Hello! I know I said last week that I wasn't going to do a podcast this week, but oh well. I guess that means I just can't be trusted. Actually, I had an interesting idea. I took the week off to do some other creative stuff such as launching a project that I've had in my head for many years.
But I can't deny that I've always wanted to narrate the actual Book of Mormon. Many youths--yutz--as they say in New York--grew up listening to my voice narrating my various adventure novels, sometimes late at night as they were falling asleep, so I've had this idea in my head, this passion--What if I narrated the scriptures themselves? What if listening to a familiar voice reading the actual Book of Mormon was something my listeners would enjoy? So I started that project this week. But, see, the idea is a little more glitzy than just narrating chapters and verses. After every chapter I wanted to offer a spiritual/scholarly commentary, just a few paragraphs, but something that would give a little more perspective and depth to the narration.
So that's what I've been up to. Honestly, I haven't even gotten past the introductory or opening pages of the Book of Mormon yet. Well, I have, but I haven't included any of that here today, because it's not edited yet. Honestly, I'm not even to First Nephi in the raw narration, but that's okay. This introductory material is important. If it wasn't, it wouldn't be in the Book of Mormon, and truthfully there's some really cool history and information behind a lot of it, so I thought I'd give listeners just a taste of what I've been doing, and let them listen to my narration of the Title Page and the book's official Introduction, along with the associated commentary.
Now, when we finally release this thing on ForeverLDS, I'll give listeners the option of downloading or listening to just the scriptures, or the scriptures along with the commentary.
I wondered if I could even add music at certain places. Classical music. The finest music I can find to set the right tone. I don't know yet. I don't want to over-do this or make it hokey. The scriptures hardly need any accompaniment. But I'm not doing this to be like everything else out there. I wanted to do something unique.
As many of you know we've also launched our Professional LDS Storytellers Workshop. That one IS available to anyone who wants to own access to it. And I just put up another session today. This one is a LIVE session that I recorded while teaching a class of kids and a few adults here in Cache Valley.
Anyway, without further ado, I let me commence this advanced opportunity to listen to my Book of Mormon narration and commentary. You might hear a bit of sound change--a kind of shift in sound because, uh, I recorded these segments separately, and the narration itself has a unique introduction that you'll hear first--etc., etc. I assure you it'll all make perfect sense as we go. Hey, maybe I begin with some music. Might smooth it over. Anyway .... let's get started.
ForeverLDS and Heimerdinger Entertainment is pleased to bring you the following audio presentation of The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. This narration will offer the core text of this holy volume, material compiled and written by the Prophet Mormon, and by his son, Moroni, and hidden up in the earth in the year 423 AD. Also included is the Title Page, the official introduction, the testimony of the three and eight witnesses, and the testimony of Joseph Smith, Jr., who, by the gift and power of God, translated this volume into English from the ancient text.
Our objective is to provide listeners with a full, dynamic narration of the volume, including, after each segment or chapter, a brief spiritual and/or scholarly commentary. With great care and consideration, music may be added where deemed appropriate in hopes that it may not detract, but enhance the listening experience.
Listeners should further supplement their reading with regular study, both personally and with their families. The objective of the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, remains the same today as when it was first printed in 1830—to serve as the cornerstone of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, a testimony that the Lord loves all His children in every nation and kingdom of the earth. I, Chris Heimerdinger, add my own testimony to millions of others that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, composed by inspired men who lived on the American continent more than fifteen centuries ago, and that it contains the fullness of the Savior's Gospel plan of Salvation for the world.
An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi
Wherefore, it is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites—Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile—Written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation—Written and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed—To come forth by the gift and power of God unto the interpretation thereof—Sealed by the hand of Moroni, and hid up unto the Lord, to come forth in due time by way of the Gentile—The interpretation thereof by the gift of God.
An abridgment taken from the Book of Ether also, which is a record of the people of Jared, who were scattered at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, when they were building a tower to get to heaven—Which is to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is theChrist, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations—And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.
TRANSLATED BY JOSEPH SMITH, Jun.
