13. "This Generation Shall Have My Word through You"
This week's lesson celebrates divine doctrines restored by Joseph Smith. These came through his translation of the Book of Mormon, his additions and corrections to the Bible, the book of Abraham, and most of all through direct revelations from God.
Doctrines restored by Joseph Smith
Joseph's most fundamental challenges to Christian theology are his teachings of God's resumption of direct revelation in our day and teachings of God's restoration of divine authority to man to speak and act in his name, and as a corollary, of a greatly enlarged (and still open) canon.
Here are seven distinctive theological ideas attributed to Joseph Smith and generally accepted by Latter-day Saints, all of which have engendered charges of heresy: (1) the resumption of New Testament charismata and the reopening of the canon; (2) God as a personal and passible being; (3) a social model of the trinity; (4) deification; (5) the divine feminine; (6) God as eternally self-surpassing; and (7) postmortem evangelization.
Joseph Smith's unique teachings created a community of Saints that galvanized and welded them into a powerfully cohesive group with continuing bonds and vitality today.
Few religious doctrines are unique in the strict sense, but many are rare enough to be considered distinctive features of this or that religion or denomination. Several doctrines of the Latter-day Saints are distinctive in this sense, although in most cases other Christians have at some time held identical or similar beliefs.
LDS doctrine can be described as biblical Christianity separated from hellenized Christianity, a conjunction of first-century Judaism and Christianity.
The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible
This short article presents statements by Joseph Smith telling why he made a Bible translation, gives information relating to the development and production of the work, examines a number of the significant variants, and considers some doctrinal results and historical implications.
"Joseph Smith's Translation of the Bible: A Historical Overview," Robert L. Millet, in The Joseph Smith Translation: The Restoration of Plain and Precious Truths
Discusses the process of translation over eleven years, the work of scribes, and the preservation of Joseph's work. While Joseph never explained his inspired translation, we might called some of the JST "inspired prophetic commentary"; some changes might be a harmonization of doctrine, and some may be a restoration of content, ideas, and sayings deleted earlier from the Bible.
Joseph Smith's changes in the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke add information about the character of Jesus and his disciples, define certain phrases, harmonize the Gospels, and provide transitions in the narrative. These alterations often have theological as well as narratorial implications.
"The Nature of the Pen and Pencil Markings in the New Testament of Joseph Smith's New Translation of the Bible," Thomas A. Wayment and Paul W. Lambert, BYU Studies Vol. 47, no. 2
After Joseph Smith's death, Emma Smith kept the marked Bible and manuscripts of Joseph's New Translation of the Bible. These eventually became the property of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Because of random marks made on the pages of this collection, scholars have questioned whether or not any markings were added after Joseph Smith's death. The authors examine the notations made in the printed Bible Joseph used during his translation, and they conclude from the evidence that the manuscripts were not significantly changed after his martyrdom. They also point out that Joseph had finished translating and was editing to polish the manuscripts for publication.
The Bible that Joseph Smith worked in to create his translation has language more up to date than the King James edition that Latter-day Saints use today. For example, it changed "an hundred" to "a hundred." Joseph's Bible made hundreds of changes that other Bibles of the time also made.
Matthews went to great efforts to obtain access to original documents held by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at a time when the RLDS Church was reexamining its official position on Joseph Smith's revelations and translations.