Critical Book of Mormon Text
A critical edition of the Book of Mormon may be a reality within a few months. FARMS has supplied Robert F. Smith some materials needed to complete a critical text of the various editions of the Book of Mormon. The annotated text will show each change which has been made in the Book of Mormon from the first manuscript down to the newest edition. "Having an accurate text, of course, is an essential step in the scholarly study of the book," points out John Sorenson, "and Bob's unusual dedication and patience will make this significant contribution possible."
Here's a story to be emulated. Last fall, John Hall, of Culver City, California, wrote and asked if there was anything he could do to help. Jack Welch had drafted an outline comparing the uses of fasting in the Old Testament and in Judaism with the instances of fasting found in the Book of Mormon, and asked John to locate books and articles to document and expand a more complete study of the particular observances of fasting in the Book of Mormon. Using sources in the Southern California libraries, John has identified and sent to FARMS a large stack of materials. These have been given to Stephen D. Ricks who is now pursuing this subject further. John Hall reports, "Searching for these sources has been enjoyable. Please let me know if there is anything further I can do." Many thanks, John Hall.
John L. Hilton, our computer connection, with the very able assistance of his associate Kenneth D. Jenkins, has submitted an extensive computer report entitled ''Vocabulary and Numerical Account of All Words from the King James Old Testament and New Testament and the 1830 Printing of the Book of Mormon." John explains, "This is only our first step in really answering many other statistical questions about our Book of Mormon text." Some initial observations have been made, but still need to be explained. For example, John and Ken have found that some Book of Mormon authors use only the word "wherefore" and others use only the word "therefore." Their foundational study has taken literally hundreds of hours to prepare, but the real appreciation of their efforts will come from the first-, second-, and third-generation spin-off studies.
Gary Gillum and David Whittaker, both of BYU, have taken charge of a FARMS Book of Mormon Bibliography Project. Their objective is to collect and classify, to whatever extent possible, all scholarly works on the Book of Mormon. Scott Norwood in Missouri and others have sent bibliographies to FARMS and these are good foundational efforts. Knowing what scholarship has been completed on any aspect of the Book of Mormon should advance other work and avoid unnecessary duplication of effort. Let Gary or Dave know if you have information which might be helpful to them. Gary can be reached at 6210-A HBLL, and Dave at 404 KMB, BYU, Provo, UT 84602. All help is welcomed.
Name Analysis Continues
The project on the analysis of Book Mormon names is moving ahead. Last fall, a lengthy report submitted by Dr. Jo Ann Carlton, currently at Harvard, offered an analysis of the possible Semitic roots of most of the non-Biblical names in the Book of Mormon. For example, she has concluded that the name Jershon comes from the Hebrew root Y-R-S, meaning "to inherit." A fitting name for this land given to the Ammonites "for an inheritance." (Alma 27:22). Her report has been critiqued by Robert F. Smith; she has responded, and he has further critiqued those responses. Paul Hoskisson will be consolidating these efforts into a full Preliminary Report. "The interchange has been very stimulating and healthy," reports Paul. ''We are seeing some very valuable progress here."
The second attempt at translating the Anthon Transcript mentioned in the last Newsletter is, at best, "an interesting exercise," according to John Sorenson in announcing the consensus of the FARMS panel of experts. Its author treated the characters as modified Egyptian and produced a composite of names, events, and statements, some of which appear in the present Book of Mormon but not as any part of the coherent narrative of the present translated text.
Same possible identifications of individual characters are "interesting and suggestive" but cannot be considered seriously at this point because of the number of unsupported assumptions made by the author.
Bruce Van Orden, a FARMS participant, has recently completed two years on a seminary staff in Salt Lake revising the Seminary Book of Mormon course to be implemented 1982-83. "Several items made available through FARMS proved to be of great value to me, in presenting both the internal and external evidences of the book," he reports. I was grateful for that support."