That is right! For many years, the Church has been searching desperately for a place to hide some of the most damning facts in the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Despite their best efforts, however, it seemed that people – especially the most malicious of anti-Mormons – always seemed to find them. They tried, over and over, to hide these kinds of historical blemishes in the Church magazines to no avail. They needed a better hiding place. Finally, last year, assistant Church historian Richard E. Turley, Jr. came up with a brilliant idea: hide them on member’s coffee tables! After all, what else is a Mormon’s coffee table good for? They obviously aren’t using it to as a place to set their coffee! So Turley and photographic historian William W. Slaughter put together the handsomely produced How We Got the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2011) and marketed it toward general Latter-day Saint readers (pp. vii-viii). Bound up in this beautifully illustrated (don’t let the pictures fool you – they are there to keep you from actually reading the book and finding all these secrets!) are some of the most devious secrets of Church history – facts that anti-Mormons have been trying to uncover for years.
Consider these examples:
Nephi or Moroni?
Few members to the Church know that some sources report that the angel who visited the boy Joseph Smith in 1823 was not Moroni, but rather Nephi! This fact – which clearly proves Joseph Smith is a fraud, has been cleverly hidden in the footnotes of this volume: “Joseph Smith’s 1839 history, penned by clerks, used the name ‘Nephi’ instead of ‘Moroni,’ a mistake that tracked into later publications before being corrected.” (p. 131, n. 4). Of course, they could have hidden it better by placing in the body of the text, but such space was saved for the more damning details of LDS history.
A Seer Stone in a Hat to Translate the Book of Mormon
If anti-Mormons and disillusioned ex-members are to be trusted, then this is one of the most devious hidden details in all of Church history. To keep members from ever knowing about it, Turley and Slaughter put it on the first page of their chapter on the translation:
During the time Joseph had the plates, several people watched him translate. They said that rather than looking at the record itself, he looked into the interpreters or another seer stone, blocking out external light, such as by placing the interpreters in his hat and putting his face down into it. (p. 13)
This devastating detail of how the translation was performed has destroyed many a testimony. We can understand why the Church would be eager to see it resting safely on members coffee tables, where they are sure to never find it.
Joseph Smith, “Author and Proprietor”
Another little favorite fact of anti-Mormon’s is that Joseph Smith blatantly admitted to being the author of the book on the title-page of the 1830 edition, which he used to file for the copyright of the book. This is safely hidden on the first page discussing the printing of the 1830 edition (p. 27). If that were not devious enough, the very next page (p. 28) features a picture of the copyright registration, and the last page of that chapter (p. 37) has a picture of the title page, with the words “Author and Proprietor” under Joseph’s name. Indeed, Turley and Slaughter have successfully ensured that no one will ever find out about Joseph Smith’s momentary lapse in his deception.
Changes Made from one Edition to Another
One of the most important secrets to keep under wraps is that changes have been made from one edition to another. Turley and Slaughter skillfully hide this as they discuss the preparations for printing the 1837 edition:
Joseph let Oliver use the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon for this edition, but not before he reviewed it… “Joseph Smith went through the printer’s manuscript and altered the grammar of the text to reflect standard English rather than Joseph’s native upstate New York English,” concluded one linguist who studied the changes.
Upheld by the Church as a translator, Joseph refined the language of the first edition, which may have suited early converts in New York, to make it more universally acceptable in the English-speaking world. (p. 43-44)
To ensure this secret is not exposed, they juxtapose the above comments with a picture of the printer’s manuscript highlighting the edits that were made (p. 45).
As they move on to the 1840 edition of the Book of Mormon, there are even more controversial changes to cover up! After talking about the struggles it took to raise the funding for publishing this third edition, they keep under wraps the dirty secret that Joseph Smith “worked with Ebenezer [Robinson] to prepare a corrected text for publication” (p. 58). What happened as they prepared this so-called “corrected” text is shocking!
Comparing the first part of the printed text of the Book of Mormon to the original manuscript, they discovered some copying errors Oliver Cowdery had made in preparing the printer’s manuscript. Joseph also made “a few additional emendations and grammatical changes.” (p. 58)
One of the most controversial changes made at this time was the change of word “white” to “pure” in what is now 2 Nephi 30:6. Because of this change’s implications on Mormon views on race, it is important to ensure it will be well hidden. So Turley and Slaughter went to special pains to make sure it goes unnoticed. Not only did they talk about it on page 58, but they also included pictures of that passage from the 1830, 1837, and 1840 edition right there on page 59, with the word “white” (1830, 1837) and the word “pure” (1840) circled in red! I couldn’t have hidden this change better myself – their brilliance is unmatched!
Even after the death of Joseph Smith, new changes continued to be made to new editions of the Book of Mormon – and I’m not just talking about the rearranged paragraph’s and chapters, the new versification system, etc. The committee for the 1920 edition made “grammatical changes, continuing the tradition of updating the language to make it more consistent with that of many modern readers,” (p. 99) and the committee to the 1981 edition also couldn’t help themselves from making yet more new changes (p. 112-113). All of this is cleverly hidden in this book, where it may never be found by the average member of the Church.
It is clear, from the above evidence, that the Church has a lot in its history, particularly as it regards the Book of Mormon, which it is trying to hide. Angels changing names, seer stones in hats, textual changes to the “most correct book” – all of these are some of the most damaging facts in the Church’s history. But now, they are safely tucked away in this coffee table book, where it is unlikely to ever be found. This tactic was so successful they seem intent on hiding the truth about the Doctrine and Covenants in the same manner. If you are reading this, please, I beg you, do not buy this book! I’m afraid that if you do, then the conspiracy will enfold you and you may never be able to find these hidden facts. If this book is already resting on your coffee table, then I fear that for you it is already too late!
Okay, just in case you couldn’t tell, the above is my attempt at pure satire. Nothing in it should be taken seriously, most especially the plea at the end to not buy the book (in truth, I heartily recommend it! A book well-worth the read). My point, of course, is that many of the so called “hidden” truths about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon aren’t really any secret at all. And while this is not an official publication of the Church, can it really be held against the Church if people aren’t reading what they set on their own coffee table? The information is out there, in readily accessible formats for lay readers, like this book. Be sure to read my follow-up post here