This is the question from my friend that started it all. Luckily the LDS Church had just published an article dealing with this topic in some depth, and below you can read the back and forth discussion my friend and I had on the matter. But if you want the nutshell version of things, the answer is that between the original 1830 printing of Book of Mormon and today’s printing (last updated in 1980) there are around 3,000-4,000 changes. Thousands of these were made by Joseph Smith himself after he reviewed the first printing and saw all the mistakes the printer had made while setting the type. Some of the changes over the years have been to modernize or correct spelling (“plates” instead of “plaits”). But you can rest assured none of the changes have changed what’s in the BofM in any substantial way. Of course those who think Mormons are a bunch of sneaky monkeys would like to think so, but the truth is far less interesting.
A: I’m sure you can find documentation of many of the changes somewhere, although I only care about researching that about as much as I care about researching all the changes people have made and continue to make to the Bible. I’m pretty happy with the King James version.
Q: Its different with the Bible. Its not people changing the text at all, There are two major manuscripts that Bibles are translated from. One is called the Alexandrian Text, and the other is the Majority Text. Sometimes (but not very often) there is a vaient reading between the manuscripts (never enough to cause a doctrinal change, though)
The great thing is, the textual varients are all footnoted in the Bibles that we read. No one is being sneaky about them.
This is much different than just arbitrarily changing a document thousands of times without footnote.
A: If you begin with the assumption that the changes to the Book of Mormon are arbitrary and/or sneaky then it’s hard to believe any other perspective, no matter the evidence, just as it is hard for atheists to believe the Bible. To understand the details behind the changes in the Book of Mormon it’s best to start with an open mind and have truth as the goal.
The changes made to the Book of Mormon over the years could be compared to revisions of the Bible in that the purpose is to get things as close as possible to the original manuscript. If there is a lack of footnotes detailing these changes it’s because the only people who care about the changes are those who are trying to disprove the Book of Mormon. But members of the LDS Church recognize that having access to detailed information about the changes wouldn’t enhance the experience of reading the BofM any more than knowing about printing mistakes in the 1611 version of the KJV would improve their understanding of the KJV today.
Here’s another good article regarding this issue – http://www.jefflindsay.com/LDSFAQ/FQ_changes.shtml.
Q: The 1830 BOM is still in existence. This would be the same as the one that Smith translated and dictated to Oliver Cowdery. Why the need for over 3000 changes without footnote?
A: The 1830 edition was not identical to the original manuscript. I know that last link I sent you is kind of a long page but it explains everything in detail.