Book of Mormon Manuscript Fragments Examined

A project aimed at studying the original English text of the Book of Mormon has led to the identification of a large collection of previously unidentified fragments from the original manuscript.

For more than three years, Royal Skousen, an English professor at Brigham Young University, has been working on a project of studying the original English Book of Mormon text. He was thrilled to recently locate additional fragments of the original manuscript.

The original manuscript was written down by Joseph Smith’s scribes as Joseph translated the Book of Mormon. In 1841, the Prophet placed this manuscript in the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House.

“In 1882, when Lewis Bidamon (Emma Smith’s second husband) opened the cornerstone, he discovered that the original manuscript was mostly destroyed by water,” Brother Skousen says. “Bidamon handed out the better-preserved portions of the manuscript but apparently kept for himself some smaller fragments.” Today the Church owns most of what Bidamon handed out—about 25 percent of the original manuscript.

In 1937, Wilford Wood of Bountiful, Utah, purchased from the Bidamon family the smaller fragments that Lewis Bidamon had retained. Since Wilford Wood’s death, his family has kept the fragments. Last year Brother Skousen was able to view the fragments and have them conserved and photographed.

The unraveling of the fragments, stuck together in a lump measuring approximately one by two by six inches, “was extremely exciting work,” says Brother Skousen.

Robert Espinosa, Cathy Bell, and Pam Barrios, conservators at the BYU Library, became involved in the project to conserve the fragments. David Hawkinson, photographer for the university’s Museum of Fine Arts, used various photographic techniques to reveal and document the very faint handwriting on the fragments. Black-and-white ultraviolet reflected photography proved to be the most successful in revealing the faded handwriting. The fragments themselves, after being unraveled, photographed, and encapsulated, were returned to the Wilford Wood family.

Using the ultraviolet photographs, Brother Skousen has been able to identify fragments from six different places within the Book of Mormon: 2 Ne. 5–9; 2 Ne. 23–25; 2 Ne. 33–Jacob 4; Jacob 5–Enos 1; Hel. 13–3 Ne. 4; and Ether 3–15. Brother Skousen continues to work on identifying the smaller fragments. Thus far, fragments have been found from fifty-eight pages of the original manuscripts.

“The major purpose of this project is to show the original English text of the Book of Mormon, to the extent that it can be determined,” Brother Skousen explains.

In addition to the original manuscript, Brother Skousen has also worked extensively on the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon. This manuscript is a copy of the original manuscript that was used by the printer to set the type for the 1830 edition. The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints owns the printer’s manuscript, which has been preserved virtually intact.

Important discoveries from studying these two manuscripts include the following: (1) for seventy-two pages, the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon was typeset directly from the original manuscript rather than from the printer’s manuscript; (2) there is direct evidence that Joseph Smith spelled out Book of Mormon names for his scribes; (3) a small part of the original manuscript is written in Joseph’s own handwriting; and (4) the word chapter and the added chapter numbers were not part of the original text of the Book of Mormon, but instead correspond to what the Prophet saw as breaks in the text.

According to Brother Skousen, the project of studying the original English text of the Book of Mormon will continue for the next three years. It is funded in part by BYU, the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, the Keter Foundation, and a number of private donors. Both the LDS and RLDS churches have also provided valuable assistance for this project.

[photo] The original lump of fragments before unraveling and separation. (Photography by David W. Hawkinson.)

[photo] Fragment from 2 Nephi 25 photographed by black-and-white ultraviolet method.

[photo] A curator separates fragments.

President Benson Receives Humanitarian Award

Receiving recognition for more than forty years of service, President Ezra Taft Benson became the first recipient of the National Charity Awards Dinner’s Humanitarian Lifetime Award.

Doug Wead, cofounder of NCAD, presented the award to President Benson. “The Humanitarian Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes exceptional accomplishments by a single individual on behalf of his fellow man,” Wead explained. Other humanitarian awards have been given for service rendered in a specific year.

“In 1946, Mr. Benson covered 102 European cities, many destroyed by the war, in 105 days, reaching out to those suffering from the ravages of World War II,” said Wead, recapping the beginning of President Benson’s extensive years of government and Church service. “As a result of his persistence, food, clothing, bedding, and medical supplies were delivered to thousands of victims who were most in need.”

