Modernising the standard works with machine learning (part II): ChatGPT AI

In part I, I used KJV and WEB translations of the bible to train a machine-learning translation model to modernise text from the Book of Mormon into WEB-style English. It was the first time I’d made such a model, it wasn’t the most advanced, and the results were promising but not good yet. I plan on working further along this track but, in this post, I operate in lazy-mode by using a pre-trained model: The newly released language processing AI model developed by OpenAI. You have probably heard of it as GPT-3 (Generative Pretrained Transformer 3) or ChatGPT. ChatGPT is a fine-tuned GPT-3.5, trained using supervised learning and reinforcement learning. GPT-3.5 was trained on a large data set of texts, including internet sources like Reddit discussions, to help ChatGPT learn dialogue and attain a human style of responding. It can generate text in tasks like language translation/modelling and chatbots and the text seems very human-dialogue-like. It’s cutting-edge stuff.

Users can give ChatGPT a prompt in the form of a question, or a request for text on a specific topic, etc. For example, Stephen C at Times and Seasons prompted ChatGPT “Write an LDS talk about overcoming adversity” and ChatGPT wrote a short sacrament talk. So I thought “I wonder how ChatGPT might modernise the standard works?”

I first tried a few prompts regarding 1 Nephi 1:1. I got a variety of summaries of 1 Nephi 1:1 in contemporary English. Some excluded content from the verse but included details that are not in the verse, like that Nephi was from Jerusalem or that Lehi was a prophet. When I explicitly prompted ChatGPT to quote 1 Nephi 1:1 it would still summarise it. It seemed like ChatGPT ‘knew’ who the characters in the Book of Mormon were and inserted its ‘knowledge‘ into its translation/summary/explanation of the verse. It wasn’t clear to me how much influence prompts had over the process. ChatGPT was trained on a lot of data, probably including things written about the Book of Mormon from a variety of viewpoints. The different interpretations of the Book of Mormon included in the input data set will probably give ChatGPT some bias in translation that would be difficult to quantify, as this is not what it was designed for.

Who is Nephi?Nephi is a figure from the Book of Mormon, a sacred text of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the Mormon Church). According to the text, Nephi was a prophet and a leader of the Nephites, a group of people who lived in the ancient Americas. He is a central figure in the Book of Mormon and is revered by members of the Mormon Church as a prophet of God.

I tried again later, probably with slightly different prompts, and it was a different experience. It could quote and translate without condensing the content. Sometimes it prefaced the translation and added a brief explanatory summary afterward.

Modernise 1 Nephi 1:1Here is a possible modernization of 1 Nephi 1:1:
Hi, my name is Nephi. I was raised by loving parents and was taught a lot by my father. Despite facing many challenges throughout my life, I have always been blessed by the Lord. I have a deep understanding of God’s goodness and mysteries, so I am writing down my life story.
This verse introduces Nephi and gives some information about his background and his relationship with God. It also indicates that he is writing a record of his life and his experiences.
Translate 1 Nephi 1:1 into contemporary EnglishHere is a possible translation of 1 Nephi 1:1 into contemporary English:
I, Nephi, was born to good parents and was taught a lot of what my father knew. Despite facing many troubles in my life, I have always been favored by the Lord. I have had a deep understanding of God’s goodness and mysteries, so I am writing down what happened to me during my lifetime.
This verse introduces Nephi and provides some context about his upbringing, his experiences, and his relationship with God. It also mentions that he is composing a record of his life.
Write 1 Nephi 1:1 in WEB style EnglishI, Nephi, being born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days.
Write 1 Nephi 1:1 in New Zealand EnglishI, Nephi, who was born to goodly parents, was therefore taught in the ways of my father’s learning. Despite facing many afflictions in my life, I have been greatly favored by the Lord. I have also gained a great understanding of God’s goodness and mysteries. So I am writing a record of my experiences.
Write 1 Nephi 1:1 in CockneyI’m sorry, but I’m unable to write in a specific dialect or accent as it goes beyond my capabilities as a language model. Is there anything else I can help with?
Write 1 Nephi 1:1 to be understood at an 8th grade levelI am Nephi and I was born to good parents. My dad taught me a lot of things. I have had a lot of hard times in my life but the Lord has always been good to me. I have also learned a lot about God’s goodness and mysteries. So I am writing down what happened to me.
I bolded the “translation” sections

