12 Questions and a Book by Royal Skousen

September 6, 2009 | 68 comments
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5 years ago we published one of my favorite “12 Questions” posts, in which Royal Skousen discussed in some depth what he has learned from his extensive work on the earliest editions of the Book of Mormon.  His book, The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text, is being published in September by Yale University Press (and yes, you can order  it at Amazon right now).  To mark this milestone, Royal was kind enough to update his “12 questions” discussion, which we have posted below, for the benefit of those who did not catch it the first time.   Enjoy!

Changes in the Book of Mormon

© 2009 by Royal Skousen

1. What is the critical text project of the Book of Mormon?

From the beginning, the two goals of the critical text project have been (1) to recover the original English-language text of the Book of Mormon, and (2) to determine the history of the text (namely, how it has changed over time). There are two basic kinds of changes in the history of the text: (a) accidental errors in the transmission of the text, and (b) the editing out of nonstandard English. I began the critical text project in 1988 and have been working full time on it since then.

2. What has been published thus far?

In 2001 the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), now a part of Brigham Young University (BYU) and a division of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, published the first two volumes of the critical text, namely:

(a)                The Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon: Typographical Facsimile of the Extant Text

564 pages (including 41 pages of introduction and 16 pages of black-and-white ultraviolet and color photographs of fragments)

(b)               The Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon: Typographical Facsimile of the Entire Text in Two Parts

1000 pages (bound in two parts, including 36 pages of introduction and 8 pages of color photographs of the manuscript)

These two volumes present an exact reproduction in typescript of the extant portions of the two manuscripts (about 28 percent of the original manuscript and all but three lines of the printer’s manuscript).

A year later FARMS/BYU published a history of the project, the result of a symposium held at BYU:

(c)                Uncovering the Original Text of the Book of Mormon: History and Findings of the Critical Text Project (edited by M. Gerald Bradford and Alison V.P. Coutts).

This 76-page document includes articles by me on the history of this project and the systematic nature of the original English-language text of the Book of Mormon. It also includes articles by Robert Espinosa on the Wilford Wood fragments of the original manuscript, Ron Romig on the printer’s manuscript, and Larry Draper on the printed editions of the Book of Mormon.

From 2004 through 2009 FARMS published Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, volume 4 of the critical text, in six parts (each one appearing at the end of the summer):

(d)               Part One: Title Page, Witness Statements, 1 Nephi 1  2 Nephi 10

[published in August 2004; 658 pages, covering 14 percent of the text]

(e)        Part Two: 2 Nephi 11- Mosiah 16

[published in August 2005; 716 pages, covering 18 percent of the text]

(f)         Part Three: Mosiah 17- Alma 20

[published in August 2006; 686 pages, covering 16 percent of the text]

(g)        Part Four: Alma 21- 55

[published in September 2007; 700 pages, covering 17 percent of the text]

(h)        Part Five: Alma 56 – 3 Nephi 18

[published in August 2008; 730 pages, covering 19 percent of the text]

(i)         Part Six: 3 Nephi 19 – Moroni 10; Addenda

[published in August 2009; 638 pages, covering 16 percent of the text]

The addenda at the end of part 6 contains additional items of analysis, including a few reversals of previous textual decisions.

All of the above items (a through i) are available for purchase from the BYU Bookstore (FARMS now distributes their books through the BYU Bookstore). These books can also be ordered through other bookstores and website distributors.

In addition to these works, in August 2009 Yale University Press published The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text. The following is the promotional information that Yale released for the book:

First published in 1830, the Book of Mormon is the authoritative scripture of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Over the past twenty-one years, Royal Skousen has pored over Joseph Smith’s original manuscripts and identified more than 2,000 textual errors in the 1830 edition. Although most of these discrepancies stem from inadvertent errors in copying and typesetting the text, the Yale edition contains about 600 corrections that have never appeared in any standard edition of the Book of Mormon, and about 250 of them affect the text’s meaning. Citing the earliest sources available, Skousen corrects the text in a work of remarkable dedication that will be a landmark in American religious scholarship.

Completely redesigned and typeset by nationally award-winning typographer Jonathan Saltzman, this new edition has been reformatted in sense-lines, making the text much more logical and pleasurable to read. Featuring a lucid introduction by historian Grant Hardy, the Yale edition serves not only as the most accurate version of the Book of Mormon ever published but also as an illuminating entryway into a vital religious tradition.

Grant Hardy, professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, provides the following summary in his introduction to the Yale edition:

Royal Skousen has single-handedly brought the textual analysis of the Book of Mormon to a professional level on part with the finest classical and biblical scholarship. This volume is the culmination of his labors, and it is the most textually significant edition since Joseph Smith’s work was first published in 1830. It takes us back to the original manuscript (as best we can reconstruct it) and sometimes beyond, to the very words as they were first dictated by Joseph Smith.

Also included in the Yale edition is my own preface and an appendix listing over 700 significant changes in the history of the text.

The Yale edition presents the reconstructed original text in a clear-text format, without explanatory intervention. Unlike modern editions of the Book of Mormon that have added chapter summaries, scriptural cross-references, dates, and footnotes, this edition consists solely of the words dictated by Joseph Smith in 1828-29, as far as they can be established through standard methods of textual criticism. Later emendations by scribes, editors, and even Joseph Smith himself have been omitted, except for those that appear to restore original readings.

Anyone opening this volume will immediately be struck by the sense-lines format of the Book of Mormon text – that is, the way the lines of the text are broken up according to phrases and clauses. Joseph Smith dictated the book to scribes who wrote down his words. His dictation did not indicate punctuation, sentence structure, or paragraphing. These he left, ultimately, to the discretion of the printer. Consequently, the Yale edition constitutes a scholarly effort to present to the reader a dictated rather than a written text. To that end, I have decided to adopt the sense-line format. I make no claim that the sense-lines adopted in The Earliest Text represent Joseph’s actual dictation breaks, but the first verbalization of the text would have sounded something like the result of reading the sense-lines out loud.

The text of the Yale edition is a consolidation of the decisions made in the six parts of volume 4 of the critical text project, Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon. Over the course of the six parts, including the addenda at the end of part 6, I have analyzed 5,280 cases of variation (or potential variation). The resulting text published by Yale University Press can be briefly characterized as follows:

2,241 differences between The Earliest Text and the standard printed edition

Cases of grammatical variation are discussed only once; volume 3 of the critical text (see below) will provide a complete discussion of grammatical changes.

606 readings that have never appeared in any standard printed edition:

216 are found only in the original manuscript, O

187 are found in only the printer’s manuscript, P (in these cases O is not extant)

88 are found in both O and P

2 are found in copies of the title page

113 are conjectural emendations

256 readings that either make a difference in meaning or change the spelling of a name

As might be suspected, none of these differences make a fundamental change in the message or doctrine of the book, but they make a difference when translating the Book of Mormon

131 readings that make the Book of Mormon text more consistent in phraseology or usage

34 readings that restore a unique phrase or word choice to the text

Here is a brief numerical summary of the results for part 1 of volume 4 (from the title page through 2 Nephi 10):

773 cases of variation (or potential variation) analyzed

419 differences between the critical text and the standard text

156 readings that have never appeared in any standard printed edition:

95 in O only; 6 in P only (in cases where O is not extant); 38 in both O and P;

2 in the 1829 copyright certificates; 15 conjectured readings

75 readings that make a difference that would show up in translation

51 readings that make the Book of Mormon more consistent in phraseology or usage

14 readings that restore a unique phrase or word choice to the text

Here are some of the changes that are recommended in part 1 of volume 4:

Current reading (or equivalent)
Revised reading

1 Nephi 7:5            Ishmael and also his household
Ishmael and also his whole household

1 Nephi 7:17          my faith which is in thee
my faith which is in me

1 Nephi 8:27          towards those which had came at
towards those which had came up

1 Nephi 8:31          multitudes feeling their way
multitudes pressing their way

1 Nephi 10:10        take away the sins of the world
take away the sin of the world

1 Nephi 10:19        in these times
in this time

1 Nephi 11:36        the pride of the world and it fell
the pride of the world

1 Nephi 12:18        the word of the justice of the eternal God
the sword of the justice of the eternal God

1 Nephi 13:24        the gospel of the Lord
the gospel of the Lamb

1 Nephi 13:32        state of awful blindness
state of awful wickedness

1 Nephi 14:13        did gather together multitudes
did gather together in multitudes

1 Nephi 14:28        the things which I saw and heard
the things which I saw

1 Nephi 15:16        they shall be remembered again
they shall be numbered again

1 Nephi 15:35        the devil is the preparator of it
the devil is the proprietor of it

1 Nephi 15:36        the wicked are rejected from the righteous
the wicked are separated from the righteous

1 Nephi 17:3          he did provide means for us
he did provide ways and means for us

1 Nephi 17:41        he sent fiery flying serpents
he sent flying fiery serpents

1 Nephi 17:53        I will shock them
I will shake them

1 Nephi 19:2          the genealogy of his fathers
the genealogy of his forefathers

1 Nephi 19:4          what they should do
that they should do

1 Nephi 19:10        according to the words of Zenock
according to the words of Zenoch

1 Nephi 20:1          or out of the waters of baptism
<omitted>

1 Nephi 22:8          unto the being nourished by the Gentiles
unto the being nursed by the Gentiles

1 Nephi 22:12        the lands of their inheritance
the lands of their first inheritance

2 Nephi 1:5            the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me
the Lord hath consecrated this land unto me

2 Nephi 2:11          neither holiness nor misery
neither happiness nor misery

2 Nephi 3:18          I will raise up unto the fruit of thy loins
I will raise up one unto the fruit of thy loins

2 Nephi 3:20          their cry shall go
their cry shall go forth

2 Nephi 4:5            in the way that ye should go
in the right way that ye should go

2 Nephi 4:26          the Lord … hath visited men
the Lord … hath visited me

2 Nephi 9:13          deliver up the body of the righteous
deliver up the bodies of the righteous

We get the following results for part 2 of volume 4 (from 2 Nephi 11 through Mosiah 16); note that for most of this part of the text, the original manuscript is not extant, which has lessened the number of proposed changes:

897 cases of variation (or potential variation) analyzed

387 differences between the critical text and the standard text

66 readings that have never appeared in any standard printed edition:

2 in O only; 34 in P only (in cases where O is not extant); 5 in both O and P;

25 conjectured readings

23 readings that make a difference that would show up in translation

13 readings that make the Book of Mormon more consistent in phraseology or usage

5 readings that restore a unique phrase or word choice to the text

Here are some of the changes discussed in part 2 of volume 4:

Current reading (or equivalent)
Revised reading

2 Nephi 20:2          to turn away the needy
to turn aside the needy

2 Nephi 20:10        my hand hath founded the kingdom of the idols
my hand hath found the kingdom of the idols

2 Nephi 20:13        and I have moved the borders of the people
and I have removed the borders of the people

2 Nephi 20:29        Ramath is afraid
Ramah is afraid

2 Nephi 24:19        the remnant of those that are slain
the raiment of those that are slain

2 Nephi 24:25        I will bring the Assyrian in my land
I will break the Assyrian in my land

2 Nephi 26:9          the Son of righteousness shall appear
the Sun of righteousness shall appear

2 Nephi 28:23        and death and hell and the devil

and the devil

2 Nephi 30:6          they shall be a pure and a delightsome people
they shall be a white and a delightsome people

2 Nephi 30:18        I make an end of my sayings
I must make an end of my sayings

Jacob 5:8                I take away many of these … branches
I will take away many of these … branches

