Article of the Week

The History of the Book of Mormon Text: Parts 5 and 6 of Volume 3 of the Critical Text
Monday, May 18, 2020

The History of the Book of Mormon Text: Parts 5 and 6 of Volume 3 of the Critical Text

The two most recent books in Royal Skousen’s Book of Mormon Critical Text Project are Part 5, The King James Quotations in the Book of Mormon, and Part 6, Spelling in the Manuscripts and Editions. The first half of this article discusses the quotations from the KJV in the Book of Mormon, defined as a sequence of at least 16 identical words. This criterion produces a total of 36 passages. Skousen also addresses paraphrastic quotations, which contain between 7 and 15 identical words; there are 83 of these. The second half of the article discusses the spelling proficiency of the scribes to whom Joseph Smith dictated the Book of Mormon text and who copied the original manuscript to produce the printer’s manuscript. Skousen lays to rest the mistaken notion that English spelling was not standardized in 1829. Although none of the scribes were very good spellers, Oliver Cowdery was better than all others except Martin Harris. But Harris was not a very careful scribe. Cowdery was by far the most careful of the scribes, and he did learn how to spell words through his proofreading of the typeset sheets. John Gilbert, the typesetter of the Book of Mormon, was very professional and corrected much of the spelling, as well as providing all the punctuation in the printed book. This article is based on Skousen’s lecture given on January 15, 2020, at Brigham Young University, available online.