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Changes to the Book of Mormon
If the Book of Mormon is true, then why has the Mormon church changed it? Jerald and Sandra Tanner have counted 3913 changes in the Book of Mormon, excluding punctuation changes.
This page contains comments from the following authors:
W. John Walsh
Robert L. Matthews
(See Book of Mormon Manuscripts for a discussion of the manuscripts as well as a picture of a page from the original Book of Mormon manuscript.)
by W. John Walsh
Critics of the Church often claim that there have been significant doctrinal changes to the Book of Mormon since the first printing. They make these false claims to discredit our assertion that the Book of Mormon was translated by the Prophet Joseph Smith through the gift and power of God.
First, while we claim that the Book of Mormon is true scripture, we do not claim that the entire process for bringing the translation to the world was free from error. It is important to remember that the Church claims that only Jesus Christ was perfect and did not make mistakes.
Some minor errors, mainly spelling and grammatical, in the text have been perpetuated in past editions of the Book of Mormon. The current edition contains corrections that seem appropriate to bring the material in conformity with pre-production manuscripts and early editions edited by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
At first, the 3,913 changes you cite sound rather significant. But if you recheck your source you will find that even the anti-Mormons Jerald and Sandra Tanner admit that the 3,913 changes were not really significant at all:
"As we stated earlier, most of the 3,913 changes which we found were related to the correction of grammatical and spelling errors and do not really change the basic meaning of the text." (Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Changing World of Mormonism, Chicago: Moody Pres., 1980, p 131, emphasis added)
When the Prophet Joseph dictated the translation from the plates, a scribe copied down his words. Since only Jesus Christ was perfect, it is not surprising that the scribes made some minor errors. In addition, the non-Mormon typesetter that the Church hired to take the handwritten manuscript to book form was forced to decipher the scribes handwriting to set the type. Also, consider that the printing process in 1830 was much more manual and cumbersome than the ones we use today. With all the intervention by fallible mortals required to bring forth the printing of the Book of Mormon, it is surprising that more grammatical and spelling errors were not made. It is important to note that the changes in the Book of Mormon text are actually insignificant to the number of changes that have been made in the Bible throughout the centuries.
For more discussion regarding the LDS view of scriptural inerrancy versus the Fundamentalist Protestant view, see The Canonical or Biblical Exclusion by Stephen E. Robinson.
by Robert L. Matthews
Changes and corrections have been necessary to correct copying and printing errors and to clarify the message of this book of scripture. Corrections of this sort are normal whenever new editions of a book are printed. Mistakes such as typographical errors, misspellings, misplaced or dropped words, and ambiguities noted in one edition are usually corrected in the next, Errors like these multiply when one language is translated into another. And if the source of the communication is divine revelation, the process becomes even more complex.
The Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, for example, said they saw and heard things they could not communicate in the language they had:
"Great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion; Which he commanded us we should not write while we were yet in the Spirit, and are not lawful for man to utter; "Neither is man capable to make them known, for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him." (D&C 76:114-16.)
President John Taylor told of an occasion when he and the Prophet Joseph Smith were discussing the second coming of the Savior and the role of various prophets who held priesthood keys: "He wished me to write something for him on this subject, but I found it a very difficult thing to do. He had to correct me several times .... It is very difficult to find language suitable to convey the meaning of spiritual things." (Journal of Discourses, 18:330.) President Taylor was a man of considerable intelligence, very gifted in the use of language. His discourse and writing flowed smoothly and clearly, but he experienced, as have others, the difficulty mortals have when they attempt to write the things of God.
The Prophet Joseph Smith was well aware of this problem. During his lifetime, three editions of the Book of Mormon were printed. Each time, he amended the text in a few places to more correctly convey the intended meaning of his translation. Other changes in these and successive editions were made to correct typographical errors, improper spelling, and inaccurate or missing punctuation and to improve grammar and sentence structure to eliminate ambiguity. None of these changes, individually or collectively, alters the message of the Book of Mormon. 1
Let us survey the corrective literary process that took place from the original translation of the gold plates by the Prophet Joseph Smith to the printing of the various editions. Here we will deal particularly with changes in the original manuscript, in the handwritten copy of the original, and in the printed editions of 1830, 1837, 1840, and 1981. 2 The first three editions are especially valuable because they were printed during the Prophet Joseph Smith's lifetime; some copies contain his editorial comments.
