3 Nephi 27:23–25 Textual Variants

Royal Skousen
write the things which ye have seen and heard save it be those which are forbidden write the [𝓢① words >+ 𝓢② works 1|works ABCDEFGHIKLMNOPQRST|words J] of this people which shall be even as hath been written of that which hath been for behold out of the books which have been written and which shall be written shall this people be judged for by them shall their works be known unto men

Verse 24 in this passage shows two instances of a tendency to replace the original works with words. First of all, scribe 2 of 𝓟 wrote words instead of the correct works, but Oliver Cowdery caught the error when he proofed 𝓟 against 𝓞. Here the 1830 compositor set the correct works. The original manuscript undoubtedly read works. The same error replacing works with words occurred in the 1888 LDS edition, but that error was not transmitted to subsequent LDS editions since the 1888 edition never served as a copytext. For other examples where work(s) and word(s) have been mixed up in the history of the text, see under Alma 12:12–14.

The reason for this re-occurring error here in 3 Nephi 27:24 is that we expect “write the words”, not “write the works”. The Book of Mormon text has 42 other sentences that refer to writing words, but no other sentences that refer to writing works. But in the larger passage for 3 Nephi 27:24, especially in the following verse, it is clear that Jesus wants the works of the people to be written down, not just their words, given that the people will be judged from the books that will be written, “for by them shall their works be known unto men”.

Summary: Maintain the use of works in 3 Nephi 27:24; although we normally expect to read “write the words” rather than “write the works”, works is supported by the language of the larger passage; it is also the 1830 reading and Oliver Cowdery’s corrected reading in 𝓟.

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