3 Nephi 28:3 Textual Variants

Royal Skousen
blessed are ye because ye [desire 1PS|desired ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOQRT] this thing of me

The printer’s manuscript has the present-tense desire, the 1830 edition the past-tense desired. The 1908 RLDS edition restored the reading of 𝓟, desire, while the LDS text has maintained the pasttense desired.

The present-tense works best here in verse 3 since in the preceding verses the Lord has just asked the twelve disciples what their desire is:

The past-tense desired in verse 3 would work better if the nine disciples had expressed their desire some time earlier. Of course, one could argue that scribe 2 of 𝓟 replaced an original desired with the present-tense desire because of the preceding instances of ye desire and we desire in verses 1 and 2.

Later in verse 5, the text does use the simple past-tense desired to refer to the desire of the three other disciples:

But this passage is part of Mormon’s past-tense narrative, so the past-tense form is expected. Interestingly, in the following verses Jesus speaks of the desire of the three disciples in the present perfect:

The simple past-tense desired at the end of verse 6 (“which John my beloved ... desired of me”) is appropriate since John’s request occurred some time earlier.

When we look at transmission errors involving changes in tense, we find that scribe 2 of 𝓟 never made any errors replacing an original simple past-tense form with a present-tense form. On the other hand, there are quite a few cases where the 1830 compositor changed an original simple present-tense form to a past-tense form. In each of the following cases, there is nothing inappropriate about the present-tense form; and in one case (marked with an asterisk) the pasttense form does not work well for the given context:

It should be noted that in two of the above passages, 1 Nephi 17:22 and Alma 1:18, the 1830 compositor was very likely influenced by nearby past-tense verb forms when he decided to change the present tense to the past. For Alma 11:36 we note that not only the 1830 compositor but also scribe 2 of 𝓟 made the change to the past-tense spake, yet Oliver Cowdery corrected the spake to the present-tense speak when he proofed 𝓟 against 𝓞 (in this instance, 𝓞 is extant and reads speak). But Oliver’s correction in 𝓟 did not deter the 1830 compositor from setting spake when he set the type for this passage from 𝓟; for some reason he decided to accept scribe 2 of 𝓟’s spake. Finally, we should note that the last case (in Moroni 9:10) is particularly interesting because here the 1830 compositor, John Gilbert, directly marked in 𝓟 the change to the past-tense form for two verbs but then ended up ignoring those emendations when he set the type itself, probably because the preceding perfect form is in the present tense (“and after that they have done this”). It seems that Gilbert originally wanted the past-tense forms here because of the preceding occurrence of the past-tense had done and did murder earlier in the verse.

These examples provide considerable evidence that the 1830 compositor was the one responsible for changing an original desire to desired here in 3 Nephi 28:3. One could argue that desired is the more difficult reading, which makes one wonder why the compositor would set a difficult reading. But we have already seen in one case (in 2 Nephi 25:13) that the 1830 compositor’s change to the past-tense form can create a difficult reading. The critical text will therefore restore here in 3 Nephi 28:3 the present-tense desire, the reading in 𝓟; the difficult desired, the 1830 reading, appears to be an error.

We should note here that the use of the present perfect in verses 6 and 9 of 3 Nephi 28 suggests that the verb in verse 3 could have originally been in the present perfect: “blessed are ye because ye have desired this thing of me”. If 𝓞 read this way, then the 1830 compositor must have accidentally dropped the perfect auxiliary have. But then scribe 2 of 𝓟 must have made a more complicated change, namely, altering the present perfect to the simple present tense by dropping not only the have but also the d at the end of the verb desire. It seems quite unlikely that both scribe 2 of 𝓟 and the 1830 compositor would have omitted the have in their transmission of the text. Another possibility, of course, is that the original text had the have but that it was omitted as Joseph Smith dictated the text to Oliver Cowdery (the presumed scribe here for 𝓞). Under that scenario, scribe 2 of 𝓟 then made the change from desired to desire, while the 1830 compositor faithfully set the reading of his copytext. But as we have already seen, scribe 2 of 𝓟 was not prone to make this kind of change. Ultimately, the simplest solution is to accept the reading in 𝓟, the present-tense desire, as the original reading for 3 Nephi 28:3.

For other examples of blessed followed by because, the tense in the because- initial clause or phrase is always in the present, never in the past; most are in the present perfect, but there is also one in the simple present tense (marked below with an asterisk):

These examples provide internal support for the present-tense desire in 3 Nephi 28:3 (and also for the conjectured present-perfect have desired ), but not for the past-tense desired.

Summary: Restore in 3 Nephi 28:3 the present-tense desire, the reading of the printer’s manuscript; the 1830 compositor appears to have replaced the original present-tense form with a past-tense form, a common enough error on his part elsewhere in the transmission of the text.

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