Corrections took place at every stage- while transcribing and editing the original manuscript, while copying the manuscript, and while setting type from that manuscript. As each edition was prepared for printing, the errors that had been noted in the preceding edition or editions were corrected.
The Book of Mormon Documents
The Prophet Joseph Smith did not leave us a detailed account of the daily translation process of the Book of Mormon but said it was accomplished through the "mercy of God, by the power of God." (D&C 1:29.) His usual procedure was to dictate to a scribe while he translated from the plates. Oliver Cowdery was the principal scribe and was assisted by Martin Harris, Emma Smith, probably John Whitmer, and an additional unidentified person. The words on the manuscript were essentially the Prophet's, but each scribe wrote them down in his or her own spelling variations.
Spelling was not as standardized in those days as it is now, and many felt at liberty to vary the way they formed words. 3 For example, in what is now I Nephi 7:20, ware sorraful in the manuscript was changed to were sorrowful in the first printed edition. Plaits in the manuscript (1 Nephi 13:23) became plates in the printed edition. These and similar changes show why editing was necessary to make the manuscript more understandable.
The document these several scribes produced as they wrote at the Prophet's dictation is the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon in English translation. It was completed about 1 July 1829.
Then Oliver Cowdery was directed by the Prophet to make a second copy. This he did, writing most, but not all, of it himself. This manuscript is called the "printer's" or "emended" manuscript. It was made before any printing was attempted.
The original manuscript has not survived intact; it became watersoaked while stored in the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House, and about two-thirds of it rotted away. The 144 remaining pages, in the Church vaults in Salt Lake City, contain most of 1 Nephi; a portion of 2 Nephi 1; portions of Alma 11 and 19; Alma 22-63; parts of Helaman 1-3; and part of 3 Nephi 26.4 The printer's manuscript, on the other hand, is in good condition. It is a part of the collection of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Independence, Missouri.
As one might expect, any handwritten copy will differ in some ways from its original. The printer's manuscript of the Book of Mormon differed from the original for two principal reasons. First, unintentional variations are impossible to avoid in a transcription of 464 pages. Second, there is evidence of some deliberate editing, such as smoothing out phrases, substituting one word for another, correcting spelling errors, adding of punctuation, and other intended improvements. It was this "emended" manuscript that was taken to the printer for typesetting for the first edition of the Book of Mormon.
The first edition of the Book of Mormon was printed in 1830 in Palmyra, New York, by the E. B. Grandin Company. The principal typesetter and compositor was John H. Gilbert, who also provided most of the punctuation and paragraphing. Production was slow and fraught with the possibility of making errors, both of sight and of judgment. A comparison of first edition copies shows that corrections were made even during the press run, a practice common in those days. 5
Seven years later, the second edition- a minor revision- of the Book of Mormon was printed in Kirtland, Ohio, by O. Cowdery and Company for P. P. Pratt and J. Goodson. Brothers Pratt and Goodson served as editors and caretakers and made the following explanation about the efforts of the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to prepare this revised edition (spelling and punctuation are original):
"Individuals acquainted with book printing, are aware of the numerous typographical errors which always occur in manuscript editions. It is only necessary to say, that the whole has been carefully reexamined and compared with the original manuscripts, by Elder Joseph Smith, Jr. the translator of the book of Mormon, assisted by the present printer, brother O. Cowdery, who formerly wrote the greatest portion of the same, as dictated by brother Smith.
"Parley P. Pratt,
"Kirtland, Ohio 1837."
In 1840, the third edition was printed in Nauvoo, Illinois, by Ebenezer Robinson and Don Carlos Smith. Here the title page notes that this edition has been "Carefully Revised by the Translator," again letting the reader know that the Prophet Joseph Smith was directly involved with the editorial changes in both this edition and its 1830 and 1837 predecessors.