Jacob 5:13              in the nethermost part of my vineyard
in the nethermost parts of my vineyard

Jacob 5:19              to the nethermost part of the vineyard
to the nethermost parts of the vineyard

Jacob 5:20              the master
the master of the vineyard

Jacob 5:45              a part thereof brought forth wild fruit
the other part thereof brought forth wild fruit

Jacob 5:46              these I had hoped to preserve
these I had hope to preserve

Jacob 5:74              the Lord had preserved unto himself
the good the Lord had preserved unto himself

Jacob 5:75              [ye] have brought unto me again the natural fruit
it hath brought unto me again the natural fruit

Jacob 6:13              I shall meet you before the pleasing bar of God
I shall meet you before the pleading bar of God

Enos 1:3                 and the words which …
and I remembered the words which …

Enos 1:20               with a short skin girdle about their loins
with a short skin girded about their loins

Enos 1:24               between the Nephites and Lamanites
between the Nephites and the Lamanites

W of M 1:5            I chose these things to finish my record
I choose these things to finish my record

Mosiah 3:19          unless he yieldeth to the enticings of the Holy Spirit
but if he yieldeth to the enticings of the Holy Spirit

Mosiah 4:30          and observe the commandments of God
and observe to keep the commandments of God

Mosiah 7:20          that he has brought us into bondage
that has brought us into bondage

Mosiah 8:17          things which are past
things which have passed

Mosiah 9:14          to take off their flocks
to take of their flocks

Mosiah 10:5          and work and work all manner of fine linen
and work all manner of fine linen

Mosiah 15:24        and these are those who have part …
and there are those who have part …

For part 3 of volume 4 (from Mosiah 17 through Alma 20), the results are quite similar to part 2, especially since so little of the original manuscript is extant for this part of the text:

898 cases of variation (or potential variation) analyzed

360 differences between the critical text and the standard text

82 readings that have never appeared in any standard printed edition:

0 in O only; 58 in P only (in cases where O is not extant); 3 in both O and P;

21 conjectured readings

28 readings that make a difference that would show up in translation

17 readings that make the Book of Mormon more consistent in phraseology or usage

5 readings that restore a unique phrase or word choice to the text

Here are some of the more significant changes proposed for the text in part 3 of volume 4:

Current reading (or equivalent)
Revised reading

Mosiah 17:10        yea and I will suffer even until death
yea and I will suffer even unto death

Mosiah 17:13        and scourged his skin with fagots
and scorched his skin with fagots

Mosiah 19:24        after they had ended the ceremony
after they had ended the sermon

Mosiah 21:28        king Mosiah had a gift from God
king Benjamin had a gift from God

Mosiah 25:2          which was a descendant of Mulek
which was a descendant of Muloch

Mosiah 25:6          [omit]

and his brethren and all their afflictions
and he also read the account of Ammon

Mosiah 26:9          Alma did not know concerning them
Alma did know concerning them

but there were many witnesses against them
for there were many witnesses against them

Mosiah 26:23        it is I that granteth … unto the end a place
it is I that granteth … in the end a place

Mosiah 27:30        but now that they may foresee that …
but now I know that they may foresee that …

Mosiah 28:4          suffering much and fearing
and suffering much fearing

Mosiah 29:42        Alma was appointed to be the first chief judge
Alma was appointed to be the chief judge

Alma 1:24               they were remembered no more among the people
they were numbered no more among the people

Alma 2:30               to save and preserve this people
to save and protect this people

Alma 3:5                 save it were skin which was girded about their loins
save it were a skin which was girded about their loins

Alma 5:1                 Alma began to deliver the word of God
Alma began to declare the word of God

Alma 5:35               and ye shall not be hewn down
and ye shall not be cut down

Alma 10:2               I am the son of Giddonah
I am the son of Gidanah

Alma 10:5               his mysteries and his marvelous powers
his mysteries and his miraculous powers

Alma 11:2               or be stripped or be cast out
or be striped or be cast out

Alma 11:6               an ezrom of silver
an ezrum of silver

Alma 11:16             a shiblum is a half of a shiblon
a shilum is a half of a shiblon

Alma 11:21             and this Zeezrom began to question Amulek
and thus Zeezrom began to question Amulek

Alma 11:44             and shall be brought … before the bar of Christ
and all shall be brought … before the bar of Christ

Alma 12:14             for our words will condemn us
for our works will condemn us

Alma 17:1               he met with the sons of Mosiah
he met the sons of Mosiah

Alma 17:26             which was called the water of Sebus
which was called the waters of Sebus

Alma 17:31             we will preserve the flocks unto the king
we will restore the flocks unto the king

Alma 18:25             and he answered and said unto him
and he answered unto him

Alma 19:30             she clasped her hands
she clapped her hands

The results for part 4 of volume 4 are like those of part 1 since the original manuscript is basically extant for Alma 21-55:

995 cases of variation (or potential variation) analyzed

422 differences between the critical text and the standard text

150 readings that have never appeared in any standard printed edition:

93 in O only; 12 in P only (in cases where O is not extant); 28 in both O and P;

17 conjectured readings

56 readings that make a difference that would show up in translation

16 readings that make the Book of Mormon more consistent in phraseology or usage

4 readings that restore a unique phrase or word choice to the text

Here are some of the more significant changes proposed for the text in part 4 of volume 4:

Current reading (or equivalent)
Revised reading

Alma 24:5               they came forth to the land of Midian
they came forth to the land of Middoni

Alma 24:20             for the purpose of destroying the king
for the purpose of dethroning the king

Alma 27:27             they were among the people of Nephi
they were numbered among the people of Nephi

Alma 29:11             and by this did establish his church
and by them did establish his church

Alma 31:35             and many of them are our brethren
and many of them are our near brethren

Alma 32:2               success among the poor class of people
success among the poorer class of the people

Alma 33:21             that ye might be healed
that ye might behold

Alma 39:13             and that wrong which ye have done
and repair that wrong which ye have done

Alma 41:5               the one raised to happiness
the one restored to happiness

Alma 42:2               yea he drew out the man
yea he drove out the man

Alma 42:16             except there were a punishment (which also was
except there were a punishment (which also was

as eternal as the life of the soul should be affixed affixed
as eternal as the life of the soul) should be, affixed

Alma 43:6               they were all Amlicites and Zoramites
they were all of the Amlicites and the Zoramites

Alma 43:14             now those descendants were as numerous
now those dissenters were as numerous

Alma 43:38             by their swords and the loss of blood
by their wounds and the loss of blood

Alma 43:45             for their rites of worship and their church
for their rights of worship and their church

Alma 44:8               we will not suffer ourselves to take an oath unto you
we will suffer ourselves to make an oath unto you

Alma 44:13             saying unto them with a loud voice,  saying   …
crying unto them with a loud voice, saying …

Alma 46:34             he had power according to his will
he had power to do according to his will

Alma 47:13             if he would make him Amalickiah a second leader
if he would make him Amalickiah the second leader

Alma 48:8               banks of earth round about to enclose his armies
banks of earth round about to encircle his armies

Alma 48:21             in the latter end of the nineteenth year yea
in the latter end of the nineteenth year

Alma 49:5               in preparing their places of security
in repairing their places of security

Alma 49:28             because of his matchless power
because of his miraculous power

Alma 51:7               and also many of the people of liberty
and also among the people of liberty

Alma 51:15             desiring that he should read it
desiring that he should heed it

Alma 51:26             many cities : the city of Nephihah
many cities : the city of Moroni

Alma 53:6               in the land of Nephi
in the land of the Nephites

Alma 54:13             we have only sought to defend ourselves
we have only sought to defend our lives

Alma 54:24             and behold now I am a bold Lamanite
and behold I am now a bold Lamanite

The results for part 5 of volume 4 are in many respects quite different from other parts of the text since both P and the 1830 edition are firsthand copies of O for much of the text for this part; O is also extant for parts of the text, which helps in reconstructing the original text:

906 cases of variation (or potential variation) analyzed

349 differences between the critical text and the standard text

100 readings that have never appeared in any standard printed edition:

25 in O only; 50 in P only (in cases where O is not extant); 13 in both O and P;

12 conjectured readings

27 readings that make a difference that would show up in translation

17 readings that make the Book of Mormon more consistent in phraseology or usage

2 readings that restore a unique phrase or word choice to the text

Here are some of the more significant changes proposed for the text in part 5 of volume 4:

Current reading (or equivalent)       Revised reading

Alma 56:10             because of the numerority of their forces
because of the enormity of their forces

Alma 56:19             but thus were we preserved
but thus were we favored

Alma 56:37             and as we suppose it was their intent
and as we supposed that it was their intent

Alma 56:48             we do not doubt our mothers knew it
we do not doubt; our mothers knew

Alma 57:32             they did rise up in rebellion
they did raise up in rebellion

Alma 58:2               they were so much more numerous
they were so exceeding more numerous

Alma 58:4               to the governor of our land
to the great governor of our land

Alma 58:33             behold we trust in our God who …
behold we trust that it is our God who …

Alma 59:8               they came even and joined the army
they came over and joined the army

Alma 59:9               than to retake it from them
<omit>

Helaman 1:9           they sent forth one Kishkumen
they sent forth one Kishcumen

Helaman 1:29         and thus he did and he did head them
and thus he did head them

Helaman 2:4           for there was one Gadianton
for there was one Gaddianton

Helaman 3:3           in the forty and sixth yea there were …
in the forty and sixth year there were …

Helaman 4:12         and deserting away
and dissenting away

Helaman 4:25         exceedingly more numerous
more exceeding numerous

Helaman 6:20         every means in their power
every means whatsoever was in their power

Helaman 6:21         the more part of the Nephites
the more parts of the Nephites

Helaman 7:10         the garden gate which led by the highway
the garden gate which was by the highway

Helaman 7:16         how could ye have given way
how could ye have given away

Helaman 8:11         the waters … parted hither and thither
the waters … departed hither and thither

Helaman 8:19         even since the days of Abraham
ever since the days of Abraham

Helaman 8:20         and also Ezias and also Isaiah
and also Ezaias and also Isaiah

Helaman 9:36         that I Nephi know nothing concerning …
that I Nephi knew nothing concerning …

Helaman 12:15       for surely it is the earth that moveth
for sure it is the earth that moveth

Helaman 12:22       and woe unto him to whom he shall say this
and woe unto whom he shall say this

Helaman 14:5         there shall a new star arise
there shall be a new star arise

Helaman 16:3         when they saw that they could not …
when they saw this, that they could not …

