1 Nephi 13

January 26, 2004 | 30 comments
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I don’t get to attend Sunday School often, but yesterday I was able to attend an interesting lesson taught by Logan. The major topic was the great and abominable church. The discussion made me wonder about one thing (which we discussed briefly in class). The scripture talks about removal of plain and precious things from the Book of the Lamb (which appears to be the Bible). I was wondering — how exactly did / does this occur?

The scriptural verses read as follows:

23 And he said: Behold it proceedeth out of the mouth of a Jew. And I, Nephi, beheld it; and he said unto me: The book that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; and it also containeth many of the prophecies of the holy prophets; and it is a record like unto the engravings which are upon the plates of brass, save there are not so many; nevertheless, they contain the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; wherefore, they are of great worth unto the Gentiles.

24 And the angel of the Lord said unto me: Thou hast beheld that the book proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew; and when it proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the fulness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record; and they bear record according to the truth which is in the Lamb of God.

25 Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God.

26 And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable dchurch, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.

27 And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.

28 Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.

29 And after these plain and precious things were taken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest—because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God—because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.

As we discussed these, I wondered about this taking. I have heard in many a previous Sunday School class (and probably seminary) that this refers to the Catholic church removing doctrines from the scriptures while they held sole possession of scripture for over a thousand years. (I believe that the book, Mormon Doctrine, also says something of this sort). Thus, the idea is that a pure bible existed (perhaps similar to the contents of the brass plates) but that nefarious priests adulterated it, and we now have the modified version which does not contain the whole truth. (This idea also finds support in the Articles of Faith, as well as LDS discussion of lost biblical books like Zenos).

As I have thought about it recently, this theory makes less sense to me. It seems to me that it would be very hard, perhaps impossible, to coordinate the removal of texts from documents. Not that items cannot be destroyed, especially if they are relatively recent originals. If I own the only extant copy of the book of Zenos, I can light a match and wipe out all copies. But once the book has been copied, re-copied, sent to other places, it becomes much harder to create a “revised” version and make sure that others match.

This difficulty seems particularly acute for the Old Testament. The idea that Catholics could have changed texts from, for example, the Book of Exodus, is highly problematic. Any changes made by Catholics would be readily apparent through a simple comparison with old texts preserved by the Jews.

(Side note — could the Jews have adulterated the book of Exodus? Yes, in theory. But that also runs into serious problems. First, note that Jesus, Peter, Paul, and so on appear to have accepted the Old Testament as it then existed. If changes had been made, why wouldn’t Jesus, Peter, John, etc. have corrected the problems? Second, I don’t believe the Jews ever had text control the way the Catholics may have had in medieval times).

There remains the potential that the New Testament may have been adulterated. I’m not sure how easy that would have been, or how many early texts we have to be able to compare things to. I suspect that it would have been very hard to make substantial coordinated changes. Therefore, the idea held by many LDS members that wicked Catholics changed biblical texts when they had sole possession of the manuscripts, seems wrong or at least highly incomplete and oversimplified.

Does anyone with more knowledge of early scripture than me (that’s probably everyone on this blog) know how LDS scholars treat this topic? Am I missing something?

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30 Responses to 1 Nephi 13

  1. Nate Oman on January 26, 2004 at 1:52 pm

    Kaimi: I am not sure that the way you are thinking about “the Catholic Church” in this post makes sense. Despite what some conservative Catholics say, Roman Catholicisms didn’t gel until quite late. The idea that the Bishop of Rome could assert primacy over all other bishops was not firmly established until the 11th century. Even then, the eastern orthodox church rejected the Roman claim (the date of the big schism is something like 1054, which is pretty late), and local kings continued to exercise a great deal of control over the church within their realms. Even during the middle ages, the Roman church was more decentralized that we often think. The monastic orders had a huge amount of power and their relationship to the papacy was often ambigious. And then, of course, during much the 14th century the papacy was under the control of the French monarchy.

    Mormons tend to operate with a very protestant view of ecclesiastical history. There was this big, monolithic, centrally controlled church that regulated everything. Then Luther arrived and the Catholic monopoly on power was broken. The problem with the story is that it is not at all clear that there was a powerful monopoly by the Roman church prior to Luther.

