Skip to comments.BYU prof finds truth and error(s) in Book of Mormon
Posted on 09/14/2009 7:44:17 PM PDT by Colofornian
Spanish Fork » Joseph Smith may have called The Book of Mormon the "most correct of any book on Earth," but that doesn't mean it couldn't use some correcting -- even now, 179 years after it first came off the press.
Regarded by a worldwide faith of nearly 14 million members as Holy Writ, the book is not wholly without errors -- typos, omissions, grammatical goofs and altogether wrong words. Mistakes have crept into the text since LDS Church founder Joseph Smith dictated the original manuscript, which he says he translated with God's help from gold plates.
Truth is, the book -- which tells the story of ancient American inhabitants who sailed from the Holy Land -- contained more than 2,000 textual errors in its first edition in 1830, according to Brigham Young University professor Royal Skousen's new book, The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text , due out later this month from Yale University Press.
"If someone has the view that nobody has made a mistake, they are going to be gravely disappointed," Skousen says. "You see the fingerprints of human beings all over this text from its original dictation from Joseph Smith."
Yet Skousen also sees the fingerprint of heavenly revelation in the not-so-perfect text -- so closely analyzed by this professor of linguistics and English that multicolored sticky tabs curl from the pages of the 20 editions (some bound with rubber bands) in the basement office of his Spanish Fork home.
He has unearthed Hebrew-like sentences within the original manuscript containing conditional "if-and" phrases, instead of the more traditional "if-then" English constructions, that were altered in the earliest editions. He has discovered more than 130 words and phrases that, although printed in different variations in today's 1981 text, are fully consistent in the original documents. And he has identified redundancies -- an extra 47 of the seemingly ubiquitous "and it came to passes" deleted from various editions -- that reflect similar redundancies that appeared in the Hebrew Bible but weren't included in the King James version.
While The Book of Mormon's language has evolved since the dictation of Smith's original manuscript, Skousen says he has found no changes or errors within its pages that challenge fundamental LDS doctrines.
"It is a marvelous text," Skousen says. "I have never found anything that is not faith promoting."
Still, he has documented hundreds of cases of textual transformations within the book -- the "sword" of justice becoming the "word" of justice, the wicked being "rejected" rather than "separated" from the righteous, and the Lord knowing how to "succor" his people instead of "suffer" them.
He also has noted occasional mix-ups between Book of Mormon figures Benjamin and Mosiah, an abundance of spelling and grammatical slips, and sometimes-sentence-changing omissions such as this one from the Book of Alma, in which a prophet-father counsels his promiscuous son on how to find forgiveness.
"Acknowledge your faults and repair that wrong which ye have done," the original manuscript reads. The 1830 edition changed "repair" to "retain." The 1920 and 1981 editions omit "repair" and "retain."
Based on more than two decades of research, Skousen's new volume (due out Sept. 22) features a reconstruction of The Book of Mormon's original text, complete with an appendix that highlights more than 700 significant textual changes since Smith's dictation.
This new edition of the bedrock LDS scripture -- appearing in an easier-to-read contemporary format -- emerges from Skousen's analysis of the original transcript (only 28 percent of the document survived), the printer's version of the manuscript (a copy of the original) and the 1830 edition.
It also boasts a prestigious publisher: Yale University Press.
"What this says -- from the standpoint of being published by a press of that stature -- is that Mormonism has become an exceedingly important part of the story of American religion," says Jan Shipps, a longtime scholar of Mormonism and an emeritus professor of history and religious studies at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis.
The Yale edition also reflects Skousen's insistence on an independent scholarly review of The Book of Mormon, which he argues is necessary to bring the text "out of obscurity."
"The book stands on its own," Skousen says. "I don't think that anyone needs to worry that by having it independently produced divorces it from someone getting a spiritual experience reading it."
The LDS Church declined to comment on Skousen's work or the likelihood of the faith someday revising its 1981 text to reflect his findings. Instead, the church reprised a statement from 2008 noting that any editorial revisions to The Book of Mormon have been to eliminate typographical, grammatical and syntactical mistakes.
The church reports 4,000 edits since its first 1830 edition -- "which" was changed to "who" 891 times, "was" became "were" 162 times and "that" was deleted 188 times.
"The purpose of each new edition is to eliminate the human errors that have occurred," the statement reads. "This is all aimed at bringing the text into conformity with the message and meaning of the original manuscripts."
