Joseph Smith Seer Stones: Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible: Part 1

Dr. Tyler Griffin

Dr. Tyler Griffin

Source Expert

Dr. Tyler Griffin’s career in education started with six years teaching seminary in Brigham City. He then spent seven years instructing at the Logan LDS Institute and helped launch the online seminary program. Currently, he’s a professor at BYU with over ten years of experience. Dr. Griffin co-founded the BYU Virtual Scriptures Group and holds degrees in Electrical Engineering, Instructional Technology (Master’s and PhD). He has authored and co-authored several religious books.

Fact Checked by Kevin Prince

When section 35 is received, Sydney is called as Joseph’s scribe, which is very helpful for Joseph because his scribe, Oliver, had been sent out to Missouri to the borders of the Lamanites, as it says in the revelation. So, Sydney takes that calling to be scribed very seriously, and Joseph and Sydney actually go to Canandaigua, New York, near Fayette, and they go to Canada and do some translating. As they are translating, this is a copy of what’s called a Finney Cooperstown Bible. This is not the original that Joseph and Sydney used, but I will tell you the original looks exactly like this. It has this leather tool cover, and it’s a very large print Bible, and this is what they’re using as they’re doing the Joseph Smith Seer Stone Translation. In those weeks prior to section 37 being received, they finish up chapter 5 of what we know is the Book of Moses, then they get chapter 6, then they get into chapter 7. Now, interestingly, those verses in the Book of Moses are about what? Well, in large measure, they’re about Enoch, and Joseph learns from the Lord through revelation; he’s able to expand on the account of Enoch that’s very brief in the Old Testament as we have it in the King James Version. But he learns about Enoch and how Enoch did two interesting things: he gathered the people, and he created a Zion.

Now, isn’t the timing on that just interesting? Because in section 37, what does the Lord invite Joseph to do? Wait a minute, Ken, so what you’re saying is that sometimes the way revelation might work is God will take things that we have been focusing on in our scripture study, as those ideas come into our mind and into our heart, and He’ll take those and then He’ll help us find application for those principles in our life today. Is that what you’re saying?

Oh, I’m going to guess that the people watching this have had that experience where you hear a general conference talk or you read something in the scriptures or you see something in “Come, Follow Me,” or something somewhere comes to your attention. And then, in the next while, you see it again and again and again. For the previous portion of your life, that verse might as well not even have existed; you just really didn’t notice it. And as soon as you read it or learn about it, it just keeps reappearing, and the Lord keeps teaching you additional things. That’s just one of the really fun things about life and learning from the gospel. I love that.
One thing that we need to pause here for a second and discuss is the JST, because it goes on pause right here. They’re told in section 37 to kind of put a hold on that for now; it’ll come back. They’re going to finish it, but keep in mind Joseph started translating. Now, that’s an interesting word that we use because traditionally, in the 21st century, when I say to somebody I translated that, the implication is that I know two languages, and I know them well, and I’m taking something out of one language that I know, translating it into another language that I know. The fact is, at this stage in 1830, Joseph Smith does not know Egyptian; he doesn’t know Hebrew; he doesn’t know Greek; he doesn’t know the languages of ancient scripture. But he’s still, through the help of the Holy Ghost and other prophetic means, he’s still making a translation of sorts, even though he may not know those original languages. God knows them; the Spirit knows them. It’s fascinating to see that you have over 3,600 verses in this Bible that he goes through that he’s going to make changes, 3,600 plus, and then there are hundreds of additional verses that are added to this inspired version of the Bible that don’t even appear here. As Ken was talking, many of them are going to be in Enoch’s story; the Book of Moses, for instance, you get Moses chapters 1 through 8 in your Pearl of Great Price. Those are the equivalent of Genesis chapter 1 through chapter 6, verse 13. You’re noticing that there’s a lot added that doesn’t ever appear in the Holy Bible, which, by the way, causes a little bit of potential discussion and even at times contention among some of the early members where Joseph’s teaching things about the Garden of Eden and about the fall of Adam and now Enoch and the building up of Zion that they haven’t read these things before. This is new. For years, it was kind of distrusted because many thought that some other people had probably changed some of the things Joseph did. It was Robert J. Matthews from our church who did his master’s and PhD research on it, and he brought it back to the church. And actually, what had happened was Brigham Young had actually sent, I believe it was John Bernheisel, it may have been another early member of the church, but he sent an emissary over to Emma Smith, asked for the manuscript of the Joseph Smith Seer Stone Translation. The church had been told to publish it; we’ll see that later as we get into section 124. William Law was commanded to publish it but did not do so, and Emma kept it basically as her personal property. She had carried it out; that’s another story that I’m sure will come in future weeks. But Emma did not give the manuscript up, and as a result, we kind of distrusted it because it was published by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1867. And we had just little bits; we had the Book of Moses, and the reason we had that is because it was published in Nauvoo in a newspaper called the Times and Seasons. And we had the Joseph Smith—Matthew, but we just didn’t have very much from it up until 1980-81 when the new Bible came out. In 1981, when the Doctrine and Covenants came out, but Genesis, this Moses, it actually begins with Genesis 0, I would say, because Moses 1 is a chapter before the Old Testament actually begins. And the Joseph Smith Translation, fascinating topic; you can find lots of

By Dr. Tyler Griffin, Source Expert

Dr. Tyler Griffin embarked on his professional journey by teaching seminary courses for a period of six years in Brigham City, Utah. Following that, he dedicated the subsequent seven years to instructing at the Logan LDS Institute, located adjacent to Utah State University. Alongside his participation in the Seminary Preservice program, he spearheaded and supervised the implementation of the online seminary program. Dr. Griffin has been an educator at BYU for well over a decade and holds a co-founding position within the BYU Virtual Scriptures Group. His undergraduate degree is in Electrical Engineering, while both his master’s and doctorate degrees center around Instructional Technology. Dr. Griffin is the exclusive author of “When Heaven Appears Distant” co-author of “Come Unto Me: Illuminating the Savior’s Life, Mission, Parables, and Miracles” and co-editor of “Millions Shall Rediscover Brother Joseph.”

Fact Checked by Mr. Kevin Prince, Source Expert

Kevin Prince is a religious scholar and host of the Gospel Learning Youtube channel. His channel has garnered over 41,000 subscribers and accumulated over 4.5 million views. Mr. Prince also created the Gospel Learning App, a reliable platform where individuals seeking truth can access trustworthy answers to religious questions from top educators worldwide.

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