Helaman 16:11       and these were the conditions
and thus were the conditions

3 Nephi 2:18          they did come forth
they did come forth again

3 Nephi 4:28          they did fell the tree to the earth
they did fall the tree to the earth

3 Nephi 5:9            a shorter but true account
a more short but a true account

3 Nephi 7:3            and thus they became tribes
and thus there became tribes

3 Nephi 9:9            the people of the king of Jacob
the people of the king Jacob

3 Nephi 9:21          I have come unto the world
I have come into the world

3 Nephi 10:4  <omit>
O ye people of the house of Israel

3 Nephi 11:0          Jesus Christ did show himself
Jesus Christ sheweth himself

3 Nephi 11:8          and behold they saw a Man
and behold they saw a man

3 Nephi 14:4          let me pull the mote out of thine eye
let me pull out the mote out of thine eye

3 Nephi 16:6          the Holy Ghost which witnesses unto them
the Holy Ghost which witness unto them

3 Nephi 16:15        but if they will not turn unto me
but if they will not return unto me

3 Nephi 16:17        and then the words … shall be fulfilled
and when the words … shall be fulfilled

3 Nephi 17:5          and beheld they were in tears
and behold they were in tears

3 Nephi 18:13        the gates of hell is ready, open to receive them
the gates of hell is already open to receive them

3 Nephi 18:16        I have set an example for you
I have set an example before you

3 Nephi 18:34        which hath been among you
which hath been among you beforetimes

Finally, in August 2009 the last part of volume 4 was published, with the following statistical summary of the analysis:

811 cases of variation (or potential variation) analyzed

304 differences between the critical text and the standard text

52 readings that have never appeared in any standard printed edition:

1 in O only; 27 in P only (in cases where O is not extant); 1 in both O and P;

23 conjectured readings

47 readings that make a difference that would show up in translation

17 readings that make the Book of Mormon more consistent in phraseology or usage

4 readings that restore a unique phrase or word choice to the text

These results are much like those for parts 2 and 3 since O is generally not extant for the last part of the Book of Mormon text. Here are some of the more significant changes proposed for the text in part 6 of volume 4:

Current  reading (or equivalent)
Revised reading

3 Nephi 21:9          and there shall be among them those
and there shall be many among them

3 Nephi 21:16        and I will cut off witchcrafts out of thy land
and I will cut off witchcrafts out of thy hand

3 Nephi 22:4          and shalt not remember the reproach of thy youth
<omit>

3 Nephi 22:17        every tongue that shall revile against thee
every tongue that shall rise against thee

3 Nephi 25:2          the Son of righteousness arise
the Sun of righteousness arise

3 Nephi 28:3          blessed are ye because ye desired this thing
blessed are ye because ye desire this thing

3 Nephi 28:36        I knew not whether they were cleansed
I knew not whether they were changed

4 Nephi 1:27          there were many churches which professed to know the Christ
there were churches which professed to know the Christ
Mormon 2:4           we did come to the city of Angola
we did come to the city of Angolah

Mormon 4:14         many prisoners both women and children

many prisoners of women and of children

Mormon 6:14         and Jeneum had fallen with his ten thousand
and Joneum had fallen with his ten thousand

Mormon 6:15         and a few which had deserted over unto the Lamanites
and a few which had dissented over unto the Lamanites

Mormon 8:9           save it be the Lamanites and robbers
save it be Lamanites and robbers

Mormon 8:10         and whether they be upon the face of the land no man knoweth
and whither they be upon the face of the land no man knoweth

Mormon 8:28         leaders of churches and teachers shall rise
leaders of churches and teachers shall be lifted up

Ether 1:34               Jared his brother said unto him
therefore Jared his brother said unto him

Ether 1:41               and gather together … thy families
and gather together … thy family

Ether 1:43               and thus I will do unto thee
and this I will do unto thee

Ether 2:11               until the fullness come
until the fullness be come

Ether 2:13               and they dwelt in tents and dwelt in tents
and they dwelt in tents

Ether 2:14             at the end of four years
at the end of the four years

Ether 2:25               for ye cannot cross this great deep
for how be it / ye cannot cross this great deep

Ether 3:1                 he did carry them in his hands upon the top
he did carry them in his hands up on the top

Ether 3:18               and all this that this man knew that …
and all this because that this man knew that …

Ether 4:1                 and for this cause did king Mosiah keep them
and for this cause did king Benjamin keep them

Ether 6:5                 there should be a furious wind blow
there should a furious wind blow

Ether 8:24               or woe be unto it
for woe be unto it

Ether 9:2                 which did not seek his destruction
which were not or which did not seek his destruction

Ether 9:22               yea and he even saw the Son of righteousness
yea and he even saw the Sun of righteousness

Ether 11:4               and Shiblom reigned in his stead
and Shiblon reigned in his stead

Ether 12:2               for he could not be restrained
for he could not be constrained

Ether 12:4               which hope cometh of faith maketh an anchor
which hope cometh of faith and maketh an anchor

Ether 13:31             and there was none to restrain them
and there was none to constrain them

Ether 14:2 and of his wives and children
and they of his wife and children

Ether 14:12             he fled to the borders upon the seashore
he fled to the borders by the seashore

Ether 14:17             and he did slay both women and children
and he did slay both men women and children

Ether 14:28             the valley of Shurr was near the hill Comnor
the valley of Shurr was near the hill Comron

Moroni 7:16           and to persuade to believe in Christ
and persuadeth to believe in Christ

Moroni 7:26           and by faith they become the sons of God
and by faith they became the sons of God

Moroni 9:24           many of our brethren have deserted over
many of our brethren have dissented over

Moroni 9:24           and many more will also desert over unto them
and many more will also dissent over unto them

Moroni 10:34         before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah
before the pleading bar of the great Jehovah

3. What other volumes will be published as part of this project?

(a) Volume 3, The History of the Text of the Book of Mormon

In this third volume, I will discuss each step in the transmission of the text, including Joseph Smith’s dictating of the text and his scribes’ writing it down (the original manuscript), their copying of the text into the printer’s manuscript, the typesetting of the first (1830) edition, and the publishing of 19 significant editions since then (the 1837 and 1840 under Joseph Smith’s direction, plus 12 more within the LDS textual tradition, and 5 within the RLDS textual tradition). This volume will examine some of the important issues regarding how Joseph Smith translated and what kind of text was revealed to him. Each edition will also be examined in terms of its editing history. Each type of grammatical editing will be thoroughly described in this volume. There will also be a lined-up comparison between the biblical quotations from the King James Bible and the corresponding Book of Mormon passages.

In 2002 I decided that I could not produce volume 3 without first determining what the original text was. For that reason, volume 4 has been published first – and also in parts, so that the reading public will have time to examine the textual analysis in manageable segments.

(b) Volume 5, A Complete Electronic Collation of the Book of Mormon

This last volume will be available in an electronic format. A few printed copies of the collation will be prepared for archival purposes. In this volume, the entire text for both manuscripts and the 20 editions is lined up and compared, with every difference specified – not only word and phrase differences, but also punctuation, capitalization, spelling, paragraphing, versification, and so forth. The differences will be categorized and can be searched in terms of the type of change. I am planning to make this electronic collation available at the same time volume 3 is published.

4. What are some of the major findings of this project?

(a) The original manuscript supports the hypothesis that the text was given to Joseph Smith word for word and that he could see the spelling of the names (in support of what witnesses of the translation process claimed about Joseph’s translation – namely, that he spelled out the Book of Mormon names, at least when the name first appeared).

(b) The original text is much more consistent and systematic in expression than has ever been realized.

(c) There are a number of errors in the text that have never been corrected in any LDS or RLDS edition, although none of them fundamentally alter the text.

(d) There are occasional errors in the original manuscript itself (see, for instance, the reading “Ishmael and also his hole hole” in 1 Nephi 7:5); errors could enter the text from its very earliest transmission; many of the errors in the original manuscript show that this manuscript was written down from oral dictation.

(e) Errors in the printer’s manuscript clearly show that this manuscript was produced by visual copying from another text, not by oral dictation.

(f) Joseph Smith’s editing for the second and third editions (1837 and 1840) represents human editing, not a revealed revision of the text.

(g) The original text includes unique kinds of expression that appear to be uncharacteristic of English in any time and place; some of these expressions are Hebraistic in nature.

(h) The early transmission of the Book of Mormon text does not in general support the traditional assumptions of textual criticism – namely, the assumptions that the transmitted text tends to remove difficult readings and lengthen the text; instead, the early transmission of the Book of Mormon text tends to introduce more difficult readings and to omit words and phrases.

(i) The vocabulary of the Book of Mormon text appears to derive from the 1500s and the 1600s, not from the 1800s.

This last finding is quite remarkable. Lexical evidence suggests that the original text contained a number of expressions and words with meanings that were lost from the English language by 1700, including the following (with the date of their last citation in the Oxford English Dictionary given in parentheses):

to require ‘to request’ (1665)

Enos 1:18 reads “thy fathers have also required of me this thing”

[Ezra 8:22: “for I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way”]

sermon ‘talk, discourse, speech’ (1594) [conjectural emendation]

Mosiah 19:24 should read “after they had ended the sermon

(not the current reading “after they had ended the ceremony”)

to cast arrows ‘to shoot arrows’ (1609)

Alma 49:4 reads “the Lamanites could not cast their stones and their arrows at them”

[Proverbs 26:18: “as a mad man who casteth firebrands arrows and death”]

to counsel ‘to counsel with’ (1547)

Alma 37:37 originally read “counsel the Lord in all thy doings”

[similarly in Alma 39:10]

but if ‘unless’ (1596)

Mosiah 3:19 originally read “for the natural man is an enemy to God …

and will be forever and ever but if he yieldeth to the enticings of the Holy Spirit”

to depart ‘to part’ (1677)

Helaman 8:11 originally read “to smite upon the waters of the Red Sea

and they departed hither and thither”

extinct: in reference to an individual’s death (1675)

Alma 44:7 reads “and inflect the wounds of death in your bodies

that ye may become extinct” [similarly in several other places]

the pleading bar of God (not in the Oxford English Dictionary, but three early 1600 citations have been found, including one in a legal context) [conjectural emendation]

Jacob 6:13 should read “until I shall meet you before the pleading bar of God”, not “the pleasing bar of God” [similarly in Moroni 10:34]

As noted, only two of these instances of archaic vocabulary (dating from Early Modern English) are found in the 1611 King James Bible.

5. What have been the most significant events in the history of this project?

Besides the actual publishing of the volumes of the critical text themselves, there are two events that stand out:

(a) April 1991: two weeks spent in Independence, Missouri, making a careful examination of my transcript of the printer’s manuscript against the actual manuscript, with the assistance of my wife, Sirkku, and Ron Romig, archivist for the Community of Christ (then the RLDS Church).

(b) October 1991: three weeks working with Robert Espinosa and his fellow conservators at the BYU library on fragments of the original manuscript owned by the Wilford Wood family of Bountiful, Utah; these fragments were photographed in ultraviolet light by David Hawkinson and constitute about two percent of the original manuscript.

6. What has been your relationship with the LDS and RLDS Churches in this project?

This project began as an independent scholarly project, and I have made sure by legal agreements that this independence has been preserved. Since the beginning of this project (in 1988) the LDS Historical Department has provided full access to ultraviolet photographs of the original manuscript and has allowed me to directly examine the original manuscript as well as their enormous library of Book of Mormon editions. Without their cooperation, this project would never have been possible. Similarly, archivist Ron Romig, church historian Richard Howard (now retired), and the leadership of the Community of Christ (formerly the RLDS Church) have also been fully cooperative in providing access to the printer’s manuscript as well as an enlarged photocopy of that manuscript, plus their large collection of Book of Mormon editions.

In 1994 the LDS Church Scriptures Committee requested that I provide information about my findings on the text. For the next four to five years, this information was conveyed to the Scriptures Committee. Prior to submitting this information, however, the Church, BYU, and I signed a legally binding letter of understanding guaranteeing the independence of the critical text project, with these two important provisos: (1) I would hold the copyright to the critical text, and (2) I would exercise complete control over the content of the critical text, including my interpretations and analyses of the text.