  2. Gordon Smith on January 26, 2004 at 2:04 pm

    Kaimi, this is a great question, and I will await more learned answers than I am able to offer. I have assumed that some of the problem may lie with the selection (canonization) of biblical texts. Changing texts seems dicey, but we know that some texts were left out of the official version (apocrypha and pseudepigrapha). Moreover, it seems likely that some books were left out without our knowing that they were left out and have been totally lost.

    Canonization is often a difficult question. We face the same question in the Church. In fact, it came up yesterday: is the Proclamation on the Family considered “scripture”? Of course, there are other examples of texts in netherland, such as the Lectures on Faith and King Follett’s Discourse.

    One more point, the following story appeared in our local paper over the weekend. http://www.beliefnet.com/story/138/story_13884_1.html It discusses various translations of the Bible. My understanding is that the Church uses the King James because it is doctrinally “good enough” and we are basically used to it. Also, all of the cross references have been done with KJV, and transfering to another version would require a large new conversion project. Not to mention the expenditure of lot of money, as Church members buy new scriptures. My point is that we should not be too dogmatic about KJV. Does that seem fair?

  3. Kaimi on January 26, 2004 at 2:31 pm

    Nate,

    I think that the interpretation of the Great and Abominable church as being definitely identified as the Catholic church is definitely not the only way to read the scripture. And yet I have been told on multiple occassions by Sunday School teachers, etc. that these verses clearly relate to the Catholic church. (I’m at work now, but I believe that Elder McConkie makes that argument as well). And, as you state, most church members have an oversimplified, erroneous idea of the early operation of the Catholic church.

  4. Aaron Brown on January 26, 2004 at 3:31 pm

    Kaimi,

    For what it’s worth, McConkie’s equation of the “great and abominable church” with the Catholic Church is one of the (very few) claims in the ’58 edition of _Mormon Doctrine_ that was removed in subsequent editions. (At least if my memory is still intact.

    Aaron B.

  5. Ben on January 26, 2004 at 3:53 pm

    Stephen Robinson makes a good analysis of this passage in p.34-39 (JBMS 7:1, 1998.
    It’s also been discussed over on the fair site in an article by John Gee (and some others
    http://www.fairlds.org/pubs/conf/1999GeeJ.html- Essentially, the argument is that the roman catholic church comes too late. It’s also been suggested that those changes Nephi mentions consist in the choice of what was canonized or preserved at the book level as opposed to “shifty eyed scribes” gleefully inking over True Mormon Doctrine at the sentence/paragraph level. That seems more likely to me.

    Aaron, I think there were many changes made in MD after the first edition, given that the apostolic review comittee set up by David O. McKay told him it contained hundreds of errors which affected every page. I know he didn’t revise everything they wanted him to.

    I wish we weren’t so KJV dependant. I routinely have to ask my Institute class if the KJV is somehow more inspired than the undelying Greek or Hebrew… My understanding (following Barlow’s ‘Mormons and the Bible’) is that we stick with the KJV because of 1) tradition, 2) the language of our other scriptures is based on the KJV (because JS used it, not because GOd osmehow prefers it) and 3) a conservative scripturalism propagated by Reuben J. Clark’s “Why the King James Version” and E. McConkie’s treatments, which argue that the KJV is based on better Mss. and translated better (neither of which hold up IMO).

  6. Aaron Brown on January 26, 2004 at 4:22 pm

    Gordon,

    Regarding your comments on our use of the KJV – I think you are correct. That is, it is doctrinally “good enough,” and since we’re so dependent on it now, and the Church is so heavily invested in maintaining its primacy (just imagine having to revamp all the footnotes!), it is likely to remain the Church’s “official” Bible translation. Of course, answering the question why the Church is likely to stick with the KJV doesn’t answer the question why the Church so fervently embraced it to begin with…

    If you haven’t already, pick up Philip Barlow’s _Mormons and the Bible_, where this topic is discussed at length. Barlow shows how J. Reuben Clark, Jr., more than any other 20th Century LDS leader, was responsible for wedding the Church to the KJV translation. If I’m remembering correctly, Clark was heavily interested in and influenced by conservative Protestant scholarship of his day, which itself was responding to various “ungodly” (my word) translations that were coming on the scene by touting the alleged superiority of the KJV. Many of the scholarly arguments relied upon by Clark have not stood the test of time, but, through Clark’s influence, they have impacted the Church indirectly.

