Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon is a sacred text of the Latter Day Saint movement, which, according to Latter Day Saint theology, contains writings of ancient prophets who lived on the American continent from approximately 2200 BC to AD 421.It was first published in March 1830 by Joseph Smith as The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi. The Book of Mormon is the earliest of the unique writings of the Latter Day Saint movement, the denominations of which typically regard the text primarily as scripture, and secondarily as a historical record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas. The archaeological, historical, and scientific communities do not accept the Book of Mormon as an ancient record of actual historical events.
According to Smith’s account and the book’s narrative, the Book of Mormon was originally written in otherwise unknown characters referred to as “reformed Egyptian” engraved on golden plates. Smith said that the last prophet to contribute to the book, a man named Moroni, buried it in the Hill Cumorah in present-day Manchester, New York, before his death, and then appeared in a vision to Smith in 1827 as an angel, revealing the location of the plates, and instructing him to translate the plates into English for use in the restoration of Christ’s true church in the latter days. Critics say that it was authored by Smith, drawing on material and ideas from his contemporary 19th-century environment rather than translating an ancient record.
The Book of Mormon has a number of original and distinctive doctrinal discussions on subjects such as the fall of Adam and Eve, the nature of the Christian atonement, eschatology, redemption from physical and spiritual death, and the organization of the latter-day church. The pivotal event of the book is an appearance of Jesus Christ in the Americas shortly after his resurrection.
The Book of Mormon is divided into smaller books, titled after the individuals named as primary authors and, in most versions, divided into chapters and verses. It is written in English very similar to the Early Modern English linguistic style of the King James Version of the Bible, and has since been fully or partially translated into 112 languages. As of 2011, more than 150 million copies of the Book of Mormon had been printed.
According to Joseph Smith, he was seventeen years of age when an angel of God named Moroni appeared to him and said that a collection of ancient writings was buried in a nearby hill in present-day Wayne County, New York, engraved on golden plates by ancient prophets. The writings were said to describe a people whom God had led from Jerusalem to the Western hemisphere 600 years before Jesus’ birth. According to the narrative, Moroni was the last prophet among these people and had buried the record, which God had promised to bring forth in the latter days. Smith stated that this vision occurred on the evening of September 21, 1823 and that on the following day, via divine guidance, he located the burial location of the plates on this hill; was instructed by Moroni to meet him at the same hill on September 22 of the following year to receive further instructions; and that, in four years from this date, the time would arrive for “bringing them forth”, i.e., translating them. Smith’s description of these events recounts that he was allowed to take the plates on September 22, 1827, exactly four years from that date, and was directed to translate them into English.
Accounts vary of the way in which Smith dictated the Book of Mormon. Smith himself implied that he read the plates directly using spectacles prepared by the Lord for the purpose of translating. Other accounts variously state that he used one or more seer stones placed in a top hat. Beginning around 1832, both the special spectacles and the seer stone were at times referred to as the “Urim and Thummim”. During the translating process itself, Smith sometimes separated himself from his scribe with a blanket between them. Additionally, the plates were not always present during the translating process, and when present, they were always covered up.:42
Smith’s first published description of the plates said that the plates “had the appearance of gold”. They were described by Martin Harris, one of Smith’s early scribes, as “fastened together in the shape of a book by wires.” Smith called the engraved writing on the plates “reformed Egyptian”. A portion of the text on the plates was also “sealed” according to his account, so its content was not included in the Book of Mormon.
In addition to Smith’s account regarding the plates, eleven others stated that they saw the golden plates and, in some cases, handled them. Their written testimonies are known as the Testimony of Three Witnesses and the Testimony of Eight Witnesses. These statements have been published in most editions of the Book of Mormon.
Since its first publication and distribution, critics of the Book of Mormon have claimed that it was fabricated by Smith and that he drew material and ideas from various sources rather than translating an ancient record. Works that have been suggested as sources include the King James Bible, The Wonders of Nature, View of the Hebrews, and an unpublished manuscript written by Solomon Spalding. FairMormon and other Mormon apologetics organizations maintain that all these arguments have been disproven by Mormon and non-Mormon sources. The position of most adherents of the Latter Day Saint movement and the official position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) is that the book is an accurate historical record.
Smith said the title page, and presumably the actual title of the 1830 edition, came from the translation of “the very last leaf” of the golden plates, and was written by the prophet-historian Moroni. The title page states that the purpose of the Book of Mormon is “to [show] unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; … and also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.”
The Book of Mormon is organized as a compilation of smaller books, each named after its main named narrator or a prominent leader, beginning with the First Book of Nephi (1 Nephi) and ending with the Book of Moroni.
