Helaman 13:18–20 Textual Variants

Royal Skousen
that whoso shall hide up treasures in the earth shall find them again no more because of the great curse of the land save he be a righteous man and shall hide it up unto the Lord for I will saith the Lord that they shall hide up their treasures unto me and cursed be they who hideth not up their treasures unto me for none hideth up their treasures unto me save it be the righteous and he that hideth not up his [treasure 1AHKP|treasures BCDEFGIJLMNOQRST] unto me cursed is he and also the treasure and none shall redeem it because of the curse of the land and the day shall come that they shall hide up their [treasure > treasures 1|treasures ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRST] because they have set their hearts upon riches and because they have set their hearts upon their riches and will hide up their treasures when they shall flee before their enemies because they will not hide them up unto me cursed be they and also their treasures

In these three verses, we have considerable shifting between singular and plural forms referring to treasure(s). In verse 18, the plural treasures (1) is first referred to by the pronoun them (2) but then later on in the verse by it (3). In verse 19, the first half consistently refers to plural treasures (4–6), but in the second half the original text consistently refers to singular treasure ( 7–8), followed by one singular pronominal use, “and none shall redeem it” (9). However, the 1837 edition changed the singular treasure in the second half of verse 19 to treasures (7), probably unintentionally since the following clause continues the singular uses in “and also the treasure and none shall redeem it” (8–9). In verse 20, Oliver Cowdery initially wrote the singular treasure (10) in 𝓟, but then virtually immediately he corrected it to treasures (there is no change in the level of ink flow for the plural s that he inserted at the end of the line). The 1830 edition (which is here an independent firsthand copy of the original manuscript) also has treasures, so the original manuscript undoubtedly had the plural treasures at the beginning of verse 20. Throughout the rest of verse 20, the text uses the plural treasures as well as the plural pronoun them to refer to them (11–13). Thus we have considerable mixing in the original text for Helaman 13:18–20:

verse 18

treasures, them
verse 19

treasures, treasures, treasures
treasure, treasure, it
verse 20 plural treasures, treasures, them, treasures 

Since both the 1830 edition and the printer’s manuscript are firsthand copies of the original manuscript for this part of the text, the variability between singular and plural in Helaman 13:18–20 is quite clearly a part of the original manuscript and undoubtedly the original text. Therefore, the original singular treasure in the second half of Helaman 13:19 should be restored (“and he that hideth not up his treasure unto me / cursed is he and also the treasure and none shall redeem it”). Don Brugger (personal communication) points out that in this passage the variability in the grammatical number for the word treasure(s) is actually completely systematic: if the text refers to one person, we get the singular treasure; if the subject refers to a plurality of persons, we get the plural treasures. We can see this when we add the subjects to the above analysis:

verse 18 plural singular 1–2 whoso treasures, them
  plural 3 he it
verse 19 plural 4 they their treasures
  plural 5 they their treasures
  plural 6 none their treasures
  singular 7 he his treasure
  singular 8 he treasure
  singular 9 none it
verse 20 plural 10 they their treasures
  plural 11 they their treasures
  plural 12 they them
  plural 13 they their treasures

In other words, a person has his own treasure, but people have their treasures. It should be noted that some of these subject forms, when considered in isolation, could be either singular or plural. For instance, the none under 6 should be interpreted as a plural (“for none hideth up their treasures unto me save it be the righteous”) while the none under 9 can be interpreted as a singular (“for none shall redeem it because of the curse of the land”). For further discussion of none as either a singular or a plural in the text, see under Ether 4:3. Similarly, the word whoso and its related whosoever can take on either a singular or a plural interpretation in the Book of Mormon text; for examples of both possibilities, see the discussion under 1 Nephi 17:48 (which originally read “and whoso shall lay their hands upon me”).

A desire for more consistency within connected clauses could lead one to grammatically emend the it at the end of Helaman 13:18 to them in the standard text, especially since earlier in that verse them is used to refer to treasures:

But notice that such an emendation would actually create a textual exception in this passage by referring to a single person (“save he be a righteous man”) as having treasures. The critical text will maintain the systematic relationship in this passage between the grammatical number of the subject and the word treasure (and at the same time maintaining the reading of the earliest textual sources).

Elsewhere in the text, the plural treasures always takes plural subjects (eight times). On the other hand, the singular treasure is normally used to refer to what one values or is important (twice in 2 Nephi 9:30 and once each in Helaman 5:8 and 3 Nephi 13:21). In these passages, the word treasure can be applied to more than one person. But there is one other passage that specifically refers to physical treasure, and in that case the subject is singular and the text consistently uses the singular treasure:

Here in verse 19 the Lord speaks directly to the treasure (and even uses the archaically singular thou and thee).

Summary: In accord with the earliest textual sources, restore the original singular treasure for the second half of the verse in Helaman 13:19 (“and he that hideth not up his treasure unto me”); this change also makes the text consistently singular in that part of the verse; also maintain the plural treasures throughout Helaman 13:20; the singular it will be maintained near the end of Helaman 13:18 even though earlier in that verse the text refers to treasure(s) only in the plural; overall, a single person has a treasure, but persons have treasures.

Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, Part. 5