Short Take: Using the JST

Author’s Note

One purpose of the Book of Mormon is to establish the Bible’s truth (1 Nephi 13:40). Another is to restore “plain and precious things” which were lost from Bible (1 Nephi 13:24-29). After the Book of Mormon’s publication, God set Joseph Smith another large scriptural task: restore the Bible. The Bible is that important.

Under inspiration from heaven, Joseph restored much that was lost and corrected many errors. We usually call the result the Joseph Smith Translation (JST), though it is not a translation between languages. The LDS Church still uses the King James Version (KJV) – a longer story – but many JST excerpts are in footnotes and an appendix to the LDS publication of the KJV. Several whole chapters are included in the Pearl of Great Price. Noticing these enriches our reading and teaching.

For example, the JST version of the early chapters of Genesis is published in the Pearl of Great Price as the Book of Moses; the expansion is dramatic and priceless.

When Moses shows wonders to Pharaoh, beginning in Exodus 7, the KJV says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 7:3, 13). The JST has Pharaoh hardening his own heart.

When John records – according to the KJV – both that Jesus baptized (John 3:22) and did not baptize (4:2), the JST says instead, in the latter case, that Jesus performed baptisms, but not as many as his disciples.

Short Take: Agency and the Alternative

Author’s Note

We’re taught of a premortal grand council (Joseph Smith used the term), where all of our Heavenly Father’s spirit children learned his plan and chose whether to press forward with Jehovah or to rebel with Lucifer. (See Job 38:7.) I could be wrong, but I cannot imagine so consequential a choice being required of us in the same meeting where we first heard of the plan. Agency itself, to say nothing of justice, required that we understand and ponder the plan and its implications before choosing our path irrevocably. So I imagine the grand council as the culmination of many meetings in which we listened, discussed, and asked countless questions. (This level of knowledge left ample room for faith in Christ, in part because his atoning sacrifice and resurrection were not yet accomplished.)

Some thought they knew better than God. This era of instruction provided time and opportunity for them to develop their arguments, preach their principles, and consolidate support among their spirit siblings. The war in heaven (Revelation 12:7-8) was a war between their ideas and God’s. When Lucifer formally offered his alternative in the grand council – save everyone, and he gets the glory (see Moses 4:1-4) – a significant fraction of spirits likely were already firmly in his camp and prepared to rebel with him.

(To be continued.)

Short Take: Eight Tips for Loving the Old Testament

Author’s Note

Read with Your Mind

  • Slow down. We’re to learn and experience, not check a box or win a race. Read aloud sometimes, to force yourself to slow down and make sense of words and syntax.
  • Consult footnotes for different shades of meanings in Hebrew and insights from the Joseph Smith Translation (JST).
  • Other books of scripture are the best commentaries on the Old Testament. See how Old Testament passages are quoted and explained elsewhere in scripture.
  • Use Bible maps and the Bible Dictionary to put people and events in historical and geographical context.
  • If you don’t know a word, look it up. (This will not always help. King James’ English is centuries older than your dictionary.)
  • Remember, we’re reading a translation. No translation – no human language, really – is perfect.

Read with Your Heart

  • The people in the Old Testament are real people leading real lives in the present tense. Put yourself in their shoes. Consider how your own experience might be like theirs.

Read with the Spirit

  • Ask prayerfully for insight and understanding when you read. Gratefully welcome the Spirit when it comes and any insight it communicates. When it doesn’t come, study and ponder anyway.