Changing the Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon has undergone manifold changes since it’s first printing in 1830. Some of these changes have been minor, and some have carried doctrinal impact. When the 1981 edition of the Book of Mormon was published it reflected nearly 100 noteworthy changes from the 1920 edition. Apparently more changes are on the way; one future change to the LDS edition of the Book of Mormon has made its debut in a recent edition of the book published by Doubleday.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports:

“The LDS Church has changed a single word in its introduction to the Book of Mormon, a change observers say has serious implications for commonly held LDS beliefs about the ancestry of American Indians.”

The change to the book’s Introduction is this:

1981 LDS Edition: “After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.”

and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians

2007 Doubleday Edition: “After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians.”

and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the LDS Church instructed Doubleday to make this change so it “would be in accordance with future editions the church is printing.”

Changing the designation of the Lamanites from “principle ancestors” of American Indians to “among the ancestors” of American Indians reflects an effort on the part of the LDS Church to deal with the impact DNA evidence has had in challenging the historical claims of the Book of Mormon.

LDS prophets and other Church leaders have consistently taught that American Indians are the literal descendants of a Hebrew character from the Book of Mormon (Lehi). However, DNA research finds no intimate genetic link between American Indians and Semite peoples. Instead, according to molecular biologist Simon Southerton, “DNA has revealed very clearly how closely related American Indians are to their Siberian ancestors. The Lamanites are invisible, not principal ancestors” (see DNA and the Book of Mormon Record for more information on this issue).

Before dismissing the revision of the Introduction to the Book of Mormon as being insignificant (after all, the Introduction is not “scripture”), consider this. The LDS Church, via its magazines, has made it clear that the Introduction text is more than just someone’s opinion. The current Introduction first appeared in the 1981 Triple Combination, heralded for its many added study aids. New Era informed Church members,

“In 1972 the First Presidency commissioned a project to help the Church in improving its scripture understanding. Under the careful watchcare of the Scriptures Publication Committee (Elder Thomas S. Monson, Elder Boyd K. Packer, and Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles), there have been published new editions of all of the standard works of the Church…In August 1981 the new edition of the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price (commonly referred to as the ‘triple combination’ or the ‘three-in-one’) was published.” (Edward J. Brandt, “New Helps for Searching the Scriptures,” New Era, August 1982, 47)

Two months later Ensign magazine said the new Triple Combination edition was “the product of years of research and inspired direction” (Edward J. Brandt, “Using the New LDS Editions of Scripture—As One Book,” Ensign, October 1982, 42).

Inspiration is a peculiar thing in Mormonism. The word is used in a way that implies divine influence; but the value of the fruit of that inspiration is often fleeting: True today, not necessarily so tomorrow.

At least one “inspired” source left no room for conjecture on the ancestry of the American Indians. Joseph Smith said,

“He [the angel Moroni] told me of a sacred record which was written on plates of gold, I saw in the vision the place where they were deposited, he said the Indians were the literal descendants of Abraham.” (An American Prophet’s Record, The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith, November 9, 1835, 51).

The current LDS leadership’s apparent shift in thinking regarding both the origins of the American Indian, and the Church’s long-standing interpretation of the Book of Mormon, illustrates (once again) the propensity of the Church to revise “inspired truth” to suit the times.

Related Resources

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
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12 Responses to Changing the Book of Mormon

  1. falcon says:

    When I read about this last week I had that “Here we go again” reaction. One of the real benefits to reading and interacting on Mormon Coffee has been to get inside the mind-set of Mormons. I’ve come to see that they are very comfortable with what I’d call “doctrinal chaos”. It seems to me that they see systematic theology and doctrinal consistency as a hinderance to faith. The shifting sands of Mormon doctrine and practice, while problematic to us Ev. Christians, is worn like a badge of honor by Mormons. Basic bedrock Mormon beliefs are discarded in the blink of an eye. Now our Mormon friends will give a “this is no big deal” reaction to the change in the introduction to the BOM, totally ignoring what their founder “revealed”. I don’t get it!

  2. Michael P says:

    Falcon, I concur. Details get in the way, even contradictory ones. Its as if reason is suspended.

    And this is a significant change. I am sure it will be excused with something like this: the principal and among are not necessarilly different. Among is a little less specific, but still holds that they are primarily the primary.

    As to JS’s comments. What does literal mean? Kind of like “is”?

  3. Rick B says:

    My thoughts are, Will this change be Noted in the BoM so non-LDS know about it? I ask because, Not every Non-LDS out their will know about this change, and to change it and not be open about it is very dishonest.

    Will the MM’s let possible new converts know about the change so they can have a total and honest view of Mormonism?

    If we as Non-LDS did this with any portion of the Bible and did not note it in the Bible like I want LDS to note it in the BoM would the LDS feel we are being dishonest? If so then can I say they are being dishonest? I really doubt it, it works one way but not both as near as I can tell. Rick b

  4. Jeff B says:

    Very unfortunate. It is attempt at the covering up/changing/washing of history to make it seem like there wasn’t any mistake..

    What this seed has a chance to grow into is years later, a couple decades or so, the original text won’t even be in an LDS members mind. Just like Joseph Smith’s many wives not being talked about and a born and raised Mormon member of 21 years (my wife) actually thinking that Joseph had only one wife..

    Its unfortunate because that just creates more of a mess of twisted information that people investigating the church has to sift through.

  5. falcon says:

    One of our Mormon contributors here once intimated that the progression to godhood doctrine was more or less minor in regards to all of the wonderful parts of the restored gospel. I thought, personally, that it was a pretty big deal. My point? This new entry in the introduction to the BOM will be seen as just a small detail, not really worth bothering with. In fact at some point in time I fully expect the Mormon church to work out a point of view that the lost tribe of Hebrews that came to America in 600BC were really asian Jews who really got lost before they ended up here. Thus we have the DNA connection made. The rank and file would simple accept it because, after all, it’s just a minor point. Ya gotta wanna believe boys and girls!

  6. Michael P says:

    A Mormon answers:

    I agree with the words of a friend of mine.

    “This word corrects that 1981 assumption – actually an old assumption dating to the earliest days of the Church – about the scope of the text. It is not a correction of any doctrine or principle taught in the Book of Mormon itself. But as I expected, critics are ranting over the “shifty” nature of the Church, claiming that this is a scandalous cover-up or admission of error in the Book of Mormon. Please!
    “Yes, the Book of Mormon gives important information about some of the ancestors of Native Americans. It is written for them and for us Gentiles (well, I’m 1/512 Mohawk, and proud of it). But it does not rule out the possibility of other ancient migrations to the Americas. Lehi and his family may have been a tiny drop in the bucket of the ancient gene pool in the Americas when they arrived, and there are hints about others being present in the land in the text itself. If there were millions elsewhere on the continent when Lehi arrived, his DNA could have spread all over the continent now, albeit dilutely, making most Native Americans genetic “remnants” of the ancient Lamanites, with very little chance that his Y chromosome or Sariahs mitochondrial DNA still exists anywhere since they require a pure paternal or maternal line, respectively.
    “I’m proud of a Church that can recognize the limitations of men, past and present, and take advantage of advances in knowledge. Just as we took advantage of advances in scholarship about the original text of the Book of Mormon to correct a number of printers errors and copying errors that crept into the text over the years, resulting in the magnificent 1981 edition, I’m pleased that improved understanding has allowed old but possibly sloppy assumptions to be revisited and substantially improved through the use of the word “among” to more accurately reflect what the text actually requires. This change in the introduction should be applauded.

  7. Michael P says:

    Sorry for the double posts, more than 2000 characters, and the quote is not yet complete.

    “Such critics rarely recognize how much their own religious views and scriptural texts and interpretations thereof have been edited and updated – not always for the better – through the influence of scholars and editors over the years. Compare the 1611 King James Bible to current versions, for starters. Most of those changes represent real progress, not scandalous cover-ups by shifty Christians. (Things get more complex if you compare the modern doctrines and creeds pertaining to the Trinity with the views of the earliest Christians about the nature of God, so let’s not go there.)”

    In the first part, I particularly like the line about sloppy assumptions. And in the second, it shows an ignorance of modern scriptures and how they are translated.

    And correct me, someone, if I am wrong, but did not Mormons at once truly say they are the primary descendants?

  8. falcon says:

    Is the BOM a work of historical value or is it a literary fantasy? Is the BOM historically accurate? Is there an expert in any related field (science, history, linguistics, archeology)outside of the Mormon church who testifies to it’s historical authenticity? Of course not, that’s why the Mormon church has to keep shifting and changing and reacting to try and make things fit. That’s why the Mormon church has to ignore it’s own former prophets and continually scramble to provide rationale for what is obviously a creation of a fertile imagination.

  9. rpavich says:

    Michael P,
    You threw up a lot of bluster but the fact remains; up until now the POGP said this:

    “After thousands of years…the principal ancestors of the American Indians.”

    “After thousands of years…are among the ancestors of the American Indians.”

    It’s not an assumption unless you say that Joseph Smith had a wrong assumption here:
    “He [the angel Moroni] told me of a sacred record which was written on plates of gold, I saw in the vision the place where they were deposited, he said the Indians were the literal descendants of Abraham.”

    You and I both know that their is some “smoothing over” of previous doctrine going on. I’m an ex-Mormon myself and I am acquainted with the shifting sands of Mormon doctrine.

    Please site some specific examples of “editing and updating” of the KJV bible or refrain from throwing that little smokescreen out there; likewise with the trinity view…site sources or put them back in your pocket.

  10. Jeff B says:

    rpavich, I think you misread some things.. Michael P was actually quoting a Mormon from some other site. Michael P himself wasn’t the one rebutting it all.

  11. Michael P says:

    Yeah, Rpavich, I was quoting someone else. Trust me, I see the sands of Mormonism for what they are.

    This guy said some interesting things, such as their history and assumptions have been sloppy, which to me is a huge red flag (think they see it that way?).

    They also claim to have the original BOM, but they don’t have the plates. Minor detail, as is everything, but they only have the word of a man with a suspicious back ground to go by.

    I’m with ya, trust me.

  12. rpavich says:

    Michael P..

    My apologies…I should read more closely.



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