Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Book of Mormon: Translated Correctly?

In the June 1984 issue of the LDS magazine the Ensign, Monte Nyman wrote: "There is irrefutable evidence to show both the correctness of the translation and the Lord’s hand in it. The Three Witnesses, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris, bore record that the voice of God declared unto them that the book had been translated by his power. Their testimony still appears at the front of each copy of the Book of Mormon. Furthermore, in a June 1829 revelation given to the three men through the Prophet, the Lord confirmed that Joseph had translated all that he had been commanded to do and that it was a true translation."

Joseph Smith presumptuously stated "I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book,"  (History of the Church, vol. 4, p. 461).

Emma Smith, the first wife of Joseph, in an 1856 interview spoke of the way the translation process worked.

"When my husband was translating the Book of Mormon, I wrote a part of it, as he dictated each sentence, word for word, and when he came to proper names he could not pronounce, or long words, he spelled them out, and while I was writing them, if I made a mistake in spelling, he would stop me and correct my spelling, although it was impossible for him to see how I was writing them down at the time."

David Whitmer, one of the Three Witnesses, and in whose home a majority of the translation took place, gave a very detailed account of the translation process.

"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."

So, it's been made clear that the Book of Mormon was translated according to God's will, and was a correct translation, right?

In the October 1961 conference of the LDS church, Joseph Fielding Smith stated:

"During the past week or two I have received a number of letters from different parts of the United States written by people, some of whom at least are a little concerned because they have been approached by enemies of the Church and enemies of the Book of Mormon, who have made the statement that there have been one or two or more thousand changes in the Book of Mormon since the first edition was published. Well, of course, there is no truth in that statement. It is true that when the Book of Mormon was printed the printer was a man who was unfriendly. The publication of the book was done under adverse circumstances, and there were a few errors, mostly typographical — conditions that arise in most any book that is being published — but there was not one thing in the Book of Mormon or in the second edition or any other edition since that in any way contradicts the first edition, and such changes as were made were made by the Prophet Joseph Smith because under those adverse conditions the Book of Mormon was published. But there was no change of doctrine."

A simple examination of the original 1830 version of the Book of Mormon, and the more recent publications of the Book of Mormon, yield some surprising results when compared to what Joseph Fielding Smith claimed. There have been at least 3,913 changes made to the texts of the Book of Mormon, many of them to major doctrinal issues contained in them.

Logic dictates that if the Book of Mormon is "the most correct" book, and that if he read out loud the translation of the special characters, and the words would not disappear until the writing was accurate, then  why were there so many changes from the original version? Did God change his mind about the accuracy of the translation? Of course not! Not only are there MANY, MANY changes in the book, but Joseph Smith was satisfied with the original printing of it, and said is was completed. I'll ask again, why were there so many changes?

Many LDS leaders, and lay members claim that the errors in the original 1830 Book of Mormon are simply typographical. That is simply not the case.

Early Mormon historian, B.H. Roberts made it clear that he did not buy into the claims made by other LDS leaders. "That errors of grammar and faults in dictation do exist in the Book of Mormon (and more especially and abundantly in the first edition) must be conceded; and what is more, while some of the errors may be referred to inefficient proof-reading, such as is to be expected in a country printing establishment, yet such is the nature of the errors in question, and so interwoven are they throughout the diction of the Book, that they may not be disposed of by saying they result from inefficient proof-reading or referring them to the mischievous disposition of the 'typos' or the unfriendliness of the publishing house. The errors are constitutional in their character; they are of the web and woof of the style, and not such errors as may be classed as typographical. Indeed, the first edition of the Book of Mormon is singularly free from typographical errors." (Emphasis added)

The following graph shows just a few of the changes in the Book of Mormon from the 1830 version to the 1981 version.

As you can see, these are NOT minor "typographical errors." These are "errors" that not only change character names, alter the context of verses, but also change the divinity of Jesus.

Interestingly enough, John H. Gilbert, the man who helped to print the Book of Mormon, claimed that the Mormons did not want him to correct the grammatical errors which were in the manuscript:

"When the printer was ready to commence work, Harris was notified, and Hyrum Smith brought the first installment of the manuscript. On the second day — Harris and Smith being in the office — I called their attention to a grammatical error, and asked whether I should correct it? Harris consulted with Smith a short time, and turned to me and said: 'The Old Testament is ungrammatical, set it as it is written.' Cowdery held and looked over the manuscript when most of the proofs were read. Martin Harris once or twice, and Hyrum Smith once, supposing these men could read their own writing as well, if not better, than any one else; and if there are any discrepancies between the Palmyra edition and the manuscript these men should be held responsible." (Memorandum, made by John H. Gilbert, Esq., September 8, 1892, Palmyra, N.Y., printed in Joseph Smith Begins His Work, Vol. 1, Introduction)

It's interesting that even the man who did the publishing made reference to the fact that he pointed out issues with it, but the leaders of the early church told him to "set it as it is written." If those issues were acceptable at the time, why make so many changes?

There have been no official statements by the LDS church attempting to explain the changes, but there are plenty of sources stating that the changes are simply grammatical and typographical.

If the "prophet, seer, and revelator" Joseph Smith correctly translated the Book of Mormon by the direction and power of God as he, and many witnesses testify he did, then there would be no need for any changes to the text of the Book of Mormon.

Jeff Lindsay, an LDS apologist wrote the following: "The driving force for virtually all changes has been to (1) ensure that the printed text is faithful to the original manuscript and (2) to ensure that the text is accessible and readable. Alleged departures from the original text generally turn out to be simple clarifications or reworkings of awkward grammar rather than doctrinal changes."

I believe we can safely say that if the LDS church was trying to "ensure that the printed text is faithful to the original manuscript" they wouldn't have authorized any changes in the first place. That seems like a moot argument given the amount of changes from the original 1830 version.

As for the statement that they wanted to "ensure that the text is accessible and readable" is pure nonsense. When Joseph Smith and other early church leaders read the book off the printing press, they agreed that it was good, and what was written. If that was not the case, why would they teach from it, and sell it? That statement is self devastating. "Alleged departures from the original text generally turn out to be simple clarifications or reworkings of awkward grammar rather than doctrinal changes." Hmm... changing the divinity of Jesus seems like a pretty serious doctrinal change. Unfortunately for Jeff Lindsay, his theories were ill thought out, illogical, and easily disproven.

The number of people who have questioned the changes are many, and the answers they receive are few. The reasons are usually excuses, or easily disproven, as we have seen here.

Joseph Smith said it best when he said: "Take away the Book of Mormon and the revelations, and where is our religion? We have none.”