Imagine my audacity in suggesting that Mormon, the writer, used a “word processor.” However, his equivalent of our modern-day word processor is the medium through which I maintain that I can identify his writing style much like we use fingerprints or DNA evidence to identify individuals in our society. As a university professor of business writing for thirty-five years, I observed early on that writers often exhibit unique characteristics in their writing that can be isolated and described for identification purposes.
Note my somewhat facetious but also very serious use of the word “whoops” in reflecting upon one aspect of Mormon’s writing as he used his “word processor” to create his abridgment. This minor but relevant aspect of the Book of Mormon offers intriguing evidence that the Book of Mormon is a real account about real people.
Please pardon my very personal language in this article. That’s the frame of mind I was in when I wrote the article initially, and every time I’ve reviewed the article, I’ve felt good about keeping the content in first person rather than changing to third person.
I have never doubted the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. I was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when I was eight years old in the old Delta Second Ward baptismal font in Delta, Utah; and I associate my initial, positive beliefs about the Book of Mormon to that time period of my life.
In the early years of my life following my baptism, I believed in the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon because of the testimonies of others. I of course had no reason at that time to doubt its truthfulness, and not until many years later did I understand the legitimacy of believing in the Book of Mormon based on the testimonies of others.1
I first read the Book of Mormon cover to cover at the age of thirteen when I purchased my own copy in the form of a triple combination. I have since read the Book of Mormon many times and have secured my own testimony of its truthfulness through the Spirit. Long ago, I reached the point where I could at any time open the book and read from its pages whenever I felt the need to experience intimately the comforting influence of the Spirit in my life. Today, I still marvel at how I am touched by the Spirit whenever I read from the Book of Mormon itself, reason my way through its passages, and apply its messages to me personally.
Frankly, not until I was nearly finished with my baccalaureate degree did I begin to notice what some readers think of as “style deficiencies” in the Book of Mormon. Style is that aspect of writing dealing with usage—specifically, elements of writing associated with reference of pronouns; tense, mood, and voice of verbs; modifiers; grammatical parallelism in its many forms; punctuation; and word choice. That was about the point in my life when I seriously tried to understand the English language. Even today, I fondly refer to Delta, Millard County, Utah, as “jackrabbit country”—home of the Delta High School rabbits and the place where I was born and where I learned, as a routine aspect of my environment, to speak and write such things as “We done good today, we was goin’ to go rabbit huntin’ but between you and I we was glad we didn’t.”
Upon completing my master’s degree in 1963, I began my tenure as a university professor. Every year of my university teaching since then, I have taught one or more courses of business writing. The conservative preciseness of English usage as reflected in the business world has caused me to look very acutely at English usage in the things my students and colleagues have written as well as in what I have written myself. And my role as a university professor of business writing has rather naturally over the years caused me to examine English usage in the Book of Mormon and to reason my way through usage issues that critics have thrown at me via one medium or another.
I am fond of making two statements: “I believe the Book of Mormon is a real account about real people who lived somewhere in the New World” and “I believe Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, as he claimed, by the gift and power of God.”
In associating those thoughts with what I know about good writing, I have naturally tried to understand the translation process that Joseph Smith experienced. As far as I know, I have read all the accounts about that process; and I think the best we can say about the process is that “Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God.” I see no truly rational reasons to try to sort through realities versus possible “Mormon myths” associated with the Urim and Thummim, seer stones, and so forth.
I do not know whether Moroni was referring to “English usage glitches” in the Book of Mormon when he said, “And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ” (Book of Mormon Title Page) or when he said, “And if there be faults they be the faults of a man. But behold, we know no fault; nevertheless God knoweth all things; therefore, he that condemneth, let him be aware lest he shall be in danger of hell fire” (Mormon 8:17).
However, for my own purposes, I apply his words to thoughts I have about English usage as I read the Book of Mormon. In fact, his words permeate my mind whenever I consciously notice a usage issue in the book. At such times, I also typically bring to mind and apply to the Book of Mormon translation process the words of the Lord in His preface to the Doctrine and Covenants: “Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding” (D&C 1:24; emphasis added).
That is, I believe one of the significant evidences of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon is associated with the issue of English usage—that the unlearned Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God and that readers should fully expect to see “Joseph Smithisms” in the translation. After all, I required almost thirty years of my life and two university degrees before I dealt adequately with “jackrabbit country talk” in my writing. I am very comfortable with this attitude because I think I understand the translation process well enough to know that neither did an angel whisper every correctly translated word in Joseph’s ear as he dictated the words nor did Joseph rely exclusively on the interpreters to tell him precisely every word he should use. But he did translate the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God.
Usage Changes in the Book of Mormon
Critics of the Book of Mormon are notorious for attacking it from a usage standpoint by ridiculing the changes made in it at one point or another between the 1830 and the 1981 editions. Jeff Lindsay succinctly describes the situation by saying, “A popular charge of anti-Mormons is that the Church is guilty of fraud because of changes in the Book of Mormon, or that the Book of Mormon can’t be true and divine because corrections have been made. . . . Critics of the Church have charged that the Book of Mormon is a fraud because thousands of changes have been made in it over the years, as if the Church were trying to cover up blunders in Joseph Smith’s work.”2
Those specific changes will not be dealt with in this article, although they are directly related to this article’s purpose.3 I confess that I have occasionally felt the urge to “clean up” even further some of the punctuation and grammar in the Book of Mormon to reflect current usage, but that thought is merely a fleeting urge because I immediately think of Moroni’s and the Lord’s counsel to me about possible mistakes in the book.
Unique Word-Choice Usage in the Book of Mormon
For readers of the Book of Mormon, the “transitional bridge” between the small plates of Nephi and the plates of Mormon is Words of Mormon, a short, seventeen-verse “book” written by Mormon as he was about to deliver up the record he had been making into the hands of his son Moroni. Actually, we might say that, for us, the “words of Mormon” begin with this “transitional bridge” and end with Mormon 7 after 338 pages of his personal words and his words of abridgment. We lost another 116 pages of his words when Martin Harris lost the manuscript for which he was the scribe.
On several occasions in the Book of Mormon as we have it, Mormon gives us a feeling of what might have been his frustration at not being able to leave more of his words with us. As he wrote the content for the transitional bridge between what we have as a translation of the small plates of Nephi and Mormon’s words from the plates of Mormon, he said, “I cannot write the hundredth part of the things of my people” (Words of Mormon 1:5). That he perhaps felt frustrated at not being able to leave us more of his words is expressed by him when he said, “But behold, a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, yea, the account of the Lamanites and of the Nephites, and their wars, and contentions, and dissensions, and their preaching, and their prophecies, and their shipping and their building of ships, and their building of temples, and of synagogues and their sanctuaries, and their righteousness, and their wickedness, and their murders, and their robbings, and their plundering, and all manner of abominations and whoredoms, cannot be contained in this work” (Helaman 3:14).
The expression “hundredth part” seems to have been one of Mormon’s acutely descriptive statements in trying to communicate his feelings to us as readers of his words. The final episode in which he shares with us his frustration at being limited in his words is associated with the visit of Jesus the Messiah to the New World. As Mormon was abridging the large plates of Nephi and recording the events in connection with Jesus’s visit, Mormon wanted to include many more words in his abridgment—but he was commanded not to do so:
And now there cannot be written in this book even a hundredth part of the things which Jesus did truly teach unto the people; But behold the plates of Nephi do contain the more part of the things which he taught the people. And these things have I written, which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people; and I have written them to the intent that they may be brought again unto this people, from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken. And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them. And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation. Behold, I was about to write them, all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbade it, saying: I will try the faith of my people. Therefore I, Mormon, do write the things which have been commanded me of the Lord. And now I, Mormon, make an end of my sayings, and proceed to write the things which have been commanded me. (3 Nephi 26:6–12)
Millions of readers of the words of Mormon have experienced the influence of the Spirit as they have read Mormon’s words and have testified of the truthfulness of his words as a result of their reading and associated experiences. Such readers do not commonly pause to think of the words of Mormon as parts of speech—as nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, and prepositions. I feel that Book of Mormon readers’ testimonies of the book can be enhanced significantly if readers will look at the words of Mormon by examining his words in connection with their use as nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, and prepositions.
In looking at the words of Mormon as isolated, parts-of-speech words, I naturally find myself associating the words with two people: Mormon and Joseph Smith. Joseph had the task of translating Mormon’s words into the English language of the 1830s. In the process, the demarcation is sometimes blurred between what are words of Mormon and what are words of Joseph Smith. I think the blurring comes because I view the process of translation as an eclectic one that involved several procedures working together and separately. For me, the summum bonum statement about the translation, as I’ve indicated earlier, is Joseph’s statement that he translated the Book of Mormon “by the gift and power of God.” I accept his statement on faith and will wait until the next life to get answers to further questions that might arise about the process of translation.
