Volume 4: Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon Part 1: 1 Nephi 1 – 2 Nephi 10
Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon is the fourth volume in Professor Royal Skousen’s ongoing Book of Mormon Critical Text Project. This volume in six parts represents the central task of the project: the attempt to recover the original English-language text of the Book of Mormon. Volume 4 considers every significant textual change that has occurred in the English Book of Mormon over the 175 years since Joseph Smith first dictated it to his scribes. It also considers a number of conjectured revisions for specific passages. Professor Skousen draws on the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon, the printer’s manuscript prepared by Oliver Cowdery and two other scribes, and 20 significant printed versions ranging from the 1830 edition to the current standard editions published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Community of Christ (formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). Where applicable, he marshals additional evidence of language usage from dialectal and earlier English, as well as data from the King James Bible and the original biblical languages, Hebrew and Greek.
Part 1 of volume 4 commences with the title page and the witness statements and then proceeds from 1 Nephi 1 through 2 Nephi 10. It represents approximately one-seventh of the Book of Mormon as we have it. Specifically, Professor Skousen examines 774 cases of variation or potential variation in his quest to determine the original reading. In 420 instances, the current standard version varies from his proposed original text, and 157 of these have never appeared in any standard printed edition of the Book of Mormon. Most of the 420 differences involve variation in phraseology, but 75 of them alter the meaning in ways that would affect translation though never in a manner that changes either doctrinal content or the fundamental meaning of the text.
Each massive volume in the critical text averages nearly 670 oversize pages of research and analysis that reward careful examination with expanded views of the founding text of Mormonism. In seeking to recover the original English-language text, this ambitious project has identified many variant readings and yielded new insights into the translation process and the systematic nature of the text. These findings will keep serious students of the Book of Mormon profitably engaged in assessing the ramifications for many years to come. As an essential scholarly tool, the critical text promises to boost the professional rigor and overall quality of Book of Mormon scholarship to a new level.