Over the next 140 years, various other editions containing adjustments and refinements were published, resulting in considerable format change but not in many textual revisions. Then, in 1981, the Church published an edition with approximately 160 corrections. Although most are grammar and spelling improvements, several significant corrections and additions to the text were made. A detailed account of these corrections may be found in the Ensign (Sept. 1976, pp. 77-82; Oct. 1981, pp. 8-19) and in BYU Studies (Fall 1982, pp. 387-423). Two examples follow.
In Alma 16:5 two words sound similar, but the spelling is slightly different, and the meaning is vastly different. The Lamanites had taken Nephite prisoners of war. Zoram, chief Nephite army captain, went to Alma the prophet and asked him to inquire of the Lord concerning the prisoners. Until 1981, all printed editions read, "therefore they went unto him to know whether the Lord would that they should go . . . in search of their brethren." (Italics added.) The original manuscript reads whither rather than whether, and it was corrected to read so in the 1981 version. For years the interpretation had been whether (if) the Nephites should go in search of their brethren. The true meaning is, rather, whither (where) they should go. The printer's manuscript contains a rather awkward correction from whether to whither, showing that this had been discovered long ago, but the correction was not assimilated into the scripture until the 1981 edition.
An interesting correction has been made in Alma 57:25, which deals with the remarkable preservation of 2060 young soldiers: "And to our great astonishment, and also the joy of our whole army, there was not one soul of them who did perish." Until 1981, all editions of the Book of Mormon read foes; however, careful examination of the printer's manuscript shows that the correct word is joy. The error occurred in earlier editions because the handwriting on the manuscript is peculiarly formed at this point, and typesetters and proofreaders simply misread it. The word foes does make sense as used in the passage, but it is not as appropriate as joy.
Editing Bible Texts
The same kind of editorial effort that has been exerted to correct and refine the Book of Mormon over the past 158 years has been occurring for centuries with the Bible. Students familiar with biblical research know that the reason there are several versions of the Bible in print today is that there are literally thousands of biblical manuscripts available, none of them originals, and all differ in various ways. They are grouped in "families" because they appear to come from several major textual ancestors. Hence, the Catholic Vulgate Bible represents a different textual lineage than the New English Bible. The King James Version represents still another.
Typographical errors have occurred in many editions of the Bible, especially in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, when typesetting was done by hand. Since the first printing of the King James Version in A.D. 1611, many revisions and modifications have been made by British scholars. This process has resulted in an increasing number of words being set in italics, which indicates an editorial attempt to enlarge or round out a thought that was poorly expressed in the manuscripts or was difficult to translate exactly. Readers of today's King James Version may think that it is an exact duplicate of what was printed 375 years ago, but it is not. The number of italicized words in Matthew alone increased from 43 in 1611 to 583 in 1870 because of revisions to the text. 6
It is no secret that many changes and omissions occurred during the development of modern Bible texts. This creates a particularly serious situation because neither the originals nor even a complete second- or third-generation document of the Bible is available for comparison. In this respect, the text of the Book of Mormon is on a much stronger footing because the entire printer's manuscript is available as well as parts of the original dictated manuscript and the 1837 and 1840 editions, which were revised by the translator himself. Because comparison with these early versions was possible, the 1981 edition of the Book of Mormon is the most correct ever published by the Church.
1. Several individuals have sought out with great care the variants that exist among the printed editions of the Book of Mormon, and some have also made comparison with the prepublication manuscripts. These studies have shown that most of the changes have been grammatical, punctuational, and explanatory, but not substantive.
2. Readers wishing to know more will find the following documents informative: Jeffrey R. Holland, "An Analysis of Selected Changes in Maior Editions of the Book of Mormon-1830-1920/' Master's thesis, Brigham Young University, 1966; Stanley R. Larson, "A Study of Some Textual Variations in the Book of Mormon Comparing the Original and Printer's Manuscripts and the 1830, the 1837, and the 1840 Editions," Master's thesis, Brigham Young University, 1974; Richard P. Howard, Restoration Scriptures: A Study of Their Textual Development (Independence, Mo.: Herald Publishing House, 1969); Daniel H. Ludlow, "Selected Changes in the Book of Mormon Since the First Edition," Special Collections, Brigham Young University Library, n.d.; Dean C. Jessee, "The Original Book of Mormon Manuscript," BYU Studies, Spring 1970, pp. 259-78.
