Changes to
The Book of Mormon

Years ago my dad and I were talking and he made a comment that really bothered me at the time. He said something to effect of: "I bet most of the members of the Church are unaware of the changes made to the Book of Mormon since its publication. In fact," he said, "I bet more non-members and anti's know more about the changes than we do." 

The purpose of this page is to show those changes.

Editions of The Book of Mormon

Did you know that there are over twenty editions of the Book of Mormon? Five of them were published during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. Did you also know that there have been hundreds, even thousands of changes made to the Book of Mormon text since its initial publication? Perhaps you know all about these changes, perhaps you do not. Maybe you’ve wondered how “the most correct of any book on earth” could still be correct if it has been changed so many times. Or maybe you trust the Lord completely and these changes make no difference to your testimony. 

Whatever your level of wondering, or perhapsing, or even maybeing, it seems to me that the changes made to the Book of Mormon text have caused many people to question its truthfulness and, therefore, the truthfulness of Joseph Smith as a prophet and translator and the entire Church as a whole. 

A simple web search will reveal that the world struggles with these changes, calling Joseph a fraud and saying that the Church leaders “have added and deleted words and tampered with previously published revelations.” Others ask: “If the Book of Mormon was translated accurately by the hand of God [then] why does the Mormon Church continue to change the work even after Joseph Smith’s death?”

At the start of our exploration I want to tell you more about the individual editions of the Book of Mormon and give a brief overview of what was changed or added. 

Including the newer 2013 version as well as several British versions, there have been nearly twenty editions of the Book of Mormon that were produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To save time I won’t list all of them, but I would like to point out the ones that I studied and the ones that bore significant changes.

1830 Edition

Printed in Palmyra, New York. There were only 5,000 copies printed and only 500 survive today. The punctuation for this edition was completed by a man named John H. Gilbert, a non-member who worked for E. B. Gradin who published this edition. Gilbert spent only two or three nights to read and punctuate the entire book. In Gilbert’s own memorandum, he stated that: “Joseph Smith, Jr. had nothing to do whatever with the printing or furnishing copy for the printers, being but once in the office during the printing of the Bible, and then not over 15, or 20 minutes.”

1837 Edition

Printed in Kirtland, Ohio. Much smaller than the original. There were only about 3,000 copies of this edition printed. Very few survive today. This edition was review by Joseph Smith, Jr.

1840 Edition

Printed in Nauvoo. Two separate editions were printed in 1840. The title page in the later one is slightly different. About 4,000 copies were printed of the first and only 640 copies were printed of the later 1840 edition. This one is smaller than the 1830 edition and about the same size as the 1837 edition. This edition was carefully revised by Joseph Smith, Jr.

1841 Edition

This was the first European Edition. Only about 4,000 copies of this edition were printed. The picture displayed for this edition is actually a picture of Emma Smith’s personal copy of the book. Her name is printed on the bottom of the spine.

1842 Edition

Carefully revised by Joseph Smith, Jr. This was the fourth American edition and the second stereotype edition.

1849 Edition

British Edition. Edited by Orson Pratt.

1879 Edition

John Taylor assigned Orson Pratt to prepare a new edition. Pratt redivided the chapters (going from 114 to 239) and added verse numbers and references, including biblical citations, cross-references, and his own explanatory footnotes. He made the most extensive format changes to the book at that point in its history.

1920 Edition

President Heber J. Grant called James E. Talmage to prepare this new edition. It included double-column pages, revised references, a pronouncing vocabulary, an index, and many grammatical improvements. In his own journal he wrote: “I was appointed today to prepare the same, the text to be divided into paragraphs or verses, with references. I undertake this as I have attempted other labors in connection with the Church work in a missionary spirit without hope or expectation of reward. Indeed I doubt that I will be known as the reviser even if the work be completed, and a revised edition published.” (Personal Journal #10, J. E. Talmage, February 2, 1900; Our Pearl of Great Price by James R. Clark, August 1979.)

