Robert Matthews said, “Many have supposed that the translation of the Bible [what we call the JST] was only a sideline, a matter of personal, but passing interest to the Prophet Joseph.” We agree that too many misunderstand the importance of this work. How many in the Church understand what the JST is or use it regularly?
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Robert Matthews said, “Many have supposed that the translation of the Bible [what we call the JST] was only a sideline, a matter of personal, but passing interest to the Prophet Joseph.”
We agree that too many misunderstand the importance of this work. How many in the Church understand what the JST is or use it regularly?
But, as Matthews said, to neglect or ignore that is mistaken. “Joseph Smith was commanded of the Lord to do this great work; that it was central to the Restoration, to the establishment of the dispensation of the fulness of times; and that to neglect or ignore the role of the JST is to miss a major dimension of the work of God in this dispensation”.
Hello, we are Scot and Maurine Proctor and welcome to Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast. Today we will be looking at Doctrine and Covenants sections 37-40 and tell you some things you may not have heard about these sections before as they correlate with Joseph’s work on the translation of the Bible.
Remember the transcripts for these podcasts are at latterdaysaintmag.com/podcast
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For the transcripts for this podcast go to latterdaysaintmag.com/podcast
Joseph said many things about the new translation of the Bible and this translation opens our eyes to deeper meanings in the sections we study today.
“Upon my return from Amherst Conference, I resumed the translation of the Scriptures. From sundry revelations which had been received, it was apparent that many important points touching the salvation of men, had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled.”
And he said, “There are many things in the Bible which do not, as they now stand, accord with the revelations of the Holy Ghost to me.”
Joseph said, “I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors.”
Robert Matthews said, “It is the time of the “restitution of all things” spoken of by Peter (Acts 3:21). Since the Bible is the collection that has survived covering the time from the Creation on down through the centuries to the time of Jesus and the Apostles, it became a major instrument in the hands of the Lord to bring about the doctrinal restoration for the last days through the ministry of Joseph Smith. The Book of Mormon is part of that restoration, the book of Abraham is part of that restoration, the ancient record of the ten tribes of Israel will be part of that restoration, as will be the sealed plates containing the vision of the brother of Jared.”
Matthews continued, “By divine command, Joseph Smith proceeded to make a new translation of the Bible. He would read the King James Version, and by revelation through the Holy Spirit and by vision a fuller meaning would be made known to him. Sometimes this restoration consisted of clarification of a passage, sometimes it consisted of producing material entirely new to our time but which once was known in ancient days and had been lost either by accident or by deliberate removal from the Bible record.” (Robert L. Millet and Robert J. Matthews, ed. Plain and Precious Truths Restored, The Doctrinal and Historical Significance of the Joseph Smith Translation. }
Joseph Smith worked on the translation for 37 months, and was told that this was a branch of his calling. He worked from a Bible published by H. and E. Phinney of Cooperstown, New York, writing in the margins sometimes in ink, and sometimes in pencil.
The King James version was a text for the prophet as he dictated corrections to a scribe and was a guide to indicate some of the passages needing attention. In all, he affected change to 3,410 verses of the Bible. He also gave us the book of Moses, whose passages were revealed to him as he worked his way through Genesis. As with the book of Moses, translating the Bible served as a catalyst for additional revelation.
Are we to use the JST as much as the other revelations and scriptures? Yes! In fact, one of the scriptures that we quote most in the Church is, “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). We only have this verse because Joseph Smith was working on this new translation of the Bible.
We learn so many significant doctrines from the JST.
The use of the ancient priesthood power, such as when Enoch put at defiance the armies of nations.
The age of accountability.
The giving nature of the Father.
As Joseph Smith said, “Our heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive…The nearer we get to our heavenly Father, the more we are disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls; we feel that we want to take them upon our shoulders, and cast their sins behind our backs.”
–Joseph Smith (TPJS, pp. 257, 240-41)
We learn from Joseph’s work:
An understanding of Elias who was to restore all things.
What it means to deny all ungodliness.
The atonement as a covering.
JST Matthew 3: 34 …for your sins ye have no cloak… The covering of the atonement. The Khafia (kaffia). Keffiyeh.
Doing the will of the Father.
Yes, my very favorite verse in scripture was given through the JST. This pinnacle comes at the very last of Jesus’ life. We have only 45 words given to us that were spoken by the Savior on the cross, but this is added in the JST as his last words He “cried with a loud voice, saying Father, it is finished, THY WILL IS DONE.
