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Defending the Faith: The very surprising language of the Book of Mormon

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  • antodav TAMPA, FL
    Sept. 18, 2014 4:37 p.m.

    As a stickler for grammar myself, I'd have caught any serious grammatical errors in the Book of Mormon by now. Given the level of education of the person translating it, errors aren't all that surprising. It only makes the profound nature of the actual CONTENT of the Book of Mormon--unaffected by grammatical errors--all the more remarkable. To suggest a person barely capable of stringing sentences together could write, independently, scripture as deep, insightful, and inspiring as the Book of Mormon requires mental gymnastics of which I'm simply incapable.

    The translation language is ultimately irrelevant anyway, because the original text was not English. How do you maintain idioms and syntax of one language when translating into another without sounding completely ridiculous? Anyone with such experience knows that unless the languages are very closely related, it is next to impossible. The presence of Hebraic literary styles such as chiasmus is far more impressive than what Brother Petersen is describing here, but nevertheless, dismissing the Book of Mormon entirely because of grammar, of all things, is foolish and arrogant, to put it as kindly as possible.

  • Open and honest Manchester, 00
    Sept. 1, 2014 1:28 a.m.

    Skousen's theory kind of throws the gold plates under the bus.

  • greatbam22 andrews afb, MD
    Aug. 25, 2014 11:54 a.m.

    @downtowndave

    "The problem is that the Golden Plates were to have been a record of ancient Jews in South America. They didn't speak English."

    Actually Lehi and his family were descendants of Joseph not Judah so they wouldn't be Jews.

  • garybeac Chapel Hill, NC
    Aug. 24, 2014 5:05 p.m.

    Why does BYU have so many copies of Thomas Stackhouse's 18th-cent. "History of the Bible"? He was an odd fellow (or a Mason) who, for no apparent reason or financial means, spent a long time in France. Reading him, one gets the impression that he had access to a text(s) that presaged many of the ideas Joseph espoused, some of them in the BOM. Has any other scholar ever noticed that a total lunar eclipse transited the Pleiades on the night of October 31st - November 1st in 1BC? (That's about five months before the date of the Christ's birth according to Joseph's reckoning.) Who saw this sign and rejoiced at the birth of John? Thanks be that we are finally getting back to the stuff that attracted me to the Church as a kid and upon which much of my testimony is based. My dad was something more than a 32nd-degree and had some 18th-cent. books I started reading but he hid after he caught me. Notice Stackhouse's Tower of Babylon with its (original) seven levels. Initiates traveled to each level to learn God's purposes.

  • Sore loser tampa, fl
    Aug. 24, 2014 1:27 p.m.

    Just this past year the scientists ran across Lagunitas and another neighboring city in Guatemala dating back to 300 BC. Any scientist that discounts the Book of Mormon when all the information isn't available yet has made a false assumption. They discover new sites and archaeology every year that represent characteristics written in the Book of Mormon. Neither Joseph Smith nor anybody had any idea about those similarities. Consider the location Nahom and it's in the exact location where it should be in the Book of Mormon, you have to really stretch the imagination to figure out how Joseph Smith knew about that, among other things. The worst thing about discounting the Book of Mormon is that is message of humility is overlooked.

  • garybeac Chapel Hill, NC
    Aug. 24, 2014 1:25 p.m.

    I am comfortable with the notion that the BOM came to Joseph both on golden plates and as a document entrusted to him by others, both mortal and angelic, perhaps at once. See page 177 of the 1969 Penguin Classics edition of "Christopher Columbus, The Four Voyages" translated by J.M. Cohen: "The sailor reported that he had seen one of them wearing a white robe...and two others who had robes.... All three were as white as ourselves." Even if the sailor lied, such a lie reflects the then common notion that the New World included a Christian kingdom. I know of several complex historical circumstances that point to both more and less ancient sources for the BOM. This latest linguistic analysis is consistent with the notion that some document made its way to England after the fall of Constantinople to the Turks. Look through the list of translators of the King James Bible and you will find some strange connections.

  • Verdad Orem, UT
    Aug. 23, 2014 9:15 p.m.

    I'm sure, Levin, that Drs. Carmack and Skousen would welcome a detailed and substantive critique of their methodology from you. Please write something up and send it to them. Or, maybe even better, prepare an article on the flaws in their research and submit it to a scholarly journal.

