Changing God’s Inspired Word
There is a tremendous difference between receiving God’s word perfectly through direct revelation and receiving God’s word imperfectly and indirectly through thousands of years of recopying and translating by imperfect humans. In the first instance we must believe there can be no mistakes. In the second instance we know some mistakes have been made and that we must correct them as we learn more and more about translating ancient languages and discover older manuscripts.
For example, if Isaiah wrote down his messages from God under direct inspiration from God, as Christians believe, it would have been blasphemous in the extreme for him to make later changes, additions, and deletions to it. But when we examine the writings of Isaiah today, thousands of years later, we must be aware of the possibility of honest mistakes by copyists and translators (and even dishonest changes by some who have copied and translated over the centuries). Any time it can be proven that a mistake exists in these imperfect works of man, we must correct them to the very best of our knowledge.
This is the essential difference between changes in scripture and teachings by the LDS Church and changes in scripture and teachings by most other religious organizations today. The entire LDS faith is built upon the Prophet Joseph Smith and his inspired, perfect translations and revelations.
If the LDS Church has presumed to change these “God-given” translations and revelations, it is either admitting that Joseph Smith is not the Prophet of God he claimed to be, and his “revelations” and “translations” are not to be trusted, or it is blasphemously changing the direct word of God.
LDS writer G. E. Clark tells us:
“Was Joseph Smith truly called of God? Was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (‘Mormons’) established under the direction of Jesus Christ or was it and its prophet false? If false, the Church blasphemes God and merits no further consideration. If true, it is, because of its divine authority to administer the ordinances of the Gospel, of greater import to Christian men and women than any other subject pertaining to their eternal progression.” - p. xiii. ....
“Therefore, in searching for the true Church of Christ, ... one should first prayerfully inquire to know whether Joseph Smith is the great prophet he is claimed to be. For if he is proven to be a true prophet of God, it follows that ALL the doctrines he taught and the Church he established are also true....
“I bear testimony to the world that Joseph Smith was not only a prophet of God but the greatest prophet, excepting Christ, since the creation.” - p. xv, Why I Believe, 1952.
This Mormon writer, then, is telling us that the Prophet Joseph Smith is greater than the prophet Isaiah (among others)! Surely we would consider anyone (including Isaiah himself) who knowingly changed that first inspired revelation that he wrote down to be dishonest and blasphemous. Shouldn’t we also consider it equally dishonest and blasphemous for anyone (even Joseph Smith himself) to knowingly change the first inspired revelations and translations that this “greatest Prophet” wrote down?
There have been thousands of changes over the years in all of the LDS “Scriptures.” The Book of Mormon (BOM), for example, has suffered about 4000 changes since it was first published in 1830. Some of these changes that we will examine were major changes. The vast majority, however, were spelling/grammar/punctuation corrections.
Even these “minor” errors are significant. One of the special “Three Witnesses” for the BOM, Martin Harris, testified that the words which appeared on the “seer stone,” which Joseph Smith claimed to use to translate the golden plates into the BOM, wouldn’t even “erase” from that stone until they had been correctly written down on paper!
Joseph F. Smith (6th President of the LDS Church) was quoted in 1881 as saying that the BOM was translated in such a way that
“every word and every letter was given to him by the gift and power of God .... The Lord caused each word spelled as it is in the book to appear on the stones in short sentences or words, and when Joseph had uttered the sentence or word before him and the scribe had written it properly, that sentence would disappear and another appear. And if there was a word wrongly written or even a letter incorrect the writing on the stones would remain there .... and when corrected the sentence would disappear as usual.” - p. 168, Journal of Oliver B. Huntington (copy at Utah State Historical Society).
Even the Prophet Joseph Smith himself claimed that the Book of Mormon was
“the most correct of any book on earth” - (History of the Church, vol. 4, p. 461).
He also stated that he and the witnesses
“heard a voice from out of the bright light above us, saying, ‘These plates have been translated by the power of God. The translation of them which you have seen is correct’” - vol. 1, pp. 54-55.
