Book of Mormon Comparative:
The Book of Mormon is the central religious text for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). It is often said by believing members that the Book of Mormon is a beautiful and correct history of the Native Americans before and after the coming of Jesus Christ.
The Book of Mormon not only speaks of Jesus Christ, mentioning his name more than 4,000 times, but claims to be a third testament of his appearance to the native peoples of the American continents. One need only venture into the pages of this book to understand some of the religious beliefs of Mormons, as well as some very early doctrine in the early Mormon church.
It is claimed that the Book of Mormon was translated through the modern-day prophet, Joseph Smith, in the 2 years leading up to founding the Church of Christ (Mormonite Church) on April 6th, 1830. It’s worth examining where, exactly, the Book of Mormon reportedly came from.
As the story goes, Joseph Smith was visited by an angel in his bedroom during September of 1823. The angel told 17 year-old Joseph Smith the location of an ancient record of the Native Americans, inscribed on golden plates and bound together into a single volume. Fast-forward 4 years, and the 22 year-old Joseph Smith digs into the Hill Cumorah in New York, unearthing the golden plates. After many trials and tribulations, Joseph Smith produced the “Original Manuscript” of the Book of Mormon in June of 1829 with the help of Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, John Whitmer, Emma Smith, and others.
Once the “Original Manuscript” was compiled, the E.B. Grandin Printing Press in Palmyra, New York required the information be transcribed into a final draft called the “Printer’s Manuscript,” most of which survives today. Unfortunately, Joseph Smith buried the Original Manuscript in the cornerstone of the Nauvoo, Illinois temple, which was recovered after his death; it was majorly damaged by water and mold. Only 28% of the Original Manuscript survived the entombment, but scholars have been able to recreate the original Book of Mormon by combining the “Original Manuscript,” and the “Printer’s Manuscript,” making the earliest version of the Book of Mormon text in existence.
One may ask why we must concern ourselves with the “Original” and “Printer’s” Manuscripts of the Book of Mormon, and that is a challenging question indeed. If we understand how the Book of Mormon was written, it seems to instill a lot of importance in the original version of the Book of Mormon. Here is a quote from David Whitmer, one of the Three Witnesses to the golden plates, and an early leader in the church.
“I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.”
Page 11 of his book An Address to All Believers in Christ, Part First, Chapter 1. Also, Interview given to Kansas City Journal, June 5, 1881, reprinted in the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Journal of History, vol. 8, (1910), pp. 299-300.
This next quote is from Martin Harris, the man who financed the printing and publishing of the Book of Mormon, also one of the Three Witnesses of the gold plates.
“Martin Harris related an incident that occurred during the time that he wrote that portion of the translation of the Book of Mormon which he was favored to write direct from the mouth of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He said that the Prophet possessed a seer stone, by which he was enabled to translate as well as from the Urim and Thummim, and for convenience he then used the seer stone, Martin explained the translation as follows: By aid of the seer stone, sentences would appear and were read by the Prophet and written by Martin and when finished he would say “Written,” and if correctly written that sentence would disappear and another appear in its place, but if not written correctly it remained until corrected, so that the translation was just as it was engraven on the plates, precisely in the language then used.”
Reported by Edward Stevenson, “One of the Three Witnesses,” Millennial Star, Volume 44, pp86-87.
Thus we see why it is so important to study the earliest possible manuscript of the Book of Mormon to see it in its original intended form. It is claimed that God would reveal the perfect translation of the Book of Mormon text to Joseph Smith, who would then recite the translation to the scribe. After the scribe wrote down the dictation, they would read it back to Joseph Smith, who would approve or correct what was written down until the only text that made it into the Original Manuscript, was the perfect word of God. That’s what David Whitmer meant in his quote saying “Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.” Given this translation method, the perfect word of God is what we should be interested in studying.
It also logically follows that any changes that have happened since the 1829 “Original Manuscript,” have somehow changed the word of God from what He originally revealed to Joseph Smith. If this is the case, every alteration moves the Book of Mormon further away from the divinely revealed truth of God, speaking through his prophet, Joseph Smith.
How many changes can we tolerate and still call the Book of Mormon the word of God?
Luckily, the LDS church recently teamed up with the RLDS church to publish the “Printer’s Manuscript,” and we’re able to look at the raw text as dictated by Joseph Smith and written by Oliver Cowdery and the other scribes, in order to compare it to the current 2016 version of the Book of Mormon hosted on the LDS Church’s own LDS.org. By doing this, we can see the differences between the original Book of Mormon, and the current version.
The only question that remains is, why would the church need to change anything from the “Printer’s Manuscript,” if that’s what was spoken by Joseph Smith, the one true prophet of the restoration?
The scholarship studying the differences between these versions of the Book of Mormon is still in its early stages, but by initial studies, there appears to be 10’s of thousands of differences between the “Original Manuscript,” combined with the “Printer’s Manuscript” (OM/PM); and the current 2016 version of the Book of Mormon. It’s, indeed, hard to believe that God made 10’s of thousands of mistakes while revealing the original Book of Mormon to Joseph Smith, mistakes which required correction at a later time.
What is the overall purpose of the Book of Mormon Comparative? To get as close to the truth as one possibly can.
Description of what you can find in the “Book of Mormon Comparative” module.
For each chapter of the Book of Mormon, on the left side of your screen you will see the heading of “OM/PM” which is the combined 28% of the “Original Manuscript” with 72% of the “Printer’s Manuscript” of the Book of Mormon. On the right side of your screen, you will see the current 2016 version of the Book of Mormon, as hosted on LDS.org, the LDS Church’s own website. Every single difference between the texts is highlighted in red, including the addition of verse breaks in the chapters. There are many other editorial marks featured in the comparative portion of the website, and a legend can be found in that section.
You will also find a comments section on each of these chapters where readers, like yourself, can add their thoughts about any given chapter in the Book of Mormon. These comments could be drawing connections to other possible source texts for the Book of Mormon, a scholarly addition of information, or simply an opinion that is relevant to the information in each chapter.
Nomenclature in BLUE indicates text from the remaining 28% of the ‘Original Manuscript’ (OM). Priority is always given to the OM over the ‘Printer’s Manuscript’ (PM).
Text in RED shows any ‘difference’ from the OM/PM side to the current Book of Mormon.
Text in GREEN indicates modifications in Helaman 13:17 through Mormon 9:37. The OM was used for typesetting the first printed, 1830 edition, as opposed to the PM for these chapters. Only the most glaring issues have been identified, whereas, most issues of spelling and punctuation have been left to match the OM or PM.
“Real Book of Mormon” Chapters, written by Bryce Blankenagel:
There is a lot of history surrounding the Book of Mormon, some points being more polarizing or controversial than others. In this section you will find posted chapters of the upcoming book that attempts to deconstruct the Book of Mormon called, “The Real Book of Mormon” (working title), written by Bryce Blankenagel.
The content of this book was spawned from a single 7.5-hour long podcast episode, titled “CC-Book of Mormon,” (click to listen) on the Naked Mormonism Podcast. The primary complaint after releasing said 7.5 hours was that listeners felt as if they didn’t get enough. There was simply TOO MUCH CONTENT about the Book of Mormon to include in a single episode of a podcast, as entire podcasts and volumes of books have been created and written, devoted to studying the Book of Mormon.
In order to present the abundant information about the Book of Mormon in palpable form, every two weeks, one to three chapters from the upcoming book are posted in this “Real Book of Mormon Chapters” module of the website.
The chapters are posted as blog posts in rough draft form with numbered paragraphs for ease of reference. This is done to work out the kinks and make corrections as a crowd-source “peer-review” process, to produce the most factually accurate book about the Book of Mormon as possible. As corrections are made to the blog posts, and readers send in their various suggestions or expertise, those adjustments will be included in the final draft copy and produced as a full paperback book, with simultaneous release of accompanying audio-book.
For more information on Mormon history and Book of Mormon deconstruction, please check out the Naked Mormonism Podcast, hosted by Bryce Blankenagel, the author of “The Real Book of Mormon,” (working title). This podcast will hopefully give listeners a feel for the kind of research and information that will be included in the pages of the upcoming book.
Defector of the Faith:
The Mormon church was established as the “Church of Christ” on April 6, 1830. It’s been more than 186 years since that day, and there are a lot of interesting things that have happened during that time. In the “Defector of the Faith” module, you will find 1,001+ easy reasons to dismiss Mormonism.
These 1,001+ reasons are a compilation of facts, occurrences, and philosophical/theological conundrums that believing members are faced with if they remain members of the Mormon religion. They can easily be shared on Facebook and Twitter with the links provided. While it may be easy to write off or ignore some of these 1,001+ reasons, examining them in depth and wrestling with the information presented can leave a believer lost in a state of questioning and doubt; but, we shouldn’t fear doubt, we should confront it to live a happy, and truth-driven life. A famous Mormon line goes as follows, “Doubt your doubts before you doubt your beliefs;” a rather absurd proposition.
Let’s use that line in the practical occupation of a commercial airline pilot. During a pre-flight inspection, if the pilot has any single doubt about the ability of the aircraft to make a safe trip, should that pilot doubt her doubts and believe that the aircraft can make the trip safely, putting all passengers in danger; or should the pilot investigate and confront said doubts, no matter how much it conflicts with her beliefs? Only one action will keep the passengers safe, so is it better to “Doubt your doubts,” or should we all confront our doubts? As one podcaster once said, “Doubt your beliefs before you doubt the facts!”
In this module you can click on “Pick Another Fact” button at the bottom to randomly cycle through the list of 1,001+ facts, providing hours of fun reading on a myriad of topics relating to Mormonism; or, if you’re more the serial fact kind of person, you can read all 1,001+ facts from start to finish on the serialized Defector of the Faith module. How much do you really know about Mormonism? START CLICKING TO FIND OUT!