A few weeks ago a good friend told me of a discovery he had made while studying the scriptures. In the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ he read 2 Nephi 12:15-16, which are two of the approximately 433 verses of Isaiah quoted in the Book of Mormon. They read:
And upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall; And upon all the ships of the sea, and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures.
This contrasts Isaiah 2:15-16 which says:
And upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall, And upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures.
This begs the questions, where did the phrase in the Book of Mormon “upon all the ships of the sea” get added from? I do not pretend to be a scholar. However, my friend is an excellent one. He told me he decided to read the passage in the oldest version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint. There the phrase “upon all the ships of the sea” is present.
As the Septuagint is written in Greek and I cannot read Greek, I had to take my friend’s word that this was true. However, soon thereafter I received two other witnesses of the same truth. Sidney B. Sperry confirmed my friend’s account in his book, The Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Sperry wrote:
Scholars may suggest that Joseph Smith took the first phrase from the Septuagint. The prophet did not know Greek, and there is no evidence that he had access to a copy of the Septuagint in 1829-1830 when he translated the Book of Mormon. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book 1965, pp. 90-91, qtd. in Bassett Commentaries on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, pg. 68).
Thirty two years after Sperry, in 1997, Terry B. Ball also found where the Book of Mormon matched the Septuagint, adding words upon the King James Version of the Bible. Ball commented:
One can offer several speculations about why both phrases appear in the Book of Mormon. (1) Perhaps Joseph Smith fabricated the Book of Mormon and somehow had access to the Septuagint. Discovering there was a discrepancy between the Septuagint and the Masoretic texts of the passage, he decided to include both text versions in the Book of Mormon to deceive readers into thinking he was actually translating a more complete ancient record, that is, the gold plates; or (2) maybe while Joseph Smith was fabricating the Book of Mormon he accidentally, by chance, inserted into the Book of Mormon the very phrase left out of the Masoretic text; or (3) while the Prophet Joseph Smith was translating the Book of Mormon from the gold plates by the gift and power of God, he translated the phrase “upon all the ships of the sea and upon all the ships of Tarshish” because that is exactly what the record said. Both phrases were on the gold plates Joseph Smith was translating because the brass plates of pre-600 B.C. origin, from which the gold plates text was taken, were a more ancient and complete text than either the Masoretic text (ca. A.D. 500-1000) or the Septuagint (ca. 250 B.C.). Apparently the Septuagint had lost the phrase “the ships of Tarshish” and the Masoretic text had lost the phrase “the ships of the sea.” The Book of Mormon restores both.
From a purely logical point of view, the last option, option 3, is the only tenable one. From personal conviction, I testify that option 3 is the truth. (Voices of Old Testament Prophets; The 26th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium.
I know that the Prophet Joseph Smith was a true Prophet. I know that through him Christ’s church, exactly as it was when he walked this Earth, has been restored. I know that God cannot lie and that what his servant Paul, the Apostle wrote to the Corinthians is true: “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (New Testament | 2 Corinthians 13:1). Not only does God provide us with truth, he gives us personal revelation if we ask on his word, and he gives us two or three witnesses. Heavenly Father certainly is merciful, kind, and good. I love him and am thankful to be his son, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.