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Faith Alone and the Joseph Smith Translation

By Bill McKeever 

Several LDS leaders have expressed their disdain for the biblical teaching of salvation by grace through faith alone. Joseph Fielding Smith, on page 192 of The Restoration of All Things, stated, “One of the most pernicious doctrines ever advocated by man, is the doctrine of ‘justification by faith alone,’ which has entered into the hearts of millions since the days of the so-called ‘reformation.'”

Spencer W. Kimball echoed the same sentiments in his book, The Miracle of Forgiveness. Under the sub-heading “Faith and Works” (p. 206), the 12th LDS President wrote, “In view of the emphasis thus far made on the importance of good works in returning from sin and establishing a repentant life, it may be well to say a word about the idea of salvation by faith alone. Some people not of our Church like to quote, in support of that concept, the following words of Paul: ‘For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.’ (Eph. 2:8-9.)” Kimball went on to say, “One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation.”

Such comments seem to overlook one very important “correction” Joseph Smith made to the Bible in 1833. In his Inspired Version (A.K.A. Joseph Smith Translation) of the Bible, Smith altered Romans 3:28. The King James Version (the official Bible of the LDS Church) reads: “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” However, Joseph Smith included one simple word to his rendition of this beloved passage. In his “translation” Smith added the word alone. Today it reads: “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith alone without the deeds of the law.”

Smith’s insertion parallel’s that of Martin Luther’s 1528 translation of the Bible. Though no Greek manuscript supports the inclusion of the word “alone” in this particular passage, Luther insisted that it should remain in his text. Still, Smith’s correction is not consistent with other changes he made. For instance, in Romans 4:16 the JST states, “ye are justified of faith and works.

Adding to the confusion is Smith’s rendition of Romans 4:5. In the King James Version it reads, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” For some unknown reason Smith added the word not into the passage. In the JST Romans 4:5 reads, “But to him that seeketh not to be justified by the law of works, but believeth on him who justifieth not the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”

Smith’s three-letter addition–which, once again, has no support from any Greek manuscript–completely changes the meaning of the passage. How can a sinner’s faith be counted for righteousness if Christ does not justify the ungodly? If this is a correct translation of Romans 4:5, then it would seem that all of mankind is lost, for as Romans 3:10 clearly states, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.” By the way, Smith left Romans 3:10 intact.

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