According to the official LDS account, Martin Harris, a prosperous farmer bankrolling Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon project, and his principal scribe at the time, had been having difficulty believing that the gold plates really existed. This situation was not helped by the fact that his wife was totally opposed to his relationship with Smith. In the late spring of 1828, he requested that he be permitted to take the copy of the translation done up to that time, 116 pages (roughly equal to 132 pages in the printed version), to his home in upstate New York, to read them to his wife, in hope of getting her support for his expenses and work as Smith’s scribe. (For a discussion of this episode, v. H. Michael Marquardt, The Rise of Mormonism: 1816-1844, Xulon Press, Longwood, Florida, 2005, pp. 134-137)) In early July, Joseph went to visit his parents. The exact date is unknown. Since his wife had delivered a still-born son on June 15 (dated by his tombstone), and even though Joseph was able to leave his wife in the care of her parents, the date of this trip may be closer to mid July. This was a considerable journey at the time, from Harmony, Pennsylvania, to Manchester in upstate New York. It was at a dinner party that Martin Harris broke the news to Smith that the pages had been stolen. According to his claim, he had kept them under lock and key, in a drawer in a desk in his home, and when he went to get them, to return them at this dinner party, he found they were nowhere to be found. Immediately, both realized that it would be impossible to replicate the text exactly, and that if they tried, discrepancies between that effort, and the original, assumed to be in the hands of their opponents, would be used to disprove their claim that they were producing a divine translation from the gold plates.
In the LDS view, this was Satan’s plan from the beginning, and God had prepared to foil it. As the Book of Mormon story unfolds, we learn that Nephi kept two records, by commandment of God (1 Nephi 19:1-5):
1. And it came to pass that the Lord commanded me, wherefore I did make plates of ore that I might engraven upon them the record of my people. And upon the plates which I made I did engraven the record of my father, and also our journeyings in the wilderness, and the prophecies of my father; and also many of mine own prophecies have I engraven upon them.
2. And I knew not at the time when I made them that I should be commanded of the Lord to make these plates; wherefore, the record of my father, and the genealogy of his fathers, and the more part of all our proceedings in the wilderness are engraven upon those first plates of which I have spoken; wherefore, the things which transpired before I made these plates are, of a truth, more particularly made mention upon the first plates.
3. And after I had made these plates by way of commandment, I, Nephi, received a commandment that the ministry and the prophecies, the more plain and precious parts of them, should be written upon these plates; and that the things which were written should be kept for the instruction of my people, who should possess the land, and also for other wise purposes, which purposes are known unto the Lord.
4. Wherefore, I, Nephi, did make a record upon the other plates, which gives an account, or which gives a greater account of the wars and contentions and destructions of my people. And this have I done, and commanded my people what they should do after I was gone; and that these plates should be handed down from one generation to another, or from one prophet to another, until further commandments of the Lord.
5. And an account of my making these plates shall be given hereafter; and then, behold, I proceed according to that which I have spoken; and this I do that the more sacred things may be kept for the knowledge of my people.
Thus we learn that Nephi had been commanded to make two records, often referred to as the Large Plates of Nephi and the Small Plates of Nephi. They are again mentioned in a brief insert by Mormon, an insert that is just at the point where the lost pages left off (Words of Mormon 1:3-7):
3. And now, I speak somewhat concerning that which I have written; for after I had made an abridgment from the plates of Nephi, down to the reign of this king Benjamin, of whom Amaleki spake, I searched among the records which had been delivered into my hands, and I found these plates, which contained this small account of the prophets, from Jacob down to the reign of this king Benjamin, and also many of the words of Nephi.
4. And the things which are upon these plates pleasing me, because of the prophecies of the coming of Christ; and my fathers knowing that many of them have been fulfilled; yea, and I also know that as many things as have been prophesied concerning us down to this day have been fulfilled, and as many as go beyond this day must surely come to pass—
5. Wherefore, I chose these things, to finish my record upon them, which remainder of my record I shall take from the plates of Nephi; and I cannot write the hundredth part of the things of my people.
6. But behold, I shall take these plates, which contain these prophesyings and revelations, and put them with the remainder of my record, for they are choice unto me; and I know they will be choice unto my brethren.
