Error-Free Book of Mormon

Error-Free Book of Mormon

Since Joseph Smith claimed to have translated the Book of Mormon by divine means, the urim and thummim, it should be error-free. Yet it contains many grammatical errors and required changes in subsequent editions.

Book of Mormon ChineseThe precise nature of the translation of the Book of Mormon is not known, since  Joseph Smith never told how it was accomplished. At the conference of the Church on 25 October 1831, he declared “that it was not intended to tell the world all the particulars of the coming forth of the book of Mormon, & also said that it was not expedient for him to relate these things.”[1]

At one point, the Lord gave permission for Oliver Cowdery to do some of the translation (D&C 8), which he was unable to do (D&C 9). The Lord told him, “You have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right” (D&C 9:7-8). Assuming that Joseph Smith, too, had to “study it out” in his mind, there is certainly room for some error. But since books written or translated entirely by human means are subject to error, the Book of Mormon can still be the product of divine inspiration without being perfect. Because Joseph dictated the text to his scribe, Oliver Cowdery, and the text was typeset by a nonbeliever at the E. B. Grandin printing establishment, it is not always possible to know at what point modern errors crept in.

That there could be errors in the original text of the Book of Mormon was acknowledged by its writers. In the preface (title page) to the text, Moroni wrote, “And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God.” Other passages that suggest that there may be errors include 3 Nephi 8:2; Mormon 4:11; 8:12; 9:31, 33.

For more information, see John A. Tvedtnes, “The Mistakes of Men: Can the Scriptures Be Error-Free?” posted on the FAIR web site at

[1] Donald Q. Cannon and Lyndon W. Cook, The Far West Record (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1983), 23.