But I certainly see words I ascribe to Joseph Smith as isolated words representing his translation of the words of writers of the Book of Mormon. For example, the word adieu was evidently a common word among members of the Smith family; so this French word found in the Book of Mormon should not surprise any reader who has truly thought through the translation process (see Jacob 7:27).4 While I was on my mission in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1957, Protestant ministers frequently challenged me with this one word as “undeniable evidence” of a critical mistake in the Book of Mormon because this uniquely French word would not have been in Mormon’s vocabulary.
An interesting aspect of my professional career in education has been my varied experiences in working with words as words—and especially as parts of speech. Perhaps that’s why I am intrigued with the process of isolating words of the Book of Mormon and looking at them from the perspective of nineteenth-century America at the time Joseph Smith translated and published the Book of Mormon. In that respect, I always keep a copy of the 1828 edition of Noah Webster’s dictionary5 nearby when I read the Book of Mormon because Noah Webster’s first-edition dictionary so closely parallels the time of origin of the Book of Mormon.
Readers of the Book of Mormon could spend many hours of profitable study time pondering usage considerations dealing with style, or “how it is said,” in connection with words in the Book of Mormon and their 1828 dictionary definitions. For example, my intimate understanding of 1 Nephi has been greatly enlarged when I have applied such study procedures to the words language, murmur, fountain, condescension, dwindle, silk, remnant, faculty, curious, wilderness, sojourn, toiled, straiten, confounded, durst, loading, rudeness, soberness, trample, and liken.
As an element of usage—an aspect of “how it is said”—no one has yet undertaken a definitive study of the words of the Book of Mormon as these words were understood in 1830 when the Book of Mormon was first published.6 Yes, many words have the same or similar dictionary definitions today as they did in 1830. However, great insights can be gained by anyone who studies the words of the Book of Mormon as isolated words in connection with their meanings in 1830. Here, then, is an element of style that some day may be fruitful in helping testify further to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.
A Word-Choice Example in the Book of Mormon
Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines the adverb rather as follows: “In preference; preferably; with better reason. More properly; more correctly speaking.” The word rather is used thirty-two times in the Book of Mormon. Several of these uses reflect Webster’s definition of rather as a word that means “more correctly speaking.” I now invite you to look through my eyes and then through your own as we examine the phrase or rather in the Book of Mormon while keeping in mind Webster’s definition of rather.
The following twelve sequential passages were written by Mormon during the abridgment process. For access purposes, I have italicized the or rather constructions and have numbered the passages:
1. And it came to pass when they had been in prison two days they were again brought before the king, and their bands were loosed; and they stood before the king, and were permitted, or rather commanded, that they should answer the questions which he should ask them. (Mosiah 7:8)
2. But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known. (Mosiah 8:17)
3. And it came to pass that they took him; and his name was Nehor; and they carried him upon the top of the hill Manti, and there he was caused, or rather did acknowledge, between the heavens and the earth, that what he had taught to the people was contrary to the word of God; and there he suffered an ignominious death. (Alma 1:15)
4. And thus he cleared the ground, or rather the bank, which was on the west of the river Sidon, throwing the bodies of the Lamanites who had been slain into the waters of Sidon, that thereby his people might have room to cross and content with the Lamanites and the Amlicites on the west side of the river Sidon. (Alma 2:34)
5. Now Ammon being the chief among them, or rather he did administer unto them, and he departed from them, after having blessed them according to their several stations, having imparted the word of God unto them, or administered unto them before his departure; and thus they took their several journeys throughout the land. (Alma 17:18)
6. Now if a man desired to serve God, it was his privilege; or rather, if he believed in God it was his privilege to serve him; but if he did not believe in him there was no law to punish him. (Alma 30:9)
7. Therefore, blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without stubbornness of heart, yea, without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know, before they will believe. (Alma 32:16)
8. Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror. (Alma 36:14)
9. And now, my son, this was the ministry unto which ye were called, to declare these glad tidings unto this people, to prepare their minds; or rather that salvation might come unto them, that they may prepare the minds of their children to hear the word at the time of his coming. (Alma 39:16)
10. Now behold, the people who were in the land Bountiful, or rather Moroni, feared that they would hearken to the words of Morianton and unite with his people, and thus he would obtain possession of those parts of the land, which would lay a foundation for serious consequences among the people of Nephi, yea, which consequences would lead to the overthrow of their liberty. (Alma 50:32)
11. And now behold, I have somewhat to say concerning the people of Ammon, who, in the beginning, were Lamanites; but by Ammon and his brethren, or rather by the power and word of God, they had been converted unto the Lord; and they had been brought down into the land of Zarahemla, and had ever since been protected by the Nephites. (Alma 53:10)
12. Behold, Ammoron, I have written unto you somewhat concerning this war which ye have waged against my people, or rather which thy brother hath waged against them, and which ye are still determined to carry on after his death. (Alma 54:5)
The Process of Correcting Mistakes in Written Presentations
From my perspective, those twelve or rather passages are examples of “mistakes” Mormon made during the abridgment process. In reflecting on the above passages, let us think about ourselves sitting at our twenty-first-century word processors at the precise moment we make a mistake in word choice. Our natural inclination might be to say, “Whoops, that’s wrong and needs to be corrected.” Or, in the words of Noah Webster, we might say, “Whoops, more correctly speaking, that should be . . . .”
Facetiously, but also seriously, let us now contrast our thoughts at the moment we make a word-choice mistake with the potential thoughts of Mormon at the moment he made each of the above word-choice mistakes reflected by the or rather wording. In today’s jargon, Mormon very likely might have said, “Whoops, that’s wrong. Rather, it should be . . . .”
Mormon, of course, did not have a twenty-first-century word processor to use in deleting a mistake and inserting the correction. His “word processor” involved an engraving process. As best I can tell, if Mormon engraved an incorrect character on a metal plate, he had no way of deleting that character and inserting the correct one. His potential problem of correcting mistakes was compounded because he engraved on both sides of the metal plates. Therefore, to correct a mistake, he merely made the correction in the narrative by saying “or rather.”
I am amazed at how many times I can read a verse of scripture without recognizing both the primary implications as well as the hidden implications of the scripture. That’s what happened to me over and over through many years of my lifetime as I read the above twelve verses containing the phrase or rather. At no time through my first three decades of reading the Book of Mormon did the fact dawn on me that Mormon was using his “word processor” to correct a mistake he obviously had made in his abridging work.
I finally recognized what Mormon was doing when I was traveling on a tour bus in Mexico to visit proposed lands of the Book of Mormon. To pass the time, I was silently reading the Book of Mormon in connection with some of the things we had seen and talked about under the tutelage of our tour director, Dr. Joseph L. Allen. I was reading Alma 24 when I, for the first time, truly noticed the words in the following verse: “And thus we see that, when these Lamanites were brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm, and would suffer even unto death rather than commit sin; and thus we see that they buried their weapons of peace, or they buried the weapons of war, for peace” (Alma 24:19).
I moved to the seat next to Dr. Allen to ask him about the verse. The conversation went something like the following:
“Joe, this is a strange verse. What’s going on here?”
Dr. Allen read the verse and said, “That’s a whoops.”
“A what?” I asked.
“That’s a whoops. Mormon was abridging the large plates and writing his abridgment on his own plates. While engraving, he made a mistake. There’s no such thing as ‘weapons of peace.’ And when he recognized his mistake, he couldn’t erase it but merely corrected it for his readers. Notice how he changed his ‘weapons of peace’ to ‘weapons of war.’ When he engraved the symbols for ‘weapons of peace’ and then recognized his mistake, I’ll bet he said the equivalent of ‘Whoops!’ and then corrected his mistake. Don’t you ever make whoopses in your writing?”
His comments and question initially startled me. I firmly believed the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. Although I realized, from my perspective of a university professor of business writing, that the English usage of the Book of Mormon left something to be desired at times, I had never seriously faced the real possibility that the Book of Mormon might contain mistakes such as what I had just read in Alma 24:19. I asked Dr. Allen, “Is that a mistake of the kind Moroni alluded to on the title page—‘if there are faults they are the mistakes of men’?”
“I doubt it,” Dr. Allen responded. “But it’s certainly a mistake. You teach business writing. What do you think is going on here?”
“I’m not sure,” I said. “But I can see that either Mormon made the mistake while engraving on his plates or Joseph Smith made the mistake in translating and Oliver Cowdery faithfully recorded the dictated mistake. And there it is in the Book of Mormon. Are there other whoopses in the Book of Mormon?”
“I’ve noticed a few,” Dr. Allen replied. “Why don’t you read it once through looking for whoopses. That should be an interesting project for a professor of business writing.”
His suggestion intrigued me, and I resolved to do as he suggested—read the entire Book of Mormon for the primary purpose of trying to find any other “whoopses.”
I still chuckle to myself as I think of Dr. Allen’s use of the word whoops to describe the process of Mormon’s recognition that he had made a mistake. Shortly after arriving home from the tour, I made plans to read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover with the primary intent of locating any additional “whoopses” beyond the one in Alma 24:19.
As I was getting ready to read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover to locate “whoopses,” I quickly realized that the or rather constructions are obvious examples of “whoopses.” As I looked at each or rather construction, I asked myself, “Who’s responsible for this mistake—Mormon or Joseph Smith?”