I was interested that ChatGPT could specifically respond that some things were beyond its capabilities, such as specific dialects. It still tried sometimes, like when I prompted it to respond in New Zealand English. However, it didn’t use standard New Zealand English spelling. ChatGPT wrote favored instead of favoured, even though ChatGPT will write favoured if specifically prompted to spell that single word in New Zealand English. Ultimately, ChatGPT couldn’t replicate specific bible styles of English, which was a goal in Part I because I thought it would preserve intertextuality better.

The prompts Translate 1 Nephi 1:1 into contemporary English and Write 1 Nephi 1:1 to be understood at an 8th grade level produced the best results, I think. They are easy to read and with minimal lost of content and no added content. As suggested in Part I though, a person or group of people could modernise the Book of Mormon, but we’d risk losing intertextuality between the Book or Mormon and the Bible. Does ChatGPT retain any of this intertextuality?


Let’s compare texts from a modern translation of the bible and a ChatGPT modernised Book of Mormon when there are intertextualities between the KJV and the Book of Mormon. I used the NIV version of the bible because it is a pretty good translation and is something in-between a word-for-word translation (like the KJV) and a thought-for-thought translation. I used the prompt Translate “[insert text]” into contemporary English.

In the examples below, the intertextualities are largely preserved. Attentive readers are not likely to miss the connections between the Book of Mormon modernised by ChatGPT and the NIV bible. Sure, I’ve only checked a few, and some intertextualities will probably be lost, but it’s honestly not looking too bad. I’m pleasantly surprised at how well the ChatGPT modernisation of the Book of Mormon preserves these intertextualities. The biggest differences actually seem to be due to the gender inclusiveness of the NIV where it puts parents instead of fathers (look forward to a future post about gender generalisation in scripture).

“thy faith hath made thee whole,”

Enos 1:8 (BOM)Matthew 9:22 (KJV)Matthew 9:22 (NIV)Enos 1:8 (ChatGPT)
And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen. And many years pass away before he shall manifest himself in the flesh; wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole.But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.And he said to me: ‘It is because of your faith in Christ, whom you have never seen or heard before. Many years will pass before he appears in the flesh. So your faith has healed you.

“one fold and one shepherd.”

3 Nephi 16:3 (BOM)John 10:16 (KJV)John 10:16 (NIV)3 Nephi 16:3 (ChatGPT)
But I have received a commandment of the Father that I shall go unto them, and that they shall hear my voice, and shall be numbered among my sheep, that there may be one fold and one shepherd; therefore I go to show myself unto them.And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.But I have received a command from the Father to go to them, and they will hear my voice and be counted among my sheep, so that there can be one flock and one shepherd. That is why I am going to reveal myself to them.

turn the heart of the fathers to the children

3 Nephi 25:6 (BOM)Malachi 4:6 (KJV)Malachi 4:6 (NIV)3 Nephi 25:6 (ChatGPT)
And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land.He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, or else I will come and strike the earth with a curse.

“the Lord confounded the language of the people”

Ether 1:33 (BOM)Genesis 11:9 (KJV)Genesis 11:9 (NIV)Ether 1:33 (ChatGPT3)
Which Jared came forth with his brother and their families, with some others and their families, from the great tower, at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, and swore in his wrath that they should be scattered upon all the face of the earth; and according to the word of the Lord the people were scattered.Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.That is why it was called Babel – because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.Jared, his brother, and their families, along with some others and their families, left the great tower when the Lord confused the language of the people and swore in his anger that they would be scattered across the entire earth. And as the Lord had said, the people were scattered.

