By Whitney Alexander
The HBLL auditorium was packed on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2006, and students were left standing when a BYU professor presented findings he and his team made while studying the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible in the House of Learning Lectures.
?The church is already true, so we?re not going to make it any truer,? said Kent Jackson, a professor of ancient scripture. ?But it does bring us closer to Joseph Smith himself because we?ve been able to study these things in the handwriting of his scribes as he dictated.?
Jackson presented several find-ings from the study of these manuscripts. Among them is Joseph Smith?s attempt to simplify and modernize certain words after reading over the manuscripts for a second time.
It was also discovered that the prophet translated the 26th chapter of Matthew at two different times because he forgot he had already completed the translation of the chapter.
Jackson said some might wonder if the prophet could translate the same thing exactly the same twice. How-ever, after comparison, Jackson found the two separate translations had the same overall meaning.
?Both say the same things, but they don?t say it in the same words,? Jackson said.
Through the study of the 446 pages of manuscripts, the researchers have also been able to pinpoint when and where the prophet worked on the manuscripts, which helps provide a better history of the project.
Jackson became involved with the project in 1996. Through years of arduous work with his co-editors Scott Fahlring and Robert Matthews ? and with the help of a team of students ? they were able to transcribe the original manuscripts exactly as they were in Joseph Smith?s time. All spelling, cross outs, punctuation and line endings were left in original form.
The publication of the manuscripts, Joseph Smith?s New Transla-tion of the Bible, came out in 2004.
Jackson ?s passion for this work clearly identifies his understanding of their importance.
?These are revealed texts, and what we were working with was words as they came from the lips of the prophet Joseph Smith to his scribes,? Jackson said. ?We knew we needed to get it right.?
Jackson said the point of the publication of the original manuscripts was to allow them to do further research that could not be done in the past.
Professor Richard Holzapfel, manager of the Religious Studies Center publication office understands the importance of his colleague?s work.
?Now we?ve identified the changes [of the JST], what?s the significance of it?? Holzapfel said. ?Kent has taken that and pushed it so far ? It?s moved from a surface discussion to a deep discussion.?
Jackson acknowledges the help of all involved in the project and appreciates the cooperation of the Community of Christ Church. They allowed Jackson and team to scan and copy the manuscripts, and in exchange, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provided needed preservation work on the manuscripts.
?It was mutually beneficial,? Jackson said.
The original manuscripts are preserved in the Library-Archives of the Community of Christ Church in Inde-pendence, Mo. After Joseph Smith?s death, the manuscripts were pos-sessed by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS, now Community of Christ).
After the lecture, several students said they left feeling motivated.
?Professor Jackson?s insight and research has inspired me to learn more about Joseph Smith?s Transla-tion and to apply it,? said Doris Marks, a senior from Brookings, Ore. ?I am fascinated by ancient scripture and the revelation applying to it.?
Toward the end of the lecture, Jackson identified various areas of current research.
?We hope our work will be con-sistent with that of the prophet Joseph Smith?s,? Jackson said. ?I believe the Joseph Smith Translation is a miracle from God.?