I then set out to read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover to analyze it in light of this minor but interesting dimension of writing—an element of style in connection with English usage. From the viewpoint of my teaching, I define style as “How a writer expresses himself or herself.” On the basis of Alma 24:19 and the or rather verses, I realized that either Mormon or Joseph Smith had made minor mistakes in the way he expressed himself. I had three primary objectives in mind as I read the Book of Mormon looking for additional “whoopses”:
1. How many “whoopses” does the Book of Mormon contain?
2. Where are the “whoopses” located in the Book of Mormon?
3. Who is responsible for making the “whoopses”—the Book of Mormon writer or Joseph Smith the translator?
My Initial Experience with Word Processors
The thought never occurred to me that I should consider the Book of Mormon to be less than perfect because of the mistakes called “whoopses” by Dr. Allen. As a professor of business writing, I clearly recognized what was happening if the mistakes were made by writers in the Book of Mormon. I started my project of identifying Book of Mormon “whoopses” just as personal computers and word-processing software were coming into vogue. By then, the process of making a mistake and of correcting it reflected a whole new era beyond the era of the typewriter. As part of my professional career at that time, I found myself on the lecture scene making dozens of presentations to high-school business teachers throughout the nation. In these presentations, I downplayed the necessity of typing for extreme accuracy because mistakes were so easy to correct with the new word-processing equipment and software.
At that point in time, until business teachers had actually used word processors themselves, they had a difficult time accepting my counsel about the new thinking related to speed versus accuracy in word-processing keyboarding. Accuracy, although important, was not nearly as critical a factor in word-processing keyboarding as it had been for years and years on a typewriter. The difference came because mistakes could be corrected so easily on a word processor versus the difficulties in correcting mistakes on typewriters—even typewriters with correcting ribbons.
The word processor changed the nature of “typewriting.” Because mistakes were so difficult to correct on typewriters, business teachers often emphasized accuracy rather than speed. Because mistakes can be corrected so easily on a word processor, speed, more so than accuracy, can be stressed.
As everyone knows, the process of correcting mistakes on today’s word processors is simple. The person sitting at the keyboard merely notices or finds the mistake, moves the cursor to the position for correcting the mistake, deletes the mistake, and types the correct letter or word. Or the keyboarder uses the software’s speller to find the mistake and then directs the software to correct it. Even more simplistically, the keyboarder can invoke the automatic-correction feature and let the software correct any typographical errors. We indeed live in a marvelous age—one that will be even more marvelous when word-recognition software finally is perfected so we can dictate words and have them automatically appear on the screen.
The Nature of the Abridgment Process
Let’s seriously contrast our word processors of today with Mormon’s “word processor.” Imagine him reading through the material on the large plates while trying to decide what content he should transfer from the large plates to his plates. As best I can determine, he reviewed a year’s worth of records at a time and decided how much of that year’s accounts he should abridge and include on his plates. When he decided upon the material to include on his plates, he then used an engraving tool to write the symbols for the words he wanted to use. Mostly, he paraphrased the material from the large plates—he put the material in his own words. At times, he quoted the material word for word. The process was undoubtedly slow and laborious.
Picture Mormon going through the process of selecting material and engraving the accounts on his plates. He undoubtedly worked on his abridgment over a long period of time. He had to carry on his other daily duties in addition to his selecting of the right material and transferring it to his plates. I can picture him engraving Alma 24:19 or any of the or rather verses while he was also thinking about next week’s battle against the Lamanites. Suddenly, his mind wandered; and before he realized what he was doing, he had engraved the symbols for “weapons of peace” rather than “weapons of war.”
He can’t locate the mistake, delete it, and type the right word. And he doesn’t have a speller or grammar checker to help him correct the mistake. He probably can’t even erase the mistake because it is now engraved on the golden plate. But he must correct it. How does he do that? He simply corrects himself in the narrative by engraving the symbols for “or they buried the weapons of war, for peace.”7
At this point in the process of my identifying potential “whoopses” in the Book of Mormon, I had identified Alma 24:19 and the verses with or rather as potential “whoopses.” I was ready to read the entire Book of Mormon while looking for other instances where the Book of Mormon writers relied on their “word processors” to correct additional mistakes made during the writing process.
As I began reading, I once again said to myself, “Who made these mistakes—the Book of Mormon writers or Joseph Smith the translator?” As you will see, an understanding of the implications of that question’s answer gives us verifiable, singular evidence that the Book of Mormon is indeed a real account about real people—that it was translated by Joseph Smith through the gift and power of God.
Potential “Whoopses” in the Book of Mormon
In my reading, I identified the following instances that either might be “whoopses” or that clearly are “whoopses” of the kind found in Alma 24:19 or in the or rather verses. I have italicized the corrections suggested by either the Book of Mormon writer or by Joseph Smith—because indeed one or the other made the mistake in each instance. Many of these verses are cited in anti–Book of Mormon literature to support the contention that the Book of Mormon is false. For the sake of completeness, I have included the twelve or rather passages as well as Alma 24:19 in the list. For access purposes, I have numbered the instances in the order they sequentially appear in the Book of Mormon:
1. 1 Nephi 19:4—Wherefore, I, Nephi, did make a record upon the other plates, which gives an account, or which gives a greater account of the wars and contentions and destructions of my people. And this have I done, and commanded my people what they should do after I was gone; and that these plates should be handed down from one generation to another, or from one prophet to another, until further commandments of the Lord.
2. 1 Nephi 20:1—Hearken and hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, or out of the waters of baptism, who swear by the name of the Lord, and make mention of the God of Israel, yet they swear not in truth nor in righteousness.
3. 2 Nephi 5:12—And I, Nephi, had also brought the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass; and also the ball, or compass, which was prepared for my father by the hand of the Lord, according to that which is written.
4. 2 Nephi 27:1—But, behold, in the last days, or in the days of the Gentiles—yea, behold all the nations of the Gentiles and also the Jews, both those who shall come upon this land and those who shall be upon other lands, yea, even upon all the lands of the earth, behold, they will be drunken with iniquity and all manner of abominations—
5. Mosiah 1:10—Therefore, he had Mosiah brought before him; and these are the words which he spake unto him, saying: My son, I would that ye should make a proclamation throughout all this land among all this people, or the people of Zarahemla, and the people of Mosiah who dwell in the land, that thereby they may be gathered together; for on the morrow I shall proclaim unto this my people out of mine own mouth that thou art a king and a ruler over this people, whom the Lord our God hath given us.
6. Mosiah 2:31—And now, my brethren, I would that ye should do as ye have hitherto done. As ye have kept my commandments, and also the commandments of my father, and have prospered, and have been kept from falling into the hands of your enemies, even so if ye shall keep the commandments of my son, or the commandments of God which shall be delivered unto you by him, ye shall prosper in the land, and your enemies shall have no power over you.
7. Mosiah 5:2—And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.
8. Mosiah 7:1—And now, it came to pass that after king Mosiah had had continual peace for the space of three years, he was desirous to know concerning the people who went up to dwell in the land of Lehi-Nephi, or in the city of Lehi-Nephi; for his people had heard nothing from them from the time they left the land of Zarahemla; therefore, they wearied him with their teasings.
9. Mosiah 7:8—And it came to pass when they had been in prison two days they were again brought before the king, and their bands were loosed; and they stood before the king, and were permitted, or rather commanded, that they should answer the questions which he should ask them.
10. Mosiah 7:15—For behold, we are in bondage to the Lamanites, and are taxed with a tax which is grievous to be borne. And now, behold, our brethren will deliver us out of our bondage, or out of the hands of the Lamanites, and we will be their slaves; for it is better that we be slaves to the Nephites than to pay tribute to the king of the Lamanites.
11. Mosiah 7:18—And it came to pass that when they had gathered themselves together that he spake unto them in this wise, saying: O ye, my people, lift up your heads and be comforted; for behold, the time is at hand, or is not far distant, when we shall no longer be in subjection to our enemies, notwithstanding our many strugglings, which have been in vain; yet I trust there remaineth an effectual struggle to be made.
12. Mosiah 7:22—And all this he did, for the sole purpose of bringing this people into subjection or into bondage. And behold, we at this time do pay tribute to the king of the Lamanites, to the amount of one half of our corn, and our barley, and even all our grain of every kind, and one half of the increase of our flocks and our herds; and even one half of all we have or possess the king of the Lamanites doth exact of us, or our lives.
13. Mosiah 8:17—But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known.
14. Mosiah 9:1—I, Zeniff, having been taught in all the language of the Nephites, and having had a knowledge of the land of Nephi, or of the land of our fathers’ first inheritance, and having been sent as a spy among the Lamanites that I might spy out their forces, that our army might come upon them and destroy them—but when I saw that which was good among them I was desirous that they should not be destroyed.
15. Mosiah 11:18—And it came to pass that king Noah sent his armies against them, and they were driven back, or they drove them back for a time; therefore, they returned rejoicing in their spoil.
16. Mosiah 18:17—And they were called the church of God, or the church of Christ, from that time forward. And it came to pass that whosoever was baptized by the power and authority of God was added to his church.
