BYU professor Royal Skousen concludes his discussion on changes to the Book of Mormon original text
Skousen explained that in this verse, Alma is telling Corianton that he is supposed to go back to the Zoramites and acknowledge his faults and repair what he has done wrong.
"What happened on this particular page in the original manuscript is that when Oliver got done writing it, he dropped ink — little ink drops are all over this page," Skousen said.
It just so happened that some ink had dropped on the word "repair," causing the "p" to look like a "t." Skousen also explained that Cowdery often looped his "r's" down, causing it to look similar to the letter "n."
"Once the typesetter set Gadianton the robber as Gadianton the nobler," Skousen said. "It's one of the best readings in the 1830 because he misread Oliver's 'r' as an 'n.' "
But with the combination of the drops of ink and the letter "r," "repair" easily looked like "retain."
"Oliver himself misread this one once the big, heavy ink blob was there, and he read it as 'retain,' " Skousen said. "It sat there in the Book of Mormon until the 1920 edition."
It wasn't until Elder James E. Talmage, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve until his death in 1933, and the committee pondered the meaning of the word "retain" for the 1920 edition that it was ultimately removed from the text. Skousen expressed the benefits that just this one example can bring.
"'Restore" and 'repair' then means that the full notion of repentance appears in this statement, instead of just part of it," Skousen said. "So it doesn't change any doctrine, but it's reaffirming the true doctrine that we know."
A display of the critical text project is available to view at the L. Tom Perry Special Collections section at the Harold B. Lee library at BYU. Some early editions of the Book of Mormon, along with materials and artifacts of the critical text project, are included in the display.
Sarah Sanders Petersen is an intern for Deseret News where she writes for Mormon Times and other feature articles. She is a communications major and editing minor from Brigham Young University.
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