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Robert J. Matthews, key to LDS edition of Bible, dies

Well-known expert on the Joseph Smith Translation dies at 82

Published: Monday, Aug. 31 2009 5:10 p.m. MDT

of Christ.

According to an essay

by BYU professor Robert L. Millet in the book "The Joseph Smith

Translation: The Restoration of Plain and Precious Things," Matthews

was sometimes chided by fellow Mormons for even quoting the JST.

"I

lived in that time period," said Monte Nyman, a retired professor of

ancient scriptures from BYU and a friend of Matthews. "Nobody knew

anything about the Joseph Smith Translation — I mean they had a little

knowledge — but today we have it footnoted in the LDS Bible and openly

talked about. ... Bob just made a great contribution to the church's

understanding of it."

The distrust

arose because the RLDS Church had not allowed any member of the LDS

Church to inspect the original documents of the Joseph Smith

Translation. Matthews began requesting permission to see the source

materials. It took him 15 years before he was finally allowed to

see them in 1968.

"He was the first

Latter-day Saint since 1845 to have access to the original manuscript,"

said Kent P. Jackson, BYU professor of ancient scripture. "His research

caused a serious change of thinking on the part of church members and

church leaders."

In short, the version published by the RLDS Church was very accurate.

Philip

Barlow, Arrington Chairman of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State

University, said Matthews made three major contributions concerning

the JST. First, no scholar working on the JST can ignore Matthews'

work. Second, without Matthew's work, it would be hard to see how the

JST could have been included in the LDS edition of the Bible. Third,

Matthews' efforts played a role, along with the work of other scholars,

in the warming of relations between the LDS Church and the RLDS Church.

In

1979, the LDS Church published a new LDS edition of the King James

Version of the Bible. Matthews worked with the Scriptures Publication

Committee, led by Elder Thomas S. Monson, Elder Boyd K. Packer and

Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve. The new Bible

included, for the first time, footnotes that contained excerpts from

the JST. Matthews also contributed his expertise to the volume's Bible

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