There are 17 thoughts on “Changing Critics’ Criticisms of Book of Mormon Changes”.

  1. >>>Skousen explains, “The problem has to do with how the chronology is interpreted in the books of Mosiah. The two original readings with Benjamin are very likely correct. Although Benjamin is unexpected, it appears that king Benjamin lived long enough to be still alive when Ammon and his men returned to Zarahemla with the people of king Limhi (in Mosiah 22).

    While I really appreciate Skousen’s work and agree that Benjamin was most likely the correct choice, it doesn’t have to be that Benjamin was still alive when Ammon returned to Zarahemla with Lemhi’s people in Mosiah 22. It only has to be that he was alive when Ammon left Zarahemla in Mosiah 7. Because of lack of contact between Zarahemla and Nephi, at the time Ammon told King Lemhi those words, he would not have known anything that had happened at Zarahemla since he and his party left Zarahemla. It took 40 days to cross the wilderness between Zarahemla and Nelphi (that could simply be “many days” except “many days” is used several times to discuss distances and 40 days is stated twice for that journey, so I tend to think Mormon wanted to say 40 days and not symbolically mean “many days” in the text; he also twice mentions that they wandered in the wilderness to explain the long time).

    The story of King Benjamin’s speech and the coronation of Mosiah ends with a statement that Benjamin died 3 years after Mosiah started his reign. Then we move to the next story about Mosiah sending Ammon to find the city of Nephi which occurred 3 years after Mosiah took the throne. So, both Benjamin’s death and Ammon being sent occurred at about the same time–3 years after Mosiah took the throne, but these events could have been separated by months.

    Benjamin’s death is mentioned just before Mosiah sent Ammon, so one might think that Benjamin’s death occurred first, but Benjamin’s death was the closing of the story of regal succession and the sending of Ammon was the opening of the main story in the Book of Mosiah–namely learning about what happened to the people that had earlier gone to Nephi. The Book of Mosiah is full of flashbacks and non-linear time progression. It makes sense from a literary point of view that Ammon could have been sent before Benjamin died and would not have known Benjamin had died until he returned to Zarahemla after he told Limhi about the seer.

  2. Pingback: Book of Mormon Changes (almost all spelling, grammar, and punctuation) – Why the LDS Church is True

  3. Skousen and Carmack’s important discovery that “the original Book of Mormon text is archaic English (dating from Early Modern English) rather than Joseph Smith’s dialectal English” cannot be overstated.

    To me that means more than “tight control.” It would seem Joseph was given the English text, which is why Joseph and Hyrum were adamant that the text be printed as it was in the printer’s manuscript but for punctuation. No tinkering with the words.

    Words like “jot,” “tittle,” “Bible,” and so forth, including obvious KJV language in many of the quoted verses were certainly not represented as such on the plates, but they can be accounted for if the translation occurred beginning in the 1500s and extending up to the time it was delivered to Joseph Smith.

  4. Nice article, Brian!

    I think the most important emendation was the publisher’s transformation of the Amlicites into Amalekites. It makes nonsense of major plot points in Mosiah, thinking of Mosiah as war drama rather than scripture.

    From my perspective, the reason the Book of Mormon is the most correct book is that it captures explicitly the uniquely “Mormon” doctrine that God intended His Son to redeem all mankind from the very beginning, to save Adam and Eve and all their posterity. Other Christian doctrines proclaim the salvation of Christ, but are not particularly troubled that large swaths of humanity will never have an opportunity to embrace Christ.

    I was writing a missionary about this, and said for Mormons, teaching someone how to embrace Christ is like teaching someone to smile – teaching them how to exercise something that is a fundamental capability of their being. Where other Christian doctrines teach that embracing Christ is like giving someone a smart phone, a fantastic thing that, though fantastic, is not a fundamental core to every soul.

    And, of course, all this discussion of changes doesn’t come close to touching the mind blowing number of changes in every copy of the Book of Mormon ever published in a non-English language… (Silly note occasioned by noticing my husband reading from his Spanish Book of Mormon).

  5. Thank you! I enjoyed this article. I do have one question. There is a tension, is there not, with the notion that Joseph did not merely “read” the Book of Mormon from the seer stone as his translation and the declarations of scholars identifying within the Book multiple examples of Early Modern English, samples of speech that had died out well before Joseph commenced the translation. If I understand things correctly, Joseph would not have been speaking and writing in EME so how else would those patterns of speech have made it into the Book of Mormon other than a reading of those words from the seer stone? Again, thank you for this article.

