Sensationalism and Missing Words

Sensationalism and Missing Words July 10, 2020


Newbold's Nauvoo
Cover art by Greg Newbold from “Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days: The Standard of Truth: 1815–1846”
I hope that what I’m doing here with it will count as acceptable “fair use.” I’m struck by the painting because it’s in the style of Grant Wood, which I love.


Two new pieces appeared today in Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship:


“Missing Words: King James Bible Italics, the Translation of the Book of Mormon, and Joseph Smith as an Unlearned Reader”

Stan Spencer

Abstract: Chapters from Isaiah quoted in the Book of Mormon use the King James Bible as a base text yet frequently vary from it in minor ways, particularly in the earliest text of the Book of Mormon. A disproportionate number of these variants are due to the omission or replacement of words italicized in the KJV. Many of the minor variants were eliminated by the printer for the 1830 edition or by Joseph Smith himself for the 1837 edition, but others remain. Some of the minor variants are easily explained as errors of dictation, transcription, or copying, but others are not so readily accounted for. While some are inconsequential, others negatively affect Isaiah’s text by confusing its meaning or violating grammatical norms. Most have no clear purpose. The disruptive character of these variants suggests they are secondary and were introduced by someone who was relatively uneducated in English grammar and unfamiliar with the biblical passages being quoted. They point to Joseph Smith, the unlearned man who dictated the Book of Mormon translation. Even so, it seems unlikely that a single individual would have intentionally produced these disruptive edits. They are better explained as the product of the well-intentioned but uncoordinated efforts of two individuals, each trying to adapt the Book of Mormon translation for a contemporary audience. Specifically, many of these variants are best explained as the results of Joseph Smith’s attempts to restore missing words to a text from which some words (those italicized in the KJV) had been purposefully omitted by a prior translator. The proposed explanation is consistent with witness accounts of the Book of Mormon translation that portray Joseph Smith visioning a text that was already translated into English. It is also supported by an 1831 newspaper article that describes Joseph Smith dictating one of the Book of Mormon’s biblical chapters minus the KJV’s italicized words. An understanding of the human element in the Book of Mormon translation can aid the student of scripture in distinguishing the “mistake of men” from those variants that are integral to the Book of Mormon’s Bible quotations.


“Sensationalism: A One-sided Perspective”

Susan Easton Black

Review of Benjamin E. Park, Kingdom of Nauvoo: The Rise and Fall of a Religious Empire on the American Frontier (New York City: Liveright Publishing, 2020). 336 pages. $28.95 (hardback).

Abstract: While Benjamin Park shows promise as a writer and historian, his book, Kingdom of Nauvoo, opts for poorly sourced sensationalism instead of illuminating the joy of Nauvoo’s true history.




In other news:


“Why the Supreme Court cited the Doctrine and Covenants in this week’s key religious liberty decision: In underscoring the vital role teachers play within religion, Justice Alito reached for a scripture familiar to Latter-day Saints”


“Unified Action Needed on Freedom of Religion or Belief Violations, According to North American and British Representatives: Webinar reviews next steps on human rights abuses during COVID-19 pandemic”


“Church Member Receives French Polynesian Government’s Highest Award: President of the country honours Tetuanui Marama Tarati for service to his church and the wider community on Autonomy Day”



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