Alma 13:16 Textual Variants

Royal Skousen
now [their >js these 1|these ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRST] ordinances were given after this manner that thereby the people might look forward on the Son of God

Scribe 2 of 𝓟 wrote “their ordinances”, which the 1830 printer set as “these ordinances”. In his editing for the 1837 edition, Joseph Smith corrected the printer’s manuscript to read the same as the 1830 edition. The original manuscript is not extant here, but surviving fragments indicate that there or their would have occurred at the beginning of the line in 𝓞, a place where the tendency to make errors would have been greater. It is quite possible that scribe 2 misread these in 𝓞 as there, then mentally corrected the spelling there to their as he wrote down the word in 𝓟. The scribes, like all writers of English, would have been very much aware of their tendency to mix up the homophonous spellings of their and there, as well as the need to correct such errors:

there misspelled as their:

oliver cowdery (𝓞 + 𝓟) scribe 2 (𝓟) hyrum smith (𝓟)

with correction 3 = 2 + 1 2 0

without correction 8 = 2 + 6 1 3

with correction

28 = 23 + 5

0 1

without correction

9 = 7 + 2

1 0

their misspelled as there:

Moreover, there is considerable evidence that the scribes sometimes misread there as these:

(For an interesting example of the same misreading, but in the 1837 edition, see Mosiah 15:24.) There is also one example of misreading these as there in the manuscripts:

From a contextual point of view, “these ordinances” is more plausible in Alma 13:16 than “their ordinances”. Two earlier references to ordinance in Alma 13 suggest that these ordinances are the Lord’s:

On the other hand, “their ordinances” implies more of a human origin. Elsewhere the word ordinance(s) always refers, either directly or indirectly, to sacred ordinances that are associated with God (including the law of Moses), even when these ordinances are rejected (by Korihor in Alma 30:23 and by the house of Israel in 3 Nephi 24:14):

Thus “their ordinances”, the earliest extant reading in Alma 13:16, appears to be an error, probably for “these ordinances”, the emended reading introduced in the 1830 edition. The critical text will accept that reading as the original reading (and also as the probable reading in 𝓞).

Summary: Accept in Alma 13:16 the 1830 typesetter’s emendation of “their ordinances” (the reading in 𝓟) to “these ordinances”; scribal errors and language usage elsewhere in the text support this emendation.

Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, Part. 3