The book’s sequence is primarily chronological based on the narrative content of the book. Exceptions include the Words of Mormon and the Book of Ether. The Words of Mormon contains editorial commentary by Mormon. The Book of Ether is presented as the narrative of an earlier group of people who had come to America before the immigration described in 1 Nephi. First Nephi through Omni are written in first-person narrative, as are Mormon and Moroni. The remainder of the Book of Mormon is written in third-person historical narrative, said to be compiled and abridged by Mormon (with Moroni abridging the Book of Ether and writing the latter part of Mormon and the Book of Moroni).
Most modern editions of the book have been divided into chapters and verses. Most editions of the book also contain supplementary material, including the “Testimony of Three Witnesses” and the “Testimony of Eight Witnesses”.
The books from First Nephi to Omni are described as being from “the small plates of Nephi”. This account begins in ancient Jerusalem around 600 BC. It tells the story of a man named Lehi, his family, and several others as they are led by God from Jerusalem shortly before the fall of that city to the Babylonians in 586 BC. The book describes their journey across the Arabian peninsula, and then to the “promised land”, the Americas, by ship. These books recount the group’s dealings from approximately 600 BC to about 130 BC, during which time the community grew and split into two main groups, which are called the Nephites and the Lamanites, that frequently warred with each other.
Following this section is the Words of Mormon. This small book, said to be written in AD 385 by Mormon, is a short introduction to the books of Mosiah, Alma, Helaman, Third Nephi, and Fourth Nephi. These books are described as being abridged from a large quantity of existing records called “the large plates of Nephi” that detailed the people’s history from the time of Omni to Mormon’s own life. The Book of Third Nephi is of particular importance within the Book of Mormon because it contains an account of a visit by Jesus from heaven to the Americas sometime after his resurrection and ascension. The text says that during this American visit, he repeated much of the same doctrine and instruction given in the Gospels of the Bible and he established an enlightened, peaceful society which endured for several generations, but which eventually broke into warring factions again.
The book or section within the greater Book of Mormon dealing with events during Mormon’s life is also called the Book of Mormon. Mormon is said to have received the charge of taking care of the records that had been hidden, once he was old enough. The book includes an account of the wars, Mormon’s leading of portions of the Nephite army, and his retrieving and caring for the records. Mormon is eventually killed after having handed down the records to his son Moroni.
According to the text, Moroni then made an abridgment (called the Book of Ether) of a record from a previous people called the Jaredites. The account describes a group of families led from the Tower of Babel to the Americas, headed by a man named Jared and his brother. The Jaredite civilization is presented as existing on the American continent beginning about 2500 BC,—long before Lehi’s family arrived shortly after 600 BC—and as being much larger and more developed.
The Book of Moroni then details the final destruction of the Nephites and the idolatrous state of the remaining society. It also includes significant doctrinal teachings and closes with Moroni’s testimony and an invitation to pray to God for a confirmation of the truthfulness of the account.
Doctrinal and philosophical teachings
Stated on the title page, the Book of Mormon’s central purpose is for the “convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.” Jesus is mentioned every 1.7 verses and is referred to by one hundred different names.
The book describes Jesus, prior to his birth, as a spirit “without flesh and blood”, although with a spirit “body” that looked similar to how Jesus would appear during his physical life. Jesus is described as “the Father and the Son”. He is said to be: “God himself [who] shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people … [b]eing the Father and the Son—the Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—and they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth.” Other parts of the book portray the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost as “one.” As a result, beliefs among the churches of the Latter Day Saint movement encompass nontrinitarianism (in the LDS Church) to trinitarianism (in the Community of Christ).
In furtherance of its theme of reconciling Jews and Gentiles to Jesus, the book describes a variety of visions or visitations to some early inhabitants in the Americas involving Jesus. Most notable among these is a described visit of Jesus to a group of early inhabitants shortly after his resurrection. Many of the book’s contributors described other visions of Jesus, including one by the Brother of Jared who, according to the book, lived before Jesus, and saw the “body” of Jesus’ spirit thousands of years prior to his birth. According to the book, a narrator named Nephi described a vision of the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus, including a prophecy of Jesus’ name, said to have taken place nearly 600 years prior to Jesus’ birth.
In the narrative, at the time of King Benjamin (about 130 BC), the Nephite believers were called “the children of Christ”. At another place, the faithful members of the church at the time of Captain Moroni (73 BC) were called “Christians” by their enemies, because of their belief in Jesus Christ. The book also states that for nearly 200 years after Jesus’ appearance at the temple in the Americas the land was filled with peace and prosperity because of the people’s obedience to his commandments. Later, the prophet Mormon worked to convince the faithless people of his time (AD 360) of Christ. Many other prophets in the book write of the reality of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
In the Bible, Jesus spoke to the Jews in Jerusalem of “other sheep” who would hear his voice. The Book of Mormon claims this meant that the Nephites and other remnants of the lost tribes of Israel throughout the world were to be visited by Jesus after his resurrection.
