Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » New Issue of the Book of Mormon, 1921

New Issue of the Book of Mormon, 1921

By: Ardis E. Parshall - January 11, 2009

Who remembers the release of the new edition of the scriptures in 1979 and 1981? I do. This announcement of the 1921 re-issue of the Book of Mormon resonated with my own memories of a new edition.

It has ever been the desire of readers of the Book of Mormon, especially of its devoted readers and students, to see it improved typographically, and in general and mechanical makeup. Several efforts have been made to issue it in better form. Some of these were successful, others apparently were not fortunate. The first edition, printed at Palmyra, in 1830, was in large type on very good paper and made a well proportioned and very presentable volume, superior to several editions that have followed it, both in America and Europe, which were made to reduce the size of the book when bound, and also its cost, so that a wider sale and distribution of it could be effected.

In 1870, fifty years after the first edition, the volume was overhauled by apostle Orson Pratt, who divided the long paragraphs into chapters and verses, and provided its pages with copious references and footnotes. Electrotype plates were made, from which many editions were printed. The type, however, was small though of a good face, and this form, with slight changes, as new editions (some extremely cheap and unattractive) were called for, has prevailed, with perhaps a single exception, until the present time. The exception was a limited edition issued by the Juvenile Instructor office, in the year 1889. This was printed in very large type on fine paper, making a handsome volume to correspond with the moderate size Bibles generally used in public. It was necessarily expensive, and of restricted circulation.

It is a pleasure to note that progress towards the realization of our hope, for a helpful and attractive volume is being made, and we now have an edition that has taken a long step in this direction. The following official announcement of its issue explains the remarkable improvements that have been added, and commends it to the people. It is understood that a missionary edition is under way that will follow the present library edition, bringing the new volume in reach of all at low prices. [Millennial Star, 3 February 1921.]

Official Announcement

We are pleased to announce a new issue of the Book of Mormon. From the time of its first publication, in 1830, to the present, the demand for this volume of Scripture has been constantly increasing.

So many imprints have been taken from the several sets of old plates that all of these have become defectively worn, and the preparation of a new set of electrotypes was deemed imperative.

The necessary re-setting of type afforded an opportunity of making several improvements in book-making details. Among these improvements the following are worthy of special mention:

1. Instead of the small type heretofore used, the text of the new issue is printed from 8-point Bible-type, which produces a large bold-faced letter, particularly clear and easy to read.

2. The text is set in two columns to the page, Bible style, thus presenting short lines, which are easily followed, instead of the long lines of full-page width hitherto used.

3. Each chapter is preceded by a concise heading, embodying its principal contents.

4. The designation of book and chapter at the top of each page has been simplified and made much more serviceable than the old style.

5. The foot-note references have been carefully revised, and in some instances, amplified.

6. At the bottom of each page, excepting only the Book of Ether, the chronology of principal events is given, as such a time ‘B.C.’ of ‘A.D.’ The years are distinguished as exact or approximate specifications, according to the information furnished by the Book of Mormon itself.

7. Preceding the text is a ‘Brief Analysis of the Book of Mormon,’ which will greatly assist the reader in comprehending the relations of the several divisions or ‘books’ to each other.

8. Also preceding the text, appears a comprehensive account of the ‘Origin of the Book of Mormon,’ which is couched, almost entirely, in the words of the inspired translator, Joseph Smith, the Prophet.

9. Following the text is a ‘Synopsis of Chapters’ and other helps.

10. A ‘Pronouncing Vocabulary’ gives a simple and consistent pronunciation of practically every proper name, and of some other words, of Book of Mormon origin.

11. What promises to be one of the most helpful features of the new issue is the comprehensive ‘Index,’ comprising sixty-eight columns of reference data, grouped both according to subjects and to important passages. The need of an index to the Book of Mormon has long been yearningly felt and strongly expressed. We doubt not that this addendum to the volume will be greatly appreciated.

The first edition from the new plates is printed on paper of superior quality, and is supplied in a variety of better-class bindings.

We trust the publication of the Book of Mormon in this improved form will result in a more devoted study of this distinctive volume of Holy Scripture, and in a fuller application of its saving precepts and principles in the lives of our people and amongst all who read it.

Heber J. Grant,
Anthon H. Lund,
Charles W. Penrose,

First Presidency.

Salt Lake City, Utah. December 24th, 1920.



  1. Relative to the “Pronouncing Vocabulary” mentioned in item 10, be sure not to miss these two recent posts:

    Mark Brown’s For Language Mavens at BCC, and Jonathan Green’s The TRUTH about the Book of Mormon Pronouncing Guide Exposed at T&S.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 11, 2009 @ 10:00 am

  2. I’m also old enough to remember the new editions of the scriptures coming out; I still have my pre-1979 LDS Bible (I gave my pre-1979 LDS triple combination to my son Jon before he went to Iraq).

    I keep hearing rumbling about the Church preparing a new set of scriptures, usually tied to (a) Royal Skousen’s BofM critical text project at BYU (but see question #7 in the link provided) and/or (b) canonization of “The Family: a Proclamation to the World” and possibly “The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles”. Given the publication of the Joseph Smith Papers, I also have to wonder if there are extant, uncanonized revelations that may be added to the D&C (much as Sections 137 and 138 were added back in the 1979/81 timeframe).

