It's a beautiful book. When I wrote A Man that Can Translate, Infinite Goodness, and Between these Hills, I had to rely on Royal Skousen's excellent transcript of the Original Manuscript. Now the same information is available for everyone to see right on the facsimiles of the extant pages of the Original Manuscript.
But there is a big problem with this book.
It is full-on M2C. [M2C = Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory]
This is no surprise, given that the editors are Royal Skousen and Robin Scott Jensen, both of whom are devoted members of the M2C citation cartel, but how can a purportedly accurate and comprehensive volume on the Original Manuscript completely censor Cumorah from the story of the Book of Mormon?
Such revisionist history is inexcusable.
This is a huge disappointment that will continue to mislead faithful Latter-day Saints and serious scholars for generations.
While the JSP editors could correct the content for the web page, these printed volumes obviously cannot be changed. And, based on past experience, the JSP editors have not been inclined to correct such errors anyway. After all, they have deliberated about the content of these books for a long time.
In the earliest hours of 22 September 1827, Joseph Smith left his parents' home in Manchester, New York, with his wife Emma and traveled a few miles to a nearby hill.1
Note 1. Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 105.
You can see the cited page in Lucy's History here: https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/lucy-mack-smith-history-1845/112.
The earlier version of Lucy's history is here: https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/lucy-mack-smith-history-1844-1845/60
The passage says nothing about where Joseph and Emma went that night, let alone that they "traveled a few miles to a nearby hill." An accurate footnote would be placed after "Emma" in this sentence. Instead, the editors misleadingly put it after "nearby hill."
Why would careful editors commit such an obvious error? Perhaps the answer has to do with where we get the information about the "nearby hill" this sentence refers to.
The phrase "nearby hill" appears nowhere in Lucy's histories, but she did explain the hill was 3 miles from their home and between their home and Manchester. Her explanation supports the idea that the "hill" was "nearby," but the JSP editors never quote or cite these passages because in them, Lucy explicitly identified the hill as Cumorah.
Our M2C scholars cannot tolerate the idea that Latter-day Saints might read the actual history about Cumorah. The JSP editors collaborate with the M2C scholars to accommodate M2C by cleverly employing terminology that is not in the historical record and avoiding quotations of (or even citations to) the actual record.
Just as they censored the New York Cumorah from the Saints books, they're censoring it even from the Joseph Smith Papers.
Lucy described the proximity of the hill in the passage that the M2C scholars refuse to quote or cite, but we can all read it right in Lucy's own history when she related what Moroni told Joseph during his first visit:
the record is on a side hill on the Hill of Cumorah 3 miles from this place remove the Grass and moss and you will find a large flat stone pry that up and you will find the record under it laying on 4 pillars <of cement>— then the angel left him
We see from Lucy's account that Cumorah was only 3 miles from the Smith home, which can reasonably be described as "nearby." But others might think "nearby" connotes a distance much less than 3 miles. Why use the ambiguous term "nearby" when we have an actual historical account of the distance? And why not cite Lucy's specific statement instead of citing a passage that doesn't even mention the hill?
If you go to that link, you'll see that the JSP editors have lined this passage out of the transcript, even though we can all see it is not lined out on the original manuscript. An accurate transcript could show the blue marks that the editors apparently assumed were equivalent to a line-out. Instead, they imposed their editorial line-out.
Another passage from Lucy about the "hill" shows its proximity to the home, but the JSP editors never quote or cite this one, either.
Lucy related that one day in early 1827, Joseph went to Manchester on an errand. He was late coming home. He explained that he had received a severe chastisement. His father became angry and wanted to know which of the neighbors was involved. Joseph replied (and Lucy put this in quotations):
“Stop, father, Stop.” said Joseph, “it was the angel of the Lord— as I passed by the hill of Cumorah, where the plates are, the angel of the Lord met me and said, that I had not been engaged enough in the work of the Lord; that the time had come for the record to <be> brought forth...