  • FanOfTheSith Vernal, UT
    Aug. 23, 2014 5:47 p.m.

    "What does this all mean? If Skousen and Carmack are right, believers in the Book of Mormon’s miraculous origin have solid grounds for surprise. Those who regard Joseph Smith as the book’s author, however, should feel challenged and deeply perplexed."

    Excellent secularly argument but this debate would never end because of prideful hearts of both the take it all in faith religion and the if I can't see it in a strict controlled physical laboratory environment, it's untrue scholars. The arm of flesh will beat down on the spiritual religious arm of Deity and vice versa. It will always remain an endless battle.

  • Levin Reno, NV
    Aug. 23, 2014 5:34 p.m.

    This article and this research reminds me of the scene in "My Fair Lady" where one of the characters, through his expertise in "the science of speech", reveals Eliza Doolittle's supposed English lady, not to be in truth a Cockney flower girl, but a Hungarian princess.

    To me, it reveals more about the research methods than the Book of Mormon.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    Aug. 23, 2014 10:08 a.m.

    RE: Pops, the KJV Bible preserves a number of nuances in the original that would be lost in modern English. True,

    KJV/3 Nephi Sermon on the Mount. LDS Scholar Dr. Larson finds 12 examples where JS copied the 1769 KJV errors.

    “A great portion of 3 Nephi seems to be "borrowed and lifted" from the KJV Bible. Larson found that 3 Nephi holds exactly the same sort of errors that are unique to the 1769 version of the KJV Bible Joseph Smith owned.”

    Mt 6:13 KJV and 3Nephi 13:13 Both have the doxology, For thine is he Kingdom and power and the glory forever amen. The KJV is based on 9th to 12th century texts. Earlier and better manuscripts do not contain the doxology (added by Erasmus).

    Mosiah 3:7/ Luke 22:43-44, Blood”, because of the serious doubts as to these verses’ authenticity, they have been put in brackets and noted by Modern translations (ESV,NASB,NIV,NET,NRSV,NLT Not in Papyrus 75 175-225 or found in early codices. Honest scholarship has nothing to hide.

  • Pops NORTH SALT LAKE, UT
    Aug. 23, 2014 7:08 a.m.

    Thanks, Dr. Peterson! This is really interesting!

    For those looking for the relevant Joseph Smith Papers episode, it is "The Translation of the Book of Mormon" that originally aired on 5/11/2009, according to the BYUtv website.

    One thing this suggests to me is that God doesn't do everything, but delegates tasks to people on both sides of the veil. We know this is true in mortality, and it makes sense that it would extend beyond the veil. In other words, God did not have to translate the Book of Mormon himself and give the translation to Joseph Smith if there was someone qualified and available on the other side of the veil to do the job. Another thing, which is a point made by an earlier commenter, is that the use of earlier English than even the King James Bible preserves a number of nuances in the original that would be lost in modern English.

    Really interesting material - thanks again to Dr. Peterson and those who have also made insightful comments!

  • Ken Sisler Newmarket, Ontario
    Aug. 22, 2014 10:17 p.m.

    If all of the information in this article is correct, this would mean no one in the 1800's could have written the Book of Mormon, as some critics say.

  • Ken Sisler Newmarket, Ontario
    Aug. 22, 2014 9:34 p.m.

    Is it possible a person or persons who lived in England during the 1500's translated the Book of Mormon into English 300 years before Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon into English? Did Heavenly Father save the 1500's translation and give it to Joseph Smith? This article is fascinating.

  • The Wraith Kaysville, UT
    Aug. 22, 2014 6:43 p.m.

    @Irishrose

    If it "matters little what the context of the English is" then why is Dr. Peterson and others on this board trying to use the the context of English to bolster their position that the BofM is true?

  • Gildas LOGAN, UT
    Aug. 22, 2014 4:28 p.m.

    In my earlier post I referred to the need to express classical Hebrew, as spoken by the Nephites, in an archaic form of English due to the importance of the famiiar pronoun etc.

    I also indicated that classical Hebrew applied gender to nouns and that, too, was not translatable when using only the English of Joseph Smith's day. I remember an old hymn we used to sing which talked of "the horned moon that shines by night, with her spangled sisters bright" (both the moon and the stars were reckoned feminine in earlier English.. The same hymn included the words: Praise Him that he made the sun, day by day HIS course to run. The sun was masculine.

