The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text begins with a twenty-two-page introduction by Grant Hardy about the nature and coming forth of the Book of Mormon, together with an inviting call for the further study of that book within LDS, American, and world contexts; and also with a seventeen-page editor’s preface by Skousen, describing the nature of the Book of Mormon text and the goals and typographical conventions of this “Yale Edition.” The bulk of the book (1–738) consists of a presentation of the complete text of the Book of Mormon itself, a stemma showing the genealogy of the various published versions of the Book of Mormon (739–44), and a superb and most useful appendix setting forth in tabular form the 719 most significant textual (including 95 of the conjectural) differences between the Original and Printer’s manuscripts and also between the different printed editions (745–89).
In addition, it should be clear from Skousen’s meticulous work that the Book of Mormon not only can withstand the scrutiny of textual criticism but in fact deserves and rewards it. Skousen has given all readers many necessary tools with which to make judgments for themselves. Like everything else surrounding the gospel, one is expected to study the matter out in one’s mind (D&C 9:8) and come to conclusions by a combination of faith, inspiration, and intelligence. We might also conclude that the creation and transmission of the texts of all our scriptures have come to us through a union of human and divine processes, and that indeed the principle of continuing revelation applies to the study, analysis, and publication of canonized scripture as well as to any other parts of the true and living Church. But without the facts and other data before us, we would be unable to judge any of this very well. In giving us this information, we should thank Royal Skousen and all those who have supported the work of his career.