Words of Mormon 1:14 Textual Variants

Royal Skousen
and in the strength of the Lord they did contend against their enemies until they had slain many [thousand >+ thousands 1|thousands ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRST] of the Lamanites

Oliver Cowdery initially wrote the singular thousand; then later (probably when he proofed 𝓟 against 𝓞) he inserted a plural s at the end of thousand (the correction is with heavier ink flow). It is very probable that the original manuscript read thousands since we know Oliver frequently added and deleted final s ’s in his copy work (see, for instance, the discussion regarding borders and shore under 1 Nephi 2:5).

Elsewhere in the original text, the partially singular many thousand occurs only when it is immediately followed by a noun phrase:

None of these cases are followed by an of-initial prepositional phrase. On the other hand, instances of the fully plural many thousands preceding a noun phrase always have the preposition of:

These complementary patterns suggest that “many thousands of the Lamanites” is the correct reading for the Words of Mormon 1:14. If many thousand were correct, the connecting of the would have been omitted (giving “many thousand Lamanites”). Or perhaps a noun like men could have originally occurred between “many thousand” and “of the Lamanites”, although the phrase “men of the Lamanites” is rare and occurs only in Alma 62:15: “a large body of men of the Lamanites”.

Summary: Retain “many thousands of the Lamanites” in the Words of Mormon 1:14, which is Oliver Cowdery’s corrected reading in the printer’s manuscript and the probable reading of the original manuscript (no longer extant here).

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