“I Will Not Suffer My Name to Be Polluted”

Alan C. Miner

Although roughly 150 pages (or portions of pages) of the Original Manuscript have been preserved, the handcopied 464-page Printer's Manuscript is in the possession of the RLDS Church in Independence, Missouri. According to Stan Larson, these manuscripts are of great value because, for the most part, they substantiate the correctness of the present Book of Mormon text--fully 99.9% of the text is published correctly.

In Larson's view, the Original Manuscript is a remarkably "clean" document with no major deletions, additions, or revisions of the text. One of the minor corrections, however, is interesting because it involves the only major Biblical passages to be found in the surviving parts of the Original Manuscript (chapters twenty and twenty-one of 1 Nephi). Generally speaking, these biblical passages are in the wording of the King James Version. However, at 1 Nephi 20:11 some of the wording has been revised as follows:

I will not

"how should I suffer my [name] to be polluted"

In light of this correction, Larson contends that:

"Scribal corrections in the manuscripts reveal efforts by Joseph Smith at the time of the original translation to clarify or restate a thought, indicating his intimate involvement in the process . . . After following the wording of the King James Version Joseph Smith apparently decided that it needed improvement."

[Stan Larson, "Textual Variants in Book of Mormon Manuscripts," from Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 10 (Autumn 1977): 8-30] [For other variants, see the commentary on Alma 62:27; Helaman 16:7; Mormon 8:10; and Ether 1:41]

In regards to Joseph Smith's translation process and the many Biblical passages which appear word for word (and also with changes) in the Book of Mormon, B.H. Roberts has written the following:

How can the strange fact be accounted for, viz., that the translation in the Book of Mormon corresponding to Isaiah, Malachi and the words of the Savior, are in the language of King James' translation? . . . [or in other words], since Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon by means of the Urim and Thummim, why is it that he did not give throughout a translation direct from the Nephite plates, instead of following our English Bible, since translation by means of the Urim and Thummim must have been so simple and so easy?

It is at this particular point where, in my opinion, a very great mistake is made, both by our own people, and our friends in the world. That is, translation by the Urim and Thummim is not so simple and easy a thing as it might at first glance appear. Many have supposed that the Prophet Joseph had merely to look into the Urim and Thummim, and there see, without any thought or effort on his part, both the Nephite characters and the translation in English. In other words, the instrument did everything and the Prophet nothing, except merely to look in the Urim and Thummim as one might look into a mirror, and then give out what he saw there. Such a view of the work of translation by Urim and Thummim, I believe to be altogether incorrect. I think it caused the Prophet the exercise of all his intellectual and spiritual forces to obtain the translation; that it was an exhausting work, which taxed even his great powers to their uttermost limit; and hence, when he could ease himself of those labors by adopting a reasonably good translation already existing, I think he was justified in doing so. . . .

[But] how are the differences to be accounted for? They unquestionably arise from the fact that the Prophet compared the King James' translation with the parallel passages in the Nephite records, and when he found the sense of the passage on the Nephite plates superior to that in the English version he made such changes as would give the superior sense and clearness. This view is sustained by the fact of uniform superiority of the Book of Mormon version wherever such differences occur. It is also a significant fact that these changes occur quite generally in the case of supplied words of the English translators, and which in order to indicate that they are supplied words, are printed in Italics. . . .

Whether [these answers] will be altogether satisfactory or not, this I would suggest to you: consider more especially the positive testimony that exists for the truth of the Book of Mormon, particularly following the injunction of Moroni, in chapter ten, verses four and five of his book, wherein he makes the promise that those who will ask God the Eternal Father for a testimony of the truth of the Nephite record, shall receive such a testimony by the power of the Holy Ghost; "and by the power of the Holy Ghost," as Moroni teaches us, "we may know the truth of all things." [B.H. Roberts, "Bible Quotations in the Book of Mormon: And Reasonableness of Nephi's Prophecies," Improvement Era, 7 (January 1904): 179-196, reprinted by F.A.R.M.S.]

1 Nephi 20:18 Then had thy peace been as a river ([Illustration]): The Jordan River, just south of the Sea of Galilee. The Jordan River was an important water system in the Holy Land that still serves the needs of the communities in the region. Photograph by Justin Craig. [Donald W. Parry, Visualizing Isaiah, p. 67]

1 Nephi 20:18 Thy righteousness as the waves of the sea ([Illustration]): A view of the Mediterranean Sea coast, near ancient Joppa. Both Isaiah and Lehi liken bodies of water to persons. Lehi says to Laman, "O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness!" (1 Nephi 2:9). Isaiah writes: "O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river" (Isaiah 48:18). Photograph by Mindy Anderson. [Donald W. Parry, Visualizing Isaiah, pp. 66-67]

Through the Wilderness to the Promised Land

(1 Nephi )

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary