Burning Bosom

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Single Word Change in Introduction to Book of Mormon Speaks Volumes

Posted by Andrew on December 18, 2007

Submitted by: Kerry Kane

From the Salt Lake Tribune, “Single word change in Book of Mormon speaks volumes”. See here: http://www.sltrib.com/ci_7403990
Not sure how many of you saw this, but there was a change announced to all future Book of Mormons that go to print. It is a one-word change in the introduction. Instead of saying: “After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians,” it now says: “After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians.”

There was quite an uproar in the Utah media when this change was announced. Aside from the many people who left the church over the “Book of Mormon vs DNA” video in 2002, it sounds like even more people have left the church over this one word change, saying that the church has simply backed down to pressure from the DNA research (which I will blog on later….there is now tons of additional independent evidence since 2002 that shows “Haplogroup X”, which is the DNA marker group derived only from Finland, Italy, and Israel, actually does show up in American Indians).

What are your thoughts on the one-word change in the Book of Mormon introduction? Take into account that the introduction is not scripture, but was written and added to the scriptures.

17 Responses to “Single Word Change in Introduction to Book of Mormon Speaks Volumes”

  1. aainsworth said

    I believe it is widely understood that the Introduction to the Book of Mormon is not scripture but was written by Bruce R. McConkie as a helpful preface to the book. To me the question is whether Elder McConkie made an unjustified overstatement when he said that the Lamanites were the “PRINCIPAL ancestors of the American Indians.” If so, then this change isn’t “backtracking,” rather, it’s a long overdue correction.

    Joseph Smith is reported as saying that “[t]he remnant [of Book of Mormon peoples] are the Indians that now inhabit this country.” (HC 4:538.) Joseph Smith is also reported as saying “By it [the Book of Mormon] we learn that our western tribes of Indians are descendants from that Joseph which was sold into Egypt, and that the land of America is a promised land unto them.” (HC 1:315.) In addition, the Doctrine & Covenants uses the term “Lamanites” to refer to the Indians to which the apostles in this dispensation were called to preach, and we know that several of those apostles served missions among various Indian tribes in both the Eastern and Western United States.

    One could make a reasonable argument that the first quote above by Joseph Smith gave Elder McConkie sufficient reason to believe the Church’s position was that the Lamanites were the PRINCIPAL ancestors of the American Indians. However, it is interesting to note that in the second quote above by Joseph Smith, he mentioned only the “western tribes of Indians” as being descendants of the Lamanites, so one could argue Joseph Smith’s most specific statement on the issue never claimed that the Lamanites were the “PRINCIPAL” ancestors of the American Indians, and that Elder McConkie’s Introduction therefore made an inadvertent overstatement.

    Regardless of which of the above possibilities is correct, I have little patience for members of the Church who would be deeply troubled by this change to the Introduction to the Book of Mormon. We all need to remember one of our Articles of Faith is that God “will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” If we truly believe that, we should never be shocked when the Church alters its position–even in a major way. By stating as an Article of Faith our belief that God has yet to reveal some great and important truths, we acknowledge that our current state of understanding is incomplete. We do ourselves a disservice when we incorrectly presume that the Church claims to know it all.

    As for those who accuse the Church of altering its position based on recent DNA research, that too would be consistent with Church doctrine. Joseph Smith taught that “[o]ne of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’ is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.”(HC 5:499.) To me, that includes DNA research. Moreover, why would it be a negative thing for our leaders to take into account DNA research? Do we really want our Church to be like the Catholic church hundreds of years ago when it threw Galileo in prison for suggesting that the Earth rotated around the sun based on his scientific observations?

    At the end of the day, the Church’s leaders are responsible for providing spiritual guidance, not for being archeologists, anthropologists, or biologists. Several decades ago, the First Presidency stated:

    “Upon the fundamental doctrines of the Church we are all agreed. Our mission is to bear the message of the restored gospel to the world. Leave geology, biology, archaeology, and anthropology, no one of which has to do with the salvation of the souls of mankind, to scientific research, while we magnify our calling in the realm of the Church. (First Presidency Minutes, Apr. 7, 1931.) So if the Church’s leaders give deference to biologists in the realm of biology, I’d say they are acting wisely.

    That said, I think anyone who gets too worked up about the whole DNA-Book of Mormon thing doesn’t know much about that sort of DNA research, i.e., how incredibly dubious it is. But if I were a Church leader and I saw people getting needlessly worked up over the DNA thing and thought I could save people some headaches by changing the wording from “principal” to “among the,” I’d do it.

