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Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon Part 2

Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon Part 2

Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, the fourth volume in Professor Royal Skousen’s ongoing Book of Mormon Critical Text Project, represents the central task of the project: the attempt to recover the original English-language text of the Book of Mormon. 

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Royal Skousen


Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, the fourth volume in Professor Royal Skousen’s ongoing Book of Mormon Critical Text Project, represents the central task of the project: the attempt to recover the original English-language text of the Book of Mormon. Volume 4 considers every significant textual change that has occurred in the English Book of Mormon over the 175 years since Joseph Smith first dictated it to his scribes; it also considers a number of conjectured revisions for specific passages.

 

Professor Skousen draws on the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon, the printer’s manuscript prepared by Oliver Cowdery and two other scribes, and 20 significant printed versions ranging from the 1830 edition to the current standard editions published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Community of Christ (formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). Where applicable, he marshals additional evidence of language usage from dialectal and earlier English, as well as data from the King James Bible and the original biblical languages, Hebrew and Greek.

Part 2 of volume 4 examines 898 cases of variation (or potential variation). For 388 of these cases, the critical text proposes a change from the standard text (the current edition). Of these proposed changes, 66 have never appeared in any standard edition, while 23 would make a difference when translating the Book of Mormon. For 13 cases, the proposed changes make the entire text fully consistent in phraseology or word choice, but there are 5 readings that restore a unique phrase or word to the text. In addition, part 2 provides striking evidence that the vocabulary of the original text of the Book of Mormon actually dates from the 1500s and 1600s, not from the 1800s.

 

Each massive volume in the critical text averages nearly 670 oversize pages of research and analysis that reward careful examination with expanded views of the founding text of Mormonism. In seeking to recover the original English-language text, this ambitious project has identified many variant readings and yielded new insights into the translation process and the systematic nature of the text. These findings will keep serious students of the Book of Mormon profitably engaged in assessing the ramifications for many years to come. As an essential scholarly tool, the critical text promises to boost the professional rigor and overall quality of Book of Mormon scholarship to a new level.

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