The critical text project is a scholarly one and has not received any ecclesiastical approval or endorsement. The transcripts and the textual interpretations represent my own scholarly work, with peer review from a number of scholars (especially David Calabro, a graduate student in Hebrew studies at the University of Chicago). I have received no explicit response regarding any of my interpretations or suggestions for changes from the Church Scriptures Committee. The Church committee has had full access to my findings and is free to use them (or not use them) as they wish.

I have also retained the right to legally extend this freedom to use the results of the critical text project to anyone wishing to create their own single reading of the Book of Mormon text, including the Community of Christ and other churches as well as publishing firms interested in producing a noncritical edition of the Book of Mormon.

7. Will any of these changes appear in subsequent LDS editions of the Book of Mormon?

I do not know the answer to this question. The Church will decide for itself what changes, if any, will be implemented. The Church has never engaged in a public discussion of such changes or the arguments for making (or not making) those changes. On the other hand, this scholarly critical text project promotes public discussion and, when done properly, establishes an on-going process and allows others to contribute. For instance, as part of this project, I have requested anyone who has any suggestions for emendations to the text or questions about problematic readings to send them to me. Thus far I have received over a hundred suggestions for change – and about thirty percent of these have led to emendations in the text. Surprisingly, most of these emendations have come not from scholars but from regular members of the Church – readers of the Book of Mormon who are simply striving to understand the text. Such an open request for participation has significantly improved the findings of this project.

One important fact that I realized early on in this project is that the original text is not fully recoverable by scholarly means. Only 28 percent of the Book of Mormon text is extant in the original manuscript. Over half of the new readings that have never appeared in any standard printed edition derive from readings in the original manuscript. Oliver Cowdery averaged about three textual changes per manuscript page as he copied from the original manuscript into the printer’s manuscript. The clear majority of these changes would be unrecoverable if those portions of the original manuscript were not extant. In most cases we have no clue that there is even an error in the current text unless the original manuscript tells us so. Given that the majority of the original manuscript is no longer extant, we will be unable to fully recover the original text by human means. And even the extant portions of the original manuscript probably have errors that we are unaware of. The only way that the original text could be fully restored would be if the Lord chose to reveal it again. Such is definitely not within the purview of this scholarly project.

One valuable aspect of this public, scholarly discussion of the text is that later changes in the text could be made by the Church without engendering the typical complaint that the Church is making changes for political reasons. Note, in particular, the uproar over the 1981 change in 2 Nephi 30:6 from “a white and a delightsome people” to “a pure and a delightsome people”. The change was first implemented in the 1840 edition; Joseph Smith’s motivation for making that change was based on quite something else, as I argue in part 2 of volume 4 under 2 Nephi 30:6. An independent public discussion in a scholarly context will avoid having the Church take abuse for making alterations to the text.

8. Does this project have an apologetic purpose? In other words, is one of its purposes to defend the Book of Mormon against detractors?

My task, as I have always seen it, is to recover the original English-language text to the extent scholarly and academic analysis will allow. I have therefore restricted my discussion to the text per se and have completely avoided discussions of whether there are practices found among the cultures of the world (including the Americas) in support of particular readings. Nor have I engaged in any discussion of external evidences for the Book of Mormon, including questions of geography, genetics, and archaeology.

My initial endeavor as editor of the critical text project was to produce a detailed transcription of the original and printer’s manuscripts. And right from the beginning, I discovered errors that had crept into the text as Oliver Cowdery and the other scribes produced the printer’s manuscript from the original manuscript. Within a year or so I recognized that I would not be able to completely recover the original text by scholarly methods. Yet at the same time, I began to see considerable evidence for the traditional interpretation that witnesses of the translation process claimed: (1) the text was given word for word, (2) Book of Mormon names were frequently spelled out the first time they occurred in the text, and (3) during dictation there was no rewriting of the text except to correct errors in taking down the dictation. Joseph Smith was literally reading off an already composed English-language text. The evidence in the manuscripts and in the language of the text itself supports the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon was a precisely determined text. I do not consider this conclusion apologetic, but instead as one demanded by the evidence.

The opposing viewpoint, that Joseph Smith got ideas and he translated them into his own English, cannot be supported by the manuscript and textual evidence. The only substantive argument for this alternative view has been the nonstandard nature of the text, with its implication that God would never speak ungrammatical English, so the nonstandard usage must be the result of Joseph Smith putting the ideas he received into his own language. Yet with the recent finding that the original vocabulary of the text appears to be dated from the 1500s and 1600s (not the 1800s), we now need to consider the possibility that the ungrammaticality of the original text may also date from that earlier period of time, not necessarily from Joseph’s own time and place. Joseph Smith is not the author of the Book of Mormon, nor is he actually the translator. Instead, he was the revelator: through him the Lord revealed the English-language text (by means of the interpreters, later called the Urim and Thummim, and the seer stone). Such a view is consistent, I believe, with Joseph’s use elsewhere of the verb translate to mean ‘transmit’ and the noun translation to mean ‘transmission’ (as in the eighth Article of Faith).

I should also point out that my personal testimony of the Book of Mormon is not dependent upon my work on this project. The Book of Mormon stands on its own and is ultimately not dependent on how that text may vary in printed editions or in the manuscripts. Moroni promised that the Lord will give a testimony of the book to the prayerful reader – irrespective of any infelicities and errors in the text (which Moroni recognized could be there, as he himself noted in the last sentence on the title page of the Book of Mormon). I received my own personal witness of this book long before I ever began work on this project. I have never needed to prove to myself that the text is from the Lord. Nor have errors in the text ever prevented the Spirit from bearing witness that the book is the Lord’s.

My own personal witness of this book dates from 1979, when I was reading the book during a time of difficulty. I was reading the words that king Lamoni’s queen expresses as she comes out of her state of unconsciousness:

Alma 19:29-30 (original text)

she arose and stood upon her feet and cried with a loud voice saying

O blessed Jesus who has saved me from an awful hell

O blessed God have mercy on this people

and when she had said this she clapped her hands being filled with joy

speaking many words which were not understood

As I was reading this passage, the Spirit witnessed to me, “This really happened.” What is interesting about this passage is that I didn’t actually read “she clapped her hands” (the reading based on the printer’s manuscript), but instead I read “she clasped her hands” (the reading found in the 1830 edition as well as in all LDS editions). Now I do not take this personal witness as evidence that I should reject the earliest reading, clapped. It simply means that the Lord witnesses the truthfulness of this book irrespective of the minor errors that may have crept in. I know of no error that changes any doctrine or the basic account of the text. There is no error, awkward expression, or ungrammaticality in any of the printed editions of the book that will prevent the honest reader from gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon.

9. So why should we be interested in recovering the original English-language text of the Book of Mormon?

The major thrust of this project is oriented towards scholars, not the lay readers of the book. There is no reason to restore in the current standard text the nonstandard language and the non-English Hebraisms that were largely eliminated by Joseph Smith himself in his editing of the text for the second (1837) edition. On the other hand, many of the word and phrase changes proposed by the critical text project (such as those listed under question 2 above) make the text much more systematic and consistent. The Church (especially in its 1920 and 1981 editions) has sought to print an accurate text, including the restoration of original readings (providing the language itself is standard English).

From a scholarly perspective, restoring the original text provides new ways of viewing the Book of Mormon text. By studying the language of the text, I have seen much that confirms my personal testimony of the book as well as what early witnesses of the translation were able to observe.

10. Won’t changing the text prove embarrassing for some commentaries and interpretations by church leaders and scholars?

I do not think this is much of a problem. There are so few examples where restoring an original reading will cause difficulties for previous commentary. In virtually every case, the original text will reinforce and make gospel principles even clearer. As an example, there is the passage in Alma 39:13 where Alma tells his son Corianton (in the current text) to “return unto them [the Zoramites] and acknowledge your faults and that wrong which ye have done”. Yet the original text read here “return unto them and acknowledge your faults and repair that wrong which ye have done”. The original text emphasizes that repentance involves more than saying “I’m sorry”: it requires us to do all we can to make restitution for our sins. This doctrine is, of course, supported by other passages in the Book of Mormon (see, for instance, Helaman 5:17).

One place where the original reading will lead to some revision of commentary deals with the parenthetical phrase that Joseph Smith added to the 1840 edition in 1 Nephi 20:1, which explains that the phrase “the waters of Judah” means ‘the waters of baptism’. The 1920 edition removed the parentheses that Joseph had placed around the extra phrase “or out of the waters of baptism”, which has subsequently led some church writers to interpret the additional phraseology as part of the original Isaiah text, with a few writers even accusing ancient Jewish scribes as having purposely removed a clear Old Testament reference to baptism from the book of Isaiah!

11. Would it be worth doing textual criticism for the translations of the English-language Book of Mormon into other languages?

Yes. In fact, I can think of one very specific aspect that could be of tremendous benefit to my own project – namely, the question of how translators have dealt with problematic passages. Their solutions may suggest possible conjectural emendations for the English-language text. As an example, consider the English-language reading for Mosiah 17:13: “they took him and bound him and scourged his skin with fagots yea even unto death”. This passage literally states that Abinadi was whipped to death with bundles of sticks. I have conjectured that the word scourged here is a mishearing for scorched, the verb used in the next verse (Mosiah 17:14) to refer to Abinadi’s death by fire (“and now when the flames began to scorch him”). And some foreign language translators have also realized that the text intends to say that Abinadi was burnt to death and have therefore substituted for scourged a verb that is equivalent to burning rather than whipping. Some students in my class on textual criticism have involved themselves in projects of this sort, but their work has been limited to a few languages and only to checking whether the English-language conjectures proposed in this project can be found in any of the translations. It would undoubtedly be worthwhile checking the other side of the coin: Are there readings in the translations that suggest conjectures for the English-language text?

12. What role has your theory of Analogical Modeling played in the Book of Mormon project?

Analogical Modeling (AM) is a theory of language that I have worked on since the 1970s. The traditional method for describing language has been in terms of rules, but in Analogical Modeling there are no rules, only examples (instances) of past behavior that a speaker uses to understand and produce language. AM is actually a general theory of description that uses both nearest neighbors and not-so-near neighbors (under certain well-defined conditions of homogeneity) to predict behavior.

AM has been implicitly used in many aspects of the critical text project, particularly in finding instances of usage for testing the reliability of readings. One important characteristic of the Book of Mormon – one that is very helpful in establishing the text – is the size of the book (584 pages of canonical text in the 1830 edition). The specific language of the text is sufficiently repeated throughout the book so that there are usually enough exemplars to make a reasoned analysis for any given expression or phrase. It has not, in my opinion, been fully appreciated how huge a scriptural text the Book of Mormon is and what an advantage that is in analyzing and establishing its text.

In distinction to the findings of computerized stylistic analyses of the Book of Mormon text, I have found that many expressions, phrases, and words extend throughout the text, such as the term pleading bar by both Jacob and Moroni (in Jacob 6:13 and Moroni 10:34) or the precise expression “yea even the sword of the justice of the eternal God” by both Nephi and Moroni (in 1 Nephi 12:18 and Ether 8:23). Sometimes Jacob uses expressions that are unique to him (at least in the original text), such as “the commands of God”. As many readers have recognized, every time Jacob starts to speak or write, his flowing style is almost immediately distinguishable from his brother Nephi’s complex syntax – and it doesn’t take a statistical analysis of function words within passages of five thousand words to figure this out!

