A Perspective on the Church and the Gospel

An often misunderstood idea among some Latter-day Saints is that the Church has made changes for the worse in its positions since some time in the “good old days” –the early years, or the pioneer period, or any other time one chooses as a reference point. It may be worthwhile taking a short historical excursion in order to gain a more rational and enlightened perspective.

The Gospel

We may be sure that the universe operates strictly according to principles of truth—“the way things (really) are.” There is no other way it could operate. Our problem as less-than-perfect instruments for grasping truth is to align ourselves as far as possible with those truths in the conduct of our lives. God lives exclusively by truth, and he is anxiously concerned to facilitate our attempts at reaching that hoped for alignment. Left largely to ourselves in thinking about important matters, every person fumbles
around a good deal and makes many errors in interpreting how God operates His universe. He knows this is inevitable in us, given our mortal limitations in thinking/grasping. He told the prophet Joseph Smith that “every man [and woman] walketh in his[/her] own way, and after the image of his[/her] own god” (D. & C 1:16). Unaided by a universe-wide perspective, we cannot escape our own random subjectivities. Continue reading

Changes in The Book of Mormon

Editor’s note: This article will eventually be published in the journal, Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture. It appears here as a preliminary publication.

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”. In this 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 will 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.

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Musings on the Making of Mormon’s Book: 1 Nephi 19:1-21

Chapter 19 is not a separate chapter in the 1830 edition. However, in the 1830 edition, the chapter V in which it is included ends where we have verse 21. Because that was an original chapter break, I am looking at chapter 19 only up to verse 21 to have the opportunity of looking at why Nephi would make the decision to break the chapter at that point.

1 Ne. 18:25 And it came to pass that we did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in the wilderness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men. And we did find all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper.

1 Ne. 19:1 And it came to pass that the Lord commanded me, wherefore I did make plates of ore that I might engraven upon them the record of my people. And upon the plates which I made I did engraven the record of my father, and also our journeyings in the wilderness, and the prophecies of my father; and also many of mine own prophecies have I engraven upon them.

I have added the last verse of our chapter 18 to the beginning of 19 to restore the sense in which Nephi intended us to see those two ideas. Nephi brought his narrative to the New World and gave an almost formulaic account of their arrival. They came, the found what they needed to survive, and they found “all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper.” Finding the gold, silver and copper should not be of the same survival importance of finding animals “for the use of men.” Nevertheless, it does fit into the context of exploring their new land and finding things that would be important to them. Continue reading

Musings on the Making of Mormon’s Book: 1 Nephi 18

Our chapter 18 is not a separate chapter in the 1830 edition.

1 And it came to pass that they did worship the Lord, and did go forth with me; and we did work timbers of curious workmanship. And the Lord did show me from time to time after what manner I should work the timbers of the ship.

2 Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men.

3 And I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things.

4 And it came to pass that after I had finished the ship, according to the word of the Lord, my brethren beheld that it was good, and that the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine; wherefore, they did humble themselves again before the Lord.

This is the conclusion to the problem of building the ship. The aftermath of the conflict was temporary reconciliation that allowed the construction of the ship. The point of these verses is to verify that Yahweh was directing the project. Nephi underscores that Yahweh is the builder behind the physical labor the family contributes. Continue reading

Animals in the Book of Mormon: Challenges and Perspectives


Providing another witness of Jesus Christ is the primary purpose of the Book of Mormon. His teachings are the central reason for this sacred Book. Within the Book of Mormon itself evidences are provided which attest to its truthfulness. This includes some of the animals mentioned as well as plants, materials (raw and manufactured), culture(s), words used and more. The degree of consistency concerning all these topics in our view overwhelmingly indicates that Joseph Smith could not have written the Book of Mormon of his own knowledge. Even the most informed experts of his day would not have known much about the archaeological or other scientific details given in this Book. At age 22, when Joseph Smith Jr. first began translating the gold plates, he had but a smattering of formal education. In his own words, “Deprived of the bennifit of an education, suffice it to say I was merely instructttid in reading and writing and the ground <rules> of Arithmatic which const[it]uted my whole literary attainments.”1  His wife Emma observed that at the time he translated the Book of Mormon Joseph Smith, “could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter, let alone dictate a book like the Book of Mormon.”2 Continue reading