Back in my adolescent years in the Sixties, I often served as pianist or organist for worship services in my then-RLDS congregation. Two of our most gifted vocalists at the time were a married couple, Norm and Evelyn. One of our go-to pieces was the familiar Albert Hay Malotte arrangement of “The Lord’s Prayer.” The high notes required in that wonderful piece of music tended to favor Evelyn’s soprano somewhat over Norm’s rich baritone, but I recall both could pull out all the stops when required.
Leading up to the big climax at the end of the song were the words, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (drawing out that “eee-vil” for maximum effect). But, of course, because this was the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we usually substituted the words from our Bible, the “Inspired Version.” That required the keyboardist to hold on to a chord so the vocalist could get all the extra words in.
LDS folks generally prefer the title “Joseph Smith Translation” or simply JST. The official name of the publication on its title page, however, is “The Holy Scriptures,” and has been published by the RLDS, now Community of Christ, since December 1867 through its own Herald Publishing House. It’s my understanding Joseph’s changes are included as footnotes in the official LDS printings of the Bible. Please correct me if I’m wrong on that. As a Herald House editor beginning in 1985, I soon learned we shipped to Deseret Book Stores an enormous number of copies of the Inspired Version as well as a separate volume showing the IV changes to the King James in parallel columns.
This short scripture emendation to Matthew’s Gospel is arguably the best-known change made by Joseph Smith Jr. when he undertook to revise—and correct—the Bible from 1830 to 1833 (the Enoch story in Genesis is a pretty close second). He made a few additional changes later on, of course. But his manuscript is probably remembered today for his wife Emma’s heroic effort to hide it under her skirt as she and other Latter Day Saints escaped Missouri Governor Boggs’s infamous Extermination Order in 1838.
Eventually she handed the manuscript over to her son, Joseph Smith III, who became RLDS prophet-president in 1860. Three years after that he assumed the added role of managing editor of the publishing house. Although the Inspired Version has remained the official version used by the denomination ever since, in recent decades more and more members have shown a preference for the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) and the New International Version (NIV). Given its close historical connection with Emma Smith, the IV/JST manuscript is unlikely to end up being sold anytime soon to the LDS church, as was the Book of Mormon Printer’s Manuscript recently for $35 million.
In any event, Joseph’s theological rationale centered on the idea that God would not deliberately lead human beings into temptation. That would be Satan’s job.
And so, here we are all these years later and who should now agree with the Prophet Joseph but none other than Pope Francis himself! Here’s a part of the BBC news report:
The current wording that says “lead us not into temptation” is not a good translation because God does not lead humans to sin, he says.
His suggestion is to use “do not let us fall into temptation” instead, he told Italian TV on Wednesday night.
The Lord’s Prayer is the best-known prayer in Christianity.
The pontiff said France’s Roman Catholic church was now using the new wording “do not let us fall into temptation” as an alternative, and something similar should be used worldwide.
“Do not let me fall into temptation because it is I who fall, it is not God who throws me into temptation and then sees how I fell,” he told TV2000, an Italian Catholic TV channel.
“A father does not do that, a father helps you to get up immediately.”
It’s safe to say the Pope was probably not channeling Joseph Smith Jr. and came to this inspired understanding on his own. But still. The temptation here would be a certain degree of smugness. As they say, the “Devil’s in the details.”
The English wording that we use when we pray the Lord’s Prayer comes from Wycliffe’s translation of the Bible from the late 1300s. Matthew 6:13 reads “and leede us nat in to temptacioun.” That, too, was a translation from the Latin Vulgate, a 4th-century Latin translation of the Bible, which itself was translated from ancient Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic.
The Pope’s recommended change is pretty close to the way it reads in several modern translations used extensively by Protestants. Here’s how it reads in the NRSV, for example: “And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.”
My personal favorite, though comes from Eugene H. Peterson’s The Message:
“Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge!”
Here’s a few questions for starters:
- On whom should we blame temptation: God or Satan, or is humanity simply inherently susceptible?
- Is there such a thing as “humble smugness” or “smug humility”?
- Anybody else notice the irony in the fact that although the Community of Christ still holds the copyright on the IV (or JST, if you prefer), it’s fallen into fairly widespread disuse among current CofC members?
- Given the choice, would you as an LDS member prefer your church adopt the JST as its official Bible?