SALT LAKE CITY — In collaboration with the Community of Christ, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has published the original printer's manuscript of the Book of Mormon as part of its ongoing Joseph Smith Papers project.
The release of "Revelations and Translations Volume 3, Parts 1 and 2: Printer's Manuscript of the Book of Mormon," the facsimile edition, was announced in a press conference Tuesday at the Church History Library.
Participating from the LDS Church were Elder Steven E. Snow, church historian, recorder and member of the First Quorum of the Seventy; and Richard E. Turley Jr., assistant church historian and recorder. Representing the Community of Christ, which owns the printer's manuscript of the Book of Mormon, were President Robin Linkhart, a member of the presidency of the Seventy; and Lachlan Mackay, Nauvoo historical sites coordinator.
"It’s really a wonderful document. We are pleased that his document will now be available for scholars and members of the church to review and study as they desire," Elder Snow said.
President Linkhart agreed: "For scholars and historians, it will be an absolute delight," she said. "For our younger generation, it will give them an opportunity to study in a way that those who came before did not have. It will be very interesting and give them a lot of breadth and depth into understanding the Book of Mormon."
The new volume, the 11th in the Joseph Smith Papers series, includes images and details the use of seer stones as instruments used by Joseph Smith during the translation process of the Book of Mormon. Elder Snow said the church hopes "both the images and discussion of this sacred object will add to the understanding of the translation of the Book of Mormon."
"It’s new. I think most members, having heard a little about it ... and will find it interesting," Elder Snow said. "I think it will enhance their understanding of how the Book of Mormon was translated. To be able to see the image will help focus their understanding and will probably generate some interest as well."
Turley said the chocolate-colored, oval-shaped seer stone has been mentioned from the earliest days of the church, including general conference talks and church magazine articles.
"We felt as we were putting together the Joseph Smith Papers project, it would be helpful for our public to see a visual image of it," Turley said. "We live in a highly visual age. A lot of our rising generation of church history like to see pictures of things. We thought that putting an image of the stone in would do a lot in terms of connecting people to it."
When Joseph Smith completed the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon, one of the first things he did was ask scribe Oliver Cowdery to make a copy for the typesetter. This became known as the printer's manuscript.
"After losing the 116 pages with Martin Harris, he learned a lesson that all of us with computers learn, which is back up, back up, back up," Turley said.
The original manuscript was later placed in a cornerstone of the Nauvoo House in 1841. It was recovered decades later with significant water damage, although just under 30 percent of the manuscript was saved.
Years later, Cowdery gave the printer's manuscript to David Whitmer, one of the three witness of the Book of Mormon, whose family eventually sold it to the Community of Christ (then known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) in 1903.
More than three years ago, Elder Snow traveled to Independence, Missouri, where the Community of Christ allowed him to see and hold the printer's manuscript. He said it was one of the highlights of his time as LDS Church Historian.
Elder Snow said the printer's manuscript is the most complete history of the early text of the Book of Mormon. The new volume features high-quality color images with a transcription of the printer's manuscript text on the facing page. Part 1 includes the printer's manuscript from I Nephi 1 to Alma 35 and Part 2 contains Alma 36 to Moroni 10. Combined, the two large volumes, contain more than 1,000 pages.
"These are big and heavy, but they are wonderful," Elder Snow said. "(They) are presented ... so you don't have to strain your eyes reading the old cursive style of writing from the 19th century."
In conjunction with the release of the printer's manuscript project, the LDS Church also posted Tuesday a magazine article — co-authored by Turley — about seership, seer stones and their roles in translation and revelation. Posted on Mormonnewsroom.org, the article is scheduled to be published in print in the church's October 2015 issue of the Ensign magazine.
Images of the seer stone will be placed at the new priesthood restoration site that is being completed in Harmony, Pennsylvania, and will be dedicated Sept. 19 by President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Snow said. Images of the seer stone will also be available in the Church History Museum, which is being renovated and will be opened a week before general conference in October.
The LDS Church and Community of Christ view the publication of this volume is as a major milestone in their longstanding partnership. Elder Snow said both churches would continue to work together to share their collections in the future.
During the press conference, Elder Snow presented President Linkhart with a large framed photograph of the printer's manuscript and thanked the Community of Christ for their contributions to the project.
After many decades of disagreement between the two faiths, an understanding of their shared history has helped both churches to share information that will strengthen the faith of all involved, Elder Snow said.
"This remarkable publication would not be possible without the cooperation of Community of Christ, who has been so gracious and helpful," Elder Snow said. "This is one of the best and most recent examples of our cooperation between the two churches in helping us preserve and present our common restoration past."
President Linkhart was also thrilled with the spirit of cooperation between both faiths.
"One of the most exciting things is to see these two churches work together," President Linkhart said. "We sincerely value our association with the LDS Church."
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