The Truth Will Set You Free

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29. Changes to the Book of Mormon. Why was it necessary to so many changes to, “The most correct book in the world?”

There have been many thousands of changes made to the Book of Mormon since the original 1830 and other early editions. Granted many are minor – grammatical and spelling corrections but there have been numerous substantive changes and doctrinal revisions as made as well:

Consider 1 Nephi 13:40

Original

“… These last records … shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father, and the Savior …”

Present

“… These last records … shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father and the Savior …”

Or, 1 Nephi 11:18

Original

“… These last records … shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father, and the Savior …”

Present

“… These last records … shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father and the Savior …”

Or,

Original

“… Behold, the virgin which thou seest, is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh.”

Present

“… Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.”

Original

Mosiah 9, p. 200King Benjamin had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings …

Present

Mosiah 21:28 King Mosiah had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings …

Original

1 Nephi 5, p. 52 … O house of Jacob, which are called out of the waters of Judah, which swear by the name of the Lord …

Present

1 Nephi 20:1 … O house of Jacob, which are called out of the waters of Judah, or out of the waters of baptism, which swear by the name of the Lord …

Original

2 Nephi 12, p. 117 … and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white and a delightsome people.

Present

2 Nephi 30:6 (1840 edition) … and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white pure and a delightsome.

A significant change made to the Book of Mormon is the name of the angel who is claimed, to have appeared in Joseph Smith’s bedroom. An event incidentally that four of Joseph’s brothers slept through. In the Joseph Smith’s first history, we learn that the angel’s name was Nephi: “He called me by name and said … that his name was Nephi” (Times and Seasons, vol. 3, p. 753). But in modern printings of the History of the Church, the name has been changed to “Moroni” (History of the Church, vol. 1, p. 11).

“The original handwritten manuscript shows the name as “Nephi,” but after Joseph’s death, someone later wrote the word “Moroni” above the line.

It should be noted that Joseph Smith lived for two years after the name “Nephi” was printed in the church’s official publication Times and Seasons, and never published a retraction or correction.

As well, the August 1842 edition of the Millennial Star, also printed Joseph Smith’s story stating that the angel’s name was “Nephi”

Millennial Star, vol. 3, p. 53

The name was also published in the 1851 edition of the Pearl of Great Price as “Nephi.”

Many members are also familiar with the Rocky Mountain Prophecy, that predicted that Salt Lake would be the place the Saints would settle after leaving Nauvoo. Unhappily, it is not true even though the church presented it as true for more than a century.

The ‘Rocky Mountain Prophecy’ was added after the Mormons arrived in Utah.

The Changing World of Mormonism, p. 406

Some LDS scholars have lamented the suppression of the truthful Church history. Leonard Arrington, the official LDS Church Historian (1972‐1982) voiced his concern over the withholding of true Church history in favor of a faith promoting version. Dr. Arrington wrote: “It is unfortunate for the cause of Mormon history that the Church Historian’s Library, which is in the possession of virtually all of the diaries of leading Mormons, has not seen fit to publish these diaries or to permit qualified historians to use them without restriction.”

Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Spring 1966, p. 26

Dr. Arrington’s refreshing honesty resulted in his demoted in 1982 and transferred from the church historian’s office to BYU.

Deseret News, Church Section, July 5, 1980

The above are not minor “typographical errors.” These are “errors” that make changes to characters names, completely alter the meaning and context of verses, and even modify the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Though defenders of the Book of Mormon often discount as minor or meaningless the tens of thousands of grammatical, syntactical and spelling errors that appear in the original edition, I think we need to seriously question this.

Apologists often claim that these changes were made to improve punctuation and fix a few, minor grammatical problems. This is a gross understatement.

The following are only a few of literally thousands of examples:

The original read, “… the cause of diseases which was subsequent to man, by the nature of the climate…” (page 353, 1830 Book of Mormon)

Today’s edition reads, “… the causes of diseases, to which men were subject, by the nature of the climate…”

Another example:

“And when Moroni had said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had wrote upon the rent, and crying with a loud voice…” 1

Today it reads, “And when Moroni had said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent part of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had written upon the rent part, crying with a loud voice…”

And, another example:

“… for behold, his army had been reduced by the Lamanites because of the numerority (sic) of their forces having slain a vast number of our men…” 2

The modern edition reads, “… for behold; his army had been reduced by the Lamanites because their forces had slain a vast number of our men…”