17. Mosiah 22:6—Behold the back pass, through the back wall, on the back side of the city. The Lamanites, or the guards of the Lamanites, by night are drunken; therefore let us send a proclamation among all this people that they gather together their flocks and herds, that they may drive them into the wilderness by night.
18. Mosiah 25:2—Now there were not so many of the children of Nephi, or so many of those who were descendants of Nephi, as there were of the people of Zarahemla, who was a descendant of Mulek, and those who came with him into the wilderness.
19. Mosiah 25:23—And now there were seven churches in the land of Zarahemla. And it came to pass that whosoever were desirous to take upon them the name of Christ, or of God, they did join the churches of God;
20. Mosiah 26:39—And they did admonish their brethren; and they were also admonished, every one by the word of God, according to his sins, or to the sins which he had committed, being commanded of God to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all things.
21. Mosiah 29:41—And it came to pass that they did appoint judges to rule over them, or to judge them according to the law; and this they did throughout all the land.
22. Alma 1:15—And it came to pass that they took him; and his name was Nehor; and they carried him upon the top of the hill Manti, and there he was caused, or rather did acknowledge, between the heavens and the earth, that what he had taught to the people was contrary to the word of God; and there he suffered an ignominious death.
23. Alma 2:34—And thus he cleared the ground, or rather the bank, which was on the west of the river Sidon, throwing the bodies of the Lamanites who had been slain into the waters of Sidon, that thereby his people might have room to cross and contend with the Lamanites and the Amlicites on the west side of the river Sidon.
24. Alma 4:19—And this he did that he himself might go forth among his people, or among the people of Nephi, that he might preach the word of God unto them, to stir them up in remembrance of their duty, and that he might pull down, by the word of God, all the pride and craftiness and all the contentions which were among his people, seeing no way that he might reclaim them save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them.
25. Alma 6:3—And it also came to pass that whosoever did belong to the church that did not repent of their wickedness and humble themselves before God—I mean those who were lifted up in the pride of their hearts—the same were rejected, and their names were blotted out, that their names were not numbered among those of the righteous.
26. Alma 9:1—And again, I, Alma, having been commanded of God that I should take Amulek and go forth and preach again unto this people, or the people who were in the city of Ammonihah, it came to pass as I began to preach unto them, they began to contend with me, saying:
27. Alma 10:14—Now it was those men who sought to destroy them, who were lawyers, who were hired or appointed by the people to administer the law at their times of trials, or at the trials of the crimes of the people before the judges.
28. Alma 10:16—And it came to pass that they began to question Amulek, that thereby they might make him cross his words, or contradict the words which he should speak.
29. Alma 11:1—Now it was in the law of Mosiah that every man who was a judge of the law, or those who were appointed to be judges, should receive wages according to the time which they labored to judge those who were brought before them to be judged.
30. Alma 11:46—Now, when Amulek had finished these words the people began again to be astonished, and also Zeezrom began to tremble. And thus ended the words of Amulek, or this is all that I have written.
31. Alma 12:1—Now Alma, seeing that the words of Amulek had silenced Zeezrom, for he beheld that Amulek had caught him in his lying and deceiving to destroy him, and seeing that he began to tremble under a consciousness of his guilt, he opened his mouth and began to speak unto him, and to establish the words of Amulek, and to explain things beyond, or to unfold the scriptures beyond that which Amulek had done.
32. Alma 12:31—Wherefore, he gave commandments unto men, they having first transgressed the first commandments as to things which were temporal, and becoming as Gods, knowing good from evil, placing themselves in a state to act, or being placed in a state to act according to their wills and pleasures, whether to do evil or to do good—
33. Alma 13:10—Now, as I said concerning the holy order, or this high priesthood, there were many who were ordained and became high priests of God; and it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choosing to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish;
34. Alma 13:16—Now these ordinances were given after this manner, that thereby the people might look forward on the Son of God, it being a type of his order, or it being his order, and this that they might look forward to him for a remission of their sins, that they might enter into the rest of the Lord.
35. Alma 14:11—But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.
36. Alma 16:5—Therefore, he that had been appointed chief captain over the armies of the Nephites, (and his name was Zoram, and he had two sons, Lehi and Aha)—now Zoram and his two sons, knowing that Alma was high priest over the church, and having heard that he had the spirit of prophecy, therefore they went unto him and desired of him to know whither the Lord would that they should go into the wilderness in search of their brethren, who had been taken captive by the Lamanites.
37. Alma 16:16—And there was no inequality among them; the Lord did pour out his Spirit on all the face of the land to prepare the minds of the children of men, or to prepare their hearts to receive the word which should be taught among them at the time of his coming—
38. Alma 17:14—And assuredly it was great, for they had undertaken to preach the word of God to a wild and a hardened and a ferocious people; a people who delighted in murdering the Nephites, and robbing and plundering them; and their hearts were set upon riches, or upon gold and silver, and precious stones; yet they sought to obtain these things by murdering and plundering, that they might not labor for them with their own hands.
39. Alma 17:18—Now Ammon being the chief among them, or rather he did administer unto them, and he departed from them, after having blessed them according to their several stations, having imparted the word of God unto them, or administered unto them before his departure; and thus they took their several journeys throughout the land.
40. Alma 17:22—And the king inquired of Ammon if it were his desire to dwell in the land among the Lamanites, or among his people.
41. Alma 17:29—Now they wept because of the fear of being slain. Now when Ammon saw this his heart was swollen within him with joy; for, said he, I will show forth my power unto these my fellow-servants, or the power which is in me, in restoring these flocks unto the king, that I may win the hearts of these my fellow-servants, that I may lead them to believe in my words.
42. Alma 18:37—And he also rehearsed unto them (for it was unto the king and to his servants) all the journeyings of their fathers in the wilderness, and all their sufferings with hunger and thirst, and their travail, and so forth.
43. Alma 19:14—Now Ammon seeing the Spirit of the Lord poured out according to his prayers upon the Lamanites, his brethren, who had been the cause of so much mourning among the Nephites, or among all the people of God because of their iniquities and their traditions, he fell upon his knees, and began to pour out his soul in prayer and thanksgiving to God for what he had done for his brethren; and he was also overpowered with joy; and thus they all three had sunk to the earth.
44. Alma 19:19—And now the people began to murmur among themselves; some saying that it was a great evil that had come upon them, or upon the king and his house, because he had suffered that the Nephite should remain in the land.
45. Alma 21:20—But he caused that there should be synagogues built in the land of Ishmael; and he caused that his people, or the people who were under his reign, should assemble themselves together.
46. Alma 22:19—And it came to pass that his servants ran and told the queen all that had happened unto the king. And she came in unto the king; and when she saw him lay as if he were dead, and also Aaron and his brethren standing as though they had been the cause of his fall, she was angry with them, and commanded that her servants, or the servants of the king, should take them and slay them.
47. Alma 23:6—And as sure as the Lord liveth, so sure as many as believed, or as many as were brought to the knowledge of the truth, through the preaching of Ammon and his brethren, according to the spirit of revelation and of prophecy, and the power of God working miracles in them—yea, I say unto you, as the Lord liveth, as many of the Lamanites as believed in their preaching, and were converted unto the Lord, never did fall away.
48. Alma 24:15—Oh, how merciful is our God! And now behold, since it has been as much as we could do to get our stains taken away from us, and our swords are made bright, let us hide them away that they may be kept bright, as a testimony to our God at the last day, at the day that we shall be brought to stand before him to be judged, that we have not stained our swords in the blood of our brethren since he imparted his word unto us and has made us clean thereby.
49. Alma 24:19—And thus we see that, when these Lamanites were brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm, and would suffer even unto death rather than commit sin; and thus we see that they buried their weapons of peace, or they buried the weapons of war, for peace.
50. Alma 30:9—Now if a man desired to serve God, it was his privilege; or rather, if he believed in God it was his privilege to serve him; but if he did not believe in him there was no law to punish him.
51. Alma 32:16—Therefore, blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without stubbornness of heart, yea, without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know, before they will believe.
52. Alma 34:13—Therefore, it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; and then shall there be, or it is expedient there should be, a stop to the shedding of blood; then shall the law of Moses be fulfilled; yea, it shall be all fulfilled, every jot and tittle, and none shall have passed away.
53. Alma 35:15—Now Alma, being grieved for the iniquity of his people, yea for the wars, and the bloodsheds, and the contentions which were among them; and having been to declare the word, or sent to declare the word, among all the people in every city; and seeing that the hearts of the people began to wax hard, and that they began to be offended because of the strictness of the word, his heart was exceedingly sorrowful.
54. Alma 36:14—Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror.
55. Alma 37:21—And now, I will speak unto you concerning those twenty-four plates, that ye keep them, that the mysteries and the works of darkness, and their secret works, or the secret works of those people who have been destroyed, may be made manifest unto this people; yea, all their murders, and robbings, and their plunderings, and all their wickedness and abominations, may be made manifest unto this people; yea, and that ye preserve these interpreters.
56. Alma 39:16—And now, my son, this was the ministry unto which ye were called, to declare these glad tidings unto this people to prepare their minds; or rather that salvation might come unto them, that they may prepare the minds of their children to hear the word at the time of his coming.
