Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Adapted from Richard Howard, Restoration Scriptures: A Study of Their Textual Development, Second Edition, 1995.
There were two Book of Mormon manuscripts, the Original Manuscript (O MS), which was dictated by Joseph Smith, Jr., and the Printer’s Manuscript (P MS), which was produced for the printer to use.
The O MS was considered a "first draft." It lacked capitalization and punctuation, and spelling was inconsistent. This MS was placed in the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House and deteriorated. Only a few pages and some fragments remain (they are in the custody of the LDS Church).
The P MS was partially refined prior to printing the 1830 Book of Mormon, but E. B. Grandin punctuated the text and divided it into paragraphs. After the 1830 printing, the P MS was marked with additional changes, which were used to produce the 1837 printing in Kirtland. Howard says 2,000 refinements show on the P MS (but another 1,000 revisions in the 1837 edition are not shown on the P MS).
Some changes which were made for the 1837 include "which" to "who" 707 times; "was" to "were," "were" to "was," "is" to "are," and "are" to "is" 137 times; "saith" or "sayeth" to "said" 229 times. Most changes were to grammar and style—however some were theological. The words "Son of" were inserted into the 1830 text in several places, such as "The Lamb of God is the Eternal Father" and "The Everlasting God was judged by the world."
Joseph Smith, Jr., personally supervised or was responsible for the textual revisions of the 1830, 1837, and 1840 editions of the Book of Mormon (plus the 1842 Nauvoo edition, which was printed with the 1840 plates). The title page of the 1840 edition says, "Carefully Revised by the Translator." His objective appears to have been to convey the Book of Mormon message and meaning as clearly as possible.
Although the 1840 (and 1842) editions were available in the U.S., the first European edition of the Book of Mormon was based on the 1837 edition. The LDS Church continued using that text and format until 1879. Then the text was divided into more chapters and shorter verses (the 1830 edition did not have separate verses; in later editions some verses were two or three pages in length).
In 1858 Zadoc Brook privately reprinted the 1840 Book of Mormon (through James O. Wright and Company in New York). Until the 1874 printing of the Book of Mormon by the RLDS Church, which also used the 1840 text, the Brook edition was generally all that RLDS members had available.
The RLDS Church purchased the P MS in 1903 (for $2450.00). That sparked interest in changes, and the 1906 General Conference approved a "Committee on Reversification" to compare the P MS and the 1837 Book of Mormon. The committee did much more than make shorter verses. Changes nearly always followed the P MS and disregarded the later revisions of Joseph Smith, Jr., including the 1840 edition and the 1000 changes in the 1837 edition which were not marked on the P MS.
The resulting text of the 1908 edition has closer ties to the 1830 Book of Mormon than to the 1837, 1840, and 1874 editions—even though the note on the title page says, "Compared with the original manuscript and the Kirtland Edition of 1837."