    Incidently, I’ve always been persuaded of the importance of the KJV for the following reason: It seems to me that Joseph Smith’s reading of James 1:5, as the catalyst for his retiring to the woods, has always been one of the more powerful moments in the Joseph Smith story. I remember as a teenager reading Smith’s account, and then being able to turn right to James 1:5 in my New Testament and read the EXACT same words that Joseph Smith did. I know that many investigators and members have the same experience. In short, the KJV translation itself plays a central and crucial role in the Joseph Smith History. As a new member or investigator, I just don’t think the experience of looking up James 1:5 and recapitulating, if only for a moment, what Smith did, would have the same resonance if the scriptural translation read differently. A minor point perhaps, in the grand scheme of things, but one worth considering.

    Finally, you suggest many members are too dogmatic in their allegiance to the KJV. No doubt true. I recall with some amusement an incident from my mission: Several elders, including myself, were discussing the scriptures, and our Zone Leader said: “I’ve heard that the Church is about to translate the KJV into Spanish!” I sensed that didn’t make any sense, but couldn’t articulate why. That an elder would think the Church would do such a thing concisely illustrates, I think, certain popular LDS assumptions, both about “translation” generally, and about the alleged pristineness of the KJV.

    Aaron B

  7. Aaron Brown on January 26, 2004 at 4:28 pm

    I guess I should always read all the prior posts before posting myself. Otherwise, it looks like I’m just parroting Ben! :>

    Aaron B

  8. Gordon Smith on January 26, 2004 at 5:35 pm

    Aaron, The story of your Zone Leader is hilarious. When I started teaching Gospel Doctrine in my current ward, I brought an NIV Study Bible because I wanted to read one of the footnotes to the class. Several people made comments suggesting that I was dabbling in the dark arts, so I decided to leave it home.

    So, here are some questions for those who like to compare translations: Do you have a favorite? Should every serious LDS member have multiple translations for such comparisons? To be honest, I don’t use the others much, but I like having them around for some reason.

  9. Nate Oman on January 26, 2004 at 6:01 pm

    I like the New English Bible.

  10. Aaron Brown on January 26, 2004 at 6:04 pm

    Ben wrote:
    “I think there were many changes made in MD after the first edition, given that the apostolic review comittee set up by David O. McKay told him it contained hundreds of errors which affected every page. I know he didn’t revise everything they wanted him to.”

    1,069 doctrinal errors, to be precise (see Eric Robert Paul’s Science, Religion and Mormon Cosmology_ for this number). Actually, my understanding is not that the committee “wanted him to” revise anything. Rather, according to McKay’s journal entries, McConkie was instructed never to republish, even in a revised form. But after McKay died, McConkie republished anyway. Do you have any reason to believe there’s more to the story than this?

    (One quick piece of trivia: It’s interesting to peruse the committee review – copies of which have been removed from LDS Archives and circulate widely – and note what a large percentage of the apostle’s identified “problem areas” with the book involve McConkie’s discussion of “evolution” and related topics…)

    Aaron B

  11. Ben on January 26, 2004 at 6:41 pm

    I bring my NIV Study Bible to church and use it for Institute, as the teacher. (However, I told the students to read the KJV with JST footnotes as well as the NIV. Only 2 or 3 students have picked one up.) It’s sometimes too lose with the HEbrew, though. I also find the NRSV to be a good translation. For a different take, I think the Jewish Publication Society Tanakh is a good translation for things Christian translators are stuck on because of tradition.

