Thursday, September 1, 2016

Textual Changes in the Book of Mormon – Part II

Continuing with the textual changes of these early Book of Mormon editions and why such changes were necessary in a work Joseph Smith claimed was the most perfect book written.
    As to the errors mentioned, to understand the reason for many of these, we need to understand, as we have written several times before, that the American English spelling in 1829 was not yet standardized.
 Interestingly, the spelling problems in the Book of Mormon paralleled earlier kinds of spelling changes in the English Bible. For example, consider the word sins, which had been spelled synnes and became sinnes in the 1611 King James Version; or majesty, which had been maiestye and became maiestie, in that same first edition; or spirits, which had earlier been spretes and spirites, also had citie for city, eles to eyes, dayes to days, measres to ears, hee to he, sate to sat, sayde to said, and many more.
    The first nine verses of Hebrews chapter one in the 1611 edition include such spellings as Sonne, loued, gaue, diuers, dayes, vnto, svvord, sonne, heire, brightnesse, and elsewhere such statements as: "Arke of the Couenant, euen the Lord," "let them seethe," "powred it vpon the ground,"and "a fierie furnace."
    In addition, the name "Jesus" is never used in the original 1611 King James version of the Bible; instead that name is listed as "Iesus," [pronounced "ee-ay-sooce"]. However, he was called Yeshua, which is what is family and friends called him, which was translated into "LORD" 6519 in the KJV; however, in the revised KJV (which is the version we use today), it was translated in LORD 6510 times, GOD 4 times, Jehovah 4 times. Nor for that matter are the names "Jehovah," "Judah," "Joseph," "Jacob," "Jerusalem, " John," or "Joshua" found in the 1611 KJV Bible.
    The point obviously being that both the Bible and the Book of Mormon experienced spelling, grammar, punctuation changes--those changes took place in the KJV between 1611 (first) and 1769 (last); in the Book of Mormon between 1830 (first) and 1981 (last)--158 years with the Bible and 151 years with the Book of Mormon.
One of the things modern man often forgets is that if the Lord, himself, were to do something, the work would be perfect; however, the Lord generally does not do things himself, but in the process of bringing about the immortality and eternal life of man, he works through men—the best he can find at the time—to accomplish the actual tasks—John put it this way: “Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter” (John 13:7). This, of course, is for our growth and development as well as the eventual perfecting of the Saints.
    The result is two-fold: 1) the work progresses over time rather than insistence on a perfect effort initially—which allows us the privilege of learning from our mistakes making improvements and growing into the person the Lord expects us to become; and 2) a process of continual growth and gaining knowledge, and as we progress, so does our ability to achieve better results, thus we grow and develop as we serve.  
    As late as 1828, American lexicographer Noah Webster noted that five dictionaries were available to him. Examples from four of those dictionaries show the variations in spellings commonly accepted at the time Oliver was taking dictation from the Prophet:
Webster’s own American Dictionary of the English Language was published in 1828; and, if it was available to Oliver Cowdery, that would add one more to the other five. One would expect that Oliver would have had access to at least one or more of these dictionaries since his occupation in 1829 was that of a school teacher at the district school in Manchester, and he was desirous to come and write for Joseph Smith (PJS 1:10) after Martin Harris lost the first 116 pages.
    Like many educated people of the time, Oliver’s spelling seemed creative to us today. At the time, many people in the United States were pressing for a variety of English that would be uniquely American. Noah Webster led this movement, proposing many new rules for American spellings, seven of which are still in use. As a result of Webster’s innovations, for example, Americans changed the British spelling of “theatre” to “theater,” “labour” to “labor,” “honour” to “honor,” etc. Not all of the spellings he suggested were accepted, however (for example, ake, beleeve, iz, hed, and iland). But Webster’s recommendations reveal a tendency common at the time to spell words phonetically, which is as they sound.
Left: Nathaniel Hawthorne; Right: President Andrew Johnson

’Some of Oliver’s more famous contemporaries, Writer Hawthorne, spelled phonetically.   President Johnsonfor, wrote: ancles, cieling, cloathing, and musquito. And spelling included whent, allways, desid, anxus, and immaganable. It is not surprising, then, that many words in the Book of Mormon would need to be corrected as American English spelling became more uniform later in the nineteenth century.
    It is also important to keep in mind that while Joseph Smith spelled out unusual Nephite and Lamanite names, Oliver wrote what he heard Joseph say. As an example, homonyms, words that sound alike but have different meanings, would be very difficult to write through dictation—that is, hearing only the word said aloud. This can cause difficulties when we consider words like “straight” and “strait,” “bear” and “bare,” “capital” and “capitol,” “indict” and “indite,” “complement” and “compliment,” “dual” and “duel,” “elusive” and “illusive,” “hoard” and “horde,” “descent” and “dissent,” “principal” and “principle,” “whether” and “weather,” “their” and “there,” “your and “you’re,” “proceed” and “precede,” etc.
    Or other words that sound very similar, such as allude and elude, adverse and averse, formerly and formally, demur and demure, intense and intent, flounder and founder, climactic and climatic, practical and practicable, ingenious and ingenuous, statue and statute, etc.
(See the next post, "Textual Changes in the Book of Mormon - Part III," for more on the early editions of the Book of Mormon.

1 comment:

  1. If I ever again find someone complaining about all the changes Joseph made to the Book of Mormon text this will be a good first webpage to show them.