Why the New Translation of the Bible was Never Published
Although the New Translation work was completed 11 years before the prophet's death, it was never published in its entirety during his lifetime. During that time, Joseph continued to revise the manuscripts to prepare them for printing and excerpts from the New Translation were published in early church periodicals and various verses were also used in the Lectures on Faith. The failure to publish the New Translation was not due to any lack of effort on Joseph Smith’s part, but was rather due to the saints inability to provide the temporal support to Joseph so that he could complete the work. As early as 1831 through nearly the end of his life, the Lord instructed the saints to temporally support Joseph's translation of the Bible as well as it's publication. Regarding the way in which the New Translation should be published, Joseph Smith said the following: "It is not the will of the Lord to print any of the new Translation in the Star; but when it is published, it will all go to the world together, in a volume by itself; and the New Testament and the Book of Mormon will be printed together." (April 21, 1833, Letterbook 1, p. 35). As early as August 6, 1833, a month after the New Translation was completed, Joseph Smith stated the following: "You will see by these revelations that we have to print the new translation here at kirtland for which we will prepare as soon as possible" (Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams to Edward Partridge, August 6, 1833, Joseph Smith Collection, Church History 235 Library). This statement had reference to the printing press owned by the church that was destroyed in July of that same year just as the translation work had completed, and that a new printer would need to be sought for. Such an approach would require the enlistment of a printer to typeset the entire Bible, a very costly endeavor in those days. Thus, the primary reason for the New Translation not being published during the lifetime of the prophet Joseph Smith was a lack of available funds and temporal support of the prophet. The saints also faced many other challenges and difficulties during this period, which made the accumulation of sufficient funds difficult. However, several sources show that Joseph felt an urgent desire to publish the New Translation and regularly expressed disappointment that the Saints could not raise the money to get it printed:
A little over a year later, Joseph Smith was murdered and the New Translation remained unpublished. Despite all the attempts and reminders to gather funds to support the work of publishing the translation, it was never completed. It can be concluded that the major reason for failure to publish the New Translation of the Bible is the inadequate response from the saints in providing temporal assistance to the prophet Joseph Smith. It would appear that the work of translation was largely acceptable to the Lord very early on, and although the manuscript itself and other details were not completely ready for the press at that time, it was the lack of effort and acceptable sacrifice on the part of the saints to provide the means for the publication of the New Translation to become a reality.
It is not the point of this article to castigate the early saints for their failure to follow the counsel received from the Lord to support the work of translation. Only by learning from our past mistakes will we be less likely to repeat them. The early saints were prophetically warned: "except the Church receive the fulness of the Scriptures that they would yet fail". Thus, the inability of the saints to muster the will to publish the New Translation was likely a key contributor to the interruption in the restoration following the death of Joseph Smith.