7. And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will.
God, in His wisdom, provided two sets of plates covering the same period of time, that of the lost pages, in anticipation that this portion of the translation of the Large Plates would be lost. This is made more specific in a revelation to Joseph Smith (Doctrine and Covenants, 10:10-13, 30-31, & 38-45; compare with D&C 3 & 5), in which God says:
10. And, behold, Satan hath put it into their hearts to alter the words which you have caused to be written, or which you have translated, which have gone out of your hands.
11. And behold, I say unto you, that because they have altered the words, they read contrary from that which you translated and caused to be written;
12. And, on this wise, the devil has sought to lay a cunning plan, that he may destroy this work;
13. For he hath put into their hearts to do this, that by lying they may say they have caught you in the words which you have pretended to translate.
30. Behold, I say unto you, that you shall not translate again those words which have gone forth out of your hands;
31. For, behold, they shall not accomplish their evil designs in lying against those words. For, behold, if you should bring forth the same words they will say that you have lied and that you have pretended to translate, but that you have contradicted yourself.
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.
43. I will not suffer that they shall destroy my work; yea, I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil.
44. Behold, they have only got a part, or an abridgment of the account of Nephi.
45. Behold, there are many things engraven upon the plates of Nephi which do throw greater views upon my gospel; therefore, it is wisdom in me that you should translate this first part of the engravings of Nephi, and send forth in this work.
So, it was the translation of the account on the Large Plates of Nephi that was lost, and the account for the same period from the Small Plates of Nephi was to be translated to replace that which was lost. As Bruce R. McConkie explains it:
Upon the Large Plates he (Mormon) abridged the records of his father, Lehi, and began a detailed history of his people, including their wars, contentions, the reign of their kings, and their genealogy. The Small Plates he reserved for sacred writings, prophecies, and things pertaining to the ministry…Mormon made the Plates of Mormon on which he abridged the Large Plates of Nephi and to which he added without abridgement the Small plates of Nephi. (Mormon Doctrine, Bruce R. McConkie, Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, 1966, p. 326)
In this manner, those who had the lost pages would not be able to say that Smith had not been able to produce the same divine text a second time. The new text would be a translation of a different set of plates.
This account is a matter of some embarrassment to true believers, who mostly shrug it off, as being just one more thing to be ignored, or tolerated, while relying on their prayers and testimony. It is at the same time an important point for the critics of the BOM. Neither side questions it, the LDS since it is fully rooted in their scriptures, and the critics, since they find in it support for their position.
This official account I will refer to as scenario A, and will proceed to present what I find to be a much more plausible account, scenario B.
We are asked to believe that Smith actually would entrust Harris with the only copy of a 116-page manuscript, and take it all the way from Harmony, Pennsylvania to his farm in upstate New York, and into unfriendly territory as well, just at a time when Harris was entertaining doubts, either regarding the actual existence of the gold plates, or, more probably, as to the viability of the project, possibly fearing serious consequences, financial, social and even worse, should the project fail. Furthermore, he took 116 pages, when a few pages might have been as much as his wife had appetite for. And, since Joseph’s own visit to Manchester was virtually at the same time (Joseph Smith, “Joseph Smith History 1839”, in Dan Vogel, ed., Early Mormon Documents, Signature Books, Salt Lake City, 1996, vol. 1, p. 72), he could have taken the pages to Manchester, and to the Harris farm, himself. Given the existence of reasonable alternatives, that Smith would have handed them all over to Harris tests the limits of one’s credulity.
Harris left with the manuscript on June 14 1828, and Joseph recorded that “In the meantime while Martin Harris was gone with the writings, I went to visit my father’s family at Manchester. I continued there for a short season…” A revelation (D&C 3) is dated in July of 1828, in Harmony, after his return. (see Smith, op. cit., , vol. 1, pp. 72-73) When Joseph Jr. traveled to visit his parents, after his arrival, a dinner party was organized, and Harris was among the invitees. We do not have the list of those in attendance. According to the account of Joseph’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, Harris arrived over four hours late, and when he arrived, he joined the group at the table but did not eat. She wrote:
[Harris] cried out in a tone of deep anguish, “Oh, I have lost my soul! I have lost my soul!”