So how do we explain that the handwritten manuscript and the original 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon are absolutely filled with examples of misspelling, mispunctuation, and very poor grammar exactly as found in other known writings of the poorly-educated Joseph Smith? Even Smith’s revised second edition of the BOM still contained most of these “minor” errors. It wasn’t until LDS Apostle James E. Talmage revised the BOM in 1920 that the bulk of these obvious errors was removed. A few examples of such errors in the first edition are: “the tender mercies of the Lord is over all them”(p. 7); “Behold I were about to write them” (p. 506); “they did not fight against God no more” (p. 290); and thousands more.
In addition to these “minor” errors, changes have been made to the BOM which greatly change the original “God-given” meaning.
For example, LDS Apostle Mark E. Petersen, in As Translated Correctly, p. 67, 1966, tells us that the original meaning of an Old Testament scripture had been lost until the Book of Mormon restored it:
“A direct reference to baptism was plainly deleted from Isaiah 48:1. In the Old Testament [KJV] this reference reads:
“‘Hear ye this, O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, which sware by the name of the LORD....’
“And now note this same passage from [the BOM]: ‘Hearken and hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, or out of the waters of baptism, who sware by the name of the Lord....’ (1 Nephi 20:1).
“How many similar deletions were made [in the Bible], no one knows, because we have only fragments [recorded ‘perfectly’ in the BOM].”
Unfortunately for Apostle Petersen and the LDS Church when we examine p. 52 of the first (1830) edition of the BOM (and even the original handwritten manuscript) we find this recorded at 1 Nephi 20:1 -
“Hearken and hear this, O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, which swear by the name of the Lord....”
As you can see, the only changes from the KJV which Smith originally made were changing “hear ye” to “hearken and hear” and a “correction” of the Elizabethan English spelling for “sware” to the more modern “swear.” (Since he retains Elizabethan spellings for other words such as “ye,” “thou,” “hast,” etc., it seems rather silly to modernize this one word.) But most important, he did not “correct” Is. 48:1 by inserting “out of the waters of baptism.”
More modern revisions of the BOM have changed the spelling of “swear” back to the original KJV Elizabethan English “sware,” and have changed the Elizabethan “which” to the more modern “who,” but have also added “or out of the waters of baptism.”
And to further confound Smith’s “translation” we can see his final “translation” of Is. 48:1 in his Inspired Version:
“Hear ye this, O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, which swear by the name of the Lord....”
So we can see that Apostle Petersen’s assertion that the “perfect” BOM has proven that the Bible has deleted an important phrase from Is. 48:1 is completely false. (Modern discoveries of very ancient Bible manuscripts such as the Isaiah Dead Sea Scroll of 100 B.C. also substantiate the KJV rendering of Is. 48:1.) And, furthermore, the modern edition of the BOM which Petersen quotes is clearly a change from the original “inspired” translation!
It is apparent that, although Smith copied the KJV fairly accurately at 1 Nephi 20:1, someone else at a later date added to his BOM scripture. This is similar to the fact that over a thousand years after the Apostle John wrote 1 John 5:7 someone added to it. 1 Jn 5:7 in the KJV Bible has been proven to be spurious! That is why modern scholars and translators have properly deleted it from modern Bibles. (See the 1JN5-7 study paper.) Joseph Smith, however, copied this spurious verse from the KJV into 1 Jn 5:7 of his Inspired Bible!
Another significant change concerns the name of the angel “Moroni” as published in modern editions of the Pearl of Great Price (part of the LDS Scriptures):
“He called me [Joseph Smith] by name and said...that his name was Moroni....” - JS 2:33.
However, when this statement by Joseph Smith was first written down, the name the angel gave was different:
“He called me by name, and said...that his name was Nephi ....”
Furthermore, when it was first published, “Nephi” was still used here (Times and Seasons, vol. 3, p. 753). Joseph Smith lived for two years after this first publication of “Nephi” but made no corrections or retractions.
Also, in 1842 the Millenial Star published the same account and again used “Nephi”! - Millenial Star, vol. 3, p. 53.
