Pluralizing The Book of Mormon

BoM-299

There is a long standing debate as to how to pluralize The Book of Mormon. I’ll give you my take; please share yours in the comments.The options are “Books of Mormon” or “Book of Mormons.”

Either formation seems awkward, so let’s concede that the best practice, where possible, is to avoid pluralizing it directly with a circumlocution: “copies of The Book of Mormon.”

But there may be times when that is not an optimal solution.

For instance, in Sam’s recent post on Bankruptcy and a Book of Mormon, I wrote the following sentence: “I don’t think anyone knows how many first edition Book of Mormons are still extant.” I could have said “first edition copies of The Book of Mormon,” but that would have introduced an ambiguity, since it would be unclear whether I was talking about actual 1830 first editions or facsimile copies of that edition.

My sense is that the most common practice is for people to say “Books of Mormon.”

Personally, I think that’s wrong. To me the “Book” is not being used in a generic sense; rather it is a part of the title, and titles of books must be treated as a unit when pluralizing them. So I’m on team “Book of Mormons.”

But what do I know?

So, if we take “copies of The Book of Mormon” off the table, what do you think? Is it “Books of Mormon” or “Book of Mormons,” and in either case, why? Let’s see if we can resolve this longstanding conundrum once and for all.

 

Comments

  1. Christopher says:

    “To me the ‘Book’ is not being used in a generic sense; rather it is a part of the title, and titles of books must be treated as a unit when pluralizing them. So I’m on team ‘Book of Mormons.'”

    +1

  2. +1 what Christopher said. Precisely.

  3. Here’s at least one instance from LDS.org that uses “Books of Mormon,” so… https://history.lds.org/article/pioneers-in-every-land-benin-mathias-eguko?lang=eng

  4. OOOH, shoot, they said to use “copies of,” not a plural! https://www.lds.org/ensign/1972/10/our-readers-write?lang=eng

  5. I’m also on team “Book of Mormons” but I have to disagree with the author that “Books of Mormon” is more common. I’ve not heard “Books of Mormon” used more than just a handful of times (and each and every time was by some pretentious soul trying to look smarter than they were).

  6. Okay, last comment. Maybe. There are several instances of “Books of Mormon” being used in articles on LDS.com. But that’s dumb. I wouldn’t say “To Kill a Mockingbirds,” so I get why it’s not supposed to be “Book of Mormons,” but I prefer it anyway I think, if saying “copies of” is too ambiguous.

  7. Copies of the Book of Mormon.

    If there’s a big pile of some other book, we generally don’t have any dilemma over how to pluralize it, but simply say “copies of” and move on. The Bible is a little weird that way, since sometimes people say “Bibles,” but even that feels wrong. It’s copies of the Bible, since referring to “Bibles” makes more sense if talking about actual different editions, versions, etc.

    Try it with other books and see how weird it is:

    To Kill a Mockingbirds
    Moby-Dicks (Mobies Dick?)
    Divine Comedies
    Catcher in the Ryes (Catchers in the Rye?)
    The Name of the Roses (The Names of the Rose?)
    The Count of Monte Cristoes
    Ulysseses
    The Great Gatsbies
    Tinker Tailor Soldier Spies (Tinkers Tailors Soldiers Spies?)
    Don Quixotes (Dons Quixote?)

    Weird. Just say “copies of.”

  8. I think it is supposed to be the books of the mormons…

  9. I’ve always said “Books of Mormon,” but I do think you make a good argument. I think I learned not to like “Book of Mormons” when on my mission in Texas, when lots of people told us, “I don’t want your damn Book of the Mormons!”

  10. Kevin Barney says:

    Great comments! Keep ’em coming…

  11. sgnm, I really like your examples. You don’t even have to leave our canon to run into similar ones:

    Doctrine and Covenantses or Doctrines and Covenants? Or what?
    Pearl of Great Prices or Pearls of Great Price?

    Like you said, the “copies of” approach just sidesteps this whole quagmire. I wonder if it’s the word “book” in there that pulls us toward doing weird plurals for the Book of Mormon.

  12. You could have written “original copies of the first edition of the Book of Mormon” or “original physical copies of the first edition of the Book of Mormon” or even “original physical first editions of the Book of Mormon” (though that’s a little shakier) and it would have been fine, though I can’t imagine that anyone would have misunderstood had you written “first edition copies of the Book of Mormon” in this context. Maybe it would have been ambiguous if the phrase were just there by itself, but even that is doubtful.

  13. Left Field says:

    Wouldn’t “Books of Mormon” be multiple books authored by Mormon?

    Baseball fans have the same debate regarding plural RBIs vs RBI.

  14. Where I’m from, the plural is “Booka Mormons”. Three words become two. Say it three times really fast.

  15. Left Field says:

    Perhaps “Books of Mormon” is derived from such forms as “Attorneys General.”

  16. I would even go so far as to say that it is incorrect to use the singular “a Book of Mormon.” You don’t give your friend a Book of Mormon. You give her a copy of the Book of Mormon, just like I gave my friend a copy of Cat’s Cradle. I didn’t give him a Cat’s Cradle, and Scientologists don’t go around giving out Dianeticses.

    Also, it’s “copies of the Attorney General.”

  17. How about Book of Mormon?

  18. That was supposed to say “Book of Mormen” but it got autocorrected to “Book of Mormon”, which I suppose could be an argument against its usage.

  19. Bryan Buchanan says:

    Hahahahaha yes, this is why I like you Kevin. I can vividly remember sitting in the old Institute at the Univ of Utah solemnly discussing this very point in a mission prep class (no spoilers). It has been an ongoing point of discussion among my posse with glee expressed at the territorial way people will occasionally claim their side.

    Now for the $64,000 answer–in the institute building (dedicated, no doubt, by a general authority), the canonical ruling was “copies of…”

    “So, if we take “copies of The Book of Mormon” off the table…” Isn’t that Satan’s plan, Kevin?

  20. Haha! “resolve this longstanding conundrum once and for all.” And I suppose tomorrow we tackle gun control.

  21. to be sensitive to equality issues, Book of Mormen should become Book of Morpeople. And it truly is a book of more people.

  22. Books of Mormon suggests that Mormon wrote/edited several books.
    Book of Mormons suggests a book authored by several Mormons
    books of the Book of Mormon suggests I Nephi, 2 Nephi, etc.
    To me the most reasonable phrase is copies of the Book of Mormon.

  23. Shorten it to BoM, pronounced “BoM”, and pluralize it as BoMs. As long as the FBI isn’t listening.

  24. Is there anything in the Handbook about this, or is it just a policy?

  25. The plural form of brother-in-law is brothers-in-law. Books of Mormon.

  26. Yes, 100% on the side of Book of Mormons, although when I say it I imagine I am putting a plural not on the last word, but the title as a whole – “Book of Mormon”s – makes more sense to me than randomly throwing an “s” in the middle of the title

  27. What was wrong with ‘first editions’…

  28. I’m now on the “copies of” bandwagon, but as a missionary this conversation became so heated with one of my companions that we bet on it, appealing to a group of members to settle it. “Books of Mormon” won, which meant that my companion had to eat a bouillon cube divided into two spoonfuls of peanut butter. It remains the only time in my life to date when winning a grammatical dispute resulted in my rolling on the floor laughing at the misery of my defeated opponent. I am a bad person.

  29. Oh, and I definitely come down on the ‘copies of…’ Can’t take that off the table.

  30. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Jason K – I’m in the Books of Mormon camp. But your use of ‘ spoonfuls ‘ isn’t free of contention. As we seem to be settling on ‘ Copies of. ..’ , we could take a similar approach and avoid contention by reworking it to ‘ two spoons, full of peanut butter ‘.

    Ziff – I think Doctrines and Covenants is actually a more fitting title, regardless of the grammatical implications. The present version implies that the collection includes a single doctrine and multiple covenants. I prefer to think of it as multiple doctrines, but not all of the doctrine.

  31. Indeed, Turtle. That the bouillon cube be divided between two spoons full of peanut butter was a crucial stipulation of the bet, so that he would know what misery awaited the second time around.