He was truly the perfect Son of the perfect Father.
Some of our favorite verses come from changes made in the JST. When Christ was born, it is not that “there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7), but “none to give room for them in the inn.” It was a question of heart.
When Mary comes to Jesus at the wedding and tells Him they have run out of wine, the King James version describes his response as being curt, “Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come” (John 4:4). The JST is very different. The Lord answers His mother, “Woman, what can I do for thee? Mine hour is not yet come.”
Pieces and parts of the JST are added as an addendum to the scriptures or can be found in your gospel library under Study Helps. For many decades, the JST was completely neglected and even frowned upon because we believed that errors had been introduced there. Robert Matthews, a scholar at BYU, who we have been quoting today, spent much time with the manuscripts of Joseph’s biblical translation that were in the hands of the RLDS, now called the Community of Christ and studied them deeply, finding that those errors did not exist. At that point, at the conclusion of his studies, the JST was put back into our scriptures in the appendix.
In a remarkable article called “One Continuous Flow” Kerry Muhlestein, another professor at BYU, weaves together Joseph’s receiving the revelations of this part of the Doctrine and Covenants and his work on the translation of the Bible. These are simultaneous events and Joseph’s intense work on the Bible impacted the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants, as well as the direction the Church was led.
Muhlestein wrote: “We often underestimate both the complexity and continuity of Joseph Smith’s revelatory life. His visions rolled, he said, “’like an overflowing surge before [his] mind.” Now that they have been compartmentalized into different sections, chapters, and books, we tend to compartmentalize them in our minds. Such a practice, however, limits our ability to see how powerful and continuous this ‘overflowing surge’ really was.”
Muhlestein wrote, “In early April 1830, several revelations clarified the organization of the Church and questions relating to various people joining it shortly thereafter. These revelations are Doctrine and Covenants sections 21–23 and seemingly portions of 20. We are aware of no significant revelations coming during the rest of that month, nor in all of May. But sometime in June a wonderful flood of light sprang forth as Joseph began the New Translation of the Bible.
“As the spectacular vision in Moses 1 was unfolded to him, it apparently flowed ‘from the Prophet’s lips without the slightest contemplation, hesitation, or uncertainty.’ Following this, sections 24–26 were received in July, section 27 in August, sections 28 and 29 in late September, sections 30 and 31 on September 28, and section 32 in mid—October [all in 1830].”
An outpour of revelations continued. Muhlestein notes, “Combining the Doctrine and Covenants revelations with those of the New Translation allows us to understand that Joseph gave the fledgling Church 195 new scriptural verses during the last month of the Church’s first year. The reception of sections 38 (January 2) and 39 (January 5) within the next few days brings the total to 261 verses in a five—week period. Without considering the place of the New Translation, we could easily pass over the fact that this was one of the greatest periods of revelation the Church has experienced, an overflowing surge.
“Thus, the translation process seems to have happened in great bursts of prophetic energy,” and certainly impacted by the New Translation.
There’s a corollary for us. Reading the scriptures opens the door for us to receive personal revelation.
Now Muhlestein writes about the concept of Zion as it began to flow to the prophet from the Lord. The term Zion is mentioned in Doctrine and Covenants 28, but Joseph’s understanding of it grew exponentially when he translated Moses 7 about the city of Enoch in December of 1830. Remember knowledge comes to Joseph and therefore the Church line upon line as he is taught.
Muhlestein says, “Before Joseph received the revelation about Enoch in December, the Saints knew precious little as to what establishing Zion really meant. But the reception of Moses 7 brought several important aspects of such a work vividly to the forefront: (1) God would protect His people against great wickedness as they established Zion (see Moses 7:13). (2) The people of Zion must be of one heart and mind (see Moses 7:18). (3) The people of Zion would have no poor among them (see Moses 7:18). (4) Zion was also known as the City of Holiness (see Moses 7:19). (5) Zion would be blessed when the rest of the earth was cursed (see Moses 7:20). (6) The goal of Zion was to become so righteous it would be taken up to abide with the Lord (see Moses 7:21). (7) Zion had existed for 365 years before being taken up (see Moses 7:68). (8) Before Zion was taken into the bosom of the Lord, her inhabitants walked with God, and He dwelt in their midst (see Moses 7:69). (9) Zion was the New Jerusalem (the first scriptural equation of the two terms), would be established again in the last days, would eventually meet Enoch’s Zion in a great day of reunion and rejoicing, and would become a city where the Lord would again abide (see Moses 7:62–64). All this knowledge would come from the book of Moses.”