1981 Edition

This is the edition most of us are probably familiar with. The easiest way to tell if you have this copy is by flipping through the first pages. If they have paintings by Arnold Friberg, then it’s probably a 1981 Edition (although some of the early printings of the 2013 Edition still have them). Interesting fact: Friberg was commissioned to paint these by the General Primary President to be published in The Children’s Friend Magazine during the 1950s. It’s also interesting to note that each of these pictures points to a location or idea of a Mesoamerican geography for the book. It is also, also interesting that these paintings were taken out of the later editions of the Book of Mormon.

In this edition we were introduced to the new subtitle: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. It also set forth a new Introduction and introduced us to new chapter headings, plus helpful running heads at the top of the pages, as well as new footnotes. And extensive new index of 416 pages was also added. As far as textual changes, the Church reported that “except for a few technical correction in spelling and the like, which clearly were the mistakes of men, all of the changes hark back to the original manuscripts and editing of the Prophet Joseph Smith.”

2013 Edition

I was out serving my mission when this edition was released and I was interested to learn that the Introduction had some very key changes. These changes, however, have little to do with the authentication of the book itself as there was no “Introduction” for Joseph Smith to translate. Another change that I appreciated was that everything the Brethren or others added were all italicized (such as chapter headings) and everything that was directly translated by Joseph Smith, Jr. was left alone (such as the heading for The First Book of Nephi and most of the other book headings).

Other Editions

Other editions of the Book of Mormon include, but are not limited to, the 1842 Edition, the 1849 Edition, the 1852 Edition, and the 1879 Edition all printed in Liverpool, England. Also, the 1888 Edition printed in Salt Lake City; the 1902 Edition printed in Kansas City, Missouri; the 1905 Edition printed in Chicago, Illinois; the 1906 Edition printed in Salt Lake City; the 1907 Pocket Edition and the 1911 Edition also printed in Chicago.

This isn’t the say that these were the only editions ever to be made. The 1976 Special Edition of the Book of Mormon, for example, has the angel Moroni on the cover. The 1977 Special Edition of the Book of Mormon is also known as “The Gold Plates” edition.

Changes made to the text

Before I begin, on a personal note, I want to disclose that the bulk of my research concerning these changes was done while I was an active believing member of the Church. One thing that I did not consider were the testimonies from the witnesses who stated that Joseph Smith transcribed the words that appeared on his brown seer stone exactly as they were shown. The accounts even testify that the words did not change until they had been written correctly. If the Book of Mormon was "translated" through the seer stone or even the two stones, word for word, as an exact translation as the witnesses describe, there should be no reason for the text of the Book of Mormon to have been changed except for punctuation (as that could be reasonably absent in Reformed Egyptian). In reviewing my research I can see flaws in my arguments and understanding of the evidence. I will do my best to share what I had previous thought to be true, with my current understanding. 

I won’t discuss every change made to the Book of Mormon (I’m still working to compare all of the editions, and that will take me several read throughs. So give me a minute!) I do, however, wish to discuss those changes that might affect someone’s testimony of the book.

Most of the changes made to the Book of Mormon were toward spelling and grammar. With this in mind, I completely ignored spelling and punctuation when I combed through each page because neither of these would have been part of the translation process. We know that ancient Hebrew writing had no vowels or punctuation of any kind. The oldest copies of both the Greek New Testament and the Hebrew Old Testament are written with no punctuation. It’s probably safe to say that what Joseph Smith called Egyptian/Reformed Egyptian likewise bore no punctuation. And as for spelling, we know that American English spelling in 1829 was not yet standardized. George Horton, a BYU professor of ancient scripture, pointed out that, “As late as 1828, American lexicographer Noah Webster noted that five dictionaries were available to [Joseph Smith].” Webster’s own dictionary was published in 1828 and each of the dictionaries varies widely in their spelling. So, if Joseph or Oliver had access to any of these (or all of them), it’s no wonder that the spelling in the book was changed.