57. Alma 43:16—Now, the leader of the Nephites, or the man who had been appointed to be the chief captain over the Nephites—now the chief captain took the command of all the armies of the Nephites—and his name was Moroni;
58. Alma 43:19—And when the armies of the Lamanites saw that the people of Nephi, or that Moroni, had prepared his people with breastplates and with arm-shields, yea, and also shields to defend their heads, and also they were dressed with thick clothing—
59. Alma 43:38—While on the other hand, there was now and then a man fell among the Nephites, by their swords and the loss of blood, they being shielded from the more vital parts of the body, or the more vital parts of the body being shielded from the strokes of the Lamanites, by their breastplates, and their arm-shields, and their head-plates; and thus the Nephites did carry on the work of death among the Lamanites.
60. Alma 43:44—And they were inspired by the Zoramites and the Amalekites, who were their chief captains and leaders, and by Zerahemnah, who was their chief captain, or their chief leader and commander; yea, they did fight like dragons, and many of the Nephites were slain by their hands, yea, for they did smite in two many of their head-plates, and they did pierce many of their breastplates, and they did smite off many of their arms; and thus the Lamanites did smite in their fierce anger.
61. Alma 44:23—And the armies of the Nephites, or of Moroni, returned and came to their houses and their lands.
62. Alma 45:13—And when that great day cometh, behold, the time very soon cometh that those who are now, or the seed of those who are now numbered among the people of Nephi, shall no more be numbered among the people of Nephi.
63. Alma 46:21—And it came to pass that when Moroni had proclaimed these words, behold, the people came running together with their armor girded about their loins, rending their garments in token, or as a covenant, that they would not forsake the Lord their God; or, in other words, if they should transgress the commandments of God, or fall into transgression, and be ashamed to take upon them the name of Christ, the Lord should rend them even as they had rent their garments.
64. Alma 47:2—And it came to pass that when the proclamation had gone forth among them they were exceedingly afraid; yea, they feared to displease the king, and they also feared to go to battle against the Nephites lest they should lose their lives. And it came to pass that they would not, or the more part of them would not, obey the commandments of the king.
65. Alma 48:15—And this was their faith, that by so doing God would prosper them in the land, or in other words, if they were faithful in keeping the commandments of God that he would prosper them in the land; yea, warn them to flee, or to prepare for war, according to their danger;
66. Alma 49:3—Behold, I said that the city of Ammonihah had been rebuilt. I say unto you, yea, that it was in part rebuilt; and because the Lamanites had destroyed it once because of the iniquity of the people, they supposed that it would again become an easy prey for them.
67. Alma 49:9—And it came to pass that the Lamanites, or the Amalickiahites, were exceedingly astonished at their manner of preparation for war.
68. Alma 49:13—For they knew not that Moroni had fortified, or had built forts of security, for every city in all the land round about; therefore, they marched forward to the land of Noah with a firm determination; yea, their chief captains came forward and took an oath that they would destroy the people of that city.
69. Alma 50:14—And they also began a foundation for a city between the city of Moroni and the city of Aaron, joining the borders of Aaron and Moroni; and they called the name of the city, or the land, Nephihah.
70. Alma 50:32—Now behold, the people who were in the land Bountiful, or rather Moroni, feared that they would hearken to the words of Morianton and unite with his people, and thus he would obtain possession of those parts of the land, which would lay a foundation for serious consequences among the people of Nephi, yea, which consequences would lead to the overthrow of their liberty.
71. Alma 51:6—And those who were desirous that Pahoran should remain chief judge over the land took upon them the name of freemen; and thus was the division among them, for the freemen had sworn or covenanted to maintain their rights and the privileges of their religion by a free government.
72. Alma 53:3—And it came to pass that after the Lamanites had finished burying their dead and also the dead of the Nephites, they were marched back into the land Bountiful; and Teancum, by the orders of Moroni, caused that they should commence laboring in digging a ditch round about the land, or the city, Bountiful.
73. Alma 53:10—And now behold, I have somewhat to say concerning the people of Ammon, who in the beginning, were Lamanites; but by Ammon and his brethren, or rather by the power and word of God, they had been converted unto the Lord; and they had been brought down into the land of Zarahemla, and had ever since been protected by the Nephites.
74. Alma 54:3—Now the Lamanites had taken many women and children, and there was not a woman nor a child among all the prisoners of Moroni, or the prisoners whom Moroni had taken; therefore Moroni resolved upon a stratagem to obtain as many prisoners of the Nephites from the Lamanites as it were possible.
75. Alma 54:5—Behold, Ammoron, I have written unto you somewhat concerning this war which ye have waged against my people, or rather which thy brother hath waged against them, and which ye are still determined to carry on after his death.
76. Alma 54:6—Behold, I would tell you somewhat concerning the justice of God, and the sword of his almighty wrath, which doth hang over you except ye repent and withdraw your armies into your own lands, or the land of your possessions, which is the land of Nephi.
77. Alma 56:13–14—And now these are the cities of which the Lamanites have obtained possession by the shedding of the blood of so many of our valiant men: The land of Manti, or the city of Manti, and the city of Zeezrom, and the city of Cumeni, and the city of Antiparah.
78. Alma 57:8—And now behold, I will show unto you that we soon accomplished our desire; yea, with our strong force, or with a part of our strong force, we did surround, by night, the city Cumeni, a little before they were to receive a supply of provisions.
79. Alma 58:9—And now the cause of these our embarrassments, or the cause why they did not send more strength unto us, we knew not; therefore we were grieved and also filled with fear, lest by any means the judgments of God should come upon our land, to our overthrow and utter destruction.
80. Alma 58:20—And it came to pass that when the Lamanites had passed by, or when the army had passed by, Gid and Teomner did rise up from their secret places, and did cut off the spies of the Lamanites that they should not return to the city.
81. Alma 59:3—And it came to pass that he immediately sent an epistle to Pahoran, desiring that he should cause men to be gathered together to strengthen Helaman, or the armies of Helaman, insomuch that he might with ease maintain that part of the land which he had been so miraculously prospered in regaining.
82. Alma 61:8—They have got possession of the land, or the city, of Zarahemla; they have appointed a king over them, and he hath written unto the king of the Lamanites, in the which he hath joined an alliance with him; in the which alliance he hath agreed to maintain the city of Zarahemla, which maintenance he supposeth will enable the Lamanites to conquer the remainder of the land, and he shall be placed king over this people when they shall be conquered under the Lamanites.
83. Alma 63:15—And also in this same year they came down with a numerous army to war against the people of Moronihah, or against the army of Moronihah, in the which they were beaten and driven back again to their own lands, suffering great loss.
84. Helaman 2:13–14—And behold, in the end of this book ye shall see that this Gadianton did prove the overthrow, yea, almost the entire destruction of the people of Nephi. Behold I do not mean the end of the book of Helaman, but I mean the end of the book of Nephi, from which I have taken all the account which I have written.
85. Helaman 3:33—And in the fifty and first year of the reign of the judges there was peace also, save it were the pride which began to enter into the church—not into the church of God, but into the hearts of the people who professed to belong to the church of God—
86. Helaman 4:22—And that they had altered and trampled under their feet the laws of Mosiah, or that which the Lord commanded him to give unto the people; and they saw that their laws had become corrupted, and that they had become a wicked people, insomuch that they were wicked even like unto the Lamanites.
87. Helaman 11:24—And it came to pass that in the eightieth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi, there were a certain number of the dissenters from the people of Nephi, who had some years before gone over unto the Lamanites, and taken upon themselves the name of Lamanites, and also a certain number who were real descendants of the Lamanites, being stirred up to anger by them, or by those dissenters, therefore they commenced a war with their brethren.
88. Helaman 14:21—Yea, at the time that he shall yield up the ghost there shall be thunderings and lightnings for the space of many hours, and the earth shall shake and tremble; and the rocks which are upon the face of this earth, which are both above the earth and beneath, which ye know at this time are solid, or the more part of it is one solid mass, shall be broken up;
89. Helaman 14:31—He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you.
90. 3 Nephi 1:29—And there was also a cause of much sorrow among the Lamanites; for behold, they had many children who did grow up and began to wax strong in years, that they became for themselves, and were led away by some who were Zoramites, by their lyings and their flattering words, to join those Gadianton robbers.
91. 3 Nephi 3:14—And he caused that fortifications should be built round about them, and the strength thereof should be exceedingly great. And he caused that armies, both of the Nephites and of the Lamanites, or of all them who were numbered among the Nephites, should be placed as guards round about to watch them, and to guard them from the robbers day and night.
92. 3 Nephi 6:20—And there began to be men inspired from heaven and sent forth, standing among the people in all the land, preaching and testifying boldly of the sins and iniquities of the people, and testifying unto them concerning the redemption which the Lord would make for his people, or in other words, the resurrection of Christ; and they did testify boldly of his death and sufferings.
