FAIR conference, number four: Royal Skousen, ‘Do We Need to Make Changes to the Book of Mormon text?’

Royal Skousen is a professor of linguistics and English language at BYU. He has been the editor of the Book of Mormon Critical Text Project since 1988. He edited “The Book of Mormon, the Earliest Text.”

Any serious study of the Book of Mormon requires the most accurate text possible.

Objections to making changes:

1)The changes are innocuous or insignificant.
2)There are no changes in the doctrine or to the basic narrative, so don’t make any changes.
3)One should not reverse Joseph Smith’s editing for the 1837 and 1840 editions.

Some changes clearly worthwhile. The 1981 committee that brought the current edition of the BoM changed Alma 62:36 in a way that seems to make sense. Joseph Smith also changed his mind (1 Nephi 3:3).

Prof. Skousen’s point is that over time our current version of the Book of Mormon contains pretty significant errors that were not deliberate but were part of the printing and/or editing process.

Reminder on different manuscripts: 0 is the original manuscript. P is the printer’s manuscript.

Examples of differences: 1 Nephi 8:31 — is it “feeling” your way or “pressing” their way?

1 Nephi 12:18 — it is “word of God’s justice” or “sword of God’s justice?” Sword seems to be correct.

Alma 17:1 — met “with” the sons of Mosiah. 50 times in the Book of Mormon, it says “met,” not “met with.” Printer’s manuscript is correct, not original.

Another point: the original language is very consistent with the King James Bible. Some changes have taken away these similarities. Example 1 Nephi 10:10. Also 2 Nephi 31:4. 1 Nephi 20:1 — “(or out of the waters of baptism)” — this was originally a footnote with parentheses — not part of the text. In 1920, the parentheses of the footnote were taken away.

Alma 42:2 — should be “drove out the man” not “drew out the man.”

Another point: transmission errors or typos.

1 Nephi 15:16 — should be “numbered,” not “remembered.”

1 Nephi 15:36 — should be “separated,” not “rejected.”

1 Nephi 19:4 — should be “that they should do,” not “what they should do.”

Mosiah 17:13 — Skousen believes it may be more appropriate to use the word “scorched” than “scourged.” One means “burned,” the other means “beat.” Abinadi was burned, not scourged.

Alma 19:30 — should be “clapped,” not “clasped.” (Skousen clapped his hands to give an example that “clapped” makes more sense than “clasped.”)

Are there any doctrinal changes?

Alma 39:13 — should be “repair that wrong which ye have done.” This makes more sense as part of the repentance process.

Alma 43:13–14 — should be “dissenters were as numerous,” not as “descendents were as numerous.”
Skousen says this is very important to be changed.

Alma 43:38 — should be “by their wounds,” not “by their swords.”

Alma 47:13 — should be “the second leader,” not “a second leader.”

Alma 51:15 — should be “he should heed it,” not “read it.”

Ether 1:41 — should be “thy family,” not “thy families.” The Brother of Jared (as far as we know) was not a polygamist and did not have “families,” but only one family.

Archaic vocabulary:

Mosiah 3:19 — “but if he yieldeth” is correct, even though it is archaic.

Alma 37:37 — should be “counsel,” not “counsel with.” In archaic language, “counsel” means mutual discussions, not telling the Lord what to do.

Prof. Skousen used many other examples. There are times when Amlicites and Amalekites are confused, for example.

I apologize to Prof. Skousen for any errors on my part as the person taking notes. This was a very complex subject, and it is likely I have some typos up there.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

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