    Today we don't talk of "Brother sun and Sister moon" any more; the pronoun for both sun and moon is now "it" not he and she. The Book of Mormon English translation utilizes gender to indicate masculinity in speaking of justice, and feminity in speaking of mercy; again "it" would be the modern pronoun for both, but in Alma 42:24 we have justice as masculine and mercy feminine.. Likewise the moon is rendered feminine in 2 Nephi 23:10

  • Irishrose Silverdale, WA
    Aug. 22, 2014 3:47 p.m.

    What you all are missing is that the Book of Mormon is a gift from God to all of us. It matters little what the context of the English is. God has the ability to "translate" into any language he chose. If that was 15th or 16th century English is fine with me. I believe that the Book of Mormon is true, and that it was a gift from God.

  • Gildas LOGAN, UT
    Aug. 22, 2014 3:38 p.m.

    The people who wrote the Book of Mormon would have spoken Classical Hebrew as the change to Aramaic did not start until the Babylonian Capitivity and the progenitors of the Nephites and Lamanites left Jerusalem before that time. This is very important because, whatever language the Book of Mormon was written in it must faithfully represent the words spoken by the Nephites and Lamanites.

    Classical Hebrew, as I understand it, used nouns that had gender and had a familiar form as well as a polite form (thou / thee; ye / you). So the Book of Mormon English translation needs both forms, which cannot be expressed in the language of Joseph Smith's day when the use of the familiar form had become archaic. The use of these two forms have significant in speech, and are not just alternative choices meaning the same thing. The polite form (Ye = subject; you = object) is also the plural form; the familiar form is more intimate, not only the way the Lord addresses individuals but the way we address Him. Thus it was necessary to use an archaic form of English to express the Hebrew speech of Book of Mormon people.

  • downtowndave HEBER SPRINGS, AR
    Aug. 22, 2014 3:22 p.m.

    The problem is that the Golden Plates were to have been a record of ancient Jews in South America. They didn't speak English.
    And another problem has arisen. I was reading an article in Meridian Magazine (an LDS publication) yesterday. In the article, it is said that Joseph Smith didn't actually translate the Book of Mormon from the Golden Plates.
    I remember when I was young being told that Joseph Smith only translated a third of the Golden Plates. It was taken away and he was told the other two thirds would be revealed in the last days. If he didn't actually translate from the Golden Plates, why would you need them to translate the other two thirds?
    How long will Mormons allow the accounts of the history of Mormonism to be changed before they realize they are being lied to?

  • UT Brit London, England
    Aug. 22, 2014 1:43 p.m.

    @Craig Clark

    Exactly, why on Earth does this letter try to make sense of this. "Joseph translated into a language even more outdated than the one he used!".
    I believe God to be a God of order and logic. There is nothing logical about this. Anyway why did Moroni have to lug those plates around with him in the first place?

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    Aug. 22, 2014 1:10 p.m.

    Verdad,

    "....Carmack (and Skousen) seem to be arguing that the Book of Mormon WASN'T translated into "19th century English," nor even, really, into the language of the King James Bible, but into a language marked by vocabulary, grammar, and syntax from several generations earlier than the KJV, and several centuries prior to Joseph Smith...."
    ______________________________

    That would mean that the “reformed Egyptian” characters inscribed on the gold plates were translated by Joseph Smith into a 16th century English that he had no knowledge of. Well, I suppose that if God can do anything, he certainly could have revealed them to Joseph Smith in that way, although I can’t begin to imagine why.

  • Verdad Orem, UT
    Aug. 22, 2014 12:43 p.m.

    It really seems to me that the critics here have missed the point of the Carmack article, which -- I'm guessing -- few if any of them have bothered to read.

    Carmack (and Skousen) seem to be arguing that the Book of Mormon WASN'T translated into "19th century English," nor even, really, into the language of the King James Bible, but into a language marked by vocabulary, grammar, and syntax from several generations earlier than the KJV, and several centuries prior to Joseph Smith.

    And I cannot see what its being a translation has to do with any of that. If I knew Chinese, Navajo, and Dutch, I could translate an English text into any one of them, and, if I knew them well enough, I could do it in various styles. That wouldn't prove that the English text didn't exist. Nor, for the same reasons, would translating an original Book of Mormon into Early Modern English rather than nineteenth-century English demonstrate that the original Book of Mormon was imaginary. If I'm misunderstanding their argument, I would appreciate it if one of the critics would set it out plainly and clearly.