I did, however, pay attention to grammar. If there was anything that was directly translated, I carefully looked it over and compared all eight editions. Professor Horton also pointed out that “there have been 891 changes of which to who, 177 changes of exceeding to exceedingly. Many changes involve a change in number or tense of verbs. Was was changed to were 162 times, is to are 74 times, and done to did 10 times."

As you can see here I made an incomplete PDF chart titled The Book of Mormon: Eight Editions Compared which contains (hopefully) all of the changes made between the Printer’s Manuscript and the current 2013 Edition of the Book of Mormon of which I have researched thus far. (I am aware that the chart is unfinished.) I used the Printer’s Manuscript and the 2013 Edition as my “base” editions and if there were any differences between them I would then scan through the other editions to see if they agreed or not. That being said, I know there are changes made that I did not catch. It is my goal to use each edition as my “base” reading so that I don’t miss any of the changes. And with that I will update my PDF periodically and post the current chart on this website. I also just found other photocopies of other editions of the book and may add those into the chart as well. Also, if you’re looking at the chart you may notice that it’s rather hard to make sense of as it’s just the verse reference and a single word or small group of words. I’m not sure how else I’d show you. 

Here’s a screenshot of what it looked like as I was reading, and as for the 1920 and 1981 Editions I had hard copies of those. 

I will add here that if the spelling changed the word to another word or changed the meaning I added it to the chart. But there were some that I overlooked, such as, on one occasion, too which was changed to to, or in another place in Alma 26 where mow was changed to now and where mame was changed to name. In Alma 43 fraid was changed to afraid. And maybe I will add those into later charts, but for now I want to focus on the changes of the text itself minus spelling and punctuation.

Aside from these -grammar, spelling, and punctuation -there are still people who struggle with the changes made to The Book of Mormon. Below I want to explore some of those passages that might be hard for the reader to accept.

Significant Changes

Mary the Mother of God?

This, to me, is perhaps one of the most significant changes in the Book of Mormon. At several points in the 1830 Edition of the Book of Mormon, Jesus is referred to as God the Father. He is also referred to as the Son of God. Just three verses later, Nephi says (in this same edition), “and I beheld the Son of God going forth among the children of men” (1 Nephi 11:24). Additionally, when Zeezrom asked Amulek: "Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father?" Amulek answers: "Yea, he is the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth, and al things which in them are; he is the beginning and the end, the first and the last" (Alma 11:38-39; see also Mosiah 7:27). Both passages refer to Jesus as God the Father. These verses were changed in the 1837 Edition. 

While looking at these changes as isolated incidents, they don't seem very significant. So what? Joseph made a mistake in speaking. Yet here we have to take into account two things: One is that we have to take into account the witness statements that say that Joseph "translated" word for word from the seer stone. That the words "the virgin which thou seest, is the Mother of God" literally appeared on Joseph's brown stone which he kept in his white hat during translation.  To then edit the words is to invalidate this unique "translation" process. (I'm using "" because this does not seem much like a translation at all, but simply a transcription.)

The second thing we need to take into account is what Joseph Smith's views on the Godhead during 1829 and 1830. In his First Vision account written in his own hand in 1832, Joseph refers only to Jesus Christ. In that same vision, he also refers to him as "the Father." Additionally, in the Lectures on Faith, this view that Jesus was indeed God the Father is consistent throughout every lecture. 

In summary, the 1832 First Vision, the Lectures on Faith in the Book of Commandments, and the 1830 Edition of the Book of Mormon, as well as the common teachings in the early 1800s, were consistent with the view that Jesus and the Eternal Father were one and the same. Joseph Smith's views on the godhead evolved during his time as prophet of the Church of Christ. 

Jesus born at or near Jerusalem?

This changed has caused a bit of a stir in the believer/non-believer realm. 

This change is small. Maybe you didn’t even notice it. The word “in” was inserted into some, but not all, of the editions between 1905 and 1920. 

