Book of Mormon, The Most Correct Book, then Changes? No Problem.

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How can the Book of Mormon claim to be the most correct book if it has been changed so many times?

Thousands of textual changes have been made to the Book of Mormon since it was first printed in 1830. Critics seem to think that scripture must be perfect to be inspired. The Bible, however, has also gone through numerous changes, updates, corrections, and clarifications. Among the Book of Mormon changes we must include footnotes, headers, chapter re-divisions, and verse breakdowns (the original edition of the Book of Mormon had chapters but not verses. Other changes affect the text, though not necessarily the meaning of the text). Textual changes were made for the following reasons: typographical errors, spelling variants, clarification, and grammatical improvements.

Most of the changes to the Book of Mormon involve spelling and grammatical corrections and do not change the basic meaning of the text.

The last two categories involve deliberate changes to the text. Many of these were for clarification. For example, in the 1837 edition of the Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 8:4, which originally read, “for, behold, me thought I saw a dark and dreary wilderness,” was changed to, “for behold, me thought I saw in my dream, a dark and dreary wilderness.” This change simply clarifies the meaning of the text. Several other similar changes were made. Some verses were clarified to accurately reflect specific members of deity. In the 1830 edition of 1 Nephi 11:18 we read: “Behold, the virgin which thou seest, is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh.” In the 1837 edition this was changed to: “Behold, the virgin whom thou seest, is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.” Several other Book of Mormon passages were modified to distinguish Christ from the Father. According to the critics, this shows that Joseph Smith originally believed in a Trinitarian God and that his LDS view of God evolved later. Researcher Van Hale, however, has shown that the 1830 edition amply teaches the belief that Jesus is the Son of God, and that the later changes were simply made for clarification of a doctrine already present in the Book of Mormon.[583]

Many of the textual changes constitute changes in grammar. The word which, for instance, was changed 707 times to who. According to the critics the Book of Mormon’s poor grammar is an obvious indication that Joseph Smith authored the book. Like so many other charges made by the critics, this argument has backfired.

While Joseph’s language is apparent in the English translation of the Book of Mormon, there is evidence that, at least in some cases, the translation was more literal and reveals the underlying original ancient language. In many of the instances where expressions are ungrammatical in English we find that they are perfectly grammatical in Hebrew. The Book of Mormon, for example, contains distinct Egyptian and Hebrew idioms (or Hebraisms; characteristics that are peculiar to Hebrew and Egyptian but uncharacteristic in English). Initially, neither members nor critics noticed Book of Mormon Hebraisms. Once they were pointed out by LDS scholars, however, critics were quick to claim that Joseph inadvertently included Hebraisms because he mimicked the language of the Bible. Joseph, however, began to study Hebrew five years after the Book of Mormon had already been published. It wasn’t until decades later that LDS scholars first noticed the Hebrew idioms.

Michael R. Ash, Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt

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