Enos 1:3 Textual Variants

Royal Skousen
behold I went to hunt beasts in the forest and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life and the joy of the saints [& the words of my father >js & 1|and the words of my father A| BCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRST] sunk deep into my heart

The earliest text in this verse contains a long noun-phrase fragment: “and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life and the joy of the saints”. After this long noun phrase, the earliest text basically starts over with “and the words of my father sunk deep into my heart”. One could argue that this reading, however awkward, is intended and represents the original language since just before this passage, we have the opening to the book of Enos, which shows a similar kind of initial incompleteness and then abruptness in starting over:

In other words, Enos does not seem to be particularly fluent in his writing, at least on plates of metal. When he sometimes gets tangled up in his syntax, especially after inserting a parenthetical statement, he abruptly cuts off and starts over again.

In his editing for the 1837 edition, Joseph Smith left the initial infelicities here at the beginning of the book of Enos (from verse 1 through the first sentence in verse 3). But the difficulty of the following noun phrase fragment in verse 3 was wholly unacceptable. Joseph decided to keep the long initial noun-phrase fragment (“and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life and the joy of the saints”), but he decided to complete it by deleting the following redundant noun phrase “the words of my father”. He undoubtedly intended to also cross out the ampersand in 𝓟 but neglected to do so. The 1837 edition omitted both the and and the repeated noun phrase.

Lyle Fletcher has suggested (personal communication, 9 October 2004) that the original text had a past-tense verb form, either pondered or remembered, preceding the long noun phrase. In fact, there is considerable evidence to support the use of the verb remember with direct objects that refer to the words which someone has spoken:

On the other hand, there are no examples of this kind of construction involving the verb ponder (as in “to ponder the words which someone has spoken”). Thus if there is a missing verb here in Enos 1:3, the chances are greater that it was remember rather than ponder.

If such a proposed emendation is accepted, we need to consider whether there would have also been a subject pronoun I before remembered. The subject pronoun may be omitted when the meaning is something like ‘go and do something’ (as in 1 Nephi 1:18: “he went forth among the people and began to prophesy”), but when the two actions are clearly distinct and not necessarily connected, such as Enos going into the forest and there remembering the words of his father, then we expect the subject pronoun. Thus the most reasonable emendation is to insert I remembered:

If the original text actually read I remembered, then the question is: Do we have evidence in the manuscripts for the scribes ever accidentally skipping an instance of “ ”? In fact, there is one example in the original manuscript for which the subject pronoun these and the main verb are were initially omitted by Oliver Cowdery as he took down Joseph Smith’s dictation:

In this passage the verb complement is of the form “the words which”, just like in Enos 1:3. One reason why Oliver may have started the clause in Enos 1:3 with “the words which” is that there are five preceding examples in nearby 2 Nephi and Jacob where a clause begins with a subject of the form “the words ”:

In taking down Joseph’s dictation in Enos 1:3, Oliver may have expected the clause to start out with “the words which I heard my father speak”, especially given the prevalence of such usage in the preceding books. More generally, there are eight other examples where a Book of Mormon clause begins with “and the words”. In fact, one of these other examples is found in this same verse of Enos 1:3—namely, in the immediately following clause (“and the words of my father sunk deep into my heart”). Thus Oliver could have readily omitted I remembered as he took down Joseph’s dictation or as he copied from 𝓞 into 𝓟. Supplying I remembered works very well and is consistent with usage elsewhere in the text. The critical text will therefore accept this conjectural emendation, especially since the earliest reading in Enos 1:3 does seem quite implausible.

Summary: Emend the earliest text for Enos 1:3 to read “and I remembered the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life and the joy of the saints”; this conjecture corrects a difficult (if not impossible) reading and is supported by usage elsewhere in the text.

Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, Part. 2