Based upon answers and comments to this question it appears that the LDS Church teaches that the Bible translations in use by all other Christian traditions have suffered some unspecified level of degradation (in accuracy) over time. Thus it was necessary for an inspired translator, seer and revelator appointed by God to the task of recovering what was lost. It is claimed that the Joseph Smith Translation (also called the Inspired Translation) corrects many of the errors in the degraded translations of the Bible.

There is massive amounts of research (far too much to enumerate) in areas of biblical manuscript scholarship, textual criticism, etc. which stand in defense of the Scripture's accurate preservation and descent to us through time. A simple google search will turn up an almost unreadable volume of material demonstrating the near impossibility of Scriptural corruption such as this from the City Bible Forum.

It seems characteristic of religions which proffer an alternative Scripture, such as Islam, to declare that the Bible is esteemed but only insofar as it's discrepancies are corrected by the alternative text.

What is the scholarly evidence upon which LDS bases its claim that the Bible has been degraded and that the truths it once contained need to be recovered?


2 Answers 2


As noted in the OP, this is a very extensive subject. I'll offer a very high-level overview of key points, and then drill down specifically on one example.

Scriptural teachings

The most well-known passages that form the basis of Latter-day Saint teachings on imperfections in the Bible are:

...because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book [the Bible], which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God—because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble... (1 Nephi 13:29)

We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. (Articles of Faith 1:8)

(note also that Joseph Smith regularly used the word "translated" the way 21st century English uses the word "interpreted")


How are plain and precious truths lost?

I'll give three methods that I am aware of--that doesn't mean there aren't more, just that there are three with which I am familiar.

  1. Changes to the Biblical text. This one gets talked about the most and is, IMHO, the least impactful of the three. That there are hundreds of thousands of variants in the Biblical text is well-established--see even just the links in the OP--but the overwhelming majority have no impact on our ability to understand the text.

    One example of a textual variant that I do consider doctrinally significant is Luke 22:44--I do believe that Jesus' bleeding in Gethsemane was a real phenomenon and is of theological significance (see also Mosiah 3:7)

  2. Changes to meanings of words. In this case the words themselves are faithfully handed down, but the meanings associated with those words changes, which can cause significant doctrinal variation. I suggest words like "grace", "saved", and "spirit" fit this category. I'll discuss grace in more detail below.

  3. Knowledge not handed down. There were things known by Moses, Melchizedek, Peter, Paul, etc. that didn't make it into the Bible, either because they were never written down, or because they were written but lost before OT or NT texts were compiled (e.g. 1 Cor. 5:9)

The Latter-day Saint position on this is:

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. (Articles of Faith 1:9)

We are open to any truth God has spoken in the past or will speak in the future, regardless of whether or not it has a pedigree in Jewish literature or the writings of early Christian fathers.


The Joseph Smith Translation

The introduction to the Joseph Smith translation indicates that its purpose is to restore truth. It's purpose is not to restore the autographical texts of the Bible. To be just a touch humorous while also making this point, let us consider...the autographical texts of the Bible were written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. The Joseph Smith translation is in English, and is therefore not a verbatim copy of the autographs.

I'll briefly outline 4 purposes I have found (in my own study) of the Joseph Smith translation:

  • To clarify vague passages (e.g. Luke 23:34)
  • To restore original message (e.g. John 4:24, the JST does not go into the debates on the meaning of Πνεῦμα ὁ Θεός but rather focuses clearly on the principle being taught to the Samaritan woman)
  • To restore knowledge once had (e.g. the Book of Moses)
  • To guard against false doctrine (e.g. 1 Cor. 14:34-35, women are most certainly permitted to speak in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)


A specific example--grace

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds that the principle of "grace" as taught by Luther, Calvin, and others is doctrinally & historically incorrect. I say this not to insult anyone but to acknowledge what we believe.

I have produced several YouTube videos on the meaning of "grace" (here and here)

I am particularly appreciative of the work by Greek scholar Brent Schmidt on the meaning of the Greek word "charis". Relevant academic discussion can be found here, here, and here.

In short, grace does not describe a free gift. It is a gift that comes with obligations. In the time and culture of Paul, "charis" was

  • An asymmetric, reciprocal gift relationship
  • A covenant

To put it into my own, theologically crude, words: grace sufficient for salvation is dispensed through the ordinances and covenants of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Failure to participate in those ordinances and covenants prevents access to portions of God's grace. We are given what we could never earn, but we play a role in this covenant relationship.

As explained more eloquently by Moroni:

32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot. (Moroni 10:32-33)

This then would be a case where, in a Latter-day Saint worldview, the Biblical words were preserved, but the meaning was not.

For those interested, the loss of plain and precious truths is specifically discussed in this video on my channel.

Bona fides

It is sometimes asserted that Latter-day Saints mistrust the Bible. I personally am saddened by this rumor, because I am an avid student of the Bible. My area of study is the Synoptic Problem and I have spent a great deal of my research arguing for the high degree of reliability of the Synoptic Gospels.

Disclaimer: these comments are products of my own study and do not constitute official statements of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

  • 4
    Thank you for this fine answer. I don't find the "grace issue" to be a contradiction, however. By Grace are ye saved. We all believe this and the debate is over the nature of Grace, not the fact of it. Jul 10, 2021 at 22:11
  • 8
    So the evidence seems to boil down to one thing: "Joseph Smith says so."
    – alephzero
    Jul 11, 2021 at 0:33
  • 3
    I do not see that this answers the question. The question asked for that which was 'scholarly'. This is the opinion of a single individual and is insufficiently supported by factual evidence to be called 'substantiated'. The comments about grace are simply a theological opinion which is in fact supporting salvation by works, and which attempts to undermine the Reformation. An immediate down-vote from myself, purely on an academic level.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 11, 2021 at 2:47
  • 1
    @NigelJ I'm sorry you found a professor in the relevant field unscholarly. The citations within his own work are extensive. I've recently been given the recommendation that shorter posts would be more helpful, so I kept this one to 1) clarifying misconceptions so that the question could be answered & 2) offering one concrete example. For ancient usage of "charis" the writings of Thucydides are particularly helpful. Jul 11, 2021 at 4:23
  • 2
    @NigelJ - I don't know if you think that people understand Koine Greek by divine revelation, as opposed to learning the words and grammar by studying a variety of sources.
    – Obie 2.0
    Jul 11, 2021 at 11:26

The Latter Day Saints Article of Faith No. 1:8 states that, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.”

This means that the LDS church does not consider the Bible to be as accurately translated as is their Book of Mormon, for they attach no such proviso to it as they do to the Bible. Joseph Smith’s own annotated version of the King James Bible shows how often he considered the Bible to have been badly (i.e. inauthentically) translated. His marginal notes show how he considered the Bible “should” have read. There are no such annotations alongside their Book of Mormon. Clearly, they consider it to be an authentic translation whereas they view the Bible to have suffered many mistranslations over the centuries.

It needs to be pointed out that Joseph Smith never translated any biblical manuscripts, of which only copies were available in his day. No autographs existed then. He would have needed to have been fluent in biblical Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek to have actually translated from manuscript copies for his annotated work. As it was, he took the existing King James Bible and noted in the margins what particular verses meant, according to his understanding of the Bible after he had translated Reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics into an English book, The Book of Mormon. The LDS church's preferred version of the King James Version is Joseph Smith's annotated version, which is what they believe to be "the word of God as far as it is translated correctly."

Before Joseph Smith produced his annotated version of the KJV, he had produced the Book of Mormon which says about the Bible, "...because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God — because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble" (1 Nephi 13:29). That, for the LDS church, is the evidence upon which they base their right to prefer Joseph Smith's annotated version of the KJV to the actual KJV.

The LDS church offers various other reasons as to why they think biblical texts have been degraded, but those reasons only came after the fact of the Book of Mormon, then Joseph Smith's annotated version of the KJV, being accepted by them as inspired of God. In light of that, it was prudent (from their point of view) to offer reasons as to why biblical texts had been degraded, with which many critics of the Bible would agree. However, the initial and primary reason is that God revealed things to Joseph Smith that required certain biblical texts to be 'downgraded' as 'degraded' whereas Joseph Smith's annotated version was proclaimed to be superior to the existing KJV.

  • So, as for the scholarly reasons asked for in the OP, the answer is "there are none"? Dec 4, 2021 at 16:49
  • 1
    @Mike Borden In the link you provided above, one LDS answer gave examples of how he felt there was reason to think the biblical text had been degraded in places, saying, "The Joseph Smith Translation (also called the Inspired Translation) corrects many of the errors in the degraded translations of the Bible". But nothing of a scholarly nature was mentioned. It would be good if an LDS person could substantiate such claims with scholarly evidence. Let's give this Q time enough to see if that evidence is forthcoming.
    – Anne
    Dec 4, 2021 at 17:11
  • New related question: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/75295/… Mar 28, 2022 at 14:21

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