A common question (or criticism) of the Book of Mormon is whether there have been changes to the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon. The answer is “yes”, there have been changes. However, it’s important to understand the nature of and reasons for the changes.
First, let’s review the translation process. Joseph Smith, separated from the scribe, would read aloud the translation. The scribe (who changed periodically throughout the translation) would record what he/she heard Joseph say. If you read aloud 500+ pages to a friend who was writing, do you think errors would result?
Second, a scribe transcribed from the original manuscript to the printer’s manuscript. A study by FAIR found that on average, scribes made two to three textual changes per manuscript page. Again, if you quickly transcribed 500+ pages by hand, do you anticipate that there would be mistakes?
Next, after the printer’s manuscript was delivered to the printer, the printer added in a lot of punctuation to the text. Some of this punctuation was not in accordance with the original translation.
Finally, the press was typeset by hand for each of the 500+ pages of the 1830 Book of Mormon. Undoubtedly, more human errors influenced the final text.
To me, there are three important takeaways from this discussion. First, there were human errors in every step of the translation, transcript and printing process. Second, the “changes” to the Book of Mormon that critics point to are defined almost entirely by ever-so-slight punctuation or grammatical changes to correct for these mistakes. Third and most importantly, changes in the text from the 1830 Book of Mormon show only that there was human error, and in no way influences the fact that the Book of Mormon was brought forth through the gift of God.
On the title page of the Book of Mormon are these words:
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.
Wise advice indeed. I would encourage you to pick up a replica of the 1830 Book of Mormon and a current copy and review the “changes” for yourself.