Joseph, who had not expressed his fears till now, sprang from the table, exclaiming, “Martin, have you lost that manuscript? Have you broken your oath, and brought down condemnation upon my head, as well as your own?”
“Yes, it is gone,” replied Martin, “and I know not where.”
“Oh, my God!” said Joseph, clinching his hands. “All is lost! All is lost! What shall I do? I have sinned—it is I who tempted the wrath of God. I should have been satisfied with the first answer which I received from the Lord; for he told me that it was not safe to let the writing go out of my possession.” He wept and groaned, and walked the floor continually. (Lucy’s Book. A Critical Edition of Lucy Mack Smith’s Family Memoir, edited by Lavina Fielding Anderson, Signature Books, Salt Lake City, 2001, pp. 417-18)
This is just her recollection, and the exact words are her composition. What seems clear, since I see no reason why she would invent the whole incident, is that the loss of the plates was announced to all present. Allowing for some embellishment of the details, and even realizing that people expressed themselves differently back then, in a time when apparently women really did swoon, these histrionics seem extreme. More to the point, they seem to be intended for an audience. If I had been Martin, I would have called Joseph aside, and in private, I would have said, “Joe, we have a problem.” Even if we assume that many if not all of those present would eventually be confederate, it is not clear that that had yet happened, or how carefully they needed to be treated. Individuals who had been scribes, and others who may have been favored with at least a partial reading from the text, would notice if a radically new version suddenly emerged. Starting over was not a simple undertaking; it required a rational.
If this scenario is true, it shows us that Harris was fully confederate by this time.
The D&C revelation above expresses the concern differently. It states that the fear was not that the enemies would pull out the original lost pages, but would have changed the words of that text, since God could indeed reproduce it exactly. This seems a bit of a stretch, for it would have required that the enemies produce a changed 116-page text in exactly the same handwriting of each scribe. It is not probable that this could have been a realistic concern, if a perfect second copy could have been revealed.
Furthermore, if the enemies of the work of the Lord actually had the first copy, why did they sit on it? By not coming forward, this elaborate cover-up, and new text, were accepted almost without a ripple in the BOM project. If they had come forward with the original text, in the handwriting of the scribes, they would have brought the issue to the fore, and drawn attention to the problem and the attempted explanation. The local press would have been very interested. More probably, the lost pages were never presented to a public unfriendly to this project because they were in fact not lost, and not in the hands of the authors’ enemies.
The production of the lost pages began after the arrival of Joseph and his wife Emma Hale Smith in Harmony (December, 1827; Marquardt, op. cit., p. 123). Initially, Emma and her brother Reuben Hale acted as scribes, but soon Martin Harris took up that duty. Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy visited their son about October, 1828 to meet Emma’s parents, after the dinner party (Lucy’s Book, op. cit., p. 423; but see Smith, op. cit., p. 73, who mentions a visit by his father in February, 1829). This means that the production of the text was in Harmony, and that the first opportunity for Joseph Sr. to see it was when Joseph came for the dinner party.
But was it truly the only copy? Or was there an earlier text, and the so-called lost text was an edited improvement of it?
Joseph and Emma moved to Harmony in December of 1827. Initially he got more acquainted with her family, and set up their new living quarters. At some point, he began dictating his BOM text to “scribes”, his wife Emma, and her brother, Reuben Hale. Martin Harris travelled to Harmony, picked up a copy of characters claimed to be from the gold plates, and traveled to Utica, Albany and New York City to show the characters to learned scholars, in February, 1828. After his return to Harmony, he went back to Palmyra in upstate New York and then returned with his wife, Lucy Harris, attempting to change her mind about the project, and then took her back to Palmyra. He returned to Harmony in April to be Joseph’s scribe. The period of his duty as scribe then was from April 12 to June 14, picking up after Emma and her brother had acted as scribes. Given the shortness of this period, and some of the interruptions, it seems probable that there was time for only one real text to be made, apart from the possibility that Smith may have made some fragmentary working notes before arriving at the wording for a section of the text. The existence of notes of this nature would have aroused suspicion, and accordingly would most probably have been destroyed as soon as they had been used.