The name of the angel was then published in the first (1851) edition of the Pearl of Great Price (p. 41). Again it was “NEPHI”!
It wasn’t until 1878, when Orson Pratt published a revised edition of the Pearl of Great Price, that we find the angel’s name has changed from “Nephi” to “Moroni” as modern versions still show.
One of the writings of Joseph Smith most recently (1976) declared as Scripture by the LDS Church is a revelation recorded by Smith in his diary for 21 January 1836. This scripture was to be printed in the newest editions of the Pearl of Great Price. (My own copy is older than 1976, so I haven’t actually seen it printed in that book yet.)
As printed in the news release (Deseret News, 3 April 1976) this scripture now reads:
“The heavens were opened upon us and I beheld the celestial kingdom of God,...I saw Father Adam and Abraham, and my father and my mother, my brother, Alvin,...”
However, when Joseph Smith actually wrote this revelation into his diary, he wrote:
“The heavens were opened upon us and I beheld the celestial Kingdom of God,...I saw father Adam, and Abraham and MICHAEL and my father and mother, my brother Alvin...” - Joseph Smith’s Diary, 21 January 1836, p. 136; original in LDS historical department.
What difference does it make that Smith’s revelation actually included Michael with Adam and Abraham? Why would the LDS Church feel the necessity of deleting “Michael” as Smith actually wrote it?
Well, according to other revelations by Joseph Smith himself, Adam is the same person as Michael! - See Doctrine and Covenants 27:11 and 107:54. So, when deciding to add new scriptures out of the writings of Joseph Smith, the LDS Church had to delete “Michael” since Michael could not be with Adam in this vision if he really was Adam already (as explained in earlier LDS “scriptures”)!
One interesting change made in the BOM shows Smith’s ignorance of Elizabethan English (as found in the KJV). The KJV reads “Enter ye in at the strait gate” at Matt. 7:13. Now, as all modern translators know, the NT Greek word found here in all the ancient manuscripts of the Gospel of Matthew means “narrow.” That is why this is the meaning found at this verse in all modern Bibles. The KJV translators understood this also, and that is why they used the word “strait.” In the Elizabethan English of 1611 “STRAIT” meant “narrow”!
Joseph Smith, however, was obviously unaware of this meaning and assumed that the KJV meant “straight.” So, when he first “translated” the BOM, he “corrected” the spelling of the KJV here and actually wrote: “Enter ye in at the straight gate ... because straight is the gate...” - p. 484, 1830 ed.
He even repeated this obvious error on p. 509. Modern versions of the BOM have changed these original “corrections” by Smith at 3 Nephi 14:3 and 3 Nephi 27:33 which now read “Enter ye in at the strait gate” just as in the KJV.
More serious changes include a change concerning the knowledge of God and Jesus. (“This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” - John 17:3, KJV)
At first Joseph Smith wrote these “orthodox” trinitarian-supporting statements into the BOM:
(1) “And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Everlasting God, was judged of the world” - p. 26, 1830 ed.
(2) “These last records,... shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and the Saviour of the world” - p. 32, 1830 ed.
(3) “And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Eternal Father!” - p. 25, 1830 ed.
(4) “Behold, the virgin which thou seest, is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh.” - p. 25, 1830 ed.
Now, however, compare these original “revelations” and perfect translations with the modern editions of the BOM where “Son of” has been added to each one of these scriptures:
(1) “And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the everlasting God was judged of the world” - 1 Nephi 11:32.
(2) “These last records, ... shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world.” - 1 Nephi 13:40.
(3) “And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!” - 1 Nephi 11:21.
(4) “Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.” - 1 Nephi 11:18.
In addition to the essential information that means eternal life being changed here, it may also be interesting to note the minor change of the British spelling of “Saviour” (as found in the King James Version, of course) in Smith’s original publication to the American spelling of “Savior” in modern editions. Apparently Joseph Smith’s “seer stones” mistook him and his audience for BRITISH and perfectly “translated” the “Reformed Egyptian” of the Gold Plates of the BOM into that language originally. The modern LDS Church, however, realized the error of that “perfect” original translator and changed it into the American language.
