During Nephi’s vision on the mountain (described in 1 Nephi 11-14), he saw a future time of great confusion. Important spiritual truths (“plain and precious things”) would be lost, and as a result, many people would stumble. The angel who served as Nephi’s guide throughout the vision reassured him that God would intervene on behalf of these people. In the first edition of the Book of Mormon, the angel tells Nephi that God will not “suffer that the Gentiles shall forever remain in that state of awful woundedness which thou beholdest that they are in” (Book of Mormon, 1830, p. 31).
In the second edition, Joseph Smith changed the phrase “state of awful woundedness” to “awful state of blindness” (Book of Mormon, 1837, p. 34), which is the way the passage still reads today. (See 1 Nephi 13:32.)
I don’t know why the word “woundedness” was changed to “blindness.” The word “woundedness” doesn’t appear in most dictionaries. It doesn’t appear in the King James Version of the Bible, the Doctrine and Covenants, or the Pearl of Great Price. The word has never been used in a General Conference talk. So, Joseph Smith may have simply been looking for a bona-fide word which conveys a similar meaning.
Regardless of the reason for the change, I find both descriptions meaningful. Because these people lacked understanding, they were blind. Because they were blind, they were stumbling. And because they stumbled, they were wounded. In both versions, their state was described as “awful,” and in both versions, Nephi had God’s assurance that he would not leave these people in this quandary.
The solution was simple: the people would become familiar with the spiritual truths which had previously been withheld. And they would receive those truths through the writings of Nephi’s descendants:
For, behold, saith the Lamb: I will manifest myself unto thy seed, that they shall write many things which I shall minister unto them, which shall be plain and precious; and after thy seed shall be destroyed, and dwindle in unbelief, and also the seed of thy brethren, behold, these things shall be hid up, to come forth unto the Gentiles, by the gift and power of the Lamb (1 Nephi 13:35).
Today, I will be grateful for a Father in Heaven who loves me and is willing to help me overcome the challenges I face. When I am blind, He can help me see. When I am wounded, He can heal me. When I find myself in an “awful state,” I will remember that He has not abandoned me.
Note: this blog post was inspired by a lecture entitled “Awful Woundedness” given by Terryl Givens at Brigham Young University on 21 October 2019.