Book of Mormon/Textual changes/"Benjamin" changed to "Mosiah"

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"Benjamin" was changed to "Mosiah" in later editions of the Book of Mormon

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Question: When and where was the name "Benjamin" changed to "Mosiah" in the Book of Mormon?

Book of Mormon Central, KnoWhy #99: Which Nephite King Had The Gift Of Interpretation? (Video)

The changes were made between the 1830 and all subsequent editions

In the text currently found in Mosiah 21:28 of the Book of Mormon, the 1830 edition reads "Benjamin", while all subsequent editions read "Mosiah." Likewise, a reference to Benjamin in what is now Ether 4:1 was changed to "Mosiah" in 1849. Some critics of the Church claim that either God made a mistake when He inspired the record or that Joseph made a mistake when he translated it.

The first notable change is in what is now Mosiah 21:28

1830 edition:

And now Limhi was again filled with joy on learning from the mouth of Ammon that king Benjamin had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings; yea, and Ammon also did rejoice.[1] (emphasis added)

1837 edition:

And now Limhi was again filled with joy on learning from the mouth of Ammon that king Mosiah had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings; yea, and Ammon also did rejoice. (emphasis added)

The change of the proper name "Benjamin" to "Mosiah" in what is now Mosiah 21:28 was made in the 1837 edition of the Book of Mormon by Joseph Smith. This change is present in all editions since that time. The change to Ether 4:1 was made in the 1849 edition, after the Prophet's death.[2]

The text of what is now Ether 4:1, which was an abridgment of the record of the Jaredites by Moroni, was changed in a similar manner

1830 edition:

...and for this cause did king Benjamin keep them, that they should not come unto the world until after Christ should shew himself unto his people."[3](emphasis added)

1847 edition:

...and for this cause did king Mosiah keep them, that they should not come unto the world until after Christ should show himself unto his people. Ether 4:1(emphasis added)

The use of the proper name "Benjamin" may represent either an abridgment error on the part of Mormon and Moroni, or it may be a legitimate description of what Ammon actually said to King Limhi based upon his current knowledge of the situation in Zarahemla

The reason for both of these changes was never recorded. The use of the proper name "Benjamin" in the two instances described may represent either an abridgment error on the part of Mormon and Moroni, or it may be a legitimate description of what Ammon actually said to King Limhi based upon his current knowledge of the situation in Zarahemla. The Prophet apparently noted a possible discrepancy based upon his reading of the text, and changed the name "Benjamin" to "Mosiah." Both Mormon and Moroni acknowledged that the record that they had created was not perfect.

Royal Skousen, in his Analysis of Textual Variants in the Book of Mormon believes that the name "Benjamin" is correct and did not need to be changed

Royal Skousen, in his Analysis of Textual Variants in the Book of Mormon believes that the name "Benjamin" is correct and did not need to be changed:

Skousen notes,

In other words, these seeming contradictions can be reconciled. King Benjamin could have still been alive when the people of Limhi arrived in the land of Zarahemla, and he could have later had access to the records, including the Jaredite record. If king Limhi and Ammon arrived in Zarahemla before the end of the fourth year of king Mosiah's reign, then we could interpret the statement in Mosiah 6:5 that "king Benjamin lived three years and he died" as meaning that king Benjamin did not live to see the completion of four years of retirement. Prior to his deth, king Benjamin still had access to the record, and the Lord could have told him that the prophesies in those records were not to be revealed at that time. Later king Mosiah translated the Jaredite record (presumably after king Benjamin's death).[4]


Question: Does the Book of Mormon contain mistakes?

Mormon said "And now if there be fault, it be the mistake of men"

It should first be noted that the Book of Mormon itself does not claim to be free of errors. As Mormon himself stated in the introduction to the Book of Mormon:

And now if there be fault, it be the mistake of men: wherefore condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment seat of Christ. (1830 Book of Mormon title page)

Moroni said "because of the imperfections which are in it"

Mormon's son Moroni also acknowledges that the record that has been created is imperfect:

And whoso receiveth this record, and shall not condemn it because of the imperfections which are in it, the same shall know of greater things than these. Behold, I am Moroni; and were it possible, I would make all things known unto you. Mormon 8:12


Question: What does the Book of Mormon actually say about the finding of the record of the Jaredites, and the name of the king who could translate it?

