Book of Mormon stories

November 8, 2007 | 117 comments
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A recent change in the wording of the Book of Mormon may suggests a shift in the church’s view of the relationship between Lamanites and American Indian tribes. The prior introduction, written just 26 years ago by Elder McConkie, stated that the Lamanites were “the principal ancestors of the American Indians.” The new version, as reported in today’s Salt Lake Tribune, states simply that the Lamanites are “among the ancestors of the American Indians.” The Trib article is a good one, and explains why this change matters. (It also cites Kevin Barney.)

As Peggy notes, this change is an obvious concession to apologists who advocate a limited geography theory of the Book of Mormon. The “principal ancestors” language, while not strictly doctrinal, had been among the most difficult statements to reconcile with a limited geography approach to the Book of Mormon. Its removal should facilitate broader church acceptance of the limited geography approach. The church spokesperson’s comments also point in that direction, noting that the change “takes into account details of Book of Mormon demography which are not known.”

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117 Responses to Book of Mormon stories

  1. Matt W. on November 8, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    That’s just freaking awesome. Hurray for the church for having the gumption to go through the costly process of publishing a one word change.

  2. Dan on November 8, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    Yay!!!

    This is most excellent.

  3. David Grua on November 8, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    There was also an interesting change in the lntroduction pertaining to the relationship between the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

  4. Jacob M on November 8, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    It just goes to show how this church can be very adaptable to scientific truth.

    3 – Interesting, indeed. Even though I would say that most missionaries will still make that comparison from the old introduction.

  5. Mike Parker on November 8, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    The “principal” to “among” change is a welcome update that demonstrates our willingness to expand and revise our understanding of scripture as new information comes to light.

    David Grua #3:

    Why was “2007″ struck out and “2004″ inserted in your post on Juvenile Instructor? The BofM introduction on the Church web site still has the phrase “as does the Bible.”

  6. David Grua on November 8, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    Mike: Justin of Mormon Wasp explained in our thread that the omission that I had pointed out had first appeared in the 2004 Doubleday edition.

  7. Kaimi Wenger on November 8, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    David,

    That’s an interesting change as well, though I’m not sure the change is quite as strong as it might otherwise be, given the rest of the context. As readers pointed out to me, the 1981 original says,

    The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains, as does the Bible, the fulness of the everlasting gospel.

    It’s true that the clause “as does the Bible” was removed. However, the earlier statement in that paragraph, about it being “comparable to the Bible,” is still there.

    So there’s the possibility that the “Bible” change reflects a shift (it’s not exactly the same as the earlier language, and that may reflect the shift). But it’s also possible, I think, that it wasn’t meant to reflect a shift in doctrine, but just to remove a perceived redundancy.

  8. Ben on November 8, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    Kaimi: You bring up a good point, and I think it is interesting to wonder about what the comparison is they are referring to. Is it comparing the two as containing the fulness of the gospel? Or, are they comparing the two as examples of prophetic writings?

  9. Kevin Barney on November 8, 2007 at 3:32 pm

    Matt W., the Church isn’t publishing a one word change. (A lot of people are looking for this change on the Church’s website, but you won’t find it there.) Doubleday was doing a new edition of its BoM (which is based on the Church’s 1981 edition, with permission), and the Church asked them to make this change to conform to the Introduction as it would read in a future Church edition. But the future Church edition hasn’t come out yet.

    As I told Peggy, I assume that when the Church finally publishes a new edition to update the 1981, they will be taking into account Royal Skousen’s extensive textual scholarship on the BoM. So there will be more than the change to the Introduction; there will also be textual changes to the text itself.

    One example I mentioned to Peggy is the whole straight v. strait issue. There were four instances of straight that were changed to strait in the 1981 edition, and most–though not all–LDS scholars think that was a mistake and that they should go back to straight. (For details, see Jack Welch’s article in the most recent JBMS.) There are a lot of little changes like that which I assume the Church will make when it finally pulls the trigger on a new edition.

  10. David Grua on November 8, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    Kaimi: That’s definitely an alternate reading. Thanks for pointing that out.

  11. Geoff B on November 8, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    Wow, this is HUGE. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to who were troubled by that introduction. While principal does not mean “only,” it does seem a-historical. It is certainly difficult to justify current DNA research with the word “principal.”

  12. Matt W. on November 8, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    Kevin #9- the idea that the new publication will work with the Royal Skousen work and is forth coming is even more exciting. Thanks for the correction.

  13. Matt W. on November 8, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    One concern though is who has the credentials and scholarship to check Skousen?

  14. David Grua on November 8, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    BCCers may have to revisit this discussion.

  15. Kevin Barney on November 8, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    Matt W., I don’t think the Church Scripture Committee will just accept Skousen’s changes wholesale. They will evaluate each suggestion, and some may not make it. One thing to keep in mind is that Skousen is trying to establish the original text, which isn’t necessarily the same thing as the most correct or an ideal text. For instance, Skousen’s critical text restores grammatical errors and oddities that were indeed part of the originial text, but which the Church would be unlikely to incorporate into a new edition.

    For my comments about Skousen’s work, see here:

    http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/pdf.php?filename=MTE2NjYwNzE2MC0xNS0xLnBkZg==&type=amJtcw==

  16. Rosalynde Welch on November 8, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    Great news! On this issue, the church loses very little by accommodating the emerging consensus; there’s some explaining to do about why past leaders misunderstood the meaning of the BoM as an artifact, but this needn’t compromise an orthodox line on historicity.

  17. granddaughter on November 8, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    Kevin #9–
    Just FYI, the strait/straight article in the new JBMS was actually written by John S. Welch, father of Jack (John W.).

  18. John Mansfield on November 8, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    “On this issue, the church loses very little by accommodating the emerging consensus.” My late mission president, a Mexican, would have disagreed. He loved being a Lamanite.

  19. Mark B. on November 8, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    Kevin,

    I would suspect that the change could be made in the Introduction without publishing a new edition of the Book of Mormon. Revising one page of computer type-set copy isn’t difficult, and I would suspect that minor changes in text don’t deserve to be called a new edition. Just call it the umpteenth printing.

  20. Ray on November 8, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    Great news. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

  21. Kevin Barney on November 8, 2007 at 6:13 pm

    granddaughter, thanks for the clarification. I had no idea. When I see the name John Welch in Mormon studies contexts I just leap to the conclusion it is W.

    Mark B., you may be right that at this time they are simply contemplating making this change in future printings. But I think there is little doubt that, once the dust settles on the Skousen critical text project, a new edition of the BoM will be published.

  22. David Clark on November 8, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    My late mission president, a Mexican, would have disagreed. He loved being a Lamanite.

    John makes a great point. There is a narrative about/in Latin America that a lot of the baptismal success there is due to baptizing the descendants of the Lamanites, i.e. that the success was a fulfillment of Book of Mormon prophecies. If this is still the case it may cause some hurt feelings.

    On this issue, the church loses very little by accommodating the emerging consensus.

    That depends on from where the consensus is emerging. If this consensus is church wide then it shouldn’t lose anything. However if the consensus is just among LDS scholars or among Utah Mormons, there could be large unforseen consequences.

  23. Ivan Wolfe on November 8, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    After having looked up “strait” and “straight” in Samuel Johnson’s dictionary of the English Language, and the Oxford English Dictionary, I am unconvinced that it should be “straight and narrow” – “strait and narrow” has always been a very common usage, and Johnson said that “straight and narrow” was always a mistake, that it should be “strait and narrow.”

    There’s more to it than that. I wrote a paper for Skousen’s class on the topic. I marshalled texts from Christian and linguistic commentators that argued “straight/strait and narrow” in usage were always meant to refer to the passage in Matthew. Skousen gave me an A on the paper and said “interesting arguments” but stuck by his guns that he doesn’t like the redundancy in “strait and narrow.” At that point, though, it’s more about aesthetics than the truth.

  24. Kevin Barney on November 8, 2007 at 6:18 pm

    John Mansfield #18, the way population genetics work, if Lehi had descendants that survive to today, then it is very likely that your Mexican MP was indeed a descendant of Lehi. All that is different is that at that particular time depth on his pedigree chart, instead of Lehi filling virtually all of the male slots, his name would only be written into some of them. But he would still be descended from Lehi and entitled to think of himself as a Lamanite.

  25. Kevin Barney on November 8, 2007 at 6:22 pm

    Ivan, thanks for the story about the paper you wrote in Skousen’s class. Interesting. I’m less troubled by the redundancy of the expression than Skousen for reasons I give in the link at my no. 15 above, but I still prefer “straight.”

  26. Ivan Wolfe on November 8, 2007 at 6:39 pm

    Kevin – why do you prefer “straight”? – I read the link you had in #15 but it seemed like you skimmed over your reason for thinking “straight” was the way to go.

    I’m curious. I really don’t have any really super strong feelings on the subject, but having written that paper on it, I still find the concept interesting enough to talk about now and then.

  27. Kevin Barney on November 8, 2007 at 8:46 pm

    There are a lot of reasons (set forth in the literature, such as the Welch article), but the one I mentioned in the article is that I am influenced by the language the prominence of language deriving fromf Isa. 40 “make his paths straight”.

  28. paula on November 8, 2007 at 9:29 pm

    There’s another story about this at the Deseret News now:
    http://www.deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,695226008,00.html

    I do think that this could be pretty troubling to many people, if they pay enough attention to realize what’s happening. I’ve certainly been told off by people on email lists if I mention anything that suggests that American Indians are not direct descendants of Laman.

  29. Ardis Parshall on November 8, 2007 at 9:46 pm

    Are they really telling you off, Paula, or merely pointing out that your suggestion overstates what is known through science or implied by wording such as the one under discussion?

  30. Jeremy B on November 8, 2007 at 10:00 pm

    I\’m so proud of our church for making this courageous change. It reminds me of the stories involving BH Roberts and the age of the earth. In the end, we are able to make needed changes as we do not hold absolutely to the infalliability of any one leader or even any one scriptural source. We say the BoM is most correct book, not a perfect book. I remember reading Sterling McMurrin\’s statements that our greatest strength as a religion is its adaptability through modern ecclesiastical leadership.

  31. danithew on November 8, 2007 at 10:54 pm

    Awesome. I like wording that provides some flexibility on a point like this.

  32. Rhonda on November 8, 2007 at 10:55 pm

    175 years of doctrine just brushed aside by an editor and everyone just applauds? I think apologies are in order to the thousands who were mislead by the Church. A bit too 1984-ish to me…

  33. Kaimi Wenger on November 8, 2007 at 11:06 pm

    Rhonda,

    Presumably, these changes were approved by the same folks who wrote the earlier BoM intro — the First Presidency, and/or Quorum of the 12. In which case, this is simply a matter of the flexibility of a church that regularly relies on continuing revelation, no?

    With more information, we can have a better understanding. That’s not “1984,” it’s the normal process of refining ideas and using our God-given brains.

    I suppose you’re right that this change could be jarring for anyone who based their testimony on the “principal” language of the BoM introduction. Offhand, I wouldn’t say that’s likely to be a large population, though.

  34. Harold C. on November 8, 2007 at 11:08 pm

    About 20 years ago I went to Native American Indian night at my children\’s elementary school.
    The lady who was conducting told the audience that Mormons were
    very wrong to say that American Indians were from Jerusalem because it was a well known fact
    that they were from Asia. Probably my family were the only mormons in the audience and
    I felt really bad inside recognizing that she was right.
    I wish the church would have come out with the facts much earlier, but I am really relieved now.

  35. Ray on November 8, 2007 at 11:21 pm

    Rhonda, the introduction that was changed is not part of the canon – not scripture recorded by ancient prophets. It doesn’t teach doctrine; it is a summary of the contents of the book – influenced heavily by the perceptions of the time when it was written. It really doesn’t change anything in the way of doctrine, frankly, and I am very glad it has been done.

    As others have implied, one the biggest differences between our church and Protestant denominations, in particular, is that they are stuck with solidified interpretations of prior ages, while we are not. We celebrate that fact in many ways; why should this be any different?

  36. paula on November 8, 2007 at 11:23 pm

    Yes Ardis, they are really telling me off. And I was simplifying what I said before. I quoted some of John Sorenson’s writing and was told that I was basically an apostate. And I’m very familiar with the science.

  37. Left Field on November 8, 2007 at 11:39 pm

    I agree that this is a notable and welcome revision, but to keep things in perspective, let’s remember that it is not a change to the canonized text. It is a revision of supplementary material that has been bound with the LDS edition of the Book of Mormon only since 1981. I have toenail fungus older than that. I did not distribute a single Book of Mormon on my mission that contained the “principal ancestors” introduction, and neither did any of the hundreds of thousands of missionaries before me.

    I have often pointed out that to me, the 1981 introduction was itself a welcome addition. Although “principal ancestors” was more than could be defended, it at least acknowledged that the Lamanites were not the *sole* ancestors of Native Americans. Of course, recognition of non-Lehite ancestry of Native Americans was nothing novel in either 2007 or 1981. Anthony W. Ivins of the First Presidency expounded non-Lehite ancestry in the April 1929 general conference, as did a number of other church authorities at least as early as the 1930s.

  38. Rhonda on November 8, 2007 at 11:47 pm

    Kaimi, you said: “Offhand, I wouldn’t say that’s likely to be a large population, though.”

    Born and raised in the Church, always taught the Indians were Lamanites, family members sent on missions throughout Latin America preaching the same. Many were baptized as a result. Even my cousin serving in Brazil preached the connection. To pretend this is simply new revelation is to deny what was once gospel, from the Prophet on down.

  39. Clair on November 8, 2007 at 11:53 pm

    I don’t have a source, but I distinctly remember a lesson from a church Sunday School manual about 30 years ago that included a statement that Native Americans may well have had ancestors other than the Lamanites. Does anyone else remember this?

  40. Kaimi Wenger on November 8, 2007 at 11:55 pm

    Rhonda,

    The revised language doesn’t say that Native Americans are _not_ Lamanites. It just removes the “principal” language, and places Lamanites “among” the ancestors.

    This isn’t new — the possibility of some non-Lehite ancestry has been around for a long time (see Left Field’s comment above).

  41. Kaimi Wenger on November 8, 2007 at 11:57 pm

    Paula,

    I can believe it. I mentioned that I was going to a talk by Richard Bushman to a member of the ward, and they looked at me like I had said I was becoming a Jay Dub. I tried to explain his bona fides, and RSR, and it just got worse. I eventually got a few e-mails from that member, warning me about the danger of non-approved sources, and all but calling Bushman a raving anti-Mormon.

    And this was from a relatively smart, my-generation member of the ward.

  42. bfwebster on November 9, 2007 at 3:17 am

    I’m also happy to see this change, not just because it acknowledges external evidence of the populating of the Americans, but because (IMHO) it also more accurately reflects the Book of Mormon itself. The situation is parallel to that of the hemispheric geography model (which, while not universal, has certainly predominated in the Church up until 20 years of so ago; it was certainly the model I accepted as a college freshman back in 1971) vs. the limited geography model (which is what you end up with when you actually read and analyze the text).

    I’ve been convinced for at least a few decades that the Lehites encountered indigenous populations; there are (again, IMHO) quite a few subtle indicators and a couple of glaring ones, such as the fact that the Nephite and Lamanite groups are large enough to have “wars” within the first generation of landing in the Americas.

    As for who is a “Lamanite”, genetic dispersal and the mathematics of genealogy are sufficient to spread the heritage around. Virtually everyone who has European ancestry is descended from Charlemagne and Muhammad; not because they populated an empty Europe single-handedly, but because their lineages survived long enough to spread throughout the population that already existed. Given the fact that groups were splitting off from the Lehites on a regular basis, as well as the relative isolation of the Americas up until 1500 AD, there would appear to enough time (see this article) for a traceable ancestry to spread throughout most of North and South America.

    In short, while I believe the Book of Mormon is true, I also believe that most of us (including Church leaders past and present) haven’t always read it as carefully as we should (cf. the reliance on fundamentalist Old Testament chronology — that is, placing Adam and Eve around 4000 BC — vs. the Book of Mormon’s statement about people being here on the earth “a great many thousand years” before Christ’s birth [Helaman 8:18]). ..bruce..

  43. John Mansfield on November 9, 2007 at 9:28 am

    The “we’re all descended from everyone” concept gets thrown around more casually than it merits. Some groups, particularly from the Middle East (like Lehi), give great importance to marrying within the group. Syrian Jews in Brooklyn make Mormons look wantonly promiscuous in comparison.

    “Never accept a convert or a child born of a convert,” Kassin told me by phone, summarizing the message. “Push them away with strong hands from our community. Why? Because we don’t want gentile characteristics.”

    There are still seven hundred Samaritans.

    With such a small population, divided into only four families (Cohen, Tsedakah, Danfi and Marhib; a fifth family died out in the last century) and a general refusal to accept converts, there has been a history of genetic disease within the group due to the small gene pool. To counter this, the Samaritan community has recently agreed that men from the community may marry non-Samaritan (primarily, Israeli Jewish) women, provided that the women agree to follow Samaritan religious practices.

    Just consider Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, Leah, and Rachel; a lot of importance given there to marrying half-siblings and close cousins.

  44. Eric Boysen on November 9, 2007 at 10:43 am

    Two points on which I have no time right now to research as I should:

    1. There are strong indications in the Book of Mormon that some Jaredite element survived to add to the gene pool, and were widely dispersed on the continents. Also we do not have much information on the genetic history of the Mulekites. Even so, the ultimate identification of Lamanites at the end of the Book of Mormon was far more a social identity than a genetic heratige of being of the seed of Laman or Lemuel and hence Lehi. Ergo, the Book of Mormon text itself does not exactly support the contention that the Lamanites are principly descended from Lehi, merely that those groups throughout the Americas that sought the destruction of the Nephites could properly be called Lamanites, and by extention we can call their descendents Lamanites since in the end they were the only ones who were left.

    2. Marriage to cousins is a common custom in the Middle East and has serious ramifications for Americans today as we involve ourselves in the affairs of nations where that custom is the norm. It preserves local culture but in the transmission of traditions it will make no value judgments. Both the good and the bad will come down together. From a social perspective,exogamy,is probably a better choice, most of the time, Endogamy, however, must win out if a small group wants to preserve itself. The patriarchs lived as strangers in the face of a hostile culture with people who worshipped gods with evil practices. Going back to the land of their nativity to find spouses for ther sons who shared in the same beliefs was critical for them and ultimately for us.

  45. Rosalynde Welch on November 9, 2007 at 10:56 am

    David Clark: “However if the consensus is just among LDS scholars or among Utah Mormons, there could be large unforseen consequences.”

    David, I like the way you think. You’ve stumped me on this one, though: what sort of consequences do you, uh, foresee? I get the downside already mentioned—Latin American Saints will have their sense of identity challenged—but I think it’s more honest and more prudent to face this challenge than to allow a dubious folk doctrine to persist. What else do you have in mind?

  46. Jacob M on November 9, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    I have toenail fungus older than that.

    Wow!

  47. bfwebster on November 9, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    OK, I’ve taken the comment I made above (#42) and expanded it into a full-blown post on my own blog.

    Not that I’m trying to suck traffic away or anything. :-) ..bruce..

  48. Equality on November 9, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    If anyone who has ancestors “among” the indigenous American population of 2000 years ago is a “Lamanite” then we are virtually ALL Lamanites, as we all certainly have at least one ancestor from that population. If virtually every person on earth today has ancestors “among” the ancient Native American population (which we do, according to the same scientific research establishing the Asiatic ancestry of the indigenous Americans), then we are all “Lamanites,” and all the prophecies about the uniqueness of the Lamanites as a branch of Israel, the gathering before the Second Coming, etc. are rendered meaningless. There are serious implications to Mormon doctrine that result from this seemingly minor textual change.

    As for the “courage” of the church in making such a change, I frankly don’t see how silently changing the text in the Doubleday edition, and making no mention of it until an article is published at the instigation of church critics, is courageous. Courageous it would have been if President Gordon B. Hinckley, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had stood at the pulpit at the 177th Semiannual General Conference and boldly declared that past prophets were wrong to say the Lamanites were the principal ancestors of the American Indians and Polynesian peoples, and that the Doctrine & Covenants and Pearl of Great Price, as well as the Book of Mormon, would be undergoing textual revisions to remove ideas now known to be false. That would be courageous. Quietly slipping in a change in wording seems to be the opposite of courageous. But that’s just me. Your mileage may vary.

  49. Questions on November 9, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    Kaimi (#33) said:

    “Presumably, these changes were approved by the same folks who wrote the earlier BoM intro — the First Presidency, and/or Quorum of the 12. In which case, this is simply a matter of the flexibility of a church that regularly relies on continuing revelation, no?

    With more information, we can have a better understanding. That’s not “1984,” it’s the normal process of refining ideas and using our God-given brains.”

    I respect and appreciate what you say here. But what is troubling to me is that the changes the Church has made in its positions over the years, which it presents as resulting from revelation, seem to be the often reluctant acknowledgement that its previous understanding (presumably also based on revelation) was wrong. And to me, what initiates and drives these changes is not God leading the way, speaking to Church leaders, but, as you say, humanity simply using its “God-given brains.” These revelations seem to me to just be “after the fact” catching up to the truths discovered by using our brains.

    In various discussions on these topics, the faithful typically claim that revelation “trumps” scientific understanding, because the first comes from an eternal, omniscient God, while the other is merely the ‘arm of flesh,’ which can’t be trusted. But here is yet another example which seems to demonstrate the exact opposite.

    And I completely agree with Equality (#48) – to my way of thinking, the Church’s actions here are the complete opposite of courageous.

  50. Questions on November 9, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    Apparently, a post by Equality, which I thought was reasoned and articulate, respectfully voicing a minority opinion, is no longer present. My reference to hist post, which was #48 is thus moot.

  51. Clark on November 9, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    “Questions,” since we are to study and pray while receiving revelations one shouldn’t be surprised that many (and I suspect the majority) of revelations merely confirm rational reasoning. Indeed it would be far more problematic were this not the case. However I don’t see this as a problem. Perhaps if there is a problem it is that we are all so busy we don’t have time to inquire about many things until there is a problem. Even that’s not much of a problem since arguably the things we are more busy with tend to be more important than the focus blogs give suggest.

    I also question your portraying of “the faithful typically claim…” That’s simply not my experience. Certainly revelation properly understood trumps scientific theory. But revelation has to be recognized as such, weeded from the non-revelatory, and then properly understood.

    As to this particular action being “the complete opposite of courageous” by which I take to entail cowardice. That strikes me as odd. One can see them as perhaps institutionally conservative. (i.e. don’t change until one has to) But cowardly? Hardly. That’s on par to saying someone is cowardly because one only changes one view when evidence is clear.

    While there are problems with institutional conservativism I think there are dangers with not following it. (i.e. that personal preference and whim dominate too much) It does mean that one is typically a decade or two behind. (It sure would have been nice had the introduction been changed in the 80′s when it became clear that the LGT was the way to read the BoM) But I think we demand too much.

  52. Ray on November 9, 2007 at 3:37 pm

    “the Church’s actions here are the complete opposite of courageous.”

    I don’t understand that claim, at all. I see this as important, but I also see it as extremely minor (barely a blip) on the courage/cowardice spectrum.

  53. Questions on November 9, 2007 at 3:54 pm

    Regarding revelation and rational reasoning:

    I understand what you’re saying here, but it seems to me that changes like this show that “rational reasoning” might be functioning as the default arbiter of truth. That is, we say what we think any given revelation means, but end up changing it as rational reasoning provides more reliable information, or at least helps us come closer to the truth. So why do I need this “revelation” when its truthfulness or significance will be modified as rational reasoning points the way. Why not just simply rely on the default final arbiter?

    Regarding calling the Church’s actions the opposite of courageous:

    I was ‘seconding’ a more complete explanation made by Equality, where he defined more fully the basis for this statement. Unfortunately, this has either been lost through a glitch, or I supposed pulled by BCC. I honestly don’t know which.

    I wish I had copied his full text before this happened, but basically one of the things he said is that if Pres. Hinckley had stood up at the recent General Conference, and from the pulpit acknowledged that our previous understanding of this issue had been in error, and that therefore certain changes were being made, then that would be courageous. But simply slipping it in, unannounced, uncommented on, seems to be the opposite of this.

    Not to divert discussion from this topic, but I have always been disappointed by a similar attitude taken with respect to the Blacks and the Priesthood issue. Yes, the change was announced in a very public, formal setting, but the whole baggage of its prior existence was never directly treated. I see the current actions as consistent with this same mode of operation. I find this inconsistent with any organization that professes interest in the truth to be of utmost concern.

  54. Questions on November 9, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    Oops -this T&S, not BCC. Just a bit disoriented, I guess – sorry! ;-)

  55. Point on November 9, 2007 at 4:07 pm

    This wording change is one of thousands of examples of how so-called \”Anti-Mormons\” are going to great lengths to research, document, and publicize the faults, failings, sins, and problems with the LDS Church.

    Mormons (for example, FARMS) defend themselves against such \”anti-Mormon\” attacks by a variety of arguments, the gist of which is that the Church is true despite errors and changes in scripture, imperfect leaders and members, problems and inconsistencies in theology, etc.

    In order to justify why a \”Restoration\” was necessary, Mormons have gone to great lengths to research, document, and publicize the faults, failings, sins, and problems with the Christian Churches since Jesus\’ time (see \”The Great Apostasy\” among many many others).

    Point: If the defenses Mormons offer against attacks on their Church are valid (if the Church really is \”true\” despite these problems), then why aren\’t those same \”defenses\” also valid for the Christian Churches Mormons attack?

    In other words, why can\’t the original Church established by Christ also be \”true\” despite all the problems the Mormons have identified, thereby eliminating the need for a Restoration in the first place?

    The foundation of the Mormon claim is inherently incoherent. I will continue to unravel. (Matt. 7:1-2)

  56. David Clark on November 9, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    Rosalynde,

    You’ve stumped me on this one, though: what sort of consequences do you, uh, foresee? I get the downside already mentioned—Latin American Saints will have their sense of identity challenged—but I think it’s more honest and more prudent to face this challenge than to allow a dubious folk doctrine to persist. What else do you have in mind?

    I don’t have anything in particular in mind, I just know from experience that unforeseen consequences have a tendency of popping up. And, since you are not prepared for them, they are unforeseen after all, they tend to be the worst kind of consequences. I really hope there are not any, I too agree that honesty is the best policy here, it just may not have the prettiest results.

  57. Eric S. on November 9, 2007 at 4:23 pm

    Questions:

    This is what Equality said:

    “If anyone who has ancestors “among” the indigenous American population of 2000 years ago is a “Lamanite” then we are virtually ALL Lamanites, as we all certainly have at least one ancestor from that population. If virtually every person on earth today has ancestors “among” the ancient Native American population (which we do, according to the same scientific research establishing the Asiatic ancestry of the indigenous Americans), then we are all “Lamanites,” and all the prophecies about the uniqueness of the Lamanites as a branch of Israel, the gathering before the Second Coming, etc. are rendered meaningless. There are serious implications to Mormon doctrine that result from this seemingly minor textual change.

    As for the “courage” of the church in making such a change, I frankly don’t see how silently changing the text in the Doubleday edition, and making no mention of it until an article is published at the instigation of church critics, is courageous. Courageous it would have been if President Gordon B. Hinckley, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had stood at the pulpit at the 177th Semiannual General Conference and boldly declared that past prophets were wrong to say the Lamanites were the principal ancestors of the American Indians and Polynesian peoples, and that the Doctrine & Covenants and Pearl of Great Price, as well as the Book of Mormon, would be undergoing textual revisions to remove ideas now known to be false. That would be courageous. Quietly slipping in a change in wording seems to be the opposite of courageous. But that’s just me. Your mileage may vary.”

    It must have been a computer glitch that removed it, as the comment does not appear to violate the T&S comment policies. Note how Brother Equality even referred very respectfully to President Hinckley, even using his middle initial to show extreme reverence for the Prophet.

  58. Michael Decker on November 9, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    I think getting so much emotion from all these little things probably isn\’t too good.

    Do you believe Joseph Smith was a Prophet? And that the Book of Mormon is true history?

    I guess looking spending your time looking for more ways to authenticate it rather then studying and enhancing the purpose of it and it\’s effect on your life would not be my first choice.

    I went on a little intellectual kick and yes it\’s great. But personally I see my time being better spent studying the sermons of the prophets and their teachings and the actually scripture and revelation
    of the triple combination and the Bible instead of keep trying to prove it\’s true with little technicalities.

    But hey, as long as someone is gonna do it, fine by me.

    Personally, I\’ve learned at least for some, putting your complete faith in this little things, does more harm then good.

    Truth is Truth. I have faith in Truth, just sometimes not what man says is Truth, but what God says is Truth.

    cheers

  59. Questions on November 9, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    Thanks for the post, Eric. Curiously, the original is now back. Who knows….
    Anyway, back to the discussion.

  60. Ray on November 9, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    #54 – I don’t have two hours to address your comment properly, so suffice it to say that “the foundation of the Mormon claim” is not what is incoherent here. If the claim of the Restoration was that it provided perfection in its prophets and apostles and that everything they thought and taught and believed was the perfect word of God – that there could be no mistakes that might need to be corrected or changed or understood more fully in time – then your assertion might be legitimate. That claim is not made, so the assertion is invalid on nits face.

    I agree that many anti-Mormons might make the claim you put forth, but it is an invalid claim – and an incredibly ironic one, btw, since it would be saying, in essence, “You aren’t right, since you are just like us – which means we aren’t right.” An atheist might find great comfort in your statement, but I don’t think a thoughtful Christian would get much solace from it.

  61. Ray on November 9, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    BTW, does it strike anyone else that, in matters like this, the Church leadership knows that the wolves will howl no matter what they do, so they simply do it with the least possible effort and just don’t give a rat’s glutes about it?

  62. adcama on November 9, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    I’m having a pretty big problem with the implications of the change and the way it is being handled. While I agree that we cannot know for certain whether the BOM people lived in America between 600 BC and 400 AD based on the DNA evidence itself, the bigger implication for me is that if such a major error was made in the introduction of the BOM, what does it say of my sustaining church leaders as prophets, seers and revelators? Certainly, we can’t use the excuse that they were not acting in their official capacity as prophets for purposes of the introduction….and thus, the “not in the official text” argument, to me is hollow. And the way the church seems to be handling it – honestly – angers me. A slow, gradual, change so that the majority of church membership does not realize what’s happened – and the detractors won’t have so much ammo. I’m kind of sick of things being driven by the PR department of the church – square up and be forthcoming about things….I see what is going on here as cloak and dagger.

  63. Jacob M on November 9, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    It’s being done behind the closed doors of the Salt Lake Tribune? And futher hidden by the bloggers at Times and Seasons, By Common Consent, LDS Science Review, The Juvenile Instructor, Mormon Mentality? Soo cloak and dagger.

  64. adcama on November 9, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    Yeah Jacob, T&S represents the church – as does the SL Trib….you’re right – the church has been right up front.

  65. Clark on November 9, 2007 at 5:13 pm

    Point: If the defenses Mormons offer against attacks on their Church are valid (if the Church really is \”true\” despite these problems), then why aren\’t those same \”defenses\” also valid for the Christian Churches Mormons attack?

    The larger issue is not of teaching but of authority. Mormons tend to focus in on the teaching issue but I think theologically it is secondary.

    Regarding the doctrine issue rather than the authority issue though I think it would be a valid defense. However I don’t see the Pope announcing that the Council of Nicene was wrong any time soon. (Although let’s give credit where credit is due with regards to Vatican II)

  66. Frank McIntyre on November 9, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    “if such a major error was made in the introduction of the BOM, what does it say of my sustaining church leaders as prophets, seers and revelators?”

    It says that humans make mistakes. In this case, it appears that Bruce McConkie made a mistake (something he has freely fessed up to on other occasions about other things). You don’t need infallible prophets to make the Church work. In fact, it can, depending on one’s beliefs, even make sense to infallibly follow fallible prophets.

  67. Jonovitch on November 9, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    Aside from all the other discussions going on here, if this change supposedly happened in the October 2006 printing of the Doubleday Book of Mormon (according to the DesNews article), why hasn’t anyone noticed yet?

    “It’s been out for quite a while,” a senior Doubleday editor said.

    Is this really the first time anybody caught this change? Why is this getting press all of a sudden, more than a year later? Did I miss an announcement in the Oct 06 conference? (A friend of mine told me that in his last stake high-priest quorum mtg, they gave everyone in attendance the exact coordinates for the gathering in Missouri, but he wasn’t sharing, because I mocked him for being suckered into yet another Mormon meeting.)

    Jon

  68. Eric S. on November 9, 2007 at 5:58 pm

    It’s getting press now because a poster at the postmormon.org discussion board noticed it at a bookstore, scanned in the pages comparing the two, and started a discussion about it. Others noticed that no mention was made of the change on the church web site and that the church-published version still had the old language. Contributors to that board then sent inquiries to Doubleday and to religion writers at various media outlets, include the Tribune. Only after the story was published did the church make any kind of statement about the change. After the DAMU boards started discussing it, the Bloggernacle picked it up. So, yes, the Church did this on the Q.T.

    On blaming Elder McConkie, I think that is unfair. Elder McConkie may have written the introduction, but the language was in perfect harmony with doctrine taught in the canonized scriptures and the teachings of every President of the Church from Joseph Smith right through the current Prophet. President Kimball was leading the Church in 1981. The Introduction is in total harmony with what President Kimball taught for decades in his official capacity as Apostle and Prophet, including at General Conference, in published articles in church magazines, and at temple dedications. The Introduction was approved by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. If Elder McConkie erred, so did they. And no member of the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve (even now) has ever publicly stated that Elder McConkie’s wording in the Introduction was wrong. So let’s not make Elder McConkie a scapegoat here. He didn’t write anything out of harmony with latter-day scriptures and 150 years of prophetic utterances.

  69. Frank McIntyre on November 9, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    Actually, Eric, I think you will find that statements saying “principal” ancestors are much rarer than statements that merely refer to descent from Lehi. Lehi still is an ancestor to these people, so many statements go through readily on that basis. And limited geography statements abound throughout the Church’s history (as well as being in the Book of Mormon).

    Also, it is not clear at all that every mention of “Lamanite” is making a genetic, as opposed to cultural, claim. The Book of Mormon repeatedly uses it culturally rather than genetically. The D&C refers to the “Lamanites” on the borders of the U.S., so it is only natural that we would adopt the same divinely approved terminology. The fact that they also have Jaredite or other blood in them seems like a non-starter.

  70. David Clark on November 9, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    The D&C refers to the “Lamanites” on the borders of the U.S., so it is only natural that we would adopt the same divinely approved terminology. Sorry, that doesn’t fly. You have to go back and look at what the term meant at that time and in that context. You cannot impose your post-DNA evidence mindset on the mindsets of the early church members. If to them Lamanites meant all American Indians, then that’s just what it meant. Whether it is true or not is a different matter. Please don’t get into the game of trying to change what reality was just to preserve some words on a page.

  71. Frank McIntyre on November 9, 2007 at 6:37 pm

    Huh? Nibley (among others) was talking about this stuff decades ago. This is not a “post-DNA” mindset. The idea of “Lamanite” as a cultural or religious group rather than a genetic one is in the Book of Mormon itself. In fact, it’s hard to miss as it gets brought up repeatedly.

    I think they used the term Lamanite pretty freely to refer to American Indians, but that is very different from saying that they had no ancestry lines that did not run through Lehi. But even if they did believe it, I say again, humans make mistakes.

  72. David Clark on November 9, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    Frank,

    I think they used the term Lamanite pretty freely to refer to American Indians. You just made my point.

  73. Frank McIntyre on November 9, 2007 at 6:46 pm

    Well then I guess we agree :).

