Q&A: Questions and Answers


Answers are for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine

“Why don’t we use the Inspired Version of the Bible in the Church? Would it be helpful to me to read it?”

Answer/Brother Robert J. Matthews

In answer to the first question, I would say that to some extent we do use Joseph Smith’s Inspired Version of the Bible (or, as he called it, the New Translation). For example, the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price is an extract from the Prophet’s translation of the book of Genesis. Also Joseph Smith 1 in the Pearl of Great Price is an extract of the new translation of Matthew, chapter 24. So anytime we use these materials in the Pearl of Great Price, we are using the Prophet Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible.

Or to speak in greater detail, whenever we use quotations from the Book of Moses, such as “This is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39), or refer to the book of remembrance as kept by Adam and his family (Moses 6:46), or speak of Adam having a language that was pure and undefiled (Moses 6:5–6), or talk of Cain as Master Mahan (Moses 5:31), or recognize the origin of animal sacrifice (Moses 5:5–8), or discuss the details of Enoch’s great ministry, and of Enoch and the Lord weeping for the waywardness of mankind (Moses 7:28–41), we are actually using Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible. However, the two excerpts that are in the Pearl of Great Price represent only a fraction of the thousands of corrections, revisions, and additions made by the Prophet Joseph Smith in translating the Bible.

Perhaps the principal reason why the Church has not published or officially adopted the new translation is that the Prophet Joseph Smith was unable to attend to an authorized publication of it before his death. The Church records show that the Prophet wanted to publish the translation and was in the process of preparing the manuscript for that purpose at the time of his death but was hindered by persecution and lack of finances. As recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord indicated that He wished to have it published. (See D&C 124:89.) It is also very probable that the Prophet would have made some additional corrections had he lived longer.

However, at the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the manuscripts and documents pertaining to the translation were retained by Emma Smith, the Prophet’s widow, who would not give them to the Quorum of the Twelve although Elder Willard Richards, apparently acting on behalf of President Young, requested the new translation of her. Consequently, when the Church moved to the Salt Lake Valley, it did so without the new translation of the Bible.

Subsequently, the Reorganized church (RLDS) was organized in Illinois, and in 1866 Sister Emma Smith gave the manuscripts into the custody of that church. In 1867 the RLDS published the first edition of the translation and obtained a copyright for it. The RLDS church still has the original manuscripts and the copyright and is therefore the sole publisher.

Since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has had neither the original manuscripts nor the copyright, it would have been quite difficult, if not impossible, for the Church to publish the translation, even if it had wanted to. In Nauvoo in 1845, Dr. John M. Bernhisel made a partial copy from the original, and the Church has this in its offices in Salt Lake City, but it contains less than half of the corrections and is not suitable for publication.

Because the translation was published by the RLDS church, some questions have existed as to whether it had been published accurately. However, research in the past few years with the original manuscripts has indicated that the Inspired Version of the Bible, published by the RLDS church, is an accurate representation of the sense of the original manuscripts prepared by Joseph Smith and his scribes. Furthermore, it seems to be increasing in use and acceptance in our church today. An official editorial of the Church News, dated December 7, 1974, contained these words:

“The Inspired Version does not supplant the King James Version as the official Church version of the Bible, but the explanations and changes made by the Prophet Joseph Smith provide enlightenment and useful commentary on many biblical passages. …

“When the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price offer information relative to biblical interpretation, these should be given preference in writing and teaching. But when these sources of latter-day revelation do not provide significant information which is available in the Inspired Version, then this version may be used.”

These expressions from the editorial certainly permit members of the Church to use the translation in writing and in personal study.

