New Book of Mormon Text Discovered!

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.

9 Responses

  1. That is awesome. I can’t wait to pick up a copy of the SBoM at the BYU bookstore!

  2. I do not think that you understood the purpose of my post. So, screw you too.

  3. If you say so, Chris. I’ll be more wary of going toe to toe with a political philosopher in the future.

  4. No feel free to mock me all you want. I realize it is the best a Burkean can do.🙂

  5. C’mon Chris, I’m admitting you brought up a good point! I’m not getting a doctorate in political science. What I have read of political phiolosophy is limited to a few 16-19th century philosophers. I do have to admit I really like Burke because he advocates the kind of caution that bridles rash and hasty idealism, however well-intentioned. I agree with President Benson’s pessimistic attitude toward socialism.

    Nevertheless, I haven’t read everything. I’m not up to speed on the most current ideas and am unacqainted with the nuances of socialism, capitalism, etc. as defined by the most recent and erudite scholarly discussion. Furthermore, I served my mission in Europe and saw the virtues of nationalized healthcare firsthand. Gotta admit, I didn’t hate it. It wasn’t without faults, and it certainly didn’t bring the kind of equality its advocates in the US say it will, but it clearly wasn’t a communist takeover. It’s an idea worth exploring. If there’s a form of socialism out there that can ensure equality and preserve economic liberty at the same time, I’m skeptical but interested! So , to be honest, I don’t have as well-defined philosophy as you clearly do beyond my fundamental, uninformed feelings about my own observations. If that means I should butt out of the discussion, fine.

    But I do know how to read a text, and how to check the references of those who use them to support their ideas, and the Book of Mormon does not support socialism. I concede that you’ve made a statement to that effect before, and that you were using the Book of Mormon in your post only to highlight pride and wickedness that inequality can bring to society (which I definitely agree with). But in my defense, I wasn’t responding only to you but to others as well who are more explicit in their descriptions of this mythical Book of Mormon sociaism. Moreover, you were in fact taking your Book of Mormon verses out of context, because the Book of Mormon’s solution is a church-sponsored redistribution of wealth which only the converted participate in. This is consistent with the position the church has historically taken. And finally, you have argued elsewhere that the Book of Mormon implies a more vigorous redistribution of wealth than a church can accomplish. I don’t agree.

    So, I don’t think I misunderstood you, and I don’t think mt argument was out of line. But if I’m wrong, then screw me too.

  6. My problem with President Benson is not so much his disagree with socialism, but that he includes pretty much everything he does not like with being Socialism.

    I was using the Book of Mormon to comment on inequality. The rest was all mine, I feel that repeated that over and over in the comments.

    In my post the you link to on political economy and the Book of Mormon, I also argue that the scriptures are not arguing for what we know as socialism. However, they are clearly not arguing for capitalism. I am a leftist on economics, that I cannot deny. My main point has been that the B of M outlook does not support American style capitalism either. Neither does any significant philosophical outlook.

    I guess that I see and egalitarian impulse in LDS scripture. That does not mean that everybody else does or should. I really do not care what other think, I tend to only get testy when the John Birch/Benson wing of the LDS culture tell me what I am not aloud to think certain things (I do not place you in that category).

    On Burke: It is interesting that many of the conservate dissenters right now (David Frum, David Brooks, and Andrew Sullivan) are using Burke in their critique of the current GOP. As I mention, I am more Thomas Paine than Burke. However I think that both voices are valuable.

    Sorry about my first comment above. The smily face was an attempt as correcting that. I had big plans for some day being a more active voice in the bloggernacle. But that is now all falling apart and I was frustrated. Sorry for being so rude.

  7. If you have a problem with President Benson or any other prophet of God you need to reevaluate your beliefs. This isn’t a pick and and choose, buffet-style religion.

  8. “If you have a problem with President Benson or any other prophet of God you need to reevaluate your beliefs.”

    I have no problem with President Benson as a prophet. I just disagree with his political views, as did some fellow members of the Twelve at the time.

  9. “…the B of M outlook does not support American style capitalism either. Neither does any significant philosophical outlook.”

    American style “capitalism” is just another variety of state coercion. Personally, I oppose it as much as your variety.

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