New Light on Jesus’ Mortal Life and Teachings


25. There were great cataclysms and three days of darkness in the New World at the time of the Savior’s death.

In the Old World, Luke wrote that while Jesus was on the cross, at “about the sixth hour … , there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.

“And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst” (Luke 23:44–45).

Through the Book of Mormon, we learn that corresponding events also occurred in the New World, including storms, tempests, thunder, lightnings, and earthquakes. Then “there was darkness upon the face of the land. …

“And it came to pass that it did last for the space of three days that there was no light seen” while the Lord’s mortal life came to an end. (3 Ne. 8:5–7, 19, 23).

We have been blessed many times over by the ministry of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Even today, many members of the Church are unaware of the full extent of his revelatory work. Not the least among his revelations is the greater knowledge he received of the Lord Jesus Christ and his mortal mission and teachings.

24. Jesus’ last words were that his Father’s will had been done.

The JST reveals that among Jesus’ last words on the cross, left unrecorded in other Bible translations, were expressions of his obedience to that which he had been sent by his Father to do. At the end of his suffering, just before his death, the Savior cried out in a loud voice, declaring to his Father that the work was finished and that the Father’s will was done (see JST, Matt. 27:54).

23. The soldiers who crucified Jesus did not realize that they had crucified the Son of God.

The Prophet Joseph Smith’s translation indicates that Jesus’ words “they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34) referred to the soldiers who had crucified him (see JST, Luke 23:35) and that the statement did not have a broader application, as some translations imply.

22. In Gethsemane it was not Jesus who was “sore amazed,” but his disciples.

The Prophet Joseph Smith learned that instead of Jesus being “sore amazed” in Gethsemane as most translations suggest, it was the disciples who were amazed. They became heavy in heart and began to wonder if Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus knew what was in their hearts and asked his disciples to sit while he prayed (see JST, Mark 14:36–37). Then Jesus took Peter, James, and John and rebuked them. He told them that his soul was filled with great sorrow, even unto death (see JST, Mark 14:38).

Concerning the intensity of Jesus’ suffering in accomplishing his great atonement, the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;

“But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;

“Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—

“Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men” (D&C 19:16–19).

21. At the institution of the sacrament, Jesus taught of remembering him.

The restored text of Jesus’ words at the last supper with the Quorum of the Twelve gives great clarity to and new understanding concerning the Savior’s instructions regarding the ordinance of the sacrament. The text records that as they ate, Jesus took bread and blessed it, then broke it and gave it to his disciples, asking them to take it and eat. The JST makes it clear that the bread was not actually his body but a symbol of his body. He told the disciples to eat the bread in remembrance of his body; whenever they did this, they were to remember this time with him.

The Savior did the same with the cup. After giving thanks, he gave the cup to them, and they all drank. Then he said that this cup was in remembrance of his blood, which would be shed for many. We also learn that the ordinance he gave his Apostles was a new testament, and they were to bear record of him to all the world. Whenever they participated in the ordinance, they were to remember him, that he drank the cup with them for the last time in his mortal ministry (see JST, Mark 14:20–24).

20. Joseph Smith learned much that clarifies the information Jesus gave his disciples on the Mount of Olives.

During the Savior’s last week in mortality, he returned to the temple after having cleansed it the previous day. On this day, Jesus spoke of many important things, among them the future destruction of Jerusalem’s temple. His words elicited queries from his disciples, and the Lord’s response is what is known today as the Olivet discourse.

Most translations of this discourse in Matthew, Mark, and Luke include important teachings and prophecies. But for centuries the sequencing of the Lord’s discourse has caused gospel students to raise questions. Thus, it is not surprising that the Lord revealed to his great latter-day restorer, Joseph Smith, clear and additional information concerning his Olivet teachings.

