Change in the Book of Mormon

One word has huge implications

By Don Ruhl

In 2003, a DVD came out that devastated the claims of Mormonism that the “Lamanites,” a group that supposedly came to America from Jerusalem before Christ, “are the principal ancestors of the American Indians,” which had been part of the introduction to the Book of Mormon since 1981.

The Mormon Church has produced a new edition in which they have changed the wording.

The 1981 Edition 

Starting in 1981, the Mormon Church added an introduction to the Book of Mormon. The first two paragraphs read thus,

The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains, as does the Bible, the fulness of the everlasting gospel.

The book was written by many ancient prophets by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. Their words, written on gold plates, were quoted and abridged by a prophet-historian named Mormon. The record gives an account of two great civilizations. One came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C., and afterward separated into two nations, known as the Nephites and the Lamanites. The other came much earlier when the Lord confounded the tongues at the Tower of Babel. This group is known as the Jaredites. After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.

Interestingly, I copied that from the official Mormon web page, but it does not reflect the change made to the newest edition of The Book of Mormon. The last sentence of that quotation is of particular interest. Read it again, “After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.”

What do you believe that sentence claimed? Did it not claim that the Lamanites, allegedly ancient Israelites, were more than ancestors of the American Indians, but the Lamanites were the principal ancestors of the American Indians?

That implies two things: First, that the American Indians have more than one line of ancestors. Second, that the Lamanites were the most prominent ancestors. That means ancient Israelites are the principal ancestors of American Indians. If that is true, DNA testing should show a relationship between the two.

However, the DVD, DNA vs. The Book of Mormon, debunked that totally.

The Change 

The January 11, 2008 issue of The Daily Courier (Grants Pass, Oregon), ran an article with this title, “Addition of one word to Book of Mormon introduction is seen by some as quiet concession to DNA research.”

The article from the Associated Press went on to state,

SALT LAKE CITY — The introduction to the 2006 edition of the Book of Mormon has a new word: among.

It sounds trivial, but to some it represents a huge change to teachings that have been passed on for generations within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints.

The new wording comes in a passage about American Indians, who have long been presented by Mormon leaders as direct ancestors of a lost tribe of Israel known as the Lamanites.

“After thousands of years all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians,” the new introduction reads.

In previous editions, the phrase was “are the ancestors.”

Do you see a difference between, “they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians,” and “they are among the ancestors of the American Indians”? The original gave the distinct impression that the “Lamanites” were the primary ancestors of the American Indians, whereas the new edition removes that dominant role of the Lamanites, and gives them an insignificant role in bringing about the American Indians. This new edition means that the role of the Lamanites was small, hence, not shown in DNA testing!

Thomas Murphy, a Mormon professor at Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, Washington, predicted,

…the church would ultimately concede the Lamanite story was folklore and not science in a 2002 essay that appeared in “American Apocrypha,” a collection of writings about the Book of Mormon.

Murphy said the use of “among” makes a somewhat deceptive change. It gives the appearance that the institutional church is moving to a position more consistent with science.

“In a way, this is a mask for a more serious problem,” said Murphy, who was also threatened with excommunication in 2002. “The Book of Mormon is entirely inconsistent with the archaeology, the DNA, actually with all the evidence we have from the ancient Americas.”

However, one Mormon apologist, John Sorenson, professor emeritus of anthropology at Brigham Young University,

…said that altering what’s understood to be an opinion doesn’t change the church or the text of the book itself…“An editorial commentary is all that has been changed…They might have decided to put more commas in.”

Demoting the Lamanites from principal ancestors to merely among the ancestors is akin to adding commas? This is more than fixing grammar and syntax, this is changing science! This is changing a major thrust of the Book of Mormon.

If the Book of Mormon is wrong on the relationship between Israelites and American Indians, what else is it wrong on? We do well to stick with the Bible alone.

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