Teachings about political theology
The book delves into political theology within a Christian or Jewish context. Among these themes are American exceptionalism. According to the book, the Americas are portrayed as a “land of promise”, the world’s most exceptional land of the time. The book states that any righteous society possessing the land would be protected, whereas if they became wicked they would be destroyed and replaced with a more righteous civilization.
On the issue of war and violence, the book teaches that war is justified for people to “defend themselves against their enemies”. However, they were never to “give an offense,” or to “raise their sword … except it were to preserve their lives.” The book praises the faith of a group of former Lamanite warriors who took an oath of complete pacifism, refusing to take arms even to defend themselves and their people. However, 2,000 of their descendants, who had not taken the oath of their parents not to take up arms against their enemies, chose to go to battle against the Lamanites, and it states that in their battles the 2,000 men were protected by God through their faith and, though many were injured, none of them died.
The book recommends monarchy as an ideal form of government, but only when the monarch is righteous. The book warns of the evil that occurs when the king is wicked, and therefore suggests that it is not generally good to have a king. The book further records the decision of the people to be ruled no longer by kings, choosing instead a form of democracy led by elected judges. When citizens referred to as “king-men” attempted to overthrow a democratically elected government and establish an unrighteous king, the book praises a military commander who executed pro-monarchy citizens who had vowed to destroy the church of God and were unwilling to defend their country from hostile invading forces. The book also speaks favorably of a particular instance of what appears to be a peaceful Christ-centered theocracy, which lasted approximately 194 years before contentions began again.
The book supports notions of economic justice, achieved through voluntary donation of “substance, every man according to that which he had, to the poor.” In one case, all the citizens held their property in common. When individuals within a society began to disdain and ignore the poor, to “wear costly apparel”, and otherwise engage in wickedness for personal gain, such societies are repeatedly portrayed in the book as being ripe for destruction.
Most early European Americans had a biblical worldview, and numerous attempts were made to explain the origin of the Native Americans biblically. From the 16th century through the early 19th, a common belief was that the Jews, particularly the Lost Ten Tribes, were the ancestors of Native Americans. The Book of Mormon provided theological backing to this proposition, and suggested that the lost Tribes of Israel would be found in other locations throughout the world as well.
Additionally, European settlers viewed the impressive earthworks left behind by the Mound Builder culture and had difficulty believing that the Native Americans, whose numbers had been decimated over the previous centuries, could have produced them. A common theory was that a more technologically advanced and often white race had built them, but were overrun and destroyed by a more savage, numerous and often colored race. Numerous observers have suggested that the Book of Mormon parallels others within the 19th-century “mound-builder” genre that was pervasive at the time. As historian Curtis Dahl wrote, “Undoubtedly the most famous and certainly the most influential of all Mound-Builder literature is the Book of Mormon (1830)). Whether one wishes to accept it as divinely inspired or the work of Joseph Smith, it fits exactly into the tradition.”
Joseph Smith characterized the Book of Mormon as the “keystone” of Mormonism, and claimed that it was “the most correct of any book on earth”. Smith produced a written revelation in 1832 that condemned the “whole church” for treating the Book of Mormon lightly.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Book of Mormon is one of four sacred texts or standard works of the LDS Church. Church leaders have frequently restated Smith’s claims of the book’s significance to the faith.  Church members “believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; [they] also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” In the 1980s efforts were made to reemphasize the Book of Mormon. As part of this effort, a new edition was printed with the added subtitle “Another Testament of Jesus Christ”.
The importance of the Book of Mormon was a focus of Ezra Taft Benson, the church’s thirteenth president. Benson stated that the church was still under condemnation for treating the Book of Mormon lightly. In an August 2005 message, church president Gordon B. Hinckley challenged each member of the church to re-read the Book of Mormon before the year’s end. The book’s importance is commonly stressed at the twice-yearly general conference, at special devotionals by general authorities, and in the church’s teaching publications. Since the late 1980s, church members have been encouraged to read from the Book of Mormon daily.
The LDS Church encourages discovery of the book’s truth by following the suggestion in its final chapter to study, ponder, and pray to God concerning its veracity. This passage is sometimes referred to as “Moroni’s Promise”.
As of October 2020, the LDS Church has published more than 192 million copies of the Book of Mormon.
Community of Christ
The Community of Christ, formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, views the Book of Mormon as an additional witness of Jesus Christ and publishes two versions of the book through its official publishing arm, Herald House: the Authorized Edition, which is based on the original printer’s manuscript, and the 1837 Second Edition (or “Kirtland Edition”) of the Book of Mormon. Its content is similar to the Book of Mormon published by the LDS Church, but the versification is different. The Community of Christ also publishes a 1966 “Revised Authorized Edition,” which attempts to modernize some language.