  2. The primary pre-Columbian Y lineage group of Native Americans is designated as Q. Modern Jews share this DNA; 5% of Ashkenazi Jews, 5% of Iraqi Jews and 15% of Yemenite Jews belong to the Q lineage group; the same lineage group as most Native Americans. Q is more common in Europe than East Asia and its closest relative is R; the primary lineage group of Europe.

  3. Heather said

    Any of these changes that are ever made including the adding the introduction back in 1981, come from the 1st presidency. These things are prayed and pondered about before they are sent to be printed. So was the 1st presidency not in tune with the spirit back in 1981 or 2006. So is the prophet really a prophet, seer and revelator?

  4. Kerry said

    Heather, thanks for coming to the Burning Bosom blog. I think some of the fundamental questions you are asking are these:

    –Can the true prophet of God ever make a wrong decision?

    –Does God reveal the answer to every single question to the true prophet?

    –Does God reveal the sentence structure, proper grammar, and specific word choice for every single word in the introduction to the BoM to the true prophet?

    –What is the most appropriate and surest way to actually know that the current prophet is called of God and is a true prophet?

    Regarding the last question, the ONLY way to know this is through the proven model of asking God yourself. For the other questions, I would point you to this great post by another Burning Bosom blogger:


  5. Shawn L said

    Heather – I don’t think this channge necessarily means anyone was wrong. Don’t we believe that knowlege is given “line upon line?” Can’t that be true for the prophets, as well? It certainly was for Joseph.

  6. Ron Neilson said

    Isaiah writes about our day (Isaiah 29:10). “The Lord has poured out on you a spirit of deep sleep: he has shut your eyes the prophets; he has covered your heads, the seers.” Something to think about.

  7. Heather said

    Thanks for your responses. But it still seems funny to me that if this is the only true church on the face of this earth, then God would want what is printed in the scriptures to be true. And that is what the prophet is for, is to recieve revelation for the people of the church. So does he recieve incorrect revelation? I know he is a also a man, but when he speaks as a prophet he is speaking through the Lord. Do you really think that God would purposely give incorrect revelation. That would be like lying and deceiving. I don’t think God is a deceiving being. Which would mean that the scriptures wouldn’t need to be changed, and changed and changed. And what about the Holy Ghost being there to guide us. Where was the Holy Ghost then when the prophet was putting these changes on paper. I still think careful prayer and consideration would have gone into changing or putting anything into the scriptures. Where is the inspiration?

  8. Andrew said


    Have you ever grown or progressed in your understanding of something?

    Do you think that prophets might experience the same?

    Do you think the fact that a prophet’s understanding of something was incomplete in the past, or is incomplete in the present, precludes a prophet from being a true prophet?

    Do you think God might have a purpose in allowing his prophets to grow in their understanding, even if that means letting them make some mistakes along the way?

    What do you think the Apostle Paul meant when he said: “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. . . For now we see through a glass, darkly . . . .” (1 Cor. 13:9-12.)

    Isn’t that a strange thing of an “Apostle of Jesus Christ” to be acknowledging? That he “knows” and “prophesies” only “in part” because his even an Apostle’s vision of the divine is obscured?

  9. Heather said

    I’m sure prophets do experience the same type of progression. God is God and is all knowing. If something is coming from God, thru the prophet, seems kinda funny he would make a mistake. Unless things have changed and the prophet doesn’t speak for God anymore. Making scriptural changes do indeed come from God (thats what I’ve always been told anyway). Why would God allow his word and gospel to have such misunderstandings and inconstistancies? So is this change in the Book of Mormon a revelation from God or just the General Authorities covering their butts? Sounds to me like they are covering their butts. I seriously doubt God would give two different revelations of scripture.

  10. Shawn L said

    Heather — this goes back to something Andrew said in his very first comment. The Introduction at issue is not, and has never been understood to be, LDS scripture. The Introduction, by its very language, does not purport to be a revelation or a translation, period. So, while you may have a cognizable argument regarding the unchanging nature of God, it just doesn’t apply here.

    “Why would God allow his word and gospel to have such misunderstandings and inconstistancies?”

    Again, I don’t think the question applies here, but let me say this anyway. Yours certainly is a good question. How could God have let the Christians of their day contort the Gospel to justify the Crusades or the Inquisition? Folks much smarter than have debated this point for centuries. I humbly submit my 2 cents. The answer, I think, is free agency. We are free to make decisions, even bad ones. God “allows” men to misinterpret and mishandle His doctrine for the same reason He allows men to kill one another. We’re here to perfect or damn ourselves via our own choices. While it may seem to cast God in a cruel light, it is in fact liberating to know that I am the master of my own destiny (cue the 2d Article of Faith here), rather than cosmic automoton.

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