Mosiah, Not Benjamin!


The Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon says “Benjamin”.
The current published Book of Mormon says “Mosiah”.

Two places in the Book of Mormon now use the name “Mosiah” where the Printer’s Manuscript used the name “Benjamin”.

Mosiah 21:28

Printer’s Manuscript –

*note – bold emphasis to the word Benjamin added manually
And now Limhi was again filled with joy on learning from the mouth of Ammon that king
Benjamin had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings; yea, and Ammon also did rejoice.

1837 edition – same as current:
And now Limhi was again filled with joy on learning from the mouth of Ammon that king Mosiah had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings; yea, and Ammon also did rejoice.

Ether 4:1

Printer’s Manuscript –

*note – bold emphasis to the word Benjamin added manually
…and for this cause did king
Benjamin keep them, that they should not come unto the world until after Christ should shew himself unto his people.

1847 edition same as current:
…and for this cause did king Mosiah keep them, that they should not come unto the world until after Christ should show himself unto his people.

Translation and Mistakes

The traditional accounts of the translation process involves Joseph Smith looking into the “Interpreters” (Urim and Thummim) or a Seer Stone, reading the translation out loud while the scribe wrote, then the scribe would read back what he had written.  It seems like this type of process would prevent any mistakes, however we know that there were many grammatical and spelling errors. But a major “name” mistake like the one above? Not just in one place, but two places, involving the same people? That seems really unusual and worth investigating!

In an article from FairMormon
the suggestion is made:

“The use of the proper name “Benjamin” may represent either an abridgment error on the part of Mormon and Moroni, or it may be a legitimate description of what Ammon actually said to King Limhi based upon his current knowledge of the situation in Zarahemla”

Certainly both of these ideas are possibilities, although it is debatable if Benjamin was still alive.  King Mosiah 2nd was crowned in the year 124 BC.

Mosiah 6
4 And Mosiah began to reign in his father’s stead. And he began to reign in the thirtieth year of his age, making in the whole, about four hundred and seventy-six years from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem.
5 And king Benjamin lived three years and he died.

Then in the next chapter, after 3 years, Mosiah sent Ammon’s expedition to find the land of Nephi.

Mosiah 7
1 And now, it came to pass that after king Mosiah had had continual peace for the space of three years, he was desirous to know concerning the people who went up to dwell in the land of Lehi-Nephi, or in the city of Lehi-Nephi; for his people had heard nothing from them from the time they left the land of Zarahemla; therefore, they wearied him with their teasings.

Even if Benjamin was still alive, Ammon knew when he left that Benjamin was not the king, his son Mosiah had been king for 3 years.  This instance of swapping the names Benjamin and Mosiah, could very well be, as described above, an abridgment error, but not likely what Ammon actually said.

However, this situation does not apply to the name swap in Ether 4, but it still could be an abridgment error.

Joseph Smith’s Intentional Change?

There is another possibility, in that Joseph Smith himself, during the translation process, intentionally used the name of Benjamin when the Interpreters specifically used the name of Mosiah.  

I wish to insist here, before proceeding, that this idea is speculative, as there is no way to actually know, however, it does make a fascinating study.

I will endeavor to examine why he may have felt the need to do so, and why he changed it back to Mosiah in later editions. 

First we must examine the timeline of the translation process and the structural content of the plates.

To demonstrate these ideas I will use a graphic from Book of Mormon Central.

This chart is very complex so I will break it down into smaller sections.

First we look at what Joseph Smith took from the stone box in the Hill Cumorah.

This is referred to as the Plates of Mormon, crafted by Mormon and containing his abridgment of the Large Plates of Nephi and his own writings, also the writing of his son Moroni and Moroni’s abridgment of the Jaredite plates which he called the Book of Ether.

Now we examine the timeline.

The Plates of Mormon

The following timeline is based upon John W. Welch’s article entitled “The Miraculous Translation of the Book of Mormon,” from Opening the Heavens, Accounts of Divine Manifestations 1820-1844, p.77-213, (2005), Brigham Young University.

September 21-22, 1827 Joseph obtains the plates from the angel Moroni.

April 12, 1828 Martin Harris begins to scribe for Joseph as he translates the book of Lehi.

June 14, 1828 The translation of the book of Lehi is completed, resulting in 116 pages of translated text.

Late June 1928 The 116 pages of the book of Lehi were borrowed and then lost by Martin Harris.

July, 1828 The interpreters and the plates are taken from Joseph by the angel.

September 22. Joseph again receives the Urim and Thummim from Moroni.

April 7, 1929 Oliver begins writing as scribe to Joseph Smith.
They begin translating at or near Mosiah 1, where Joseph and Martin Harris had left off.
From the Joseph Smith Papers, this was originally Chapter 3.

May 10-15, 1929 The translation progresses steadily until they come to the account of the Savior’s resurrected ministry in 3 Nephi.

May 15, 1929 Joseph and Oliver are ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood and baptize one another.

May 25, 1929 As they near the end of translating Mormon’s abridgment and Moroni’s additions (Mosiah-Moroni), referred to above as the Plates of Mormon, Joseph and Oliver wonder if they are to translate the book of Lehi again. 

Doctrine and Covenants section 10 was likely dictated in its final form during this time.

38 And now, verily I say unto you, that an account of those things that you have written, which have gone out of your hands, is engraven upon the plates of Nephi;
39 Yea, and you remember it was said in those writings that a more particular account was given of these things upon the plates of Nephi.
40 And now, because the account which is engraven upon the plates of Nephi is more particular concerning the things which, in my wisdom, I would bring to the knowledge of the people in this account—
41 Therefore, you shall translate the engravings which are on the plates of Nephi, down even till you come to the reign of king Benjamin, or until you come to that which you have translated, which you have retained;
42 And behold, you shall publish it as the record of Nephi; and thus I will confound those who have altered my words.

For more in depth information about the small Plates of Nephi, see the Mound Rovers article by Julia Sanders:
Were There Two Sets of Plates?

June 1-3, 1929 Joseph and Oliver move with David Whitmer from Harmony to Fayette, New York, to the home of Peter Whitmer (David’s father).

The Plates of Nephi

June 4, 1929 Joseph and Oliver recommence translation the day after their arrival in Fayette. 

June 11, 1929 The copyright for the Book of Mormon is secured.
The application contains the title page of the Book of Mormon.
This demonstrates that before this date Mormon’s entire abridgement (Mosiah-Mormon 7) and Moroni’s additions (Mormon 8-9, Ether, & Moroni) referred to as the Plates of Mormon above, have been translated, including the title page inscribed by Moroni, which Joseph Smith stated was on the left side of the last leaf.

July 1, 1929 The translation was finished in the upstairs room of Peter Whitmer’s home. 

Introduction to Benjamin and Mosiah

As you read the Book of Mormon as published today, King Mosiah 1st is introduced in the Book of Omni.

12 Behold, I am Amaleki, the son of Abinadom. Behold, I will speak unto you somewhat concerning Mosiah, who was made king over the land of Zarahemla; for behold, he being warned of the Lord that he should flee out of the land of Nephi, and as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord should also depart out of the land with him, into the wilderness.

It was King Mosiah 1st that first possessed the “Interpreters”, as he was the one who translated Coriantumr’s stone.

20 And it came to pass in
the days of Mosiah, there was a large stone brought unto him with engravings on it; and he did interpret the engravings by the gift and power of God.
21 And they gave an account of one Coriantumr, and the slain of his people. And Coriantumr was discovered by the people of Zarahemla; and he dwelt with them for the space of nine moons.

King Benjamin, the son of King Mosiah 1st is introduced in the first chapter of the Book of Mosiah.

1 And now there was no more contention in all the land of Zarahemla, among all the people who belonged to king Benjamin, so that king Benjamin had continual peace all the remainder of his days.

The Switch

However, the Book of Lehi and the first 2 chapters of Mosiah were lost.  The first 2 chapters of Mosiah most likely introduced King Mosiah 1st. From Joseph Smith’s perspective, when he translated the verses of Mosiah 21:28 and Ether 4:1, the reader would not have known of King Mosiah 1st.  

The verses in Mosiah 21:28 refer to the Interpreters.  The verses in Ether 4:1 refer to the Sealed Portion.

The Interpreters always accompany the Sealed Portion, or “Vision of the Eternities”.

This is where Joseph Smith would have intentionally used the name Benjamin instead of Mosiah, knowing that King Benjamin would also have had access to the Interpreters and the sealed “Vision of the Eternities”.

For more in depth information about the Sealed Portion, see the Mound Rovers article by Julia Sanders:
The Sealed Portion

After the original 1830 publication, Joseph Smith changed the verses from Benjamin back to Mosiah, now knowing that the Lord had it all under control from the beginning when he had Nephi create the Small Plates.

It could be argued that the “Mosiah” in question in Ether 4:1 might be King Mosiah 2nd, the son of King Benjamin.  King Mosiah 2nd obtained and translated the Jaredite record after Limhi arrived in Zarahemla. However, it is unlikely that the 24 plates containing the Jaredite history included the sealed “Vision of the Eternities” because of its sacred nature, as those plates were just left out “in a manner that the people of Limhi did find them.”  The Interpreters and the sealed “Vision of the Eternities” must always stay together and we know that King Mosiah 1st already had the Interpreters, so he must also have had the sealed “Vision of the Eternities”.   

As to how King Mosiah 1st obtained the Interpreters and the sealed “Vision of the Eternities” is for another post!


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