    • Workable theories of how Joseph Smith’s “translated” the Book of Mormon have to take into account the testimonies of Whitmer, Harris, and Knight reporting Joseph reading the text from the seer stone and the fact that he spelled out proper names.

      The theories also need to account for nineteenth century references that would probably have not been on the plates like “jot” and “tittle” (Alma 34:13; 3 Nephi 1:25, 12:18), which are the smallest letters of the Greek alphabet. 2 Nephi 9:18 speaks of “the saints of the Holy One of Israel. . . who have endured the crosses of the world” (Nephi 9:18). And there’s knocking on doors (3 Nephi 14:7), bread shaped like a stone (3 Nephi14:9), barns (3 Nephi 13:26), candlesticks and bushels (3 Nephi 12:15), footstools (3 Nephi 12:35), and corners of streets (3 Nephi 13:5). In additional JS freely changed many parts of the text in 1837 and 1840.

      Skousen and Carmack espouse a “tight control” theory where JS essentially read the text from the teleprompter seer stone. At the other end of the spectrum are Brant Gardner and Blake Ostler who essentially attribute the text to inspiration and the seer stone did not convey specific data optically.

      It is beyond this post to elaborate further, but my personal feeling is that JS received translation information from the stone in English, but it was not the final translation. JS would then be a literal translator, rather than primarily a seer or revelator.

      • Somehow, many people have understood that I don’t think that Joseph read from the stone. I actually agree with the data that so strongly suggest that he read what he saw. Where I differ is how the words got “on the stone.” I don’t think there is any suggestion in any description of scrying throughout history that suggests that the instrument used to scry actually projected the visions (or texts) that the scryer “saw.” Joseph used a seer stone for very typical scrying functions, and never suggested that the Interpreters (or his own seer stone) behaved differently when used to translate the Book of Mormon.

        • Thank you, Brant, that is very helpful.

          Brant, also I have spent time, as others have, trying to reconcile both the “tight control” and the “loose control” theories of translation and the evidence that we have. The loose control makes a lot of sense in that it reflects how I have written things over my nearly 30 year career (and in education before that). What is in your mind doesn’t come out on paper, a computer screen, or a white board the same way and often we need multiple attempts to get it right–right meaning to match what is in the mind.

          Skousen stunned me with the evidence of tight control and not only that, but that it is often in early modern English. Why tight control over early modern English?

          I can’t help wondering if the distinctions between modern English and middle English aren’t from a modern perspective–the transition occurs when the writing becomes mostly recognizable to the modern reader, but with differences in phraseology and grammar. At the time of the transition from middle to modern English, they probably didn’t recognize that transition at the time.

          What Joseph read when he put his face in with the stone in his beaver skin cap to block out the light and how that text became visible is in the range of speculation. I can’t help wondering the role of the one person in the narrative that we know spoke both English and the ancient language (and in fact gave us our name for that language–reformed Egyptian), namely Moroni. I can’t help wondering if it weren’t Moroni pushing the text to Joseph in some form or another. When did Moroni learn English? Sometime between 421 AD on the Nephite calendar and September 1823 on the Gregorian calendar, Moroni was resurrected. We don’t know when, but it was likely when it would best serve his mission of bringing the ancient record to light. Did he learn English in the spirit world from people who died speaking early modern english, or did he learn English as a resurrected being, resurrected so that he could learn English and prepare the translation? I don’t know, but both possibilities could explain a lot of what we understand from the clues we have about the translation.

          I do think Moroni is the key to why so much early modern English in the text and the solution to the debate over tight and loose control of the translation process.

          • First time comment.
            Is there another explanation for the ancient text in EME scenario…one that takes into account the history (i.e., timeline) of Central America. If we put EME on a typical timeline, say not later than 1700, what was happening in Central America AND England in this timeframe. The idea that pops into my head immediately is that from the early 1500s to 1700 is the time of the great ‘exploration/exploitation’ of this part of the world. This opens the way for a ‘speculative’ scenario that allows either someone from Central America to ‘hitch a ride’ from there to England and learn EME or the reverse. How this individual(s) get the original (or copies?) of the Book of Mormon in the ancient language to where an actual textbook translation (original speaker to EME) and then get it somehow to the seer stone for ‘projection’ is more speculation without clues. The bottom line is I think we have ignored the more mundane clues from a timeline inspection as to how the pieces of the puzzle could be brought together….and I haven’t even gone out on the ‘3 Nephites’ limb as to ‘whom’.