This new information given to the Prophet Joseph Smith is so extensive, so corrective of the existing versions of the Bible, that there is insufficient space here to explore it all. Nevertheless, what may be noted is that on 7 March 1831, the Prophet Joseph Smith received Doctrine and Covenants 45. In verses 15 through 59 the Lord reviews his Olivet discussion “as I showed it unto my disciples” (D&C 45:16). At the end of this review, the Lord said that “it shall not be given unto you to know any further concerning this chapter, until the New Testament be translated, and in it all these things shall be made known” (D&C 45:60). Consequently, later that year, the Prophet Joseph Smith received the Joseph Smith—Matthew text relating to Matthew 23:39 through chapter 24 [JS—M 1], as is now printed in the Pearl of Great Price. Later, when translating the book of Luke, the Prophet received the correct translation of chapters 12, 17, and 21 of Luke [Luke 12, Luke 17, Luke 21], which relate to the content in Matthew 24 [Matt. 24].

Out of these new texts comes a clear structure of Jesus’ discourse, and it is this structure that gives new understanding about the Lord’s teachings. Following are some of the things we learn:

• To his disciples Jesus candidly said that “this people shall be destroyed and scattered among all nations” (D&C 45:19) and that it would be done within “this generation” (D&C 45:21) and that “all things … are only the beginning of the sorrows which shall come upon them” (JS—M 1:19).

• Jesus said that in the last days “when the times of the Gentiles is come in, a light shall break forth among them that sit in darkness, and it shall be the fulness of my gospel;

“But they receive it not; … and they turn their hearts from me because of the precepts of men” (D&C 45:28–29).

• The Lord clarified the sequence by saying that “again shall the abomination of desolation” come upon Jerusalem (JS—M 1:32; emphasis added). “The powers of the heavens shall be shaken” (JS—M 1:36), and then shall the righteous be lifted up. In the JST, Jesus speaks of angels descending and gathering the remainder of the righteous from wherever they are (see JST, Luke 17:38).

• Yet “before the arm of the Lord shall fall, an angel shall sound his trump, and the saints that have slept shall come forth to meet me in the cloud” (D&C 45:45). Then “shall the Lord set his foot upon this mount, and it shall cleave in twain” (D&C 45:48), and the Jews will “look upon me and say: What are these wounds in thine hands and in thy feet?” (D&C 45:51).

• After Jesus has cleansed the world, “Satan shall be bound, that he shall have no place in the hearts of the children of men” (D&C 45:55).

19. Because of their unbelief, Jesus was told to say little to the Jews about dispersed Israel.

Jesus told the Jews that he had other sheep that were not of their fold. But because of the Jewish response, the Father had told Jesus not to tell the Jews any more on this matter. Said Jesus to the Nephites: “Ye are my disciples; and ye are … a remnant of the house of Joseph. …

“This much did the Father command me, that I should tell unto [the Jews]:

“That other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

“And now, because of stiffneckedness and unbelief they understood not my word; therefore I was commanded to say no more of the Father concerning this thing unto them” (3 Ne. 15:12, 16–18).

18. Some of Jesus’ followers were afraid to confess their belief in him.

The Prophet Joseph Smith learned something previously unknown to readers of the Bible: By the end of Jesus’ three-year ministry, some of his disciples and followers were speaking openly against him because they were afraid to testify of him to others. However, he said that this was something of which they could repent (see JST, Luke 12:10–12).

17. Joseph Smith learned more of what happened at Jesus’ transfiguration.

• Said the Prophet Joseph Smith: “The Savior, Moses, and Elias, gave the keys to Peter, James and John, on the mount, when they were transfigured before him” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, page 158). Also, the Prophet learned that the Lord had shown to Peter, James, and John while they were on the mount the pattern of the earth’s future transfiguration:

“He that endureth in faith and doeth my will … shall receive an inheritance upon the earth when the day of transfiguration shall come;

“When the earth shall be transfigured, even according to the pattern which was shown unto mine apostles upon the mount; of which account the fulness ye have not yet received” (D&C 63:20–21).

Joseph Smith also learned that the Lord used the term Elias to refer to more than one person. On the way down the mountain, Peter, James, and John asked Jesus why the prophecy said that Elijah should come before the great and dreadful day of the Lord (see Mal. 4:5–6), when in fact Jesus was serving his ministry before Elijah came to him on the mount.

