph Smith prepared an 'inspired' version of the Bible, which, oddly enough, is not the Bible of the Salt Lake City Latter-day Saints. Evidently there is a limit to their patience with their own 'prophet.' Joseph's version is based on the King James Version, with occasional free improvisations thrown in bearing no resemblance in the world to anything in the Greek or Hebrew:

  • “But to him that seeketh not to be justified by the law of works, but believeth on him who justifieth not the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
  • (Romans 4:5, Joseph Smith 'translation').

Joseph Smith

"[J]ustifieth not"? Notice the difference from the real thing: that little word, 'not:'

"But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." (Romans 4:5 KJV).

He really does justify the ungodly, and who else could?: "Now, God, who sees through all deceptions, knows that there is no goodness whatever in us. He says that 'there is none righteous, no not one.'. . . .He comes, not because we are just, but to make us so: he justifieth the ungodly." (Charles Spurgeon, All of Grace, Kindle location 83). He died for the ungodly: "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." (Romans 5:6).

Joseph never did understand salvation by faith. He taught a full-bore Pelagianism, salvation by self-starting works with limited divine assistance. He was greatly impressed with Alexander Campbell's preaching on baptism, inserting this teaching verbatim into the mouths of various ancient personages in his Book of Mormon.

Perhaps concerned that church members will quote back at their minister, who has to make a living after all, to "seek not what ye shall eat," Joseph is careful to insert material sufficient to put them in a giving frame of mind:

"Therefore, seek not what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind; For all these things do the nations of the world seek after; and your Father who is in heaven knoweth that ye have need of these things. And ye are sent unto them to be their ministers, and the laborer is worthy of his hire; for the law saith, That a man shall not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn." (Luke 12:31-33).

Joseph garbles John 1:1-5:

  • “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.”
  • (John 1:1-5, Joseph Smith 'translation').

Evidently Joseph had no idea in the world what the "word" of God might be, and somehow imagines it might be the gospel. . .or something:

"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).

At no time that I can discover during his prophetic career did Joseph ever understand or espouse the conventional doctrine of the trinity. He began, during the period when he wrote the Book of Mormon, as a modalist, which is the error that considers Jesus to be both the Father and the Son. Later he veered off into the direction of full-blown polytheism, yet never went back to correct this modalistic 'translation' of Luke 10:22-23:

  • “In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from them who think they are wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes; even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered to me of my Father; and no man knoweth that the Son is the Father, and the Father is the Son, but him to whom the Son will reveal it.”
  • (Luke 10:22-23, Joseph Smith 'translation').

The real thing:

"In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him." (Luke 10:21-22).

Indeed many of Joseph's 'improvements' to the Bible must date before his discovery that God is an exalted man, because if God is no more than an exalted man, where is the difficulty in believing that He 'repents'? Yet Joseph edits such language out, for instance from Joel 2:13-14, where the King James has:

"And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God? " (Joel 2:13-14 KJV).

God's repentance is gone from Joseph's verion:

"And rend your heart, and not your garments, and repent, and turn unto the Lord your God; for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and he will turn away the evil from you. Therefore repent, and who knoweth but he will return and leave a blessing behind him; that you may offer a meat offering, and a drink offering, unto the Lord your God?" (Joel 2:13-14 Joseph Smith Inspired Version).

Likewise in 1 Samuel 15:11, Saul is made to be the one who repents, not God. Many of the Bible passages that troubled Joseph are staples of the literary genre to which Gleason Archer's 'Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties' belongs. On the topic of God's 'repenting,' Gleason Archer points out the error in finding the element of surprise or course correction in God's turning away from rebellious mankind. Nevertheless, those abandoned ones who have experienced God's turning His back can have no illusion that there isn't a difference between God's face benignly shining down on His people and His turning away:

"Of course the element of surprise by the unexpected or unlooked for is impossible for one who is omniscient, but His response to humanity was a necessary adjustment to the change in humanity's feeling about Him. Because they had stubbornly rejected and flouted Him, it was necessary for Him to reject them. The shift in their attitude required a corresponding shift in His attitude toward them, and it is this shift that is expressed by the Hebrew niham ('repent,' 'be sorry about,' 'change one's mind about.')." (Gleason L. Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, p. 81.)