There is good reason to believe that the real architect of the BOM project was father Smith. The cast of characters reads almost like a reunion of seer stone scryers. Joseph Sr., his son, Oliver Cowdery and Hiram Page were all scryers. Father Smith was made the first Patriarch of the Church after it was established, and possibly the BOM prophet Lehi was a father figure, with Joseph being Nephi. After the dinner party, father Smith, being on the school board, hired a relative, Oliver Cowdery, boarded him in the Smith home for a while and proceeded to recruit him to the project. This was done in the absence of Joseph Jr., who had been commanded to cease translating (by God? or by his father?) Joseph Jr. wrote that after his return from his visit to Manchester, he worked on his farm, and apparently did not resume translating, until his father’s visit in February of 1829. In fact, his next mention of translation was with Cowdery as scribe, on April 7, 1829. (Smith, op. cit., pp. 73-74) Smith Sr. also set about recruiting David Whitmer, and probably already his sons, Jacob, Peter and John, as well as David’s son-in-law, Hiram Page. He arranged for David Whitmer to go to Harmony and get Joseph Jr. and Oliver to the Whitmer home in upstate New York to complete the book of Mormon. This too appears to have been at his own initiative, Harmony-Palmyra communications being what they were. Joseph Jr. may have learned of these developments in the project during his father’s visit; clearly, he accepted both of them. In scenario B, the son shows his father his work for the first time a day or two before the dinner party, and the latter determines that the product of his son’s labors was woefully wanting. The work is halted and Joseph Jr. ceases translation. To carry out the project, additional talent was needed, as well as a rational for starting all over. The good thing was that now they had done a dry run, and could benefit from lessons learned.
The arrival of Oliver Cowdery in Harmony on April 5, 1829, is notable for three reasons. First, on April 7 he is made Joseph Smith’s scribe. As remarkable as this speedy promotion was, it is nothing compared to Cowdery’s further elevation a bit later (still in April) to cotranslator, along-side Joseph. “And, behold, I grant unto you a gift, if you desire of me, to translate, even as my servant Joseph.” (D&C 6:25 & 8:3-4) Bear in mind that in principle, they are starting the Book of Mormon all over again, by all traditional accounts. So how is it that Cowdery should be a coauthor?
A clue is found in D&C 10:41: “Therefore, you shall translate the engravings which are on the plates of Nephi [the Small Plates], down even till you come to the reign of King Benjamin [the book of Mosiah], or until you come to that which you have translated, which you have retained; ..” This is curious, since the Small Plates were full, and did not continue beyond the 116 pages anyway. (BOM, Omni 30) There was no need to tell Joseph how far to translate them. The dating of Section 10 is disputed, perhaps for good reason. When first published, in the Book of Commandments (1833), the date given was May, 1849. In later publications in the D&C, the date was changed to summer of 1828. These dates are in the heading introducing the revelations, not in the text. In the earlier revelations, closer to when the pages were claimed to have been stolen, there is no mention of any pages “retained.” So why do we suddenly have pages “retained,” shortly after the arrival of Oliver Cowdery. Scenario B not only has Joseph Sr. deciding on a recommencement of the entire translation project, but deciding that he and Cowdery should produce the all-important start, the part that people might actually read, but probably would not read beyond (reflecting Mark Twain’s description of BOM prose as being chloroform in print.) Thus Oliver would have arrived with the expectation that he would be a coauthor, and he would have arrived with some pages already done. The assertion that there had been pages “retained” would account for what otherwise would appear to be a suspicious burst of progress.
What is especially pertinent is not just that Oliver thought that he should be a coauthor, but that Joseph accepted. According to his own testimony, he had never before met Oliver. According to all accounts, Smith was in Harmony, Pennsylvania, and Cowdery in Manchester, the whole time during and since his recruitment. So this distant relative shows up and not only becomes Joseph’s scribe, but a coauthor? This is best explained as the decision of someone else, the Smith patriarch, Joseph Sr. Throughout his career, Joseph was loyal to his family, and they loyal to him.