A number of chapters prior to the description of this event, King Benjamin is reported to have died after turning over the kingship to his son Mosiah

The people of King Limhi were living under domination of the Lamanites, and had been separated for a number of years from the main body of the Nephites located in Zarahemla. Limhi's group sent out a "a small number of men" to search for the city of Zarahemla. These men became lost, but they did locate "a land which was covered with dry bones; yea, a land which had been peopled, and which had been destroyed." Amongst the ruins they located a record "engraven on plates of ore." Assuming this land to be the land of Zarahemla, the search party returned to report to Limhi, bringing the plates with them. Limhi did not have the ability to translate this record and was therefore unable to determine what was contained upon these plates.

Ammon, while exploring, encountered the people of Limhi "not many days" after the plates were obtained. The 1830 Book of Mormon reports that "Limhi was again filled with joy, on learning from the mouth of Ammon that King Benjamin had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings; yea, and Ammon did also rejoice." However, a number of chapters prior to the description of this event, King Benjamin is reported to have died after turning over the kingship to his son Mosiah.

The Book of Mormon itself gives two parallel descriptions of the event

L. Ara Norwood notes that the Book of Mormon itself gives two parallel descriptions of the event.[5]One of these descriptions is found in Mosiah 8:13-14, which states:

In Ammon's first person account, he simply refers to "the king of the people who are in the land of Zarahemla" without naming the king

13 Now Ammon said unto him: I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can translate the records; for he has wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God. And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer.

14 And behold, the king of the people who are in the land of Zarahemla is the man that is commanded to do these things, and who has this high gift from God. Mosiah 8:13-14(emphasis added)

This appears to be a first-person account of what Ammon actually said to King Limhi. Note that Ammon refers to "the king of the people who are in the land of Zarahemla," without mentioning the name of that king.

The other description, in which the name "Benjamin" was later changed to "Mosiah," was a third-person account written by Mormon

The other description (the one that was modified) is found in Mosiah 21:25-28. Note that this passage is written in the third person by Mormon, and that it does not quote the words of Ammon directly. This indicates the possibility that Mormon may actually have written the name "Benjamin" during his abridgment of the record.

25 Now king Limhi had sent, previous to the coming of Ammon, a small number of men to search for the land of Zarahemla; but they could not find it, and they were lost in the wilderness.

26 Nevertheless, they did find a land which had been peopled; yea, a land which was covered with dry bones; yea, a land which had been peopled and which had been destroyed; and they, having supposed it to be the land of Zarahemla, returned to the land of Nephi, having arrived in the borders of the land not many days before the coming of Ammon.

27 And they brought a record with them, even a record of the people whose bones they had found; and it was engraven on plates of ore.

28 And now Limhi was again filled with joy on learning from the mouth of Ammon that king Mosiah [changed from "Benjamin" as printed in the 1830 edition] had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings; yea, and Ammon also did rejoice. Mosiah 21:25-28 (emphasis added)

Ammon may have left Zarahemla prior to King Benjamin's death and might have been unaware that Mosiah was now the king

Norwood also notes the possibility that Ammon left Zarahemla prior to King Benjamin's death:

In other words, if Ammon told Limhi that the person who had this gift to translate was "the king over the land of Zarahemla" without mentioning who that king was by name, we have no idea whether Ammon was thinking of Benjamin, Mosiah, or either. If this is how it occurred, then it is likely that either Mormon, or an unnamed Zeniffite scribe, interpolated the passage at Mosiah 21:28 and inserted the name Benjamin. Likewise, Moroni, following the lead of his father, would have interpolated the passage at Ether 4:1 and inserted Benjamin as well.20 This would have constituted an historical error by Moroni, but an understandable one.[5]


L. Ara Norwood, "Benjamin or Mosiah? Resolving an Anomaly in Mosiah 21:28"

L. Ara Norwood,  Proceedings of the 2001 FAIR Conference, (August 2001)
One of the most common criticisms of the Book of Mormon concerns changes that have occurred in the text over the years. And within this category of criticisms, one of the most interesting involves a textual change involving a proper name, where the name Benjamin was printed in the 1830 edition, but was changed to the name Mosiah in later editions. This actually occurs in two separate passages in the Book of Mormon.

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To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here

Notes

  1. Book of Mormon, 1830 edition, p. 200.
  2. George A. Horton, Jr., "The Book of Mormon-Transmission from Translator to Printed Text," from The Book of Mormon: The Keystone Scripture, edited by Paul R. Cheesman (Provo, Utah: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1988), pp. 249-250.
  3. Book of Mormon, 1830 edition, p. 546.
  4. Royal Skousen, Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon Part Three: Mosiah 17 - Alma 20, The Interpreter Foundation 1420.
  5. 5.0 5.1 L. Ara Norwood, Benjamin or Mosiah? Resolving an Anomaly in Mosiah 21:28, FAIR conference, 2001.