93. Mormon 2:1—And it came to pass in that same year there began to be a war again between the Nephites and the Lamanites. And notwithstanding I being young, was large in stature; therefore the people of Nephi appointed me that I should be their leader, or the leader of their armies.
94. Mormon 5:14—And behold, they shall go unto the unbelieving of the Jews; and for this intent shall they go—that they may be persuaded that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God; that the Father may bring about, through his most Beloved, his great and eternal purpose, in restoring the Jews, or all the house of Israel, to the land of their inheritance, which the Lord their God hath given them, unto the fulfilling of his covenant;
95. Moroni 8:27—Behold, my son, I will write unto you again if I go not out soon against the Lamanites. Behold, the pride of this nation, or the people of the Nephites, hath proven their destruction except they should repent.
As you see, I identified ninety-five potential “whoopses,” or potential mistakes made by someone, in the Book of Mormon. At that point, I felt like I had essentially answered my first two questions: (1) How many “whoopses” does the Book of Mormon contain? and (2) Where are the “whoopses” located in the Book of Mormon?
Among the above passages that do not contain the or rather wording, many seem to be clear-cut instances in which the corrections were made in the narrative. Other passages may not represent clear-cut instances but still are likely candidates for my facetious, euphemistic, albeit serious, “whoops” mentality. I may even have missed a few, but I feel confident I have identified nearly all, if not all, of them.
I then felt like I was ready to answer my third question: (3) Who is responsible for making the “whoopses”—the Book of Mormon writer or Joseph Smith the translator?
Before I give my answer to this third question, I will try to anticipate the reaction of some readers to what I have said thus far. Some readers might say, “You don’t have the right to say there are mistakes in the Book of Mormon. You denigrate the book and its messages when you dwell on possible mistakes or weaknesses. I don’t care what you say—I don’t believe the Book of Mormon contains any mistakes.”
Other readers might say, “So what? Obviously, what happened is that Joseph Smith made the mistakes in translating and then corrected himself. Oliver Cowdery dutifully recorded all the words of Joseph, and that explains the mistakes.”
Whatever we choose to call the ninety-five passages listed above, they are clearly part of the Book of Mormon. We can call them mistakes, errors, oversights, glitches, or blunders. Or we can somewhat facetiously and definitely euphemistically refer to them as “whoopses.” The fact that they are found in the Book of Mormon supports the statements of those who point out that Joseph Smith dictated the translation without revising or rewriting what he translated—obviously an interesting aspect associated with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.8
If Joseph Smith had seriously set out to correct mistakes he made while translating, he later would probably have dwelt on the appropriate instances among the above ninety-five instead of working on the trivial punctuation and minor word-choice changes that he made following the publication of the first edition of the Book of Mormon.
Readers of the Book of Mormon cannot argue with the existence of the “whoopses” in the Book of Mormon. Readers can, however, pose two questions, one of which I have already posed:
1. Why does the Book of Mormon contain “whoopses”?
2. Who is responsible for creating the “whoopses”—the Book of Mormon writers or Joseph Smith the translator?
Trust me as you read further. The answers to those questions, along with the evidence supporting the answers, could be the means for singularly, significantly, and positively affecting your testimony of the Book of Mormon—as the answers did for my testimony.
The Various Plates of the Book of Mormon
Readers who seek answers to my questions must first thoroughly understand the differences among the various plates associated with the Book of Mormon. Five sets of metal plates are involved, and I review them here for the benefit of any reader who is not intimately familiar with the nature and role of the five sets:9
• The plates of brass brought by the people of Lehi from Jerusalem in 600 BC. These plates contained “the five books of Moses. . . . And also a record of the Jews from the beginning . . . down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah; And also the prophecies of the holy prophets” (1 Nephi 5:11–13). Many quotations from these plates, citing Isaiah and other biblical and nonbiblical prophets, appear in the Book of Mormon.
• The small plates of Nephi, which were more particularly devoted to the spiritual matters and the ministry and teachings of the prophets. The small plates of Nephi correlate with the books of 1 Nephi, 2 Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Jarom, and Omni in the Book of Mormon. As far as is known, Mormon did not consult the small plates of Nephi for his abridgment record. The small plates of Nephi were included among the plates of Mormon when Joseph Smith was given custody of the plates by Moroni.
• The large plates of Nephi, which were occupied mostly by a secular history of the peoples concerned (1 Nephi 9:2–4). The large plates of Nephi were the plates Mormon consulted while making his abridgment record, the plates of Mormon.
• The plates of Mormon, which consist of an abridgment by Mormon from the large plates of Nephi, with many commentaries. These plates also contained a continuation of the history by Mormon and additions by his son Moroni. Current Book of Mormon books that were translated from the plates of Mormon are The Words of Mormon, Mosiah, Alma, Helaman, 3 Nephi, 4 Nephi, Mormon, Ether, and Moroni.
• The plates of Ether, which present a history of the Jaredites. This record was abridged by Moroni, who inserted comments of his own and incorporated the record with the general history under the title “Book of Ether.”
A critical point for readers to understand here is that Mormon drew strictly from the large plates of Nephi for his abridgment. The books of Mosiah, Alma, Helaman, 3 Nephi, and 4 Nephi are the results of Mormon’s abridgment of the large plates of Nephi. He also wrote Words of Mormon and the first seven chapters of the book of Mormon. His son Moroni wrote the last two chapters of the book of Mormon, all of the books of Ether and Moroni, and the material on the title page of the Book of Mormon.
With Martin Harris serving as his scribe, Joseph Smith translated 116 pages from Mormon’s abridgment—material that covered the same time period as the small plates of Nephi. These pages were stolen from Martin but were replaced—not replicated—with Joseph’s translation of the small plates of Nephi. Once again, Mormon is not the author of the small plates of Nephi. The authors of the small plates of Nephi are Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Jarom, Omni, Amaron, Chemish, Abinadom, and Amaleki.
Or, as stated under “A Brief Explanation about the Book of Mormon” in the preliminary pages of the Book of Mormon:
The Book of Mormon comprises fifteen main parts or divisions, known, with one exception, as books, each designated by the name of its principal author. The first portion (the first six books, ending with Omni) is a translation from the Small Plates of Nephi. Between the books of Omni and Mosiah is an insert called The Words of Mormon. This insert connects the record engraved on the Small Plates with Mormon’s abridgment of the Large Plates.
The longest portion, from Mosiah to Mormon, chapter 7, inclusive, is a translation of Mormon’s abridgment of the Large Plates of Nephi. The concluding portion, from Mormon, chapter 8, to the end of the volume, was engraved by Mormon’s son Moroni, who, after finishing the record of his father’s life, made an abridgment of the Jaredite record (as the Book of Ether) and later added the parts known as the Book of Moroni.
The Process of Mormon’s Abridging
In understanding why the Book of Mormon contains “whoopses” and who is responsible for them, we must understand the procedures Mormon followed in doing his abridging. The Book of Mormon contains a subtle but clear picture of the process. Simplistically, he worked with the large plates of Nephi by reading a year’s worth of the records while making decisions about what content to use for his plates from that year’s records. Although some Book of Mormon critics depict Joseph Smith as having a “very creative imagination” because they consider him responsible for the complexity of the Book of Mormon, they ought to describe his imagination as very, very, very creative if they were to examine carefully the process of Mormon’s abridging as described in the Book of Mormon itself.
The Book of Mormon clearly depicts Mormon’s procedures in selecting content from the large plates. Mormon’s abridgment begins with the book of Mosiah in which Mormon recorded the words of King Benjamin in the land of Zarahemla. Eventually, Benjamin’s son, Mosiah, became king. He delegated sixteen men to go to the land of Lehi-Nephi to locate those who had traveled there a few years earlier. The rest of Mosiah deals with the Nephites’ activities among the Lamanites in the land of Nephi. Eventually, these Nephites escaped the bondage of the Lamanites in the land of Nephi and traveled under the guidance of Alma the elder to the land of Zarahemla where they joined the Nephites and Mulekites living there under the kingship of Mosiah. At the end of the book of Mosiah, Mormon points out, “And thus ended the reign of the kings over the people of Nephi” (Mosiah 29:47).
Mormon then proceeds in the book of Alma to give an account of the reign of the judges in the land of Zarahemla according to the record of Alma, the first and chief judge. Perceptive readers will note and even “feel” the process Mormon followed in abridging the large plates of Nephi.
At this point in time, the Nephites began reckoning their time according to the reign of the judges. For the next hundred years, Mormon faithfully tells his readers what he considers to be the important things that occurred among the Nephites on a year-by-year basis. With few exceptions, he lists the beginning of a year, writes the things he considers significant during that year, and then closes out the year. With very few gaps in the chronology, readers can “feel” the process of Mormon’s reviewing a year’s worth of records, deciding what was important from that year’s worth of records, and then transferring the important content, in his own words or as direct quotations, from the large plates to his own plates.
Typical transitional statements made by Mormon to bring the reader along on a year-by-year basis are the following:
And it came to pass that in the first year of the reign of Alma in the judgment-seat. . . . (Alma 1:2)
There was much peace among the people of Nephi until the fifth year of the reign of the judges. (Alma 1:33)
Now it came to pass in the sixth year of the reign of the judges . . . (Alma 4:1).
