We can all see, from the way they manipulated Church history to accommodate both M2C and SITH, that the authors of Saints did not intend to provide an accurate "historical present" when they wrote volume 1. Nor did the authors of the Gospel Topics Essays intend to provide readers with historically accurate analysis, simply from the fact that they omitted the teachings of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in favor of the claims of their critics.
But now, in 2024, we are all pursuing clarity, charity and understanding instead of academic agendas. There's never a better time than the present to correct errors for future generations.
Traditional analog (paper) publishing made error correction impossible. You couldn't go back and fix typos and other errors in printed material. If you caught an error during the printing process, you could make the correction, but you couldn't go back and erase the error on the copies you had already printed.
This is what Grandin did while printing the 1830 Book of Mormon.
When an error was spotted, the printer stopped the press and corrected the type. Sometimes this occurred after copies had already been printed. They didn't destroy the already printed pages, but just continued with the corrected pages. That is why many of the original 5,000 copies have variations. They would randomly insert the erroneous sheets as they assembled the books.
But at least they made corrections.
Physical copies that have been printed cannot be changed, but most people use digital copies, which can be easily changed.
One could argue that it is less important to correct errors than to make sure the electronic version remains consistent with the printed version, but it's difficult to believe that is a plausible excuse for not correcting obvious errors.
We would think the correcting errors is far more important than preserving errors.
And we have an actual, real-world, contemporary example of this. When Elder Gary Stevenson noticed a problem in the Come Follow Me manual, the Church changed it.
On Monday, Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke at the 36th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Luncheon in Salt Lake City hosted by the NAACP Salt Lake City branch.
At the beginning of his remarks, Elder Stevenson expressed regret that the “Come, Follow Me” manual for 2020 contains an old statement that dark skin in the Book of Mormon was the sign of a curse. He disavowed that statement.
“We’re asking our members to disregard the paragraph in the printed manual,” he said, according to Deseret News. “Now I’m deeply saddened and hurt by this error and for any pain that it may have caused our members and for others. I would just like to reiterate our position as a Church is clear. We do condemn all racism, past and present, in any form, and we disavow any theory advanced that black or dark skin is a sign of a curse.”
Elder Stevenson said the mistake was included in the printed version which was prepared nearly two years ago. When Church leaders found out about the error in late 2019, they corrected it in the online version which is used by the majority of members and adjusted future printed materials.
Obviously, calling it a "printing error" is a euphemism for a substantive change.
But notice the key point: the manual was prepared two years earlier in 2018, yet "Church leaders found out about the error in late 2019" after the manual had been printed, purportedly with the approval of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. That the error wasn't discovered until over a year after it was supposedly "approved" tells us that this type of anonymous curriculum is written by committees and experts, not Church leaders.
It's entirely appropriate to correct changes.
Good practice would require notice and documentation of changes to electronic (and future print) material, although that has not been done for the changes made to the Gospel Topics Essays.
Actually, a few errors in the Saints books have been documented, here:
That page explains, "The following errors appeared in early English print copies of Saints, Volume 1: The Standard of Truth. The errors have been corrected in electronic versions of the English text and, when applicable, in other languages. The print edition has been or will be updated in subsequent printings."
Then why not fix all the other errors, such as those discussed at the link below?
In future posts we'll discuss obvious errors in the Joseph Smith Papers.