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The Book of Mormon: The Original Text Hardcover – 2 Oct 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 832 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (2 Oct 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300142188
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300142181
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 5.4 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 615,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Royal Skousen has single-handedly brought the textual analysis of the Book of Mormon to a professional level on par with the finest classical and biblical scholarship. This volume is the culmination of his labors, and it is the most textually significant edition since Joseph Smith's work was first published in 1830. It takes us back to the original manuscript (as best we can reconstruct it) and sometimes beyond, to the very words that were first spoken by Joseph Smith to his scribes."-Grant Hardy, from the Introduction -- Grant Hardy "The product of over two decades of painstaking labor by Royal Skousen-a Brigham Young University professor of linguistics and English language, a Mormon and an occasional spelling-bee judge-this Yale edition aims to take us back to the text Smith envisioned as he translated, according to the faithful, from golden plates that he unearthed in upstate New York."-Stephen Prothero, Wall Street Journal -- Stephen Prothero Wall Street Journal "Very important ... the bottom-line results of one of the most impressive and sustained individual scholarly undertakings in the history of Mormonism ... [in] a single, convenient volume ... readily accessible ... wonderful ... a great study edition."--Daniel Peterson, Mormon Times -- Daniel Peterson Mormon Times "A work of unique aesthetic and scholarly value, and an essential resource for scholarly approaches to the Book of Mormon."-Seth Perry, Journal of Ecclesiastical History -- Seth Perry Journal of Ecclesiastical History "Although it is the result of meticulous scholarship ... this is a book that transcends the scholarship. It should appeal to a wider readership ... as a contribution to experiencing the Book of Mormon."-Brant A. Gardner, Journal of Mormon History -- Brant A. Gardner Journal of Mormon History

About the Author

Royal Skousen is a professor of linguistics and English language at Brigham Young University and the leading expert on the textual history of the 'Book of Mormon'. This is the tenth book in his ongoing 'Critical Text Project'.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 14 Dec 2011
Format: Hardcover
Royal Skousen's "Earliest Text" is not for the average reader of the Book of Mormon, for whom I'd recommend the current LDS edition or Hardy's nicely arranged The Book of Mormon: A Readers Edition: A Reader's Edition, but for anyone doing any academic work upon the Book of Mormon it is simply essential, with much of interest for other readers.

Skousen has been working for several decades upon a critical text of the Book of Mormon, carefully examining the manuscript evidence to establish the earliest dictated form of the text, without either the transmission errors that crept in with the printer's manuscript and the original 1830 edition, Joseph Smith's own emendations to clarify meaning or the grammatical smoothing of some of the later editions. A invaluable summary of the textual differences between editions is included in the appendices. Most of these are relatively minor, especially compared the textual differences between, say, New Testament manuscripts, but some are of interesting - for example, indicating that the mysterious Amalekites who pop up later in the Book of Alma are probably the dissident Amlicites of earlier on, with the scribe accidently conforming the name to that of a biblical people. Skousen's arrangement of the text into 'sense lines', and his repunctuation (every other edition generally following on from the punctuation introduced by the printer in 1830) are also of interest, helping to make the act of reading this text feel quite different, something perhaps of interest to any reader of the Book of Mormon.

That's not to say the work is perfect (after all, the Book of Mormon itself disclaims textual perfection).
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By leanjinja on 9 Dec 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It looks ok & is in good condition. Until it is given as a gift I don't know if it meets the need
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 36 reviews
66 of 69 people found the following review helpful
Monumental Scholarship 23 Sep 2009
By D. Peterson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Prof. Royal Skousen, who is also an internationally respected linguistic theorist, has devoted two decades to intensive, meticulous study of the textual history of the Book of Mormon, and this Yale edition is a very important product -- though not the only product -- of that dedicated engagement. Previous reviewers have already adequately described the volume, so, besides simply endorsing it, I would like to say what I especially value about it:

This book represents the bottom-line results of one of the greatest individual scholarly undertakings in the history of Mormonism. The multiple volumes already published by Professor Skousen with FARMS (aka the Maxwell Institute) are wonderful, and, for serious scholars of the Book of Mormon, indispensable. But they're also very large and . . . well, multiple. In other words, unwieldy for speedy reference, when one simply needs to see the text quickly in order to know the likely original reading. I have long wanted a single, convenient volume that would make the superior Skousen text readily accessible, and now it's here. Moreover, with its sense lines and superb physical characteristics (e.g., staying easily open on a table or a desk), this is a wonderful version for simply reading the book through. It's a great study edition.

I recommend this printing of the Book of Mormon enthusiastically and without reservation. It changes no doctrines, but it will change the way even experienced readers of the Book of Mormon perceive and understand its sense and style. In fact, although Professor Skousen has been a consummate scholar, following the evidence where it leads, and has certainly not tried to skew things in a faithful direction, I'm quite confident (speaking as a believer) that many of those who study it carefully will find this edition faith-promoting -- as well they should. For one thing, it illustrates the remarkable consistency of the text as Joseph Smith dictated it, and it even contains the Hebraisms that have been edited out over the years because, though they're very good Hebrew style, they're odd English.
45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
The culmination of 20+ years of work 23 Sep 2009
By Bruce F. Webster - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First, the physical production of the volume is outstanding (as one would expect from Yale University Press). High quality paper and binding, outstanding layout and typography. The book is large and heavy (see above) but manages to stay open even near the front and back. The heft of the book makes it a bit hard (though not impossible) to read while stretched out on the couch.

Grant Hardy's introduction lays out the case for accepting the Book of Mormon as a serious work worthy of study in the context of world religions -- all the more so because we have so much definite historical and even forensic information regarding its creation and transmission (cf. Terryl Givens' By the Hand of Mormon).

Skousen's editorial preface in turn provides a brief overview of his methodology in producing the critical text, laying out his overall approach as well as some of his criteria in making critical text decisions. However, he rightly points readers to his multi-volume series on the Book of Mormon Critical Text project for detailed explanations as to item-by-item decisions regarding recovery or conjecture of the critical text.

Skousen also explains his presentation of the critical text: sense lines, (mostly) modern spelling, de novo punctuation, blank lines to indicate paragraph breaks, and a typographic insertion to mark Joseph Smith's original chapter indications. Modern (LDS 1981 edition) chapter and verse indications are given in the left margin.

Note that the punctuation, sense line breaks, and paragraph breaks are Skousen's; the original manuscript had none, and the printer's manuscript didn't have much more. While most paragraphs comprise some number of modern verses, Skousen is willing to break across modern verse or even chapter divisions, though he only does so occasionally. I suspect that what criticism Skousen receives on this volume will come here, since he is in effect inserting himself to the text.

On the other hand, I frankly think he's done a better job than Orson Pratt did back in 1879 in setting up the modern chapters and verses, and as I got into the text itself, I found myself wishing for an edition that left out the modern chapter and verse numbers altogether (though I could simply use a bookmark to cover up the left margin). Since even the printer's manuscript was (in the words of the 1830 typesetter, John Gilbert) "one solid paragraph, without a punctuation mark, from beginning to end" (cited on p. xlii), I much prefer Skousen's approach to wading through a single mass of undifferentiated and unpunctuated text.

The resulting text is wonderful. Layout and typography make it very easy to read, and the presentation brings a fresh look to a very familiar text. I've worked my way through most of the six "Textual Variants" volumes published by Skousen, so I'm not reading this to pick up on those modifications per se (though Skousen lists in an appendix what he considers to be significant textual changes). Instead, I am imagining myself in a small room as Joseph Smith dictates and someone transcribes. It is a powerful experience, one which I'm about to go back to.

Highly recommended. ..bruce..
53 of 60 people found the following review helpful
The definitive version 4 Sep 2009
By Joel M. Skousen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The typesetting by Saltzman is really a work of art, and combined with the formatting in sense lines, reads much like poetic prose; the story flows easily as never before. I just got my personal copy from the editor himself, Royal Skousen, who is my brother. With this disclosure I'll try to be as objective as I can in describing this work, having personally witnessed almost every facet of its development over the last 21 years. This single volume is the synthesis of all the detailed analysis Royal did on the historical changes and word variants that occupies in excess of ten volumes of scholarly text (also available to the public). What we have here in this reconstructed text of the Book of Mormon is both a flowing readable text of the story itself plus fascinating summaries in the Preface and Appendix of all the important textual changes that have been restored using the original and printer's handwritten manuscripts.

The ink on these manuscripts was so faint that special ultra violet and infra red photography had to be used to bring out the text and the editing marks, yielding a few hundred very interesting changes stemming mostly from copy errors when a printer's manuscript was prepared for delivery to the printer of the original 1830 edition. By openly discussing all of the copy and editorial changes over the history of the book, Royal feels he has "freed the earliest text" for everyone to view and discuss for themselves. I have observed his rigid adherence to scholarship and his principled resistant to common textual readings that may be more comfortable to our ears, but which are unsupported by the original documents. By giving us the earliest possible text he lets the story speak for itself. Enjoy.

Joel Skousen
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
A Text for Latter-day Saints and for Non Latter-day Saints 21 Oct 2009
By Phillip A. Snyder - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Others have written well regarding my colleague Royal Skousen's monumental scholarly achievement in producing "The Earliest Test," so I want to address why both members and non-members of the LDS Church ought to be interested in reading it. First, both groups will find Grant Hardy's introduction to the text to be one of the clearest available on the contents and production of The Book of Mormon. In addition, Hardy makes a compelling case for The Book of Mormon's place in the canon of religious texts and explains how Skousen's methodology (textual criticism) works in reproducing a version of the text closest to Joseph Smith's translation (based on his careful examination of the printer's manuscript as well as the extant portions of the original manuscript written by Joseph Smith's scribes). Skousen's aim is certainly not to supplant the LDS Church's standard version of the Book of Mormon with its chapter and verse organization and its critical apparatus but to complement that version.

Second, both groups will find that Skousen's reframing of the text as a sort of prose poem according to his "sense-line" division makes the Book of Mormon more inviting to read than the standard version just by the way it looks on the page. For those, like me, who have read the Book of Mormon dozens of times over a lifetime, "The Earliest Text" will make a very familiar text appear new again and will open it up to fresh readings and insights. My reading of "The Earliest Test," for example, has renewed my aesthetic and doctrinal appreciation for the Book of Mormon. For those who haven't read the Book of Mormon before, "The Earliest Text" will offer a simpler, perhaps even purer, reading of the text--without the mediation of chapter divisions and headings, footnotes, and so forth. Further, "The Earliest Text" seems to enhance the Book of Mormon's engaging narrative and literary qualities, a boon for readers less interested in the text's theological content.

Since the Book of Mormon was first published in 1830, its readers have tended to be placed into two opposing camps: believers and nonbelievers. Perhaps "The Earliest Text" can do something to undo this binary opposition by opening the Book of Mormon to fuller and more open discussions among readers who, regardless of their religious or nonreligious affiliations, find it to be a significant sacred text. In this day and age, we would all do well to understand better the various religious cultures that flourish throughout the world and affect regional and world politics so profoundly.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Book of Mormon -- sense-lines 5 Nov 2009
By A. Ware - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Reading the Book of Mormon, the Earliest Text, has been an enlightening experience for me. The thing that I have enjoyed the most is the sense-lines. I have read the Book of Mormon many times, but after reading a couple of chapters I was always ready to quit. With the Earliest Text, I started to read it at the beginning -- and before I knew it, I was at Chapter 4. I realized the reason for this was the sense-lines. I didn't feel stress in my reading which I usually feel while reading the double-column version in the standard edition. Because I am a voracious reader, I have always felt guilty that I could read another book all day long, but I couldn't read the Book of Mormon for more than a couple of chapters. With the Earliest Text, I am able to read many chapters without having the desire to quit.

Not only do the sense lines create an easier, more enjoyable read, but I have noticed that the Isaiah chapters in both 1 and 2 Nephi are easier to understand. I have always enjoyed reading Isaiah, but this time I have seen things I have never noticed before. It made reading Isaiah a completely new experience. Because my reading has been so enjoyable, I plan to always use the Earliest Text for my daily reading.
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