3 Nephi 26:3 Textual Variants

Royal Skousen
even until the elements should melt with fervent heat and the earth should be [wrapped 1PS|wrapt ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOQRT] together as a scroll and the heavens and the earth should pass away

This verse uses two different biblical phrases. The first clause states that “the elements should melt with fervent heat”, a precise use of the phraseology found twice in the King James text for 2 Peter:

The second clause states that “the earth should be wrapped together as a scroll”; a similar expression can be found in the King James Bible:

Note, however, that the Book of Mormon passage refers to the earth, not the heaven(s), as being wrapped together as a scroll; also note that the verb form that is used is wrapped rather than rolled.

Elsewhere in the Book of Mormon, there are two references to the earth rather than the heaven(s) being rolled together as a scroll, both in Mormon:

The consistent use of the earth in 3 Nephi 26:3 and the two passages in Mormon clearly shows that the earth is intended. Note also that the second passage from Mormon has the same biblical clause found in 2 Peter: “and the elements shall melt with fervent heat”.

A second question that arises here is whether wrapped (archaically spelled as wrapt) in 3 Nephi 26:3 is an error for rolled. Such an error would have been in the original manuscript since both the printer’s manuscript and the 1830 edition have wrapped /wrapt. There is a small possibility that Oliver Cowdery mistakenly wrote wrapped or wrapt in 𝓞 in place of a correct rolled (both words are one syllable long and begin with the same r sound, but the similarity ends there). Moreover, this is the only use of the verb wrap in the entire Book of Mormon. Even so, wrapped is very likely correct. The Oxford English Dictionary (under definition 9 for the verb wrap) indicates that one meaning for the verb wrap is ‘to wind or fold up or together … to roll or gather up’; thus the phrase “wrap together” in 3 Nephi 26:3 can be considered equivalent to “roll together”. In fact, the OED cites the following biblical passage in support of this usage (here given in the King James version):

The OED also provides a citation that refers to both heaven and earth as being wrapped up (here cited with modern accidentals):

Thus the reference in the Book of Mormon to the earth being wrapped up as a scroll is fully acceptable. There is no need for any emendation here in 3 Nephi 26:3.

Summary: Maintain in 3 Nephi 26:3 the reference to the earth being wrapped up as a scroll in the last days; usage from Mormon 5:23 and 9:2 argues that the earth is correct and is not an error for the heaven(s); and usage from Early Modern English argues that wrapped together here means ‘rolled together’ (the two passages in Mormon use the verb roll rather than wrap).

Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, Part. 6