3. For an interesting discussion of the varieties of spelling that were common and even acceptable in the period immediately preceding Joseph Smith's time, see George A. Horton, Jr., "Changes in the Book of Mormon and How to Handle Them," report of the Sixth Annual Church Educational System Religious Educators' Symposium on the Book of Mormon, Aug. 1982, pp. 36-39.
4. Jessee, "Original Book of Mormon Manuscript," pp. 259-78.
5. For an informative discussion on this matter, see Janet Jenson, "variations between Copies of the First Edition of the Book of Mormon," BYU Studies, Winter 1973, pp. 214-22.
6. P. Marion Simms, The Bible in America (New York: Wilson-Erickson, 1936), p. 97.
A Sure Foundation, Answers to Difficult Gospel Questions, p. 33-39
Copyright 1988 by Deseret Book
by Van Hale
A common assumption of many of the critics of Mormonism is that God does not change, and therefore anything which has come from God does not change. This assumption has motivated these critics to search for changes in Mormonism convinced that to demonstrate a change or development is to prove Mormonism is not of divine origin.
One of the areas of focus is the changes which have been made in the Book of Mormon since the first (1830) edition. Since doctrine seems to be the area of greatest concern four changes made in the second (1837) edition of the Book of Mormon, which allegedly alter the Book of Mormon doctrine of the Godhead, are the changes most frequently cited. It is claimed that in Joseph Smith's 1830 concept of the Godhead he did not distinguish between the Father and the Son. It is further alleged that within seven years he changed his mind and then altered the second edition of the Book of Mormon so as to harmonize with his new doctrine.
Following are the passages in question as they read in all editions except for the 1830 edition. The italicized [capitalized] words are those which were added in the 1837 edition:
Behold, the virgin which thou seest is the mother of THE SON OF God...(1 Nephi 11:18).
Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the SON OF THE Eternal Father! (1 Nephi 11:21).
And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the SON OF THE everlasting God...(1 Nephi 11:32).
...the Lamb of God is the SON OF THE Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world ...(1 Nephi 11:32).
These verses are frequently quoted in isolation from the rest of the Book of Mormon giving the impression that a change of doctrine was made in the second edition. Jerald and Sandra Tanner in THE CHANGING WORLD OF MORMONISM (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), p. 183 asserts:
...the Mormons claim that a voice from heaven told the witnesses to the Book of Mormon that the translation was correct. In spite of this Joseph Smith tried to change the Book of Mormon to support his concept of a plurality of Gods. Four important changes were made in the second edition of the Book of Mormon concerning the Godhead.
They then cite the changes and conclude that:
These additions begin to distinguish the Son from the Father and are part of the process that ultimately led Joseph Smith to declare the Father and the Son as two separate gods.
While there are many reasons to deny that change equals uninspired, the question to be considered here is: Has the Book of Mormon doctrine of the Godhead been altered by the changes made in the second edition?
Although the fact of the changes cannot be questioned, the reason for them and their significance as asserted by the Tanners are certainly questionable. In fact when the Tanners state that "Joseph Smith tried to change the Book of Mormon to support his concept of a plurality of Gods," they are merely guessing. Since there is no known statement of Joseph Smith, or any one connected with the second edition, as to the reason for these changes, the accuracy of the Tanners' mind reading is dubious at best.
If the doctrine of the 1830 edition had been that Jesus is God and the Father, but not the son of God nor the son of the Father; and if the doctrine of the 1837 edition had been that Jesus was the son of God and the son of the Father, but not God nor the Father, then the Tanners' claim of doctrinal alteration of the Book of Mormon would have substantial support.
However, their argument is devastated by a closer look at the first and second editions. Both editions teach that Jesus is the son of God, and the son of the Father, and both editions teach that Jesus is God, and that he is the Father. The following references, which are found in all editions teach that Jesus is God, and that he is the Father. The following references, which are found in all editions of the Book of Mormon, establish this point.
1. JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD. 1 Ne 10:17; 11:6-7, 24; 25:16, 19; 31:11-21; Jac 4:5-11; Hel 3:28; 3 Ne 9:15.
2. JESUS IS THE SON OF THE FATHER. Al 5:48; 3 Ne 11:7; 12:19; 14:21; 18:27; 28:8, 10; Mro 4:3, 5:2; etc.
3. JESUS IS GOD. Title page; 2 Ne 10:3-7; 11:7; Mos 27:31; Mn 3:21; Eth 3:18; etc.
4. JESUS IS THE FATHER. The Eternal Father: Mos 15:4; 16:15; Al 11:38, 39. Father of all things, Father of heaven and earth: 2 Ne 25:12; Mos 3:8; 7:27; 15:4; Al 11:39; Eth 4:7; Hel 14:12; 16:18. Father of the redeemed: Mos 5:7; Eth 3:14.
5. JESUS IS BOTH THE FATHER AND THE SON. Mos 15:2-3; 3 Ne 1:14; Mn 9:12; Eth 3:14; 4:12.
6. JESUS HAS A FATHER AND GOD WHO IS A SEPARATE AND DISTINCT PERSON. Jac 4:5; 3 Ne 11:7, 32; 17:16; 19:18-31; 20:46; 26:2, 15; 27:28-30; Mro 7:27; 9:26.
Since these six points are supportive by all editions, the claim that Joseph Smith changed the doctrine of the Godhead in the Book of Mormon is clearly erroneous. The doctrine found in one is also found in all of the others. A thorough reading of the Book of Mormon does reveal some ambiguity concerning the Father and the Son which has been clarified in other LDS writings. But, in spite of the ambiguity, the Book of Mormon does clearly teach that Jesus is the son of God, and the son of the Father; that he is appropriately addressed by the titles "God" and "Father;" and, that he has a Father and God who is a separate and distinct person. What ever the ambiguities may be, there is no movement to discard any Book of Mormon verses. Mormons from Joseph Smith to the present have continued to view the Book of Mormon doctrine of the Godhead as harmonious with all later developments.
(See Fatherhood and Sonship of Jesus)
by Stan Larson
Most readers would agree that the really vital things in the Book of Mormon are its teachings and testimonies on spiritual matters and that one's reading of that book should be done prayerfully and with the Spirit. It is no matter of great concern, then, that the Book of Mormon, like all scriptures, has undergone a certain amount of grammatical improvements and textual change in successive editions. At the April 1974 general conference of the Church, Elder Boyd K. Packer commented on the changes made in our Latter-day Scriptures:
"Some have alleged that these books of revelations are false, and they place in evidence changes that have occurred in the texts of these scriptures since their original publication. They cite these changes, of which there are many examples, as though they themselves were announcing revelation. As though they were the only ones that knew of them.
"Of course there have been changes and corrections. Anyone who has done even limited research knows that. When properly reviewed, such corrections become a testimony for, not against, the truth of the books."
To some, even a few changes may seem too many in a book translated under divine inspiration and accepted by members of the Church as sacred scripture, but investigation discloses that the majority of such changes are conceptually insignificant; they were made primarily to improve the grammar or to clarify the meaning. Since the young Joseph Smith was not a trained and polished writer, some of the language of his translation of this ancient document needed refinement and improvement. As Sidney B. Sperry has observed:
"The sense of the First Edition has not been disturbed in latter editions, and the 'thousands' of changes are relatively minor in nature, in matters of punctuation, spelling, diction, correction of errors and the like. The thing that counts still remains, the message and sense of the original translation,"
The purpose of this article is to analyse some of the word changes made in the Book of Mormon during the three major editions printed during the lifetime of the Prophet Joseph Smith. To understand why some words were altered, reference will be made to the original and the printer's manuscripts. The approach will be to discuss the type of change, together with one or two examples that illustrate it, rather than to present a complete catalogue of every alteration that has been made. While the focus of attention will, of necessity, be upon the differences that exist between the early editions of the Book of Mormon, the reader should keep in mind that the basic text has remained essentially the same and that fundamental principles and teachings have not been altered.
The 1830 Edition and Its Punctuation
After the translation of the Book of Mormon was completed, the contract with Mr E. B. Grandin for 5000 copies at a cost of $3,000 was signed in August of 1829. The copying of the printer's manuscript, which was used by the typesetter, had been started in July 1829. The printing and binding of the Book of Mormon were finished and the book was offered for sale to the public on March 26, 1830, just eleven days before the Church was officially organized.
It should be mentioned that a peculiarity of both the original manuscript and the printer's manuscript were the absence of any punctuation-there were no paragraphs, and sentences had no formal end. Actually this is strong substantiation of the claim that the Book of Mormon was one long, dictated translation from beginning to end, particularly since, according to Dean Jesse; all "samples of Oliver Cowdery's writing show consistent punctuation with the single exception of revelations that were apparently dictated to him by Joseph Smith."
John H Gilbert, the typesetter for Mr Grandin, added punctuation to make the manuscript, as he said, "read as I supposed the Author intended". Generally his punctuation helped, but it certainly was not infallible and was consequently improved by later editors as they saw the need. Because of the punctuation that this typesetter imposed upon the text, the meaning of some passages was unfortunately obscured. This resulted either in later punctuation and word changes to clarify the original meaning or in the minor inaccuracy continuing unchanged to the present.
Corrections Made in the 1837 Edition
The second edition of the Book of Mormon was published under the direction of Parley P. Pratt and John Goodson in 1837, in Kirtland, Ohio. The typesetting and printing were done during the winter of 1836-37, with Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery taking an active part in the editing procedures. In this edition numerous changes were made from the 1830 text partly for the reason for the reason stated in the 1837 preface:
"Individuals acquainted with book printing, are aware of the numerous typographical errors which always occur in manuscript editions. It is only necessary to say, that the whole has been carefully re-examined and compared with the original manuscripts, by elder Joseph Smith, Jr., the translator of the book of Mormon, assisted by the present printer, brother O. Cowdery, who formerly wrote the greatest portion of the same, as dictated by brother Smith."
In the new edition over 100 obvious typographical errors of the earlier edition were corrected without reference to the manuscript. Also, many of the typesetter's misprints were corrected in 1837 to read the same as the printer's manuscript. It is actually more proper to call these kinds of alterations corrections rather than changes since they were corrected back to the reading of the manuscript. The corrections in 1837 based upon the printer's manuscript number at least seventy-five; from these just two examples are selected.
1 Nephi 22:2:
1830 Edition "they were made manifest unto the prophet, by the voice of the spirit; for by the spirit are all things made known unto the prophet"
1837 Edition "they were made manifest unto the prophet, by the voice of the spirit; for by the spirit are all things made known unto the prophets"
A number of singular-plural corrections were made in 1837, based upon the printer's manuscript. In this example, the plural "prophets" in the manuscript and the 1837 and following editions extends the reference to more than just the prophet Isaiah as is implied by the 1830 text.
1830 Edition "the secret combinations which Gadianton the nobler had established, in the more parts of the land"
1837 Edition" the secret combinations which Gadianton the robber had established, in the more parts of the land "
Calling Gadianton, who was the author of secret combinations, "the nobler" would seem strange indeed. But, as shown, this is what was printed in the first edition before it was corrected in 1837. Evidently what happened was that the manuscript was misread because Oliver Cowdery's handwritten 'r' looks like an 'n' and the 'b' very much like an 'L'.
