The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now owns the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon — for $35 million, the sellers say.
The Community of Christ, formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, announced the sale, and the price tag, on Wednesday. The Independence, Missouri-based church has owned the manuscript since 1903.
Steven E. Snow, LDS Church historian and recorder, confirmed the acquisition, calling the document both a spiritual and historic treasure. Church officials did not immediately confirm, but also did not challenge, the stated sales price when contacted Thursday.
“We hold the Book of Mormon to be a sacred text like the Bible,” Snow said. “The printer’s manuscript is the earliest surviving copy of about 72 percent of the Book of Mormon text, as only about 28 percent of the earlier dictation copy survived decades of storage in a cornerstone in Nauvoo, Ill.”
LDS Church officials praised the Community of Christ for its care of the document, and in a statement expressed thanks to “generous donors who provided the means to acquire this treasure.”
The entire printer’s manuscript was published by the LDS Church in 2015 as part of the faith’s Joseph Smith Papers Project. Specifically, the document is re-created in Volume Three of the “Revelations and Translations” series.
As for the recently acquired original of the manuscript, Snow said plans were in the works to make it an exhibit at the Church History Library in downtown Salt Lake City “in the coming months.”
Mormons believe the Book of Mormon, first published in 1830 and the faith’s signature scripture, was translated by church founder Joseph Smith from “reformed Egyptian” engravings on a set of golden plates unearthed from a hill in upstate New York with the guidance of an angel.
The work includes what Latter-day Saints believe to be the writings of prophets who lived in ancient America, as well as an account of a post-resurrection appearance on the continent by Jesus Christ.
Historian John Hajicek, of mormonism.com, compared the acquisition of the manuscript as the religious equivalent of the United States purchasing the U.S. Constitution.
“This is a founding document of the LDS Church,” Hajicek said. “It is priceless.”
The Community of Christ originally purchased the manuscript as part of a collection that cost $2,500. According to Hajicek, the LDS Church had the opportunity to buy the manuscript then also and turned it down.
The acquisition renews interest in LDS Church history, Hajicek said, calling the sale the “biggest game-changer in Mormon history, since the year 1999, when President [Gordon B.] Hinckley made the announcement to rebuild the Nauvoo temple.”
“I thought the value of the manuscript exceeded $100 million, and the LDS Church got a good value,” Hajicek said.
The manuscript “became the guide by which the type was set for the first edition (1830) of the Book of Mormon,” according to the Community of Christ.
The presiding bishopric of the Community of Christ had worked with several potential buyers in the past several months, according to the announcement, which stated that the $35 million price tag is the highest ever paid for a manuscript.