President Benson’s eight years as secretary of agriculture were mentioned, including his authorization to ship U.S. food surpluses to Italy to relieve shortages.

Wead also explained that President Eisenhower’s Food for Peace program, which used farm surpluses to establish and reinforce friendly ties with foreign nations, was formulated by President Benson. The program influenced humanitarian efforts and economic development in more than eighty countries.

Wead also congratulated President Benson for the LDS job placement program, which has placed nearly three hundred thousand people in jobs during the last six years.

President Benson, accompanied by President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Thomas S. Monson of the First Presidency, received the award on January 16 in Salt Lake City.

[photo] President Benson receives award from Doug Wead, NCAD cofounder.

Missions Created in Russia, Ukraine

The First Presidency has announced the creation of three new missions in Russia and Ukraine, the first missions of the Church to establish headquarters in the Commonwealth of Independent States (formerly the Soviet Union).

The new missions are the Russia Moscow Mission, the Russia St. Petersburg Mission, and the Ukraine Kiev Mission. They began operations on February 3.

The Russia Moscow Mission is led by President Gary L. Browning, formerly president of the Finland Helsinki East Mission. There are currently thirty missionaries in the mission, which serves approximately 11.5 million Russians in areas in and around Moscow.

The Russia St. Petersburg Mission is led by President Charles H. Creel, who was serving with his wife as a full-time missionary in the Austria Vienna East Mission at the time of his call to be mission president. There are currently forty-one missionaries in the mission, which serves approximately 10 million people in northwestern Russia and Estonia.

The Ukraine Kiev Mission will be led by President Howard L. Biddulph, formerly president of the Austria Vienna East Mission. There are currently thirty-five missionaries in the mission, which serves the entire population of Ukraine.

In announcing the new missions, the First Presidency also indicated that the Finland Helsinki East Mission and the Austria Vienna East Mission have been discontinued.

Church officials indicate that the creation of the new missions is possible because of official Russian recognition of the Church last year and similar recognition in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.

Church Donates Food, Clothes to Russia and Estonia

Needy families in the republics of Russia and Estonia are benefiting from a shipment of 45,000 pounds of food from Frankfurt, Germany, Church members.

The food will be distributed to Latter-day Saints in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Vyborg in Russia, and to Tallinn, Estonia. The remainder of the shipments will be given to other families in those areas.

Stakes in Hamburg, Germany, are preparing a similar shipment to follow this donation. Members in the Dresden Germany Stake are sending a 10,000-pound shipment of food and children’s clothing to Kiev in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, a 240,000-pound shipment of used clothing is being prepared in Salt Lake City to send to Russia. This shipment was donated by members in the United States to various Deseret Industries stores. The clothing will be given to four international relief agencies; Food for the Hungry, Feed the Children, Innervision, and International Christian Aid. These agencies will, in turn, distribute the clothing to those in need.

Seven weeks ago, the Church sent a similar 40,000-pound shipment of food to Russia.

U.S. Internal Revenue Service Allows Deduction for Contributions

United States taxpayers may count contributions to the Church’s missionary program as deductible charitable contributions.

The Church changed its missionary funding procedures on 1 January 1991. The Equalized Funding Program now treats contributions as the property of the Church and under its control.

Under the former program, donors could contribute directly to individual missionaries. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such donations were not deductible because they were not to or for the use of the Church.

Taxpayers who made contributions to the Equalized Funding Program during 1991 and who itemize their deductions may include these donations on their 1991 tax returns, subject to the rules that apply to charitable contributions generally.

Saints in the City of Roses

The Willamette River winds north through many of Oregon’s major cities, reaching Portland just before joining the Columbia River in its path to the Pacific Ocean. A beautiful waterfront city renowned for its parks and roses, Portland has grown considerably—becoming a major U.S. West Coast port and industrial center—since a fur trapper built the first log cabin there in 1829. Representing another kind of growth is the Portland Oregon Temple, its spires topping the surrounding tall trees.