In 2001, Community of Christ president W. Grant McMurray reflected on increasing questions about the Book of Mormon: “The proper use of the Book of Mormon as sacred scripture has been under wide discussion in the 1970s and beyond, in part because of long-standing questions about its historical authenticity and in part because of perceived theological inadequacies, including matters of race and ethnicity.”
At the 2007 Community of Christ World Conference, church president Stephen M. Veazey ruled out-of-order a resolution to “reaffirm the Book of Mormon as a divinely inspired record.” He stated that “while the Church affirms the Book of Mormon as scripture, and makes it available for study and use in various languages, we do not attempt to mandate the degree of belief or use. This position is in keeping with our longstanding tradition that belief in the Book of Mormon is not to be used as a test of fellowship or membership in the church.”
Greater Latter Day Saint movement
There are a number of other smaller churches that are part of the Latter Day Saint movement. Most of these churches were created as a result of issues ranging from differing doctrinal interpretations and acceptance of the movement’s scriptures, including the Book of Mormon, to disagreements as to who was the divinely chosen successor to Joseph Smith. These groups all have in common the acceptance of the Book of Mormon as scripture. It is this acceptance which distinguishes the churches of the Latter Day Saint movement from other Christian denominations. Separate editions of the Book of Mormon have been published by a number of churches in the Latter Day Saint movement, along with private individuals and foundations not endorsed by any specific denomination.
Most of the archaeological, historical and scientific communities do not consider the Book of Mormon an ancient record of actual historical events. Their skepticism tends to focus on four main areas:
- The lack of correlation between locations described in the Book of Mormon and known, intact American archaeological sites.
- References to animals, plants, metals and technologies in the Book of Mormon that archaeological or scientific studies have found no evidence of in post-Pleistocene, pre-Columbian America, frequently referred to as anachronisms. Items typically listed include cattle, horses, asses, oxen, sheep, swine, goats, elephants, wheat, steel, brass, chains, iron, scimitars, and chariots.
- The lack of widely accepted linguistic connections between any Native American languages and Near Eastern languages.
- The lack of DNA evidence linking any Native American group to the ancient Near East.
Most adherents of the Latter Day Saint movement consider the Book of Mormon to generally be a historically accurate account. Within the Latter Day Saint movement there are several apologetic groups that disagree with the skeptics and seek to reconcile the discrepancies in diverse ways. Among these apologetic groups, much work has been published by Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), and Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR), defending the Book of Mormon as a literal history, countering arguments critical of its historical authenticity, or reconciling historical and scientific evidence with the text. One of the more common recent arguments is the limited geography model, which states that the people of the Book of Mormon covered only a limited geographical region in either Mesoamerica, South America, or the Great Lakes area. The LDS Church has published material indicating that science will support the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon.
The 116 lost pages contained the first portion of the Book of Lehi; it was lost after Smith loaned the original, uncopied manuscript to Martin Harris.
The first completed manuscript, called the original manuscript, was completed using a variety of scribes. Portions of the original manuscript were also used for typesetting. In October 1841, the entire original manuscript was placed into the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House, and sealed up until nearly forty years later when the cornerstone was reopened. It was then discovered that much of the original manuscript had been destroyed by water seepage and mold. Surviving manuscript pages were handed out to various families and individuals in the 1880s.
Only 28 percent of the original manuscript now survives, including a remarkable find of fragments from 58 pages in 1991. The majority of what remains of the original manuscript is now kept in the LDS Church’s Archives.
The second completed manuscript, called the printer’s manuscript, was a copy of the original manuscript produced by Oliver Cowdery and two other scribes. It is at this point that initial copyediting of the Book of Mormon was completed. Observations of the original manuscript show little evidence of corrections to the text. Shortly before his death in 1850, Cowdery gave the printer’s manuscript to David Whitmer, another of the Three Witnesses. In 1903, the manuscript was bought from Whitmer’s grandson by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, now known as the Community of Christ. On September 20, 2017, the LDS Church purchased the manuscript from the Community of Christ at a reported price of $35 million. The printer’s manuscript is now the earliest surviving complete copy of the Book of Mormon. The manuscript was imaged in 1923 and was recently made available for viewing online.
Critical comparisons between surviving portions of the manuscripts show an average of two to three changes per page from the original manuscript to the printer’s manuscript, with most changes being corrections of scribal errors such as misspellings or the correction, or standardization, of grammar inconsequential to the meaning of the text. The printer’s manuscript was further edited, adding paragraphing and punctuation to the first third of the text.
The printer’s manuscript was not used fully in the typesetting of the 1830 version of Book of Mormon; portions of the original manuscript were also used for typesetting. The original manuscript was used by Smith to further correct errors printed in the 1830 and 1837 versions of the Book of Mormon for the 1840 printing of the book.
Ownership history: Book of Mormon printer’s manuscript
In the late-19th century the extant portion of the printer’s manuscript remained with the family of David Whitmer, who had been a principal founder of the Latter Day Saints and who, by the 1870s, led the Church of Christ (Whitmerite). During the 1870s, according to the Chicago Tribune, the LDS Church unsuccessfully attempted to buy it from Whitmer for a record price. LDS Church president Joseph F. Smith refuted this assertion in a 1901 letter, believing such a manuscript “possesses no value whatever.” In 1895, Whitmer’s grandson George Schweich inherited the manuscript. By 1903, Schweich had mortgaged the manuscript for $1,800 and, needing to raise at least that sum, sold a collection including 72-percent of the book of the original printer’s manuscript (John Whitmer’s manuscript history, parts of Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible, manuscript copies of several revelations, and a piece of paper containing copied Book of Mormon characters) to the RLDS Church (now the Community of Christ) for $2,450, with $2,300 of this amount for the printer’s manuscript. The LDS Church had not sought to purchase the manuscript.
In 2015, this remaining portion was published by the Church Historian’s Press in its Joseph Smith Papers series, in Volume Three of “Revelations and Translations”; and, in 2017, the LDS Church bought the printer’s manuscript for US$35,000,000.
Chapter and verse notation systems
The original 1830 publication did not have verse markers, although the individual books were divided into relatively long chapters. Just as the Bible’s present chapter and verse notation system is a later addition of Bible publishers to books that were originally solid blocks of undivided text, the chapter and verse markers within the books of the Book of Mormon are conventions, not part of the original text.
Publishers from different factions of the Latter Day Saint movement have published different chapter and verse notation systems. The two most significant are the LDS system, introduced in 1879, and the RLDS system, which is based on the original 1830 chapter divisions.
The RLDS 1908 edition, RLDS 1966 edition, the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) edition, and Restored Covenant editions use the RLDS system while most other current editions use the LDS system.
The Book of Mormon is currently printed by the following publishers:
|Church publishers||Year||Titles and notes||Link|
|The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints||1981||The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. New introductions, chapter summaries, and footnotes. 1920 edition errors corrected based on original manuscript and 1840 edition. Updated in a revised edition in 2013.||link|
|Community of Christ||1966||“Revised Authorized Version”, based on 1908 Authorized Version, 1837 edition and original manuscript. Notable for the omission of repetitive “it came to pass” phrases.|
|The Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonite)||2001||Compiled by a committee of Apostles. It uses the chapter and verse designations from the 1879 LDS version.|
|Church of Christ with the Elijah Message||1957||The Record of the Nephites, “Restored Palmyra Edition”. 1830 text with 1879 LDS chapters and verses.||link|
|Church of Christ (Temple Lot)||1990||Based on 1908 RLDS edition, 1830 edition, printer’s manuscript, and corrections by church leaders.||link|
|Fellowships of the remnants||2019||Based on Joseph Smith’s last personally-updated 1840 version, with revisions per Denver Snuffer Jr. Distributed jointly with the New Testament, in a volume called the “New Covenants”.||link|
|Richard Drew||1992||Photo-enlarged facsimile of the 1840 edition|
|Other publishers||Year||Titles and notes||Link|
|Herald Heritage||1970||Facsimile of the 1830 edition.|
|Zarahemla Research Foundation||1999||The Book of Mormon: Restored Covenant Edition. Text from Original and Printer’s Manuscripts, in poetic layout.||link|
|Bookcraft||1999||The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families. Large print with numerous visuals and explanatory notes.|
|University of Illinois Press||2003||The Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Edition. Based on the 1920 LDS edition.||link|
|Doubleday||2006 ||The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Text from the current LDS edition without footnotes. First Doubleday edition was in 2004.|
|Experience Press||2006||Reset type matching the original 1830 edition in word, line and page. Fixed typographical errors.|
|Stratford Books||2006||Facsimile reprint of 1830 edition.|
|Penguin Classics||2008||Paperback with 1840 text.||link|
|Yale University Press||2009||The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text. Joseph Smith’s dictated text with hundreds of corrections from Royal Skousen’s study of the original and printer’s manuscripts.||link|
|The Olive Leaf Foundation||2017||A New Approach To Studying The Book Of Mormon.
This contains the complete text of the 1981 edition, but with more modern text formatting. Cross-references and footnotes are replaced by the authors’ own marginal notes, and chapter and verse breaks are also removed.
|Neal A. Maxwell Institute||2018||The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Maxwell Institute Study Edition Illustrated and reformatted edition based on the 1981 text with additional footnotes based on modern studies.|
|Digital Legend Press||2018||Annotated Edition of the Book of Mormon|
The following non-current editions marked major developments in the text or reader’s helps printed in the Book of Mormon.
|Publisher||Year||Titles and notes||Link|
|E. B. Grandin||1830||“First edition” in Palmyra. Based on printer’s manuscript copied from original manuscript.||link|
|Pratt and Goodson||1837||“Second edition” in Kirtland. Revision of first edition, using the printer’s manuscript with emendations and grammatical corrections.|
|Ebenezer Robinson and Smith||1840||“Third edition” in Nauvoo. Revised by Joseph Smith in comparison to the original manuscript. Facsimiles of an original 1840 edition.||link|
|Young, Kimball and Pratt||1841||“First European edition”. 1837 reprint with British spellings. Future LDS Church editions descended from this, not the 1840 edition.|
|Joseph Smith Jr.||1842||“Fourth American edition” in Nauvoo. A reprint of the 1840 edition. Facsimiles of an original 1842 edition.|
|Franklin D. Richards||1852||“Third European edition”. Edited by Richards. Introduced primitive verses (numbered paragraphs).||link|
|James O. Wright||1858||Unauthorized reprinting of 1840 edition. Used by the early RLDS Church in 1860s.||link|
|Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints||1874||First RLDS edition. 1840 text with verses.||link|
|Deseret News||1879||Edited by Orson Pratt. Introduced footnotes, new verses, and shorter chapters.||link|
|Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints||1908||“Authorized Version”. New verses and corrections based on printer’s manuscript.||link|
|The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints||1920||Edited by James E. Talmage. Added introductions, double columns, chapter summaries, new footnotes, pronunciation guide.||link|
The following versions are published online:
|Online editions||Year||Description and notes||Link|
|Restoration Edition”New Covenants”||2019||The New Testament and Book of Mormon are published in one book. “It is not the will of the Lord to print any of the new Translation in the [Evening and Morning] Star; but when it is published, it will all go to the world together, in a volume by itself; and the New Testament and the Book of Mormon will be printed together.”– Joseph Smith Jr. Letter, April 21, 1833. Also available in PDF||link|
|LDS Church internet edition||2013||Official Internet edition of the Book of Mormon for the LDS Church.||link|
|LDS Church audio edition||1994||Official LDS version of the Book of Mormon in mp3 audio format, 32 kbit/s||link|
Although some earlier unpublished studies had been prepared, not until the early 1970s was true textual criticism applied to the Book of Mormon. At that time BYU Professor Ellis Rasmussen and his associates were asked by the LDS Church to begin preparation for a new edition of the church’s scriptures. One aspect of that effort entailed digitizing the text and preparing appropriate footnotes, another aspect required establishing the most dependable text. To that latter end, Stanley R. Larson (a Rasmussen graduate student) set about applying modern text critical standards to the manuscripts and early editions of the Book of Mormon as his thesis project—which he completed in 1974. Larson carefully examined the original manuscript (the one dictated by Joseph Smith to his scribes) and the printer’s manuscript (the copy Oliver Cowdery prepared for the printer in 1829–1830), and compared them with the first, second, and third editions of the Book of Mormon; this was done to determine what sort of changes had occurred over time and to make judgments as to which readings were the most original. Larson proceeded to publish a useful set of well-argued articles on the phenomena which he had discovered. Many of his observations were included as improvements in the 1981 LDS edition of the Book of Mormon.
By 1979, with the establishment of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) as a California non-profit research institution, an effort led by Robert F. Smith began to take full account of Larson’s work and to publish a critical text of the Book of Mormon. Thus was born the FARMS Critical Text Project which published the first volume of the three-volume Book of Mormon Critical Text in 1984. The third volume of that first edition was published in 1987, but was already being superseded by a second, revised edition of the entire work, greatly aided through the advice and assistance of a team that included Yale doctoral candidate Grant Hardy, Dr. Gordon C. Thomasson, Professor John W. Welch (the head of FARMS), Professor Royal Skousen. However, these were merely preliminary steps to a far more exacting and all-encompassing project.
In 1988, with that preliminary phase of the project completed, Skousen took over as editor and head of the FARMS Critical Text of the Book of Mormon Project and proceeded to gather still scattered fragments of the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon and to have advanced photographic techniques applied to obtain fine readings from otherwise unreadable pages and fragments. He also closely examined the printer’s manuscript (then owned by RLDS Church) for differences in types of ink or pencil, in order to determine when and by whom they were made. He also collated the various editions of the Book of Mormon down to the present to see what sorts of changes have been made through time.