There is a shift or a turning which culminates in a 180 degree reversal, but the estrangement is not initiated by God; as He says in His word, "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you." (James 4:8). The turning does not begin with Him, His people, changeable as the wind, turned away from Him first. This is the correct approach to 'Bible difficulties:' to isolate the element that is causing the embarrassment,— the assumption that God is 'surprised' by unexpected developments or that He is the one who is changing course, rather than continuing as ever to receive the humble and resist the proud,— and then to explain that the text does not say 'God was surprised' or 'God changed His policies.' What it does say is that God 'repented,'— and this means what it possibly can mean for God, not what it can't. This is the correct approach to 'Bible difficulties,' not to rewrite the text. Joseph also dislikes the idea that God 'hardens hearts:'

"And the Lord said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand, and I will prosper thee; but Pharaoh will harden his heart, and he will not let the people go." (Exodus 4:21, Joseph Smith Inspired Translation);


"And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go." (Exodus 4:21 KJV).

One can see the doctrine of exaltation forming in embryo, perhaps, in Joseph's re-write of Genesis: "For no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence; for, in the language of Adam, Man of Holiness is his name; and the name of his Only Begotten is the son of Man, even Jesus Christ, a righteous judge, who shall come in the meridian of time." (Genesis 6:60 Joseph Smith Inspired Version).

The church formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints uses Joseph's new and improved version as their Bible, but the Salt Lake City Mormons do not. See, for example, how Joseph 'corrects' Exodus 34:14:

"For thou shalt worship no other god; for the Lord, whose name is Jehovah, is a jealous God." (Exodus 34:14, Joseph Smith translation).

In this 'corrected' version, the name is not 'Jealous,' but 'Jehovah,' which is rather awkward because the "Lord" is 'Jehovah' too in the original; thus it would read, 'for Jehovah, whose name is Jehovah. . .' Bruce McConkie, in his monumental compendium 'Mormon Doctrine,' shows no awareness that this is actually the 'correct' translation, because he explains in his article 'Jealous' (page 391) that "our Lord uses the word Jealous as one of his names." Indeed He does:

"For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:. . ." (Exodus 34:14).

. . .but not in Joseph's 'corrected' version.

Readers of the Book of Mormon are aware that that volume contains extended verbatim quotations from the King James Version of the Bible, which strikes some readers as odd given that the Book of Mormon is purported to be a translation from the 'Reformed Egyptian.' Be that as it may, the forgetful Joseph sometimes 'corrects' verses he has already recycled into the Book of Mormon, for example Matthew 5:43 which comes out:

"And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him a mile; and whosoever shall compel thee to go with him twain, thou shalt go with him twain." (Matthew 5:43 Joseph Smith Translation).

This instruction is clear enough; you are to do exactly what the Roman soldier commands you to do, no more and no less. Except that is not what Matthew reported:

"And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain." (Matthew 5:41).

The KJV here tracks with the Greek. . .and the Book of Mormon quotes the KJV:

"And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain." (3 Nephi 12:41).

If the correct version says, "go with him a mile," why isn't it that way in the Book of Mormon? Many of the changes are theologically motivated. The Muslims did something similar to Joseph's strategy of producing his own Bible. When Christians confuted the Muslims who claimed to be following Jesus, from the same New Testament the Muslims claimed testified to Mohammed, the Muslims produced the Gospel of Barnabas, a medieval work which treats the subject from their perspective. Joseph especially dislikes anything that he thinks smacks of Calvinism:

"And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." (Acts 13:48 KJV).


"And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord; and as many as believed were ordained unto eternal life." (Acts 13:48 Joseph Smith Translation).

The Song of Solomon is missing from Joseph's Improved Version, which is a shame because I was hoping to see if the racist Joseph changed "I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem" (Song 1:5) into 'I am white and delightsome.' Joseph took it upon himself to remove this book, acknowledged as scripture by both church and synagogue, from the canon, whether for racist motives or other motives is not stated in my sources.

There are numerous verses left untouched which are obvious candidates for 'correction,' such as,

"For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven." (Matthew 22:30).

"For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven" (Mark 12:25).

"But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage. . ." (Luke 20:35).