    I know multiple members across the US who use the NIV and I’ve been told of GA’s who have multiple versions in their offices. Several of my friends whom I’ve recommended it to have told me (and I’ve seen this with my wife, who now reads it daily) that once the Bible is understandable (e.g., modern English), their enthusiasm for it grows immensely.
    For those who have the cash and desire, Bibleworks (www.bibleworks.com) is an excellent, high-level Bible program, focused on the text. Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Aramaic+ about 30 modern language translations and Lexicons/GRammars, etc. There’s my plug for the program I do most of my scripture study on. (If anyone out there has BW, I have some LDS files compiled for version 5.0 or higher on my website.)
    Aaron: I didn’t know that source about MD. I’ve read about it in Dialogue (recent article on David O. McKay) and Barlow. Um, I don’t suppose there are electronic copies either of Paul’s comments or the actual document around?

  12. Aaron Brown on January 26, 2004 at 7:13 pm

    Ben,

    I think Paul’s book is on the Smith Research Associates’ “New Mormon Studies” CD-Rom. I could be mistaken, though. I know it contains a lot of the U. of Illinois titles. I’ll check at home tonight, and if it does, I can email you a Word file of the relevant chapter.

    Regarding McKay’s journal entries from the Archives — I’ve possessed a copy for years, and I’m not even sure where I got them. They aren’t published anywhere. If you’re sufficiently interested, I suppose I could drop you a copy in the mail, but I’d have to find them first (that could take a while).

    Aaron B

  13. Jim F. on January 26, 2004 at 7:42 pm

    I think Kaimi’s question is more difficult than the answers have often been. It seems to me that the problem is in verses 25 and 26 where the “things” are said to go forth in purity from the Jews (a word that seems, in this context, to refer primarily to the first apostles–e.g., verses 24 and 26) and then to be corrupted. One way to read this is to say that no scriptures were corrupted until after the apostles. But that is highly unlikely. There are all kinds of reasons to believe that the scriptures were changed earlier, for example on the return from Babylon when the returnees wished to justify their oppression of those who had stayed behind. If so, then the scriptures at the time of Christ and that the apostles received were not pure. Joseph Smith’s inspired additions to Genesis are an example of changes that may have been made, and they had to have been made prior to the time of Christ. But the claim that the scriptures were not pure at the time they were given to the apostles seems to contradict verse 25.

    One way to deal with this problem is to look at verse 26. If “parts which are plain and most precious” and “covenants of the Lord” are parallel and, therefore, define each other (as it were), then the corruption of the text need not be a literal removal of or addition of textual material. It can mean a lack of understanding of its meaning, whatever the textual changes. The covenants are certainly in the Old and New Testaments, but without prophetic guidance restored in the latter-days, we wouldn’t understand them as we do. Once we understand them, we see them, but they don’t mean the same thing for those who don’t already understand them.

    On that reading, when the scriptures were given to the apostles and by them to the Gentiles, the covenants contained in the scriptures were still understood. After that, however, people lost their understanding of the covenants, at least sometimes because individuals wished to “pervert the right ways of the Lord” (verse 27).

  14. Jim F. on January 26, 2004 at 7:50 pm

    I want to second Nate’s remark that we often understand history (cultural as well as ecclesial) from a very Protestant point of view. As a result, we speak of the Dark Ages and mean the medieval period, and we think of the Reformation as a bunch of good guys undoing the evil done by the nasty Catholics. Both of those ideas, and a dozen that go with them, are confused and historically inaccurate, and I think they cause us to misunderstand our own relation to history.

    I also think that we often infer from our own church organization that other churches have similar organizations. We may notice that the Protestants are not like us, after all, their local congregations are MUCH more independent than an LDS congregation. But I think we often assume that the present-day organization of the Catholic Church is very much like our own. Of course there are important parallels, but the relation of Catholic members to the priesthood or members and priesthood to the Pope is very different than LDS members relation to the priesthood and the President. And I would bet that our assumptions about Catholics are not only a consequence of the structural parallels, but also a result of 19th- and early 20th-century American anti-Catholicism.

  15. Matt J on January 26, 2004 at 7:51 pm

    The sunday school teacher in my ward frequently makes comments along the lines of ‘That’s page 1226 if you have the True Bible.’ He says this as a joke, which is fine, but I wonder why the same joke is made every other week or so. Maybe there was an incidence once.

    I happen to have a teeny-tiny KJV Bible that I bring to church and it is fun to flip the pages ‘against the grain’, if you will. At least when I’m asked to read it has the same content as everyone else.

