Friday, September 2, 2016

Textual Changes in the Book of Mormon – Part III

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. 
Oliver’s handwriting also presented a special challenge to the typesetter, His R (which looks like a ‘Palmer’ R) and his N are difficult to distinguish, as are his B and L. So in the first edition, Gadianton was mislabeled “the nobler,” rather than “the robber.” In a similar way, the typesetter apparently mistook Oliver’s “RM” as “UN.” So in 1 Nephi 13:4, where the original manuscript read “formation,” the typesetter misread “founation.” Then, thinking the letter “d” had been left out, he supplied it. In the 1981 edition, “foundation” has been corrected back to read “formation,” as originally intended—many other spelling errors appear to have been strictly typographical for example, aaswer, amog, bacause, daghter, mnltitude, theit, and uttered.
    Another kind of common copying error that occurs is “skipping.” That is, when the typesetter’s eye momentarily leaves the page, then looks back, he can pick up the text at a different place, where the wording is very similar. The most significant example of this is the dropping of thirty-five words in Alma 32:30, where the words seed, good, sprouteth, beginneth, and grow are common to two parts of the verse.
Some of the words we thought Oliver Cowdery misspelled are actually legitimate variants found in the venerable Oxford English Dictionary. Consider these: adhear, adultry, babtized, befal, burthensome, centre, condescention, devlish, fraid, phrensied, and sepulcher.
    The most common changes, however, have not been in spelling, but in grammar. For example, there have been 891 changes of “which” to “who,” 177 changes of “exceeding” to “exceedingly.” Many changes involve a change in number or tense of verbs. “Was” was changed to “were” 162 times, “is” to “are” 74 times, and “done” to “did” 10 times.
    A few other changes involving meaning appear to be more significant. In 2 Nephi 30:6, “white” appeared in the 1830 and 1837 editions. Joseph changed this word to “pure in the 1840 edition. But later American editions did not show this change because they had followed the first European and 1837 editions. This correction by the Prophet has finally been restored in the 1981 edition.
    In Mosiah 21:28 and Ether 4:1, the first edition had “Benjamin” where the name of Mosiah now appears. In fact, King Benjamin would not likely have still been living in the historical period described by these verses. In the 1837 edition, the Prophet Joseph made this correction.
 Joseph looking into the hat where the seer stone, in darkness, shone forth the word(s) being translated 

    We can only speculate about the cause of this error, as did the Mormon scholar Sidney B. Sperry who posed this interesting question: “Was it an inadvertent slip of the tongue on the part of Joseph Smith as he dictated his translation to Oliver Cowdery, or did he translate correctly an original error on the part of Mormon, the abridger of the Book of Mormon? (The Problems of the Book of Mormon, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1964, p. 203.)
    Over the years, a few hundred deletions have also been made, primarily to improve the book grammatically. The most commonly eliminated have been the words “that” (188 times), “the” (48 times), “it came to pass” (46 times), “a” and “and” (40 times), and “had” (29 times).
    Additions are far less numerous, with less than one hundred being added. For example, “of” was added 12 times, “and,” “is,” and “the” added 7 times. Some additions simply result from rearranging parts of a sentence or returning words inadvertently dropped in earlier editions. These are not “true” additions.
    In a few places, however, Joseph Smith did intentionally add to the text to clarify a point. An illustration of this is the added words “the son of” in 1 Nephi 11:21, 32, and 1 Nephi 13:40. The text would be correct with or without the additional words, but the addition helps the reader avoid misunderstanding—a similar example is found in the translation of the King James Version of the Bible, when in the 1611 printing the translators wrote: "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life," was corrected in 1629 to read correctly, “He that hath the Son of God hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life" (1 John 5:12). Another Biblical example of this type of addition for clarification is seen in 2 Kings 11:10 where the first printing of 1611 accidentally omitted the words "of the LORD" from the phrase "in the temple of the LORD."  This printing error was soon discovered and corrected in 1638.  It would have been very easy for a hard working printer to overlook this phrase in the midst of a chapter that refers to "the house of the Lord", the "temple of the Lord" and "the house"  in verses 3, 4 (twice), 5, 6, 7, 13, 15, 16, 18, 19 (twice) and 20. Not even the meaning of the verse is lost by the accidental omission of these words; but it was soon caught and corrected.
Take as an example, the problems of oral transmission of information between the translator (Joseph Smith) and the scribe (Oliver Cowdery, et all), in hearing and interpreting thne wordage correctly. When Joseph read a statement, word or sentence, the scribe had to interpret what was being said, write down the word, which included his spelling of the word, and then read it back. So let's take a look at a few things that could go wrong with certain types of words, like homonyms. In the following statements, without knowing the spelling of the word, what would you write down if you were the scribe?
1. "His illicit act:--would you interpret this as an illegal (illicit) act or one that evokes a response (elicit)?
2. "Nephi emigrated in the Land of Promise--would you interpret this as "he left the Land of First Inheritance (emigrated)" or that "he arrived at the Land of First Inheritance (immigrated)"?
3. "According to his father's instruction, Nephi was (supposed)(suppose) to obtain the Brass Plates from Laban."
4. "Angrily, Laban reached (toward)(towards) Laman to grab him by the neck."
5. "Lemuel (couldn't)(could) care less about Lehi naming a valley after him."
6. "Lehi's fervent testimony (affected)(effected) no one in Jerusalem. In fact, they became angry and sought his life.)
7. "After being commanded to go up the mountain, Nephi made a swift (assent)(ascent) to the top."
8. "Nephi knew he (aught)(ought) to be more careful how he chastized his older brothers."
9. "The angel's response to Nephi's request was (aural)(oral)."
10. "When the tide was right, Nephi wanted to be (all ready)(already) to set sail."
Whilethese sentences are not found in the scriptural record, they are mean to show how difficult it could be in some cases to simply hear a word or series of words and choose the correct one when there is a choice as well as spell it correctly in a basic one-way translation process.
    There are numerous critics who do not consider anything of this sort in the translation of the Book of Mormon. They have no concept of the growth and development of man--only that God is correct and does not make mistakes, so when they see mistakes, or hear about them in the translation of the scriptural record, they see this as evidence that it was not divinely inspired, and ridicule Joseph's "most correct book."
As Joseph Smith himself explained, the ultimate test of its correctness of the Book of Mormon is in the lives of those who use its principles in their lives. Indeed, he promised that we can “get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” (HC, 4:461.) For the many critics who look for something to criticize, they might want to stop repeating a mantra they have heard or read about and start fact-checking what they think. Only the court jester goes around repeating what he heard and not making sure that what he says is accurate.

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