Return to About Mormons home

Errors in the Bible?

Does the Book of Mormon and the Joseph Smith Translation correct known errors in the King James version of the Bible?

by W. John Walsh

If Joseph Smith claimed that either the Book of Mormon or the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (JST) were perfect and free from all error, then errors in the King James text that are perpetuated in the new scriptures as well might case doubt on the prophet's work.  However, Joseph Smith never made this claim.  Instead, the Prophet held the view that the new scriptures corrected some of the mistakes in the original Biblical texts. Furthermore, he specifically stated that he did not correct everything that he could have corrected in the translation process.  For example, in the Doctrine and Covenants, a letter from Joseph Smith to the Saints quotes from the Old Testament:

"And again, in connection with this quotation I will give you a quotation from one of the prophets, who had his eye fixed on the restoration of the priesthood, the glories to be revealed in the last days, and in an especial manner this most glorious of all subjects belonging to the everlasting gospel, namely, the baptism for the dead; for Malachi says, last chapter, verses 5th and 6th: Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.  I might have rendered a plainer translation to this, but it is sufficiently plain to suit my purpose as it stands......" (D&C 128:17-18, emphasis added)

Please note that the Prophet specifically said he could have rendered a plainer translation, meaning one that was closer to perfection.  However, the scripture as written was correct enough to get his point across.  Likewise, any errors in the text of the Book of Mormon were deemed unimportant as the text was sufficiently plain for its stated purpose.  Likewise, while the Prophet never finished the JST, he deemed the work sufficient to merit publication.

The question is sometimes asked:  Why didn't Joseph Smith give us all of the corrections to the Bible?  Several reasons come to mind.  First, throughout his life, Joseph Smith faced constant persecution.  He lived most of his adult years in poverty, often hiding from those who would eventually succeed in murdering him (See Martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith).  Therefore, the circumstances of his life did not permit him to do so.  Keep in mind that despite the adversity in his life, he did manage to give us more scripture than any other prophet or apostle, including Moses and Paul.   Finally, it should be noted that the Lord gives us truth "precept upon precept...[and] line upon line" (Isaiah 28:13).  As we obey the truths we have, we are given additional knowledge.  Through Joseph Smith, the Lord has given us a tremendous amount of new knowledge.  Perhaps he is waiting for us to obey this knowledge before we receive the rest?

(See The Book of Mormon home page; Response to Criticism home page; Accusatory Questions home page)

All About Mormons