  • The Scientist Provo, UT
    Aug. 22, 2014 12:17 p.m.

    Craig Clark,

    "[the BoM] clearly draws on a wide array of … language forms and syntax from the Early Modern English period...."
    - Stanford Carmack
    ______________________________

    "Why should it do that if it were being translated directly from an ancient language into 19th century English? The only explanation I can conceive is that of a telltale art or craft at work to make the volume seem to be something that it isn’t."

    Indeed, it is the problem of "verisimilitude", truthlikeness, and "truthiness". And it is an argument from ignorance - to wit: things that are "perplexing" must be divine.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Aug. 22, 2014 12:17 p.m.

    @EternalPerspective – “the only way to know if the Book of Mormon is of God and translated by Joseph Smith, is to conduct a sincere and prayful study of it.”

    Let me add a skeptic’s perspective while trying to remain open to your view.

    Can a “prayer study” lead one to conclude (by experiencing profound spiritual feelings) that a book contains archetypal (e.g., the Hero’s Journey) or spiritual truths, especially ones that resonate with your own life, sure… I’m open to that.

    Can it lead to confirmation about facts in the natural world, which would include histories of ancient people, translations from real texts (i.e., golden plates), facts about the lives of “prophets” etc., etc., etc.?

    No.

    This is why we have history, archeology, and science so we could separate fact from superstition. If this was not the case, religion would have a much better track record when it comes to explaining the natural world. As it is, religion’s track record here is abysmal.

    Sorry, but when you conflate spiritual truths with factual truths you are out on a limb that cannot support any weight.

  • Chilanga Larkspur, CO
    Aug. 22, 2014 11:31 a.m.

    @Maclouie, I's pike to watch the episode you refer to. I just went to the BYUtv site and had a hard time locating the episode. Do you recall the specific name of the episode? Thanks for the help(-:

  • Ernest T. Bass Bountiful, UT
    Aug. 22, 2014 10:52 a.m.

    I wonder how many dissidents poor apologetics and the inflated sense of pride, like this, have caused.

  • EternalPerspective Eldersburg, MD
    Aug. 22, 2014 10:17 a.m.

    I am not surprised this article has brought out a whole bunch of contrary viewpoints to rehash the physical evidence arguments once again. All imperfections and language translations aside from individual perceptions and interpretations, the only way to know if the Book of Mormon is of God and translated by Joseph Smith, is to conduct a sincere and prayful study of it.

    God never reveals truth by physical evidence alone and it is only the power of the Holy Ghost that can testify of divine authenticity and discern what is from God versus man. That is exactly why faith exists to prove the hearts and minds of God's children to reveal their true intent and what they might do when handling His works that often come from the simple and weak things of the world (or as the world choses to classify them).

  • happy2bhere clearfield, UT
    Aug. 22, 2014 9:46 a.m.

    And we're just talking English here. The Book of Mormon has been translated from that English into some 80 different languages. Imagine where that discussion could take you. Especially since many words of one language do not have an exact copy in another language.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    Aug. 22, 2014 9:17 a.m.

    RE:(Ether 12:28) faith, hope and charity.= faith,hope, *charity.”(1Cor 13:13 KJV, *caritas in the Latin Vulgate.
    )
    (Moroni 7:46) if ye have not charity ye are nothing.= and have not *charity, I am nothing.(1 Cor 13:2 KJV. *caritas, Latin Vulgate.

    Moroni 7:46) *charity never faileth.=charity never faileth. (1Cor 13:8 KJV, *Caritas ,Latin vulgate.

    Charity =( love/agape, Greek)” S/B translated love like the{NIV,NET,NASB..), which is the highest type of love in the Bible.. “As translated Correctly”
    .
    RE: DavidGrantStewartSr, Did JS know he was copying the KJV’s poor translation and the Latin as well?

    sat down on the right hand of God(Moroni 7:27).= sat down on the right hand of God(Heb 10:12 KJV).

    “The right hand of God is an anthropomorphism.” The attribution of human characteristics to non-human beings or things. God is Spirit, John 4:24, who is everywhere, Ps. 139:7-10, Jer. 23:24. It’s impossible for God to have a right hand! a "Hebrew Idiom", like "he's my right hand man." In Hebrew this idiom denotes power and strength.