But that growth didn’t come easily. In 1857, Latter-day Saint missionaries were met by mobs throwing eggs, and newspaper articles charged them with treason. The next missionaries arrived nearly forty years later and were so coldly received that they prepared to leave, but not before Danish immigrant Jens Westergaard tracked them down. Having read in a local newspaper about the missionaries’ lack of success, Jens, who had been introduced to the Church in Denmark, urged them to send more missionaries to Portland.

Elders Joseph G. Nelson and W. J. Barnes soon arrived and found lodging with Jens and his wife, Petrine. The Westergaards were soon baptized, and in 1899, Jens became president of the first Portland branch of the Church. Released when LeGrand Richards was called as bishop in 1909, Brother Westergaard, along with his wife, continued to devote his life to shepherding the Portland Saints. Portland’s first stake was organized in 1938.

Today, thirteen stakes in the greater Portland area comprise some forty-seven thousand members. A recent factor in the growth there is the Portland temple, completed in 1989.

“A lot of people went through the temple open house, and it really touched them,” says Elder Donald Anway, a missionary serving in the Oregon Portland Mission. Elder Jean-Pierre Bartier of France adds that the temple sparks people’s curiosity about the Church and helps reinforce the importance of eternal families.

Longtime member John Goodding, a high priest in the Lake Oswego Oregon Stake, recalls taking his family on week-long vacations to Idaho to do temple work. Now he lives minutes away from the Portland temple, and its presence nearby comforts him. “If the Church and members didn’t have me by the hand, I don’t know where I’d be,” he says, reflecting how fellow members of the Metzger Ward helped him deal with the death of his wife.

The Church’s “Homefront” television commercials and videos are another effective missionary tool, the latter garnering numerous referrals, according to Brian Smith, Church public affairs director in Portland.

Danny and Naomi Kelly grew interested in the Church upon seeing “Our Heavenly Father’s Plan” on television. They hesitated at first to receive the missionaries, but after getting to know the parents of two LDS boys who worked with them, they felt ready. After the third missionary lesson, they asked to be baptized.

“It is the best thing that ever happened to us—it has changed our entire lives,” says Brother Kelly. “We still have problems, but we deal with them better.” The Kellys were sealed to their four children soon after the dedication of the Portland temple.

Also heard over the Portland airwaves is a New Testament class taught by Brian Smith, who is also director of the Church’s institute of religion in Portland. As a result of the program, which reaches 210,000 homes via all six local cable stations, 350 viewers (many of other faiths) have requested class handouts and information about the class.

“There’s been a great response,” Brother Smith says. The class, which is aired three or four times weekly, benefits members as well as develops good rapport with other community members.

Church members extend their influence to the community in other ways, too. Last Christmas, members of the Lake Oswego stake gave gifts, blankets, and food to families of migrant workers who often lack work during the winter.

As stake missionaries in nearby Vancouver, Washington, Kris and John Bennett headed a program that recognized twelve local teachers for their outstanding contributions to youth in the community. They were chosen from five schools by seminary students who honored them with a slide presentation and plaques.

Myron Child, a high priest in the Portland East stake, involves the youth in preparing floats for the Portland Grand Floral Parade, a nationally televised event. The nearby Portland stake also involves youth in community service. The youth have collected toys for a children’s hospital as well as blankets for a shelter for battered women. A popular summer project is cleaning and improving city parks, followed by a picnic. Other stakes in the area build community relations by participating in blood drives, hosting preparedness fairs and open houses, and taking part in civic affairs.

At the Portland temple dedication, President Thomas S. Monson of the First Presidency compared the Willamette River, a freshwater port where ships lose their barnacles, to the temple—a refuge where our concerns are washed away. The greater Portland area offers a similar purifying effect, as much from the vibrant testimonies of the Saints there as from its scenic beauty.

[photo] Brian Smith’s institute class is filmed for broadcast on local cable television channels.

[photo] The Willamette River bisects the Portland metropolitan area, a region with a population of some 1.5 million people. (Photography by Louise R. Shaw.)

[photo] Danny and Naomi Kelly and their children (from left) Ryan, Erin, Jeremy, and Samuel.

[photo] Portland temple worker Bernice Thomson inputs U.S. census data at the Lake Oswego stake center.

