An important event in the history of the Book of Mormon

An important event in the history of the Book of Mormon April 6, 2022


Sent from Royal Skousen
The spine and the cover design for Royal Skousen’s second edition of “The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text”




I received an email earlier this morning from my friend Royal Skousen, letting me know that 10 May 2022, slightly more than a month from now, has been set by as the shipping date for the second edition of  The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text, which is published by Yale University Press.


I’m pretty excited about this.  My first edition of The Earliest Text has been a very useful tool and resource, as well as a wonderful way of studying the Book of Mormon with my wife.


Above, you will see the front cover and the spine for the new edition.  Feeling, though, that the print might be too small to be legible if I simply placed it above, I’ve transcribed the written material from the back cover.  (See it below.)  Professor Skousen also sent me the entire text (although for my information only).  After looking through that material and reading his new introduction to this second edition, which shows how the Yale Book of Mormon derives from the work of the critical text project, I’ll write something up for the Interpreter website closer to the actual date of publication.


Among other things, this will be a much more “handy” version of the Yale Book of Mormon. Here, for instance, is a size comparison between the original hardbound version (2009) and the upcoming softbound version (2022):


Hardbound: 7.5 x 2.13 x 9.19

Softbound: 6.0 x 1.08 x 9.0


It will weigh in at about one-third the weight of the first edition and, as indicated, will be approximately half as thick. The paper is thin but still opaque, and the printed volume is intended to lie open just as the hardbound edition does — which is a very nice feature.  Many people (including myself) have wanted such an edition, something they can readily carry around, especially to church.  So, after five printings of the hardbound edition (which is pretty rare in the world of academic presses and scholarly publishing and not exactly routine anywhere in publishing these days), Professor Skousen was in an excellent position to persuade Yale to go ahead with a softbound edition.


Professor Skousen tells me that this new edition can now be preordered in softbound for $22, but that the actual price will probably be slightly less than that:


But his work is not yet altogether complete.  He also tells me that he and Monte Shelley and I are working hard on the WordCruncher version of the computerized collation, to be published before this year is out, along with part 7 of volume 3. Part 8 of volume 3 should be ready by 1 April of next year.  And, around that time, we hope to have a nice event celebrating the completion of the overall critical text project.


There was already a related event earlier this year up in Salt Lake City that involved the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  You can read about it here in the 25 January 2022 edition of the Church News:


“President Nelson lauds new volume of Joseph Smith Papers project, images of original Book of Mormon manuscript”




Here are two quotations from the relevant site:


“The product of over two decades of painstaking labor by Royal Skousen . . . this Yale edition aims to take us back to the text Smith envisioned as he translated, according to the faithful, from golden plates that he unearthed in upstate New York.”—Stephen Prothero, Wall Street Journal

“Will forever change the way Latter-day Saints approach modern scripture. Two hundred years from now… students of the Book of Mormon will still be poring over Skousen’s work. What he has accomplished is nothing short of phenomenal.”—Grant Hardy, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies




And (I haven’t forgotten) here is the material from the back cover of the 2022 Yale University Press second edition of The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text:


“The most accurate Book of Mormon edition ever published.”
Grant Hardy, University of North Carolina, Asheville

MANY READERS of the Book of Mormon simply assume that the modern printed editions contain the same text that Joseph Smith originally dictated to his scribes in 1828-29, but in fact even the first edition of the Book of Mormon (published in 1830) ended up with a considerable number of changes, including many that had entered the text during its dictation.  Most of the early changes were made when the scribes transcribed the printer’s manuscript from the original manuscript; but there were also many changes that the 1830 typesetter, John Gilbert, introduced into the text.  Subsequent editions have continued to make changes in the text. including numerous grammatical emendations in an attempt to eliminate the nonstandard English from the original text of the Book of Mormon. All these layers of change have resulted in a very complex textual history, one that has led to a massive scholarly project spanning more than 30 years.

This second edition of The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text is the culmination of that project, and includes:

– 615 readings that have never before appeared in any standard printed edition
– 251 readings that make a difference in meaning
– 19 corrected spellings of names
– 133 readings that make the text more consistent in phraseology or usage
– 38 readings that restore a unique phrase or word choice to the text
– A completely new introduction by the editor
– An appendix listing 724 significant changes in the history of the text

ROYAL SKOUSEN, a linguist with scholarly publications in analogical modeling of language, quantum computing, and textual criticism, has been the editor of the Book
of Mormon Critical Text Project from 1988 to the present. From 1970 to 2020, he taught graduate-level courses in linguistics at five institutions: the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of California San Diego, the University of Tampere in Finland (as a Fulbright Scholar), and Brigham Young University.

“Skousen strips the text of its traditional formatting and presents it in ‘sense-lines,’ breaking what have been read as paragraphs of repetitive narrative
into the phrases and clauses of something resembling epic poetry. The result
of Skousen’s labors is a work of unique aesthetic and scholarly value,
and an essential resource for scholarly approaches to the Book of Mormon.”

— Seth Perry, Princeton University


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