Joseph Smith Translation – An Amazing Project

by | Dec 31, 2021

milky way above landscape

Highlights for Genesis 1-2

This year is the first time I feel excited to read the Old Testament. Let me share some new insights with you – you might find the Old Testament more interesting too?

This post draws on two resources – (1) Joseph Smith’s complete translation of the Bible – amazingly, Joseph Smith corrected translations for more than 3,900 verses from the KJV Bible. And (2) Robert Alter’s “The Hebrew Bible – A Translation with Commentary.” Robert Alter’s book is considered one of the best translations of the Bible in our modern time and came highly recommended by – a premiere Latter-day Saint scholarship site. Robert Alter’s lifetime work was published in 2018. See My Secrets for Falling In Love with the Old Testament for more information about these two books and where to get them.

The Earth Was Not Without Form Nor Void

It appears our King James/Bible scholars missed the mark when translating passages in Hebrew, which referred to the earth’s early condition.

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep… (Genesis 1:2)

void: a completely empty space (“the black void of space”).

The translations of “without form” and “void” have always been uncomfortable for me as an astronomy and physics student. It doesn’t match what we see in our galaxy and universe. For example, we see many solar systems like ours without a planet that can currently sustain life.

“Our planetary system is the only one officially called “solar system,” but astronomers have discovered more than 3,200 other stars with planets orbiting them in our galaxy.” NASA

4,422 exoplanets have been discovered thus far by astronomers, but only a handful are considered to be potentially habitable. (Forbes article)

exoplanet: a planet that orbits another star besides our sun

So far, we have only found one other world that might be somewhat like the earth is now. (Forbes via NASA)

A Big Question

Why did the Master put so many solar systems in place with multiple lifeless planets? What is their purpose?

33 And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten.
34 And the first man of all men have I called Adam, which is many.
35 But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.
(Moses 1:33-35)

A Closer Look

Let’s revisit the Hebrew translations:

Alter – Genesis 1:2

“And the earth then was welter and waste…”

Robert Alter: “the Hebrew tohu wabohu occurs only here and in two later biblical texts that are clearly alluding to this one…I have tried to approximate in English by alliteration (welter and waste). Tohu by itself means “emptiness” or “futility,” and in some contexts is associated with the trackless vacancy of the desert.”

welter: jumble, confusion, turmoil

JST – Genesis 1:4

strikethrough = words Joseph Smith deleted (sometimes what Joseph crossed out can be just as much information as what he added)

bold type = words Joseph Smith added

Joseph Smith: “And the earth was without form empty and void desolate, and I caused darkness was to come upon the face of the deep.”

desolate: bare, dreary, uninhabited

These illuminating word translations by both Robert Alter and Joseph Smith are similar. Their clarifications resonate with all the lifeless solar systems we observe around us. Joseph Smith’s cross-outs suggest the Lord used an existing lifeless system in the process of creation. Those many solar systems with planets around us are potentially held in reserve – waiting for the Master’s touch and their appointed season to sustain life.


Both men (one an expert scholar and the other an unlearned prophet) clarified the earth’s first phases were an existing desolate place. This pattern of creation coincides with our best science and knowledge of many solar systems and empty planets already in position and also supports that the Earth is extremely old.

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  1. Deanna Rawson

    I always wondered about the scripture that says to multiply and replenish the earth. Invokes some interesting thoughts. So excited to see your post. Happy New Year!

    • Shawnie Cannon

      Deanna, so awesome to hear from you. Please do share your thoughts about that phrase?


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