Louise R. Shaw is ward choir director in the Metzger Ward, Lake Oswego Oregon Stake.

Enhancing Reverence

This year, reverence is a major focus in Primary and the topic of the annual Primary sacrament meeting program. To learn more about how parents and leaders can work with children to foster reverence in the home and in Church meetings, the Ensign talked with President Michaelene P. Grassli, general president of the Primary.

President Michaelene P. Grassli

President Michaelene P. Grassli, general president of the Primary. (Photo by Jed Clark.)

Ensign: What do you feel is true reverence?

President Grassli: Reverence is an attitude—an attitude of love and respect for our Heavenly Father and Jesus and all things sacred. A sense of reverence helps us not do things that would offend our Father or the Savior. It helps us avoid sins ranging from profanity to immoral behavior.

Often we think of reverence only as being quiet in meetings. But if we are not really hearing the lesson, if we’re not really hearing the speaker, we may not be truly reverent.

True reverence is a basis for putting our faith into action—for living and doing as the Savior taught, because we love him.

Ensign: How do you feel parents can best teach reverence in the home?

President Grassli: If parents want to teach reverence to children, they will need to understand reverence themselves. They need to value reverence enough to be able to teach it. President Spencer W. Kimball once said, “Latter-day Saints should be the most reverent people in all the earth.” (We Should Be a Reverent People, Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1976, p. 2.)

If we have reverence in our hearts, we avoid criticism of Church leaders and of others, and we show respect for our meetinghouse and for the property of others. These actions teach reverence.

Parents’ attitude of willingness to serve and to sacrifice—which is a part of living the gospel—also teaches their children a sense of reverence for the work of the Lord.

Another thing parents can do is help children identify moments when the children are experiencing reverent feelings. This way, parents can help children to learn for themselves how reverence feels and to invite those feelings of closeness to Heavenly Father.

Ensign: How do you feel the Primary’s emphasis on reverence this year can reinforce what parents teach?

President Grassli: We hope parents are teaching their children about the blessings reverence brings. We have asked Primary leaders to help children understand that showing and feeling reverence pleases Heavenly Father and helps us be happy.

There is a tendency to give treats, prizes, or other tangible rewards recognizing children who are quiet in Primary meetings. I’m not sure this teaches the right lesson; it simply tends to compare the outward behavior of children. Reverence is hard to measure, because it is as much a feeling as it is an action. It’s better to reinforce their spiritual experiences verbally and help them recognize those experiences. We might say: “Doesn’t it make you feel good when we can hear the teacher because everyone is listening and feeling reverent?” or “Doesn’t it feel good when the Spirit of the Lord is near?”

We’ve asked Primary leaders to use several themes to reinforce those experiences this year: “I feel reverent when:

“I learn about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

“I pray.

“I keep the commandments.

“I read the scriptures.

“I worship Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.”

Ensign: Do you feel it is hard to teach children reverence?

President Grassli: I think feelings of reverence come quite naturally to children. Our challenge is to explain reverence in terms children can understand. And we must be examples. Often, when children observe some of us who have some rough edges, they lose their natural reverent feelings.

Ensign: If it’s a question, then, of teaching adults greater reverence, how can ward and branch leaders can be helpful?

President Grassli: With preparation, leaders can invite the Spirit to be present in our meetings. This means leaders have to be models of proper behavior—being prepared, on time, and reverent in their own attitude and demeanor. They need to nourish and keep reverent feelings in their own hearts.

We can help generate reverent feelings in others by the atmosphere we create. But it takes thinking—it takes planning.

I once lived in a ward where the bishopric helped members learn this principle by calling a very special man to be a greeter. He would greet people in a warm and friendly manner, yet he was so quiet and reverent that he set the tone for the way all of us behaved in the chapel. I’ve also seen bishoprics talk to their ward members about developing reverent attitudes and behsaviors.

Ensign: Sometimes it can be a challenge to help little children be quiet in meetings. What can parents do?

President Grassli: When a child cries for an extended time or makes unusually disturbing noise, parents need to be respectful of others and take their child out of the chapel briefly until the child settles down. That is common courtesy. But otherwise, I think we need to be tolerant of normal, wiggly childlike behavior.

