1 Timothy 6:16 speaks of Jesus and is in King James Version translated as:

Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.

However rather than the expression "Who only hath immortality", the original Greek text refers to Jesus being the only one having immortality.

Here is the text from the interlinear bible at BibleHub:

1 Timothy 6:16, BibleHub interlinear

And here is how it is scripture4all interlinear:

1 Timothy 6:16, scripture4all interlinear

Here's the passage from verse 13 to verse 16, for context. This is according to KJV (from here).

13 I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; 14 That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: 15 Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; 16 Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.

If everyone has an immortal soul then certainly when Paul wrote this there would have been other persons (either among those who had died, or those who were alive at the time) who also had immortality.

What is the Mormon perspective on how Jesus is here the only one having immortality if everyone has an immortal soul?

2 Answers 2


I fully agree with @depperm's answer. But just to have fun with the question, let's assume Joseph made no corrections. What could the verse possibly mean from the LDS perspective?

We believe nobody was resurrected before Jesus Christ. From Acts 26:22-23 (see also Colossians 1:18)

Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.

Remember, we of the LDS faith believe that our Father's work and glory is to "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39) The difference between immortality and eternal life being resurrection and exaltation (see my answer to this question). Since all people will be resurrected but none but Christ had been at that point, it was perfectly sensible to describe Christ as the "only immortal."

(Let me note that many people believe Matthew 27:51-53 describes Christians rising resurrected from their graves. They're interpreting after his resurrection to mean "after the manner of" rather than "sometime later." Since Jesus was the first to be resurrected, and this statement was made in Matthew immediately after Jesus died on the cross---three days before his resurrection---it's obvious to me that it's the later interpretation. But that's an answer for another question.)

As for why we (meaning Joseph) think the verse was mistranslated or lost something from Paul's original writing (which doesn't exist) to today's translations, we need only look at the expanded reference you provide. From verse 14:

...until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ...

And verse 16:

...whom no man hath seen, nor can see...

Paul appears to be contradicting himself, suggesting that we are waiting until the next appearance of Jesus... whom no man has seen, nor can see. One of those two statements is wrong.

Worse, he teaches that Christ is dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto. Except that Jesus spent His entire ministry teaching the He is the light and that He is completely approachable. ... Unless maybe Paul was being very literal: perhaps a person in their mortal body can't stand before Divinity without help? Jesus Himself was transfigured to see Old Testament prophets (Matthew 17:1-3) and they weren't even resurrected, yet. From Moses 1:11-14 we learn:

But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him.

Without that transfiguration, no one on this earth can stand before the risen and glorified Lord.

So, why didn't Paul just say this? We believe Paul was a better teacher than that. Why tell Timothy that he was called to eternal life (1 Timothy 6:12) and then tell him it won't matter because only Jesus is immortal and no one can approach or even see Him? That begs the question, what's the point of building up this entire house of cards to explain a confusing verse when Paul's usual lesson is about having a hope in Christ and availing oneself of His atonement?

Conclusion: without Joseph's correction to 1 Timothy 6:16 a complicated house of cards is needed to even try to understand and rationalize the verse, which is a better than average sign that the verse was improperly translated. On the other hand, Joseph's repair sounds very much like Paul and conforms to Paul's other teachings.

Finally, our 9th Article of Faith teaches:

We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

Including repairing misunderstandings in the Bible (and anywhere else, for that matter).

  • 2
    Question: since you believe that humans have an immortal soul, but also that "nobody was resurrected before Jesus Christ", then what state/place were dead people such as Enoch and Noah who had died hundreds of years before Jesus was on earth? Were they unconscious or conscious somewhere (like some "limbo") while waiting for resurrection? Also what sense are you using the word "resurrect" in this context, since from Bible we know that before Jesus resurrection there was, for example, the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:39-44) and Elijah's resurrection of the widow's son (1 Kings 17:17:24)?
    – user100487
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 16:21
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    There are two main questions here, and I'll answer the second first. Mormons believe that resurrection is a permanent change from mortality to immortality. Neither Lazarus nor the widow's son were resurrected in this sense; their spirits were restored to their mortal bodies but would later die again. In terms of what the righteous were doing waiting for the resurrection, there is a hint in 1 Peter 3:19/4:6 that was further explained in D&C 138; they were waiting in "limbo" (more or less) until the resurrection. Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 20:26

See the Joseph Smith Translation of those verses:

15 Which in his times he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, to whom be honor and power everlasting;

16 Whom no man hath seen, nor can see, unto whom no man can approach, only he who hath the light and the hope of immortality dwelling in him.

This is the Mormon perspective, that this verse was mistranslated/copied at some point.

  • 1
    Interesting. On what did Joseph Smith base his claim that the verse was mistranslated/copied, since the original letter by Paul was not available to him?
    – user19845
    Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 17:40
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    @coderworks, remember that we believe in a living Jesus Christ who provides current revelation through His prophet. Joseph did not require access to Paul's letter, only revelation from Jesus Christ through the Holy Ghost. (On a side note, no one has access to Paul's original letter, even today. The ancient Greek texts are authentic, but not original, written in a language so old that after considerable analysis of what few ancient texts remain, we still can't all agree what any individual statement meant. Modern revelation has considerable value.)
    – JBH
    Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 23:20
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    @coderworks that might make a good second question. The short answer though is that he retranslated it the same way Paul wrote it, by the spirit. Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 7:57
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    thanks JBH, @PyRulez, I did find this other older question which asks about historical evidence for additions in the Joseph Smith Translation. OK so it focuses on the final 13 verses of Genesis 50 added by Joseph Smith (in particular Genesis 50:33 where he added a prophecy about himself(?) which is sort of interesting) but the answers indicate those verses are accepted as canon largely because they were added by Joseph Smith.
    – user19845
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 19:51

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