Reformatted Scriptures

For almost two decades I’ve been frustrated with the scriptures. Not with the message, but the physical book. The margins were too small to make notes. The footnotes took up an inordinate amount of space, yet most were of little value and many key links were missing. Section and chapter headers contained precepts of men that contradicted what was written. The uninspired chapter divisions and versification broke up key ideas and changed the natural flow. I dreamed of creating my own edition of the scriptures that fixed all those issues, but how could one person go about such a monumental task? I jotted down some notes from time to time but never thought it would happen.

A few years ago I stumbled upon a website of someone who had experimented with reformatting the scriptures. In addition to posting some drafts of his work, he also posted raw text files of all the standard works. I realized that my impossible dream of reformatted scriptures was not impossible, just really time consuming! I downloaded the files and went to work.

BoM sampleUntil recently, printing was expensive so white space was considered a waste. Look at your current scriptures and notice how little white space there is on the page. While that style minimizes the number of pages you have to print, it makes it difficult on the reader, and almost impossible to make significant notes.

This reformatted version has wide margins for notes. Chapter and verse numbers are visually suppressed so they fade into the background while reading, but are still available to help find specific references. The text is placed into into standard paragraphs, and bullet points and poetic formatting are used when that can help convey the message better. When another scripture is quoted, the quotation has a grey background and the cross reference in the margin.

Both the original manuscript and the printers manuscript of the Book of Mormon had no punctuation. The entire manuscript was one run-on sentence. John Gilbert, the typesetter at the Grandin printing shop, added every period, comma, and capital letter. So as I was reformatting the Book of Mormon, I would sometimes change the punctuation, either to modernize it or help with the new paragraphs I was creating. But the actual scriptural words in the main body match 100% to the 1981 version. I did add some section headers to help identify key topics, but those are in a different font and easily identifiable as an addition of man.

D&C sample

Once I had my first draft completed, I started on the Doctrine and Covenants. Restoring the Lectures on Faith to their proper place was the first thing I did. After adding the D&C and Pearl of Great Price, I also added Joseph Smith’s three other accounts of his history, the complete letter from Liberty Jail from which Sections 120, 121, and 122 were extracted, and a list of the scriptures the angel expounded to Joseph in 1823.

I had these first versions printed and then began editing on paper. That was a humbling experience. I’ve spent the last two years refining them. I learned a lot about selecting fonts, typesetting, and page setting concepts. More importantly, I spent a lot of time just scrutinizing the scriptures. I would print a version, then use it for study for several months and make updates to the electronic version, and then repeat the process with a new printing.

While doing that, I learned about Royal Skousen’s work on BYU’s Book of Mormon Critical Text Project. This effort analyzed every version of the Book of Mormon (the remnants of the original manuscript, printers manuscript, 1830 printing, and every other LDS and RLDS printing of the book). This effort uncovered words that had changed from the original. Most were fairly innocuous (rites vs. rights, clasped vs. clapped, etc.) but some are more significant. I decided to fold some of those in to show both before and after so that I could contemplate the changes. These changes are indicated in the margins, so again, the 1981 text remains unchanged in the main body.

I had also known about the changes between the 1833 Book of Commandments and the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. I combined the 1833 and 1835 versions so I could see exactly what changed and contemplate the significance. I also learned that there were other records in History of the Church (including unpublished revelations) that help fill in some historical gaps. I added some of those in the appropriate chronological spots between the existing D&C sections. The Joseph Smith Papers project has also provided valuable information, including changes that have been made to the text of the Doctrine and Covenants. I added margin notes to indicate where the current text differs from the original manuscripts.

My intention was solely to create a personal set of scriptures. I never planned to publish, even after having a few friends ask for copies once they saw my set. Eventually I was convinced to go public.

I have posted PDF versions that can be freely downloaded. I have also made arrangements with a printing company so you can order printed versions at cost plus shipping.

Go here to download the latest files and for links to the printed versions.



7 thoughts on “Reformatted Scriptures

  1. This is absolutely amazing; a step toward my desire to obtain the unfiltered Word of God! I don’t expect, nor do you offer, a perfect solution to the dilema. Nevertheless, this is wonderful!

    I will gladly add my name to the list of individuals who offer a genuine and heartfelt thank you. In my view, nothing compares to studying the written Word of God in book form. However, electronic versions can be very beneficial. So in an effort to offer a menial contribution to your exciting project, I have found it helpful to use the below smartphone app when studying the New Testament. It compares, side by side, the KJV, Inspired Version, and the Greek text interpretation.

    There are likely many other tools, that are perhaps even better, but this could have its place in being very useful regardless. I know it has been helpful to me.

