I am pleased to announce that after having the Book of Mormon text in our possession for nearly two centuries and after generations of faithful Book of Mormon scholarship, a new text of the Book of Mormon has been discovered! Through many hours of study and relying heavily on the text-critical work of Morton Smith and the editors of the Book-a-Minute secret Harry Potter text, I have pieced together evidence for what I have provisionally named Secret Book of Mormon. Mormons, scholars of Mormonism, and political scientists alike will doubtlessly benefit from this monumental textual research.
Secret Book of Mormon resembles the canonical Book of Mormon (hereafter BoM) text in almost every way with the exception of striking textual variants which alter a few passages so significantly as to change their meaning. The authenticity of these variants is certainly debatable, but already some Mormons with decidedly liberal political leanings have argued that the significant variants are genuine. Mormon social activists who favor the redistribution of wealth have championed the authenticity of the SBoM text, and some have used it to reprimand those hesitant to embrace government-enacted economic equality. For the benefit of those unfamiliar as yet with Secret Book of Mormon (hereafter SBoM), I shall highlight and comment on some of the most important variants. I have bolded text that SBoM has added to BoM and struck from BoM the text that SBoM omits:
BoM 4 Nephi 1:3 — “And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift.”
SBoM 4 Nephi 1:3 — “And the government made all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free by the government, and therefore partakers of the heavenly gift.”
Clearly SBoM magnifies the role that the ancient American state played in the egalitarian and peaceful nature of the Americans after the visit of Jesus Christ. This variant is consistent with another variant from 3 Nephi 26:
BoM 3 Nephi 26:19 — “And they taught, and did minister one to another; and they had all things common among them, every man dealing justly, one with another.”
SBoM 3 Nephi 26:19 — “And they taught, and the government did minister to every man and made all things common among them, which made every man deal justly (even the greedy formerly wealthy), one with another.”
This variant represents an even more drastic departure from the canonical text, which carries no tracings of SBoM’s government intervention at all. If authentic, SBoM would definitely clarify the method by which the ancient Americans shared (or according to SBoM, redistributed) their possessions after the Savior’s visit. Furthermore, it would establish this more equal political system earlier in Book of Mormon history. Consider Alma 1:27:
BoM Alma 1:27 — “And they did impart of their substance, every man according to that which he had, to the poor, and the needy, and the sick, and the afflicted; and they did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely.”
SBoM Alma 1:27 — “And the state did impart of its subjects’ substance, every man according to that which the state deemed a fair amount, to the poor, and the needy, and the sick, and the afflicted; and they did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely.”
This variant continues the authoritarian trend of the previous two variants with an interesting modification. Where the canonical text seems to imply by the phrase, “every man according to that which he had” that even the poor voluntarily contributed to their fellow needy from their own meager means (cf. Mark 12:41-44), SBoM casts this interpretation into doubt, because the poor would certainly be under the state’s “fair amount”, and therefore not obligated to sacrifice anything.
The hero of SBoM is without doubt King Benjamin, whose injunction to give to the poor in the first chapters of canonical Mosiah is politicized in SBoM to the extent that King Benjamin is portrayed as legislating from his tower:
BoM Mosiah 4:26 — “And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.”
SBoM Mosiah 4:26 — “And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would by law that ye should impart of your substance to the poor on pain of tax evasion, the wealthy man according to that which he hath gotten by gluttonous exploitation of the poor, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually but primarily temporally, according to their wants.”
Some scholars have protested, claiming that the injunction to give to the poor was always meant to be a private matter, citing Jacob 2:19 as support. Unsurprisingly, this passage too is different in SBoM:
BoM Jacob 2:19 — “And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.”
SBoM Jacob 2:19 — “And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ, ye will seek to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.”
The canonical text makes it appear that riches come as a consequence of converting to Christ for the express purpose of voluntarily giving them to the poor and afflicted. Given SBoM’s preference not to cast the rich in any good light at all, it should not surprise readers that this text is absent from SBoM.
Questions have arisen as to which text is authentic. Supporters of SBoM have postulated that perhaps President Ezra Taft Benson (given his anti-socialist persuasion) has edited these key passages to produce what we now know as BoM. Detractors from SBoM argue that, although they do not necessarily object to the political views of liberal Mormons, the ammendations were never part of Joseph Smith’s translation and that the text is not, and should not, be clear on how society is to effect the equality of its members. Furthermore, they say that a government-forced redistribution of wealth is problematic in light of the Book of Mormon’s other teachings concerning the preservation of free will.
Disclaimer: This note is satire. There is no real Secret Book of Mormon. The author supports the official text of the Book of Mormon and sustains all church leaders, including President Ezra Taft Benson, who never edited the Book of Mormon in the way described above.