Alma 17:18 Textual Variants

Royal Skousen
now Ammon being the chief among them or rather he did [minister > administer >jg minister 1| administer ABCDEFIJLMNOQRT|minister GHKPS] unto them he departed from them after having blessed them according to their several stations having imparted the word of God unto them or administered unto them before his departure

As discussed under Alma 15:18, the Book of Mormon text uses both administer and minister when referring to people ministering unto others. Here in Alma 17:18, the original text apparently read administer in both places, but the first administer was replaced by minister three different times in the transmission of the text: (1) by Oliver Cowdery when he initially copied the text from 𝓞 into 𝓟, (2) by John Gilbert (the 1830 compositor) when he edited 𝓟 prior to setting the type for the 1830 edition, and (3) in the 1858 Wright edition. But the original administer was restored when Oliver corrected 𝓟 and when John Gilbert set the actual type for the 1830 edition. We do not have the original manuscript here, but Oliver’s correction appears to be virtually immediate (the supralinearly inserted ad shows no difference in the overall level of ink flow). It is true that the verb administer is used later on in this passage, so one could argue that this later occurrence was the source for the introduction of administer earlier in the passage. The virtual immediacy of Oliver’s correction suggests, however, that he did not wait until reading administered later in the passage before deciding to restore the earlier administer. (On the other hand, the 1830 compositor was probably influenced by the later administered when he came to actually typesetting the 1830 edition, thus overriding his earlier decision to replace administer with minister.) Elsewhere in the text, Oliver himself never edited any instance of administer to minister or vice versa, even in cases where there was variation within the same passage:

For one other case where Oliver might have mistakenly first written down minister instead of administer, see the discussion under Alma 22:25 (also see the general discussion under Alma 15:18). The critical text will therefore accept here in Alma 17:18 Oliver’s corrected reading in 𝓟: “or rather he did administer unto them”.

Summary: Accept in Alma 17:18 Oliver Cowdery’s corrected reading in 𝓟 (“or rather he did administer unto them”) as the probable reading of the original manuscript, no longer extant here.

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