Commentary on the Title Page of the Book of Mormon.
Regarding the Title Page, Joseph Smith stated in the History of the Church 1:71:
I wish to mention here that the title-page of the Book of Mormon is a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf, on the left hand side of the collection or book of plates, which contained the record which has been translated, the language of the whole running the same as all Hebrew writing in general; and that said title-page is not by any means a modern composition, either of mine or any man who has lived or does live in this generation.
President Ezra Taft Benson declared on page 18 of his book A Witness and a Warning:
The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our witness of Jesus Christ, who himself is the cornerstone of everything we do. It bears witness of His reality with power and clarity. Unlike the Bible, which passed through generations of copyist, translators and corrupt religionists who tampered with the text, the Book of Mormon came from writer to reader in just one inspired step of translation. Therefore, its testimony of the Master is clear, undiluted, and full of power. But it does even more. Much of the Christian world today rejects the divinity of the Savior. They question His miraculous birth, his perfect life, and the reality of His glorious resurrection. The Book of Mormon teaches in plain and unmistakable terms about the truth of all those. It also provides the most complete explanation of the doctrine of the Atonement. Truly, this divinely inspired book is a keystone in bearing witness to the world that Jesus is the Christ.
On the Title Page it reads: And Now, If There Are Faults They are the Mistakes of Men; Wherefore, Condemn Not the Things of God: Critics of the Book of Mormon have pointed to the "thousands of changes" found to have been made in the editions of the Book of Mormon since its first publication. Such examples have been used as evidence that Joseph Smith was not inspired because, as we all know, God wouldn't make a mistake. Readers of The Book of Mormon should note that most "mistakes" are easily attributed to "the mistakes of men".
Such mistakes were made by men, including scribes and the original printers of the text. The vast majority of these errors related to punctuation, grammar, spelling, etc., sometimes by following outdated idioms of language and spelling errors in extant editions of the Bible's King James Version.
John H. Gilbert, the non-Mormon typesetter who worked for the printer, E. B. Grandin of Palmyra, New York, said: After working a few days, I said to [Hyrum] Smith on his handing me the manuscript in the morning: "Mr. Smith, if you would leave this manuscript with me, I would take it home with me at night and read and punctuate it." . . . I assured Smith that it should be returned all right when I got through with it. For two or three nights I took it home with me and read it, and punctuated it with a lead pencil. . . . Every Chapter, if I remember correctly, was one solid paragraph, without a punctuation mark, from beginning to end. Names of persons and places were generally capitalized, but sentences had no end. I punctuated it to make it read as I supposed the Author intended. . .
In 1833, Joseph Smith wrote to printer W. W. Phelps, "As soon as we get time, we will review the manuscripts of the Book of Mormon [for the Second Edition], after which they will be forwarded to you."Published in 1837, the second edition contained over a thousand corrections and minor clarifications, mostly grammatical. For example, on 707 occasions which was changed to who. A third edition followed in 1840. Appearing on it title page are the words "Carefully Revised by the Translator." Improving the printed copy of the Book of Mormon was apparently a continual concern of the Prophet Joseph.
Obviously there is a difference between word changes and idea changes. Regarding the latter substantial effort has been made to preserve original intent. Some of the sharpest detractors of the Book of Mormon have admitted that "most of the 3,913 changes (in the 1981 edition) which we found were related to the correction of grammatical and spelling errors and do not really change the basic meaning of the text." Even before the 1981 edition was published, a careful student of the original manuscript and printer's copy said, "A great value of these early manuscripts is that for the most part they substantiate the correctness of the present Book of Mormon text--fully 99.9% of the text is published correctly." [George A. Horton, Jr., BYU Religious Studies, 1988.]
The Prophet never provided explicit details concerning the precise manner of translation or the how the seerstone or interpreters functioned except to say that they operated "by the gift and power of God." Joseph's hesitation to elaborate on the translation process is reflected in his response to his brother Hyrum's request at a conference in Orange, Ohio in 1831 that he provide a first-hand account concerning the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. The Prophet replied that ". . . it was not intended to tell the world all the particulars of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and . . . it was not expedient for him to relate these things." Thus, any effort by men and scholars to deduce a detailed description of this process must be considered conjecture.