Intentional Revisions in the 1837 Edition
In the preparation of the second edition, well over 2000 alterations were written onto the pages of the printer's manuscript, possibly by Joseph Smith himself. The greatest number of these revisions were minor improvements in grammatical consistency and sentence structure. For stylistic reasons several redundant phrases were crossed out in the printer's manuscript for elimination in the 1837 edition. The most common is the familiar phrase 'it came to pass,' which was deleted in forty-eight places. A few intentional revisions are clarifications or amplifications of the meaning of the text. The Prophet Joseph Smith, of course had a perfect right to clarify to anything that he felt needed improvement.
1 Nephi 8:4:
1830 Edition "for behold, me thought I saw a dark and dreary wilderness"
1837 Edition "for behold, me thought I saw in my dream, a dark and dreary wilderness"
At the beginning of the recounting of Lehi's vision of the tree of life, the phrase 'in my dream' was added above the line in the printer's manuscript and consequently appeared in the 1837 edition. Evidently this clarification was inserted to remind the reader that what Lehi 'saw' was in his visionary experience or dream.
1 Nephi 8:4:
1830 Edition "Behold, the virgin which thou seest, is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh."
1837 Edition "Behold, the virgin which thou seest, is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh."
The phrase "the Son of" was added to the printer's manuscript and the 1837 edition as a clarification, possibly to avoid the sectarian phrase "the mother of God" that had been objected to by early critics of the Book of Mormon. The "Son of " was also added to 1 Nephi 11:21,32, and in 13:40 in the 1837 edition. The term "Eternal Father" found in 1 Nephi 11:21 and 13:40 was ambiguous since it could properly refer to either the Father or the Son. For example, Eternal Father refers to God the Father in Moroni 4:3, 5:2, and 10:4, but to God the Son in Mosiah 16:15 and Alma 11:38-39. Although some have claimed that the meaning of the text was altered by these additions, a more plausible explanation is that the addition clarified whom the verse was referring to.
Errors in the 1837 Edition
Not all the changes can be explained as being consciously made; there appear to be some accidental typographical alterations or omissions. Some of these errors were difficult to detect and were perpetuated in edition after edition.
1830/ 1840 Editions, "this mortal does not put on immortality; this corruption does not put on incorruption, until after the coming of Christ."
1837 Edition "this mortal does not put on immorality; this corruption does not put on incorruption, until after the coming of Christ."
This example (and a similar one in Alma 41:4) shows a typographical error in the 1837 edition. Since the word "immorality" in the context was obviously improper, it was corrected in the 1840 edition.
1830 Edition "and he went to the city Gid, while the Lamanites were in a deep sleep, and drunken, and cast in the weapons of war."
1837 Edition "and he sent to the city Gid, while the Lamanites were in a deep sleep, and drunken, and cast in the weapons of war."
Sometimes a typographical error was printed involving only a single letter, which just happened to form a real word. In this case, the 1837 misprint of sent for the correct went has altered the picture of Morons brave personal efforts to rescue his captured soldiers from the Lamanites, so that it now appears he merely sent others to help them. The context makes clear, however, that Moroni went and " armed all those prisoners" himself (Alma 55:17,20.)
3 Nephi 3:23:
1830 Edition "And the land which was appointed was the land of Zarahemla, and the land which was between the land of Zarahemla and land Bountiful"
1837 Edition "And the land which was appointed was the land of Zarahemla, and the land and the land Bountiful."
The text in the 1837 Edition has certain internal inconsistencies because it states that the land(singular) appointed was actually the two lands of Zarahemla and Bountiful. However elsewhere in this chapter it is stated that Lachoneus and his people gathered together "unto one place" (3 Nephi 3:13) and "in one land, and in one body" (3 Nephi 3:25). The original text as found in the printer's manuscript and the 1830 edition states that the one area of land for the gathering comprised Zarahemla, and the land between it and Bountiful-that is, Zarahemla and the land up to but not including Bountiful. The reason that these words suddenly disappeared, beginning in 1837, can be best seen by examining the lines from a copy of the 1830 edition, where the words "the land of Zarahemla and the" are not crossed out in the printer's manuscript for deletion in the 1837 edition, what seems to have happened was that when the printer was setting type for the 1837 edition from a copy of the 1830 edition, his eye skipped down one line to this set of identical words; consequently, he eliminated one complete line in the new edition.