As for the massive changes made over the years to the revelations of Joseph Smith now found in Doctrine and Covenants (another book of LDS scriptures), we need only look at two.
Smith’s book of revelations was first published in 1833 as the Book of Commandments. This was revised and added to and in 1835 republished as Doctrine and Covenants. Doctrine and Covenants has also been revised again since the 1835 edition.
At any rate, in the 1835 edition of scripture Joseph Smith revealed in D&C section 101,
“Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman but one husband, except in the case of death” - p. 251.
This section (101) was printed in every edition of D&C from 1835 until 1876 when the revelation that polygamy is good and necessary was added to D&C (section 132). Rather than have this new revelation, which allows and encourages multiple wives for one husband, be contradicted by the old section 101, the old scripture was completely removed from D&C printings from 1876 onward: a significant change of the LDS scriptures. It is noteworthy that the newer revelation encouraging polygamy contradicts the Book of Mormon also (Jacob 2:22-24).
Finally, let’s compare D&C section 7 in the modern D&C with its original publication in the 1833 Book of Commandments and its revision into the 1835 edition of D&C. This is what Prophet Joseph Smith swears is a perfect translation by him from an original parchment actually written by the Apostle John - so there cannot possibly be any errors!!
A) 1833 Book of Commandments, p. 18:
“1 A Revelation given to Joseph and Oliver, in Harmony, Pennsylvania, April, 1829, when they desired to know whether John, the beloved disciple, tarried on earth. Translated from parchment, written and hid up by himself.
“AND the Lord said unto me, John my beloved, what desirest thou? and I said Lord, give unto me power that I may bring souls unto thee. - And the Lord said unto me: Verily, verily I say unto thee, because thou desiredst this, thou shalt tarry till I come in my glory:
“2 And for this cause, the Lord said unto Peter:- If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? for he desiredst of me that he might bring souls unto me: but thou desiredst that thou might speedily come unto me in my kingdom: I say unto thee, Peter, this was a good desire, but my beloved has undertaken a greater work.
“3 Verily I say unto you, ye shall both have according to your desires, for ye both joy in that which ye have desired.”
Notice that this first printing of this revelation uses Elizabethan English pronouns (as used in the KJV) throughout. It also uses them correctly (“thee” and “thou” used when referring to single individuals - singular - and “you” and “ye” used when referring to more than one individual - plural).
B) 1835 ed. Doctrine and Covenants, p.160:
“A Revelation given to Joseph Smith, jr. and Oliver Cowdery, in Harmony, Pennsylvania, April, 1829, when they desired to know whether John, the beloved disciple, tarried on earth.—Translated from parchment, written and hid up by himself.
“1 And the Lord said unto me, John, my beloved, what desirest thou? For if ye shall ask, what you will, it shall be granted unto you. And I said unto him, Lord, give unto me power over death, that I may live and bring souls unto thee. And the Lord said unto me, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, because thou desiredst this thou shalt tarry until I come in my glory, and shall prophesy before nations, kindreds, tongues and people.
“2 And for this cause the Lord said unto Peter, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? For he desiredst of me that he might bring souls unto me; but thou desiredst that thou might speedily come unto me in my kingdom. I say unto thee, Peter, this was a good desire, but my beloved has desired that he might do more, or a greater work, yet among men than what he has before done; yea, he has undertaken a greater work; therefore, I will make him as flaming fire and a ministering angel; he shall minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation who dwell on the earth; and I will make thee to minister for him and for thy brother James: and unto you three I will give this power and the keys of this ministry until I come.
“3 Verily I say unto you, ye shall both have according to your desires, for ye both joy in that which ye have desired.”
