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Question

 

Gramps,

Why is the KJV Hebrews 11:40 quoted so much in the Church to teach the doctrine of salvation for the dead when the Joseph Smith translation clearly changes the meaning to not have anything to do with the subject? Elder David A. Bednar quoted the KJV verse in Oct 2011 Conference Saturday afternoon session to corroborate the doctrine of salvation for the dead. Any incite would be much appreciated. I have wondered about this for years.

Blake

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Answer

 

Dear Blake,

Your question is really asking three separate things:

What was the purpose of the Joseph Smith Translation or “Inspired Version”? That is, what Joseph Smith trying to restore the Bible to its original reading, or did he have some other goal in mind?

What is Hebrews 11:40 really talking about?

How do, and how should, the prophets use the scriptures to teach divine truths?

Regarding the first question: What was the purpose of the Joseph Smith Translation or “Inspired Version”? Joseph’s hope was to restore the truths taught in the writings that became the Bible. The Prophet never had the idea of restoring the text to its original form. He appears not to have been overly interested in critical textual analysis; rather, he wanted the divine truths of the gospel to come through. Thus, his changes were doctrinal clarifications and, in some cases, revelation of additional material. That does not mean that the way the changed verses originally read was necessarily wrong. So it is possible that Joseph changed Hebrews 11:40 to clarify some doctrine that he had in mind, but that the original text was actually perfectly correct.

The second question is the central textual question: What does Hebrews 11:40 really mean? But this is not a question that Gramps can authoritatively address. In the absence of a direct statement from the First Presidency about the verse, the very best and most authoritative way to understand a given scripture is by studying it out and making it a matter of prayer.

The third question is the crux of the matter, in my opinion: How should the prophets use the scriptures to teach? The answer is: They use them however the Spirit directs them and however they see fit. The scriptures are not the source of truth; God is. The scriptures are records that give us enlightenment and examples. The real teaching is done by the Spirit. Elder Bednar and others have seen fit to use Hebrews 11:40 as an illustration of the importance of family history work. In my opinion, the verse is perfect for this, no matter how the JST might read. But whether the JST sought to expand the meaning into new areas or whether it was an actual, revelatory correction of an error in the Bible manuscript is unimportant. Family history is important, and the principle taught by Hebrews 11:40 as cited by Elder Bednar is correct and true.

 

Gramps

 

 

 

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