Notes from Royal Skousen’s recent lecture on “Textual Criticism and the Book of Mormon”

Notes from Royal Skousen’s recent lecture on “Textual Criticism and the Book of Mormon” November 14, 2022


The tabernacle temple in Vernal
The Vernal Utah Temple (much of which is actually underground) by night
(LDS Media Library)


Video and audio recordings of the presentations that were given at the Interpreter Foundation’s recent conference on the temple are now available, at absolutely no charge, for your edification and enjoyment:


2022 Temple on Mount Zion Conference: Videos and Audio Recordings


We hope that you will devote some time to them.


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


I’m sorry to say that no recording was made of Royal Skousen’s lecture this past Saturday night on “Textual Criticism and the Book of Mormon,” apparently as the result of an unfortunate misunderstanding. (I certainly don’t understand what happened!)  I had been out of the country until the night before and I had been without WiFi during the last several days of that absence, and I had assumed that all was under control. Plainly, it wasn’t.  Moreover, it seems that we won’t be doing anything in the near term to remedy the defect.  Royal Skousen and Stanford Carmack were just in my home a few minutes ago, and I think that we’ll simply move on from where we are.  There may be another presentation in January or February and, very likely, a somewhat larger event in April or May to mark the overall culmination of the Book of Mormon Critical Text project.


I really regret our failure to produce a recording of Royal Skousen’s remarks on Saturday evening at Utah Valley University.  His lecture was very good — so good, in fact, that I never even came close to dozing off during it despite severe jet lag.  There was a respectable audience in attendance, but I would have preferred more to have been able to hear it and I would like there to have been a recorded public record to which people might refer.


Here, though, are the notes that I took during the lecture.  I realize that they don’t even remotely compensate for not hearing the actual presentation and that they may not even be comprehensible, precisely accurate, or reflective of its actual structure and major themes.  (I do my best!  Even when seriously jet-lagged.)  But, for whatever they’re worth, here they are:


Conjectural Emendations

seemingly rare because difficult to identify

if history of text is known, however, very common

RS has checked French, German, and Finnish translations of the Book of Mormon — surprising how commonly the translators’ independent conjectural emendation agree with each other and with RS’s own

Copyists tend to make the text more difficult, and shorter

Editors tend to make the text easier, and longer (especially in scripture and with such iconic figures as Shakespeare; nobody wants to risk omitting precious words of the Bard or or scripture, so everything tends to be included)

Copyists dominate early transmission of a text, and are more naïve

Editors dominate later transmission of a text, and are more conscious or deliberate


Discussion of what makes a change equivalent in difficulty to the previous text, or or more difficult, or easier

His rules work, says RS, because Book of Mormon is very long (ca. 270,000 words) and extraordinarily repetitive in its phraseology

  • Virtually every occurring phrase or word can also be found elsewhere in the text.
  • This is not so for the Bible, which isn’t actually a single book but, rather, a collection of various books by different authors from widely different periods [dcp: English word Bible comes from Koine Greek τὰ βιβλίαtà biblía, ‘the books’]


Computerized Collation

Yale text is first product of the Computerized Collation

WordCruncher version of Computerized Collation


RS repeats claim (with Stanford Carmack sitting on the front row, right before him) that (especially) the original dictated text of the Book of Mormon reflects strong links to Early Modern English (EModE).  The evidence for this is laid out most fully in his books on The History of the Text of the Book of Mormon, The Nature of the Original Language (Parts 3–4) and The History of the Text of the Book of Mormon, The King James Quotations in the Book of Mormon (Part 5).


RS announces the imminent release of Volume 5 of his Critical Text project

Third edition of Analysis of Textual Variants linked to the WordCruncher version of the Computerized Collation

  • This will give the whole picture of the textual state
  • It remedies two great defects of usual critical apparatuses
  • (1) all of the variants, not merely a selection
  • (2) gives arguments (alone among all of the critical text projects in the whole world)


On behalf of John Carmack, RS announces Carmack’s grammatically tagged version of the Original Text of the Book of Mormon (which will, among other things, give examples of EModE)


Overall theme of RS’s remarks, as he himself sees them:  What can the Book of Mormon teach us about textual criticism, rather than the usual question of what textual criticism can teach us about the Book of Mormon.  (“Book of Mormon is a blessing for textual criticism.”)


Anybody who is interested in being notified of the release of the grammatically tagged version of the Original Text and/or the Computerized Collation should go to and register on the list there.


Hitchens, Christopher
Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011), from Wikimedia Commons

I actually miss him; he was an interesting voice and a superb writer.


But now it’s time to share a few little horrors that recently tumbled out of the Christopher Hitchens Memorial “How Religion Poisons Everything” File©:


“Faith can boost the mental health of both straight and LGBTQ young people, according to new research: Springtide Research Institute found that non-straight young people are more likely to face mental health issues and less likely to have faith-related support”

“Ukraine refugee effort by Latter-day Saints is expanding. Here’s how many the church has helped this year”

“NAACP and the Church Collaborate to Improve a Community Farm in San Francisco: The Florence Fang Community Farm serves more than 100 families”

“Church donates $150,000 in relief materials to victims of Benue Flood: Governor lauds gesture”



"The link is not working for me. I found it here:“Latter-day Saints are connected with ..."

“Aloha ‘Oe”
"This conversation is currently opaque to resolution. The terms cannot even be agreed upon.Racism and ..."

“Aloha ‘Oe”
"From the website announcing the book ( Saints are connected with early Christians through Joseph ..."

“Aloha ‘Oe”
"The general priesthood authority was lost within the first century (priesthood keys are required to ..."

“Aloha ‘Oe”

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

Close Ad