Critics contend that changes to The Book of Mormon's text cast doubt on Joseph Smith's claim that he translated the book through divine revelation. If the words truly came from God, they argue, why would they need correcting?
Perhaps one of the most controversial changes came in describing what would happen to dark-skinned people who followed Jesus Christ. The printer's manuscript suggests in 2 Nephi 30:6 they would become "a white and delightsome people." Later editions state that they would become "a pure and delightsome people."
Skousen dismisses any political motivations behind the current use of the word "pure," saying similar phrases with possible racial implications appear in 10 other places in the text. If the church meant to sanitize the book racially, he asks, why didn't it change all of those references?
As for Skousen, he has changed the text back to "white" to reflect the earliest manuscripts.
Daniel Peterson, a professor of Islamic studies and Arabic at Brigham Young University, calls Skousen's work a "monument of LDS scholarship."
While some may view The Book of Mormon's textual imperfections as destructive to the faith, Peterson doesn't see it that way. To the contrary, the mistakes made in the earliest transcript confirm Smith's story that he dictated the narrative to a scribe. Why? Because the errors in that first manuscript were mistakes of hearing. Later errors in the printing process were mistakes of seeing.
Shipps, who is not a Mormon, seems equally willing to give the book -- though flawed -- the benefit of a doubt.
"I don't think it raises serious questions about The Book of Mormon as a text," Shipps says. Without modern-day recording equipment, "it makes perfect sense that a book that was taken down by dictation would get spelling wrong or words out of place."
Skousen doesn't expect all of his changes ever to appear in the church's official version of The Book of Mormon. It would be tough to read, for one thing, with nonstandard English and grammatical eyesores that appeared before the first printing.
But he believes many of the more significant shifts, supported by his analysis of the manuscripts, someday will.
"It may take a while," he says, "but I think they will probably end up in the standard text."
And, when they do, his goal, finally, will have come to pass.
Listen, with the Bible you have Hebrew & Greek and distinct interpretations of phrasing and even meaning on some things (though not major doctrinal issues)...with the Book of Mormon, they have no original gold-plated text -- therefore they have no excuses for doing any editing -- especially any editing when you don't know who the editors are and why they have changed something.
The BIGGEST impact all of these edits have had is that they clearly help erase the obviousness of the original text that a portion of the Book of Mormon was written by an uneducated, grammar-challenged bumpkin -- in which suddenly phrases stolen word-for-word out of the King James Bible stand out in major contrast.
The obviousness of this contrast is greatly diluted by the perhaps hundreds of Book of Mormon editors of what Joseph Smith called "the most correct book on earth."
From the article: Critics contend that changes to The Book of Mormon's text cast doubt on Joseph Smith's claim that he translated the book through divine revelation. If the words truly came from God, they argue, why would they need correcting?
Exactly. And then note what Jan Shipps & the article portion following this excerpt does...it blames it all on the person recording the dictation -- with no evidence either that he heard wrong -- or no sifting of the evidence indicating that of course Joseph Smith reviewed the dictation before it was published.
I mean, imagine you're "recording" dictation by God's direction. A painstaking process. And then you're going to let that painstaking process go for naught just cause you don't want to proofread what was dictated? Nonsense. If Joseph Smith could re-edit the King James Bible and proofread it to the point of changing words, adding words, erasing words -- all which he did in the mid-1830s, then he could to the same 5-6 years earlier by proofreading the Book of Mormon.
From the article: Perhaps one of the most controversial changes came in describing what would happen to dark-skinned people who followed Jesus Christ. The printer's manuscript suggests in 2 Nephi 30:6 they would become "a white and delightsome people." Later editions state that they would become "a pure and delightsome people."
Well, who was the Book of Mormon editor who thought up this change? Did he revelational seer authority to make changes in Lds "scripture?" And what about the other 4,000+ changes? Same question of authority?
Also, Skousen claims no doctrinal texts were authored...but if Mormons believe the Son of God and God are two totally separate beings, then why was "the Son of" added to several verses post-original? (1 Nephi 11:18; 13:40). In the original text, 1 Nephi 11:18, 21 said "the virgin whom thous seest is the mother of God"
let us know when you find the elephants, horses, iron weapons, oh, and of course that Blacks are cursed....that’s until the civil rights movement got hold of that moroni.....
This belongs right next to that other great book of faith...Dianetics!
Sad, so very sad.
