The Maxwell Institute’s study edition of the Book of Mormon is both an update and an expansion of Grant Hardy’s The Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Edition, published in 2003 by the University of Illinois Press. Among the many differences between the two volumes, I find two most significant. First, the base text for the Maxwell Institute edition is the 2013 version of the Book of Mormon, used currently by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A Reader’s Edition used the 1920 version because it was the most recent edition available in the public domain. The Church obviously granted Hardy and the Maxwell Institute permission to use the text of its current official version for this study edition, which gives the volume a silent stamp of approval by the Church that A Reader’s Edition did not enjoy. Textually, this is significant only because of a few editorial changes that have occurred since 1920. For the vast majority of verses, however, the text is identical.
The second significant difference is Hardy’s inclusion of footnotes containing many simplified examples of textual variants presented in detail by Royal Skousen in Analysis of Textual Variants, volume 4 of his Book of Mormon Critical Text Project. Other footnotes offer a variety of explanations and brief commentary on the text. The footnotes, however, are not excessive, usually numbering fewer than five per page.
As with A Reader’s Edition, the Maxwell Institute’s study edition attempts to make the text more accessible by presenting it in paragraphs, with poetry set in verse form. Explanatory headers, running heads, and subheads help guide the reader through the twists and turns of the Book of Mormon narrative. The text itself appears in roman typeface, while study helps are in italics, and boldface type occasionally identifies intertextuality with the Bible or within the Book of Mormon itself. Art by Brian Kershisnik appears at the beginning of each book in this study edition. The contrast between Kershisnik’s style and Arnold Friberg’s, which most Latter-day Saints likely associate with the Book of Mormon, is stark but thought-provoking. Kershisnik’s choice of images is more subtle and contemplative, and all images are printed in black and white.
I was surprised to find two minor factual errors in the editor’s introduction to the volume. Let me mention one. Hardy explains that the original manuscript instead of the printer’s manuscript was used by the typesetter (for text from Helaman 13, verse 17, to the end of Mormon) because “Joseph and Oliver took the printer’s manuscript to Canada to procure the copyright there” (xv). But Joseph Smith did not go to Canada with Oliver Cowdery. In the revelation regarding this errand to Canada, Oliver’s traveling companions were to be Hiram Page, Josiah Stowell, and Joseph Knight. It is uncertain whether all three accompanied Oliver, but Joseph Smith definitely did not.1
This quibble aside, the Maxwell Institute Study Edition of the Book of Mormon is a valuable addition to the growing number of resources available to students of this volume of Latter-day Saint scripture.