Commenting on the real significance of these numerous errors, B.H. Roberts, unquestionably one of the great historians in LDS church history, painfully admits that the errors in the original edition, were so numerous and such a part of the “web and woof of the style” of the text, that they could not be easily explained away:

“Are these flagrant errors in grammar chargeable to the Lord? To say so is to invite ridicule…the awkward, ungrammatical expression of the thoughts is, doubtless, the result of the translator’s imperfect knowledge of the English language … that old theory cannot be successfully maintained; that is, the Urim and Thummim did the translating, the Prophet, nothing beyond repeating what he saw reflected in that instrument; that God directly or indirectly is responsible for the verbal and grammatical errors of translation. To advance such a theory before intelligent and educated people is to unnecessarily invite ridicule, and make of those who advocate it candidates for contempt…” 3

Apologists often pooh-pooh any criticism here by talking about Joseph’s lack of education and his use of the frontier grammar of the day.

As well, numerous Mormon writers and apologists have tried to explain why these myriad mistakes exist in the first place, and why thousands of changes have been made in subsequent editions of the Book of Mormon.

Various suggestions have been made, including such things as Joseph Smith’s poor education, his lack of communication with those who later copied the text, and typesetting mistakes. These are all woefully inadequate.

Some have suggested that Smith was not given the actual words, but only the “idea” or “sense” of the things that were to be written – therefore, allowing for the possibility of all kinds of human error.

However, according to all reports; it was not Joseph Smith but his magic seer stone that did the translating, Smith just had to read and announced the words appearing on it.

This rendition, that ideas came to Joseph, not words, contradicts the many clear statements made by distinguished or at least well-known Mormon leaders who observed the process and had it explained to them by the man with his actual head in the hat.

David Whitmer, for example, said, “I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness, the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English.”

Martin Harris, another of the ‘three witnesses’ reported:

“…sentences would appear and were read by the prophet, and if correctly written, that sentence would disappear, and another appear in its place, but if not written correctly it remained until corrected, so that the translation was just as it was engraven on the plates, precisely in the language then used.”

George Reynolds, the secretary to President John Taylor said, “There were no delays over obscure passages, no difficulties over the choice of words, no stoppages from the ignorance of the translator; no time was wasted in investigation or argument over the value, intent, or meaning of certain characters, and there was no reference to authorities… All was as simple as when a clerk writes from dictation. The translation of the characters appeared… Sentence by sentence, and as soon as one was correctly transcribed the next would appear.”

Joseph Knight described the translation process. This way,

“Darkened his Eyes he would take a sentence and it would appear in Brite (sic) Roman Letters. Then he would tell the writer and he would write it. Then that would go away the next sentence (sic) would come and so on. But if it was not Spelt (sic) rite (sic) it would not go away till it was rite…”

The above statements are significant, in that they explain the specific nature of the translating – the very words being given by God, spelled out, recorded properly, one character at a time, then repeated and corrected in the case of error. All directed by “the gift and power of God,”

Emma Smith, in an 1856 interview also described the process:

“When my husband was translating the Book of Mormon, I wrote a part of it, as he dictated each sentence, word for word, and when he came to proper names he could not pronounce, or long words, he spelled them out, and while I was writing them, if I made a mistake in spelling, he would stop me and correct my spelling, although it was impossible for him to see how I was writing them down at the time.”

The one thing that is consistent with all these descriptions is that they portray a visual “crawl” coming across something that looks like parchment. Obviously, the only way these witnesses would know of, and repeat almost verbatim; this account is that Joseph had told them that this was the method.

Ok, here is the rub. If we accept that Joseph Smith simply read words and sentences appearing on the seer stone, then we must assign responsibility for errors in language to a Divine instrumentality, that is God is not very skilled in the English language and a remarkably bad writer. This is absurd and ridiculous, even blasphemous. Or, if the contention is that the phraseology of the Book of Mormon, – letter for letter and word for word was given to the Smith by the direct inspiration of God, acting upon his mind, then again God is made accountable for the thousands and thousands of errors in the Book of Mormon again, inconceivable.

There have been many LDS leaders and Mormon apologists that have claimed that the errors in the original 1830 Book of Mormon are simply typographical. This is really grasping at straws.

