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

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

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

“If There Be Faults, They Be Faults of a Man”¹

Review of John S. Dinger, ed., Significant Textual Changes in the Book of Mormon: The First Printed Edition Compared to the Manuscripts and to the Subsequent Major LDS English Printed Editions (Salt Lake City: Smith-Pettit Foundation/Signature Books, 2013); with foreword by Stan Larson; 418pp+ xxxvi; hardbound edition limited to 501 copies; ISBN 978-1-56085-233-9

It has been nearly 40 years since I walked into the BYU office of Stanley R. Larson in the early summer of 1974. Stan had just completed his master’s thesis, and he proudly displayed a hot-off-the-press copy of it on his desk. Stan was justifiably proud, and I could see right away while thumbing through it that this was a very important work that could be utilized as the basis for a critical text of the Book of Mormon. I did not realize then that this would become a part of Ellis T. Rasmussen’s much larger effort to prepare a new edition of LDS Scriptures (I had met Ellis in the Holy Land, and he was later kind enough to show me a mock-up of a page of the planned new edition to see what I thought of it). Continue reading

The Original Text of the Book of Mormon and its Publication by Yale University Press

An earlier version of the following paper was presented 5 August 2010 at a conference sponsored by FAIR, the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (now FairMormon). The text of this paper is copyrighted by Royal Skousen. The photographs that appear in this paper are also protected by copyright. Photographs of the original manuscript are provided courtesy of David Hawkinson and Robert Espinosa and are reproduced here by permission of the Wilford Wood Foundation. Photographs of the printer’s manuscript are provided courtesy of Nevin Skousen and are reproduced here by permission of the Community of Christ. The text of the Yale edition of The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text (2009) is copyrighted by Royal Skousen; Yale University Press holds the rights to reproduce this text.

In this paper I discuss the work of the Book of Mormon critical text project and the attempt to restore and publish the original text of the Book of Mormon. I’ve been working on the critical text project from 1988 up to the present, and thus far ten books have been published as part of this project. Continue reading