Still, despite these changes, edits, and subsequent editions, Joseph Smith boldly declared, “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” (History of the Church, Vol. 4:461.)
The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains the fullness of the everlasting gospel.
The book was written by many ancient prophets by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. Their words, written on gold plates, were quoted and abridged by a prophet-historian named Mormon. The record gives an account of two great civilizations. One came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C. and afterward separated into two nations, known as the Nephites and the Lamanites. The other came much earlier when the Lord confounded the tongues at the Tower of Babel. This group is known as the Jaredites. After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians.
The crowning event recorded in the Book of Mormon is the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ among the Nephites soon after His resurrection. It puts forth the doctrines of the gospel, outlines the plan of salvation, and tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come.
After Mormon completed his writings, he delivered the account to his son Moroni, who added a few words of his own and hid up the plates in the Hill Cumorah. On September 21, 1823, the same Moroni, then a glorified, resurrected being, appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith and instructed him relative to the ancient record and its destined translation into the English language.
In due course the plates were delivered to Joseph Smith, who translated them by the gift and power of God. The record is now published in many languages as a new and additional witness that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God and that all who will come unto Him and obey the laws and ordinances of His gospel may be saved.
Concerning this record the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”
In addition to Joseph Smith, the Lord provided for eleven others to see the gold plates for themselves and to be special witnesses of the truth and divinity of the Book of Mormon. Their written testimonies are included herewith as “The Testimony of Three Witnesses” and “The Testimony of Eight Witnesses.”
We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost. (SeeMoroni 10:3–5.)
Those who gain this divine witness from the Holy Spirit will also come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is His revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the Second Coming of the Messiah.
Commentary on the Introduction
The Church states that this introduction to the Book of Mormon was not a part of the original plates and was first published in the 1981 edition of the Book of Mormon. It was designed to provide background information and a description of the book to a modern reader.
It is not know who penned this introduction, although John L. Sorenson, professor emeritus of anthropology at Brigham Young University, speculated that it was Elder Bruce R. McConkie. Dr. Sorenson offered this speculation when asked about the change of a single word in the Book of Mormon's 2006 edition. In former editions this introduction included the phrase "all were destroyed, except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians." The new introduction says the Lamanites "are among the ancestors of the American Indians."
The Church said this change "takes into account details of Book of Mormon demography which are not known." The late Richard L. Evans of the church's Quorum of the Twelve described the Book of Mormon as "part of a record both sacred and secular of prophets and people, who (with supplementary groups), were among the ancestors of the American Indians." The description — approved by the church's First Presidency — was first published in 1957, so the idea that the inhabitants of ancient America may not all be descendants of the Lamanites is not new.
When asked in 2007 why the Church had not made this change sooner, Dr. Sorenson told the Deseret News he believed it was simply "the principle of inertia." Such things are "not likely to be changed unless someone thinks there is something to be gained by making the change, or to be lost by not making the change. I don't think it means very much for anyone. The assumptions may have been and may be in the minds of some that the previous phrasing had substance to it. As a matter of fact, it was a sheer accident . . . that no one checked it or questioned it."
Dr. Sorsenson is the author of the book An Ancient American Approach to the Book of Mormon which offers one of the first examinations of Book of Mormon geography using the traditional disciplines of scientific scholarship.
So there you have it. I rather doubt that most of my commentaries of various chapters will be so lengthy, but who knows? The Gospel is so rich in intelligence and light that it might be difficult to hold such information back.
I hope you enjoyed getting a taste of what this project is about. I look forward to completing so much more of this narration and so many other features on ForeverLDS as the days, weeks, and months progress.
In the meantime, Stay close to the Lord. Stay closer to Him than ever before. Please, endure to the end, and receive all that your Father in Heaven envisions for your life. This is Chris Heimerdinger, thanking everyone for listening, and saying to all, until next time: God bless and good night.