There are some things we can do to help make meetings enjoyable for children. When they know what to expect, they will be better able to handle the situation. So before we leave our home for meetings, we may want to prepare them for a time of worship by explaining what will happen and how they are expected to behave.

We could bring small, quiet things for little children to do—not metal toys to run across the benches but items that would not make noise or be distracting to others. This helps children enjoy meetings until they are old enough to understand that they are participants in the meeting.

When children are old enough, we can teach them purposeful listening. They can listen for topics or themes. How many times, for example, will they hear the word love mentioned in a meeting?

Ensign: How do you feel parents can make the most of what Primary will teach about reverence this year?

President Grassli: Children will be learning something about reverence each week in Primary. Parents may want to ask children what they have learned. Many children will give talks on reverence in Primary, and parents will have the opportunity to help them prepare. This will provide teaching moments.

Most Primary presidencies will have at least a three-month plan of what they will be doing to teach reverence. We encourage parents to ask Primary leaders about their plans so they can help their children apply the lessons.

[photo] Wise parents and teachers can help strengthen the natural feelings of reverence that exist in children, President Grassli says.

Celebrating Relief Society Voices from the Past

“Dear Family,” wrote Leana Wood Larson, “when you read this, I will either be gone back to my maker or else I’ll be so old that I won’t be very much good to any body.”

Thus begins a letter written fifty years ago on 17 March 1942. Sister Larson was one of sixteen women from the American Fork Third Ward who celebrated the Relief Society Centennial by planting a tree and writing a letter to future posterity. Those letters were locked in a green, shoebox-sized metal box and stored away in a closet in the ward meetinghouse with instructions written on the front to open the box in 1992.

Fifty years later, that’s exactly what sisters in the American Fork Utah West Stake are doing. Just a few months ago, the forgotten metal box, locked with a large, rusty safety pin, was found. Upon opening the box, sisters discovered sixteen letters, several photographs, and numerous other mementos from the time period, including tax tokens, a 1940 Relief Society membership card, bobby pins, a nail file, a Valentine, and several newspaper articles.

“It was thrilling to discover these pieces from the past,” said Barbara Gordon, stake Relief Society president. “We feel so blessed to be able to use these things in our own Relief Society sesquicentennial celebration.”

Titled “Golden Voices from the Past,” the stake’s celebration centered around this discovery. Descendants of all sixteen women were contacted and invited to the event. The original letters were presented to these family members. In addition, pictures of the women were collected, portions of each letter were recorded for the program, and a display featuring the box’s contents was designed.

The celebration differed somewhat from the small gathering held fifty years ago. At the earlier celebration, Relief Society sisters planted a tree, then viewed a handiwork exhibit and enjoyed a program featuring original poems and true stories. In the evening, all the ward members attended a “plate lunch” and a dance. Celebrations were modest because the country—along with much of the world—was heavily involved in World War II.

Fern A. Walker, Alpine Stake Relief Society president and member of the American Fork Third Ward, spoke at the centennial celebration in 1942. Her recorded remarks were stored in the box. In part, Sister Walker said, “It is estimated that two thousand local wards and branches throughout the world are observing this centennial anniversary in some way or another. Many of these wards and stakes are planting trees on church grounds. … The planting of a tree is symbolic of the steady strength and growth of Relief Society.”

Sister Walker’s written remarks included mention that in 1938, the Relief Society general board had established a goal to enroll 100,000 women in Relief Society by the centennial year. In the 1942 celebration, she reported that “we have 113,000 women enrolled.”

A common theme in all the letters was the war; by 1942, the ward had sent twenty-two men off to fight. “With all the joy the gospel and service has brought us and the knowledge that we can accomplish some good, our hearts are still sad when we think of our boys on the battlefield,” wrote Martha P. Hunter. “Our hearts go out to them and we wish that we were able to do something to make their burden lighter.”

LuPriel G. Brown, a counselor in the American Fork Third Ward Relief Society, wrote about victory gardens and sewing, about teaching the Bluebird Primary class and about not being able to attend general conference because of the war.

“Fifty years,” she mused. “I am wondering and praying that peace will reign upon the face of the earth.”

