Alma 24:18–19 Textual Variants

Royal Skousen
and this they did / vouching and covenanting with God that rather than [to >js NULL 1|to A| BCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRST] shed the blood of their brethren they would give up their own lives and rather than [to 0A|to >js NULL 1| BCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRST] take away from a brother they would give unto him and rather than [to 0A|to >js NULL 1| BCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRST] spend their days in idleness they would labor abundantly with their hands and thus we see that when these Lamanites were brought to believe and to know the truth that they were firm and would suffer even unto death rather than [to 0A|to >js NULL 1| BCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRST] commit sin

In this passage there are four occurrences of “rather than to” that Joseph Smith changed to “rather than” in his editing for the 1837 edition. But this passage was apparently the only place where Joseph did this kind of editing. In three other places he left the expression “rather than to”:

In the first example (Alma 13:10), the infinitival to is supported by the preceding parallel use of to in “they choosing to repent and work righteousness”. In the two other examples, there is no parallel support for the infinitival to. Interestingly, in the third case, the 1852 LDS edition dropped the to, in accord with current English usage (although this change may have actually been unintentional rather than due to conscious editing). It should also be noted that in the printer’s manuscript for the Alma 51:20 example, Oliver Cowdery initially skipped the to by first writing the b of be (see the middle line in the following manuscript citation); Oliver immediately corrected what he had started by overwriting the b with a t and then continuing inline with the o:

This scribal error shows that “rather than to” was the reading in the text yet did not represent Oliver’s language (since he seems to have preferred “rather than be smote down”). The critical text will, of course, restore all of these deleted to’s in Alma 24:18–19 and Alma 51:20.

As might be expected, there is evidence for “rather than to” in Middle and Early Modern English, including these examples (with spelling regularized) from the online Oxford English Dictionary:

(I wish to thank Don Chapman for help in determining the substantives for these citations.) There is also this example from the King James Bible:

The use of “rather than to” in the original Book of Mormon text is clearly intended and will be followed in the critical text wherever it is supported by the earliest textual sources.

Summary: Restore the archaic use of to in “rather than to” that was removed from four occurrences in Alma 24:18–19 (the result of Joseph Smith’s editing for the 1837 edition) as well as from one other occurrence, in Alma 51:20 (in the 1852 LDS edition).

Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, Part. 4