Elsewhere the suggestion is made that these non-marrying angels are being punished: "For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever. [D&C 132:16–17]" (quoted in 'The Seven Deadly Heresies, by Bruce R. McConkie, June 1, 1980). There is no suggestion either in the original Bible text or in Joseph's version that these angels are law-breakers or are being punished for anything; presumably Joseph had not yet developed his ideas on celestial marriage.

Nor does he make Paul into a married man, though he could as easily make this 'correction' as all the rest. He does, however, limit Paul's instructions on marriage to the clergy: "But I speak unto you who are called unto the ministry. For this I say, brethren, the time that remaineth is but short, that ye shall be sent forth unto the ministry. Even they who have wives, shall be as though they had none; for ye are called and chosen to do the Lord's work." (1 Corinthians 7:29), with no Biblical warrant. For one random example, he does not like the idea of a witch receiving the death penalty, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." (Exodus 22:18 KJV), becomes "Thou shalt not suffer a murderer to live." (Exodus 22:18 Joseph Smith translation). One passage gets turned violently inside-out:

"For we know that the commandment is spiritual; but when I was under the law, I was yet carnal, sold under sin. But now I am spiritual; for that which I am commanded to do, I do; and that which I am commanded not to allow, I allow not. For what I know is not right, I would not do; for that which is sin, I hate. If then I do not that which I would not allow, I consent unto the law, that it is good; and I am not condemned. Now then, it is no more I that do sin; but I seek to subdue that sin which dwelleth in me. For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me, but to perform that which is good I find not, only in Christ. For the good that I would have done when under the law, I find not to be good; therefore, I do it not. But the evil which I would not do under the law, I find to be good; that, I do. Now if I do that, through the assistance of Christ, I would not do under the law, I am not under the law; and it is no more that I seek to do wrong, but to subdue sin that dwelleth in me.  I find then that under the law, that when I would do good evil was present with me; for I delight in the law of God after the inward man. And now I see another law, even the commandment of Christ, and it is imprinted in my mind. But my members are warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. And if I subdue not the sin which is in me, but with the flesh serve the law of sin; O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord, then, that so with the mind I myself serve the law of God." (Romans 7:14-26).

One senses behind these involutions a long history of ending up on the losing side of the argument with the local pastor. If you must change the Bible to make it conform to the understanding of your side, then this is a concession that your side has lost the debate.

Melchizedek comes in for considerable expansion: "For this Melchizedek was ordained a priest after the order of the Son of God, which order was without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life. And all those who are ordained unto this priesthood are made like unto the Son of God, abiding a priest continually." (Hebrews 7:3 Joseph Smith Translation); "And now, Melchizedek was a priest of this order; therefore he obtained peace in Salem, and was called the Prince of peace. And his people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven, and sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken, separating it from the earth, having reserved it unto the latter days, or the end of the world. . .And this Melchizedek, having thus established righteousness, was called the king of heaven by his people, or, in other words, the King of peace." (Genesis 14:33-37 Joseph Smith Translation). Adam also must needs be a prophet: "And then began these men to call upon the name of the Lord; and the Lord blessed them; and a book of remembrance was kept in the which was recorded in the language of Adam, for it was given unto as many as called upon God, to write by the Spirit of inspiration; And by them their children were taught to read and write, having a language which was pure and undefiled. Now this same priesthood which was in the beginning, shall be in the end of the world also. Now this prophecy Adam spake, as he was moved upon by the Holy Ghost." (Genesis 6:5-8 Joseph Smith Translation).

This project was completed in such a slip-shod manner that Joseph does not bother to 'correct' parallel passages:

"Judge not, and ye shall not be judged; condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned; forgive, and ye shall be forgiven." (Luke 6:37 Joseph Smith Translation).

Luke 6:37 is given faithfully, but not Matthew:

"Now these are the words which Jesus taught his disciples that they should say unto the people. 2 Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged; but judge righteous judgment." (Matthew 7:1-2).


"Judge not, that ye be not judged." (Matthew 7:1).

Why one and not the other?

