The first copy of the Book of Mormon I ever had was one of the bright blue paperback copies with the gold Moroni statue on the cover. If you are too young to have ever seen one of those, you should Google it. They were so cool. I was sad when they didn’t have those any more. I got it before I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which was in 1973.
I loved that book. I think after decades, and after its cover was gone, it finally ended up being thrown away, but I loved it. It was greatly marked up. I think it is the one I used to graph out chiasmi (had to look up the plural form of that word!) in college in different colored pencils.
Back in the days when I was baptized into the Church, we used any King James Version copy of the Bible that we wanted. I had a different version of the Bible from my childhood as a Baptist, and I believe I used that for a bit, but at some point I got a KJV.
At some point I was taught that Joseph Smith worked on a “translation” or “inspired version” of the Bible. This was marvelous to me! Since we believe the Bible as far as it is translated correctly, to have a more correct version would be such a blessing.
I had no access to the corrections Joseph had made, though, until 1979 when the LDS King James Version was printed. I was a young married person at that time, and I remember Vaughn and I were so excited about this! In this Bible, the verses that Joseph had changed, or added to in some way, were marked with a footnote, and if the change was short, you could find it at the bottom of that page in the notes. Longer changes were in a separate section in the back.
In 1981 a new Triple Combination (Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price in one volume) was also published by the Church. Around then I got a “Quad” which was all four books of scripture bound into one. In that Quad, I went through and highlighted in red pencil the notes which were Joseph’s inspired changes of the Bible at the bottom of each page where they were found, so that I would not miss one while reading. I loved the inspired version. I did find that Joseph’s changes weren’t always used or referred to at Church, though, even in lessons, and that surprised me.
At some point I learned that not all of Joseph’s changes were in the new LDS KJV. This really surprised me. I did not understand why you would not want to have every single thing Joseph ever changed actually in the Bible. I think I asked about why it wasn’t in there, and I do remember that from whatever I was told, my understanding at that point was that the RLDS Church (now the Community of Christ) had the rest of it, and so the Mormon Church did not have the rights to it all, and so couldn’t print it. Turns out that wasn’t quite true, and also that the RLDS version also had changes made to it after Joseph died and had other mistakes in it, as did all the scriptures at that time.
A few years ago I began to realize the problems with the Doctrine & Covenants. Such things as changes being made to Joseph’s revelations by others after the fact, and other problems. And I learned about the Book of Mormon problems with punctuation (there was none in the original manuscript – it was all added at first by the type setter), transcription and typesetting errors, etc. I obtained a copy of Royal Skousen’s The Book of Mormon, The Earliest Text. It was quite amazing to read, especially because it was more in the format it was before the division into chapters and verses. The flow and understanding of it seemed so different.
After that I started to really wish I had the ability and know-how to research and figure out all the erroneous changes, and to get back to what Joseph Smith originally received as far as the Book of Mormon is concerned, and back to the original revelations he received without the changes others had made (which sometimes greatly changed, or even reversed the original meaning). Shortly after wishing that, I heard a rumor that someone else was actually doing that, and I was very excited about it.
It turned out that there were actually two groups of people, who both felt that they needed to do that very thing – go through all the scriptures, and all the sources, and all the research, and put together something that was as correct and as close to what Joseph Smith had done as possible. After both working on the project for quite a while, those two groups found out about each other, and they got together, and shared everything they had done so far, and began to work together on the project.
The whole project turned out to be more work, more amazing, and more important than anyone realized at the beginning. I have some friends amongst the group, and I was talking with one of them a few days ago. I asked him if he had any idea how much work, and how important a project this would be when he first began. He said he had no idea.
The project has taken a few years and the efforts of many people. As it went on, the participants, and those cheering them on from the sidelines, began to slowly realize how vital this work was to what the Lord is doing right now.
It is finally done, although there will always be new revelations to add. The Lord loves everyone and he speaks today and to all nations. So much more is also expected in the future. But it was vital to recover and remember, as much as possible, what the Lord had already given during this restoration, which was not finished during Joseph Smith’s lifetime, but which now has a chance to be finished. This was one of the absolutely vital elements, which I don’t think most of us realized at the start.
What has been done in this project is available to read for free at http://scriptures.info/. There will be hard copies of the finished project available before too long.
I am so incredibly grateful to the people who have worked on this, and to the Lord for inspiring and guiding them throughout.