Changes in the Book of Mormon Regarding Translation and Revisions Part One, an Introduction Translating the Book of Mormon from English into Spanish resembles Bible translating, but the work of Joseph Smith, Junior, differed greatly, and that needs to be considered: the early-nineteenth-century translation by Divine assistance. How great the difference between the original translation of the Book of Mormon (into English in the early 1800’s) and translations of the Bible from ancient Greek and Hebrew! We know few details about the translation process through Joseph Smith. It was by Divine revelation, with at least some assistance through Divinely given instruments. Let us consider the general use of instruments first. We do not doubt the honesty of doctors who would use an instrument to stimulate a certain region of the brain of a patient who has a particular mental health problem that was caused by an injury to a particular part of the brain. Our own lack of understanding does not justify us bringing that doctor’s honesty into question. In a somewhat similar way, our lack of understanding of details regarding the translation of the Book of Mormon, in the early nineteenth century, does not justify anyone bringing into question the honesty of Joseph Smith. God sometimes works his purposes through instruments, and He is perfectly capable of using the tools He chooses to help us when our own mental capabilities are limited. The metal plates that were loaned to Joseph Smith on September 22, 1827---those plates were written in a language unknown to any scholars of that day, although at least some of the pages were in some kind of altered Hebrew, with characters derived from Egyptian. A simple reflection on the inadequacys of Joseph Smith in 1827, his extremely limited formal education---that makes it obvious that he needed Divine help in the translation. The Bible has been translated many times, now available for those of many languages. Why should anyone doubt the value of the original message, whenever a modern scholar suggests a revision in particular verses, in a particular language? Let’s now examine that concept in relation to the English version of the Book of Mormon and its variations from 1830 to the most recent version. Some members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, over the many years since 1830, have adopted the opinion that God inspired every word of the translation as the perfect English word for all futurity. But that opinion does not seem to come from the prophet Joseph Smith himself, at least not in that sense. It now seems that the English words, in the 1830 publication, were a close translation of many words and phrases of the ancient writers, but in an English that could be well understood by Joseph Smith and those of his generation. At least some of the errors of ancient writers, in their languages of many centuries earlier, seem to have been translated unedited into the 1830 English. Perhaps few LDS members have thought deeply about the implications regarding a very few revisions. The original 1830-printed copies of the Book of Mormon have always been available to compare with new versions that were occasionally published. Contrary to what some of the critics seem to imply, the revisions were not to cover up things that would bring into doubt God’s using a prophet to bring forth ancient writings of scripture. Revisions were made for a variety of reasons, none of which contradict the Divine origin of the book. Purpose of any Translation What is a perfect translation? Let’s say we want a perfect understanding of the third chapter of the Gospel of Saint John. What is the perfect way for us to know and understand those verses? Obtain a perfect photocopy of the original text, in the original language, and then learn that language perfectly. We don’t call that a translation, but we also don’t pretend that any translation from one language to another is a perfect conveyance of all the original meaning without any possibility of any introduction of any idea, or shade of meaning, that is not in the original. A translation needs to be understood by at least some of those of the language into which the original is translated. When many readers can greatly understand the translated text, we are satisfied by the quality of the translation . . . maybe. We still need, as much as reasonably pos- sible, to receive the original messages without introducing ideas that were not in the original. Translating a text from one language into another may involve many compromises, and that leaves open the possibility that one generation of readers, in the future, may need either a revised translation or an instruction in the meanings of earlier words and phrases. The Baptism of Little Children - Is it necessary? (Home Page) Changes in the Book of Mormon