And thus ended the seventh year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi. (Alma 4:5)
And it came to pass that in the commencement of the seventeenth year of the reign of the judges, there was continual peace. (Alma 30:5)
And thus ended the seventeenth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi. (Alma 35:12)
Through his transitional statements, Mormon helps the reader visualize the process of abridgment. Mormon searches a year’s worth of records to determine whether they contained anything worth including in his abridgment. Asserting his option as an abridger, he makes decisions about what to include and what not to include.
In some instances, he notes only minor things worth commenting upon. For example:
And in the eighty and second year they began again to forget the Lord their God. And in the eighty and third year they began to wax strong in iniquity. And in the eighty and fourth year they did not mend their ways. And it came to pass in the eighty and fifth year they did wax stronger and stronger in their pride, and in their wickedness; and thus they were ripening again for destruction. And thus ended the eighty and fifth year. (Helaman 11:36–38; emphasis added)
Occasionally, even though he found nothing worth reporting for a given year, Mormon dutifully notes his search of that year’s records. For example, he closes out his abridgment of the reign of the kings as follows:
And thus did pass away the ninety and sixth year; and also the ninety and seventh year; and also the ninety and eighth year; and also the ninety and ninth year. And also an hundred years had passed away since the days of Mosiah, who was king over the people of the Nephites. (3 Nephi 2:4–5; emphasis added)
In such instances, the reader can visualize Mormon’s searching through the records for the ninety-sixth year and reporting the things for that year he considered worth noting. He then searches the ninety-seventh year’s records and tells his readers he found nothing of importance to report for that year. He then does the same thing for the ninety-eighth, ninety-ninth, and one hundredth years.
At this point, the Nephites began reckoning their time from the date the sign was given for the birth of Christ: “And nine years had passed away from the time when the sign was given, which was spoken of by the prophets that Christ should come into the world. Now the Nephites began to reckon their time from this period when the sign was given, or from the coming of Christ; therefore, nine years had passed away” (3 Nephi 2:7–8).
For the next forty-two years, Mormon continues to sort through a year’s worth of records at a time and to report for each year what he found that was important to him. When he found nothing worth reporting, he so informed his readers. For example:
And thus had the twenty and second year passed away, and the twenty and third year also, and the twenty and fourth, and the twenty and fifth; and thus had twenty and five years passed away. (3 Nephi 5:7; emphasis added)
At this point, Mormon no longer uses a year-by-year basis for reporting what he found of importance from the large plates of Nephi. He does name the year for each incident he reports, but he frequently skips several years without naming them. Eventually, he tells about Ammaron’s hiding the plates that Mormon inherited a few years later:
And it came to pass that when three hundred and twenty years had passed away, Ammaron, being constrained by the Holy Ghost, did hide up the records which were sacred—yea, even all the sacred records which had been handed down from generation to generation, which were sacred—even until the three hundred and twentieth year from the coming of Christ. (4 Nephi 1:48)
Mormon has now completed his abridgment. He continues to name the year when something significant in his life in connection with his people occurs, ending at the four-hundred-year mark:
Behold, four hundred years have passed away since the coming of our Lord and Savior. (Mormon 8:6)
At that point, his son, Moroni, assumes responsibility for the plates and finishes writing the rest of the Book of Mormon.
After analyzing the abridging process as reported by Mormon, I looked seriously at my yellow-pad notes. I observed that I had used around 150 lines to record the data for which Mormon painstakingly noted the beginnings and endings of most years he reported on for his abridgment. I had used another twenty lines to record the years he mentioned for events associated with his own life.
What are my reasons for dwelling on Mormon’s assiduousness in telling readers what years were involved throughout the abridging process? I answer that question to myself by trying to feel keenly what Mormon went through in using his “word processor” during the abridging process.
As best I can tell and as I suggested earlier, Mormon placed the large plates of Nephi in front of himself and read a year’s worth of records. While reading that year’s worth, he looked for things he felt readers such as you and I should know about. He then recorded his abridgment by engraving on his metal plates. Next, he consulted the following year’s worth of records and repeated the process. He continued that process year by year for about a century and a half’s worth of records.
Mormon wrote as if he expected us to know the locations of the various geographic areas mentioned in his abridgment. He followed a chronological sequence as he very clearly delineated one year’s activities from another year’s activities by carefully naming the years involved. Most of the time, he paraphrased the material from the large plates by reading an account and then retelling its story in his own words. Sometimes he quoted word for word from the large plates. Occasionally, as noted earlier, he made a mistake and had to correct himself in the narrative. He gave us numerous “object lessons” introduced by one of his favorite transitional statements, “And thus we see . . . .”
Throughout the processes of reading the large plates, selecting material to include in his abridgment, and engraving his abridgment on the plates, he continued with his other day-to-day activities. As a leader of his people, and especially as a military leader, he had major responsibilities. These responsibilities undoubtedly detracted him from his abridging work.
As I read Mormon’s writings, I find myself wishing he had given us more content about events that occurred in the two hundred years immediately following Christ’s visit to the Americas. The large plates of Nephi must have contained many wonderful, awe-inspiring, spiritual stories about the people. For example, Mormon commented about the work of the disciples by saying, “And there were great and marvelous works wrought by the disciples of Jesus, insomuch that they did heal the sick, and raise the dead, and cause the lame to walk, and the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear; and all manner of miracles did they work among the children of men” (4 Nephi 1:5). I wish I could read about those and other similar events.
For some reason, in his abridgment, Mormon chose not to include much about such accounts. This is the time period when he began skipping chunks of time without telling us what the large plates contained for those time periods. For example: “And thus did the thirty and eighth year pass away, and also the thirty and ninth, and forty and first, and the forty and second, yea, even until forty and nine years had passed away, and also the fifty and first, and the fifty and second; yea, and even until fifty and nine years had passed away” (4 Nephi 1:6; emphasis added).
Soon thereafter, Mormon began routinely skipping large blocks of time. I wonder whether he was running out of time because of his other responsibilities, cutting back on the amount of material he included because of a lack of adequate room on the plates, or eliminating some content because of the laboriousness of the engraving process. As I noted earlier, on more than one occasion, he pointed out that he was sharing with his readers only a hundredth part of what he could have shared (see, for example, Helaman 3:13 and 3 Nephi 5:8).
The Testimony of the Euphemistic Word Whoops
At this point, we might say, “So what?” when we understand a little better what Mormon went through as he did his abridging. We might even say “So what?” when we deal with the possibility that Mormon’s “word processor” was less than perfect and that he occasionally might be responsible for the “whoopses” found in the Book of Mormon.
In dealing with the “whoopses,” we should first try to determine whether Mormon is responsible for them or whether Joseph Smith is responsible.
That is, as I’ve suggested earlier, either Mormon made the mistakes during the abridging process or Joseph Smith made the mistakes in dictating the translation while Oliver Cowdery faithfully recorded the mistakes. The “whoopses” are found in the Book of Mormon for one of these two reasons. In answering the question of who is responsible for the whoopses, we reach the point of realizing the powerful testimony to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon that comes from understanding Mormon as a writer who is using a “fourth-century word processor.”
That is, careful searching of Book of Mormon passages associated with all the “whoopses” identified and listed earlier reveals a startling discovery. Of the ninety-five “whoopses” listed earlier, only four can be attributed to writers other than Mormon. And of those four, the first one, 1 Nephi 19:4, is the only one that can be labeled as a clear-cut “whoops.” The possible “whoopses” listed as numbers two, three, and four are probably not writer mistakes of the kind I euphemistically label as “whoopses.” Therefore, essentially all of the true “whoopses” found in the Book of Mormon are found in Mormon’s writings. Other than the one in 1 Nephi, “whoopses” are not found among the books of the small plates of Nephi, which Mormon did not abridge. And they are not found among the writings of Moroni.
In other words, I maintain that the “whoopses” represent a distinctive element of the writing style of Mormon—but of none of the other writers associated with the Book of Mormon, including Joseph Smith. Thus, as a quasi-equivalent to Mormon’s fingerprints or his DNA, the whoopses we find in his writing clearly label him as the writer of the books involved in his abridgment.
As I suggested earlier, either Joseph Smith made the word-choice changes during the translation process or Mormon made the changes. The fact that the changes are found only in the writings of Mormon gives unique evidence that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon—as claimed—instead of authoring it himself. That is, he dutifully translated the words of Mormon, including Mormon’s word-choice corrections through the narrative.
Clearly, we see here the shadow of interesting, relevant testimonial evidence of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. From my perspective as a professor of business writing, if Joseph Smith’s writing style were responsible for the “whoopses,” we would find them throughout the Book of Mormon. Because we don’t find them throughout the Book of Mormon, I maintain that Joseph is not responsible for them. That means they are found in the Book of Mormon as a reflection of the writing style of Mormon.
As Mormon abridged the large plates of Nephi or wrote his own material, I think he on occasion became distracted and made a word-choice mistake. As a writer in the information age, when I make a mistake, correcting that mistake is extremely simple because of my word processor. When Mormon made a mistake, he could not use his “word processor” as I use mine for correcting a mistake. Instead, he corrected his mistakes in the narrative.