There are more than a few of the anachronisms a reader of the Book of Mormon would expect, for instance God complaining to Abraham that people aren't baptizing the right way:

"And God talked with him, saying, My people have gone astray from my precepts, and have not kept mine ordinances, which I gave unto their fathers; And they have not observed mine anointing, and the burial, or baptism wherewith I commanded them; But have turned from the commandment, and taken unto themselves the washing of children, and the blood of sprinkling; And have said that the blood of the righteous Abel was shed for sins; and have not known wherein they are accountable before me. But as for thee, behold, I will make my covenant with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations." (Genesis 17:4-8).

It's just got to be by immersion, you see, and no infant baptism either. Never mind Abraham, Adam and Enoch were also preachers of the Acts 2:38 Salvation Plan:

"And he called upon our father Adam, by his own voice, saying, I am God; I made the world, and men before they were in the flesh. And he also said unto him, If thou wilt, turn unto me and hearken unto my voice, and believe, and repent of all thy transgressions, and be baptized, even in water, in the name of mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth, which is Jesus Christ, the only name which shall be given under heaven, whereby salvation shall come unto the children of men; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, asking all things in his name, and whatsoever ye shall ask it shall be given you. And our father Adam spake unto the Lord, and said, Why is it that men must repent, and be baptized in water?" (Genesis 6:52-54).

When Joseph wrote the Book of Mormon, he inserted Alexander Campbell's distinctive version of the Salvation Plan into the mouths of various ancient personages. In fact the Book of Mormon seems to be a pious forgery seeking to vindicate this popular teaching. The Campbells, immigrants from Ireland who brought with them the commonplace Roman Catholic interpretation of Acts 2:38, had won an enthusiastic following in America, but nay-sayers from a Protestant background kept confuting them. Neither Alexander Campbell nor the Roman Catholics who pioneered the idea that Peter's sermon on the Day of Pentecost set forth the Christian Salvation Plan were so naive as to assume Abraham or Adam or Enoch or any of Joseph's fictional American patriarchs would have recited Acts 2:38 as their understanding of the Salvation Plan; leave that naive, ahistorical assumption to Joseph.

When he started on this project, Joseph seems to have been only barely aware that the King James Version was not the original, and that revising a translation requires study of the original languages. His 'improvements' are confined to manic little improvisatory bursts of interpolation, as when Melchizedek comes on the scene, or to supply the otherwise missing Biblical doctrine of an age of accountability. It was later on, when he decided to study Hebrew, that the trouble really started; after discovering that the Hebrew word 'elohim' is plural in form, he became a polytheist. However he did not then go back and 'correct' the already 'corrected' parts of the Bible, perhaps realizing this would only show the original 'corrections' were not inspired at all. The proverb, 'A little learning is a dangerous thing,' applies in this case. Since in the main this seems to be an early work, it is not surprising that the church formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints finds it acceptable as its Bible. Nor is it surprising that that Salt Lake City Mormons are discontented with it, as for instance Bruce McConkie, who announces that the Bible account of Moses' death is in error:

"The Old Testament account that Moses died and was buried by the hand of the Lord in an unknown grave is an error. (Deutronomy 34:5-7)." (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 805).

Joseph's version of this is no improvement over the KJV for Mormon purposes:

"So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. For the Lord took him unto his fathers, in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor; therefore no man knoweth of his sepulcher unto this day. And Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died; his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated." (Deuteronomy 34:5-7 Joseph Smith Version).

Joseph, not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, was unaware, it would seem, that Moses was supposed to have been translated.

To explain why an 'inspired' version of the Bible custom-made by Joseph Smith is no more helpful to the cause of the Latter-day Saints than is the King James version upon which it is based, Bruce McConkie resorts to the gnostic paradigm of an esoteric knowledge:

"True, in many passages all necessary changes were made; in others he was 'restrained' by the Spirit from giving the full and clear meaning. . .Neither the world nor the saints generally were then or are now prepared for the fulness of Biblical knowledge." (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 384).

A more likely explanation is that Joseph was still a monotheist when he wrote this work, which does not suit everyone: "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; Who is willing to have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth which is in Christ Jesus, who is the Only Begotten Son of God, and ordained to be a Mediator between God and man; who is one God, and hath power over all men." (1 Timothy 2:3-4, Joseph Smith Translation). He would in time veer to the opposite end of the theological spectrum: