Juvenile Instructor


“As Does the Bible”: Official Statement Forthcoming…Maybe by David Grua
November 12, 2007, 1:04 pm
Filed under: Book of Mormon, David Grua

 

There has been considerable question concerning how we should interpret the omission of the phrase “as does the Bible” from the Introduction to the Book of Mormon. The phrase first appeared thus in the 1981 edition: “It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americans and contains, as does the Bible, the fullness of the everlasting gospel.” However, in the 1992 Spanish-language edition, the phrase “as does the Bible” was removed. The change was reflected in subsequent foreign-language (re)printings, and first appeared in English in the 2004 Doubleday edition.

Carrie Moore in her Deseret News article mentioned the “as does the Bible” change, but stated that the church had declined to comment. In a response to an email from the Juvenile Instructor, Church spokesman Mark Tuttle stated the following:

Support and reference materials for the scriptures are only changed for major new editions (the last English edition was in 1981), and not with individual (re) printings.  How this is done and its timing (considering all of the individual language translations), is a complex problem that we hope to address in detail in the near future.  Until that time we are not able to provide additional comments.

This response gives me hope that the Church’s media representatives will soon address the issue of how the “as does the Bible” change occurred. Although Tuttle confirmed that a statement is forthcoming, he was unable to state that it would address this specific issue.

    

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Comparing the 1981, 2004, and 2006 Book of Mormon Introductions by Christopher
November 8, 2007, 2:59 pm
Filed under: Book of Mormon, Christopher

The news that the introduction to the 2006 Doubleday edition of The Book of Mormon contains significant changes seems to be all the rage on the bloggernacle today.  Peggy Fletcher Stack’s article in the SL Tribune this morning announced that the introduction’s previous claim that the Lamanites “are the principal ancestors of the American Indians” has been altered to read that the Lamanites “are among the ancestors of the American Indians.”

It was then pointed out on two different threads that an additional change was made, but that it was a change made in the 2004 Doubleday edition of The Book of Mormon and then repeated in the newer edition.  For sake of clarification and all interested readers, below are the changes made between the 1981 edition (published by the LDS Church), the 2004 Doubleday edition, and the 2006 Doubleday edition (relevant passages are denoted with blue font).

1981 (Salt Lake City, UT: Published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible.  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.

The book was written by many ancient prophets by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. Their words, written on gold plates, were quoted and abridged by a prophet-historian named Mormon.  The record gives an account of two great civilizations.  One came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C., and afterward separated into two nations, known as the Nephites and the Lamanites.  The other came much earlier when the Lord confounded the tongues at the Tower of Babel.  This group is known as the Jaredites.  After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.

2004 (New York: Doubleday First Edition)

The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible.  It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains the fulness of the everlasting gospel.

The book was written by many ancient prophets by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. Their words, written on gold plates, were quoted and abridged by a prophet-historian named Mormon.  The record gives an account of two great civilizations.  One came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C., and afterward separated into two nations, known as the Nephites and the Lamanites.  The other came much earlier when the Lord confounded the tongues at the Tower of Babel.  This group is known as the Jaredites.  After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.

2006 (New York: New Doubleday Edition)

The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible.  It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains the fulness of the everlasting gospel.

The book was written by many ancient prophets by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. Their words, written on gold plates, were quoted and abridged by a prophet-historian named Mormon.  The record gives an account of two great civilizations.  One came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C., and afterward separated into two nations, known as the Nephites and the Lamanites.  The other came much earlier when the Lord confounded the tongues at the Tower of Babel.  This group is known as the Jaredites.  After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians.

Also, as noted, the version available at lds.org still follows the wording of the 1981 edition.



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.



The Sacred Literature Conundrum: Situating the Book of Mormon in the Academy by stanthayne
October 28, 2007, 10:05 pm
Filed under: Book of Mormon, Stan

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One of the many things I wondered about while tracting door to door as a missionary was how I would respond if someone were to ask me if the stone box in Cumorah’s hillside, from which Joseph Smith had extracted the plates, had been located. As far as I knew, it never had.[1] While the absence of the plates was easy to explain—it was no more difficult to assert that Moroni had taken them back than it was to assert that he had given them—the box was a different matter. If it had held the plates securely for over a thousand years, surely it was only logical to expect that some trace of it was extant. As I considered how I would answer the question, I reasoned that, being left uncovered, the box had probably either filled in with dirt and was overgrown by vegetation or it had simply eroded away. Or maybe it had been destroyed, either by natural or supernatural means. (If God wants this matter to be taken on faith, after all, surely He’s capable of covering His tracks.)

But to those who do not believe the Joseph Smith story, such speculation is an absurdly moot point—a point that is made derisively clear on the title page of a nineteenth-century edition of Mother Goose’s Melodies, which tauntingly quipped that many of the included rhymes were “recently found in the same stone box which hold the golden plates of the Book of Mormon. The whole compared, revised, and sanctioned, by one of the annotators of the Goose family.”[2] The intended jibe is not hard to discern: golden plates, like nursery rhymes, are products of imagination, not hillsides.

The dilemma created by this disjuncture between the worlds of belief and disbelief in the Book of Mormon’s claim to ancient provenance, as illustrated above, is precisely the quandary one faces when trying to situate the Book of Mormon in the wider academy as an object of literary study. It is a dilemma that was made all too clear recently to Mormon scholar and Professor of English Terryl Givens when he requested that a course on the Book of Mormon as literature be taught in his department at the University of Richmond, Virginia. “He can’t teach a course like that here!” his department chair told his secretary. Anticipating such a reaction, Givens was able to treat the situation humorously, but it nonetheless has significant implications. “In my department,” states Professor Givens, “we have had courses on the Mary Tyler Moore show. But the Book of Mormon is unthinkable?”[3]

Considering the tremendous impact the Book of Mormon has had on global society—giving rise to an international church that has been described as a new religious tradition—the academic world’s failure to take the Book of Mormon seriously can be somewhat perplexing to Latter-day Saints. But the hesitancy to situate the Book of Mormon in academic discourse as an object of literary criticism has not been unique to non-Mormon institutions. Attempts by Eugene England to create such a course in the English department at Brigham Young University also met with resistance, though presumably for very different reasons.

Eventually a course on the Book of Mormon as Sacred Literature was created at BYU, but not as a part of the English Department. It was created as a part of the Honors Program, which draws professors and subjects from a number of fields and departments. In this case, Charles Swift, a professor from the Religious Education Department with a degree in English Literature teaches the class (a great class by the way). He makes it clear, however, that the course is not associated with the Religious Education department. 

So what is the Book of Mormon’s place in the wider acadamy? And how do we situate the literary study of the Book of Mormon in Church-owned universities? Is the Book of Mormon as literature an appropriate approach to the subject? And if so, why has it been so difficult to find a place for it? (I have my own theories–outside the academy: pc sensitivities, Church/State issues, general disregard, etc; Church schools: skepticism of lit crit, non-trad approach, etc.–but I would like to throw this open and see what y’all think.) 


[1] Terryl Givens points out that in 1875 David Whitmer told a Chicago Times reporter that he had seen the stone “casket” at Cumorah three times before it was “washed down to the foot of the hill,”(People of Paradox [New York: Oxford, 2007], 60).

[2] Mother Goose’s Melodies (Boston: Munroe & Francis, ca. 1833-1837), title page.

[3] Givens recounted this incident on Times and Seasons, January 31, 2005, “12 Questions for Terryl Givens, by Jim F.” <http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=1914#more-1914&gt; accessed October 12, 2006.