Juvenile Instructor

Change(s) in The Book of Mormon Introduction by Jared
November 8, 2007, 10:33 am
Filed under: Book of Mormon, Jared

One word can speak volumes says this morning’s Salt Lake Tribune.  It carried a small story on a change to a single word in the introduction of the Book of Mormon in the recent Doubleday edition.  Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote the introduction in 1981 for the then new edition of the Book of Mormon and it contained this statement:

“After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.”

 The new wording is:

“After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians.”

A commonly held presumption has been that all Native American groups from Alaska to the Patagonia were descendants of the Lamanites ( I certainly grew up with this idea).  For some time a growing segment has felt that since the text itself does not argue for this kind of all-encompassing ancestry, there is little reason to perpetuate that view.  Though “principal” does not have to mean “sole” anyway, I can only surmise that rather than try to influence the commonly held view by redefining the “principal”, the word itself has been changed to provide minimal commentary. 

It will be interesting to see how this will affect dialogue both within the Church and outside it as we talk about Book of Mormon origins. 

Also, as pointed out by David Grua below, there is another interesting change in the Doubleday introduction.

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I just want to note that I was notified of this story this morning by a friend outside the blogging world.

Comment by Jared

Jared: Great find. This really is a fascinating glimpse in to how the Church (or its correlation interpreters) is being influenced and shaped by the literature on the DNA issue.

Comment by David Grua

I find it odd that a change like this would be made in a non-official edition and without any prior comment from the church.

Comment by Justin

Justin, that really is interesting by way of the relationship between the Church and its canon. I understand that for something to be added, such as a revelation or section it must be brought before the members. Once it’s in, modifications may be made as necessary.

I would think that the change would be aimed at steering views away from an outdated or at least an untenable persumption among the general membership. However, if the end goal is to adjust paradigms, I would think that some comment might be in order. It’s possible, of course, that there is concern that something too public might cause detractors to howl that the Church is bending to science or backpedaling in some way.

Comment by Jared

Although I have not personally seen the new Doubleday Edition, I have it on good authority that there has been another significant change, or rather omission, from the Introduction.

1981: “It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains, as does the Bible, the fulness of the everlasting gospel.”

2007 2004: “It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains the fulness of the everlasting gospel.”

Although we can’t know for sure why this omission was made, it does provide an interesting look into how the scriptures committee interprets the relationship between the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

Comment by David Grua

It’s possible, of course, that there is concern that something too public might cause detractors to howl that the Church is bending to science or backpedaling in some way.

It might work the other way, as well, leading some people to charge that the church is being sneaky (at least that’s the banter on some Mormon boards over the past week).

David, the 2004 Doubleday edition I own also omits the claim.

Comment by Justin

The controversy over Native American DNA surely also has an impact on this wording change. By removing the teaching that the Lamanites are the “principle” ancestors of the Native Americans, apologists have considerably more freedom to argue that Lamanite DNA has been “diluted” or “lost” in the jumble of other ancestral lines.

Comment by Nick Literski

Justin: Thanks for clarifying that.

Comment by David Grua

This is huge. This blog just gained some credibility for bringing attention to this.

But you need to make the text on this blog larger. Why is it so small?

Comment by California Condor

I’m not even certain how many people know about the omission of the claim. It’s been three years since it appeared, and I don’t recall any media comment on it.

Comment by Justin

Justin: I, for one, didn’t hear any media attention when the 2004 edition appeared. And my source is a BYU professor of religion, so apparently he didn’t know either.

Comment by David Grua

I suppose Peggy Fletcher Stack now has another story.

Comment by Justin

California Condor,

I am so glad that the blog has finally been blessed with your stamp of credibility. My day has officially been made.

And my apologies for the small text. We intentionally did that so as to see if it would dissuade people from immediately granting us their stamp of approval. 🙂

Comment by Christopher

The church’s web site still has the 1981 Introduction: http://scriptures.lds.org/en/bm/introduction

Perhaps the 2004 change mentioned was only in the Doubleday version (which also had lots of other changes)?

Comment by Trevor

Condor, thank you for the note. I thought we put small text to blind people, but I may have been out of the loop on that discussion 🙂

Thanks for pointing that out, Trevor. I assume that like the story mentions, subsequent “official” editions of the BoM will have the original change in question and perhaps others. Perhaps not until there is a new “official” edition will the website reflect the differences.

Comment by Jared

[…] Comments David Grua on Joseph Smith Papers Project: A…Jared on Change(s) in The Book of Mormo…Trevor on Change(s) in The Book of Mormo…Christopher on Change(s) in The Book of Mormo…Ben on […]

Pingback by Comparing the 1981, 2004, and 2006 Book of Mormon Introductions « Juvenile Instructor

Nice Blog. Good content. Just one observation: you _guys_ need to bring a woman or two on board. 🙂

Comment by janaremy

Jana: We’re always accepting applications. Having a woman around may prohibit us from being so juvenile, though.

Comment by David Grua

[…] Juvenile Instructor (also this post) (LDS […]

Pingback by Adventures in Mormonism » Blog Archive » What the Book of Mormon actually says

This wording change is one of thousands of examples of how so-called “Anti-Mormons” are going to great lengths to research, document, and publicize the faults, failings, sins, and problems with the LDS Church.

Mormons (for example, FARMS) defend themselves against such “anti-Mormon” attacks by a variety of arguments, the gist of which is that the Church is true despite errors and changes in scripture, imperfect leaders and members, problems and inconsistencies in theology, etc.

In order to justify why a “Restoration” was necessary, Mormons have gone to great lengths to research, document, and publicize the faults, failings, sins, and problems with the Christian Churches since Jesus’ time (see “The Great Apostasy” among many many others).

Point: If the defenses Mormons offer against attacks on their Church are valid (if the Church really is “true” despite these problems), then why aren’t those same “defenses” also valid for the Christian Churches Mormons attack?

In other words, why can’t the original Church established by Christ also be “true” despite all the problems the Mormons have identified, thereby eliminating the need for a Restoration in the first place?

The foundation of the Mormon claim is inherently incoherent. I will continue to unravel. (Matt. 7:1-2)

Comment by Point

I will continue to unravel.

Well, ok, if you really want to…. 🙂 ..bruce..

Comment by bfwebster

Thanks for stopping by. The questions you bring up are important, but as the aim of this blog is to discuss Mormonism in historical context(s), and not to engage in either apologia or criticism of the institutional church, they are perhaps more appropriate in other venues.

A couple other notes: FARMS doesn’t represent all Mormons, and though I can’t speak for all bloggers here (though I assume most would agree with me), FARMS certainly doesn’t represent my approach to Mormonism. It is unfair and inaccurate to point to “defenses Mormon offer” as if there was consensus among Mormons regarding how to respond to perceived attacks on the LDS Church. I, for one, choose to not make it a habit to respond to such attacks at all.

Comment by Christopher


We believe at the end of the day the Holy Ghost will inspire you to do what’s right.

Comment by California Condor

UPDATE: For those who have not been following the discussion over at the other thread, we now know that the phrase “as does the Bible” was removed at least as early as 1992 in the Spanish language print editions of the Book of Mormon. Although the phrase survives in the lds.org electronic English edition, it is not in the Spanish language edition.

Comment by David Grua

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