Monday, June 25, 2007

A Book of Mormon Population Problem Solved

Royal Skousen's "Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon" doesn't sound like the kind of book I'd want to pick up for some light summer reading. Fortunately, there are other people willing to digest it all for me and give me the interesting bits. :)

In the newsletter Insights, they published a small excerpt from the forthcoming volume 4 of the series. Skousen compares the original text of Alma 43:14 to what is currently published.

Here is what we have currently:
Now those descendants were as numerous, nearly, as were the Nephites;

It seems to be saying that the descendants of King Noah were, in a generation or two, as numerous as the whole Nephite nation. This is a tough claim to swallow. The original text reads
now those desenters were as numerous nearly as were the Nephites

The printer's manuscript changed "desenters" to "desendants" and all subsequent manuscripts changed it to "descendants." Skousen concludes:
Here we have a clear example where the current text states a highly improbable increase in population. It is at most only a couple of generations since the priests of Noah (the Amulonites) got their start, yet the current text states that by this time their descendants were nearly as numerous as the Nephites! On the other hand, the original manuscript makes perfectly good sense when it claims that there had been so many dissenters over the years that now these Nephite dissenters had become nearly as populous as the remaining Nephites. The original, correct reading thus shows how precarious the situation had become for the Nephites.
You'll have to check out the verses in context to see how the change works out in practice, but I'm pretty convinced. Thanks to Bro. Skousen and Insights for the tip!


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