This is one in a series of reviews of the weekly lessons found in the Come, Follow Me for Individuals and Families published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To link to all of the 2023 New Testament teachings, click here.
January 9-15, 2023 (Matthew 2; Luke 2)
From the day of His birth, it was clear that Jesus was no ordinary child. It wasn’t just the new star in the heavens or the joyous angelic proclamation that made Jesus’s infancy remarkable. It was also the fact that such a variety of faithful people—from different nations, professions, and backgrounds—felt immediately drawn to Him. Even before He uttered His invitation to “come, follow me,” they came (Luke 18:22). Not everyone came to Him, of course. There were many who paid Him no notice, and a jealous ruler even sought His life. But the humble, pure, devoted seekers of righteousness saw Him for who He was—their promised Messiah. Their devotion inspires our own, for the “good tidings of great joy” brought to the shepherds were for “all people,” and the “Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” was born that day unto all of us (see Luke 2:10–11).
I have no problem with the introduction.
Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
Parents can receive revelation to protect their families.
Joseph never could have done what he was asked to do—protect Jesus in His childhood—without heaven’s help. Like the Wise Men, he received a revelation that warned him of danger. As you read about Joseph’s experience in Matthew 2:13–23, think about physical and spiritual dangers that face us today. Ponder experiences when you have felt God’s guidance in protecting you and your loved ones. Consider sharing these experiences with others. What can you do to receive such guidance in the future?
The title of this section seems a bit misleading. Of course, I have personally had experiences where I have felt God’s guidance. But to liken this type of experience to what took place in Joseph’s life is nonsensical. This account shows how an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. In my wildest imagination, I do not believe that I have ever had an angel of the Lord appear to me. And I think most honest faithful Latter-day Saints would agree. So how can the title of this section (“Parents can receive revelation to protect their families”) be relevant to Matthew 2:13-23?
Even as a youth, Jesus was focused on doing His Father’s will.
As a young man, the Savior taught the gospel so powerfully that even the teachers in the temple were astonished at His “understanding and answers” (Luke 2:47). What do you learn from these verses about the Savior as a young man? How are young people you know trying to “be about [their] Father’s business”? (Luke 2:49). How have youth and children helped you gain a deeper understanding of the gospel? What else do you learn from the example of Jesus’s childhood in Luke 2:40–52 and in Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 3:24–26 (in the Bible appendix)?
The passage in “Matthew 3” (JST) follows what normal Bibles have in Matthew 2:19-22; Matthew 3 ends at verse 17. These verses were added to Matthew 3 with absolutely no documentation. In Smith’s Matthew 3:24-26, it says,
And it came to pass that Jesus grew up with his brethren, and waxed strong, and waited upon the Lord of the time of his ministry to come. And he served under his father, and he spoke not as other men, neither could he be taught; for he needed not that any man should teach him. And after many years, the hour of his ministry drew nigh.
These verses were made up by Joseph Smith. Somebody could say, well, these verses don’t seem to have any bad doctrine here. It just says Jesus grew up and worked with his father. I agree, there is no false doctrine, but if these verses cannot be verified as being any older than two centuries old and were invented by Smith, why do we need them at all? While the authors of this series are only covering two chapters from the Gospels, they are missing other verses they could have talked about. Why, then, did they even need to bring up these fraudulent verses in the first place?
Matthew 3:27 in the JST then picks up at Matthew 3:1 in all other Bibles. What authority did Smith have to renumber the chapters and verses of the Bible?
What is the Joseph Smith Translation?
Because “many plain and precious” truths were lost from the Bible over the centuries (1 Nephi 13:28; see also Moses 1:41), the Lord commanded Joseph Smith to make an inspired revision of the Bible, known as the Joseph Smith Translation. Many revisions made by the Prophet are included in the appendix of the Latter-day Saint edition of the scriptures. The Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Version of the Bible also contains footnotes with the Prophet’s revisions. Joseph Smith’s translation of Matthew 24, known as Joseph Smith—Matthew, can be found in the Pearl of Great Price. For more information, see “Joseph Smith Translation (JST)” in the Bible Dictionary and the Gospel Topics article “Bible, Inerrancy of” (topics.ChurchofJesusChrist.org).
The church writers decided that it was important to explain the Joseph Smith Translation (JST), but instead of bringing clarity, I think they have introduced even more confusion. These are my questions in response to this paragraph:
- Why was this paragraph needed at this point in the series? Could it be an indication that many more references to the JST will be made in future weeks? (If not, then why even bring this up? This information seems to lead the thinking reader to doubt anything in future weeks if the citations come from the official King James Version (KJV) used by the LDS Church?)
- If “many plain and precious” truths were lost from the Bible over the centuries, then why does this version not replace the KJV? Somebody might say the church doesn’t own the copyright to the KJV. Do we have any evidence that a book as old as the JST needs a copyright? (If so, then how do whole sections of the JST make it into the notes section of the LDS-produced Bible?) The truth is that anything written in the United States before 1924 is part of what is called public domain and can be printed and used by anyone as fair use.
- For the sake of argument, let’s say the JST did need copyright permission. I highly doubt that the leaders of the Community of Christ (the religion based in Independence, MO that prints the JST) would refuse the church rights to do so.
- What documentation can a Latter-day Saint show that Smith’s additions and deletions correspond to the most accurate Hebrew and Greek manuscripts that we possess? From my study, nothing that was added or subtracted in the JST can be substantiated with the most reliable manuscripts.
This is meant to be a short review, but I invite you to take a closer look at the JST as well as the accuracy of the biblical manuscript.
- The Joseph Smith Translation: An improvement over the original? Or ‘Much Ado About Nothing’?
- The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible
- Faith Alone and the Joseph Smith Translation
- Why Isn’t the Joseph Smith Translation (Inspired Version) of the Bible used today?
- Joseph Smith’s Alleged Ignorance of the Bible
- The Joseph Smith Translation: Inspired by Whom?
- Does Scholarship Support Article Eight?
- What if the Bible was translated correctly after all?
- Bible prophecies about Joseph Smith?
- 10 Reasons why it makes sense to trust the Bible
I think the authors of this series overstated their case by trying to compare the angel of the Lord appearing to Joseph and “personal revelation” a parent gets to protect her children. I also am amazed that the Joseph Smith Translation is supposed to be a solution to the problems (LDS leaders say) of the inaccuracy of the Bible. My encouragement for Latter-day Saints is to study Smith’s Bible “translation” and see that, for the most part, it is the same as the KJV. Those parts where he added or subtracted cannot be found in ancient manuscripts. I do not see this as any type of a solution to eliminating the “many plain and precious” truths.