  74. Dan S. on November 9, 2007 at 6:47 pm

    # 68 “He didn’t write anything out of harmony with latter-day scriptures and 150 years of prophetic utterances.”

    I would be very grateful to you if you could quote a scripture or a prophetic utterance that states that the Lamanites were the principal ancestors of the American Indians. While you’re at it, I wish you would also produce a quote from scriptures or prophets that state that Moroni was a resurrected being (this is another statement I’ve been trying to document from the Introduction to the Book of Mormon). I have not been able to find a scripture or a prophetic utterance that explicitly states either of those things.

  75. Frank McIntyre on November 9, 2007 at 6:52 pm

    David,

    Hereditary group names are a funny business. What percentage of your ancestors would you say are Clarks? Do you have more Clark ancestors than me? Certainly we are both related to the exact same number of Clarks…

    McIntyre means “son of carpenter”. But I’m not, except in the loosest possible sense. My son isn’t under any plausible definition of carpenter.

  76. paula on November 9, 2007 at 7:15 pm

    I was disappointed to see that this change happened a year ago. I had been hoping that maybe there’d be some discussion of this in upcoming church publications. I think that most members of the church would interpret the term Lamanite to mean a literal descendant of Lehi. This article which is a few years old is a good demonstration of why they would have been justified in making that interpretation:
    http://tinyurl.com/2kuyaq

    I’ve been told in the past by apologists that I was silly to have ever believed that the Book of Mormon covered the whole continent– but that was certainly what was taught in my seminary class. And what about the Lamanite Generation, or Tom Trails? :) A friend of mine received a mission call saying that he was to labor among the descendants of the Lamanites– the Navajo Indians. The idea that all the native inhabitants of these continents were literal descendants of Lehi– and that was not at all corrected by any church authorities. I’ve come to believe that was not correct, before the DNA studies came out. But I feel very strongly that it’s disingenuous at best to claim that the church never really taught this.

  77. Y Stephenson on November 9, 2007 at 7:16 pm

    This is certainly a surprise. I didn’t even know there was an introduction. I always start reading at 1 Nephi. Now I have read all the introductory stuff in the past. So I will have to find a pre-1980 edition, gotta have one somewhere, and see if it is in there. I checked out my 1961 German edition and the offending words or anything like unto them are not there.

    When they start saying the things the Community of Christ is now saying about the BoM then I will be alarmed. This introduction is not part of the revealed translation. It is simply further explanation most likely put in the same time as the words another testament for Christ was put on the title page. It was never voted on or accepted as cannon. It is much ado about very little.

  78. David Clark on November 9, 2007 at 7:18 pm

    Frank,

    The answer to both questions is I don’t know. My last name really isn’t supposed to be Clark. When I was made Ward Clerk the church forced me to legally change my name since “Clark” is obviously from “clerk.” Well, they didn’t force me but they gave me a 50% discount on paying tithing, so of course I had to take it. Now that I am a seminary teacher I really ought to change it back to my real Portuguese last name, “Carneiro Leao Silveira Oliveira Macieira da Pereira,” but it just doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily as Clark.

    What was I saying?

  79. Ray on November 9, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    Sometimes, people make mountains out of molehills. I believe this is one of those times. To summarize:

    1) Infallibility is not a tenet of Mormonism. Never has been.

    2) There has been proof of this with instances that FAR outweigh this example.

    3) This change does not contradict anything in the Book of Mormon. It actually seems to be in better harmony with what the book actually claims, especially since there are multiple references to the Lord leading other people to the continent – including those that appear to set this beyond the time when the record ended. In other words, this action seems to be a “correct” action.

    4) The idea behind the change has been around for decades – believed by many, many people and propounded openly by many, many people.

    5) Elder McConkie and others obviously believed the previous statement was accurate. Others disagreed. Complete unity is an ideal for which we strive, but it’s an ideal we’ve never been able to accomplish – even in relatively minor areas or Sunday School classes. There have been some teachings and beliefs espoused by former apostles and subsequently rejected by the church at large that make this issue seem trivial and truly inconsequential.

    6) The Church handled this the way it always handles these things – by just doing it. No fanfare; no trumpets; no secrecy; no cloak-and-dagger meetings. It just weighed all the evidence and did it.

    6) We are left with another example that what we always have preached actually is reality: priesthood authority does not equal omniscience; our leaders are inspired but not perfect; and . . . the Book of Mormon is *much* more complicated than people thought and think, and we don’t understand it nearly as well as we think we do.

    I just don’t see the end of the world in this. Those who do won’t be convinced by my perspective; those like me who don’t won’t be convinced any more strongly by my perspective; those in the middle will have to work it out for themselves – just like when Joseph was killed, the Manifesto was announced, the Word of Wisdom became a commandment, the priesthood ban was lifted, and innumerable other things “changed” in the Church. Frankly, given those examples, I just don’t see the magnitude of this one.

  80. Ben on November 9, 2007 at 7:21 pm

    Paula, these two statements are not equivalent. The first is both completely possible AND compatible with the old and new statement, regardless of the truth value for the second.

    “all the native inhabitants of these continents were literal descendants of Lehi”
    “he Book of Mormon covered the whole continent”

    And I have trouble believing any of these nameless apologists mocked your belief as silly. Most nameless apologists I know are sensitive to the feelings of those people with questions.

  81. adcama on November 9, 2007 at 8:04 pm

    Frank – I liked your post (from a ironic – yet useful way of addressing the issue).

    But are you saying that the prophet/apostles are bound to be wrong within the realm of their callings x percent of the time, or that the prophet/apostles are human and they make mistakes, but those mistakes (which equate to x percent of the time) generally fall outside the scope of their prophetic role?

    From a practical perspective it’s hard to take the argument that a prophet – in his prophetic role – making utterances in prophetic voice – will be wrong x percent of the time…..

    How does that compare to Evangelical ministers, Baptist preachers and JW’s? They’re probably right 60% of the time too?

    Not sure your example works for me…..

  82. ed johnson on November 9, 2007 at 9:02 pm

    JS, in the Wentworth letter: I was also informed concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country and shown who they were, and from whence they came…

    This seems much stronger than the more modest claim that all (or most) North American Indians have BOM people among their literal ancestors. It is much closer to the claim that BOM people were the “principal ancestors.”

    Dan S., does this count as “a scripture or a prophetic utterance?”

  83. paula on November 9, 2007 at 9:59 pm

    #80 Ben, I was being nice and not naming the apologist. If I could remember exactly where the discussion took place I’d link to it. It was on mormonstories somewhere. And yes, this person basically said that anyone who had believed that native americans were literal descendants of Lehi was very naive. And that’s what I think now too– but my point is that many many people believed that because we were taught that. Perhaps those two statements are not equivalent, but from what I’ve read of apologetics, they seem to go together– however, I’ll admit that I don’t read much FAIR stuff anymore. But what I have read seems to me to be suggesting that the way to get around the many problems with historical aspects of the B of M is to surmise that it was in a limited geographical region, and that the people discussed in the B of M interbred a great deal with surrounding people.

  84. Frank McIntyre on November 10, 2007 at 12:00 am

    adcama,

    I’m glad you liked it. Now suppose, as one example, I believe prophets are infallible when they are speaking for God, but I can’t perfectly tell when that is. There’s your x% of error introduced because I can’t correctly discern when they are acting as a prophet. Any way you look at it, I know of no promise of prophetic infallibility (or promise that will let us differentiate it without having a confirming witness from the HG), only of safety if we follow the prophet. Since they are more right than you, I am not sure that you have a better option.

    And yes, I do believe prophets are right more than 60% of the time. I used the low number to get the point across. The question is not so much how right they are but whether or not they are righter than your best alternative (as your example of Baptist Ministers points out).

    Ed,

    If the other inhabitants of the New World are largely Jaredites, mixed with some other, unknown divine migrations (maybe in the sealed plates!), then Joseph could well make that claim. Or if he considers the Lehi story the most important one, or if he was mistaken about it being the only origin story.etc. etc.

    As I recall, the book does claim that everyone brought to the continent was brought by God.

  85. bfwebster on November 10, 2007 at 2:55 am

    But what I have read seems to me to be suggesting that the way to get around the many problems with historical aspects of the B of M is to surmise that it was in a limited geographical region, and that the people discussed in the B of M interbred a great deal with surrounding people.

    Paula, I think you’re missing the point. The “limited geography model” isn’t something imposed from outside to “solve historical problems” — it’s what you get if you actually read the Book of Mormon closely and use statements within the book itself to determine how close the various locations described are to one another. Let me give you a parallel example: suppose I handed you a copy of the New Testament and (setting aside all maps and known geography) said that Jesus’ life and ministry actually extended from Britain (the ‘Decapolis’) to South Africa (‘Egypt’). You’d be able to refute that pretty easily just using the New Testament text, because it’s clear that Jesus couldn’t travel those distances in the time frames set forth in the Gospels.