As a result of my work in AM, I have continually attempted to look for exemplars that might be responsible for creating errors in the Book of Mormon text. As an example, in 2 Nephi 20:29 all the printed editions as well as the printer’s manuscript read Ramath instead of the Ramah found in Isaiah 10:29 (the original manuscript is not extant for this passage). A number of scholars have noted that Ramath would have been the earlier Hebrew form for Ramah and have therefore claimed that the Book of Mormon text here maintains the earlier Hebrew name for this place, thus showing that the Book of Mormon text was translated from a more ancient version of the book of Isaiah. What has not been noticed in all of this discussion is that within the Book of Mormon quotation for Isaiah 2-14 (found in 2 Nephi 12-24), a number of names are misspelled in the printer’s manuscript. The 1830 typesetter corrected all of these misspellings by reference to his own King James Bible – except for the case of Ramath. And for each of these misspelled names there is an analogical source for the misspelling – either a nearby word in the Isaiah quotation or a common English word or biblical name:

King James Bible misspelling in P analogical source
2 Nephi 18:2 Jeberechiah Jerebechiah Jeremiah
2 Nephi 18:6 Rezin Razin razor
2 Nephi 19:1 Zebulun Zebulon Babylon
2 Nephi 20:26 Midian Mideon Gideon
2 Nephi 20:28 Michmash Mishmash mishmash
2 Nephi 20:29 Ramah Ramath Hamath

In the case of Ramath, we find Hamath earlier in the same chapter (2 Nephi 20:9). Another influence that would have led Oliver Cowdery to write Ramath instead of the correct Ramah would have been the name Aiath, found in the immediately preceding verse (2 Nephi 20:28). In fact, these two earlier occurrences of names ending in -ath could have readily misled the 1830 typesetter into thinking that he didn’t need to check his King James Bible for the spelling Ramath.

Three AM books have been published and are all available, two authored by me and one edited by me and colleagues:

(a) Analogical Modeling of Language (Kluwer: Dordrecht, The Netherlands, 1989)

(b) Analogy and Structure (Kluwer: Dordrecht, The Netherlands, 1992)

(c) Analogical Modeling: An Exemplar-Based Approach to Language, edited by Royal Skousen, Deryle Lonsdale, and Dilworth B. Parkinson (John Benjamins: Amsterdam, 2002)

These books are rather technical. For a general introduction to AM, see my article “Analogical Modeling: Exemplars, Rules, and Quantum Computing”, Proceedings of the Twenty-Ninth Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society (Berkeley, California: Berkeley Linguistics Society, 2003), pages 425-39. A preprint version of this paper is available from our research group’s AM website: <http://humanities.byu.edu/am/>.

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68 Responses to 12 Questions and a Book by Royal Skousen

  1. Dan on September 7, 2009 at 6:20 am

    For question 9, I’ll tell you why it’s important for the church to be on top of this. Because if the church isn’t, then its detractors most certainly will be. My sister left the church because of revelations like this, which were presented to her by anti-Mormons, rather than pro-Mormons. Anti-Mormon literature spoke to her of this kind of stuff, where the texts were all different, where Joseph made all sorts of mistakes, and so on. But they were not kind in their analysis, claiming Joseph was therefore not a prophet and the church not true.

    The church and her missionaries need to get the story straight, because it has real effects on people’s lives. It’s not just for scholars. It should be for everyone.

  2. Kevin Barney on September 7, 2009 at 9:49 am

    Outstanding. Thanks to Royal and T&S for this enlightening overview.

  3. Kathie Christensen on September 7, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Could you clarify the revised reading for Mosiah 3:19? I’m having trouble interpreting it the way it is listed here.

  4. bfwebster on September 7, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Re Mosiah 3:19: the post is a bit mangled up there.

    The current (1981 LDS) edition reads: “…unless he yields to the to the enticings of the Holy Spirit…”.

    The earliest text reads “…but if he yieldeth to the enticings of the Holy Spirit…”

    Skousen notes that “but if” in English had the meaning of “unless” in the 14th through 16th centuries (e.g., from 1580: “He did not like that maides should once stir out of their fathers houses, but if it were to milk a cow.”). Cf. Analysis of Textual Variants, part two, pp. 1173-1174. ..bruce..

  5. bfwebster on September 7, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Of course, I mangled my own comment: “to the” should only appear once in my quote of the current version of Mosiah 3:19.

  6. Kathie Christensen on September 7, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Re: #4,5 – Thanks for that. So, I think you meant “unless” to be attached to the 1st line or current reading rather than appearing at the beginning of the revised line?

  7. Ben Pratt on September 7, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    This is wonderful. Thanks all around!

  8. WVS on September 7, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    This is great, and it gave me an idea too. Wonderful. I’ve sort of been using a version of AM, but this has convinced me to take a closer look.

  9. Alison Moore Smith on September 7, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Thank you for an interesting post.

    I agree with Dan (#1) about why such work is important, but I’m not sure this is generally “the right stuff” for missionaries. It would be great if they could absorb all this, but I really think we ask quite a bit of 19-year-olds already without adding that they need to have answers to all the detractors.

    Maybe just letting them know there are sources for particular issues they might encounter is enough?

  10. Dan on September 7, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    Alison,

    I don’t expect 19 year old wet behind the ears kids to understand the complexity of this. My comment is more directed to the leadership of the church, so that the presentation they hand out to missionaries is more accurate to what really happened.

  11. Alison Moore Smith on September 7, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    Thanks for the clarification. I would tend to agree with that. I felt rather blindsided by some of the historical information I learned as an adult (not even from particularly negative sources) and was much more troubled by feeling lied to than by the actual facts.

    The “faithful history” was the real trial to my faith.

  12. Dave on September 8, 2009 at 10:10 am

    I conducted a quick comparison between the first and this second edition of “12 Answers from Royal Skousen” (the original title). I am happy to report that there are relatively few deletions of or corrections to the earlier text — most changes are additions or expansions which retain, clarify, and amplify the original text. In addition, some characters such as apostrophes that do not render correctly in the original post are now properly displayed. [I do not recall whether certain symbols displayed incorrectly when the original post was viewed in the Movable Type platform that T&S was using in 2004 when the original post was published.]

    This is such a useful and informative post, I look forward to an eventual third edition of “12 Answers from Royal Skousen,” and perhaps someday even a scholarly analysis: “12 Answers from Royal Skousen: The Earliest Text.” Keep in mind, of course, that the true earliest text would be the underlying HTML code (text and tags), not the displayed text. HTML code contains paragraph tags (some inserted by the author, others added by the editing software) but no line breaks, which are added by the broswer when the page is rendered. The displayed text varies by browser and even by the display settings of individual computers and monitors.

    Many thanks to Royal Skousen for this very accessible updated summary of the work done on the Critical Text Project and the publications that have come out of it.

  13. TT on September 8, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    I have been very impressed with this work and I am so grateful for the dedication of Prof. Skousen to this project. That said, I am not sure that I have ever understood the basis for this claim:”(a) The original manuscript supports the hypothesis that the text was given to Joseph Smith word for word and that he could see the spelling of the names (in support of what witnesses of the translation process claimed about Joseph’s translation – namely, that he spelled out the Book of Mormon names, at least when the name first appeared).”

    I take it that this claim is meant to rebut the hypothesis that Joseph received “inspiration” in providing a translation more loosely. But I have trouble with the assertion here that the translation was “word for word” and that the “spelling of the names” were given to Joseph Smith provides evidence against a more loose translation. For instance, if someone where transcribing a typical LDS priesthood blessing, there would not likely be stops and revisions, and it would also be possible to pause to spell any names that were mentioned. Stopping to spell out a name is really not that hard. Very few people would claim that the blessing was given “word for word” by the Holy Spirit. It seem to be that this might be evidence for Joseph’s speaking style while inspired by the Spirit, but how it could be evidence for what exactly he was seeing escapes me.

    Assuming that this hypothesis is correct, and that Joseph did receive it word for word, on what basis would you say the Lord would choose to reveal 15th c. English?

    Further, do you think that this hypothesis raises a series of problems for the text, such as those that the “loose” translation hypothesis has tried to account for? If you feel that the evidence of translation points toward a “strict” hypothesis, what do we do with the historical difficulties that such a theory produces?

  14. Terry on September 8, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    Dear TT,

    The idea that the text was read word for word is supported by the assertions that you’ve allready noted. You specifically mention that someone could spell words out in a “typical LDS blessing.” Sure, it might be easy to do, but have you ever heard of someone doing that? Do you normally spell out proper nouns in mid-sentence or know someone who does? Spelling out terms seems to be more consistent with reading a text rather than describing a series of impressions or ideas.

    No one knows what would motivate the Lord would to use 15th century English for the translation. Skousen himself does not attempt to explain that. He does; however, provide many pieces of textual evidence to support that assertion.

    Which “historical difficulties” does a “strict” hypothesis produce that the “loose” hypothesis account for? A strict hypothesis would appear to be more consistent with many of the accounts of the translation process, so that must not be what you are referring to….

  15. TT on September 8, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    Terry, thanks for your response. I think that we have both unnecessarily conflated the example of giving a blessing as a kind of inspired speech in which there would not be revisions, and spelling out proper names. Let’s separate these issues.

    Let’s say that Joseph was receiving the Book of Mormon in a way that could be compared to what many experience in the giving of a priesthood blessing. In this view, we can say that there is no reason to be surprised if there are a lack of revisions and rewrites since those who are practiced at such moments, not to mention those gifted at story-telling in oral cultures, rarely find the need to rephrase. That is to say, Joseph’s lack of rewriting seems to be evidence of his lack of a need to rewrite or rephrase, a kind of phenomenon that we can observe in other kinds of speech, and does not require that we suppose that he was working off of a “word for word” text. To me, this seems to take the evidence further than it can actually go.

    As for spelling out names, I am not sure that it requires that we imagine the actual letters appearing before him. Anyone who has ever dictated a letter often spells out the name of the addressee for the scribe, especially if it is unusual. That Joseph spells out a name requires no more skill than spelling out any word that one happens to say.

    I realize that Skousen doesn’t attempt to account for the use of an antiquated vocabulary, but his theory of translation raises it as a problem. Since his “strict” translation hypothesis assumes that it is the Lord who is responsible for the wording, and not Joseph Smith, shouldn’t we try to think of some reason why the Lord would attempt to do such a thing?

    As for the problems of a strict translation, one of them is why the translated language is antiquated. Another might be why Moroni has such intimate familiarity with Paul or any number of anachronistic quotations. One of the apologetic impulses over the last few decades has been to explain the anachronisms in the Book of Mormon by appealing to a loose translation hypothesis, one that sees Joseph’s world entering into the translation with turns of phrase, familiar concepts that spark his own language, and even contemporary (19th c.) theological and social concerns being read into the text. Skousen’s theory undercuts this apologetic trend and makes the Lord responsible for such anachronisms.

    As for the accounts of the translation process, these are notoriously problematic, both because many are long-removed temporally from the process, as well as contradictory. Joseph himself never said anything about it. Brigham Young suggested a loose-translation hypothesis when he said that if the Book of Mormon were translated “today” (a few decades later), it would be very different.