Jesus said that Elias truly would come and restore all things, as the prophets had written, but one Elias had already come. This Elias prepared the way before him, but the people did not recognize that messenger and had done to him whatever they wanted. The Savior then defined Elias as the one who prepared the way before him. At that point, the disciples understood that Jesus spoke not only of John the Baptist but also of another who would come to restore all things, as had been written by the prophets (see JST, Matt. 17:10–14).

16. Jesus said to not let our friends turn us away from his teachings.

The JST clarifies what the Lord meant about cutting off a hand that offends us. He was speaking of those close to us who would lead us astray. If, for example, our brother should offend us and then not confess and forsake his sin, he should be cut off from us. The Lord said it was better for us to go through life without him than for us to go to hell with him.

Jesus said that this principle applies even to those we consider a standard or role model; if he transgresses, he will be cut off. Every person must stand or fall by himself and not trust in others. It is better to enter heaven bereft of such friends and peers than to be cast into hell with them (see JST, Mark 9:40–42, 44, 46–48).

15. Jesus taught that little children have no need of repentance.

The JST shows that Jesus clearly taught his disciples that little children have no need of repentance. In the latter part of his Galilean ministry, Jesus called a small child to him and said that the Son of Man had come to save those who were lost and to call sinners to repentance. He said that little children did not need to repent and that he would save them (see JST, Matt. 18:11).

The Prophet Joseph Smith learned that later in the Lord’s Perean ministry, the disciples had this doctrine in mind when they mistakenly rebuked those who brought to Jesus little children to receive blessings at his hand. On that occasion, the disciples said there was no need because Jesus had already declared to them that he would save little children (see JST, Matt. 19:13).

14. Jesus taught total commitment to him and his gospel.

Toward the end of his Galilean ministry, Jesus began to emphasize more clearly the full devotion to him and the gospel that is required if one expects to change his or her life. Jesus said that taking up the cross, mentioned in Matthew 16:24 [Matt. 16:24], meant denying oneself ungodliness and every worldly lust and keeping his commandments. He charged his disciples not to break his commandments even to save their lives, for whoever saved his life in this world (by breaking the commandments) would lose eternal life in the world to come. But whoever lost his life in this world for Jesus’ sake would find eternal life hereafter. We should therefore forsake the world and save our souls (see JST, Matt. 16:26–29).

• As his translation work on the Bible continued, the Prophet Joseph learned that we must at least be willing to lay down our life for the Lord’s sake and the sake of the gospel; if we weren’t willing to do so, we would lose eternal life. But whoever was willing to lose his life for the Lord and the gospel would save his life eternally. Therefore, the Lord counseled us not to be ashamed of him (see JST, Mark 8:37–38, 40).

• In the JST, Jesus tells us that to be his disciples, we must bear our own crosses and follow him. The JST clarifies that to take up one’s cross means to deny oneself of all ungodliness and worldly lust and to keep the Lord’s commandments (see JST, Matt. 16:26). The Savior therefore counseled us to settle our hearts on doing the things which he teaches and commands us to do (see JST, Luke 14:27–28).

• The JST reveals that Jesus continued to stress during his Perean ministry the total commitment that is required for the gospel to make each of us into a new person. In the book of Matthew, we meet a rich young man who had declined to sell and give all he had to the poor. Of such Jesus said it “is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

“When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?” (Matt. 19:24–25).

The JST adds that Jesus beheld their thoughts and said that if people will forsake all things for his sake, God can make all things of which he speaks possible (see JST, Matt. 19:26).

13. Jesus openly declared who he was more frequently than has been known.

The textual corrections that the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the four New Testament gospels make it clear that Jesus openly declared who he was much more publicly and frequently than is recorded in other translations:

• Jesus told Nicodemus that the holy prophets who had preached in the past had testified of Him (see JST, John 3:18).

• When calling Peter and Andrew to join him in his ministry, Jesus said that he had been written of by the prophets (see JST, Matt. 4:18).

