Robert J. Matthews: Mormon Scholar

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Robert J. Matthews Mormon Scholar

Robert James Matthews was a religious educator and scholar who taught in the Religious Education department of Brigham Young University.

Matthews was born on September 12, 1926, in Evanston, Wyoming. He earned three degrees from Brigham Young University, including a bachelor’s degree in political science, a master’s degree in geography, and a PhD in Ancient Scripture. His 1968 dissertation, A Plainer Translation: Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible—A History and Commentary was the beginning of his association with the Community of Christ, the first member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints permitted to work with the original manuscript of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, which was in their possession.

He was the chief editor of the 1979 Bible Dictionary that is printed with the Church of Jesus Christ’s English-language edition of the King James Version Bible. He helped compile the Encyclopedia of Mormonism and authored articles on the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible and the Book of Moses. He wrote nearly 200 articles and book chapters and many other scholarly works, including seven books.

Before earning his doctorate in 1968, Matthews taught seminary in Soda Springs, Idaho. He also taught Institute classes in Southern California. He wrote and edited courses for the seminaries and institutes, part of the Church Educational System for the Church of Jesus Christ. In 1971, he began teaching at BYU in Religious Education. He later served as dean of the department for over eight years. He was also the chair of the Ancient Scripture Department. He retired in 1992. He was a well-loved teacher.

Matthews served a full-time mission to the Western States Mission from 1946 to 1948. He served on the Church Adult Correlation Committee. He was the first president of the Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple.

He and his wife, Shirley Neves, had four children. He died on August 30, 2009, in Provo, Utah.