Museum Seeks Children’s Artwork

The Museum of Church History and Art is seeking children’s artwork on the theme of the family for an exhibit in October of this year.

“The purpose of the exhibit is to encourage children to use their creativity to show what is important about their families,” explained Jennifer Lund, associate museum educator and organizer of the exhibit. “We hope to see all kinds of families doing what is important to them.”

Children between ages five and eleven are invited to participate in the exhibit. They can use crayon, pencil, watercolor, charcoal, oil, collage, or other art mediums on paper.

The submissions should not be larger than eleven inches by fourteen inches and should have the artist’s name, age, address, ward or branch, and stake or district clearly indicated on the back.

Approximately three hundred submissions will be selected for display in the exhibit, which will open 9 October 1992 and run through 7 February 1993. Submissions will not be returned to the participants.

Submission deadline is August 7, and pieces should be mailed to the Museum of Church History and Art, 45 North West Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150.

[illustration] A child’s drawing of Helaman’s stripling warriors. (Artwork by Jorge Calderón Gutiérrez.)


Secondary Victims

“A Refuge for the Oppressed” (January 1992) didn’t address the secondary victims of abuse—the parents, spouses, and children.

Though learning that my wife had been abused answered years of questions, coping with the horror of it has been the greatest trial of my life.

Her abuser appears to enjoy all the blessings of the gospel, seemingly unaware that we struggle daily with some of the consequences. I now know what Jacob may have meant when he wrote, “Many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds.” (Jacob 2:35.)

Name Withheld

Free Agents in a Telestial World

I had to say “thank you” for publishing “A Refuge for the Oppressed” (January 1992). I appreciate the fact that this topic and other controversial and sensitive topics are starting to get the much-needed attention they deserve. Since God’s children are free agents living in a telestial world, these unpleasant things occur even to the faithful.

Bless those confused and concerned family members who can’t second-guess the abuse victim’s latest bout with unresolved feelings that surface again and again, like relentless waves on a shore. Accolades to those survivors who hang on and endure family life, especially when living alone feels like the safest and most comforting thing to do.

May those of us who find ourselves suffering similar pains obtain comfort in the healing powers of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Through his atoning sacrifice in our behalf, we truly can be made whole by one who knows.

May we learn to forgive our trespassers and, in turn, cleanse ourselves from the damaging effects of something beyond the realm of our own agency.

Name Withheld

Random Team Selection

I would like to congratulate the Sparks Nevada Stake on the changes they have made in their sports program. (See “Sports and the Gospel: A Purpose Higher than Victory,” February 1992.) Their new attitude is worthy of emulation.

There is just one idea that might be improved on. When captains are chosen from each ward and alternately select players for each team, there will always be two players who are chosen last. That can be demoralizing.

I suggest a random form of selection—perhaps having players choose numbered slips of papers. Players with even numbers are on one team; those with odd numbers are on the other.

Jean Tolman Leander, Texas


A sentence in the article “Ordinary People in the Book of Mormon” (January 1992) read that “in preparing Jared’s daughter’s dowry—the severed head of her grandfather the king—Akish restored the practice of secret combinations and blood oaths.”

Unless Ensign readers read Ether 9, they will not realize that Akish was not successful in the plan to sever the head of Jared’s daughter’s grandfather, Omer, the king. Ether 9:2–3 states that “the Lord was merciful unto Omer, and also to his sons and to his daughters who did not seek his destruction. And the Lord warned Omer in a dream that he should depart out of the land; wherefore Omer departed out of the land with his family.”

Netta McDonald Monticello, Utah

I Am Working

I would like to thank the woman who was courageous enough to write “A Refuge for the Oppressed” (January 1992).

I was sexually abused and saw myself in her article. I am still unable to talk about the abuse or forgive the abuser. I am working on it. This article gave me a reason to continue with my therapy. I hope one day to feel safety and love.

Name Withheld

I Got My Answer

Thank you for “The Blue Book” (January 1992). After I read the article, I started crying. I had been reading the Book of Mormon and praying to know if it was true, but it wasn’t until I read this article that I finally got my answer. I knew the Lord was answering my prayer.

Paula Phelps Lloyd Neck, New York