1 Nephi 21:23 Textual Variants

Royal Skousen
they shall bow down to thee with their face towards the earth Isaiah 49:23 (King James Bible) they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth

As discussed under 1 Nephi 5:22, Oliver Cowdery (and perhaps Joseph Smith) preferred the form towards over toward. We see this here in the Isaiah quotations, where the King James Bible systematically has only toward, but the tendency for the Book of Mormon text is to read towards. Thus later in 2 Nephi 6, which quotes the last part of Isaiah 49, we get towards once more in the earliest textual source (in this case, 𝓟; the second half of towards is not extant in 𝓞):

(This verse also has faces rather than the singular face of 1 Nephi 21:23 and Isaiah 49:23. See 2 Nephi 6:7 for discussion of this variant.)

The adverb towards occurs twice in the long quotation from Isaiah 2–14 in 2 Nephi:

  earliest source (𝓟 ) king james bible
2 Nephi 17:1 toward toward
2 Nephi 21:14 towards >% toward towards

The first example shows once more the overriding preference in the Book of Mormon for towards. The second example clearly shows Oliver Cowdery’s tendency to write towards; in this instance the original manuscript apparently read toward, in agreement with the corresponding Isaiah passage. This example suggests that the use of towards in the Book of Mormon quotations of Isaiah may be due to dialectal overlay from Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. Nonetheless, as noted in the discussion under 1 Nephi 5:22, the most conservative solution is to accept the earliest textual reading for each case of toward(s), even if it does differ with the reading in the King James Bible.

Summary: Retain the use of towards in 1 Nephi 21:23, the reading of the earliest textual source (the original manuscript); the King James Bible has toward, but the Book of Mormon text favors towards in almost all instances.

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