In answer to the second question as to the help that would be obtained from the Inspired Version of the Bible, the following items are of some significance: (1) The Prophet Joseph Smith’s translation bears a much stronger testimony of the divinity and the mission of Jesus Christ than does the King James Version and places the ancient patriarchs of the Old Testament in a clear gospel setting. (2) It reveals much interesting information otherwise unobtainable about Adam, Eve, Enoch, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, Joseph, and Moses. (3) It clarifies many passages from the writings of Isaiah and the Psalms. (4) It enlivens many events in the mortal ministry of Jesus and explains many of his parables. (5) It reveals a much closer relationship of Jesus and the prophets than is found in any other Bible. (6) It unfolds the background and true meaning of many of Paul’s statements, especially concerning his comments about women and marriage. (7) It enlarges upon and clarifies many items dealing with the nature of God, the nature of man, the nature of the devil, the priesthood, premortal existence, the innocence of children, the resurrection, and the plan of salvation—all in a Bible setting. (8) And last, but certainly not least, the translation gives the reader a feeling for the work of the Prophet Joseph Smith and stands as one of the strongest tangible evidences of his divine mission. The Prophet himself referred to the translation as “a branch of his calling.” (History of the Church, 1:238.)

[photo] Photo by Lonnie Lonczyna

Chairman, Department of Ancient Scripture, Brigham Young University

“Since girls are required to wear dresses of a certain length and with sleeves after they have been to the temple, why isn’t this standard of dress required of us all whether we have been to the temple or not?”

Answer/Sister Ardeth G. Kapp

It would seem that there should be a certain consistency about appropriate clothing whether we have been to the temple or not, and it is my opinion that there is. However, the difference is in the increased responsibility that comes after a person has been to the temple. Accepting the privileges and blessings of wearing the temple garment also brings sacred responsibilities. But first let us consider the part of the question for you who have not yet received these blessings.

I would like to begin by sharing a few personal thoughts with you. On my first visit to the temple I discovered, to my surprise, that going to the temple was not so much something I had to start but rather something I had been in training for, preparing for, and qualifying for through past performance. This experience required no relearning and very little adjustment. As I look back, it seemed more like a familiar, coming-home feeling. There was no need for adjustments in wardrobe, habits, attitudes, and conduct that might have seemed strange or different. And so it is my opinion that there is a great advantage if your wardrobe does not require adjustment or getting used to after you go to the temple.

I am reminded of the year our high school basketball team took the state championship. During the practice period before the final game, to avoid even the slightest adjustment, there was an attempt to make every detail, as nearly as possible, like the situation the team would face. The playing floor would be different, but every other possible detail that could be controlled was considered—diet, uniforms, position on the floor, rest, etc. As I recall now, even the coach was encouraged to wear his familiar green argyle socks because everyone was used to them, and the team wanted every imaginable advantage with minimal adjustment or difference when it really counted. They wanted the coveted award, and no detail was too minor to consider during the preparation time.

We are now in a preparation time. After going through the temple the guidelines are more specific, but it is important to set a safe standard for yourself now. A delightful story told by Elder Hartman Rector provides a vivid example of this principle.

“In my experience, I have found that it is very dangerous to fly just high enough to miss the treetops. I spent twenty-six years flying the navy’s airplanes. It was very exciting to see how close I could fly to the trees. This is called “flat hatting” in the navy, and it is extremely dangerous. When you are flying just high enough to miss the trees and your engine coughs once, you are in the trees.

“Now let’s pretend the navy had a commandment—‘Thou shalt not fly thy airplane in the trees.’ As a matter of fact, they did have such a commandment. In order to really be free of the commandment, it becomes necessary for me to add a commandment of my own to the navy’s commandment, such as, ‘Thou shalt not fly thy airplane closer than 5,000 feet to the trees.’ When you do this you make the navy’s commandment of not flying in the trees easy to live, and the safety factor is tremendously increased.” (“Live above the Law to Be Free,” Ensign, Jan. 1973, p. 131.)

I have often wondered as I have seen little girls in two-piece swimsuits and revealing dresses at what age their mothers will attempt to reteach and retrain their tastes. How will they teach a new standard concerning what seemed acceptable at one time. If the first standard might be like flying into the trees when compared to a more rigid standard at a later date, it seems that the risk factor of the first is tremendously dangerous. It would be wise if young people would choose to accept as their standard of modesty in dress that which will, at a later date, allow them to wear the temple garment with no adjustment. However, that is a personal decision, and we must not stand in judgment since everyone is an agent unto himself.

It is well to consider, however, that the clothes we choose to wear often reflect where we are headed. For example, the destination of one who is wearing a ski outfit, a swimsuit, or a formal dress would seem rather obvious. And while regular clothing is not quite so obvious, you can still by your choice remind yourself daily and suggest to others who are observant and interested where it is you are headed.