Key Book of Mormon Scriptures

Now, let’s look at some popularly used Book of Mormon scriptures used to teach doctrines. I’ll take a small sample from the Doctrinal Mastery ones used for seminary. Let’s see how they fare. Are they altered doctrinally?

And so I, Nephi, told my father: I will go and do what the Lord has commanded, because I know that the Lord does not give commandments to people unless he also prepares a way for them to carry out what he commands them to do.

1 Nephi 3:7 (ChatGTP)

This verse teaches the same principle.

Adam sinned so that humans could exist; and humans exist so that they can experience joy.

2 Nephi 2:25 (ChatGPT)

Latter-day saints strongly emphasise a distinction between sin and transgression. Although the word transgression is used less now than in the 1800’s, this is a modernisation that would be doctrinally problematic for latter-day saints.

“Now my son, I want you to repent and turn away from your sins, and stop indulging your desires. Instead, resist temptation in all things. Unless you do this, you will not be able to inherit the kingdom of God. Remember this and make it your goal to resist temptation in these things.”

Alma 39:9 (ChatGPT)

This modernisation loses some of the poetic language but is much clearer and easier to read. I’d say it’s doctrinally the same.

Now, I, Moroni, would like to talk a little bit about these things. I want to show the world that faith is about hoping for things that we cannot see. So don’t argue because you don’t see any evidence, because you won’t receive confirmation until after your faith has been tested

Ether 12:6

This verse feels more casual than we usually see in scripture because it uses the word so instead of therefore. It feels like reading it takes less effort though.

When you receive these things, I urge you to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if they are true. If you ask with a sincere heart and real intent, having faith in Christ, he will reveal the truth to you through the power of the Holy Ghost. And through the power of the Holy Ghost, you can know the truth of all things.

Moroni 10:4-5

I can imagine missionaries using this scripture to teach people in much the same way they do now. It seems like most of the time, the doctrine isn’t substantially altered. However, sometimes the changes will be doctrinally significant. If something like ChatGPT were used to modernise the standard works by the church, I’m pretty sure it would be moderated to avoid this. Ultimately, it wouldn’t be just a machine learning translation or artificial intelligence modernisation, but artificial intelligence-assisted modernisation.

Leaving aside a full modernisation of the standard works, how would you feel about an AI-assisted modernisation of scripture being used to teach a principle in family home evening, primary, Sunday School, or a sacrament meeting talk? Would you use ChatGPT to teach? Would you prefer to modernise the verse yourself, or put it in your own words?


4 thoughts on “Modernising the standard works with machine learning (part II): ChatGPT AI

  1. Dave K

    Interesting ideas. As a high councilor, I’ve wondered what it would be like to have chatGPT write my next talk. Maybe I’ll try it.

    I noticed all the translations got the meaning of “goodly” wrong in 1 Nephi 1. The correct meaning – to me at least – is that Nephi’s parents were wealthy, ie they “had goods”. That makes the most sense in the context.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. kahakura

      I had not considered goodly to mean “having goods”. That’s an interesting meaning. Perhaps I could check my pre-translation text for the word(s) used and the possible meanings of that reformed egyptian word(s) to see what Nephi may have meant. .. . Oh no! I can’t find it. Somebody has borrowed the original. Who could have it?

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Josiah Reckons Post author

      I didn’t notice that specifically. I think because I’ve never been certain what was specifically meant by goodly. I only understood that it was vaguely positive.

      I have heard people explain that it meant wealthy, but I’ve also heard people simply interpret it as meaning good.

      In Webster 1828 dictionary, goodly basically means pleasant or desirable. No wealth related definitions, but it could still mean wealth. I haven’t looked into earlier usage.


  2. Pingback: Modernising the standard works with machine learning (part I) | Josiah Reckons

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