  16. Ben on September 8, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Stephen Ricks (and others, IIRC) has argued that JS receiving/reading the text does not preclude Joseph participating in the translation process, as Skousen would have in a “tight” theory.

    It’s either http://mi.byu.edu/publications/transcripts/?id=10 or http://mi.byu.edu/publications/transcripts/?id=13 .

  17. Daniel on September 8, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    I am intrigued by a “critical text project” for the Book of Mormon. So far, Royal Skousen’s work to restore the original text of the original BOM is very similar to other work by the Skousen brothers (and uncles): an exercise in managing minutae.

    I am more interested in a “critical” (i.e., thoughtful) reading of the BOM.

    For instance, start with the title: “The Book of Mormon”. If the entire raison d’etre for the book is to bring people to Christ, you would think it would have been given a better title – either by Moroni, or Mormon, or Joseph Smith. Surely, they could have done better than just naming books after their authors!

    We have fought the baggage this title brings for our entire history! We have to go out of our way to tell people we don’t worship Mormon, and the BOM is actually about Jesus Christ! We are Christians, afterall, but you couldn’t tell it by the titles of our most distinctive canon of scriptures: “The Book of Mormon”, the “Doctrine and Covenants”, and the Pearl of Great Price” – not without extra subtitles and explanations!

    Compare the title of the “New Testament” (so-called). The complete title is “The New Testament of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”. Any questions what that is about? Nope.

    Nobody has to provide an explanation, or years later add a subtitle: “Another Testament of Jesus Christ” the way we had to do with the BOM. The New Testament did not need to be appended with an Introduction, The Testimony of Three Witnesses, The Testimony of Eight Witnesses, Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and A Brief Explanation about The Book of Mormon before you ever read the text of the book itself.

    We must assume that Mormon and Moroni knew Joseph (“the Gentile”) would be restoring the Church of Jesus Christ and that the Book of Mormon was key to that restoration. If so, then why didn’t they name it something like “Instructions and Authority for Restoring the Church of Jesus Christ”? Or why didn’t they title it something like “The Fortelling and Appearance of Jesus Christ Among the Descendants of Lehi”?

    It doesn’t take a genius to think of much better titles for the Book of Mormon!

  18. Daniel on September 8, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    And I still don’t know why Joseph OR Moroni/Mormon would use the word “adieu” under any circumstances!

  19. TT on September 8, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Daniel,
    I believe that the title ‘New Testament’ was fisrt used in the late second century. Most prophetic books in the Bible are named after the prophetic figure.

  20. Clark on September 8, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    Regarding 1500’s vs. 1800’s language, I wonder if one could discern regional differences in the Americas. Of course an accurate record of such differences is not had. But I think it dangerous to think there was one dialect in 1800’s. That said, one would expect letters from Joseph and his family to reflect his linguistic background (recognizing this will evolve significantly over time – especially as his learning and reading increases)

  21. Wilfried on September 8, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    Daniel (18), adieu is an “English” word, commonly used at the time. It is said that about half of the English lexicon has a French origin, thanks to the Norman conquest…

    See also here and here.

  22. J. Madson on September 8, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    TT,

    do you have a source quote for Brigham’s suggestion of a loose translation?

    Frankly, I am baffled how Skousen can conclude that there is a word for word translation based upon the evidence he presents. Its a pretty weak argument, imho.

  23. Daniel on September 8, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    TT,

    I beg to differ, although I am open to being corrected if I am mistaken.

    In the original Greek manuscripts, from which the “New Testament” was translated, the concept of a “testament” was and has always been central to the Christian faith.

    Contrary to what most LDS think, “testament” (???????) does not connote “testimony” but “covenant”, and even the notion of covenant is not the idea of “contract” or “promise” most LDS believe.

    Rather, the original concept would be best articulated as “inheritance” or “dispensation” and refers to the “inheritance” that God has given to mankind: the “Old Inheritance” (essentially Law of Moses) and the “New Inheritance” which IS Jesus Christ.

    Thus, from the earliest writings (of Paul) this notion of a “New Inheritance (Testament)” has been extant among Christians, regardless of what formal titles were or were not used on compliations of writings.

    //Most prophetic books in the Bible are named after the prophetic figure.//

    My point was that the books in the BOM are named after the AUTHOR. That is unimaginative, unclear, and unusual.

    By contrast, for the most part, the books in the Bible are NOT named after the AUTHOR. This is clear in virtually every case, but some book titles are misleading.

    The Book of Joshua is not named after the author. Joshua did not write the book of Joshua. The book is named as it is because of the CONTENT: the story of Joshua.

    The same is true of the book ABOUT Ruth. 1 and 2nd Samuel are officially “The 1st Book of the Kings” and “The 2nd Book of the Kings” because, combined with the 3rd and 4th books of the Kings (what we call 1st and 2nd Kings), these books were about a period when Kings reigned over Israel (cf. Judges, 1st & 2nd Chronicles, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, etc.).

    Indeed, with few (or any) exceptions, the books of the Bible are named for their CONTENT and NOT their author. Daniel is ABOUT Daniel, not written BY Daniel; Isaiah is ABOUT Isaiah, not written BY Isaiah.

    That is not true of the BOM. I think this fact, examined critically, has implications for BOM authorship that have not yet been examined.

    What do you think?

  24. Alan on September 8, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    This response is for “TT,” you said:

    “I take it that this claim is meant to rebut the hypothesis that Joseph received “inspiration” in providing a translation more loosely. But I HAVE TROUBLE WITH THE ASSERTION HERE THAT THE TRANSLATION WAS “WORD FOR WORD” AND THAT THE “SPELLING OF THE NAMES” WERE GIVEN TO JOSEPH SMITH PROVIDES EVIDENCE AGAINST A MORE LOOSE TRANSLATION.”

    You question Dr. Skousen and his twenty years’ research? You no doubt represent the first of what will be a long line of resisters who will display a myriad of alternative explanations, instead of just accepting what the RELIABLE witnesses and Skousen have said.

    You likewise stated:

    “Assuming that this hypothesis is correct, and that Joseph did receive it word for word, ON WHAT BASIS WOULD YOU SAY THE LORD WOULD CHOOSE TO REVEAL 15TH C. ENGLISH?”

    You’re rational mind just won’t submit to God will it?

    How’s this for some understanding: If Joseph didn’t use his own English, then who did? Was it a past Bible expert? Was it Tyndale or Wycliffe? Of course it was. No doubt there was a whole team working on it!

    Lastly, didn’t Moroni admitt there may be errors? He even gave us permission to correct them. To be clear, so even Skousen can relax, these are the places in which human error could occur:

    a. Initial recordings before they were engraven on the final gold plates.
    b. The engraver of the gold plates (copists).
    c. The translator(s) into English (in heaven).
    d. The revealor on earth (Joseph).
    e. The monitor of Joseph (before allowing the next word or phrase to appear).

    The other steps are plainly known.

  25. Ben on September 8, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    Daniel, perhaps you’re unaware that all the titles of the Biblical books are secondary, and quite late. They’re not original to the books. Like most ancient near eastern texts, they were often referred to by the first few words or the first line. Not terribly imaginative by any measure.

  26. Clark on September 8, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    Just to second the point above, I think we have to keep separate the methods of translation from the content of translation.

    It seems to me though that one big question is whether the text is consistently tight in method of translation. That is could the Lord vary according to the portion of text in question?

    Second we don’t know how the image and/or impressions reached Joseph’s mind. To assume it was simply dictated by someone with a pre-finished translation seems a leap. (Recognizing Br. Skousen isn’t making that claim – but others are)

  27. Jonathan Green on September 8, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    Alan, your response to TT really is not called for. Royal Skousen has written a scholarly book, and scholarly books are meant to be questioned. I don’t know TT, but I’ve read enough of his comments to recognize that he knows what he’s talking about. The claims that the Book of Mormon contains 16th-century English, and that the original manuscript provides evidence for a close translation process, are controversial and need to be hashed out. It’s really not a good idea to get them too mixed up with one’s testimony at this point.

  28. J. Madson on September 8, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    #24, your comment is just a little scary. you begin with asserting that no one should dare question Skousen and his 20 years of research as if that somehow makes his conclusions correct. Its equally as possible to look at the evidence and come to other plausible if not more plausible conclusions. No doubt he’s done some serious research and added much to the discussion but its not as if once Skousen speaks, all discussion should end.

    You then launch into questioning someone’s willingness to submit their “rational” mind to God’s will? Really classy there.

  29. Alan on September 9, 2009 at 12:28 am

    First variant comes from Clark, he said:

    “It seems to me though that one big question is whether the text is consistently tight in method of translation. That is could the Lord vary according to the portion of text in question?”

    Joseph dictated as Skousen and multiple witnesses said, just “not all of the time,” leaving enough room for them (prognosticators) to save face.

    Clark said:

    “Second we don’t know how the image and/or impressions reached Joseph’s mind.”

    The crux of the problem is that for far too long LDS have taken the Lord’s counsel for Oliver in D&C 9 regarding how to pray, for how to translate. A fatal error that should never have taken hold.
    Clark also said:

    ” To assume it was simply dictated by someone with a pre-finished translation seems a leap. (Recognizing Br. Skousen isn’t making that claim – but others are)”

    Skousen ALREADY made the claim, note:

    “JOSEPH SMITH WAS LITERALLY READING OFF AN ALREADY COMPOSED ENGLISH-LANGUAGE TEXT.” (#8)

  30. Alan on September 9, 2009 at 12:50 am

    Variant #2 comes from Jonathan Green:

    “scholarly books are meant to be questioned…are controversial and need to be hashed out.”

    What was the excuse for not accepting the eye-witness accounts?

    “It’s really not a good idea to get them too mixed up with one’s testimony at this point.”

    Interesting, you can “believe” the credible witnesses (Emma, David, etc.), or, you can hold out another twenty years for an alternative interpretation. But then, you would still have only one witness against the other two.

  31. Alan on September 9, 2009 at 12:56 am

    J. Madson said:

    “#24, your comment is just a little scary…You then launch into questioning someone’s willingness to submit their “ to God…Really classy there.”

    It is frightening to believe ANYONE would say Joseph received impressions and chose whatever words he thought best! Thanks to Skousen, finally, the eye-witnesses will get their respect!

  32. Clark on September 9, 2009 at 1:18 am

    Alan (#30), note that what you quote Skousen as saying and what I said no one was saying are not the same. Skousen said Joseph read a text but not that the text was pre-translated.

    Consider a non-religious science fiction context. There is a translation computer which is plugged into your brain such that it “knows” you linguistic and conceptual background plus some extra code that comes with the computer. It encounters a text and processes it partially based upon its database, partially based upon your conceptual background, and partially by querying your subconscious. It then gives you the output.

    Now in this case there is no pre-translated text. Yet the quote of Skousen applies.

    Note I’m not saying this is how things worked. (I have no idea how things worked) I’m simply saying that people are leaping to conclusions.

  33. Dan on September 9, 2009 at 5:33 am

    This worship of all things Skousen is eerily odd… I’m guessing this Royal Skousen is related to another more well known Skousen.

  34. Jonathan Green on September 9, 2009 at 9:43 am

    Alan, excuse me, but I believe you’ve mistaken my previous comment for an expression of my opinion. It is not. It is a gentle reminder that we have comment policies that you need to be aware of and follow:
    http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/comment-policies/

    See especially #1 and #3. If you want to keep commenting here, follow them.

