Chapter 18: The Words of Joseph Smith-Matthew

Chapter 18: The Words of Joseph Smith-Matthew
The Joseph Smith—Matthew came about because of Joseph’s obedience. He had been working on translating the Old Testament for perhaps ten months when the Lord instructed him in March of 1831 to stop working on the Old Testament and turn his energies to the New Testament. This instruction came in Doctrine and Covenants 45: “Wherefore I give unto you that ye may now translate [the New Testament]” (verse 61). The Lord then promised Joseph an outpouring of knowledge as he translated: “All these things [about end times] shall be made known . . . that ye may be prepared for the things to come. For verily I say unto you, that great things await you” (D&C 45:60–-62).
These “great things” can be read in Joseph Smith—Matthew, which is a translation of Matthew 24 to which Joseph added about 575 additional words. The importance of this chapter is testified to by the fact that Joseph made more changes to Matthew 24 than any other chapter in the New Testament (see lds.org/manual/the-pearl-of-great-price-student-manual/joseph-smith-matthew?lang=eng).
These 575 additional words came by the gift and power of God to make the text more organized and understandable. One way Joseph was guided to make Matthew 24 clearer was to rearrange the verses. He took forty-five verses, Matthew 23:39 to 24:44, and put them in this order: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 8, 22, 23, 24, 6, 25, 26, 27, 28, 7, 14, 29, 34, 35, 30, 31, 32, 33, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43.  The comparison ends at verse 43 because verses 44–51 contain the parable of the faithful and evil servants and has no equivalent in Joseph Smith—Matthew.
This reordering of verses makes clear which signs and wonders precede which events. It also shows that some signs are the same for several events. The Lord used the word again to make this point. This is interesting because again is not found in Matthew 24 but is found six times in Joseph Smith—Matthew. For example: “And again, because iniquity shall abound, the love of men shall wax cold; but he that shall not be overcome, the same shall be saved. And again, this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come, or the destruction of the wicked; And again shall the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, be fulfilled” (verses 30–32). 
Some of the additional 575 words contribute to the flow of the storyline. Here is one of several examples: Matthew 24:1 reads, “And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple.” Compare those twenty-six words to the forty-three in Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:2–3: “And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple; and his disciples came to him, for to hear him, saying: Master, show us concerning the buildings of the temple, as thou has said—They shall be thrown down, and left unto you desolate.” To me it seems unlikely that the disciples could show Jesus anything about the buildings of the temple that He didn’t already know about. Perhaps the phrase that the disciples “came to hear him” opens the ask-and-receive pattern where Jesus taught them and prophesied about the fate of the temple.
Some of the additional 575 words add organization. Matthew 24:3 reads: “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” Compare those thirty-nine words to the seventy-five words in Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:4 that reads: “And Jesus left them, and went upon the Mount of Olives. And as he sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying: Tell us when shall these things be which thou hast said concerning the destruction of the temple, and the Jews; and what is the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world, or the destruction of the wicked, which is the end of the world.” The text is so clear that it is almost as though the points are numbered: 1. When will the temple be destroyed? 2. When will the Jews be destroyed? 3. What is the sign of the Second Coming? 4. When is the end of the world? Here the Lord also gives a synonym for “the end of the world,” as “the destruction of the wicked.”
Not only is verse four more complete and better organized, but the whole chapter can be easily outlined. The first four verses are the introduction. Verses 5–21 contain prophecy regarding the destruction of the Jerusalem. Verses 22–55 foretell signs and wonders that will occur before the Second Coming. The chapter ends at verse 55 and has no equivalent in Matthew 24. It reads: “And thus cometh the end of the wicked, according to the prophecy of Moses, saying: They shall be cut off from among the people; but the end of the earth is not yet, but by and by” (Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:55). 
Some of the additional 575 words add clarity, as can be noted in the following pairing of verses: Matthew 24:15 reads: “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand).” Compare to Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:12, which reads: “When you, therefore, shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, then you shall stand in the holy place; whoso readeth let him understand.” The inserted phrase, “concerning the destruction of Jerusalem,” clarifies when standing in holy places is a wise reaction to what is happening. In other scenarios, the Savior advised His followers: “Then let them who are in Judea flee into the mountains; Let him who is on the housetop flee, and not return to take anything out of his house; Neither let him who is in the field return back to take his clothes” (Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:13–15). The Lord provided specific instructions for specific circumstances.
Some of the additional 575 words provide doctrinal clarity. One such example is established by comparing Matthew 23:39, which is twenty-six words long with Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:1, which is seventy-eight words long. “For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:39). The Joseph Smith—Matthew reads: “For I say unto you, that ye shall not see me henceforth and know that I am he of whom it is written by the prophets, until ye shall say: Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord, in the clouds of heaven, and all the holy angels with him. Then understood his disciples that he should come again on the earth, after that he was glorified and crowned on the right hand of God.” You will note that the Matthew verse vaguely hints at a second appearance by the Savior, but there is nothing vague about the corresponding verse in Joseph Smith—Matthew. In these fifty-two additional words Jesus testifies: 1) “I am he of whom it is written by the prophets”; 2) “that he should come again on the earth”; 3) that He will come “after he was glorified and crowned on the right hand of God”; and 4) that he will come “in the clouds of heaven and all the holy angels with him.”  
These examples illustrate the improved organization, storyline, and doctrine of the chapter. The entire chapter progresses logically and can be outlined. Joseph Smith—Matthew is four verses longer—but only the very last verse, fifty-five, has no equivalent—than Matthew 24 in the King James Bible. 

The more I become familiar with the changes Joseph made, the more I acknowledge the hand of God in qualifying him, directing him, and empowering him to restore this critical revelation to its original form.

(c) Marilynne Todd Linford, 2017

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