It seems this behavior only happens in native JIRA issue types, e.g. if I edit a non native JIRA issue type, the description displays correctly.
Hey Tim, I replied to your comment on JIRA documentation but I'll paste it here as well as I haven't seen any other reference to this issue anywhere.
I just noticed the same thing on my production instance today. The description for the issue type Story on my instance is blank on the help page and the view page in the admin section of the projects even though there is a text for it. Updating the text makes no difference.
Interestingly enough, a test instance with the same data is not having this issue although we did upgrade to 6.3.10 there the other day. Looks like some kind of strange glitch/bug here, I will report back in a couple of days after we upgrade our production instance if it went away.
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