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About Royal Skousen

Royal Skousen, professor of linguistics and English language at Brigham Young University, has been the editor of the Book of Mormon critical text project since 1988. Volumes 1, 2, and 4 of the critical text are published by the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies. In 2009, Skousen published with Yale University Press the culmination of his critical text work, The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text. He is also known for his work on exemplar-based theories of language and quantum computing of analogical modeling.

Restoring the Original Text of the Book of Mormon

Abstract: The Book of Mormon Critical Text Project, under the editorship of Royal Skousen, began in 1988 and is now nearing completion. In 2001, facsimile transcripts of the two Book of Mormon manuscripts (volumes 1 and 2 of the critical text) were published by the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS). From 2004 to 2009 the six books of volume 4 of the critical text, Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, were published, also by FARMS. Parts 1 and 2 of volume 3 of the critical text, The History of the Text of the Book of Mormon, will be published in early 2015. These two parts will describe all the grammatical editing that the Book of Mormon text has undergone, from 1829 up to the present. When all six parts of volume 3 of the critical text have been published, volume 5 of the critical text, A Complete Electronic Collation of the Book of Mormon, will be released. Within the next couple years, the Joseph Smith Papers will publish photographs of the two Book of Mormon manuscripts, along with transcriptions based on volumes 1 and 2 of the critical text. Nearly all of the work of the project has involved the knowledge and periodic involvement of the Scriptures Committee of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The project itself, however, remains independent of the Church, and none of its findings have involved any ecclesiastical approval or endorsement. Continue reading

Tyndale Versus More in the Book of Mormon

In 1526 William Tyndale’s English-language The New Testament started showing up in England, printed in the Low Lands and smuggled into England because it was an illegal book. It represented an unapproved translation of the scriptures into the English language. In theory, a translation would have been allowed if the Church had approved it in advance. In reality, the Church was not interested in any translation of the scriptures since that would allow lay readers to interpret the scriptures on their own and to come to different conclusions regarding Church practices and doctrine. Moreover, scripture formed a fundamental role in the rise of the Protestant Reformation and, in particular, Lutheranism, which King Henry VIII had officially opposed, in the governing of his realm and in his own writings in defense of the Catholic Church (for which the Church had honored him with the title of Defender of the Faith). Continue reading

Changes in The Book of Mormon

Author’s preface: I originally gave this presentation in August 2002 at the LDS FAIR conference held in Orem, Utah. A transcript of this paper, based on the 2002 version, appears online at www.fairmormon.org. Since then I have published updated versions of the first half of that original presentation. The most recent history of the Book of Mormon critical text project can be found in my article “The Original Text of the Book of Mormon and its Publication by Yale University Press”, published in 2013 in Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, volume 7, pages 57-96. Until now, I have not published a printed version of the second half of my original presentation, “Changes in the Book of Mormon”.

Abstract: In that part of the original article (here presented with some minor editing), I first describe the different kinds of changes that have occurred in the Book of Mormon text over the years and provide a fairly accurate number for how many places the text shows textual variation. Then I turn to five changes in the text (“the five chestnuts”) that critics of the Book of Mormon continually refer to. At the conclusion of the original article, I provide some specific numbers for the different types of changes in the history of the Book of Mormon text, including the number of changes introduced in The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text, the definitive scholarly edition of the Book of Mormon, published in 2009 by Yale University Press. Continue reading

Another Account of Mary Whitmer’s Viewing of the Golden Plates

Carl T. Cox has graciously provided me with a new account of Moroni showing the Book of Mormon plates to Mary Whitmer (1778-1856), wife of Peter Whitmer Senior. Mary was the mother of five sons who were witnesses to the golden plates: David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses; and Christian Whitmer, Jacob Whitmer, John Whitmer, and Peter Whitmer Junior, four of the eight witnesses.

For a long time we have known that Mary Whitmer was also shown the plates. These accounts are familiar and derive from David Whitmer and John C. Whitmer (the son of John Whitmer). For comparison’s sake, I provide here two versions of their accounts (in each case, I have added some paragraphing). Continue reading

A Brief History of Critical Text Work on the Book of Mormon

I begin this brief historical account of alternative work on the critical text of the Book of Mormon by including material that I wrote in an original, longer review of John S. Dinger’s Significant Textual Changes in the Book of Mormon (Smith-Pettit Foundation: Salt Lake City, Utah, 2013). The final, shorter review appears in BYU Studies 53:1 (2014). The Interpreter recently published Robert F. Smith’s review of Dinger. In these additional comments, I especially concentrate on work done in the 1970s by Stan Larson on the text of the Book of Mormon. In the latter part of this account, I discuss the more recent work of Shirley Heater in producing The Book of Mormon: Restored Covenant Edition. Continue reading