1 Nephi 13:5 Textual Variants

Royal Skousen
behold the [ formation 0T|foundation 1ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRS] of a church which is most abominable above all other churches

Here we have two cases where the original text uses the noun formation to refer to the process of establishing the great and abominable church. Two other examples are found later in this chapter:

When he copied the text from 𝓞 into 𝓟, Oliver Cowdery replaced the word formation with foundation, but for only the first three cases, not the fourth one (in verse 32). It is difficult to determine whether Oliver’s three changes are accidental or intentional. If the change had occurred only once, we would readily suspect that Oliver accidentally misread scribe 2’s formation as foundation. On the other hand, since the change occurred three out of four times, it is possible that for some reason Oliver thought foundation was more suitable than formation. For instance, he might have been influenced by Paul’s reference in Ephesians to the foundation of the Lord’s church:

Of course, the noun foundation does not represent a process of founding or forming. Instead, foundation refers to the inert underlying structure of the church rather than its actual founding or forming. The original manuscript consistently has formation, and this word makes perfectly good sense. The 1981 LDS text correctly restored the three cases that Oliver changed. The RLDS text continues to follow Oliver’s inconsistently applied alteration.

The original text uses the verb form to describe the process of organizing churches (as well as secret combinations). We not only have these four examples of formation in 1 Nephi 13 but also the following examples with the verb form:

The verb found (as well as the agentive founder) can also be used to refer to the process of founding a church (for examples, see the discussion in the next section, under 1 Nephi 13:6).

Summary: The original manuscript consistently refers to the formation, not the foundation, of the great and abominable church; Oliver Cowdery’s change of formation to foundation (whether intentional or not) made a distinct change in meaning but was inconsistently applied.

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