The good, the bad and the illegible: Deciphering handwriting of early LDS Church scribes

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  • coltakashi Richland, WA
    March 16, 2015 5:01 p.m.

    Many years ago, I was given permission to research the original 19th century records of the Salt Lake High Council in the LDS Church Archives. The stake clerk was paid for the work of taking down a verbatim record of all meetings in shorthand, and then transcribing it in a very legible script in bound journals. In many cases, I was the first person to read those words in a century.

  • John Simpson ARLINGTON, VA
    March 13, 2015 5:12 p.m.

    I hope that we are near the point where that mistranscription in Section 117 can be corrected: "Is there not room enough...that you should covet that which is but the drop, and neglect the more weighty matters?" "Drop" should be "dross," as in Isaiah 1:25. Anyone who has read a substantial amount of penmanship from the early 19th century will recognize the style of writing double s that led to this error.

  • Utes Fan Salt Lake City, UT
    March 13, 2015 1:52 p.m.

    @Grumpy Granpa

    Latter-Day Saints don't reject the Bible because of whatever errors may have been made. We acknowledge them, and continue to use the Bible as a divine source for us. Acknowledging the "mistakes of men" is hardly condemning it, like critics do - and as they do they cut them selves off from the light that it (and the Book of Mormon) can bring into their lives (by the way, God calls this "being damned").

    God uses imperfect humans to do his work who can and do make mistakes. It really is that simple. And no it is not nonsense.

  • EBarzee Rexburg, ID
    March 13, 2015 1:02 p.m.

    While reading this story, I thought back to when my daughter and I were trying to transcribe patriarchal blessings our early ancestors had received. I too have tried to write more legible since then.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    March 13, 2015 11:46 a.m.

    RE: Grumpy Granpa. “although there are about 300,000 individual variations of the text of the N.T. this number is very misleading. Most of the differences are completely inconsequential--spelling errors, inverted phrases and the like. A side by side comparison between the two main text families (the Majority Text and the modern critical text) shows agreement a full 98% of the time .Of the remaining differences, virtually all yield to vigorous textual criticism. This means that our N.T. is 99.5% textually pure. In the entire text of 20,000 lines, only 40 lines are in doubt (about 400 words), and none affects any significant doctrine” . Daniel Wallace

    D.A. Carson "The purity of text is of such a substantial nature that nothing we believe to be true, and nothing we are commanded to do, is in any way jeopardized by the variants. "This issue is no longer contested by non-Christian scholars, and for good reason.If we reject the authenticity of the N.T. on textual grounds we'd have to reject every ancient work of antiquity and declare null and void every piece of historical information from written sources prior to the beginning of the second millennium A.D.

  • Grumpy Granpa Spanish Fork, UT
    March 13, 2015 11:18 a.m.

    @Utes Fan

    According to the logic of the statement, "And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ" one should not find fault with anything claimed to be from the gods. An example might be regarding the Mormon belief that, the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.

    When one adds the quote from the Title page of the BofM it makes a funny read. "The Bible is the word of God as far as it is translated correctly And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ." We can also apply this to the Quran, Bhagavad Gita, or any other claimed religious text. Nonsense.

  • venitar Provo, UT
    March 13, 2015 9:35 a.m.

    And many school districts are advocating not teaching cursive writing anymore. Will reading cursive become a specialist skill like reading dead languages? I hope not!!

  • Utes Fan Salt Lake City, UT
    March 12, 2015 3:55 p.m.

    @Red Corvette

    "That must explain changing why "pure and delightsome" was erroneously transcribed as "white and delightsome" in the world's most perfect book when it came out."
    ------------

    From the Title page of the Book of Mormon. For those who haven't read it, that is the first page:

    "And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ."

    My guess is that most critics already have read that, but choose to ignore it and therefore misinterpret Joseph Smith's "most correct book" statement.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    March 12, 2015 3:17 p.m.

    In doing some family history I went to the city hall where my family is from. The clerk (or the recorder for the clerk) had what my mother would call a "beautiful hand". Gorgeous long flowing script with little variance line to line or page to page. What a skill!

  • greatbam22 andrews afb, MD
    March 12, 2015 2:57 p.m.

    "In addition to carefully studying the style of a writer, the historians can compare an author’s handwriting with other writings in the same period. This method has also been effective for determining the identity of a document’s author."

    Instead of nitpicking about stuff why don't detractors actually educate themselves about things such as the Joseph Smith papers. A bunch of them are online for your inspection.

    Maybe you all should actually take a look at the handwriting of the times.

    @ Red Corvette

    You are correct Joseph Smith did call the BoM the "Most Correct" he didn't call it the "Most Perfect" there's a big difference between correct and perfect. Seems like you are swapping the two.

  • Bob A. Bohey Marlborough, MA
    March 12, 2015 12:05 p.m.

    Do any of the readers have any insight as to what Joe Smith's definition of "heathen" was?
    Has that definition morphed it's meaning from Joe's time to the present within the LDS religion?

  • There You Go Again Saint George, UT
    March 12, 2015 10:48 a.m.

    The good, the bad and the illegible...

    The headline reads like a pre-script warning to folks who are trying to decipher some of the handwriting on records selected for indexing.

  • Legal Eagle Spanish Fork, UT
    March 12, 2015 10:40 a.m.

    Great article! Thanks for the insight into the challenges faced by church historians.

  • MoreMan San Diego, CA
    March 12, 2015 10:36 a.m.

    That's why the internet and these typewriter thingy dinghies were invented.

  • Red Corvette St. George, UT
    March 12, 2015 10:12 a.m.

    That must explain changing why "pure and delightsome" was erroneously transcribed as "white and delightsome" in the world's most perfect book when it came out.