I read an article a while back titled Understanding Textual Changes in the Book of Mormon, by George Horton. In the article he discussed some of the changes and Alma 7:10 was one that had started him on a journey to understand more. For me, Horton made me aware of this change and yet I found it nowhere in all eight of the editions that I was comparing. So, I decided I’d search ebay, see if maybe I could track down a few editions published in the early 1900s and go from there. In my search I came across a man named Reid Moon. I had seen many of his videos on YouTube already (in fact I used this video for most of the information I got about the individual editions at the beginning of this article). He is a collector of rare books and has a wonderful website all about it. Anyway, I decided since he has over 4,000 copies of the Book of Mormon in his collection he might be able to help me out. He responded that at least these two specifically (the 1905 and the 1908 Editions) have this change inserted. 

Why is this a big deal? Well, it might not be. However, there are many people that will say that Jesus was indeed NOT born IN Jerusalem. He was born in Bethlehem which, people argue, is not part of Jerusalem. 

Error aside, it is interesting that the Bible never refers to Jerusalem as a “land”. The phrase “land of Jerusalem” is nowhere in the New Testament. They always refer to Judea as the “land” and Jerusalem as the “city.” In the Book of Mormon there are many instances where the “land” consists of many “cities” even cities bearing the same name as the land. For example: Ammonihah was a city (see Alma 8:6) but it was also a land (see Alma 14:23).

In an article written by D. Kelly Ogden who is the associate director at The Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies, he pointed out the Amarna letters. These are diplomatic letters between Egypt and Canaan, written on clay tablets that date back to 1360-1332 BC. These letters have been a great help in Biblical study. In letter 290 the king of Jerusalem wrote to the Pharaoh that “the land of the king went over to the Apiru people. But now even a town of the land of Jerusalem, Bit-Lahmi [Bethlehem] by name, a town belonging to the king, has gone over to the side of the people of Keilah.” Ogden points out that even “Hebron, almost twenty miles south of Bethlehem, was also considered part of the land of Jerusalem” [Why does the Book of Mormon say that Jesus would be born in Jerusalem? (Alma 7:10).]

This change (adding the word “in”) only makes this argument harder to untangle. The other editions say that Jesus shall be “born of Mary, at Jerusalem, which is the land of our forefathers.” The land of Jerusalem extends down to Bethlehem and even to Hebron, that’s fine. However, this change says that he will be “born of Mary, at Jerusalem, which is in the land of our forefathers.” This changes the statement to mean that Jesus will be born in Jerusalem instead of being born in the land of Jerusalem (“is in the land” vs. “is the land”). 

Added and Deleted Phrases

The first passage wasn’t changed until the 1840 edition of the Book of Mormon, which Joseph Smith carefully reviewed. This hardly changes the passage or meaning of the passage when compared to verse 35 of that same chapter which says that “Laman and Lemuel partook not of the fruit saith my father” (1830 original text). The second passage was changed in the 1837 edition of the Book of Mormon, which Joseph Smith also carefully reviewed. The final passage wasn’t changed until the 1840 edition.

The reason I am pointing out these verses is because large phrases have been added or taken out seemingly without necessity. The reason, I think is to clarify and to make it easier for the reader to understand. If they had kept 1 Nephi 14:2 as it was written in the original edition it would be very redundant and it would end up feeling like that Isaiah passage in 2 Nephi 18:9, which still confuses me. 

Yet my question still remains, did Joseph Smith not receive the translation word for word on his brown stone? Is this not a literal translation?

Spelling of Proper Nouns

As an active member of the Church, I had always heard that Joseph was very careful that the scribes write down each name correctly. And indeed, we have the testimonies of Emma Smith, Martin Harris, David Whitmer, and Oliver Cowdery that Joseph did this. But how could this be so if names continued to be misspelled? Elder Marcus B. Nash of the Seventy, explained that Royal Skousen (a professor of linguistics and English at BYU and the leading expert on the textual history of the Book of Mormon) presented research that analyzed how this came to be. He stated: 

“Using evidence from the original manuscript, Skousen shows that the first time proper names appeared in the text, they were spelled correctly. In subsequent appearances the names may not be spelled correctly, suggesting that Joseph Smith spelled out each name the first time but relied on the scribe’s memory thereafter” [Joseph Smith: Strength Out of Weakness by Elder Marcus B. Nash (2013) footnote 6; see Royal Skousen, in Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins, ed. Noel B. Reynolds (1997), 61-93].