    Please note that Skousen can make a crummy argument for something true. The truth of that thing, and other evidence for its truth, have no bearing on whether or not Skousen’s argument is crummy. The strength or crumminess of the argument still needs to be worked out. If you don’t understand the distinction, you may not be a helpful contributor to the conversation.

  35. TT on September 9, 2009 at 10:08 am

    Daniel 23,
    I do not dispute that the phrase “new testament” can be found in the collection of books we now call the New Testament. It actually comes from Jer 31:31-34. This is not in dispute. Rather, your suggestion that the title “New Testament” to describe the books of the NT was autogenic is something that is not factually correct. I believe the first time the phrase is used is by Irenaeus, and that may be only to refer to the 4 gospels. He is also the first we know of to use all four and advocate for the use of all four. I am too lazy to look up the former claim about Iren being the first to use the term, so if you can provide contrasting evidence I’d be happy to evaluate it.
    I did not suggest that biblical texts are named after the “author.” Rather, I suggested that prophetic texts are often named for the prophet. Isaiah, Jer, etc. Other texts are named for the “author,” such as the Gospels and Catholic Epistles.
    I am just trying to say that worrying about a “bad” title for the Book of Mormon, and anachronistically comparing it to a “good” title like the “New Testament” really doesn’t take into account the style of biblical literature that would have been recognizable to JS and his contemporaries.

  36. TT on September 9, 2009 at 10:25 am

    J. Madsen 22,

    Brigham Young: “Should the Lord Almighty send an angel to re-write the Bible, it would in many places be very different from what it now is. And I will even venture to say that if the Book of Mormon were now to be re-written, in many instances it would materially differ from the present translation. According as people are willing to receive the things of God, so the heavens send forth their blessings. If the people are stiff-necked, the Lord can tell them but little.” (Journal of Discourses 9:311)

  37. J. Madson on September 9, 2009 at 11:51 am

    tt

    thanks

  38. Alan on September 9, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Variant #3 is by Clark:

    “Skousen said Joseph read a text but not that the text was pre-translated.

    Consider a non-religious science fiction context. There is a translation computer which is plugged into your brain such that it “knows” you linguistic and conceptual background plus some extra code that comes with the computer. It encounters a text and processes it partially based upon its database, partially based upon your conceptual background, and partially by querying your subconscious. It then gives you the output.

    Now in this case there is no pre-translated text. Yet the quote of Skousen applies.”

    Joseph was a robot…hmmm.

    “Note I’m not saying this is how things worked. (I have no idea how things worked) I’m simply saying that people are leaping to”

    Have you read the eye witness accounts? Are you going to get Skousen’s book?

  39. Daniel on September 9, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    TT,

    Thank you for your response. My intent was not so suggest that the title “New Testament” was autogenic, simply that it is a more meaningful title because it better describes the theme, purpose, and content of the collection of books included under it. The biblical texts are not so much “named for the prophet” as they are named for the STORY that is ABOUT the prophet.

    That is clearly NOT the case with the BOM, neither the whole compilation, nor each individual “book”. Moreover, the books of the BOM are almost exclusively written in the first person.

    As such, my point is simply that this “dearth of meaning” (dare I say?) in the titling of the BOM reveals something significant about its author(s). At very least, it suggests they were just not very good writers, especially when it came to creating titles.

    However, for a group of authors who were sophisticated enough to employ “chiasmus” and other contemporary literary devices, such neglect of titles seems inconsistent and noteworthy.

    Finally, I am not sure I understand your point when write: “…really doesn’t take into account the style of biblical literature that would have been recognizable to JS and his contemporaries.” Please elaborate.

  40. Daniel on September 9, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Ben (25),

    I appreciate your pointing that out. I am aware of that fact. I am also aware that someone, somewhere, at some time recognized the need to identify these books with titles that had more meaning.

    My point is that, along the way, you would think that someone, somewhere, at some time, would have also thought to give the BOM compilation more meaningful titles to better capture the themes and theses of the compilation and the individual books.

    This is expecially the case if those authors and “translators” were writing with the noble purpose of testifying of Jesus Christ. Yet not one of them shows enough presence of mind as an author to give the reader any indication in the title OR in the first lines of their texts, that their works are about Jesus Christ. That just seems odd to me.

  41. Ben on September 9, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    “A fatal error that should never have taken hold.”

    Really? Who died?

    “My point is that, along the way, you would think that someone, somewhere, at some time, would have also thought to give the BOM compilation more meaningful titles to better capture the themes and theses of the compilation and the individual books.”

    Well, no one has yet. Mormon edited nearly the whole thing as we have it, so I’m not sure what ancient redactor was supposed to do so. The Biblical mss., by contrast passed through who knows how many hands, and the titles didn’t come until the post-biblical period. It was apparently not important or native to the authors/editors during the Biblical period to do so. You seem to be attaching great importance to this fact.

  42. Ben on September 9, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    “Yet not one of them shows enough presence of mind as an author to give the reader any indication in the title OR in the first lines of their texts, that their works are about Jesus Christ. That just seems odd to me.”

    And yet it applies equally to the Biblical books. This is what TT is getting at. *Ancient* authors simply didn’t think that way.

  43. TT on September 9, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Daniel,
    This is really a rather minor point about the relative value of the title of the Book of Mormon and the NT, a comparison which has a number of different problems, including the question of what is “meaningful,” to whom, and who really cares.
    If you were simply suggesting that the title “NT” is better than “BoM,” I perhaps could be persuaded to agree. However, you have made a claim Mormon and Moroni should have known that in modern times the conventions for titles would be very different and have acted accordingly. I find this claim very odd in that if the BOM is ancient, why you would expect to find a modern-sounding title.
    I think we’ve both been oversimplifying ancient conventions about titles, especially since we are straddling a period of 1000 years in Israelite, Persian, and Greek cultures. Suffice it to say that from what I know of ancient literature I find nothing particularly odd or out of place about naming a book after its prophetic “author,” or after the person that the “story” is mostly about.
    What I mean by saying that the title BOM would have conformed to JS’s contemporaries xpectations for religious literature is that a community that is actually immersed in biblical literature like 19th Americans would not be surprised by the title BOM anymore than they were by “Gospel of John” or the “Epistle of James,” or “Book of Isaiah” (??? ??????).
    As for the texts being autobiographical, we had a discussion about this at FPR a while back: http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com/2008/05/nephi-as-the-first-autobiographer/

  44. Daniel on September 9, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    TT,

    “claim Mormon and Moroni should have known that in modern times the conventions for titles would be very different and have acted accordingly”

    No, my claim was not that Mormon and Moroni, specifically, should have known (although they did claim prescience and to be writing to us in this day, so the argument could be made); my claim is that someone who claims revelation and authority (could have been Mormon, Moroni, or each individual author, or Joseph Smith or one of his successors) should have figured out that “Book of Mormon” as a title does nothing whatsoever to achieve the objectives for which the book(s) were written. The fact that they failed to do so has left us with the “Mormon” nickname problem and interferes with our ability to “preach Christ” probably more than any other single factor. We are still not considered “Christians” by most other sects. If that isn’t significant, I don’t know what is. Dismissing it as a minor point strikes me as a bit naïve.

    As for how this relates to the “word for word” vs liberal translation theories, one would think that someone would have been inspired at some point in time (before hundreds of years had passed) to give more meaningful titles to the BOM and its sub-books. But apparently, the very unhelpful titles were in the original works and translated “word for word” as they are. The Title Page was apparently written by Mormon himself. Mormon, therefore, broke what you are claiming are ancient conventions by giving the compilation a more modern (albeit very poor) title: “THE BOOK OF MORMON AN ACCOUNT WRITTEN BY THE HAND OF MORMON UPON PLATES TAKEN FROM THE PLATES OF NEPHI.”

    “An Account”? How vague and nondescript is that? If the more liberal translation hypothesis holds, wouldn’t we expect Joseph to have been inspired enough to recognize that problem and come up with something better, that specifically mentions Christ. I offered a couple of examples and I’m not even inspired in the least!

  45. Daniel on September 9, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    My original post was simply calling for a “critical reading” of the text of the BOM, in a different sense than what Skousen is doing. I started with the titles as an example.

    I could just as easily have started with 2 Nephi 1-3 where I can see a “patriarchal blessing” moment on Lehi’s deathbed where a perhaps senile old man is getting confused over whether he is giving patriarchal blessings or conference sermons. In this context, some of Lehi’s most quoted ideas are found and taken by most Church members to suggest doctrinal statement on metaphysics (“opposition in all things”) that I think are not warranted.

  46. Raymond Takashi Swenson on September 9, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    Anyone who actually has interpreted between two languages knows what it involves. In forming sentences, units of communication, in English, we have a way of representing persons (actos), things, and actions in the nouns, verbs, and grammar of English. In translating English into (say) Japanese, we need to understand how a Japanese speaker would represent persons, things and actions into the nouns, verbs, and grammar of Japanese. Translation is a two step process, of transformation from the symbols and grammar of the source language into the conceptual picture, and then from the conceptual picture into the target language.

    The conventional notion of how Joseph Smith did the translation of the book of Mormon is that God placed the conceptual picture into his mind (possibly using the “interpreters” and/or seer stone), and Joseph then transformed that picture into English, obviously colored by his own usual process of doing the transformation from thought to speech. I am not aware of anyone proposing that Joseph Smith, during the period of the translation, or during the specific minutes when he was dictating, had acquired fluency in the written and/or spoken language of Mormon and his culture, and was doing the transformation from Reformed Egyptian into the conceptual picture that was then the source for his composition in spoken English.

    I am not saying God could not do something like downloading knowledge of the Reformed Egyptian language into Joseph’s brain; just that there seems to be no specific evidence of it.

    Instead, the evidence we do have seems to be that Joseph perceived an English text and read that out loud to his scribes. That does not make the process un-miraculous: being able to see tihngs with the Interpreters was clearly something that required being in tune with the Holy Ghost.

    Additionally, the picture of the actual interpretation from source language to target language being done by someone conversant in the source language also helps to explain how Hebraisms in the English translation, especially the original dictated text, come through, from grammatical matters to chiasmus. While casual readers see this ungrammatical English as flaws, a careful modern reader drawing on knowledge of Hebrew literature can see this is evidence, peppered throughout the translation, that the original source text was Hebraic, so that the flaws are actually small gems.

    Joseph Smith and those who followed him as prophets for a century were not aware of these hidden gems. He could not have intentionally created them. The fact they are there means they were put there by someone else. If we believe God was overseeing the process of creating, preserving, interpreting and publishing the record, it is consistent to suppose that God put these gems into the Book of Mormon so that, in a more sophisticated time, we could dig them out and renew our appreciation of the text and its miraculous nature.