    I love my little Bible–about the same size as one of those little Gideon Bibles. I’d love a triple combination with small type and no index or footnotes. Too small for study but great for toting!

  16. Kaimi on January 26, 2004 at 8:10 pm

    Jim,

    I was waiting for your comments, they are, as always, very helpful.

    I think one thing that was bothering me, but which I had not articulated (or maybe even thought about all together) is the JST revisions to the Old Testament.

    The JST often appears to be a restoration of verses and text that was originally omitted. For instance, the lengthy portion following Genesis 50.

    http://scriptures.lds.org/jst/gn502438

    In addition, JST discusses items omitted such as discussion of baptism and covenants.

    It is also clear that Jesus, Peter, Paul, or any of the other leaders of the early church could have restored the accurate text.

    This leads to the curious conclusion that God chose not to correct the biblical innacuracies or ommissions in the Old Testament at an obvious point in time (2000 years ago) and instead used the innacurate text as scripture.

    The question is why God would allow inaccuracies to exist then, but let Joseph Smith correct them in our day. I find that question baffling. Perhaps we are ready for the new material, and the Jews weren’t. But they certainly received a massive amount of new doctrine — it seems very strange that the Old Testament corrections were not included.

  17. clark goble on January 26, 2004 at 9:14 pm

    A slightly different take on all this is that Catholics and related Christian groups have *very* different views of the last days than Mormons and Protestants. The Book of Mormon and D&C largely follows the basic Protestant timeline rather than the Catholic time frame. This is rather important in terms of covenants since the covenants most important to Book of Mormon authors relate to the last days.

    One could well argue that the entire conception of God’s covenant and covenant people was radically different. I don’t know enough about Protestant history to know when eschatological readings of the last days changed. But clearly they did. Likewise the Book of Mormon time lines and conceptions varies from Protestants somewhat (and liberal Protestants considerably)

    While I think the Hellenistic philosophy bit is overdone by Mormons, I also think that there is a real difference in that. However this is a more controversial matter with respect to the Book of Mormon. Some argue for a kind of modalism in the BoM. I read The Evolution of the Mormon Concept of God over Christmas as the author argues for that rather strongly. I think he is inconsistent on some key points and leaves out some elements. But he does raise other good points that I don’t have satisfactory answers to. That concept of God may well be key to what the Book of Mormon restored. Even if it was simply a common sense realism view of the anthropology of God. i.e. treat our relationship in a more “natural” approach the way we deal with each other rather than the more metaphysical approach. I’m not prepared to argue for this yet though.

  18. Adam Greenwood on January 26, 2004 at 10:15 pm

    No doubt many people prefer translations in plainer English, but I’ve never been in sympathy. The Authorized Version has the most beatiful language of any translation I’ve come across, and ranks high when compared with all English literature. Beauty for me has always been a much surer route to the Spirit than unproblematic texts and, therefore, I always come back the King James Version. Rich in language, rich in tradition, I doubt we’ll see its like again.

  19. Kristine on January 26, 2004 at 10:42 pm

    I think I might go with Adam in preferring the KJV as the Bible for most liturgical purposes, on purely aesthetic grounds. But for personal study and for Sunday School, I think other translations can be really helpful. I like the New English Bible and even (horrors!) the NRSV, as well as the Phillips.

    It has always seemed odd to me that the one Bible Joseph Smith had anything to say about (the Luther, in German) has been dumped in favor of a more recent (Protestant) German translation. I love Luther for the same reasons I love the KJV.

    Also, since we’re talking modern translations, anybody care to opine about the “easy-to-read” versions of the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants which have been published in the last decade or so? I’ve found Lynn Matthews Anderson’s Easy-to-Read Book of Mormon really helpful with Beehive classes I’ve taught.

  20. Russell Arben Fox on January 26, 2004 at 11:52 pm

    I found Barlow’s attack on the church’s dependence on the KJV to be entirely persuasive–and yet, in the end, I’m in sympathy with Adam. I have three Bible translations I use regularly, the RSV, NIV, and KJV, and the latter (thanks to the skill and inspiration of its translators, as well as the simple fact of the centuries of use which have embedded it in the history of English-speaking peoples) speaks to me far more powerfully than the other two. Perhaps, if I had real skill in Hebrew or Greek or Aramaic, the more accurate grammar and word-choice of the other versions would be more obvious to me; but as it is, I basically approach the Bible as a work of art, and so the more resonant the art, the better. If I really do get hung up on the meaning of a phrase at one point or another, I can always just pull out my Strong’s Concordance.

