Amongst many evangelicals, there is at least a question around inerrancy, such as is expressed by some in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

The issues regarding Joseph Smith's translation of the Golden Plates would offer an interesting test case, in that while the original manuscript (aka the plates themselves) are no longer available, Smith's first translated notes are. That said, there are known revisions and edits to the current text.

Does there exist within the LDS spectrum groups that hold to the inerrancy of Smith's original manuscripts? And, if so, are there any significant doctrinal issues that such groups would hold as a result?

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    Are you essentially asking if there are factions within Mormonism that accept Joseph Smith era revelation, but deny current revelation? This feels far more hypothetical than factual. I would argue that inerrancy is something we specifically do not believe. From the title page of the Book of Mormon: "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."
    – Daniel
    Jun 17, 2014 at 15:16

3 Answers 3


As Daniel pointed out in a comment, the Book of Mormon speaks to this question on the first page:

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.

This is important to note, as people do make mistakes, and have made some significant ones with the Book of Mormon. For example, in the original printing, the word "robber" was misprinted as "nobler" as well as a handful of other typographical errors, most likely due to Oliver Cowdery's handwriting being difficult for the typesetter to read. (See "Understanding Textual Changes in the Book of Mormon" for an in-depth look at the subject.)

There also exists in the text itself a rather amusing error:

Alma 24: 19:

... and thus we see that they buried their weapons of peace, or they buried the weapons of war, for peace.

The work of writing on metal plates would not easily lend itself to erasing errors; you can just imagine Mormon cringing here as he realizes what he just wrote, and then hastily adding a bit of corrective text!

As for significant doctrinal issues, not really. The Golden Plates may not be easily accessible today, but the original English manuscript is, and it's considered doctrinally authoritative, if not necessarily textually authoritative, given that the English language was not yet standardized at the time it was written, and it was transcribed with less concern for grammar than one might hope for today. Because an original, authoritative manuscript exists to check against, the types of confusions and disagreements often seen in Biblical scholarship regarding the authenticity of various passages simply doesn't exist in Book of Mormon scholarship.

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    Nice question, nice answer. Thank you both. +1. Jun 17, 2014 at 17:43
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    Good answer, though I disagree that Alma 24:19 is necessarily a mistake. "Weapons of peace" is exactly what they became. Jun 22, 2014 at 15:13

Are you referring to technical inerrancy or doctrinal inerrancy?

For the former, the spelling and grammar in the original manuscripts was, by today's standards, rather atrocious. Anyone insisting that the original manuscripts had no technical errors would appear foolish to us.

For doctrinal inerrancy, that's possible, since there are break-off groups from the early days of the LDS Church, but they aren't really based on the idea that Joseph Smith's manuscripts were changed and the original organization's doctrine became folly. There were other disagreements, as far as I understand, that caused their disassociation.

There might be individuals who, to the extreme, consider revisions to the text some sort of heresy or whatever, but this is not the opinion of members of the Church at large.


Joseph Smith was asked what the member of the Latter-day Saints believed. He wrote down 13 Articles of Faith. One of which says:

We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

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