And now concerning the responsibility for those who have been through the temple. May I quote:

“The ordinances of the endowment embody certain obligations on the part of the individual, such as covenant and promise to observe the law of strict virtue and chastity. … With the taking of each covenant and the assuming of each obligation, a promised blessing is pronounced contingent [dependent] upon the faithful observance of the conditions.” (James E. Talmage, The House of the Lord, Bookcraft, 1962, p. 100.)

It is an understanding of the commitments made and a knowledge of promised blessings for those who keep their covenants that make the standard of modesty so very, very important.

Until you have chosen to accept the temple endowment with its attendant blessings of wearing the appropriate clothing, the responsibility of keeping that part of the body clothed which is covered by the garment is not the same as it is before having accepted the responsibility. But at all ages we are counseled to dress modestly and appropriately and have “a style of our own” as suggested by the title of the booklet written by President Spencer W. Kimball. And so it seems clear that there should be a certain consistency about appropriate clothing whether or not you have been to the temple and received the commandment.

“Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

“For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.

“But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.” (D&C 58:27–29.)

[photo] Photo by Jed Clark

Second Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency

“Frequently we hear how beneficial it is to fast. Is it ever harmful to fast, and especially to go without water?”

Answer/Brother Lindsay R. Curtis, M.D.

Counsel from our leaders regarding fasting has been that we should abstain from food and drink for 24 hours on the designated day each month. (President Joseph F. Smith, Improvement Era, Dec. 1903, p. 146.) For the vast majority of Latter-day Saints, such fasting is not harmful, but even beneficial.

It is estimated that over 30 million Americans are overweight and many others of us overeat. For us the 24-hour fast gives our bodies a welcome repose and our appetites some needed discipline. Is it ever harmful to fast?

Yes. First of all, there are those people who simply cannot fast. Some individuals actually become ill when they go without food and drink. Some become weak to the point of fainting. Others develop severe headaches or other incapacitating symptoms that indicate that their bodies do not tolerate fasting.

Certain diabetics cannot and should not fast. Surely those who have urinary tract disease and must take medication for this condition must not go without adequate fluids. Individuals who have infections often require food in order to tolerate the antibiotics and fluids to prevent dehydration. Nursing mothers may do well to skip fasting. And there are others with special situations, temporary or permanent, who should not fast.

President Joseph F. Smith certainly was mindful of special needs when he counseled: “The Lord has instituted the fast on a reasonable and intelligent basis, and none of his works are vain or unwise. His law is perfect in this as in other things. Hence, those who can are required to comply thereto; it is a duty from which they cannot escape; but let it be remembered that the observance of the fast day by abstaining twenty-four hours from food and drink is not an absolute rule, it is no iron-clad law to us, but it is left with the people as a matter of conscience, to exercise wisdom and discretion. Many are subject to weakness, others are delicate in health, and others have nursing babies; of such it should not be required to fast. Neither should parents compel their little children to fast. I have known children to cry for something to eat on fast day. In such cases, going without food will do them no good. Instead, they dread the day to come, and in place of hailing it, dislike it; while the compulsion engenders a spirit of rebellion in them, rather than a love for the Lord and their fellows. Better teach them the principle, and let them observe it when they are old enough to choose intelligently, than to compel them.” (Gospel Doctrine, p. 244.)

Sometimes Latter-day Saints think that if it is good to fast for 24 hours, it is three times as good to fast for 72 hours. Healthwise nothing could be farther from the truth. Missionaries, especially, must have strength to carry out their work and should not overindulge in fasting anymore than in food-faddism. Let’s follow the counsel of our leaders “that food and drink are not to be partaken of for twenty-four hours, ‘from even to even.’” If longer fasting is required of us, they will so direct us.

To compel fasting in anyone (such as by turning off the water in meetinghouse drinking fountains on fast Sunday) is not only denying free agency to all concerned, but it may also deny water to those who may, for medical reasons, require water during this time.

Perhaps just as important is the fact that compulsion also deprives us of the blessings that come when we willingly comply with the Lord’s instructions to us through his prophets.

[photo] Photo by Craig Law