  21. Jim F. on January 27, 2004 at 3:13 pm

    Kaimi, thanks for the compliment. How much of what Joseph Smith gave us for the Old Testament was correction and how much was inspired interpretation? I don’t think we have an answer to that, but I think that most of it was probably inspired interpretation. In addition, outside of the changes to Genesis–which even if the recovery of an ancient text rather than a prophetic revelation, may not be a correction of Genesis, but the revelation of another ancient document, such as material from the Brass Plates–the Prophet didn’t actually make that many significant changes to the Old Testament text.

    Like Russell and Adam, I prefer the KJV. I prefer it because of its language and because I fear that if we abandon it, we will miss the important linguistic connections between the Bible and the Book of Mormon. However, I encourage my students to look at other Bibles when they are having difficulty. The NIV is one of the best study Bibles available, but I prefer that they look at several translations if they need another translation. The comparison of translations is going to teach them more than just one will. There are electronic sources for inexpensive multiple translations. As I said some place earlier, I like the materials available from http:\www.logos.com.

    In the end, however, the problem is one of literacy. For whatever reasons, even most of the best BYU students are not very good readers nowadays. They can, of course, sound out the words. But they have a difficult time reading for understanding. If you add the complexity of the KJV English, understanding almost disappears. If most students from the top of their high school classes can’t read the KJV, there’s no reason to assume that many of the rest of us can. Were we more literate, the KJV would be less of a problem. (However, even the most literate reader is going to have trouble in some places where the translation is simply too literal.)

  22. Marco M. on January 31, 2004 at 2:41 pm

    As a member from the Netherlands I can see very striking paralels with your KJV and modern English Bibles and the Dutch Bibles.
    In Holland we have the 1621 Staten-Bible and of course the new 1979 NBG and the soon-to-be released NEW Bible. The striking being that the former protestant members read the 1621 bible and most members from other background read the 1979 version which is in modern dutch.
    Most members who use the 1621 Bible are more well-versed and quicker on the uptake of doctrine and doctrinal details than those who use modern versions. Maybe this has to do with more intensively reading the text (because it’s more difficult) and therefore grasping details better?
    BTW I use the English-scriptures because 1621 Bibles are becoming rare very fast and as a result expensive……..(I hate the 1979, it replaced the 1621-version)

  23. Taylor on February 2, 2004 at 11:31 am

    I had a very nice post on this written up the day that the comments failed…

    I agree with Jim that we will probably be bound to the KJV because of the connects to BoM “quotations” of the KJV translation. This true not just for Isaiah and Matthew, but Paul and a random smattering of KJV-esque language throughout. As a side not, I think one of the most interesting things to come out of the BoM text-critical project is to find out that most of the “differences” between BoM Isaiah and KJV Isaiah are really just manuscript errors!
    Some of the discussion here has hinted that the problem with the KJV is that it uses an antiquated English, but some have prefered the “poetic” qualities of this language. I guess that this is ultimately a question of personal taste, but I must say that I strongly prefer promoting understanding of the text over enjoying its obscure turns of phrase. I am also not sure that the aesthetic dimension has much wieght. The original languages of these texts do not mimic an antiquated version of Greek or Hebrew, why should our text imitate Shakespeare? While I think readability is a serious problem, the bigger problem is actually the manuscript evidence. We have come a long way in textual criticism over the past 400 years, and I think that we should acknowledge that. Some famous examples are the Johannine Comma that has medieval trinitarian language which was deliberately forged, as well as the ending of Mark. There are literally hundreds of manuscript errors preserved in the KJV that have been uncovered and corrected in modern translations. Perhaps one day we will be sophisticated enough as a church to commission a translation that takes into account our desire to preserve the language of the KJV that has become important to our religious identity, while updated the rest.