Muhlestein continues, “This represented an overwhelming flood of knowledge about Zion. It fundamentally changed the vision of what it was that they had been counseled to seek to bring forth and establish. It seems that this revelation became the blueprint for what the Prophet would spend the rest of his life trying to accomplish. The profound impact that this revelation had on Joseph and the Church is probably beyond our ability to understand. Certainly the Prophet felt that building Zion was one of his greatest personal missions, and that the future of the kingdom of God hinged upon his ability to build Zion. He likely looked to Enoch as a role model in this work, even choosing Enoch as his code name when he first published section 78. In many ways the work of Enoch defined the mission in which the Saints have been engaged from December of 1830 until now. It is no wonder that the revelation was received “’o the joy of the little flock.’ The grandeur of the God—given vision matched the magnitude of the divinely appointed task.” (Kerry Muhlestein, “One Continuous Flow: Revelations Concerning the ‘New Translation.’” https://rsc.byu.edu/doctrine-covenants-revelations-context/one-continuous-flow-revelations-surrounding-new-translation#_edn58)
The timing here matters. Joseph is given Moses 7 in December of 1830, and also Section 37 the same month. In Section 37, the Lord says, “Behold, I say unto you that it is not expedient in me that you should translate any more until ye shall go to the Ohio.” This means both a temporary stop to the New Translation of the Bible and a call to gather the church members. The Lord says, “it is expedient in me that they should gather together at the Ohio.” Certainly Joseph understood that as a first step to building Zion, which he had just learned about more fully.
Section 38, received in January 1831, before Joseph leaves for Ohio, takes up that Zion theme. The Lord announces who He is, an important reminder when those who have joined the Church are being asked to do such a large and sacrificial thing as leave their homes and sell all their belongings and move for the sake of their beliefs. This is Who they are doing it for and why it is worth it.
“Thus saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, the Great I AM, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the same which looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven, before the world was made;
“The same which knoweth all things, for all things are present before mine eyes;
“I am the same which spake and the world was made, and all things came by me” (Section 38:1-3).
The Lord further tells them, “Mine eyes are upon you. I am in your midst and ye cannot see me” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:7).
The Lord has taken the “Zion of Enoch unto mine bosom” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:4), purified them and blessed them when the rest of the earth was cursed. By implication, He will do the same for this fledging Church of the latter days, an important promise when they are gathering to Ohio and will be seeking to build Zion.
Just as the He did for Enoch, the Lord assures them “Wherefore, gird up your loins and be prepared. Behold the kingdom is yours, and the enemy shall not overcome” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:9)
Who is this enemy? He tells us clearly, “For all flesh is corrupted before me; and the powers of darkness prevail upon the earth” (vs. 11).
Satan is the great liar, the great deceiver. He wars against the light, which is truth. If darkness covers the earth, it means humanity labors under philosophies and ideologies that are lies and will corrupt and destroy us. Satan loves to whisper lies and reshape our narrative so that we cannot see the truth anymore. While he destroys us, he wears the disguise as if he were doing the kindly and flattering thing.
He lies to us that there is no Christ. He lies to us telling us that we are worms who can never mount as eagles., that we are nothing and nothing we do is enough. He lies to us telling us he has a better way and ideology, then trucks about destroying everything in his path. He will tell you that Joseph is no prophet, that the apostles are just men with opinions and that you are much smarter. He will suggest that the gospel is backward and too hard.
The Lord makes a clear distinction that there is something better and He will begin to give it to His baptized, therefore covenant, people in that day, if they will come to the Ohio.
On a wintry day, the first part of February 1831, Joseph and six-months-pregnant Emma arrived in Kirtland in front of the Gilbert and Whitney Store. The junior partner of the establishment, Newel Kimball Whitney, and his wife, Elizabeth Ann, had recently joined the Church. Joseph sprang from the sleigh and walked into the store. With hand outstretched to the man at the counter, he said, “Newel K. Whitney! Thou art the man!” 7 This meant, “I know you; you are Newel K. Whitney.” The surprised thirty-seven-year-old merchant said, “You have the advantage of me. I could not call you by name as you have me.” “I am Joseph the Prophet. You’ve prayed me here, now what do you want of me?” 8 The Prophet, while yet in New York, had seen in vision Newel and Elizabeth praying for him to come to Kirtland.