What I don't understand is why we have testimonies from the scribes that Joseph did in fact wait for them to write the names correctly before moving on. All of these scribes began their writing at different times, they were at different locations in the book. Did Joseph give the correct spelling to each scribe so they had a fresh start? Or are these names simply not repeated anywhere else in the book?

Martin Harris (through Edward Stevenson): "By aid of the seer stone, sentences would appear and were read by the Prophet and written by Martin and when finished he would say "Written," and if correctly written that sentence would disappear and another appear in its place, but if not written correctly it remained until corrected, so that the translation was just as it was engraven on the plates, precisely in the language then used." ("One of the Three Witnesses," Millennial Star, Volume 44, p 86-87)

David Whitmer: "Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man." (Address to All Believers In Christ, 1887)

Here we see that the name of Mulek, at least in one spot, was changed three different times until it became what we see today. 

Many other names were changed as well. Parhoran vs. Pahoran; Amalickiah vs. Ameleckiah. Even the names of the Nephite monetary system were different (sean vs. seon) as well as many place names (like Amonihah vs. Ammonihah).

This change didn’t just occur once. It happened over ten times in that same chapter alone in the Printer’s Manuscript.

As a believing member, I reasoned that the explanation of King Benjamin having the seer stones was given in what has come to be known as the lost 116 pages or the Book of Lehi. If this is the case, Joseph would have felt the need to change this as the explanation was lost by Martin Harris. This same change appeared again in Ether 4, but wasn't changed until over ninety years after its initial translation.

I found this change very interesting. The term "Urim and Thummim" does not appear anywhere in the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith seems to be referring in his earlier editions to seer stones, which also "directed" him to buried treasure. The terms for the spectacles went through quite an evolution: from directors, to interpreters, and then finally the Church calls it the Urim and Thummim. 

Changes within the last 40 years?

The above changes were made within the last forty years. Its strange to think that the "most correct book on earth" is still being changed.

Changes within the last 10 years?

The above changes were brought to my attention from the document titled Summary of Approved Adjustments for the 2013 Edition of the Scriptures. 

Another change just within the last ten years is this one. I'm happy to see that the church seems to be going back to the original writing. Good for them. 

Does the fact that the Book of Mormon has changed over 5,000 times mean that it is untrue?

 That depends.

It depends on your definition of "true." 

Many still consider the Bible to be "true" even though the popular 1796 edition of the King James Version contains approximately 16,000 corrections from the original 1611 edition. The Revised Version of the Bible, another popular edition of the King James Bible, contains another 36,000 changes (see Gordon Campbell, Bible: The Story of the King James Version, 235). And these changes don’t even account for the thirteen missing books within the Bible itself. If the Bible can still be true after all these changes, can't the Book of Mormon?  

If by true, you mean that the contents can still teach you and help you feel what many members call "the spirit" then these changes mean very little in way of its truthfulness. Members of the Church typically say that they feel the spirit when they read the Book of Mormon and then promptly rest their case that it is, in fact, true.

But on the other hand, if true to you means that Joseph Smith, through the power of God in his seer stone, translated each word -word for word -and it did not change until it was translated correctly - then I don't see how the book can be true. When we step back and see that not all of these changes were grammatical, and that many of them, in fact, sprang from a changing theology and from the racist views of the writers (or writer) than this changes Joseph Smith's story. When we look at these changes as a whole, especially the ones involving belief and tradition, these changes become significant enough that no justification can allow for them. This would mean that the Book of Mormon is not true.

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