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Joseph Smith said that the Book of Mormon was “the most correct of any Book on earth & the keystone of our religion & a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than by any other Book.” And it is. Millions of people the world over have entered the waters of baptism after reading and developing a testimony of the truthfulness of this book of scripture. Through the years, the Book of Mormon has experienced changes in format and punctuation.
The original manuscript, the manuscript that scribes copied as Joseph Smith gave the translation of the gold plates, “includes errors that suggest the scribe heard words incorrectly” For instance: “When Joseph translated the text that is now in 1 Nephi 13:29, the scribe wrote ‘&’ in one place where he should have written ‘an.’ At 1 Nephi 17:48, the scribe wrote ‘weed’ where he should have written ‘reed.’
Prior to publication, Oliver Cowdery copied from the original manuscript into what is currently known as the printer’s manuscript. The fact that Joseph Smith did not include punctuation such as “periods, commas, or question marks, as he dictated,”4 and since punctuation currently exists in our copies of the Book of Mormon, this indicates there was a change. It might surprise you that the person responsible for inserting the punctuation was not a member of our church, but rather the typesetter for E. B. Grandin, the individual responsible for printing the original Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon wasn’t always arranged into chapters and verses the way we read it presently. In fact, it looked much the same as any book we would read today. In 1879, Orson Pratt undertook the challenge to divide the narrative into verse and chapters. In 1920, the structure of the Book of Mormon was altered again when double columned pages were first introduced. It was during this year when Elder James E. Talmage, heading a committee, added the chapter headings that you currently find in your Book of Mormon, in addition to footnote references, an index, and chronological dates.
What might be less known among members of the Church at present is the Testimony of the Three Witnesses wasn’t always located within the first few pages, where we read it today. Note where John Corrill located the Testimony of the Three Witnesses:
In the course of two or three days, the Book of Mormon (the Golden Bible, as the people then termed it, on account of its having been translated from the Golden plates,) was presented to me for perusal. I looked at it, examined the testimony of the witnesses at the last end of it, read promiscuously a few pages, and made up my mind that it was published for speculation.
Our current book, in the first few pages, has a title page, an introduction, the testimony of various witnesses, including that of Joseph Smith, and an explanation of the Book of Mormon. However, it lacks the original preface that appeared in 1830, which read as follows:
What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments!