King James Version (KJV)
Joseph Smith Translation (JST)
19 For the law made nothing perfect,
but the bringing in of a better hope did;
by the which we draw nigh unto God.
19  For the law was administered without an oath and made nothing perfect,
but was only the bringing in of a better hope;
by the which we draw nigh unto God.
20 And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest:
20  Inasmuch as this high priest was not without an oath,
by so much was Jesus made the surety of a better testament.
21 (For those priests were made without an oath;
but this with an oath by him that said unto him,
The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:)
(Hebrews 7:19-21)

21  (For those priests were made without an oath;
but this with an oath by him that said unto him,
The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek;)
(JST Hebrews 7:19-21)

We learn a number of things from the subtle changes Joseph Smith added here.  (Notice that it isn’t just the blue sections that were added, but the order of words was changed and some words were removed. 

The KJV makes it seem like the law—the Law of Moses—was completely useless—that it didn’t make anything perfect and it had nothing to do with giving hope.

However, the JST tells us that even though the law didn’t make people perfect, it brought in a better hope.  This makes us ponder what that hope might be and how the law would do that.  I can think of several ways.  1) The rules in the law suggest that someone would come who could be obedient to them all.  2) The type of rules in the law teach principles of repentance, purity, atonement, and charity for us to think about.  3) The way the rules and ordinances were administered by the priests were types of Christ and His redeeming mission.  So when their obedience was mixed with faith in Christ, the people would gain hope of their salvation and thereby draw nearer to God.

The KJV makes it seem like the better hope could make men perfect.  The JST removes the word that creates this implication.  Hope alone does not perfection bring, but helps with maintaining faith and encourages us to keep getting closer to God.  (How could we keep fighting our natural man if we didn’t have hope that Christ makes it possible to escape that and become more like God?)

The KJV makes it seem that Jesus was a priest made with an oath, but the other priests were not.  The JST clarifies that high priests were made with an oath, so they were a type of Christ, while other priests were not made with oaths, though they could administer the law.

The JST also adds that the high priest’s oath was meant to increase men’s certainty of Christ who would bring a better covenant than the Law of Moses.  The oath was to be a guarantee that Christ would come.

Because of the JST, we get a better perspective of the spiritual purpose of the Law of Moses, that it was good for something and not just busywork until Christ came.  We also have clarified for us where priesthood oaths were administered and how they distinguished the high priest from the other priests and the teaching purpose of that difference.  We also learn that it was (of course) meant to teach about Christ and strengthen faith in His coming redemption.

It might sometimes seem to you like I am too interested in subtle changes and turns of phrases, distinctions that seem not worth noticing, but when I compare the JST with the KJV, I can’t help but see it as evidence of Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling.  These verses may well be the revelatory seeds of the oath and covenant of the priesthood.  How could he have known what was supposed to be there unless it had been given by God?   

How many false traditions might Joseph Smith have corrected to help us know how to come to Christ and we aren’t paying attention?  How much of our life might be eased if we only knewthat he had been given answers our questions so many years ago?

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