The Critical Text Project

A stray drop of ink and a quirk of nineteenth-century penmanship make the difference between “retain that wrong” and “repair that wrong.” Only scrupulous attention to the earliest written manuscripts of the Book of Mormon can uncover such discrepancies. Professor Royal Skousen has spent more than twenty five years meticulously researching the original and printer’s manuscripts of the Book of Mormon, revealing discrepancies and making a case for the type of translation the Book of Mormon is. Every page, every sentence, every word, letter, and mark are accounted for in the landmark Critical Text Project, arguably the most important Book of Mormon research to date.

As director of the Maxwell Institute’s Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies, I’m excited to announce that for the first time ever we are making the foundation of the Critical Text Project—Volumes one and two—available online. Volume four, which analyzes each textual variant found on the manuscripts and editions of the Book of Mormon, is also now available.

The Willes Center website features a Critical Text Project page which includes digital editions of volumes 1, 2, and 4, a video lecture series describing the project, a free introductory book written by a number of scholars who discuss the project, and a bibliography of articles Professor Skousen has written using his work on the Critical Text Project.

I express my gratitude to Professor Skousen for his ongoing work on the project, to Blair Hodges for managing the new website, and to the donors and supporters who have helped fund the project thus far. The Willes Center is the main venue for serious, academic research concerning the Book of Mormon. The Critical Text Project is an invaluable resource for any scholar or student of the Book of Mormon.

Royal Skousen

Royal Skousen is Professor of Linguistics and English Language at Brigham Young University. In 1972 he received his Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. He has taught linguistics at the University of Illinois, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of California at San Diego, and as a Fulbright scholar at the University of Tampere in Finland. In 2001 he was a research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, Netherlands. Skousen's work in linguistics has dealt chiefly with developing a theory of language called Analogical Modeling, a theory that predicts language behavior by means of examples rather than by rules. He has published three books on this subject: Analogical Modeling of Language (1989), Analogy and Structure (1992), and Analogical Modeling: An Exemplar-Based Approach to Language (2002). More recently, he has published on the quantum computation of Analogical Modeling, notably in his 2005 paper "Quantum Analogical Modeling" (available at www.arXiv.org).

Skousen began working on the critical text of the Book of Mormon in 1988. In 2001 he published the first two volumes of the Critical Text Project, namely, typographical facsimiles for the original and printer's manuscripts of the Book of Mormon. From 2004 through 2009 he published the six books that make up volume 4 of the critical text, Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon. This work represents the central task of the Critical Text Project, to restore by scholarly means the original text of the Book of Mormon, to the extent possible.

In 2009 Skousen published with Yale University Press the culmination of his critical work on the Book of Mormon text, namely, The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text. The Yale edition presents the reconstructed original text in a clear-text format, without explanatory intervention. Unlike modern editions of the Book of Mormon that have added chapter summaries, scriptural cross-references, dates, and footnotes, this edition consists solely of the words dictated by Joseph Smith in 1828-29, as far as they can be established through standard methods of textual criticism. Later emendations by scribes, editors, and even Joseph Smith himself have been omitted, except for those that appear to restore original readings.



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