    But it occurs to me that I’ve mixed up bets. This episode was from the time he bet that peanut butter was good with anything. I think that losing the BoM bet meant that he had to eat a lot of liver paté, which episode issued in the peanut butter bet when, in conversation with our neighbor, he compared the place of paté in Danish cuisine to the place of peanut butter in American. Ahh, the fickleness of memory…

  32. Left Field says:

    I understand that the “Doctrine” originally referred to the Lectures on Faith, which are gone, and the “Covenants” referred to the “Covenants and Commandments,” the revelations that remain. So perhaps the title really should just be “Covenants.” On the other hand, unless you’re in the Community of Christ, the Doctrine and Covenants these days is always part of a triple combination (which has an easy plural) rather than a separate volume which needs to be pluralized.

    And I’ll go with sgnm. The correct plural of “Book of Mormon” is “copies of the Attorney General.”

    I was a student at BYU around the time when “Another Testament of Jesus Christ” was added to the title. There was a brief time when the Daily Universe made some weird editorial policy never to refer to the “Book of Mormon.” It always had to be “The Book of Mormon–Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” On every. Single. Reference. Don’t ask me how they would have pluralized it. The Books of Mormon–More Testaments of Jesus Christ? The Book of Mormon–Another Testament of Jesus Christs? The Books of Mormons–Anothers Testaments of Jesuses Christs? Copies of the Book of Mormon–Another Testament of Jesus Christ, An Account written by The Hand of Mormon upon plates taken from the Plates of Nephi?

  33. Kevin Barney says:

    This post obviously touched a nerve, and I’m rolling on the floor laughing at your responses. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Ziff, I think you’re right that it is the use of the word “Book” in the title that gives rise to this debate.

    Yes, I’m sure I could have come up with a circumlocution that would have made it clear I was talking about actual first editions. But my goal in the OP was to take “copies of” off the table, because if I didn’t do that I knew whole masses of you would make that eminently reasonable suggestion and we wouldn’t be forced to make a decision on how to pluralize the actual title.

  34. As sons-in-law is correct, so is Books of Mormon.

  35. Left Field says:

    Hunter’s plural: I placed six Book of Mormon.
    Latin: I placed six Book of Mormoni; I placed six Book of Mormonae
    Greek: I placed six Book of Mormones.
    Hebrew: I placed six Book of Mormonim.
    Scientist: The data show that a total of six volumes entitled “The Book of Mormon” were placed.

    Irregular:
    I placed six Bike of Mormon.
    I placed six Book of Mormoxen.
    I placed six Beek of Mormon.
    I placed six Booves of Mormon.
    I placed six Book of Mormren
    I placed six Book of Mormonices.

  36. Hi, pedant here. Here’s the authoritative ruling, from the Church Style Guide, 4th Edition:
    “Do not make references to the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, or Pearl of Great Price plural by adding an s. Make these terms plural by adding the phrase “copies of” before the title:
    “copies of the Book of Mormon [not Books of Mormon or Book of Mormons]
    “It is acceptable, however, to refer to more than one copy of the Bible as “Bibles.” But when referring to both the Bible and one of the other standard works together, use the phrase “copies of” to include both:
    “copies of the Bible and the Book of Mormon
    “[not Bibles and copies of the Book of Mormon]” (Church Style Guide, 8.48 [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2013], 37).
    /pedant

  37. If you want to say “Books of Mormon,” you also have to be willing to say the following:

    Easts of Eden
    Counts of Monte Cristo
    Pictures of Dorian Gray
    Annes of Green Gables
    Tesses of the D’Urbervilles
    Hearts of Darkness
    Calls of the Wild
    Men of La Mancha

    Check and mate.

  38. Finally, a deep doctrinal post!

  39. To fully appreciate the complexity baked into Mormon(s) relationship to the book, clearly the only way to properly pluralize the BoM is

    “Book ofs Mormon.” (Alternately, Book oves Mormon)

    You’re welcome.

  40. How about “first editions of The Book of Mormon”? The ambiguity with “copies” is gone. I also have no problem pluralizing Book of Mormon(s).

  41. Wouldn’t the implication of “Book of Mormons” be that more than one individual by the name of Mormon helped slap the book together?

