“They Buried Their Weapons of Peace or They Buried the Weapons of War”

Brant Gardner

Textual/translation: Mormon will have a larger moral to this story at the end of this chapter. In this stage of the relation, he gives the “moral – so far.”  He notes that their conversion was so complete that they would rather suffer death than undo that conversion. It is certain that Mormon admired the courage of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, as do almost all modern readers.

At the end of this verse we have a corrected error. Daniel Ludlow has suggested that this is an indication of the difficulty of writing on the plates, where it was difficult, if not impossible, to erase (Ludow, p. 210). It is certain that we are seeing a correction or an error. In this particular case, the “weapons of peace” is a very problematic phrase, and clearly not indicative of the intended meaning. The cause of the error is easy to understand. Some of the elements of the intended phrase are present and “recut” into the erroneous phrase. English speakers are familiar with such recutting on a word basis, where “another whole… “ becomes “a whole nother…”. An entire comedy routing was created around “Cinderfella and her three sisty uglers.”

While the general process of creating the error is understandable, the real question is where it occurred. Our Book of Mormon has two sources, the plate text and Joseph’s translation. This error could have occurred in either of the two sources. If Mormon made the error, then he was thinking ahead of his writing, and committed himself in metal before he was accurate to his intended meaning. Joseph could have made the error through the process of dictation. If it occurred at Joseph’s level, he would have seen the coming meaning, and recut the phrase on the fly, correcting it immediately after.

While it is impossible to prove the ultimate source of the error, it has more of the characteristics of an oral error than a written one. The only reason to suggest that the error occurs on the level of Mormon’s plate text is the presumption of a tight control translation method. This commentary does not subscribe to that concept for reasons that have been discussed, and continue to appear in the text.

What does appear to be discernable in Mormon’s text is a probable draft which is behind his final draft. He never mentions a draft, but there are times when he refers to future events, giving the impression that they might already have been written. Certainly the entire scope of his text was conceived before it was committed to metal. For very pragmatic reasons, it would be logical for Mormon to write on a perishable material prior to inscribing the plates. If this were his methodology, the opportunities for the type of error in this verse are limited. It is not a copyists error because the elements that have been recut are too far distant from the point of the copying.

Oral discourse, on the other hand, is full of such mid course corrections. Since the translation was dictated, it is very easy to see Joseph “reading ahead” and making an oral error in the dictation, which was then corrected immediately.

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon