The Inspired Version
By Seventy Aleah G. Koury
There are many Bibles. New versions roll from the press every few years. Men seek greater understanding in a popular language. Perhaps in light of the new translations of the Scriptures many of our people are wondering whether they ought to give a sacred priority to the Inspired Version. A historical study reveals the answer.
There is an unforgettable story that indelibly imprints itself on the heart and soul of the reader. It reveals the work in preparing the Inspired Version, and the prowess in protecting the manuscript through the years following its completion until its first printing.
In June of 1830, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon continued the revision of the Scriptures which had been begun previously by Joseph. They found a quiet place to work at Hiram, Ohio, about thirty miles from Kirtland, away from the many visitors and inquirers. Sidney proved to be a valuable assistant.
|Above is the upper room of the Johnson house in Hiram, Ohio, where Joseph and Sidney worked on the Inspired Version. In this room they received the vision of the several glories of eternity, as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 76.|
Early in November the work was temporarily suspended while Joseph Smith hastened to prepare the material for the Book of Commandments, in order that Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer might be able to take the manuscript to Missouri for publication. These two men were able to leave about the middle of November, and the work of revision of the Scriptures resumed and continued all through the winter. The task continued through intervals until the original manuscript of the Inspired Version was completed. Joseph Smith states,
I completed the translation and receiving of the New Testament, on the 2nd of February, 1833, and sealed it up, no more to be opened till it arrived in Zion. (Times and Seasons 5:723)
A letter sent from Kirtland, Ohio, to the brethren in Zion and dated July 2,1833, by Sidney Rigdon, Joseph Smith, Jr., and F. G. Williams, contains the following statements:
We this day finished the translating of the scriptures, for which we returned gratitude to our Heavenly Father. . . . Having finished the translation of the bible, a few hours since. (Times and Seasons 6:802; see also RLDS History of the Church 1:302–303)
It is noteworthy that the New Testament was completed first and the Old Testament five months later.
Several years passed, and in 1839 the Saints found themselves driven from their homes in Far West and the surrounding territory. James Mulholland (secretary for the Prophet Joseph who was at this time in Liberty Jail on spurious charges), knowing the value of the papers entrusted to his care, gave them to Ann Scott, his wife's oldest sister, believing the mob would be less likely to molest her. Taking no chances, she in turn made two cotton bags large enough to contain these papers, which included the manuscript of the Inspired Version, and sewed a band around the top ends, tied them about her waist, and carried them under the folds of her dress in the daytime and under her pillow by night whenever the mob was present.
When Emma Smith left on the perilous journey from Far West for Illinois, Ann Scott gave the cotton bags with their precious contents to her. She also carried them in the same manner across the state of Missouri and over the icebound Mississippi River, with two infants in her arms and two small children tugging at her skirts.
Emma carefully guarded the revision all through the years. On April 10, 1866, the Church, which had looked forward to its publication, passed a motion in the General Conference at Plano, Illinois, that the New Translation (as it was called) be published immediately.
Following this conference, on May 2, William Marks, W. W. Blair, and Israel L. Rogers went to Nauvoo to procure the manuscript. The only payment Emma wanted for her careful watch of the precious manuscript over the years was a copy of the book when it came off the press. The Church was poor, but funds were raised through the consecration of the Saints. Finally, news of five hundred copies ready for mailing—the first of five thousand ordered—was announced in the last Herald of 1867.
It cannot be overlooked that the Scriptures bear divine evidence of themselves. Possibly the greatest purpose in scripture is to reveal God to man. We are told, "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me" (John 5:40). This would of necessity lead a concerned person to seek for as accurate a translation as possible. If this were not so, the world would not have seen the biblical and language scholars of the past and present.
Joseph Smith was directed by the Spirit of revelation when he began the Inspired Translation. Its need was emphasized in a revelation received in June 1830. In this revelation the Lord said to Moses,
And now, Moses, my son, I will speak unto you concerning this earth upon which you stand; and you shall write the things which I shall speak. And in a day when the children of men shall esteem my words as naught, and take many of them from the book which you shall write, behold I will raise up another like unto you, and they shall be had again among the children of men, among even as many as shall believe. (Doctrine and Covenants 22:24)
The Book of Mormon, which by this time was published to the world, declared that "many plain and precious parts" had been removed from the Bible:
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 . . . because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceeding great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them. (1 Nephi 3:168–170, 175)
A revelation directed to Sidney Rigdon in December 1830, specified that "the Scriptures shall be given even as they are in mine own bosom, to the salvation of mine own elect" (Doctrine and Covenants 34:5b). At the same time, Sidney was commanded to write for Joseph during the inspired translation of the Scriptures.
The importance of inspired scripture is emphasized not only in content, but in the fact that it shall be preserved by the power of God:
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 thou hast 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. (Doctrine and Covenants 42:15–16)
There are today [in 1961] many fine translations of the Scriptures, the products of excellent scholarship. These include the Douay, the King James, the Moffatt, the Goodspeed New Testament, several English and American revisions, the New Testament in Modem English by Phillips. All of these are valuable for study and comparison. In them many quotations questioned through the centuries are given a clearer interpretation. But as biblical scholars of the past have declared, early manuscripts written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin, and Greek differ somewhat in text, and consequently obscure any positive interpretation.
There are no original manuscripts of either the Old Testament or the New Testament today (as far as anyone knows), therefore the same problems, plus additional problems due to language changes, face the modern translator. Our first and only assurance for the most accurate revealment of passages changed, and most definitely for "precious parts removed," is in the content of the Inspired Version.
Many times in missionary endeavor, we are faced with the problem of having to use a Bible accepted by the homes in which we visit. In cases such as these, where the family insists on the King James or some other version, we should use it in presenting our message. However, when the version used shows its limitations in revealing historical or doctrinal matter clearly, we should not hesitate to introduce the Inspired Version.
People will have no difficulty accepting the Inspired Version when they have responded to the message and marvelous manner in which the Book of Mormon was brought forth. In most cases there is little problem in using the Inspired Version from the beginning. Either way it will speak for itself.
Again, at no time should the Inspired Version be replaced in the pulpit with another where interpretation varies. Others may be used in making comparison in order to emphasize the greater understanding of the Inspired Version, but not to replace its meaning. The Lord emphatically commanded its use among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people as early as February 1831. It appears that mistakes in interpretation were made early in our Church history when that which was revealed in the Inspired Version was substituted with passages from the King James Version. This should not be repeated. A testimony of its truthfulness will be evident in the results of any missionary use of it.
(The Saints' Herald [October 23,1961], 8–9)