Book of Mormon/Textual changes/"white" changed to "pure"

"White and delightsome" changed to "pure and delightsome".


Question: Why was the phrase "white and delightsome" changed to "pure and delightsome" in the 1840 edition of the Book of Mormon?

This change was originally made in the 1840 edition, lost, and then restored again in the 1981 edition

This change was originally made in the 1840 edition but because subsequent editions were based off the European editions (which followed the 1837 edition), the change did not get perpetuated until the preparation of the 1981 edition. The change is not (as the critics want to portray it) a "recent" change designed to remove a "racist" original.

The idea that the Church has somehow "hidden" the original text or manuscripts of the Book of Mormon in order to hide this is simply unbelievable. Replicas of the 1830 Book of Mormon are easily obtained on Amazon.com, and the text is freely available online. In addition, Royal Skousen has extensively studied the original Book of Mormon manuscripts and published a critical text edition of the Book of Mormon. The claim by the critics that the Church has somehow hidden these items is seriously outdated.

The change in the 1840 edition was probably made by Joseph Smith

This change actually first appeared in the 1840 edition, and was probably made by Joseph Smith:

  • 2 Nephi 30:6 (1830 edition, italics added): "...they shall be a white and a delightsome people."
  • 2 Nephi 30:6 (1840 edition, italics added): "...they shall be a pure and a delightsome people."

The 1837 edition was used for the European editions, which were in turn used as the basis for the 1879 and 1920 editions, so the change was lost until the 1981 edition

This particular correction is part of the changes referred to in the note "About this Edition" printed in the introductory pages:

"Some minor errors in the text have been perpetuated in past editions of the Book of Mormon. This edition contains corrections that seem appropriate to bring the material into conformity with prepublication manuscripts and early editions edited by the Prophet Joseph Smith."

It’s doubtful that Joseph Smith had racism in mind when the change was done in 1840 or other similar verses would have been changed as well.

The "pure" meaning likely reflected the original intent of the passage and translator

Furthermore, "white" was a synonym for "pure" at the time Joseph translated the Book of Mormon:

3. Having the color of purity; pure; clean; free from spot; as white robed innocence....5. Pure; unblemished....6. In a scriptural sense, purified from sin; sanctified. Psalm 51.[1]

Thus, the "pure" meaning likely reflected the original intent of the passage and translator.

FairMormon Perspectives offers answers to these questions

Royal Skousen"Changes in the Book of Mormon," Proceedings of the 2002 FAIR Conference (2002)


There are two main goals for a critical text to the Book of Mormon. The first is to determine to the extent possible the original English language text of the book, that is, the text that Joseph Smith received by means of the interpreters and the seer stone. The second purpose is to establish the history of the text, including both accidental errors and editorial changes that the book has undergone as it has been transmitted down through time in its many editions.

Royal Skousen"Restoring the Original Text of the Book of Mormon," Proceedings of the 2002 FAIR Conference (2010)


Most of the work in recovering the original text involves two manuscripts. The most important one is the original manuscript, the one that Joseph Smith dictated to his scribes. Of this manuscript, 28 percent is extant. The other manuscript is called the printer’s manuscript and is a copy of the original manuscript. This second manuscript is the one that was prepared to take to the printer in 1829-30 to set the type. In the project we have included 20 printed editions of the Book of Mormon, 15 LDS editions, one private edition from 1858, and four RLDS editions.


To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here

Notes

  1. Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (New York: S. Converse, 1828), s.v. "white."


Further reading and additional sources responding to these claims