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While the Mormon church has not printed the Inspired Version in its entirety, a few chapters are printed in the Pearl of Great Price under the title, "Book of Moses." Joseph Smith's "inspired revision" of Matthew, chapter 24, is also included in the Pearl of Great Price. The Mormon church accepts the Pearl of Great Price as Scripture, and it is one of the four standard works of the LDS church.

When we compare the text of the "Book of Moses" as it was first printed in 1851 with the way it reads today we find that some serious changes have been made. James R. Harris, who was a student at Brigham Young University, wrote a thesis in which he stated:

Orson Pratt was the Editor of the first American edition of the Pearl of Great Price. This publication became available to the public about the 21st of June 1878.

The American edition was more drastically changed than any previous publication by a member of the Church ("A Study of the Changes in the Contents of the Book of Moses From the Earliest Available Sources to the Current Edition," M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1958, typed copy, p.226).

From the standpoint of omissions and additions of words, the American Edition is the most spectacular rendition.... There were 147 words omitted in the American edition, 113 of those omissions are sustained in our current edition. Some of the words added to the American edition had impressive doctrinal implications (pp.224-25).

Although Dr. Harris admits that changes were made in the Pearl of Great Price, he feels that Joseph Smith himself made the changes in manuscripts before his death. In other words, he feels that when the Mormon leaders changed the text of the Pearl of Great Price in 1878, they were bringing it into conformity with changes Joseph Smith made in the manuscripts during his lifetime.

Richard P. Howard, church historian for the Reorganized Church, has recently released new information which gives some support to Dr. Harris' idea. He shows that there were a number of different manuscripts involved in the production of the inspired revision and that Joseph Smith often revised his own revisions and left the manuscripts in a very confused state:

Many texts reveal that the process was not some kind of automatic verbal or visual revelatory experience on the part of Joseph Smith. He often caused a text to be written in one form and later reworded his initial revision. The manuscripts in some cases show a considerable time lapse between such reconsiderations.

A considerable number of places in NT #2 [as Mr. Howard now numbers the manuscripts] show that initially Joseph Smith considered certain texts in the King James Version to be either correct or in need of slight revision, but that on latter consideration he decided to amend them further. Since the manuscript pages were already written and filled to the extent that the later corrections could not be included, the problem was solved by writing the text out on a scrap of paper and pinning or sewing it to the appropriate manuscript page (Restoration Scriptures, pp.93, 96).

... OT #3 represents a third draft manuscript of Section 22 and Genesis 1-7, a second draft manuscript of Genesis 8-24:42a, and a first draft manuscript of the remainder of the Old Testament, although revised considerably by interpolations written in later years between the lines and on separate scraps of paper pinned to the manuscript pages (p.106).

When one turns to nearly any page of OT #3 containing substantial initial revision of the King James Version, different colors of ink appear, showing later revisions, written between the lines or on separate scraps of paper and pinned to the manuscript pages (p.122).

... the manuscripts indicate rather clearly that Joseph Smith, Jr., by his continued practice of rerevising his earlier texts (occasionally as many as three times), demonstrated that he did not believe that at any of those points of rerevision he had dictated a perfectly inerrant text by the power or voice of God.... It is thus unnecessary and could be misleading to appear to claim 'direct' revelation in the determination of the entire text of the Inspired Version as the preface written for the 1867 edition apparently implied (p.151).

Richard P. Howard's admission that Joseph Smith rerevised his earlier texts "occasionally as many as three times" is certainly a serious indictment against Joseph Smith's work and plainly shows that his "inspired revision" is anything but "inspired." The fact that he could not make up his mind shows that he was tampering with the Scriptures according to his own imagination rather than receiving revelation from God. Mormon writer Truman G. Madsen admitted that Joseph Smith

often revised a passage, later added to or amended it, and then, in a third attempt, clarified it further. (Improvement Era, March 1970, p. 70)

The many changes in the "inspired" renderings tend to undermine confidence in Joseph Smith's work on the Bible. Earlier in this chapter we quoted Apostle John A. Widtsoe as saying that the "inspired revision" is "a remarkable evidence of the prophetic power of Joseph Smith." We cannot accept this statement, for a careful examination of his work reveals unmistakable evidence that it is merely a human production and contains many serious errors.

Mormon writer Milton R. Hunter made a fantastic claim concerning Joseph Smith's works:

The Prophet Joseph Smith produced for the world three new volumes of holy scriptures, ... and, in addition, he revised the Bible. No prophet who has ever lived has accomplished such a tremendous feat. There are only 177 pages in the Old Testament attributed to Moses, while Joseph Smith either translated through the gift and power of God or received as direct revelation from Jehovah 835 [pages]. (Deseret News, Church Section, July 18, 1970, p.14)

Joseph Smith produced a great deal of material that purports to be Scripture, but it does not appear that this material bears any evidence of divine inspiration.


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 2001-07-03 — 2002-11-24