    In the same fashion, the Book of Mormon gives lots of information about how long people took to get from point A to point B — and when you compile that information, you find out that the Book of Mormon events took place in a region not much larger than that of the New Testament — a few hundred miles on a side, not several thousand. I’d recommend The Geography of Book of Mormon Events: A Source Book (John L. Sorenson, FARMS, 1992), which not only contains just about every internal map and external geographic model every proposed for the Book of Mormon (from the 1830s up until the time of publication) but also 100 pages of Book of Mormon verses dealing with geographical relationships, extents and characteristics. Note that brief references to a limited geography model go all the way back to 1842, while the first formal and explicit limited geography model was proposed by Louis Edward Hills in 1917. If that volume (about 400 pages in all) is a bit more than you care for, then get Mormon’s Map (John L. Sorenson, FARMS, 2000), which is a shorter, more readable presentation of the internal geographical information from the Book of Mormon.

    As for the population issue, I refer you over to my blog entry on this subject rather than copy it all here. ..bruce..

  86. ed johnson on November 10, 2007 at 5:12 am

    More from the Wentworth letter:
    In this important and interesting book the history of ancient America is unfolded, from its first settlement by a colony that came from the Tower of Babel, at the confusion of languages to the beginning of the fifth century of the Christian Era. We are informed by these records that America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of people. The first were called Jaredites, and came directly from the Tower of Babel. The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem, about six hundred years before Christ. They were principally Israelites, of the descendants of Joseph. The Jaredites were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country. The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country.

  87. Ray on November 10, 2007 at 5:36 am

    So what, ed?

  88. adcama on November 10, 2007 at 9:47 am

    “Since they are more right than you, I am not sure that you have a better option.”

    Lots of people are generally more right than me. My accountant is generally more right than me when it comes to the alternative minimum tax. My doctor is more right than me when it comes to evaluating blood work. My college math professor was always more right than me. While none of these people claim perfection relative to their professions (otherwise, why professional liability insurance?), I’m also not required to believe their professional opinions generally come from a divine source (and sustain them as god’s mouthpiece), nor is my expectation that they are generally more right on everything else (from language interpretation to nutrition to archaeology), nor am I culturally or organizationally bound from challenging them when I think they are wrong, getting a second opinion – nor am I at risk of being culturally criticized (and possibly ecclesiastically sanctioned) when I feel a different course should be taken and then move in that direction.

    While I don’t necessarily want to get into particulars about where the prophets may have gotten it wrong in the past, from my perspective their odds are not practically significant enough to go with them all of the time. This is especially true when our gut (perhaps a combination of spirit, inspiration, research, study, etc) is telling us something completely contrary to what the prophet is saying. While you state that there are promises for those who follow the prophet all the time, will god really hold us blameless/responsible if we go against our better judgement/feelings/inspiration – in the name of following someone who we knew was human?

    I’d also be interested in your opinion on how the church is handling this change?

  89. Y Stephenson on November 10, 2007 at 11:26 am

    So, I found the 1964 edition of the BOM that has been laying around for what 43 years now. The title page is not the same title page as in the 1980 edition. In that edition it follows the new title page. The next page deals with the origin of The Book Of Mormon. It is basically the Joseph Smith story as it appears in the Pearl of Great Price. Next comes the testimony of the three and eight witnesses. There is table of context and then come the first page of the First Book of Nephi.

    The change of one word in an introduction that did not constitute any kind of change in doctrine and was merely added later to the canon and not made a part of that canon has no effect on the teachings of the church. It is an editorial change.

    I listened to a lecture by a geneticists from Harvard speaking on UCTV not long ago. His main point was that race is not encoded in DNA. That without some point of comparison, that is actual DNA from Lehi, Manasseh or Joseph himself there is no actual way to tell all the things people say it says. (No he didn’t refer to Lehi, Manasseh or Joseph; he referred to Oprah Winfrey and others who have tried to use DNA to establish various claims that go back to time of the founding of the American Colonies.) Since Lehi was descended from Manasseh and an Egyptian woman not Judah it seems to me we might not be able to establish anything with any certainty. When it comes to spiritual things certainty comes through faith. Corroborating evidence is nice, but it isn’t what builds testimony.

    I guess I have been in the Church long enough to see so many changes that this particular editorial changing of a word just doesn’t seem very important.

  90. Ray on November 10, 2007 at 11:53 am

    adcama, Just to make sure my own belief is represented properly, since I probably have come across as being “opposed” to what you have said, I have no problem with someone following the dictates of their own conscience – none whatsoever. I believe that is the heart of the teachings of the Restored Church – individuals exercising their agency to live what they personally believe to the best of their own ability. I mean that completely and sincerely. Therefore, if people honestly do not believe that they can sustain the Church’s leaders as prophets and apostles (if they don’t have my own perspective of what it means to not be led astray by following the counsel of those leaders), I hope they will do what you appear to be doing – following the dictates of their own conscience and accepting all the counsel they can accept without openly trying to “convert” others to their own practices. I truly respect the fact that you won’t go into specifics here. Again, I mean that sincerely.

    My only problem, frankly, is the implication in the last sentence that the Church needs to “handle this change.” As Bruce (#85) explained so well, this is not a new and sudden change of doctrine that has come out of the blue. This understanding has been building for years – and has been mentioned to some degree since nearly the beginning of the Restoration. I just don’t see anything that needs to be “handled.” If there was a statement to be made, I believe it merely would be something like, “The dominant belief used to be that the Lamanites were the principal ancestors of the American Indians, but research and new information has led us to realize that we need to expand that ancestry to include other populations – that the Lamanites simply are one of possibly many ancestral groups.”

    First, such a statement is redundant and unnecessary. It would be saying nothing more than what the change itself says. I submit that such a statement would placate some people and have no effect on some people, but it also would inflame others – that reactions to such a statement are totally predictable and would be exactly the same as they have been and will be to the change itself. (e.g., If someone automatically accuses the Church of cowardice for not making a big, public deal out of this, do you really think that that same person would stand and applaud the Church if it made a big, public deal out of it? My experience tells me that someone who automatically complains automatically complains, no matter the action.) If releasing a statement won’t make a bit of difference overall (if it won’t change anyone’s mind or if the positive will be counterbalanced or outweighed by the negative), why make it? The change itself is enough. To me, it really is a non-issue “how” the Church “handles” it; I just am psyched that the Church made the change.

  91. adcama on November 10, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    Ray, the reason I would have liked to see the church come forward in a bit more public way is because I have to deal with masses of mormons (with this issue….as with many others, again, which I won’t get into here) everytime I go to church (no matter where it is) who largely believe somewhere in the vicinity of the “principal ancestors” realm, or other ultra-orthodox, dogmatic, or in some cases “old view” mormon folklore that in many ways is out of touch with current mormon scholarly thought (scientific thought, etc). These mormons don’t read this blog, they immediately discount newspaper articles as “anti-mormon”, they raise their eyebrows when a thoughtful brother or sister brings these types of issues up – and if you’ll pardon the overgeneralization for one more second – they believe they are more righteous, faithful, obedient, “in tune”, and foreordained (okay, not really, but adds good emphasis) than those of us who look at things – shall we say – more critically. Then when a change like this is made, the scholarly, scientific, thoughtful mormons who had the gumption to study stuff like this (and in some cases feared or received church discipline) are vindicated – but without redemption – and the mormon masses who were previously critical to the new ideas all say in a chorus “we’ve known about this for 20 years….look at so and so (who we were critical of a few years ago, but now he’s our hero) – he’s been looking at this for years, and so we have known this all along….and we were right, etc., etc., etc.

    That’s why I wish the church would come out on points like these more directly, Ray – it’s all about me.

  92. Ray on November 10, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    adcama, thanks for the clarification. I understand that completely – and I absolutely loved the last four words. It felt good to smile and laugh in the middle of this conversation.

  93. paula on November 10, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    bfwebster– I think you’re missing my point. I understand what you’re saying there about the careful reading of the Book of Mormon– but I think that the vast majority of people in the church who don’t read blogs, or apologetics would be surprised by the idea that Native Americans aren’t direct descendants of Lehi and that the B of Mormon did not take place on vast amounts of the American continent. I think that the issue should be addressed more directly, in the Ensign or Church News, or whatever. Take a look at the pdf file I linked to back in comment 79 for an example of a devout member trying to make sense of previous statements about this.

  94. ed johnson on November 10, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    Paula, the claim that Native Americans are direct descendants of Lehi is actually a very weak one. It’s basically equivalent to claiming that Lehi was a real person. The strong claim is that Lehi and his band were “principal ancestors,” or in other words that they were much more than a drop in the bucket, genetically and ancestrally speaking. Neither the new phrasing nor the new apologetics contradict in any way the idea that Native Americans are direct, literal descendants of Lehi.

  95. Kathryn on November 10, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    Has anyone on this blog heard any talk about the change having to do ONLY with the s p e l l i n g of the word:

    PRINCIPAL, which IS the way it is currently spelled and apparently INCORRECTLY used in this context. So when brought to attention apparently editing became necessary. No big deal. Right?

    A claim is being made that it has NOTHING to do with DNA whatsoever. This blog is usually one of the most informed and so I come to you to find out if this is folklore or substantial rumor…

    Thanks. I will gather more of what I have and return and report. The blogger who purports this gave no reference, therefore at this time I have none either at this time. It has been requested and is pending.