Preparations were made in New York for the removal of the Saints in three large groups, one from Colesville, one from Fayette, and the last from Manchester. These Saints left all of their familiar surroundings to follow this living Prophet. “And I consecrate unto them this land [Ohio] for a little season, until I, the Lord, shall provide for them otherwise . . . And the hour and the day is not given unto them, wherefore let them act upon this land as for years, and this shall turn unto them for their good.” (D&C 51:16-17.)
Karl Ricks Anderson, who wrote Joseph Smith’s Kirtland, said, “Most of the faithful Saints who followed the Lord’s command to ‘go to the Ohio’ acted out of pure faith. Like the children of Israel who had faith that God would sustain them in their journey to the promised land, many came on foot, leaving behind them their worldly goods as well as family and friends. What few possessions these faithful converts were able to carry could not sustain them for long. But the Saints already in Kirtland welcomed these pilgrims and shared their meager substance willingly. These stalwart individuals formed the foundation for the Church’s amazing growth and progress.
“One of the thousands who converged on Kirtland, Oliver B. Huntington, described his journey with a group of the Saints: ‘We left Sackets Harbor . . . but [were] driven back, the wind blowing a perfect gale; we landed in Rochester the next morning before sunrise. . . From Rochester we took the canal to Buffalo and from Buffalo to Fairport, 12 miles from Kirtland we sailed on a steamboat, and in four days from the time we left Sackets we were in Kirtland. We all walked the 12 miles with joy, rejoicing at the privilege of getting there no matter how.’
Anderson said, “Nearly all who gathered to Kirtland needed assistance of some kind. Even Brigham Young, who, because of his industry and good business sense, was generally able to provide very well for himself and his family, had virtually nothing when he arrived in Kirtland. He described how he responded with faith to the Prophet’s call to gather:
‘When we arrived in Kirtland [in September , if any man that ever did gather with the Saints was any poorer than I was—it was because he had nothing. . . . I had two children to take care of—that was all. I was a widower. “Brother Brigham, had you any shoes?” No; not a shoe to my foot, except a pair of borrowed boots. I had no winter clothing, except a homemade coat that I had had three or four years. “Any pantaloons?” No. “What did you do? Did you go without?” No; I borrowed a pair to wear till I could get another pair. I had travelled and preached and given away every dollar of my property. I was worth a little property when I started to preach. . . . I had traveled and preached until I had nothing left to gather with; but Joseph said: “come up;” and I went up the best I could.
Anderson wrote, “Amasa Lyman was another immigrant to Ohio. A note in History of the Church describes his experience:
’Elders Orson Pratt and Lyman E. Johnson passed through the section of New Hampshire where young Lyman lived, on a preaching tour. He believed the message proclaimed by these new evangels and was baptized on the 27th of April 1832. . . . In consequence of the ill feelings which arose in his uncle’s family [where he was living], owing to his joining the Church, Amasa departed from the home of his kindred, and set out on foot for the gathering place of the Saints in Ohio. After a journey of some seven hundred miles, in which he endured many hardships—for much of the journey was made on foot and with but scant means of subsistence—he arrived at Hiram in Portage county. . . . About the first of July  . . . Amasa had the joy of meeting the Prophet of the new dispensation. Of that meeting and the impressions it produced, he says: “Of the impressions produced I will here say, although there was nothing strange or different from other men in his personal appearance, yet when he grasped my hand in that cordial way (known to those who have met him in the honest simplicity of truth), I felt as one of old in the presence of the Lord.’
“Phoebe Carter told of leaving her family behind and traveling alone to Kirtland in 1835:
‘My friends marveled at my course, as did I, but something within impelled me on. My mother’s grief at my leaving home was almost more than I could bear; and had it not been for the spirit within I should have faltered at the last. My mother told me she would rather see me buried than going thus alone out into the heartless world. “Phoebe,” she said, impressively, “will you come back to me if you find Mormonism false?” I answered, “yes, mother; I will, thrice.” These were my words, and she knew I would keep my promise. My answer relieved her trouble; but it cost us all much sorrow to part. When the time came for my departure I dared not trust myself to say farewell; so I wrote my good-byes to each, and leaving them on my table, ran downstairs and jumped into the carriage. Thus I left the beloved home of my childhood to link my life with the ‘‘saints of God.’ (Karl Ricks Andeson, Joseph Smith’s Kirtland.)
