CES Reply: The Book of Mormon Translation

This is a serialization of “A Faithful Reply to the CES Letter from a Former CES Employee.”  You can download the whole PDF here, and you can also participate in the Latter-day Saint Survey Project by joining or creating one of the Canonizer camps in the links at the bottom of this post.

This is a line-by-line response to Jeremy Runnells’s October 2017 iteration of the CES Letter. Jeremy’s original text appears in green, the color of life. My response text appears in black, the color of darkness.

“…the Book of Mormon is the keystone of [our] testimony. Just as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does all the Church stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.”


…everything in the Church -everything rises or falls on the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and, by implication, the Prophet Joseph Smith’s account of how it came forth…It sounds like a ‘sudden death’ proposition to me. Either the Book of Mormon is what the Prophet Joseph said it is or this Church and its founder are false, fraudulent, a deception from the first instance onward.”


“The Book of Mormon exists. (Now, that seems fairly fundamental.) That means somebody wrote it… Somebody created it before 1829. You have to explain who wrote it. It’s here. It’s physical. It cannot be waved away.”


1. What are 1769 King James Version edition errors doing in the Book of Mormon? A purported ancient text? Errors which are unique to the 1769 edition that Joseph Smith owned?


Your premise appears to be incorrect. The sources you cite do not provide evidence of 1769 King James Version edition errors unique to Joseph Smith’s copy of the Bible.


It’s amazing to me that this objection is the first on your list, as typically people lead with their strongest argument. I would expect you to come out of the gate with something like polygamy or LDS racism or other things that I, too, find genuinely troubling in many respects. Instead, we begin with consideration of “errors” in a 1769 King James Bible.

But even that requires us to define terms and question assumptions. When you say “errors,” for instance, what kind of errors are we talking about? Is this a version of the Bible that claims that the first people on earth really were Adam and Steve? Or that Monty Python’s Brian of Nazareth is the true messiah? Or that cannibalism doesn’t deserve the bad rap that it gets?

In my previous reply, your question included a link to this Wikipedia article that referenced “translation errors.” Yet an interesting thing has happened in the two years since I first responded to you letter. The article you linked to used to say that the “King James Bible (1769) contains unique translation errors which also occur in the Book of Mormon, implying that the Book of Mormon used the KJV as a source.” It’s likely that language was the foundation for your question – i.e. Joseph Smith perpetuated errors unique to his copy of the Bible.

The problem is that the old article was incorrect, which means your question was in error, too.

The language in the 2016 version of the Wikipedia article has been replaced by a sentence stating that “[t]he KJV of 1769 contains translation variations which also occur in the Book of Mormon.” [Emphasis added] The text choices are acceptable variations that adequately represent the meaning of the original, ancient text. Thus they are no longer defined as “errors,” and they are certainly not errors unique to the 1769 version of the King James Bible.

That may be why you’ve abandoned that source and now linked to a lengthy piece by someone named Stan Larson – am I supposed to know who he is? – who is making an argument about Joseph Smith’s 3 Nephi account of the Sermon on the Mount. Yet nowhere does Larson ever mention the 1769 edition of the KJV, and he frankly acknowledges that “the Book of Mormon is not a slavish copy of the KJV—there are numerous words deleted, revised, or added to the text.” Yes, he is making a case critical of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, but it’s quite a different case from the one you reference in your question. 

So what seems to be happening here is that since your original source was wrong, you have found a different source, but you have not bothered to revise your original charge to reflect the new source.

Right out of the gate, that’s extraordinarily sloppy scholarship. Not a great way to begin.

Of course, it is a great way to begin the question in the Latter-day Saint Survey Project about the Book of Mormon. Those reading online are invited to join a camp below, or, if none of them reflects your own position on the Book of Mormon, feel free to make a camp of your own.

Asof this writing, there are three camps: True and Historical, Inspired Fiction, and 19th Century Fraud. Which of these reflects your own position of the Book of Mormon? Be sure to support the camp that best represents your position.