In early 2013, our Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies sponsored three lectures by Royal Skousen called “25 Years of Research: What We Have Learned About the Book of Mormon Text.” It took a while to get all of the requisite permissions, but we finally got the green light to post all three videos on our YouTube channel. The lecture series was also sponsored by the L. Tom Perry Special Collections at BYU’s Harold B. Lee Library.
Skousen is Professor of Linguistics and English Language at BYU. He has spent a quarter century meticulously studying the original and printer’s manuscripts of the Book of Mormon. Since 1988, he’s followed every single stroke of the scribal pen to uncover–as nearly as possible–the earliest text of the sacred record. In 2001, the Maxwell Institute published the first two volumes of the project: Typographical facsimiles of the original and printer’s manuscripts of the Book of Mormon. In the first lecture, “The Original and Printers Manuscripts,” Skousen discussed the work which produced these priceless volumes. He was introduced by the Church’s assistant historian Richard Turley.
1. Royal Skousen, “The Original and Printer’s Manuscripts,” February 26, 2013.
In the second lecture, “The Printed Editions,” Skousen discussed his analysis of twenty printed editions of the Book of Mormon—fifteen published by the LDS Church, four by the RLDS Church (now the Community of Christ), and one private edition published in 1858 by James Wright in New York City. Skousen compared the LDS and RLDS versions and identified the most innovative changes in the LDS editions. He also brought his analysis up to date by discussing three editions published within the last decade, including Grant Hardy’s A Reader’s Edition (University of Illinois Press, 2003), the 2004 Doubleday edition (with text furnished by the LDS Church), and his own book, The Earliest Text (Yale University Press, 2009). He was introduced by Larry Draper of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections at BYU.
2. Royal Skousen, “The Printed Editions,” March 5, 2013.
The third lecture covered “The Nature of the Original Text.” Skousen discusses the nature of the original text as suggested by his overall Critical Text Project. He argues that the original text shows word-for-word control in the translation process based on multiple factors: Its Hebrew-like expressions, a large number of lexical meanings and nonstandard grammatical constructions dating from the 1500s and 1600s, its use of 131 instances of fully consistent expressions, identical non-biblical citations from elsewhere in the text, and the letter-for-letter spelling of Book of Mormon names. Finally, he argues that conjectural emendations were made in the proposed original text, but much less frequently than in all subsequent editions of the Book of Mormon. He was introduced by Daniel C. Peterson, BYU professor of Islamic Studies and Arabic.
3. Royal Skousen, “The Nature of the Original Text,” March 12, 2013.