• At Capernaum, certain men accused Jesus of making himself to be the Son of God (see JST, Mark 3:21).

• After the Lord taught in the synagogue at Capernaum the day following his feeding of the 5,000, Jesus openly taught of himself and his mission. According to the JST, Jesus said that no person can come unto him unless that person does the will of his Father, who had sent him. The Father’s will was that they receive the Son, for the Father bears record of him; and he who receives that testimony and does the will of the Father will be raised up by Jesus in the resurrection of the just (see JST, John 6:44).

• During the Savior’s Perean ministry, the JST tells how certain members of a multitude came to Jesus. They asked, since they had the writings of Moses and the prophets, if a person lived by those teachings, wouldn’t he have eternal life?

Jesus answered that they really didn’t know the teachings of Moses or the prophets, for if they did know them, they would believe on Him. The intent of those writings was to testify of Him, for He was sent that they might have life (see JST, Luke 14:35–36).

• Also in the Perean ministry, some Pharisees derided Jesus. They said that since they had the law and the prophets, they would not receive Jesus as their ruler, accusing Jesus of trying to make himself a judge over them.

Jesus responded that the law and the prophets testified of him. In fact, all the prophets who had written, even until John the Baptist, had foretold His day. Why, he asked them, did they teach the law but deny that which was written and condemn him, whom the Father had sent to fulfil the law so that they might all be redeemed? (see JST, Luke 16:16–17, 20).

• Joseph Smith learned that on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, when Pilate asked Jesus if he was the king of the Jews, the Lord did not equivocate, as suggested by most Bible translations, but clearly answered that he was (see JST, Mark 15:4).

12. Jesus also taught that the Sabbath was a day for glorifying God.

During his Galilean ministry, Jesus responded to the Pharisees regarding his and his disciples’ eating ears of corn gathered from a field on the Sabbath day. It was there that Jesus gave the principle that the “sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27). The JST adds that Jesus told the Pharisees the Sabbath was given to man as a day of rest and as an opportunity to glorify God, not simply as a day to refrain from eating. Jesus said that since the Son of Man made the Sabbath day, therefore the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath (see JST, Mark 2:26–27).

11. Jesus taught that baptisms must be performed worthily and with divine authority.

The Prophet Joseph Smith learned of an episode in the Lord’s ministry that was previously unrecorded: Sometime within the first year of Jesus’ Galilean ministry, the Pharisees challenged Jesus on why he did not accept their baptisms, since they kept the law of Moses. Jesus responded that they in fact did not keep the law. If they were keeping the law, they would receive him, for it was he who gave the law. He told them that he rejected their baptism because it was of no profit to them—for when that which is new arrives, that which is old is put away (see JST, Matt. 9:18–21).

10. New text from Jesus’ teachings at the Sermon on the Mount.

• Early in his Galilean ministry, Jesus taught what is known as the Sermon on the Mount. It is recorded in the JST that instead of telling all people to take no thought for their life, food, or clothing (as expressed in many translations), Jesus gave missionary instructions to the Twelve, and then gave that counsel only to them. He told his disciples to go out into the world teaching the gospel but to have no care for the world, for the world would hate them and persecute them and turn them out of the synagogues. Nevertheless, the disciples were to go from house to house, teaching the people. Jesus promised that he would go before them and that their Heavenly Father would provide whatever they needed for food and clothing (see JST, Matt. 6:25–27).

• The JST also advances our understanding of what Jesus said to his disciples concerning the mysteries of the gospel. In the JST, he identifies the word pearls and the phrase “that which is holy,” mentioned in Matt. 7:6, with the mysteries of the kingdom. Then Jesus told his disciples to go into the world, telling all to repent. He also told them to keep the mysteries of the kingdom to themselves, for it was not right to give that which is holy to dogs (meaning “to them that are not worthy”; see D&C 41:6) nor pearls to swine, because they would trample the pearls under their feet. Jesus told the disciples that the world could not receive what even they were not able to bear. Therefore, the disciples were not to give their pearls to the world, for the world would turn on the disciples and attack them (see JST, Matt. 7:9–11).

9. Jesus did not receive a fulness at first, but “continued from grace to grace.”

At some point after John the Baptist’s imprisonment at Machaerus, he may have written a record of his labors. On 6 May 1833, in Kirtland, Ohio, the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith a portion of John’s record. In that record, John bore testimony of Jesus’ progressive spiritual development.

“And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace;

“And … continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness. …

“And he received all power, both in heaven and on earth, and the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him. …

“He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth” (D&C 93:12–13, 17, 26).

8. Early in Jesus’ ministry, Pharisees sought his death.

According to most translations, the earliest recorded attempt to slay Jesus came at Nazareth near the beginning of his great Galilean ministry. However, the JST reveals that even in Jesus’ earlier Judean ministry, the Pharisees sought some means by which they might put him to death. Many of them had received John as a prophet, but they did not believe in Jesus (see JST, John 4:2).

7. Jesus baptized.

Most translations say that Jesus did not personally perform baptisms, but the JST explains that Jesus did—just not as many as his disciples. He allowed them to baptize as an example to them that they should prefer one another (see JST, John 4:3–4).

6. The Spirit took Jesus to the temple’s pinnacle.

• The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that it was not Satan but the Spirit who took Jesus to Jerusalem and set him on the temple’s pinnacle (see JST, Matt. 4:5). It was only then that the devil came to him (see JST, Matt. 4:6; see also JST, Luke 4:9).

• Similarly, the Lord revealed that Satan did not take Jesus to a high mountain, but that Jesus was in the Spirit and the Spirit took him and showed him the world’s kingdoms. It was then that the devil came and said that he would give all these things to Jesus (see JST, Matt. 4:8–9; see also JST, Luke 4:5).

5. Jesus went into the wilderness to commune with God.

Rather than going into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil as most Bible translations say, the JST says that Jesus went to be with God (see JST, Matt. 4:1). It was not until after Jesus had fasted 40 days and had communed with God that he was left to be tempted by the devil (see JST, Matt. 4:2), although during this 40-day period Satan sought to tempt him (see JST, Mark 1:10–11).

4. Responding to Mary’s request at the wedding feast, Jesus asked her how he could help.

In most Bible translations, the response Jesus gives his mother, Mary, when she asks for his help at the wedding in Cana seems a bit cold: “Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come” (John 2:4). In the JST, Jesus’ words are much more respectful. He says that he will do whatever she asks, for his hour has not yet come (see JST, John 2:4).

3. New understanding about Jesus’ youth.

• When Jesus was 12 years of age, Mary found him in the temple with the doctors of the law. In most Bible translations, Jesus is portrayed as “hearing” and “asking” the doctors questions. But the JST clarifies that it was the doctors who were doing the listening as they asked Jesus questions (see JST, Luke 2:46).

• “Even Jesus, the Son of God,” said the Prophet Joseph Smith, “had to … restrain His feelings many times for the safety of Himself and His followers, and had to conceal the righteous purposes of His heart in relation to many things pertaining to His Father’s kingdom. When still a boy He had all the intelligence necessary to enable Him to rule and govern the kingdom of the Jews, and could reason with the wisest and most profound doctors of law and divinity, and make their theories and practice to appear like folly compared with the wisdom He possessed; but He was a boy only, and lacked physical strength even to defend His own person; and was subject to cold, to hunger and to death” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, page 392).

• From the JST we learn that Jesus grew up with his brothers, became strong, and waited upon the Lord many years for the time of his ministry to come; that he served under his father (Joseph) and did not speak as other men; and that he could not be taught, for he did not need any man to teach him (see JST, Matt. 3:24–26).

2. Wise Men came some time after Jesus’ birth.

Time passed. Then, still in the days of Herod the king, the Wise Men came from the east to Jerusalem. The JST clarifies that they asked where they could find the child that was born—not an infant, as implied in most translations. Also, the Wise Men described the child as the Messiah of the Jews (see JST, Matt. 3:1–2; compare with Matt. 2:2), rather than the king of the Jews.

