1 Nephi 11:21 Textual Variants

Royal Skousen
behold the Lamb of God yea even [ 01A|the Son of BCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRST] the Eternal Father

There are four passages in the text where Joseph Smith inserted “the Son of ”, thus modifying references to God so that these passages could not be misinterpreted as references to God the Father instead of his Son, Jesus Christ. Besides the two listed here, there are two more later on in this section of 1 Nephi:

These changes, characteristic of Joseph’s editing for the first part of the text, should be considered as clarifications, not as doctrinal reinterpretations. Earlier in this section of the text, Jesus is clearly identified as the Son of God:

There is no real confusion about also referring to Jesus later on in this section as God, the Eternal Father, and the everlasting God. In fact, these characterizations of Jesus recall Isaiah’s description of the promised son as “Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” (see Isaiah 9:6 and 2 Nephi 19:6).

Furthermore, in other places later on in the text, Joseph Smith left unchanged all the references that describe Jesus Christ as the Father and as God:

In virtually all other instances, the text clearly distinguishes between the Father and the Son. One example will suffice:

The only other instance where the text seems to confound the Trinity is in the ubiquitous statement that the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost are one (found in the three-witness statement, 2 Nephi 31:21, 3 Nephi 11:27, 3 Nephi 11:36, and Mormon 7:7). In any event, Jesus Christ is God, and the four verses in 1 Nephi 11–13 where he is characterized as the Father and as God are consistent with usage elsewhere in the text.

Perhaps the original motivation for adding the first “the son of” (in 1 Nephi 11:18) resulted from complaints by Alexander Campbell about the use in the Book of Mormon of the seemingly Catholic phraseology “the mother of God”:

The name of Jesus Christ, was declared to Nephi, 545 years before it was announced to Mary, and she in true Roman phraseology, is called ‘the mother of God.’

There is clear evidence that the Latter Day Saints were aware of this issue since they quoted Campbell in an early issue (volume 1, number 3; April 1835) of the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate (see page 105 in the article “Trouble in the West”).

Hugh Nibley, on page 6 of Since Cumorah (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1967), suggests putting the Son of in italics to show its secondary nature. In the critical text, of course, these additional words will be relegated to the apparatus.

Summary: Restore the original passages in 1 Nephi 11:18, 1 Nephi 11:21, 1 Nephi 11:32, and 1 Nephi 13:40 that refer directly to Jesus Christ as the Father and as God; Joseph Smith inserted “the Son of ” in these four verses in order to clarify that the text was referring to Jesus Christ rather than to his Father; Joseph Smith did not clarify such usage later on in the text, nor was it actually necessary here in 1 Nephi 11–13.

Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, Part. 1