The power of the testimony that burned in each of these people was so great, that they left everything behind, and put themselves in what anyone else would consider perilous conditions to fulfill the call to gather to Ohio. When the Saints begin to face such agonizing persecution, remember they are brand new converts. It would be people who had first heard the gospel perhaps only weeks before, who would leave kith and kin to gather. It was people who had been converts only a year or two who went on to Missouri and were driven from Independence. Doesn’t that take your breath away?
As they lived with pounding poverty and persecutors who thought they were fanatics, as they were driven from Ohio to Missouri to Illinois, didn’t they ever think, what have I gotten myself into? Certainly those who stuck it out had fire in their bones and the Spirit lighting their soul or they just wouldn’t have done it.
Some dropped out, and that’s what Sections 39 and 40 are about. James Covel was a Methodist minister and an itinerant preacher, traveling the circuit in and around Litchfield, Connecticut. Because mainstream Methodism began to abandon the exercise of spiritual gifts, he became involved in the reform movement, and, in fact, was named president of the New York Conference of the Methodist society, a dissenting group.
In January of 1831, he attended a conference of the Church in Fayette., clearly looking for the spirituality he craved. The call to move to Ohio had already come to the Church. Jed Woodworth notes, “Covel was more impressed with the teachings of the Church than with the call to move. In fact, he seemed poised to convert. He lingered a few days, talking with Church, leaders, and covenanted with God to obey the call to repent and be baptized.
“In January 5, 1831, a revelation came through Joseph Smith, calling Covel to join the Saints in their move to Ohio.” “Thou art called to labor in my vineyard and to build up my church, and to bring forth Zion, that it may rejoice upon the hills and flourish” (Doctrine and Covenants 39:13)
The Lord knows Covel well, surely better than he knows himself, because this first rush of keen interest in the Church did not last. In Section 39, the Lord says, “And verily I say unto thee, thine heart is now right before me at this time; and, behold, I have bestowed great ablessings upon thy head (vs. 8).
So the Lord says Covel’s heart is right at this time, but it will not last. Covel has a weakness in being consistent. “Thou hast seen great sorrow, for thou hast rejected me many times because of pride and the cares of the cworld” vs. 9).
The catch for him was this, “thou art not called to go into the eastern countries, but thou art called to go to the Ohio (vs. 14).”
You want to weep when you read this. Woodworth notes, “Covel must have known that moving west would mean cutting ties with the deep and extensive associations he had built up over his career. Two of his sons were Methodist preachers, and his years spent working in New York City had put him in contact with the movement’s most powerful voices.
“All the prestige he had accumulated over the course of a lifetime would have to be abandoned. It took Covel less than 48 hours to decide that he would not move to Ohio.”
The Lord described what hapenned in Section 40, “And [James Covel] received the word with gladness, but straightway Satan tempted him; and the fear of persecution and the cares of the world caused him to reject the word.
“Wherefore he broke my covenant, and it remaineth with me to do with him as seemeth me good. Amen” (Doctrine and Covenants, Sec. 40: 2,3).
You hear the echoes of the parable of the sower that the Lord gave in his lifetime here. In Israel in ancient times, farmers planted their fields with the help of a bag with holes punched in it. As they walked in the field, the seeds would scatter where they may. We’ve seen this many times in Israel.
President Dallin H. Oaks calls this the parable of the soils, because it depends on what kind of ground the seed falls on whether its great potential can be realized. All the seeds start out with enormous potential. Seeds that fall on good ground can flourish and grow, creating an extensive root system to protect them for hard times.
Seeds that fall on the wayside are snatched away by the wicked one. Seeds that fall on stony ground will wither in the scorching sun of tribulation or popular opinion, because they have no root system. Some seeds fall among thorns and are choked out.
The Lord gave Covel knowledge of what he was offered and who was offering it.
The blessing? The Lord says, “I have kept in store a blessing such as is not known among the children of men, and it shall be poured forth upon their heads” (vs. 15).
“Hearken and listen to the voice of him who is from all eternity to all eternity, the Great IAM even Jesus Christ—
“The light and the life of the world; a light which shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not (vs. 1,2).
What a lot Covel gave away for fear and pride and in such a short time!
That’s all for today. We’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and this has been Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast. Next week we’ll study Doctrine and Covenants 41-44, “My Law to Govern My Church.” Remember to sign up for our free new app and get a free e-book “11 Things You Probably Didn’t Know about the Book of Mormon” at latterdaysaintmag.com/app. That’s a-p-p. Thanks to Paul Cardall for the music and Michaela Proctor Hutchins who produces this show.