    Kristine, I like the idea of easy-to-read versions of the BoM. The problem is that we have no original language on which to base our word choices. This gives the “updaters” a lot of leeway to choose wordings that may or may not reflect the depth of the passage, or favor one interpretation over another.

    For me, the most annoying thing about LDS versions of the scriptures is the page layout. We have seperated each verse to look like a paragraph. This not only breaks up the flow of the passage and obscures the poetry, but tends to support a proof-texting tendency. We should follow the lead of modern translations that group the passages according to their natural flow. It would also make a huge differences for the BoM to highlight the poetic passages.

  24. Kristine on February 2, 2004 at 11:41 am

    Taylor, I agree about the problems with “simplified” versions of the Book of Mormon. I like Lynn Matthews Anderson’s version, but find its use of inclusive gender terms really annoying (despite my general sympathy to arguments for using such formulations). It’s just too awkward.

    While I think reformatting verses into paragraphs might help, I’m not sure that our proof-texting tendencies can be so easily ameliorated. After all, one of our favorite proof texts is “whether by mine own voice or the voice of my servants, it is the same,” which actually requires removing a dependent clause from the context of the sentence to make it mean what we want it to mean (!)

    Finally, I think much of the aesthetic preference for the KJV is a matter of familiarity, rather than decided preference for the archaic phrasing–I don’t think anyone really thinks “holpen” sounds nicer than “helped” in the magnificat, for instance, it just reminds us of movie scenes with nice British-accented readers.

  25. Kaimi on February 2, 2004 at 11:51 am

    There is a reorganized-church-issued version that has substantially fewer chapter breaks. I’ve got a copy at home, it’s fun to read. I believe it’s based on an early version that the reorganized church kept the copyright to. (Others around here probably know the history better than I do). I looked for a minute on line, and I think that this is that version for sale:

    http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?userid=2WH3FASZWR&isbn=0830902732&itm=2

  26. Nate Oman on February 2, 2004 at 12:43 pm

    There are actually two recent editions of the Book of Mormon that format it quite differently. University of Illinois Press just printed a “Reader’s edition” of the Book of Mormon that is formatted basically like a modern translation of the Bible. Also, FARMS published an edition of the Book of Mormon about ten years ago that was reformatted to reflect breaks from prose to poetry, as well as parallellisms. As I recall, however, it was a rather low-quality binding and typesetting.

  27. Taylor on February 2, 2004 at 12:45 pm

    Kaimi,
    Thanks for the link. I read the entire 1830 edition a few years back and enjoyed it so much more. I read more like a novel.

  28. Taylor on February 2, 2004 at 12:48 pm

    Kristine,
    I’ve heard of Anderson’s edition, but I haven’t seen it yet. I will check it out.

    Nate, I remember the FARMS edition and remember the same problems with it that you noted. My favorite FARMS edition was the Wide Margin BoM. They literally sold the last copy of it about one week before I ordered it. I have been trolling for a copy ever since. That is good news about the UIP edition!

  29. Taylor on February 2, 2004 at 12:52 pm

    I wanted to also deal with the original subject of this post, which was the interpretation of 1 Ne 13. If I understand Jim correctly, he suggests that lost plain and precious things are actually an inspired hermeneutic. I think that this is an interesting idea, but I was hoping that he could give some more substance to this. What exactly does this look like?
    I think that Kaimi has put forward a great question. I hope to tackle it when work gets dull…

  30. Matt Evans on February 2, 2004 at 12:57 pm

    I too loved reading the 1830 version, I felt like Parley Pratt in ‘How Rare a Possession’. I have one of the reprints the church produced to commemorate the 150 anniversary of the Book of Mormon’s publication. I’ve seen them in stores for around $25. You can find them on eBay, too. Here’s one for sale now: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3584614155&category=29220

    As for the different chapters, the RLDS church uses the original chapters from the 1830 edition. The LDS church divided the original chapters to have more consistent lengths, when it added verses (the original didn’t have any) around 1880. The RLDS church has added verses, but they maintained the original chapters breaks. Fortunately, most RLDS scholars cite the Book of Mormon passages in both formats, so we don’t have to use a conversion table to see what their referencing.

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