Well, one thing I can think of which happened in the 19th century was the Protestant movement as a whole trended away from reverence towards Mary, which they had retained for centuries after the split from the Catholic Church. In Protestant America, so long divorced from the culture of Europe, the reverence towards Mary began to feel alien to the fundamentals of the faith, and so the reverence of Mary became “Mariolatry” in the rhetoric of hot-headed preachers.
Surely, the original Protestant leaders excised much about Mary from their doctrines, but yet they did honor her as the Mother of God, eternal virgin and exemplar of the Christian faith.
“Without modern-day recording equipment, “it makes perfect sense that a book that was taken down by dictation would get spelling wrong or words out of place.”
Or, like just make stuff up...
It simply doesn’t matter. It isn’t about anything objective.
It’s about the burning of moroni macaroni in the bosomi.
If he only found faith promoting material, he obviously didn’t read the well named Book of Ether.
The protestants had no need to declare themselves sole guard of faith, unlike the corrupt Pope who delared himself free from error in faith and morals, after he lost his temporal power over the Papal States. (having proven him self not free from error in miltary matters)
Without modern-day recording equipment, it makes perfect sense that a book that was taken down by dictation would get spelling wrong or words out of place.
Yes, that mormon god was just not a gud speller, was he ???
Blah blah blah blah.
Personally, I’d be very interested to compare the texts, and see whether the errors seem like the sort which can be made by imperfect transcription.
Interestingly, ROR is an abbreviation both for Ether and Rip-off Report.
Joey Smith claims he was dictating only one word at a time...
How bad could it be ???
The word was supposedly right in front of him...
“it” “came” to” “pass”
If the transcriber needed to know how to spell a word...
“Pass. How is that spelt?”
Remember the word didnt disappear from the rock-in-the-hat until it was read back to Joey...and 100% CORRECT..
Well, as correct as a yawny fable can be...
Eh, Mark Twain ???
To bad most of the rest of you can't see this reality.
Ya know, given that this is the religion forum, maybe I should explain myself:
You’ll note my comments were specifically about Mormonism. I wasn’t hijacking a thread. I cast no aspersions as to why Protestants in general ceased their attention to Mary. I simply noted an historical trend which could account for Mormonism changing “mother of God.” You come in with blather about “the corrupt pope” this and irrelevant military issues that. (Yeah, the big failure of the papacy militarily was it decided to counterattack the Islamic invasion).
You know what? There is a brain-addled public-screwel education moron who hasn’t heard that a billion times. It’s drilled into every child as part of their American indoctrination. So did you really feel you were adding anything to the conversation by bringing it up? Or was this just a knee-jerk response: “Someone said something about Catholicism... I have to bad-mouth the papacy!!!!”?
So that’s why the “blah blah blah blah” comment... I’ve heard it a billion times from every brand of Protestant, atheist, liberal, non-Catholic conservative, communist, Democrat, freemason, school teacher, news commentator, columnist, talk head, blah, blah, blah.
That is because the bom did not contain fundamental mormon doctrines to begin with -
Plurality of Gods
Plurality of wives doctrine
Word of Wisdom
God is an exalted man
Men may become Gods
Three degrees of glory
Baptism for the dead
The Aaronic & Melchizedek Priesthoods
Temple works of washings, anointing, endowments, sealing.
If you knew anything about religion, you would realize that it was Jesus,not a corrupt Pope,who originated infallibility...He gave to Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven...whatsoever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven...I will be with you from now until the end of time. Why would Christ want to be associated with an error prone organization?...The Popes seldom speak Ex Cathedra, that is without error, but when they do...it is without error. Find one example refuting that statement, and the entire infallibility question is moot.
What is it about Mormonism that makes you all feel so threatened?
Not according to the witnesses
David Whitmer was one of the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon. The majority of the translation work took place in the Whitmer home.
"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. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man." (David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, Richmond, Missouri: n.p., 1887, p. 12.)
Martin Harris, also one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon
By aid of the seer stone, sentences would appear and were read by the Prophet and written by Martin and when finished he would say "Written," 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.(Edward Stevenson, "One of the Three Witnesses," reprinted from Deseret News, 30 Nov. 1881 in Millennial Star, 44 (6 Feb. 1882): 86-87.)
I doubt the esteemed scholar reviewed these historic sources either.
Discuss the issues all you want, but do not make it personal.
The only truth in the BOM are those parts lifted from the Bible ....