    Thank you again! I am incredibly excited for this.

    1. Thanks. I agree that there is no perfect solution. My goal is to get closer than the existing versions do. As others point out errors or suggest improvements, it will continue to improve over time.

      Unfortunately, there isn’t an iOS version of that app. I went to the developers website and he does has all the content in PDFs. Here’s the link for everyone’s reference:

  2. Wow MD, this is fantastic! I have made a couple of attempts to reformat scriptures in a manner similar to what you have done here so I understand the monumental effort involved in producing these works. The layout is exceptional. I could nerd out for a bit on the typography and the balance of white space, but I’ll just say your work will make searching these scriptures more enjoyable and enlightening. Thank you!

  3. Apparently more than a few have felt a desire in their hearts to restore and/or reformat the standard works of the LDS Church. There is another group who have spent the last two or more years doing this same thing. They’ve published a three volume set: Old Covenants, which is simply the JST of the Old Testament; New Covenants, which is the JST New Testament paired with the Book of Mormon; Teachings and Commandments, which is a revised/restored Doctrine and Covenants also including the Lectures on Faith, letters and revelations from JS, and other items some may or may not care for. Everything is available online for download as well. It is my understanding that these individuals began working on their own then were brought together as they found out about each other.

    I’m really pleased to see so many wanting to do something with our standard works. I have been amazed to see how much of the JST has not been published. Now that I see it incorporated into the full texts of the Old and New Testaments I am wondering why the LDS Church or other Mormon denominations did not rework the KJV to include Joseph’s labor. I had no idea Joseph worked to revise the Bible as much as he did.

    I am excited to see what you have come up with. I am sure it has been an labor-intensive effort.

    1. Hi Lori. Yes, there have been several different efforts lately. Unfortunately, the one you reference, while starting off with the intention of restoring the original language of the scriptures, went off track once Denver Snuffer got involved. Minor issues include changing the chapter and verse numbers, so looking up references from anyone other than them is problematic. More seriously, they proceeded to rewrite D&C 110 to introduce strange new doctrines, added new revelations that Denver claims to have received, and added the Proverbs of Denver.

      I removed the link from your comment – anyone who wants to find that can do a quick Google search, but that isn’t something I want linked from my blog site. I’m not trying to censor information (I’m telling people how to get it), but I am controlling what my site links to.

      Regarding the JST, the RLDS/Community of Christ hold the copyright to the JST. Whether RLDS refuse to allow the LDS to use it (I doubt it, plus they gave permission for portions to be included in the 1981 edition), or whether LDS choose to ignore inspired writings because they don’t hold the copyright is something I can only speculate about.

      1. MD–Thanks for posting my comment. I would have been surprised had you left in the link I pasted. It’s okay. I understand. This is your blog. For myself, I just don’t fret things because I love to learn and am willing to read and listen to what others have to say. I don’t have to agree or need others to agree with me. I hope I didn’t cause you any heartburn. I’m just an eclectic reader and willing to hear others.

        And I agree the formatting on those three volumes is challenging and makes it difficult to move back and forth between various Bible versions and the LDS works. It appears individuals who desire something different will put in the work to restructure things in a manner they feel guided, as you have done for yourself. I think that is okay. Have you noticed how many versions there are for the Bible nowadays???

        Strange, new doctrines–haha, I imagine if Heaven were fully revealed to our minds we would find it all very strange and new, nothing like what we think we comprehend on this plane of existence. I guess I am more excited about Christ’s finishing His Restoration than I am afraid of what others teach as truth. But that was not always so. I have believed my whole life that I should only listen to those called and ordained as apostles in my own church, that only my church has the whole truth, and all others are deceived. I felt guilty the first time I opened a non-KJV Bible to see what it was like. Now I see there is light and truth to be gotten and I would like to get it, wherever it might reveal itself.

        On DS, I don’t think he needs defending or aspersions. He is just sharing what he believes God has given him. There are others who say they are doing the same. I believe GOD IS BIG, and I don’t ever want to put Him inside a rinky-dinky box again, where I limit what He can do. Nope. If Father or His Son Christ is talking to a Muslim or a Jew converted to Christianity, I want to hear about it. If They are talking to you, I want to hear about it. The truth of it all will get sorted out as I go along, I have found.

        On the JST, it is my understanding even the RLDS did not have the fulsome corrections; that they were sprinkled throughout Joseph’s writings and it was a great labor to bring it all together even though it is still incomplete. I had always believed what was included behind the LDS TG as the JST was all there ways! It was just something I thought was complete and surely church leaders had it all. Not. I really am enjoying the scriptures anew, in all their versions. God bless, and thanks for sharing your endeavor with the scriptures.

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