Thus far, Skousen has published complete transcripts of the Original and Printer’s Manuscripts, as well as a six-volume analysis of textual variants. Still in preparation are a history of the text, and a complete electronic collation of editions and manuscripts (volumes 3 and 5 of the Project, respectively). Yale University has in the meantime published an edition of the Book of Mormon which incorporates all aspects of Skousen’s research.
Differences between the original and printer’s manuscript, the 1830 printed version, and modern versions of the Book of Mormon have led some critics to claim that evidence has been systematically removed that could have proven that Smith fabricated the Book of Mormon, or are attempts to hide embarrassing aspects of the church’s past, with Mormon scholars viewing the changes as superficial, done to clarify the meaning of the text.
The LDS version of the Book of Mormon has been translated into 83 languages and selections have been translated into an additional 25 languages. In 2001, the LDS Church reported that all or part of the Book of Mormon was available in the native language of 99 percent of Latter-day Saints and 87 percent of the world’s total population.
Translations into languages without a tradition of writing (e.g., Kaqchikel, Tzotzil) are available on audio cassette. Translations into American Sign Language are available on videocassette and DVD.
Typically, translators are members of the LDS Church who are employed by the church and translate the text from the original English. Each manuscript is reviewed several times before it is approved and published.
In 1998, the LDS Church stopped translating selections from the Book of Mormon, and instead announced that each new translation it approves will be a full edition.
Representations in media
Second Nephi 9:20–27 from the Book of Mormon is quoted in a funeral service in Alfred Hitchcock’s film Family Plot.
In 2003, a South Park episode titled “All About Mormons” parodied the origins of the Book of Mormon.
In 2011, a long-running religious satire musical titled The Book of Mormon, written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone in collaboration with Robert Lopez, premiered on Broadway, winning nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Its London production won the Olivier Award for best musical.
The LDS Church produced Book of Mormon Videos for YouTube. These videos are shown on an extra channel.
The LDS Church, which distributes free copies of the Book of Mormon, reported in 2011 that 150 million copies of the book have been printed since its initial publication.
The initial printing of the Book of Mormon in 1830 produced 5000 copies. The 50 millionth copy was printed in 1990, with the 100 millionth following in 2000 and reaching 150 million in 2011.
The Book of Mormon has occasionally been analyzed in a non-religious context for its literary merits.
The author labored to give his words and phrases the quaint, old-fashioned sound and structure of our King James’s translation of the Scriptures; and the result is a mongrel — half modern glibness, and half ancient simplicity and gravity. The latter is awkward and constrained; the former natural, but grotesque by the contrast. Whenever he found his speech growing too modern — which was about every sentence or two — he ladled in a few such Scriptural phrases as “exceeding sore,” “and it came to pass,” etc., and made things satisfactory again. “And it came to pass” was his pet. If he had left that out, his Bible would have been only a pamphlet.— Mark Twain, Roughing It, Chapter XVI
Non-Mormons attempting psychiatric analyses [of Joseph Smith] have been content to pin a label upon the youth and have ignored his greatest creative achievement because they found it dull. Dull it is, in truth, but not formless, aimless, or absurd. Its structure shows elaborate design, its narrative is spun coherently, and it demonstrates throughout a unity of purpose. Its matter is drawn directly from the American frontier, from the impassioned revivalist sermons, the popular fallacies about Indian origin, and the current political crusades.— Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, (New York, 1945), pp. 68-69
Terryl Givens wrote,
Searching for literary wonders in the Book of Mormon is a bit like seeking lyrical inspiration in the books of Chronicles or Judges. The Book of Mormon is a work of substantial complexity, however, with numerous well-spun narratives subsumed with a larger comprehensive vision. There is a neat symmetry to the bible as we have received it.
Givens later concluded,
The Book of Mormon remains a potent and disruptive force in the twenty-first century, challenging analysis with its authoritative claims. The Book remains an important cultural document of the nineteenth century and its literary merits are beginning to encourage further enquiry. The growth of Mormonism worldwide is also challenging older questions of wider appeal and accessibility of the Book of Mormon. The themes of the dislocation and decentring are coming to greater relevance in a globalised world.
Grant Hardy wrote,
The Book of Mormon began as 588 densely printed pages in 1830, and the current official edition (reformatted with substantial grammatical editing) still runs to 531 pages. In some ways this is surprising. If the primary purpose of the Book of Mormon were to function as a sign—as tangible evidence that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God—that mission could have been accomplished much more concisely. A fifty page book delivered by an angel is no less miraculous than a thick volume; it’s the heavenly messenger part that makes it hard to believe.
True or not, the Book of Mormon is a powerful epic written on a grand scale with a host of characters, a narrative of human struggle and conflict, of divine intervention, heroic good and atrocious evil, of prophecy, morality, and law. Its narrative structure is complex. The idiom is that of the King James Version, which most Americans assumed to be appropriate for divine revelation…. The Book of Mormon should rank among the great achievements of American literature, but it has never been accorded the status it deserves, since Mormons deny Joseph Smith’s authorship, and non-Mormons, dismissing the work as a fraud, have been more likely to riducule than to read it.— Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815–1848, Pg. 314
In 2019, Oxford University published Americanist Approaches to The Book of Mormon.
- Brewster, Quinn (1996). “The Structure of the Book of Mormon: A Theory of Evolutionary Development”. Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. 29 (2): 109–140. Archived from the original on July 22, 2007. .
- Brodie, Fawn M. (1971), No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (2nd ed.), New York: Knopf, ISBN 978-0-394-46967-6
- Bushman, Richard Lyman (2005). Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. New York: Knopf. ISBN 978-1-4000-4270-8.
- Dunn, Scott C (2002). “Automaticity and the Dictation of the Book of Mormon”. In Vogel, Dan; Metcalf, Brent Lee (eds.). American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon. Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books. pp. 17–46. ISBN 978-1-56085-151-6.
- Faulring, Scott H (June 2000). “The Return of Oliver Cowdery”. The Disciple as Witness: Essays on Latter-day Saint History and Doctrine in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson. Provo, Utah. Archived from the originalon 2007-10-13.
- Givens, Terryl (2002). By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture That Launched a New World Religion. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-516888-4.
- Hitchens, Christopher (2007). god is not Great. New York: Twelve.
- Howe, Eber Dudley (1834). Mormonism Unvailed: Or, A Faithful Account of that Singular Imposition and Delusion, from its Rise to the Present Time. Painesville, Ohio: Telegraph Press.
- Jessee, Dean (1970). “The Original Book of Mormon Manuscript” (PDF). BYU Studies. 10 (3): 1. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 10, 2008.
- Midgley, Louis C (1997). “Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon?: The Critics and Their Theories”. In Reynolds, Noel B (ed.). Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins. Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies. pp. 101–139. ISBN 978-0-934893-25-1.
- Persuitte, David (2000). Joseph Smith and the Origins of The Book of Mormon (second ed.). McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0-7864-0826-9.
- Price, Robert M (2002). “Prophecy and Palimpsest”. Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. 35 (3).
- Roberts, Brigham H (1985). Madsen, Brigham D. (ed.). Studies of the Book of Mormon. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-01043-9.
- Foundation for Ancient Research & Mormon Studies. (2001a). “Original manuscript of the Book of Mormon: typographical facsimile of the extant text”. In Skousen, Royal (ed.). Book of Mormon Critical Text Project. Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies. ISBN 978-0-934893-04-6.
- Foundation for Ancient Research & Mormon Studies. (2001b). Skousen, Royal (ed.). Book of Mormon Critical Text Project. 2–1. Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies. ISBN 978-0-934893-05-3.
- Foundation for Ancient Research & Mormon Studies. (2001b). “Printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon: typographical facsimile of the entire text in two parts”. In Skousen, Royal (ed.). Book of Mormon Critical Text Project. 2–2. Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies. ISBN 978-0-934893-06-0.
- Royal Skousen. (2004). “Analysis of textual variants of the Book of Mormon”. In Skousen, Royal (ed.). Book of Mormon Critical Text Project. 4–1. Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies. ISBN 978-0-934893-07-7.
- Royal Skousen. (2005). “Analysis of textual variants of the Book of Mormon”. In Skousen, Royal (ed.). Book of Mormon Critical Text Project. 4–2. Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies. ISBN 978-0-934893-08-4.
- Skousen, Royal (2006). “Analysis of textual variants of the Book of Mormon”. In Skousen, Royal (ed.). Book of Mormon Critical Text Project. 4–3. Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies. ISBN 978-0-934893-11-4..
- Smith, Joseph, Jr. (March 26, 1830). The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon, Upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi. Palmyra, New York: E. B. Grandin.
- Smith, Joseph, Jr. (July 1838). “Editor’s note”. Elders’ Journal of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. 1 (3).
- Spaulding, Solomon (1996). Reeve, Rex C (ed.). Manuscript Found: The Complete Original “Spaulding” Manuscript. Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University.
- Tvedtnes, John A (1984). “Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon”. Featured Papers. Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute.
- Van Wagoner, Richard S.; Walker, Steven C. (Summer 1982). “Joseph Smith: The Gift of Seeing”. Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. 15 (2): 48–68.
- Vogel, Dan (2004). Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet. Salt Lake City: Signature Books. ISBN 978-1-56085-179-0.
Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia