“A Pure and Delightsome People”

Brant Gardner

These verses, to modern ears, seem to have racial overtones. In this case, however, it is clear that the “scales of darkness” must refer to something rather than skin color, since this darkness will fall from their eyes and not from their skins. Their transformation into “a pure and delightsome people” is not based on the alteration of a physical trait, but a spiritual one. This change depends on receiving the knowledge of Jesus Christ, which is the immediate precedent in verse 5. (See commentary accompanying 2 Nephi 5:21 for more discussion on the color/skin issue.)

Variant: The printer’s manuscript, and both the 1830 and 1837 editions all have the phrase “white and delightsome” rather than “pure and delightsome.” The word “pure” was first introduced in the 1840 edition, an edition where Joseph Smith made careful corrections. Royal Skousen indicates: “The 1840 change of white to pure seems to be a conscious one and was probably made by Joseph Smith as a part of his editing for the 1840 edition. The change does not appear to be an accidental error based on any visual or phonetic resemblance between the two words.” This change was lost when the Saints left Nauvoo, although it was retained in the edition of the Book of Mormon published by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 1874 and thereafter. The 1981 LDS edition followed Joseph’s editing for the 1840 edition and changed ‘white’ to ‘pure.’”

We may also note a similar metaphorical use of “white” in relation to “pure” in Daniel 12:10: “Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.”

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 2