    Kathryn

  96. paula on November 10, 2007 at 2:06 pm

    OK Ed, I’ll agree that you’re correct on that– perhaps I mean that there was a direct line of male descent– father to father, which is what DNA evidence shows did not occur. And you’re certainly right about principal ancestor difference.

  97. bfwebster on November 10, 2007 at 2:07 pm

    but I think that the vast majority of people in the church who don’t read blogs, or apologetics would be surprised by the idea that [all?] Native Americans aren’t direct descendants of Lehi and that the B of Mormon did not take place on vast amounts of the American continent.

    You’re probably right, but I think that’s a failing on our part as Latter-day Saints; the research and writings on these topics has been out there for quite some time. And, of course, the Book of Mormon itself has been around since 1830.

    When President Kimball died in 1985, after having been largely incapacitated for the last year or two of his life, I was excited to see if Pres. Benson would continue on with the dramatic changes that Pres. Kimball had made. Instead, he came out and said (quoting from D&C 84:54-57) that we as a church were under condemnation for neglecting the Book of Mormon (here’s his October 1986 conference address on the subject). I was underwhelmed, to say the least — I had read the Book of Mormon a good 20 times at least by then — and kept waiting for something more ‘jazzy’. However, by 1988, we had moved to another state, and I was called to team-teach Gospel Doctrine, which was covering (ta-da) the Book of Mormon. Within a month or two of starting that calling, I had repented completely of my earlier dismissal of Pres. Benson’s call. It was becoming rapidly clear to me that we as Latter-day Saints did not know the Book of Mormon as we should; it was also very clear that the Book of Mormon had tremendous relevance to us in our day (“Woe unto the generation that understands the Book of Mormon.” — Hugh Nibley, 1957.)

    Once again, I’m teaching Gospel Doctrine, and once again, the Book of Mormon is coming up as the course of study next year. Assuming I don’t get a different calling between now and then, I can assure you that my class members will not have those same misconceptions about the Book of Mormon. ..bruce..

  98. adcama on November 10, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    “but I think that’s a failing on our part as Latter-day Saints”

    Do you mean “the church”, or us as individual members?

  99. Kaimi Wenger on November 10, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    Kathryn,

    You’re right to note that principal/principle is a common area of confusion. However, in this case, the adjective “principal” (meaning major, main, or most important) is being used correctly.

    See, e.g., http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/principal

  100. Kaimi Wenger on November 10, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    Interesting turns this thread has taken. I was teaching all day yesterday, so I missed some of the fun. Let me try to weigh in a little.

    Equality (48) suggests:

    If anyone who has ancestors “among” the indigenous American population of 2000 years ago is a “Lamanite” then we are virtually ALL Lamanites, as we all certainly have at least one ancestor from that population. If virtually every person on earth today has ancestors “among” the ancient Native American population (which we do, according to the same scientific research establishing the Asiatic ancestry of the indigenous Americans), then we are all “Lamanites,” and all the prophecies about the uniqueness of the Lamanites as a branch of Israel, the gathering before the Second Coming, etc. are rendered meaningless. There are serious implications to Mormon doctrine that result from this seemingly minor textual change.

    You’re right to point out that this potentially affects how we read scriptures dealing with the Lamanites. And your statement that “there are serious implications to Mormon doctrine that result from this seemingly minor textual change” strikes me as correct. However, I think it overstates the case to suggest that this change renders Lamanite-related scriptures meaningless. Rather, it demolishes certain (historically popular) interpretations of those scriptures.

    If a reader adopts a “one-drop rule” approach to race regarding the Lamanite scriptures, then they are indeed rendered essentially meaningless. If one drop of blood makes a person a Lamanite, then a very large and non-cohesive swath of the population is Lamanite, and it becomes difficult to apply those scriptures in a way that makes sense. And it’s true that many church members seem to have viewed race along one-drop kinds of lines, during the first half of the twentieth century.

    However, such scriptures could remain valid, if the reader took a different approach toward racial/ethnic identification. For instance, it could still refer to Native Americans as the more closely related heirs of Lamanites. This would be analogous to the way that society today distinguishes between Blacks and whites, even though most members of both groups have some African DNA (as evidenced in genetic markers) mixed with some non-African DNA. Society tends to label as Blacks those people who are less removed from their African ancestry and who have a higher portion of African DNA. It could make sense conceptually to do the same with Lamanites / Native Americans.

    Also, the scripture could be more concerned with the cultural heirs of the Lamanites. This means stepping away from a purely racial categorization altogether. In some ways, this is in harmony with the Book of Mormon itself — because within the Book of Mormon itself, the Lamanites aren’t really all descendants of Laman. Some are various apostate Nephite groups that join in; and then there’s the great mixing, destruction of all racial categories, and subsequant redivision in 4th Nephi. At various points in the Book of Mormon itself, Lamanite identity becomes tied not to race or lineage but to cultural preference.

    So, I can certainly appreciate your point, that this change _will_ impact the interpretation of scriptures about Lamanites, and some interpretations of those scriptures will need to be revised. (And some of those interpretations have been rather popular over time.) At the same time, various interpretations still exist of those passages which are conceptually consistent with the new changes. So, I think it overstates things to suggest that this change renders those scriptures altogether meaningless.

  101. Kathryn on November 10, 2007 at 4:15 pm

    Kaimie -

    Here is the complete POST left on the other thread by a *Larry P*. This is all he posted and has still not responed with a request for his resource on this information. No one seems to be biting over at the other forum either?

    QUOTE:

    “To modify an old saying “There are none so blind as those who cannot read what is actually written in the standard works of the Church”.

    The word used in the introduction is principal not principle.

    From the introduction to the 1981 edition of the BofM.

    “and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians”

    From the online Webster’s Dictionary of the English language

    QUOTE
    Main Entry: 1prin·ci·pal
    Pronunciation: \ˈprin(t)-s(ə-)pəl, -sə-bəl\
    Function: adjective
    Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin principalis, from princip-, princeps
    Date: 14th century
    1 : most important, consequential, or influential : chief
    2 : of, relating to, or constituting principal or a principal

    not

    QUOTE
    Main Entry: prin·ci·ple
    Pronunciation: \ˈprin(t)-s(ə-)pəl, -sə-bəl\
    Function: noun
    Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French principe, principle, from Old French, from Latin principium beginning, from princip-, princeps initiator — more at prince
    Date: 14th century
    1 a: a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption b (1): a rule or code of conduct (2): habitual devotion to right principles c: the laws or facts of nature underlying the working of an artificial device
    2: a primary source : origin
    3 a: an underlying faculty or endowment b: an ingredient (as a chemical) that exhibits or imparts a characteristic quality
    4capitalized Christian Science : a divine principle : god

    It was not changed in response to DNA findings or to a change in Mormon thought, it was changed because people, including members of the church, could not tell the difference between two English words and did not actually read what was written. It has always meant the most important ancesters, in particular with reference to spiritual blessings. It is through Father Lehi that all descendents of American Indian cultures will be blessed just as through Abraham all the world will be blessed whether they are genetic descendents of Abraham or not.”

    So the questions remain, has anybody else heard this claim? Does anyone actually think there is something to his story and that a change would have come from this kind of confusion? Or is this guy on his own little island with “his” issue and has decided to throw it out as bait? Right now, the fish don’t seem too confused… LOL

    Kathryn

  102. Frank McIntyre on November 10, 2007 at 7:58 pm

    paula,

    If there were other people in the New World when Lehi got here it would be trivially easy to have male line descent go undetected even if it existed (or, of course, disappear, given the widespread death (possibly over 90%) that occurred among native americans due to disease).

  103. paula on November 10, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    Frank, DNA can also be used to show the maternal line of descent and as far as I know, maternal DNA (mitochondrial DNA) of native americans also does not lend any support to the idea that native americans descended from middle eastern people. And again, my main point is that leaders and other members of the church for many years believed that current native americans are primarily descendants of the people whose story is told in the Book of Mormon.

  104. Ray on November 10, 2007 at 9:12 pm

    Paula, I’m sorry, but I just don’t see the problem in that. Believers and followers of those we accept as prophets in all ages believed some non-Gospel things that we no longer believe. Often, these beliefs were based on either culture or what we now see as a lack of full understanding about the texts from which the beliefs were extrapolated. Why should it surprise us or shake our faith to see that same lack of perfect understanding of non-Gospel issues in our own time (or even Gospel issues, for that matter) – especially given other examples that are so much more serious.

    Seriously, I see this as an example of how much more complicated and nuanced and deep the Book of Mormon is than almost everyone believed – and that only strengthens my conviction that it was not simply a deception dreamed up and written by Joseph Smith. If it has taken us this long to realize the more simplistic assumptions are incorrect, what else will we discover as we continue to dig deeper and find new insights? That excites me and is the main reason I am so glad that this change was made.

  105. Frank McIntyre on November 11, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    paula,

    The maternal line is just as small as the paternal– if a small group of Lehites showed up in an existing population of left over Jaredites (or other Asians) losing (or not finding yet) both maternal and paternal lines is really almost as easy as losing just one of them. Not, by the way, that we even know what Sariah’s DNA looked like.

    Put it this way, if there were a million people in the New World when Lehi showed up with, say 100 people, then 1 in 10,000 people would be Isarelite by paternal lines. Another 1 in 10,000 (possibly the same one) would be that way by the maternal line. This ignores the possibility of mass extinction (which we know happened both in 400 AD and again when the Europeans showed up). Even so, suppose currently we’ve tested 50,000 people (I’m totally making that up), in which case we would, on average, have about 5-10 people showing up as Israelite (assuming we’re even looking for those markers and that the markers represent 600 BC Israelites well). If I test 50,000 people and find 7 with Isrealite DNA, would that be worth publishing? Maybe it was just a few Spanish Jewish migrants from 400 years ago getting mixed in. In other words, it would be almost irresponsible for a scientists to make a case that he had found the Nephite migration on such sparse, idiosyncratic evidence.

    Thus, the DNA is compelling against the hypothesis that current Indians are only Lehites. It is not compelling against the Limited Geography theory that has been bounced around for decades (possibly since the 1800s) based on careful reading of internal evidence from the Book of Mormon.

    adcama,

    If you think the prophet is not significantly more right than you, well you are welcome to that view and the implications are clear. What the doctrine suggests is that we are safest if we follow the prophet, implying that they in fact are significantly more right than you on average (according to the doctrine).

    If “following your gut” your gut means “following the Holy Ghost” then it seems to me just another version of the same fallibility problem, since we are quite fallible at determining and interpreting personal revelation (although, even with the prophet we would need to use the HG to apply his counsel). If you mean “follow your gut” to include a more broad sense of your own feelings, I am inclined to think that your feelings are mixture of the Light of Christ, the natural man, traditions of your fathers, etc. etc. I don’t, offhand, know of any scripture that says ignoring the prophet is okay as long as you feel good about it. So I am not really sure what to make of it doctrinally. It seems dodgy.

    If “follow your gut” includes personal introspection, taking into account prophetic counsel, well that is exactly what my post was about– how to think about prophetic counsel appropriately.

  106. Frank McIntyre on November 11, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    Kathryn, very interesting!

  107. Ben on November 11, 2007 at 7:03 pm

    Kathryn, that would be Larry Poulsen, a retired biochemistry professor from the University of Texas. I think he’s just arguing against absolutist misreadings, not that he’s privy to internal church discussions.

  108. Kathryn on November 11, 2007 at 10:11 pm

    Ben,

    Yes, I think you are right. He finally came back and has commented briefly again. He did mention that he has been a member for 65 years! Definitely the guy. LOL What is the deal with him then and why would he be out here on his own with this theory. NO ONE is jumping on this bandwagon. Let me throw out what he has posted. Like you say though, he has given no source for his information, so obviously it is his own song. How did you know it was him and what do you think?

    Thanks,
    Kathryn

    QUOTE:

    To modify an old saying “There are none so blind as those who cannot read what is actually written in the standard works of the Church”.

    The word used in the introduction is principal not principle.

    From the introduction to the 1981 edition of the BofM.

    “and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians”

    From the online Webster’s Dictionary of the English language

    Main Entry: 1prin·ci·pal
    Pronunciation: \ˈprin(t)-s(ə-)pəl, -sə-bəl\
    Function: adjective
    Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin principalis, from princip-, princeps
    Date: 14th century
    1 : most important, consequential, or influential : chief
    2 : of, relating to, or constituting principal or a principal

    NOT

    Main Entry: prin·ci·ple
    Pronunciation: \ˈprin(t)-s(ə-)pəl, -sə-bəl\
    Function: noun
    Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French principe, principle, from Old French, from Latin principium beginning, from princip-, princeps initiator — more at prince
    Date: 14th century
    1 a: a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption b (1): a rule or code of conduct (2): habitual devotion to right principles c: the laws or facts of nature underlying the working of an artificial device
    2: a primary source : origin
    3 a: an underlying faculty or endowment b: an ingredient (as a chemical) that exhibits or imparts a characteristic quality
    4capitalized Christian Science : a divine principle : god

    It was not changed in response to DNA findings or to a change in Mormon thought, it was changed because people, including members of the church, could not tell the difference between two English words and did not actually read what was written. It has always meant the most important ancesters, in particular with reference to spiritual blessings. It is through Father Lehi that all descendents of American Indian cultures will be blessed just as through Abraham all the world will be blessed whether they are genetic descendents of Abraham or not.

    Larry P

    ……but the furor over a change which was made by those who had every right to do so has upset me more than all the Anti nonsense promoted on the internet. I have been a member of the Church for over 65 years since I was baptized at the age of eight. I have seen many changes in the different editions of the BofM and the Bible published by the Church. I watched the build up of critics who jumped on the Introduction published in the 1981 edition and its culmination in the publications about Lamanite DNA. My claim is based on my own experience and knowledge of continued efforts by church leaders to explain what the introduction actually said. Personally, I think the change to “among” was an attempt to downplay the efforts of some including members to use the introduction to promote their particular theory about BofM geography and culture. I was not talking of spiritual linage but of the means by which God provides for spirtual blessings and makes no exception of persons. Especially not on the basis of the genes they may or may not carry.

    Larry P

  109. paula on November 12, 2007 at 12:50 am

    Ray, and Frank, you and I will have to agree to disagree.

  110. Lori on November 12, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    My apologies if someone has already mentioned this–I remember hearing a podcast by a BYU genetics professor, Michael Whiting, I think, on the question of whether DNA evidence was in fact problematic for the Book of Mormon. His answer was, “No,” for reasons that of course I can no longer recall. Try LDS Stories podcast, search on Michael Whiting. Sorry not to provide the link here.

  111. Lori on November 12, 2007 at 3:37 pm

    Oops–I mean try searching LDS voices, not LDS stories.

  112. CRAIG C on November 12, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    The article in the Deseret News http://deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,695226008,00.html appears to disavow Peggy Fletcher Stack’s definite claim in the SL Tribune article that the old introduction was written by Elder McConkie. Does anyone know on what she based her conclusion it was E. McConkie?

  113. Curtis DeGraw on November 12, 2007 at 6:30 pm

    Craig, I read the article, and I didn’t see it disavowed anywhere. Where did you see a disavowal?

  114. Dave on November 13, 2007 at 1:58 am

    It’s worth pointing out that the Introduction, in the second-to-the-last paragraph, uses the term “we” as follows: “We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, …” So while Elder McConkie may or may not have drafted the text of the Introduction, as published it appears to be endorsed by or adopted as the statement of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, or the Big 15. It has, to my knowledge, never been acknowledged to be or held out as a statement of Elder McConkie.

  115. JWL on November 13, 2007 at 2:43 am

    The Book of Mormon does give an account of the principal ancestors of the American Indians — the Jaredites.

  116. adcama on November 13, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    “If “follow your gut” includes personal introspection, taking into account prophetic counsel, well that is exactly what my post was about– how to think about prophetic counsel appropriately.”

    Frank, how does ‘thinking about prophetic counsel appropriately’ work when personal introspection, taking into account prophetic counsel…..leads one to a conclusion that is different than prophetic direction? It seems to me that even at this point, in your scenario, a step in a direction different than the prophet is defined as “not following the prophet?” Therefore, isn’t any introspection, “following your gut”, doing analysis, etc., moot because at the end of the day….we’re to follow the prophet anyway? Maybe I really missed something.

  117. Frank McIntyre on November 14, 2007 at 11:50 am

    “Frank, how does ‘thinking about prophetic counsel appropriately’ work when personal introspection, taking into account prophetic counsel…..leads one to a conclusion that is different than prophetic direction?”

    The model clarifies the claim that one is _actually_ making when one goes a different direction. It means either:

    A: you think you have better (other) info than the prophet about what God wants or
    B: you think you are not supposed to do what God wants

    Now I find both of these potentially troublesome (B is goofy), but those are the conditions that immediately come to mind. Reaching one of these conclusions should be a matter of personal introspection based on how reliable you think this other information is compared to how reliable the prophet is (and the probability that the prophet already considered and integrated it into his view). Deciding that neither apply is also a matter of personal introspection. Either way, one is “following one’s gut” as to how best to follow God (if following one’s gut includes introspection). In reality, “following your gut” is, at least to some extent, unavoidably mixed in with internalized counsel from those we have trusted in our lives, so it is not as if there exists some “pure” introspection that will not be influenced by the past or present views of others, whether we recognize it or not. So there is no immediate reason not to throw the prophet into the mix as part of “following your gut”.

    Many people seem to believe A, and certainly many times the prophet gives general counsel and expects us to make our own personal decisions, so personal introspection and adaptation _is_ following the prophet. Personally I find A unlikely for church wide doctrinal or policy statements, but you are free to believe as you wish. It is at least a coherent belief that is widely shared by, for example, 99% of the Earth’s population.

    What is not obvious to me is how you could say that you do not follow prophetic counsel but reject both A and B (setting aside plain old failure of will to obey, which is, we can agree, ubiquitous). Unless there is some “C” I missed, then that just doesn’t make sense.

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