We see from Lucy's account that Joseph and his family already knew the name of the hill before he even translated the plates, and that the hill was located between Manchester and the family home. This account corroborates what Moroni told Joseph; i.e., that the hill Cumorah was 3 miles from the Smith home.
Again, we have to ask the JSP editors omit these informative, relevant and authentic historical accounts instead of presenting their own theories as fact.
The second sentence is just as disingenuous.
He later recounted that while at the hill, he unearthed a set of "plates of gold," whose existence had been revealed to him four years earlier by an angel.
If you search the Joseph Smith Papers for the phrase "plates of gold," you get 12 results.
Not one of these mentions a hill:
He told me also of a sacred record which was written on plates of gold. I saw in the vision the place where they were deposited.
After being warned several times, he went to the spot and found the record engraved on leaves or plates of gold fastened together by rings passing through one edge of all the leaves
he revealed unto me that in the Town of Manchester Ontario County N. Y. there was plates of gold upon which there was engravings which was engraven by Maroni his fathers the servants of the living God
he told me of a sacred record which was written on plates of gold, I saw in the vision the place where they were deposited, he said the indians, were the literal descendants of Abraham
He told me also of a sacred record which was written on plates of gold. I saw in the vision the place where they were deposited. He said to me the Indians were the literal decendants of Abraham.
To learn the plates were deposited in a hill, we have to go to Lucy Mack Smith, but the JSP editors won't tell readers that because Lucy explained the hill was called Cumorah by Moroni himself. Instead, they refer to the hill and quote "plates of gold" as if the same source provided both elements.
To be sure, Lucy's 1845 history includes an insertion from the 1842 Times and Seasons that refers to a hill of considerable size "Convenient to the village of Manchester..." But "convenient" does not mean "nearby." We rely on Lucy's accounts, as well as Letter VII, to learn that the hill was actually nearby. But the JSP editors won't explain their sources to their readers.
Readers should also know that the 1842 Times and Seasons account was composed by Joseph's scribes several years after Letter VII had already established that the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is the same hill where Joseph found the plates. Letter VII was republished in the 1841 Times and Seasons as well so that readers of the 1842 Times and Seasons already knew the hill that was "convenient to the village of Manchester" was named Cumorah anciently.
Because of this misdirection by the JSP editors, even "engaged learners" who read this volume 5 of the Joseph Smith Papers are kept in the dark about all of this actual history.
Later on this same page, we read, "Within two and a half years of obtaining them, he had produced a manuscript and published the Book of Mormon an account of ancient inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere."
This is outrageous revisionist history that should have no place in a historical volume. When the editors engage in editorializing instead of presenting accurate history, they should clearly explain what (and why) they are doing.
"Western hemisphere" is a modern construct. It has been applied to Church history to obfuscate the actual accounts and to accommodate the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory.
If you search the Joseph Smith Papers for the term "western hemisphere," you'll see that there are zero historical documents related to the Book of Mormon that use this term.
Instead, we find the JSP editors editorializing:
Moroni, Smith was to learn, was the last in a long line of prophets in the Western Hemisphere who had written their story, just as the prophets in Palestine had written the Bible.
In his description of the Book of Mormon, Orson Pratt superimposed his understanding of Book of Mormon geography onto the Western Hemisphere by placing the Nephites in South America and the Jaredites in North America.
The actual history, which the JSP editors never quote or cite out of deference to M2C, is far more specific:
I was also informed concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country, and shown who they were, and from whence they came... The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country.
He then proceeded and gave a general account of the promises made to the fathers, and also gave a history of the aborigenes of this country, and said they were literal descendants of Abraham.... He said this history was written and deposited not far from that place, and that it was our brother’s privilege, if obedient to the commandments of the Lord, to obtain and translate the same by the means of the Urim and Thummim, which were deposited for that purpose with the record.
As faithful Latter-day Saints, we should be able to rely on the JSP editors to give us accurate Church history, not their revisionist opinions dressed up as facts.
There are additional examples of this historical revisionism in this volume 5, just as there have been in other volumes of the Joseph Smith Papers.
We have to wonder what it will take to root out M2C from Church history.