    Of course, it would be cool if we got a brand-new revelation (“…will yet reveal many great and important things…”), but I suspect we need to do a better job of living up to all that we’ve been given so far. :-) ..bruce..

    Comment by bfwebster — January 11, 2009 @ 12:16 pm

  3. I used the old 1921 edition on my mission, which went from 1977 to 1979. (The crossreferencing scheme in the old edition was terrible; I couldn’t make hears or tails of it, and was glad for the new system.) The upshot was that I had to get new scriptures shortly after coming home from my mission. So unlike most RMs, my scriptures don’t reflect alll of my missionary marking, but are pristine, with no marking whatsoever (I stopped feeling the need to mark scrips after my mission, as I can always find what I need easily enough.)

    Comment by Kevin Barney — January 11, 2009 @ 12:23 pm

  4. I’m still waiting for the last two-thirds of the plates to be translated and published. Despite all of the seeming ‘signs of the last days’ coming into alignment, when this volume comes forth then we’ll know for a certainty that the “end draweth nigh, yea, is even at the doors”. Some of my more skeptical brethren believe that it will never happen because 1.), we haven’t yet successfully applied all of the Gospel doctrines within the Book of Mormon to our lives to date, and 2.), there isn’t a prophet who is able/willing to do the translation and endure the subsequent firestorm of heat & flack from Biblical and Middle-eastern scholars over the work. My response is, “Let’s just wait and see. I never thought that I would see the things I’ve already seen, (the re-unification of Germany, the fall of the Soviet Union, etc.), so I’m open to being surprised again.”

    Comment by Velikiye Kniaz — January 11, 2009 @ 4:39 pm

  5. I’m not sure if any additional revelations would be added due to the JS Papers, but there are skads of corrections to headers (revelation dates and places) that have been found. It would be interesting to see if they would make textual changes to the Revelations themselves. Between the Critical Book of Mormon text and the JSP, though, it seems like a new edition makes sense. I wouldn’t expect anything for at least 20 years, though.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 11, 2009 @ 7:51 pm

  6. I still have the copy of the Book of Mormon published in 1974 that my grandparents gave me for my baptism in 1980. I’m guessing it’s the 1920 edition. I keep it for sentimental reasons, and not because I actually ever read from it: as Kevin Barney said, the cross referencing is awful.

    That said, it is gratifying to read the announcement above, with its references to making the new edition “a helpful and attractive volume” and more easily read, “Bible style.” Onward and upward!

    Still crossing my fingers for a NIV-style edition of the Book of Mormon…

    Comment by Hunter — January 11, 2009 @ 10:16 pm

  7. I used the 1921 edition Quad my grandparents purchased for me for my mission (1978-80). My first look at the new scriptures were on my mission when Elder Gene R. Cook brought them out for us to look at/handle during a missionary conference. His were unmarked, because he was still very much attached to his old set that were also displayed, and very marked up.
    I have gone through a few sets of the new scriptures. I like putting side notes through out, sharing my ideas on scriptures. When I feel a set is satisfactory, I give it to one of my kids or grandkids. Then I start fresh, which forces me to look at the scriptures from my current level of understanding, rather than only at previous levels of understanding.

    I would like to see a new edition that improves upon the helps. While I admire the apostle, the helps and headers in the 1979 edition just have too much of Bruce R. McConkie in them. Our BoM and Biblical scholarship has leaped forward as much in the last 30 years, as in the previous century and a half. Our study aids should reflect this.

    Comment by Rameumptom — January 12, 2009 @ 7:05 am

  8. Wasn’t the 1921 edition the first to exclude the Lectures on Faith? I’m surprised they didn’t mention the omission. Or maybe I’m just wrong :)

    Comment by Meghan — January 13, 2009 @ 5:24 pm

  9. I believe that the 1921 cross-referencing system utilized a page number-verse number system, which seemed pretty straightforward to me.

    In 1965 there was a British blue hard cover printing of the Book of Mormon available in the U.S., with rounded corners for both the cover and the pages. This made the book easy to handle and carry around. It also had wide page margins in which to write the wise things Robert K. Thomas had to say in Book of Mormon class concerning the text. I really miss this edition.

    Comment by Stephen Taylor — January 21, 2009 @ 10:54 pm

  10. I just bought a copy of the book of mormon at a garage sale today. It was unique in that the cover of the book of mormon was a paperback and the cover was gold and marked as the golden plates were back in the time I suppose. A really fun find. Neat pictures.

    Comment by Virginia — June 19, 2010 @ 7:08 pm

  11. I remember those gold foil covers — from sometime in the ’70s, if I remember right. Lots of fun.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 19, 2010 @ 7:55 pm

  12. A neighbor in the ward I grew up in, Davidjohn Stosich, designed the gold foil covers. The church prepared that edition, and one with the Tom Lovell painting “Mormon Abridging the Plates” on the cover for a World’s Fair. They evidently thought a “mainstream cover” would resonate better.

    Comment by Clark — June 21, 2010 @ 8:26 am

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