  42. Left Field says:

    I think the best case for “Books of Mormon” is that you’re not pluralizing the title, you’re pluralizing the noun “book” along with an attribution.

    See that stack of books over there? It’s the book Mormon wrote.
    It’s a stack of books. Which book is it? They’re books of Mormon.
    There’s another stack of books. They’re the new books of J. K. Rowling.

  43. wreddyornot says:

    More people worldwide probably say Mormon bibles than anything else.

  44. Ryan Mullen says:

    Dennis– If I were to hand out “Counts of Monte Cristo” to friends at my book club, I would not actually be giving out multiple noblemen consumed with getting revenge. Whereas, when I give out “Books of Mormon” I am actually handing out multiple books.

    Check and connect four.

  45. AussieMormon says:

    Left Field: “Latin: I placed six Book of Mormoni; I placed six Book of Mormonae”
    I guess we’re going to have to make a judgement call on whether “Book of Mormon” noun is masculine or feminine.

  46. Rob Thornock says:

    Books of Mormon. In Russian, it is Kniga Marmona — Book and then Mormon is in the Genitive or Possessive case (we also have that in English). The ONLY way to make this plural is Books of Mormon — Knigi Marmona. The other versions (Book or Mormons) would imply 1 book and 2 Mormons, which does not make any sense. I trust Russian, that is what they spoke in the Garden of Eden I am pretty sure

  47. it's a series of tubes says:

    Hebrew: I placed six Book of Mormonim.

    Hey, that’s sexist! How do we know it’s not “I placed six Book of Mormonot”?

  48. Jack of Hearts says:

    Rob mentions Russian, and it’s the same in Spanish (probably most Romance languages too): Libros de Mormon. Libro de Mormones makes no sense and sounds far too much like Libro de los mormones, the book of the Mormons, which people say to mean that the Mormons made up their own thing and stuck it with the Bible. The Church is not a fan of that misconception.

  49. Most Mormons seem to take the Book of Mormon to be Joseph Smith’s translation of one or more abridgements of several memoirs and histories. Commonly recognized, or not, Smith seems to have done some level of abridgement himself, intended or not.

    If the Book of Mormon we have today is an abridgement of a corpus, then it is a unique book of narrative condensed and adapted from their original form and length not a collection of original works.

    If we treat the Book of Mormon as a collection of translated and abridged books with no material reinterpretation of content, then referring to them in multiples as “Books of Mormon” implies that all of the original books in each Book of Mormon were authored by one author, namely Mormon.

  50. “Counts of Monte Christo” and “Dons Quixote” are the best things I’ve heard all day. :)

    Not that it really matters. There is only one comment here that has correctly identified the only true and proper way of pluralizing Book of Mormon: “Booka Mormons.”

  51. The French have an advantage over English here. The article and verb show the plural, the noun is singular to show that there is only one book:
    Les cinq Livre de Mormon sont sur la table (Livre has no s), compare with:
    Les cinq livres de Moïse sont dans l’Ancien Testament (livre has an s)

  52. How about Binders full of Mormons?

  53. My son came up with his own solution: Books of Mormons. My own preference would be “da BoM.”

  54. Jack Hughes says:

    “Booka Mormons” is regional, specific to the Wasatch Front, along with “Doctern Cov’nants” and “Sacrameeting”.

  55. Definitive answer….because I said so. My husband was driving his mission president’s car to fill it up with gas because that’s what the office slaves do, and the training cassette tape from Salt Lake that was playing said that the proper usage was copies of The Book of Mormon because The Book of Mormon is a title that isn’t pluralized.
    Whenever I hear someone incorrectly pluralize Books or Mormons I counter with The Book ofs Mormon just to show them how it sounds. Making friends and influencing people wherever I go!

  56. The Other Jacob says:

    As a one-time high school English teacher, I’d tell you that simply adding an “s” to the whole title was our preferred practice.

    So yes, Moby Dicks, Mockingbirds, Gatsbys, Witch of Blackbird Ponds, Three Musketeerses, etc.

    But then again, I’m partial to “Annes of Green Gables”, although that might just be because “Gables” is already plural”.