Upon hearing their words, Herod gathered all the chief priests and scribes together and demanded to know the place written by the prophets where Christ would be born. The JST adds that Herod feared greatly, but that he did not believe the prophets (see JST, Matt. 3:4; compare with Matt. 2:4).

The priests and scribes told Herod that the prophets had written that Christ would be born in Bethlehem of Judea. In some translations, Bethlehem is referred to as a prince in Judea, but the JST clarifies that it was Christ who would be the prince(see JST, Matt. 3:6; compare with Matt. 2:6).

1. Signs in the New World marked Jesus’ birth.

In the Old World, Wise Men saw “his star in the east” (Matt. 2:2). In the New World, a different yet corresponding story unfolded, as recorded in the Book of Mormon, translated by Joseph Smith. Five years before the great Redeemer’s birth, Samuel, the Lamanite prophet, prophesied that “at the time of his coming … there shall be great lights in heaven, insomuch that in the night before he cometh there shall be no darkness …

“There shall be one day and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night. …

“And behold, there shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld” (Hel. 14:3–5).

“And it came to pass that the words … were fulfilled” (3 Ne. 1:15).

Through revelations given to the Prophet Joseph Smith, members of the Church have much new information about Jesus Christ.

For example, we know that Jesus was chosen in the premortal existence, that under the Father’s direction he created worlds, that he appeared to and directed prophets in the Old and New Worlds before his mortal life began, that as a resurrected person he appeared to many people in the New World, that in 1820 he appeared with his Father and called Joseph Smith to be a prophet, and that in due time he will publicly come again.

In addition, we have much specific new knowledge about the Savior’s mortal ministry. The following is a sampling of some of this new knowledge Latter-day Saints have because of the revelations and additional scripture given to the Prophet Joseph Smith. Much of this information comes from the Prophet’s translation of passages in the King James Version of the Bible; this translation, known today as the Joseph Smith Translation, was a work he described as a “branch of my calling” (History of the Church, 1:238), an idea underscored in the eighth article of faith: “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly” [A of F 1:8] (emphasis added). For purposes of brevity in this article, the term Joseph Smith Translation is identified with the abbreviation JST.

The discussions for each of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s textual corrections and additions listed below are necessarily brief. As you read each point, study also the related verses in your copy of the Bible so that the discussions are placed in their proper scriptural context.

[illustrations] Illustrations by Robert T. Barrett

[illustration] Mary’s Psalm of Praise. Mary rejoices with her cousin Elisabeth about the child she is carrying, the Son of God (see Luke 1:39–56).

[illustration] The Nativity. Mary, baby Jesus, and Joseph (see Luke 2:4–7).

[illustration] Simeon with the Christ Child in His Arms. Simeon gives thanks to God that he has seen Israel’s salvation, as was promised to him (see Luke 2:25–35).

[illustration] The Calling of Peter and Andrew. Jesus invites the brothers Peter and Andrew to follow him (see Matt. 4:18–20).

[illustration] The Sermon on the Mount. Jesus teaches on a hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee (see Matt. 5–7).

[illustration] Christ Healing the Man with the Withered Hand. At the synagogue where Jesus healed the man, the Lord asks if doing good on the Sabbath is lawful (see Luke 6:6–11).

[illustration] Christ Walking on Water. Jesus reaches out to a sinking Peter who had begun to walk on the sea toward Jesus (see Matt. 14:22–33).

[illustration] Christ and the Rich Young Ruler. The rich young man departs after he hears Jesus’ counsel to give his riches to the poor (see Matt. 19:16–26).

[illustration] The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. Jesus enters Jerusalem riding on a young colt (see Luke 19:28–40).

[illustration] In the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus prays and suffers in Gethsemane (see Matt. 26:36–46).

[illustration] The Crucifixion. Jesus is crucified at Golgotha (see John 19:16–30).