Every writer has distinctive “elements of style” that characterize his or her written work—akin to our fingerprints and DNA that distinctively identify us. For whatever reason, Mormon’s “whoopses” clearly reflect a distinctive element of usage associated with Mormon as a writer. My facetious but serious reflections about his use of his “word processor” to correct his writing mistakes provides interesting and extremely strong testimony that Joseph Smith—as he claimed—translated rather than authored the Book of Mormon.
One aspect of my testimony of the Book of Mormon deals with what I have observed in my reading as the relatively unimportant, although interesting, topic of English usage within its pages. That is, the fact that I see English-usage mistakes associated with references of pronouns; errors associated with tense, mood, and voice of verbs; modification problems; lack of grammatical parallelism in its many forms; punctuation errors; and word-choice mistakes strengthens my testimony because I think I generally understand the translation process that Joseph Smith experienced. I do not know whether the mistakes I’ve described are examples of potential mistakes Moroni alluded to when he said, “If there are faults they are the mistakes of men.” However, they clearly are mistakes that support the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon when we associate them with the abridgment process used by Mormon and the translation process followed by Joseph Smith.
From my perspective, for numerous reasons, the Book of Mormon is true. It is what it purports to be: “The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible” (Book of Mormon Introduction). Analyses of its many facets continue to testify to its truthfulness. My discovery of the nondescript, but significant, “whoopses” among the writings of Mormon adds an intriguing, testimony-strengthening dimension to other analyses of its pages. From a style viewpoint, the fact that the “whoopses” are found almost exclusively among Mormon’s writings strongly supports Joseph Smith’s contention that he translated the book rather than merely authored it.
In summary, the “whoopses” found in the Book of Mormon are an intriguing facet of the writing behavior of Mormon. They suggest that Mormon was apparently a very busy person who often had much on his mind while he worked on his abridgment. As a result, even though the engraving process was probably slow and laborious, he tended to engrave incorrect symbols at times and then faced the necessity of correcting his errors. He did so by making in-text corrections. If Joseph Smith were responsible for these in-text corrections, they would be found throughout the Book of Mormon. However, because they are found almost exclusively and also routinely in Mormon’s work, readers can experience a minor, positive sensation each time they notice one and can say something like, “Thank you, Mormon. You’ve just spoken to me and reminded me that you indeed authored what I’m reading.”
As a result of “going through the motions” to test the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, I am content for now in believing it was translated by the gift and power of God. My belief about its truthfulness—based on faith, exhaustive reading and analysis, and confirmation from the Spirit—is sufficient for me in this life. I look forward to spending some time with Joseph Smith in the “next life” to talk about the translation process.
I also look forward to the next life when I hope to meet and visit with both Mormon and Moroni and hear their testimonies about what they did in connection with the Book of Mormon. Indeed, I think that will happen; and I anticipate that I will then recall Moroni’s parting words, “And I exhort you to remember these things; for the time speedily cometh that ye shall know that I lie not, for ye shall see me at the bar of God; and the Lord God will say unto you: Did I not declare my words unto you, which were written by this man, like as one crying from the dead, yea, even as one speaking out of the dust?” (Moroni 10:27; emphasis added).
Latter-day prophets perhaps have not said enough about the potentially sensitive topic of mistakes in the Book of Mormon. Perhaps they don’t feel the need to do so. Perhaps they feel that George A. Smith “said it all” in 1868 when he made the following comments:
It was no sooner noised abroad that Joseph Smith was preaching the Gospel in its purity and administering its ordinances than a howl went up from all the world that he was an impostor, an ignorant fellow, a man without education, and the Book of Mormon was denounced as ungrammatical. An argument was raised that if it had been translated by the gift and power of God it would have been strictly grammatical. Now so far as grammar is concerned we have King James’ Bible before us which was translated two hundred and fifty years ago, by a large number of the most learned men that could be found in great Britain, and it was put into the best language of that time; but since that day the English language has undergone so many changes and improvements that societies have been formed in various countries for the express purpose of re-translating the Bible so as to make it in accordance with the modern usages of our language. When the Lord reveals anything to men He reveals it in language that accords with their own. If any of you were to converse with an angel, and you used strictly grammatical language he would do the same. But if you used two negatives in a sentence the heavenly messenger would use language to correspond with your understanding, and this very objection to the Book of Mormon is an evidence in its favor.10
I suspect that at some point in the next life, many “wayward” members of the Church of Jesus Christ will talk to themselves and say something like, “I knew back when that the Book of Mormon is true. Why did I let the comments of deceitful, evil-intentioned people influence me negatively about it? Why didn’t I take the initiative on my own to read it carefully, truly put it to the test as Moroni counseled me, and then change my earth-life behavior as a consequence?”
And because I believe Moroni’s words, I suspect that those who “lie in wait to deceive” potential readers of the Book of Mormon will indeed meet him at the judgment bar and get their “comeuppance.” That’s not a statement of any vindictiveness I feel toward these people but is merely a reflection of what the Book of Mormon says about them. Their names are found in the anti–Book of Mormon literature from the time of its publication until the present, especially on today’s Web sites found on the Internet.
Finally, I view the Book of Mormon as the singular, most important evidence of the truthfulness of Joseph Smith’s claims to be a prophet and of the divine restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ. Or, as Terryl Givens says, “The Book of Mormon’s status as scripture . . . is inseparable from the role it has come to play as the very ground of Joseph Smith’s authority, a divine sign of the end times, and as a vehicle for the Mormon conversion experience.”11
1. See Doctrine and Covenants 46:14, “To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.” I firmly believe that from my earliest days as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ, I have had a gift of the Spirit through which I have believed in the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon based on the testimonies of others.
3. See, for example, Stan Larson, “Early Texts of the Book of Mormon,” Ensign, September 1976, 77–82; Jeff Lindsay, “Introduction to the Book of Mormon” and “Book of Mormon Evidences Page,” www.jefflindsay.com/LDSFAQ/FQ_changes.shtml.
4. The word adieu was commonly used by Americans during Joseph Smith’s time as an idiomatic expression to say “farewell.” Its inclusion in the Book of Mormon should not be troublesome to anyone. In Joseph’s mother’s history of her son, she tells about the death of her sister, Lovisa, and shares a poem written by Lovisa shortly before Lovisa died. The first two lines of the third verse read, “My friends, I bid you all adieu; The Lord hath called, and I must go.” (History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, Lucy Mack Smith, ed. Preston Nibley [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1958], 19–20; emphasis added).
Correspondence from the period shows common use of adieu by writers. For example, during the Nauvoo period, one member of the Church, Martha Haven, used adieu as follows in her letters to her parents:
Arrived at Cleveland this morning. Glad to bid adieu to the lake; have no desire ever to see another (27 December 1843; emphasis added; copy of letter in author’s possession).
We’ll bid adieu to party clans, And rend asunder all their bands (4 July 1846; emphasis added; copy of letter and poem in author’s possession).
I have this day bid adieu for a season to my dearest earthly friend (7 June 1848; emphasis added; copy of letter in author’s possession).
Adieu for the present (7 June 1848; emphasis added; copy of letter in author’s possession).
The word adieu is a classic instance of what I call “Joseph Smithisms” in the Book of Mormon. Its presence in the book and the presence of numerous other unique words have singular implications for our understanding of the translation process. From my perspective, such word choices speak voluminously about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.
5. See Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (New York: S. Converse, 1828), republished in facsimile edition (San Francisco: Foundation for American Christian Education,1985). A photo reproduction of Webster’s 1828 dictionary can be purchased off the shelf or by special order at many bookstores, such as Deseret Book Company.
6. Interestingly, Dennis Largey and the contributors to Book of Mormon Reference Companion analyze selected words and phrases in the Book of Mormon as entries in this reference work. Further, “Appendix C contains selected excerpts of definitions from Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, featuring words or phrases that may have changed in meaning or usage since the original publication of the Book of Mormon or that may be unfamiliar to modern readers.” See Dennis L. Largey, ed., Book of Mormon Reference Companion (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2003), xiv, 829–35.
7. As a minor aside to the discussion at this point, I think Oliver Cowdery did not hear Joseph Smith correctly in Alma 24:19 and therefore used the words “the weapons of war” when he should have written “their weapons of war.”
8. Several years after the translation was completed and after Joseph Smith was martyred, Joseph’s wife, Emma, told an interviewer that “when my husband was translating the Book of Mormon, I wrote a part of it, as he dictated each sentence, word for word. . . . When he stopped for any purpose at any time he would, when he commenced again, begin where he left off without any hesitation.” See Dan Vogel, ed., Early Mormon Documents, 3 vols. (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1996), 1:530.
9. Descriptions of the five kinds of metal plates are adapted from “A Brief Explanation about the Book of Mormon,” found in the preliminary pages of the Book of Mormon.
10. George A. Smith, November 15, 1868, in Journal of Discourses (London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854–86), 12:335.
11. Terryl L. Givens, By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture That Launched a New World Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 176.