But sharing the role of translator clearly did not sit well with Joseph, who had reason to fear a challenge to his leadership. Before the end of April, Cowdery was stripped of that status, at least publicly, and consoled with a promise that God has other records for him to translate (D&C 9:3). He was urged to be patient, and assured: “Do this thing which I have commanded you, and you shall prosper.” (D&C 9:13)
Sharing the role of translator clearly did not please Joseph, who had reason to fear a challenge to his status. Before the end of April, Cowdery was stripped of that status, at least publicly, and consoled with a promise that God has other records for him to translate (D&C 9:3). He was urged to be patient, and assured: “Do this thing which I have commanded you, and you shall prosper.” (D&C 9:13)
One cannot help but wonder what the first text contained that was so unacceptable that it could not be edited without others noticing, assuming no text existed in the hands of the enemy. Fortunately, the Book of Mormon helps to answer this question. In 1 Nephi 19:2 we read:
And I knew not at the time when I made them that I should be commanded of the Lord to make these plates; wherefore, the record of my father, and the genealogy of his fathers, and the more part of all our proceedings in the wilderness are engraven upon those first plates of which I have spoken
The first plates provided much more detail regarding their travels in Biblical lands and Arabia, lands that were relatively well known. If the Devil was involved in this affair, it is simply the fact that “The Devil is in the details.” Joseph’s first effort may well have had much to recommend it, given his articulate mind and fertile imagination. But that imagination needed to be exploited in the New World, where (it was probably thought) the details could not be put to the test. The Indians were his forte, developed, according to his mother, at a precociously young age. She wrote:
In the course of our evening conversations Joseph would give us some of the most amusing recitals which could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, their manner of traveling, the animals which they rode, the cities that were built by them, the structure of their buildings, with every particular of their mode of warfare, their religious worship—as particularly as though he had spent his life with them. (1824; Lucy Mack Smith, op. cit., p. 345)
If he indulged in such details in the wilderness, in Judea, Edom, Arabia and Arabia Felix, there could have been problems. Any effort to produce Semitic personal and place names along the way could also have been a mine field. Joseph Smith Sr. would have known that one can’t just make things up at will in that part of the world.
The second difference between the old and new texts is made clear also in the BOM. We read in 1 Nephi 19:3: “I, Nephi, received a commandment that the ministry and the prophecies, the more plain and precious parts of them, should be written upon these plates…” In Words of Mormon 1:6 we find: “But behold, I shall take these plates, which contain these prophesyings and revelations, and put them with the remainder of my record.” Similarly, D&C 10:45 states: “Behold, there are many things engraven upon the plates of Nephi which do throw greater views upon my gospel…” Therefore, the second great difference is the lengthy Isaiah inclusions, and the commentary on them: Isaiah 2-14; Isaiah 48-49; Isaiah 50-51; Isaiah 29:3-5; Isaiah 29:6-24; Isaiah 29:13-23; as well as other Biblical passages. These materials serve three objectives: 1) to show that a version of what we might call Pauline Christianity had been the core of the true church from Adam on down, whenever the truth was on the earth; 2) to imply that therefore there is nothing suspicious if BOM sermons sound a lot like New England preachers; and 3) to show that the Old Testament knew of some Israelites going off to distant lands, the Isles of the Sea, and of a future gathering to Christ, and restoration of the true gospel, prefiguring the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Again, the addition of all of this Biblical material, with commentary, would have been noticed. It is especially this part that Joseph Sr. had deemed to be essential, highly sensitive and beyond his son’s capability.
Most probably, the concern for details also extended to language. His original text may have included his very best effort to come up with a cast of Israelite characters, without knowing Hebrew, and Arabian details, without knowing Arabic or Old South Arabian. This realization might have prompted concerns that Joseph the younger could be reasonably expected to have picked up some Hebrew in the translation process, and could be subjected to testing. When the details of the events and places in the wilderness were deleted, the lacuna so created may have been filled by a new strategy, i.e., the plates of Laban, Israelite scriptures in Egyptian. Since this language was thought to be undeciphered, and never to be deciphered, then making the Nephites bilingual in Egyptian and Hebrew allowed the authors free rein in devising names for the many Nephite and Lamanite characters and place names. In scenario B, the time spent in the wilderness, eight years, takes place in a near vacuum to avoid testable details, and ancient Egyptian is used to provide linguistic cover for the project in the New World. These would certainly be changes that would be easily noticeable and require a special rational.