The venerated early Mormon historian, B.H. Roberts made it clear that he did not buy it:

“That errors of grammar and faults in dictation do exist in the Book of Mormon (and more especially and abundantly in the first edition) must be conceded; and what is more, while some of the errors may be referred to inefficient proof-reading, such as is to be expected in a country printing establishment, yet such is the nature of the errors in question, and so interwoven are they throughout the diction of the Book, that they may not be disposed of by saying they result from inefficient proof-reading or referring them to the mischievous disposition of the ‘typos’ or the unfriendliness of the publishing house. The errors are constitutional in their character; they are of the web and woof of the style, and not such errors as may be classed as typographical. Indeed, the first edition of the Book of Mormon is singularly free from typographical errors.4

How then could there be mistakes, English may not have been the Lord first language, but I would suggest He certainly has a perfect knowledge of it. Surely the Mormon apologists aren’t suggesting He only had a fundamental grasp of grammar, spelling, syntax and sentence structure.

Nor can these mistakes be blamed on typesetting errors. When we compare, the original handwritten manuscript allegedly dictated by Joseph Smith, and the corrected handwritten one from which the first printing was made, we discover copious changes—and this was before the typesetting was even done!

How then could the misspelled words below get into a translation supposedly overseen by the “power of God”?

adhear” (for adhere; Alma 60:34)
bablings” (for babblings; Alma 1:32)
bellowses” (for bellows; 1 Nephi 17:11)
feading” (for feeding; Enos 1:20)
eigth” (for eighth; Alma 53:23)
eatheth” (for eateth; 3 Nephi 20:8)
journied” (for journeyed; 1 Nephi 4:38; 5:6; 7:6; 18:25
phrensied” (for frenzied; Alma 30:16)
rereward” (for rearward; 3 Nephi 20:42; 21:29)
sayeth” (for saith; Mosiah 12:21)
tempels” (for temples; Alma 16:13)
yars” (for years; Alma 19:16)

Joseph’s grammar was even worse:

A few of the thousands of grammatical errors – incorrect adjectives and adverbs, double negatives, etc. are shown below:

  • “And this he done” (Alma 2:10).
  • “They did not fight against God no more” (Alma 23:7).
  • “And now behold the Lamanites could not retreat neither way” (Helaman 1:31).
  • “Yea, if my days could have been in them days” (Helaman 7:8).
  • “And Mosiah, nor the people of Mosiah, could not understand them” (Omni 1:17).
  • “And it came to pass that there was certain men passing by” (Helaman 7:11).
  • “That all might see the writing which he had wrote” (Alma 46:19).
  • “I have wrote to them” (3 Nephi 26:8).
  • “I were about to write to them” (3 Nephi 26:11).
  • “…which was wrote upon the plates…” (Alma 44:24).
  • “…that there might not be no more sorrow” (Alma 29:2).
  • “Adam and Eve, which was our first parents…,” (1 Nephi 5:11).
  • “…the multitude had all eat” (3 Nephi 20:9).
  • “I Moroni have written the words which was commanded” (Ether 5:1).
  • “…the gates of hell is…” (3 Nephi 18:13).

Redundancy too is an issue; many words and phrases that are and repeated ad nauseam:

The phrase, “And it came to pass,” occurring over 1200 times. Mark Twain commented that “Whenever he found his speech growing too modern—which was about every sentence or two—he ladled in a few such Scriptural phrases as “exceeding sore,” “and it came to pass,” etc., and made things satisfactory again. “And it came to pass” was his pet. If he had left that out, his Bible would have been only a pamphlet.”

Also unlike the Bible, the Book of Mormon is much too wordy, another example of poor writing. Far too many words are used to express a simple thought or idea. For example, 4 Nephi 6:

“And thus did the thirty and eight years pass away, also the thirty and ninth, and forty and first, and the forty and second, yea even until forty and nine years had passed away, and also the fifty and second; yea, and even until fifty and nine years had passed away.

Why not just say, “59 years had passed!”

Likewise, the overuse of the words “behold,” insomuch” and “thereof,” often used repeatedly and needlessly.

FairMormon’s Comments

Why was it necessary to make thousands of changes to the Book of Mormon, ‘the most correct book in the world.’

Again, no comments on what I have written, just links to FairMormon website, however, I will add a few additional comments.

I would like to comment that contrary to Joseph Smith’s statement “I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors,” the Holy Bible was transmitted so inerrantly that even professor Richard L. Anderson, of the LDS’s own Brigham Young University, commented:

“For a book to undergo progressive uncovering of its manuscript history and come out with so little debatable in its text is a great tribute to its essential authenticity. First, no new manuscript discovery has produced serious differences in the essential story. This survey has disclosed the leading textual controversies, and together they would be well within one percent of the text. Stated differently, all manuscripts agree on the essential correctness of 99 percent of all the verses in the New Testament.”

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