Corrections Made in the 1840 Edition
The third edition was published in 1840 at Nauvoo, Illinois, by Ebenezer Robertson and Don Carlos Smith. The first title page adds the significant statement that the Book of Mormon has been "Carefully Revised by the Translator," and the second title page adds the name Moroni, thus giving proper credit to Moroni who wrote this introduction to the Book of Mormon.
Since Oliver Cowdery had taken the printer's manuscript with him when he left the Church in April 1838, it was unavailable in 1840. However a few 1840 corrections in 1 Nephi are definitely based upon the original manuscript. Because some important variants in the original manuscript were not brought into the text in 1840, it seems that the revision was not only limited to the early portion of the text, but it was also sporadic and unsystematic. However, the four known examples of such editorial corrections in 1840 demonstrate that some use was made of the original manuscript; of these four cases, two have been selected.
1 Nephi 10:18:
1837 Edition "and the way is prepared from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him."
1840 Edition "and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him."
The meaningful phrase that indicates that the plan was for "all men" stood in the original manuscript but was omitted in the printer's manuscript and the first two editions. It was then introduced into the 1840 edition, based upon its presence in the original manuscript. This phrase was lost after the 1840 edition, but was restored to the text in the 1854 edition by Orson Pratt.
1 Nephi 18:18:
1837 Edition "yea, even they were near to be cast into the watery grave."
1840 Edition "yea, even they were near to be cast with sorrow into a watery grave"
Due to the many trials and much grief that Lehi and Sariah had suffered, they became sick on the ocean voyage and were "near to be cast, with sorrow, into a watery grave." The italicized phrase was found in the original manuscript, but accidentally omitted when the printer's manuscript was transcribed by Oliver Cowdery. Consequently, it did not appear in the 1830 and 1837 editions. The 1840 text was corrected to include it, but it did not appear in any edition afterward until it was restored to the text by James E. Talmage in the 1920 edition.
An Intentional Revision in the 1840 Edition
1837 Edition "Hearken and hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah."
1840 Edition "Hearken and hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah ( or out of the waters of baptism)"
This interesting passage illustrates an 1840 revision not based upon the original manuscript. The phrase "out of the waters of Judah" was expanded by the explanatory addition, "(or out of the waters of baptism)." There has been uncertainty concerning the authorship of this explanation of Isaiah 48:1. Its absence from both manuscripts, as well as the 1830 and 1837 editions, disposes of the idea that it was penned by either Isaiah or Nephi or Parley P. Pratt. A historical reminiscence by Ebenezer Robinson, who was responsible for the printing of the 1840 edition, indicated that this alteration was an editorial revision by the Prophet Joseph Smith. Ebenezer Robinson related:
"When he [Joseph Smith] refers to the waters of Judah or the waters of Baptism, he put a few words there in parentheses. That is the only thing, excepting some little ungrammatical expressions that were altered."
The words added in 1840 were made by Joseph Smith to clarify what Isaiah meant by "the waters of Judah" and, rather than changing the meaning, made explicit the intended meaning. Though printed in the 1840 edition, this explanatory phrase was lost from other editions of the Book of Mormon until it was restored by James E. Talmage in the current edition of the Book of Mormon.
The text of the Book of Mormon was changed after the first edition by (1) correction back to the reading of the manuscripts, (2) intentional revision and clarification by the translator [Joseph Smith], and (3) some unauthorized printing errors. Even though it has been shown that some alterations arose from accidental causes, still all efforts should be made to make it [the Book of Mormon] as perfect as man can make it.
As Wilford Woodruff recorded in his diary on November 28, 1841, Joseph Smith testified concerning the unique position and value of the Book of Mormon, saying that it was "the most correct of any Book on earth & the keystone of our religion & a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than any other Book." This testimony, just as applicable today as in 1841, emphasizes that it is by obedience to the book's precepts, ideas, and teachings-not by a knowledge of its grammatical structure or stylistic appeal-that one comes closer to God.
(See Response to Criticism home page; Accusatory Questions home page)
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