Book of Mormon, Changes to
Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God. During the process of dictating, transcribing, copying, typesetting, and printing, some human errors were made. Soon after the first printing of the Book of Mormon, in 1830, readers began finding typographical, spelling, and other mistakes. The Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery made over 1,000 corrections for the second edition (1837). For the third edition (1840), Joseph Smith made further corrections after careful prophetic review, comparing the original manuscript with the printed text.
Joseph Smith declared that “the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, . . . and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than any other book” (History of the Church, 4:461). The appropriate sense of correct as used by Joseph Smith in this statement would be, “Set right, or made straight. Hence, right; conformable to truth” (Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language ). Every edition of the Book of Mormon has been instrumental in bringing people to a knowledge of the truth by the power of the Holy Ghost (see Moroni 10:3–5).
Examples of the types of corrections or changes made in early editions of the Book of Mormon (excluding punctuation) are shown in the table below. In 1879, with the blessing of the First Presidency, Elder Orson Pratt of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles produced an edition with more chapter divisions and with versification that has continued in all subsequent editions. He also added footnotes and made some changes in spelling and grammar.
In 1920 President Heber J. Grant assigned a committee headed by Elder James E. Talmage of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to create a new edition that would correct a few errors made in previous editions. This new edition was formatted in double-column pages, with chapter headings, chronological data, revised footnote references, a pronouncing guide, and an index. Punctuation and capitalization were also revised.
The current edition (1981) includes extensive cross references, footnotes, and other study aids. References shown in the table below are from the current edition and are given for convenience in locating the passages referred to.
Examples of Corrections or Changes to the Book of Mormon
|Type of correction or change, with an example||Before||After||Comments|
“Some have arrested the scriptures.”
“Some have wrested the scriptures.”
|Oliver Cowdery wrote what he heard, which resulted in some transcription errors.|
(1 Nephi 13:23)
|Spelling was not as standardized in 1828 as it is today. Revisions helped make the manuscript more understandable.|
(3 Nephi 13:9)
“Our Father which art in heaven.”
“Our Father who art in heaven.”
|Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery made over 1,000 corrections in the 1837 edition, most of them grammatical.|
(1 Nephi 22:2)
“By the spirit are all things made known unto the prophet.”
“By the spirit are all things made known unto the prophets.”
|Corrected from the printer’s manuscript. There were at least 75 corrections of this type.|
(1 Nephi 11:18)
“Behold, the virgin which thou seest, is the mother of God.”
“Behold, the virgin which thou seest, is the mother of the Son of God.”
|Joseph Smith added the phrase “the Son of” in this and other verses of the 1837 edition to clarify doctrine.|
(2 Nephi 30:6)
“They shall be a white and delightsome people.”
“They shall be a pure and delightsome people.”
|To clarify meaning, Joseph Smith changed the word white to pure in the 1840 edition. Later American editions did not show this change because they had followed the first European and 1837 editions. The Prophet’s wording was restored in the 1981 edition.|
"By the Gift and Power of God"
Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, Jan. 1997, 36–41
Considers the miraculous nature of the translation of the Book of Mormon by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
"I Have a Question: Why Have Changes Been Made in the Printed Editions of the Book of Mormon?"
Robert J. Matthews, Ensign, Mar. 1987, 47–49
Describes types of changes made in the editions of the Book of Mormon and provides historical context.
"Understanding Textual Changes in the Book of Mormon"
George A. Horton Jr., Ensign, Dec. 1983, 24–28
Provides a history of the various editions of the Book of Mormon and describes the changes made to each edition. Also discusses American English grammar and spelling in 1829 and the concept of correctness.
"The Church Publishes a New Triple Combination"
Bruce T. Harper, Ensign, Oct. 1981, 8–19
Gives a history of how the current triple combination of scriptures came to be and describes its improved study aids. Also describes text additions and corrections.