Remember, now, that the Prophet, Joseph Smith had been inspired in April 1829 to receive a perfect translation of what John actually wrote on parchment in the first century. Isn’t it more than just a little bit odd that 6 years later (or 2 years after its first printing in the Book of Commandments) that this perfectly received translation has grown much longer? All the underlined portion in the 1835 edition quoted above was not in Smith’s original inspired revelation! Did the Apostle John’s original parchment manuscript grow during these 6 (or 2) years?
How is it that John’s “original” parchment has the Lord properly addressing him in the second sentence with the singular form (“thou”/”thee” in the Elizabethan English used in both the 1833 and the 1835 editions), but in the 1835 edition the address (in the very next sentence which was added) suddenly changes to the plural form (“ye”/”you” in the Elizabethan English used there)? Can the Prophet Joseph Smith really translate perfectly by inspiration or not? The original manuscript by John can’t change so why does Smith’s revelation of it change? (“if ye shall ask, what you will” is improper usage anyway - it should be, “what ye will” since “ye” is the form used for subjects and “you” is used for objects. But, perhaps the Apostle John had become a poorer grammarian by the time that he miraculously added to his 1800 year old parchment.)
C) 1951 ed. Doctrine and Covenants, Section 7:
“REVELATION given to Joseph Smith the Prophet, and Oliver Cowdery, at Harmony, Pennsylvania, April, 1829, when they inquired through the Urim and Thummim as to whether John, the beloved disciple, tarried in the flesh or had died. The revelation is the translated version of the record made on parchment by John and hidden up by himself. See History of the Church, vol. 1, pp. 35,36.
“1. And the Lord said unto me: John, my beloved, what desirest thou? For if you shall ask what you will, it shall be granted unto you.
“2. And I said unto him: Lord, give unto me power over death, that I may live and bring souls unto thee.
“3. And the Lord said unto me: Verily, verily, I say unto thee, because thou desirest this thou shalt tarry until I come in my glory, and shalt prophesy before nations, kindreds, tongues and people.
“4. And for this cause the Lord said unto Peter: If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? For he desired of me that he might bring souls unto me, but thou desiredst that thou mightest speedily come unto me in my kingdom.
“5. I say unto thee, Peter, this was a good desire; but my beloved has desired that he might do more, or a greater work yet among men than what he has before done.
“6. Yea, he has undertaken a greater work; therefore I will make him as flaming fire and a ministering angel; he shall minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation who dwell on the earth.
“7. And I will make thee to minister for him and for thy brother James; and unto you three I will give this power and the keys of this ministry until I come.
“8. Verily I say unto you, ye shall both have according to your desires, for ye both joy in that which ye have desired.”
Except for punctuation changes there haven’t been many changes to this revelation since 1835. We can see, however, in paragraph 3, a change from the 1835 past tense “desiredst” to the present tense “desirest” and a correction of the improperly used “shall” in the 1835 edition to the proper Elizabethan “shalt.” How could the “perfect” translation have missed that? Also, in paragraph 4, we find the improperly used “he desiredst” changed to “he desired” and the improper “thou might” changed to “thou mightest.”
But instead of the “Ye/You” errors of the second sentence (1835 ed.) also being changed into proper Elizabethan English form in this modern edition, we see a shift, in this sentence only, to modern English (“you” as both subject and object). Strangely, though, we find that the many revisers of this inspired perfect translation have failed to notice that paragraph 5 still mixes the modern “has” in with the rest of the Elizabethan sentence. It should be, of course, “hath.”
Since such a series of changes is quite common in the history of the printings of the revelations of Joseph Smith that are now considered as scripture and found in the modern Doctrine and Covenants, it would be easy to fill many pages with examples, including: (A) 1833 BOC, p. 95 - 1835 D&C, p.124 - modern D&C 42:62-73 and (B) 1833 BOC, p. 92 - 1835 D&C, p. 122 - modern D&C 42:24-36. But, really, haven’t we already seen more than enough to prove that Joseph Smith was no prophet of God and the “scriptures” of the LDS Church are merely fictions?
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- - - Compare KJV Is. 4:3 with 1830 BOM p. 89 & Modern BOM 2 Nephi 14:3