“The Book of Mormon is false because…”

A photograph of the 1841 First European (London) edition of the Book of Mormon, at the Springs Preserve museum, Las Vegas, Nevada.The Book of Mormon is false because of the several “major” changes between printings.

That was the gist of a comment that caught my attention today on YouTube under this video:

Book of Mormon Evidence by an Archaeologist

The following was my response.  I felt it worth sharing wider:

To apply your point more generally, I can paraphrase it with this question: If God is real, why would He let scripture regarding Him become corrupted by man?  This is always an excellent question.  To be fair, however, we have to put our fears and biases of the truth away and apply all questions to all sides equally — something very hard for any man to do and pretty much impossible for anyone with a contentious agenda to do.  Losing my fear of finding truth in strange places is something I am continuously working on myself while seeking out all sides to all arguments.  The hardest part is putting contention away in order to simply listen.  That kind of pride is a truly evil beast that is in even the best of us.

Both the Bible and the Book of Mormon suffer from changes and/or mistakes made by man over time.  The mistakes made by man in the BOM are known by the LDS church and, apparently, they are not concerned… more or less because they believe the true word comes through the spirit and not any book alone.  Their god is complex and cannot be represented by our imperfect languages.  Anyone who really, truly, honestly, wants to know more about the different versions of the BOM should seek out the exhaustive study on all versions done by Royal Skousen.  Perhaps, the biggest mistake he uncovered is that the book of Mosiah appears to likely be missing the first two chapters.  (And I’m not talking about the lost book of Lehi.)  One would be hard pressed, however, to prove that any of these “major” changes were intentional or that they change the overall message significantly.

The Bible, on the other hand, is undergoing rapid and significant changes nowadays — one person or group claiming they have a better understanding of this or that ancient text than some other person or group.  Even among ancient texts, such as the early codices, there are differences.  Thus, to hold the Bible and the BOM to two different standards would be the way of foolishness in my world.  Today, one will find far more difference in meaning between the different modern English versions of the Bible than one will between the different English versions of the BOM.

To take either one absolutely literally in all things, knowing there are mistakes of men in those words, is also foolishness.  Even the prophets themselves, the one’s who recorded the words given to them from God, likely added their own imperfections to the words they spoke to the people and to what was recorded.  Moses knew he was not eloquent and, apparently, God did not force him to be so when speaking as a prophet, allowing his brother to be his spokesperson instead.  God teaching a prophet what to say does not mean verbatim dictation as far as I understand it.

Anyhow, back to my introductory question as to why God lets us make these mistakes to His scriptures, I can’t say I have a definitive answer (of course).  I believe in a complex god who lets us make mistakes on all levels and who works in mysterious ways.  The only perfect man on this planet was Jesus and, even he, was human enough to probably stub his toe once in a while.  Jesus wrote no scriptures himself that I am aware of and this just adds further doubt to such a concept as perfect scripture, let alone, complete scripture.  Just because the works of God are perfect doesn’t mean that everything is recorded perfectly once run through the human filter.

Therefore, the story behind the different versions of BOM looks to be something like this: Royal Skousen does a pretty good job of showing evidence that the first transcript of the BOM in English was curiously detailed and thus, possibly, if you care to believe it, a perfect translation of the original text (which is not to say the original text was perfectly recorded either).  Then, however, came a second manuscript, copied from the first, to be sent to the printer.  That copy was a work of men and introduced many errors.  Some of those errors were caught and corrected but even some of the corrections had errors.  Little of the first manuscript remains so the accuracy and origins of the corrections to the printer’s manuscript is difficult to prove.  Anyhow, the printer then introduced more errors when typesetting it.  Some of those were caught and fixed (maybe incorrectly so).  And so on and so forth.  Joseph Smith was not a perfect man — the LDS church has never claimed so — and, apparently, his proofreading skills were not perfect either.  I fail to see, however, how this proves that he was not a prophet when applying all things equally to all probable prophets of God.