Same Old Same Old on the Book of Mormon
About 20 years ago, I first heard the claim that a passage in the Book of Mormon had been surreptitiously revised in an attempt by the LDS Church leaders to make its scriptures conform to the 1978 revelation extending the priesthood to all males regardless of race.
The Apostolic United Brethren, a polygamous church that opposes the LDS faith, had purchased a full page advertisement in the Salt Lake Tribune to complain about many LDS practices. They noted that this change in the Book of Mormon was clearly evidence of apostasy of the LDS Church. Before the 1980 edition of the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 30:6 said that Lamanites would become a "white and delightsome people" rather than "pure and delightsome" as it reads today. Those fundamentalists and many other people don't realize that that change was first made by Joseph Smith for the 1840 Nauvoo edition of the Book of Mormon.
When I recently noted that fact while replying to a blogger's criticism of the change , he replied,
How about this, I’ll challenge you to find a Book of Mormon prior to 1981 that has the word “pure” in it where “white” was replaced in the 1981 edition? Despite your claims above, it simply doesn’t exist.
I provided a link to a photograph of page 115 from the 1840 Book of Mormon. Unfortunately, the link doesn’t work consistently. Although he first maintained that I was mistaken or lying, he later posted comments from the Tanners that demonstrate that the change had indeed occurred in 1840; but, my correspondent feels that my comments were “silly and baseless” so I thought I might provide more data on my own site to which I could refer readers.
If Joseph Smith made the change in 1840, why then did subsequent editions revert to the word "white?"
It's due primarily to the LDS Church's expulsion from the United States in 1846. This exodus interrupted many church functions--including the process of producing subsequent publications of the Book of Mormon. However, the RLDS Church produced an edition of the Book of Mormon based upon the last version edited by Joseph Smith. That 1874 edition echoed the 1840 edition in 2 Nephi 30:6 with "pure" rather than "white." Obviously, its presence in 1840 and 1874 editions had no connection to the 1978 revelation on priesthood. In 1908, the RLDS Church produced another edition of the Book of Mormon and returned to the wording found in the first edition. This isn't surprising since they essentially rejected Joseph Smith's teachings from the Nauvoo era.
Even though American publishing efforts ceased for a time, Church headquarters in Britain continued to produce pamphlets as well as copies of the Book of Mormon based on the 1837 Kirtland edition. That 1841 British edition came to America with Mormon immigrants.
When Mormons in Utah set about publishing another American edition, they used one of the British copies as their template. Since it was merely a reprint of the Kirtland edition all of Joseph Smith's revisions from 1840 were lost. It wasn't until the mid 1900's that comparisons of extant versions revealed what had been lost.