Significant Textual Changes in the Book of Mormon

Significant Textual Changes in the Book of Mormon: The First Printed Edition Compared to the Manuscripts and to the Subsequent Major LDS English Printed Editions

January 2013


The Book of Mormon is the scripture embraced by followers of Joseph Smith in his 1830s Latter-day Saint movement. Despite the faith of believers that the Book of Mormon is “the most correct of any book,” ever since Smith dictated the text to scribes in 1827, there have been significant modifications with each printing.

Here, presented for the first time, is an easy-to-use, single volume correlating all the major changes to English language editions of the Book of Mormon. It includes the original manuscript, printer’s manuscript, and fifteen editions from 1830, 1837, 1840, 1841, 1849, 1852, 1879, 1888, 1902, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1911, 1920, and 1981. The presentation is simple and reader friendly. The base text is from an original 1830 edition, and bold lettering signals the altered text. Footnotes track changes over time, with details from the variant texts. Often these changes simply clarify minor issues of spelling, adding or deleting conjunctions or completing fragmented sentences. But at several important points, the changes transform the meaning of Joseph Smith’s canon. A major character in the book describes the symbolism of a dream he has and refers to “the Lamb of God” (Jesus) as “the Eternal Father,” a generic Trinitarian belief that Mormons now reject. The text was subsequently changed to read “the Lamb of the Son of the Eternal Father,” which reflecting the shift in belief among Mormons at the time, as they came to regard Deity as three separate beings with exalted human bodies. Other changes affect basic understandings of theology, race, and identity, which morph through printings and are tracked here in a clean, straightforward approach.

John S. Dinger is a graduate of the S. J. Quinney College of Law, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, where he was an editor of the Utah Law Review. In addition to a juris doctorate, he holds degrees in political science and history from the University of Utah. He has published in the Journal of Mormon History, Idaho Law Review, and Utah Law Review. His book, The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes, won the Best Documentary Book Award from the Mormon History Association and the Best Book Award from the John Whitmer Historical Association. He is presently a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for Ada County in Boise, Idaho.

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