Changed LDS Scripture/Part 31

By: Marvin W. Cowan; ©2012
The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans is his most detailed discussion of justification by faith. By contrast, Mormonism teaches that man is saved and justified “by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel” (3rd LDS Article of Faith). But, the Joseph Smith Translation of Romans left many of the texts about justification by faith exactly the same as the King James Version of the Bible.

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The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans is his most detailed discussion of justification by faith. By contrast, Mormonism teaches that man is saved and justified “by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel” (3rd LDS Article of Faith). But, the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) of Romans left many of the texts about justification by faith exactly the same as the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. The History of the Church, Volume I, page 324, says that Smith completed his “translation” of the JST New Testament on February 2, 1833, which was early in LDS history before he had fully formulated some of his LDS doctrines. In the JST of Romans, Smith moved or added words so that the content in some verses is different than the biblical text. For example, the KJV of Romans 1:1 says, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.” The JST of that verse says, “Paul, an apostle, a servant of God, called of Jesus Christ, and separated to preach the gospel.” The content in the JST of Romans 1:1 isn’t heresy, but it is not what the original text says. Smith made similar changes in many verses of the JST especially in the first seven chapters of Romans.

In Romans 4:1-6 in Smith’s JST it mentions “the law of works” four times, but there is no “law of works” in the Bible! “The law” in the Bible usually refers to Old Testament law, also called Moses’ law, which included “works.” Since Romans 4:1-3 is about Abraham who lived before “the law” was given through Moses, the JST distorts it with the “law of works.” The KJV of Romans 4:2 says, “For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory, but not before God.” Since “the law” hadn’t been given yet, the “works” in this text refers to any works of righteousness. Both the JST and KJV of Romans 4:3 say, “Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” The word “counted” comes from the Greek word “logizomai,” which means to “put to one’s account.”

The KJV of Romans 4:5 says, “To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted [put to his account] for righteousness.” But the JST says, “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 probably thought that the KJV of this verse meant God justified ungodliness. But it says he who believes on the One (God) who justifies ungodly men, his faith is “put to his account for righteousness.” Romans 5:6 says, “Christ died for the ungodly” and Romans 5:8 says, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” All men are ungodly because “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) and “there is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10), so Christ died for the sins of ungodly people who can be cleansed (1 John 1:7) and justified (Romans 4:6) by believing on Him for salvation.

Justification does not mean that God justifies men’s sin, but is a legal term which means that God declares the sinner’s debt paid by Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross when he truly believes in Jesus Christ for salvation. The KJV of Romans 4:6-8 explains “justification by faith” when it says, “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth [put to his account] righteousness without (or apart from) works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” The JST reads the same except for adding “the law of” just before “works” in verse 6. Second Corinthians 5:21 also defines justification when it says, “God made Him (Christ), who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” Ephesians 2:8-10 says that sinners who are saved and justified are to produce “good works.” But the good works are the fruit of being saved, not the method by which salvation is achieved.

Smith’s misunderstanding of “justification” and “grace” is seen in his JST of Romans 4:16 which says, “Therefore ye are justified of faith and works, through grace….” But Smith’s JST of Romans 3:28 is the same as the KJV except for one word. It says, “Therefore, we conclude that a man is justified by faith alone without [or apart from] the deeds of the law.” The word “alone” after the word “faith” actually strengthens justification by faith without works! Smith’s JST also quotes Romans 11:5-6 exactly as it is in the KJV. It says, “Even so, then, at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace; otherwise work is no more work.” Notice that grace excludes works and works excludes grace because the definition of grace is “unmerited or unearned favor, freely given as a gift.” So, you can’t work for a gift because that contradicts the definition of a gift. And if someone works for a salary, the check they receive for their labor is not a gift because they earned it!

Read more about the JST in Mormonism: Shadow or Reality? by the Tanners, published by Utah Lighthouse Ministry in Salt Lake City, UT. Next time we will continue our study of Romans in the JST.

Read Part 32

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