Epic Mormon Battles of History part 1: B.H. Roberts vs. Joseph F. Smith on changes to the Book of Mormon

In this corner, famed historian, sporting a ‘stash that could clean a chimney, sent by the church leaders, responsible for finding the liberty jail, and obtaining many rare letters and connections in conjunction with the forming of the church –his historical task was set out by apostolic decree: B. H. ROBERTS!

And his opponent, Utah State Representative, church historian under George Albert Smith AND later prophet to the one and only LDS faith, Joseph F. Smith!

Who of these two heavy weights will win in an all out-and-out fight to declare the final word of the malevolent motives of “printer of Mormon”? Did Gilbert gravely grift the graven plates? or was Joseph Smith’s grammer the real culprit?

Joseph F. Smith:

“During the past week or two I have received a number of letters from different parts of the United States written by people, some of whom at least are a little concerned because they have been approached by enemies of the Church and enemies of the Book of Mormon, who have made the statement that there have been one or two or more thousand changes in the Book of Mormon since the first edition was published. Well, of course, there is no truth in that statement.

“It is true that when the Book of Mormon was printed the printer was a man who was unfriendly. The publication of the book was done under adverse circumstances, and there were a few errors, mostly typographical — conditions that arise in most any book that is being published — but there was not one thing in the Book of Mormon or in the second edition or any other edition since that in any way contradicts the first edition, and such changes as were made were made by the Prophet Joseph Smith because under those adverse conditions the Book of Mormon was published. But there was no change of doctrine.

“Now, these Sons of Belial who circulate these reports evidently know better. I will not use the word that is in my mind” (The Improvement Era, December, 1961, pp. 924-925).

B. H. Roberts:

“That errors of grammar and faults in dictation do exist in the Book of Mormon (and more especially and abundantly in the first edition) must be conceded; and what is more, while some of the errors may be referred to inefficient proof-reading, such as is to be expected in a country printing establishment, yet such is the nature of the errors in question, and so interwoven are they throughout the diction of the Book, that they may not be disposed of by saying they result from inefficient proof-reading or referring them to the mischievous disposition of the ‘typos’ or the unfriendliness of the publishing house. The errors are constitutional in their character; they are of the web and woof of the style, and not such errors as may be classed as typographical. Indeed, the first edition of the Book of Mormon is SINGULARLY FREE FROM TYPOGRAPHICAL ERRORS” (Defense of the Faith, by B. H. Roberts, pp. 280-281; reprinted in A New Witness For Christ in America, by Francis W. Kirkham, Vol. 1, pp. 200-201).

A footnote on the same page: “But after due allowance is made for all these conditions, the errors are so numerous, and of such a constitutional nature, that they cannot be explained away by these unfavorable conditions under which the work was published.”

Photos of the printer’s manuscript can be seen at the University of Utah Library Special Collections, in case anyone actually believes Joseph F. Smith. Verification of B.H. Roberts is simple, direct and easy.

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Last edited by EmmaHS on February 2, 2013 at 7:27 am

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