  47. TT on September 9, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    Daniel,
    There are a million reasons that interfere with our preaching of Christ, but I wouldn’t put the title of the Book of Mormon in the top 999,000.
    I take your point that a loose translation would mean that JS could “change” the title to be more modern, but I think I have made a case that a more “modern” title would have made the book LESS authentic-seeming to 19th c. Americans. Rather, adopting a recognizably “biblical” convention of naming the book gives the impression of belonging to the same genre of literature.
    As for the title page, I am not sure that I agree with you at all that Mormon’s opening is “modern,” especially since you think that “modern” is more “meaningful.” Rather, this convention of beginning with the author of the work and briefly describing the setting in which the text was produced is quite typical. I am not arguing that this is “evidence” of antiquity, but rather that it uses the rhetorical tropes of antiquity.
    I would certainly agree that we need a “critical” engagement with the text of the BOM. That said, our critical engagements should be informed. Lehi’s testament is no more rambling and metaphysical than other testaments from antiquity. If what you mean is that we should be critical of common LDS readings of the text, I wholeheartedly agree.

  48. TT on September 9, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    “the evidence we do have seems to be that Joseph perceived an English text and read that out loud to his scribes”

    Ray, this is the crux of my original question. What actual evidence do we have for claim? Skousen seems to suggest that the evidence for it is the lack of “revisions” in the mss and that Joseph spelled out the names. In my view, these are pretty weak “evidences” of anything beyond the claim that Joseph made few to no revisions in his utterance of the BOM and that he was capable of stopping and thinking about how to spell the word he just said.
    The question of Hebraisms does point to a more “strict” translation theory, as well as chiasmus, but as I indicated above, a strict translation theory creates more problems than it solves, imho.

  49. Ben on September 9, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    “The question of Hebraisms does point to a more “strict” translation theory”

    It doesn’t, actually. It’s ambiguous. Assuming both the authenticity/”Hebraic-ness” and the lack of environmental contamination, the presence of such in the English of the Book of Mormon can be interpreted in two ways: God put them there (“strict” or “tight” translation) or Joseph Smith was an inexperienced translator (“loose” translation, using Skousen’s other term.)

    Every first-year student of a far-removed language does fine when the language parallels the native tongue. It’s in translating the idiomatic bits, where they don’t quite know what to do with it or how to understand it, with the result of a more literal and less idiomatic translation.

    Daniel, you seem to be able to make many certain judgments about what “should” have been done. In my view, these assumptions are fairly shallow. ““An Account”? How vague and nondescript is that?” Sepher, a Hebrew word often translated as “book” is more accurately rendered as “account” according to Mark Smith of NYU. What do you make of Matthew beginning this first gospel with “an account of the genealogy of Jesus Christ”?

    An “account”? How boring! And beginning with a geneaological list?! Does Matthew want people to get past the first page? Someone along the way should have rewritten it to fit our modern preconceptions…

  50. Wilfried on September 9, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    I have not been able to follow the discussion, but question 11 – “Would it be worth doing textual criticism for the translations of the English-language Book of Mormon into other languages?” deserves a resounding yes. I have done some of this work with BYU students in a French linguistics class and the problems and challenges are numerous (and English and French are still very close as languages).

    Just to mention one item, the added title “Another testament of Jesus Christ”. “Another” is a polysemic word.

    Webster:
    1: different or distinct from the one first considered; 2: some other; 3: being one more in addition to one or more of the same kind.

    We may certainly presume that “another” is meant as “one more” (= the Book of Mormon in addition to the Bible), and not as “different, distinct from (the Bible)”. Malevolent people could place the emphasis differently in explaining the subtitle…

    And now come the translations. The French “autre” in “Un autre témoignage … ” has the same polysemic connotations, but the connotation “different” is more frequent. So “The Book of Mormon – A different testament of JC” is the first impression given. The Dutch saw the problem and changed “Een ander testament” in their latest edition to “Eveneens een testament aangaande Jezus Christus” (= Also a testament about…). The Germans similar but adding another connotation: “Ein Weiterer Zeuge für Jesus Christus” (= A further [broader?] witness for …).

    It seems the translators stumbled over the ambiguity of “another”. I wonder if the potential problem had been understood in English before the translators noticed.

    Italian kept “Un altro testamento”, Spanish “Otro Testamento”, Norvegian “Et annet testamente …” This also means that there is no consistency among the translations, since some stick to literal translation of “another” (and thus potentially keeping the ambiguity), while others try to clarify (but are they right?). Note also the sometimes literal translation “testament”, and elsewhere “witness” or “testimony”. “Testament” is also polysemic…

    And that’s only a tiny tip of the iceberg, already starting with the title. The various translations of the text, the correction in reeditions – a wealth of discoveries to be made. And, yes, I also believe that controversial and searching translations may sometimes throw surprising light on hidden meanings in English. As Royal Skousen mentioned: “… the question of how translators have dealt with problematic passages. Their solutions may suggest possible conjectural emendations for the English-language text.”

    E.g., a famous verse like “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy”: not easy to translate such compact and powerful style. Different French and Dutch translations reveal more than just nuances…

  51. TT on September 9, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Ben,
    I think that we need to distinguish between different kinds of “loose” translation. While you associate it a “loose” translation of Joseph with an “inexperienced translator” as more wooden, and less “idiomatic,” the kind of “loose” translation that I have in mind is one in which Joseph worked more conceptually and the relationship between the English text and the written text on the plates is much more fluid. I think that if Hebraisms are really there (I’m not sure the evidence is as clear as many think it is), I think that it would mediate against the latter view of a “loose” translation, the one that I had in mind.

  52. Clark on September 9, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    Alan, (#38), how do you interpret that as Joseph as a robot? Further how do you see that contradicting anything Skousen or the witnesses wrote? Please be explicit. I believe you are continuing to conflate method with content.

  53. Clark on September 9, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    Daniel (#44)

    my claim is that someone who claims revelation and authority … should have figured out that “Book of Mormon” as a title does nothing whatsoever to achieve the objectives for which the book(s) were written.

    How does this not reduce to the fallacy that for prophecy to be prophecy it must be exhaustive foreknowledge?

    This seems a very weak argument in that it seems Mormon theology denies it as a premise entirely.

    Certainly the writers might know a bit about the future or some vague concepts about who they write for while largely being ignorant of them. It’s odd to me that you seem to assume that as simply false out of hand. Put simply, it seems to me that all your criticisms rest upon a conception of prophecy that I doubt anyone else here shares.

  54. Daniel on September 10, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Wilfried,

    That is what I was (awkwardly) trying to get at: that is the kind of textual analysis and criticism in which I am interested. It is not my area of expertise (as I have made obvious with my comments), but is fascinating and significant. Thank you for your comment.

  55. Daniel on September 10, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Clark,

    I apologize for not sharing the same sophisticated conception of prophecy as you claim everyone “here” shares. I guess mine is just the normal, garden-variety conception of prophecy that common folk have. I would have thought we common folk are the ones the prophets are prophecying to and the ones Joseph was translating for – not the “scholars” like yourself.

  56. Daniel on September 10, 2009 at 10:28 am

    To Ben,

    Speaking of shallow…

    “What do you make of Matthew beginning this first gospel with “an account of the genealogy of Jesus Christ”?”

    I would be thrilled and have nothing to say if Mormon, or Moroni, or Joseph had simply added “An Account of Jesus Christ”. But they didn’t, and that is the point.

  57. Ben on September 10, 2009 at 11:28 am

    So mention Jesus’ name, and that counterbalances the boringness of “account” and a list of names?

    I find your point pointless :)

  58. Daniel on September 10, 2009 at 11:35 am

    If it is “pointless” that prescient, visionary, prophets, seers, and revelators who claim to be Jesus’ authorized representatives on earth FAIL to mention His name prominently (in whatever passes for “titles” in their ages) when writing for the sole purpose of proclaiming His name, then yes, I will concede that my point is pointless.

  59. Clark on September 10, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Daniel, I don’t think the typical member believes what you do either. But nice rhetorical trick. The question is more whether your view can be reconciled to LDS theology. Can you find even a single prophet claiming exhaustive foreknowledge when making a prophecy? I can certainly find lots of scriptures and GA commentary strongly suggesting the opposite.

  60. Daniel on September 10, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Clark,

    I would love to oblige by providing examples of LDS Theology that reconcile with my view, but there would have to be some preliminary issues addressed first.

    First of all, we would have to agree on what constitutes official “LDS Theology”, wouldn’t we? Finding an obscure quote from a long-dead Church leader, or even finding an obtuse academic treatise on the notion of “prophecy” by a “leading” LDS scholar would hardly resolve the issue.

    I don’t understand why it is so difficult to expect that an author whose sole purpose in writing is ostensibly to testify of Christ, should be able to mention Christ in the “title” (or first lines, or whatever the work would be summarily referred to).

    It is quite a simple and straightforward idea. We need not be linguists or professors of religious studies or theology to see the point. The title of the BOM does not (until very recently) mention Jesus at all. Neither to any of the books contained in the compilation. What I don’t get is why that does NOT strike anyone else as odd. These authors claim to have written because they were commanded to do so BY JESUS. They were claiming to have supernatural abilities (whether you call it “exhaustive foreknowledge” or whatever) given to them BY JESUS. Their sole purpose was to preach that name without which no man can be saved!

    All rhetoric aside. Isn’t that odd?

  61. Clark on September 10, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    I think what is odd is not seeing the standards of what constitutes a title as socially defined and largely arbitrary.

    As to the problem of evil note I didn’t say there was a solution. I agree with Dennis Potter in that. However the view we chose to experience these evils for personal growth is very compelling and I believe points us towards the solution.

    However if good and evil are viewed Platonically as pre-existing determinate propositional content then this transformational view won’t be compelling. Which returns us to the original point. Why be a Platonist?

  62. Clark on September 10, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    BTW I don’t think there is an official theology. Rather there are theologies which better account for statements of varying authority in their historical situatedness. The issue then becomes competing theologies and which offer more explanatory power.

    But I don’t think there is a formal Mormon theology as such.

  63. Clark on September 10, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Whoops. Posted the problem of evil thing in the wrong thread. Moved there. Dang, I should never comment with my iPhone and not just because of the typos…

  64. Daniel on September 11, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Clark,

    I am not a Platonist, so I cannot justify why anyone would be a Platonist.

    But by the same token, I cannot for the life of me figure out why anyone would want to be a post-modern deconstructionist, ether.

  65. Daniel on September 11, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Oh, and one more thing before I clock out…

    “(61) I think what is odd is not seeing the standards of what constitutes a title as socially defined and largely arbitrary.”

    Interesting, given the fact that the First Presidency and Quorum of the 12 appear to have agreed with my point and decided to officially add the sub-title “Another Testament of Jesus Christ” – we can only presume because some “inspired” modern or ancient leaders made a terrible omission!

  66. BHodges on September 13, 2009 at 1:11 am

    I suggest Daniel read once more the title page of the Book of Mormon.

  67. Daniel on September 14, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    OK. I have read it “once more”. What is your point?

    The question is whether the title page was originally written by Mormon, or Moroni, or Joseph Smith. The further question is, why is the name of Jesus Christ not more prominent in this “title page”?

    Some here have contended that “titles” as we know them in our modern world were not so conceived in ancient times.

    If that were so, why did the ancients create “titles” at all, not to mention “titles” for each of the books in the BOM (e.g., “Words of Mormon”)? And what does that say about the “title page” of the BOM?

  68. Mahonri on September 15, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    I was curious about the copyright –

    “I have also retained the right to legally extend this freedom to use the results of the critical text project to anyone wishing to create their own single reading of the Book of Mormon text”

    Is it under a Creative Commons license, or something similar?

    Is it free for all of those who believe in the Book of Mormon to share, or is it free for the compiler to select who is able to reproduce it and under what conditions?