        • Brant,

          Just curious, I’m wondering if it was scrying and seeing in the mind’s eye to speak instead of actual text on the surface of the stone, I believe as you are indicating (I should probably recheck your book), what would be the physical purpose of the diminishing of light in the hat, and for the Interpreters, the spectacle frame and the attachment to the breastplate?

          • From all I can observe from descriptions of scrying in multiple cultures and over time, the point of the object used was to somehow alter or distort vision–probably so both the scryer and anyone watching the process would know that the result was not derived from the normal visionary processes. Darkening the hat was a more modern version of the practice. Perhaps attaching dual stones (set too far apart to be spectacles, and probably not clear) would have served the same function.

            Joseph saw something when he used the stone. In non-text usages, it was places. I think it is reasonable that he saw text–particularly if he used the stone to see the KJV text (I suspect an image of the printed page, including the italics with which Joseph interacted). It wouldn’t surprise me if Joseph thought that the text was “on” the stone, but we never think that the locations he saw were “on” the stone. All of the speculation that something magical happened due to the stone itself seems to me to be imposing current understanding backwards. We obviously read on our phones, and don’t seem to be able to imagine any other method (and that is probably the reason that we see that very example used to explain Joseph’s process).

      • It is amazing to me how many LDS scholars are content to disregard recent advances in digital databases. They are content with the status quo, and remaining in the dark ages of English linguistic study in relation to the Book of Mormon.

        Many Book of Mormon phrases come from the Protestant Reformation period. Take 2n0918. We find the following:

        (1604, EEBO A13187 | page image 9)
        The third is from the end, Wee ought to endure the crosses & calamities of the world: Christ endured them, and so entred into his glory.

        (1631, EEBO A03025 | pages 164–165)
        yet I had ra⸗ther endure a world of crosses to come to God, than to be crossed in no⸗thing in this world, and once want him:

        (1650, EEBO A36291 | page 69)
        To strongly and patiently endure worldly afflictions, and crosses, is with Atlas to beare the world on thy shoulders.

        The impossibility of the view you espouse, which is the received view from B.H. Roberts, and based on no serious linguistic study, is shown in a multitude of ways, by hard evidence.

        First, Joseph would have had to be a supreme expert in biblical studies in 1829. The extensive use of biblical vocabulary and phraseology in the text is tremendous.

        Second, Joseph would have had to know extrabiblical Early Modern English extremely well in order to dictate all sorts of nonbiblical (morpho)syntax, systematically and individually.

        Third, Joseph would have had to know dozens of instances of nonbiblical obsolete lexis.


  6. When we covenant to, among other things, take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, according to language found in the Book of Mormon we become his children, and he becomes our father, even though both he and we have a father. Just as we have our own mortal father, we and Jesus Christ (or Yahweh) also have a father.
    In Mosiah 3 we learn that “the Lord Omnipotent shall “come down among the children of men” (v. 5) and “he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things” and so forth.

    Attempts to fashion both a dogmatic and systematic theology have mangled the crucial kinship language in the Bible by turning God into a First Thing that created everything, including time and space, out of nothing. How could this no-thing who is no-where have a son who was born a mortal and who was murdered and yet rose again from the dead, and who blood atoneth for sins of mortal human beings, through repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ, and whose resurrection from the death won a victory for all human beings from mortal death.

  7. Critics like to point at the 1 Nephi changes from ‘God’ to ‘Son of God’ as if it represents a major doctrinal change. But a simple reading of the context of the passage in 1 Nephi (mostly chapter 11) shows that the reference in the original 1830 and the reference in the 1837 edition is to Jesus Christ in both cases.

    The passage refers to the God who…

    Was born of a virgin mother
    Was known as the Lamb of God
    Went among the people, and people fell at his feet to worship him
    Was called the Redeemer of the world
    Was baptized by a prophet who would precede him, accompanied by the sign of the dove
    Healed the sick and cast out devils
    Had twelve apostles
    Was lifted up on the cross and slain for the sins of the world

    This description is to Jesus Christ both before and after the change made to the 1837 edition. The fact that critics have been confused by the original wording indicates it was a good idea to make the clarification.

    As noted by Bro. Hales, the term God rightly applies to Jesus as well, and we even see this in the Bible in verses such as Isaiah 9:6, where the “son” is “The mighty God, The everlasting Father.”

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