This explains too the stark contrast between the Laban story, and the eight years in the wilderness. The quest to get the brass plates is treated in agonizing detail. But, once on their journey, there is a blackout. They would have had to go across Arabia to the Indian Ocean from oasis to oasis, always finding people there, who had limited provisions for their own families, and jealously guarded water sources. Either they would have had to make a living, or carry with them considerable valuable trade goods under threat of nomadic robber-band attacks. There were many opportunities in eight years to have interesting encounters. And yet, there is no single mention of any other people, or any dealings to reprovision themselves with food, water and fodder. This total vacuum is in contrast with the greater detail of the original version, alluded to in the Book of Mormon. Scenario B explains this vacuum.
Although the elimination of the details (stories and their characters) from the wilderness scene could easily be accounted for by producing a second translation from a second set of plates, it was essential to not cast undue doubt on the translation reliability of Joseph Smith. This was solved by resorting to the story that the first text had been stolen by enemies acting in a Satanic scheme. Martin Harris’ commitment to the group was tested, as he was made the fall guy.
The concern that too much detail might present opportunities for testing continued to plague the project. Much further into the project, they asked, “What about all of those Nephite and Lamanite cities?” Best to hit the delete button, short of rewriting yet again. This was done by introducing a massive crucifixion cataclysm, to bury, burn or flood as many cities as possible. The utility of this strategy is evidenced by today’s Mormons who at times use the cataclysm as an excuse for the fact that Nephite and Lamanite cities have never been found. Although an earlier version might have existed, the final version of the history of the Jaredites, the Book of Ether, was slipped into the BOM well after the cataclysm, and accordingly, in recounting their entire history, only one city is mentioned by name. This too reflects the heightened concern about too many city details.
LDS apologists like to argue that it is unimaginable that a fourteen-year-old boy could have produced the Book of Mormon. They are right. In fact, he was in his early twenties (born on 23 December, 1805; Vogel, op. cit., p. 5)) Second, his first effort was a flat-out failure. The architect of the project, Joseph Smith Sr., a school teacher, had to decide on a fresh start, scuttling his son’s first text, and recruiting additional talent, a relative, Oliver Cowdery, also a school teacher and seer stone scryer, who had worked in a printing establishment.
Scenario B does not strain our credulity by asking us to believe that Joseph would allow doubter Harris to carry the only copy of the translation across the state of New York to a family that was openly in opposition to his project. But ultimately, it is necessary to separate what is known from what is merely highly probable.
The following observations fall within the realm of the known: 1) the BOM text differs from the original by the elimination of specific details regarding the travels in the wilderness, i.e., the known Middle East; 2) the BOM text also differs from the original by the insertion of numerous Isaiah inclusions with a complex analysis; 3) Joseph Smith Sr. played a key role in recruiting Oliver Cowdery and the Whitmers for the translation remake; 4) Oliver Cowdery was originally made a coauthor alongside Joseph Smith, shortly after his arrival in Harmony, but was later demoted; 5) The work was started over, with Smith-Cowdery collaboration, and benefiting from lessons learned from a dry run; and 6) whether the 116 pages were really stolen, or were scuttled, it was necessary to come up with an elaborate cover-up, the commandment that two sets of plates be made to cover that same period of Nephite history, as God’s plan to frustrate Satan’s efforts to undermine a forthcoming Marvelous Work and Wonder. The known changes were so striking that people would notice, to wit, anyone who had worked as a scribe, or who had been privileged to hear parts of the original discussed or read.
Beyond these points, scenario B suggests that another difference between the BOM text and the original was the introduction of the brass plates of Laban in Egyptian, or the assertion that they were in Egyptian, to allow the new work to proceed with proper names in an unknown language. It also suggests that Smith Sr. and Cowdery, or Cowdery with Smith Sr.’s oversight, got the new BOM text off to a more sound start, before Oliver’s arrival in Harmony, evidenced by a short period of Joseph-Oliver coauthorship (while possibly explaining the late assertion that there were “retained” pages).
While reserving my copyright to this study, it may be downloaded for free, and cited at will, as long as it is properly referenced.