3 Nephi 5:1 Textual Variants

Royal Skousen
the words of all the holy prophets [which 1A|who BCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRST] had [been 1| ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRST] spoken

The printer’s manuscript reads “which had been spoken”, where the relative pronoun which refers to the words. The 1830 edition reads “which had spoken”. In the latter case, the original relative pronoun which would refer to all the holy prophets. This reading led to the grammatical editing of which to who for the 1837 edition.

The original manuscript most probably read like the printer’s manuscript—that is, with the passive relative clause, which would mean that the 1830 edition accidentally dropped the word been.

As has been noted throughout this section of the text, in general the chances are much greater in the early transmission of the text for a small word to be lost rather than added (this finding is fully discussed in volume 3). Although there are no other examples of either adding or omitting been, there are instances where other forms of the auxiliary verb be were lost from the early text (but there are no instances where forms of the auxiliary verb be were ever added to the early text):

In the early editions, there are two instances where be was omitted. In the first case, it is difficult to tell whether the omission was accidental or intentional; in the second case, the omission appears to be intentional:

In contrast to these early changes, there are two instances in 20th-century editions where be was added:

In both of these cases, the addition of the be appears to be a conscious emendation to the text (probably as an attempt to lessen the complexity of the expression “there should”).

Internal evidence in the text also supports the conclusion that been was original to 3 Nephi 5:1. Elsewhere the Book of Mormon text never uses a relative clause to state that prophets have spoken; there are only examples of the relative clause stating that the words of prophets have been spoken:

We note from the second example that the words does not have to immediately precede the relative pronoun (“the words of the Lord which have been spoken”). Thus the original which in 3 Nephi 5:1 can refer to the words rather than to the immediately preceding all the holy prophets.

We could extend this list of passive examples to include other relative clauses where the antecedent is not word(s), but the which still refers to what has been spoken by the prophets:

Thus both internal and external evidence support the reading in 𝓟 for 3 Nephi 5:1, namely, the passive usage in “the words of all the holy prophets which had been spoken” rather than the active voice in the 1830 edition (“the words of all the holy prophets which had spoken”).

Summary: Restore in 3 Nephi 5:1 the reading of the printer’s manuscript, with the passive auxiliary been and the relative pronoun which: “the words of all the holy prophets which had been spoken”; usage elsewhere in the text supports the passive in relative clauses that refer to what prophets have spoken; the original which must be restored since the relative clause refers to words, not to prophets; the odds that the 1830 typesetter omitted the been are much greater than the possibility that Oliver Cowdery added it when he copied from 𝓞 into 𝓟.

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