  • DavidGrantStewartSr Evergreen, Colorado
    Aug. 22, 2014 7:54 a.m.

    Joseph Smith learned to read from the King James Bible. His grammatical mistakes are the same mistakes made by the KJ translators.
    The Book of Mormon was translated from a slightly modified 600 B.C. Egyptian Demotic. This is obvious from the first edition, which in many cases uses the exact syntax and vocabulary of an ancient Demotic text.
    He is translating from a record by two major authors: Nephi, and Mormon. Nephi never uses the word "thereby" but Mormon uses it half a dozen times on a single page. In English the word is totally superfluous and could be deleted in every instance with no loss of meaning.
    The frequent use of the word "yea" is proof that this is an ancient record. No one today knows why it is used. It is a vestige of an emphatic conjunction which is preserved in old Chinese [ye] and old Russian [da] and in English has the meaning "and not only that, but..."
    The frequent use of the verb "do" in its various tenses as an auxiliary verb is the English equivalent of the emphatic form of the ancient Hebrew verb. DGStewart, Sr., professional translator of 72 modern and ancient languages.

  • daveferr Columbus, OH
    Aug. 22, 2014 7:43 a.m.

    As a kid, I wondered if the Book of Mormon was written over a long period of time by Masons, then given to Smith to "translate." They could have created "gold" plates to show a few people and that would explain why everything was so well laid out. The idea that Smith used language not of his time is fine, he was using the language of the Bible, but to say that he used a version of English he would have no way of being familiar with reawakens those very old questions. I have to admit, I find this article very troubling and I'm a very faithful Mormon.

  • UT Brit London, England
    Aug. 22, 2014 7:39 a.m.

    I really dont understand how this is supposed to validate Joseph Smiths translation? You have truly perplexed me Peterson.

  • KellyWSmith Sparks, NV
    Aug. 22, 2014 7:36 a.m.

    What this shows is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 29:4 "And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust."

    The "familiar" spirit is one that is "well known from long or close association, in close friendship; intimate" and thereby similar to the King James Bible in style and wording.

    The Lord did this on purpose. He had Joseph Smith translate this in the language of the Bible, to point to its connection to it, its "familiarity" to the spirit and purpose and message of that wonderful book of scripture the world loves so they would see the connection in a way that no one else could.

    Joseph Smith could not have invented this. It would be impossible for him to create this "hoax" and is further proof of its truthfulness and divinity.

  • greatbam22 andrews afb, MD
    Aug. 21, 2014 8:16 p.m.

    @ NoCoolName_Tom

    If you google "The Book of Napoleon" go to the wikipedia article and go to reference 6 of the wikipedia article you'll be lead to a site that discusses what you are talking about in greater detail.

    You'll find plenty of information to get further answer to your question.

  • NoCoolName_Tom Lafayette, CA
    Aug. 21, 2014 3:52 p.m.

    I would very intrigued to know whether Dr. Petersen feels that these obscurities of English are also notable when they occur in other contemporary English volumes written in the early 1800's before the Book of Mormon that attempt to write in a "Jacobean" scriptural style, such as "The Book of Napoleon" or "The Late War between the United States and Great Britain"? If we are to find the same Early Modern English usages in these volumes (and we do) does that similarly mean that these books must be more than the creation of their supposed 19th Century authors? (And before anyone pops in here to deal with straw men accusations, I am NOT saying that either of these two books might be a source for the BoM; rather, I am extending Peterson's argument that BoM history might be implied by the presence of odd English grammar to other books contemporary to the BoM that share the same grammar but are obviously from the 1800s.)

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    Aug. 21, 2014 2:34 p.m.

    Verdad,

    "Shakespeare doesn't -- can't -- account for usages that apparently derive from the transition period from Late Middle English, Tyler D. He's much too late for that. Nor can Shakespeare account for archaic language features that appear in the Book of Mormon but not in Shakespeare."
    ______________________________

    I’d have to review specifically what is being referred to. From what I gather, it hasn’t made a seismic impact on scholarship outside of LDS circles or even within. My readings and study of the Book of Mormon over the years have led me to conclude that it is a conscious parody of the language of the King James Bible, which in fact was one of the earliest criticisms of the Book of Mormon at the time of its 1830 publication.

  • Stand Alone Complex Layton, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 2:31 p.m.

    "The actual composer(s) of the "English" text were speakers of English native to the 1500s, over two hundred years before Joseph's day"

    So JS is channeling / revealing text to his scribes that is really a translation of the plates made by someone else who is a native speaker of 16th century English, as shown by grammar and structure.

    Why exactly? This makes little sense. What happened to 'plain and precious?'

  • Verdad Orem, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 2:00 p.m.

    Shakespeare doesn't -- can't -- account for usages that apparently derive from the transition period from Late Middle English, Tyler D. He's much too late for that. Nor can Shakespeare account for archaic language features that appear in the Book of Mormon but not in Shakespeare.

  • maclouie Falconer, NY
    Aug. 21, 2014 1:54 p.m.

    JesusSmithers:

    Your comments are typical of what most people miss. I don't think Joseph Smith said he got it directly from God. Others may have said that, but I don't believe JS said that (and no doubt there are those that say that JS said that so it get's tough to wade through all the error).

    Two of the things I recall JS saying about the translation is 1) it was by the power of God and 2) if there be any mistakes they are the mistakes of men.

    It's very important that before anyone dismisses the BoM that they get the facts straight and not twist or exaggerate what was said or claimed. It's taken me decades to figure this out. That episode, though, explained a lot.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Aug. 21, 2014 1:47 p.m.

    @Moontan – “The Bard was 46 in 1611 when the King James was published. Go to the 46th Psalm. 46th word from the top is Shake, and 46th word from the bottom is Spear.”

    Wow, that’s some serious exegesis going on there! Are you a renowned Bible scholar or a Kabbalah mystic?

    @Verdad – “Is there any evidence that unique features of Early Modern English, let alone features unique to the transition period from Late Middle English, survived in Joseph Smith's dialect or that of his environment?”

    Please read my earlier comment about Shakespeare and the prevalence of his works in early America?

    As for evidence in general let’s keep in mind that extraordinary claims (should) require extraordinary evidence. If we have a situation where there is some evidence in both directions, history has shown countless times that the natural and mundane (vs. supernatural) explanation in the end proves to be the correct one.

    And that is why they call it faith…

  • maclouie Falconer, NY
    Aug. 21, 2014 1:44 p.m.

    Bingo! coltakashi got it. OK everyone, like I said, watch the Joseph Smith papers episode about The Book of Mormon Translation. Brother Skousen doesn't come out and say it directly but someone had to write the words that Joseph Smith saw. I just don't know who's handwriting it was.

  • John Marx Layton, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 1:35 p.m.

    Verdad wrote,

    "Is there any evidence, John Marx, that the English-speaking readers of the original edition of the Book of Mormon had a difficult time understanding it?"

    As Daniel Peterson notes in the beginning of his column these "seeming errors in grammar and diction, particularly in the earliest manuscripts and first printed edition of the English Book of Mormon." The fact that it was changed in later versions is evidence that it was enough of a problem to merit correction.

  • JesusSmithers USA, CA
    Aug. 21, 2014 1:03 p.m.

    Mr. Peterson seems to imply that Joseph Smith’s translation into English used vocabulary and grammar given by revelation (through the stone in a hat, presumably) which he didn't know himself. That is, he translated into English styles that co-date and pre-date King James English and that he hadn't learned from an education of his period and location.

    In other words, Smith got what he got directly from God. That being the case, how did God confuse tapir with horse, sheep with llama and wheat with corn? If the words weren’t Joseph’s, then someone has some explaining to do regarding poor word choice.

  • Verdad Orem, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 12:46 p.m.

    Is there any evidence, John Marx, that the English-speaking readers of the original edition of the Book of Mormon had a difficult time understanding it?

    Is there any evidence, Wraith, that the peculiar features of the original edition of the Book of Mormon to which Skousen and Carmack point represent Joseph Smith's "own words"? Their argument seems to run exactly contrary to that. Is there any evidence that unique features of Early Modern English, let alone features unique to the transition period from Late Middle English, survived in Joseph Smith's dialect or that of his environment? Skousen and Carmack seem to be arguing against that.

    If you have evidence that will disprove their argument, I hope you'll share it.

  • The Wraith Kaysville, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 11:43 a.m.

    This is one of the oddest articles yet. All the evidence Dr. Peterson lists is actually more proof that the BofM was not translated from ancient Americans. This proves that Smith wasn't translating anything like that but instead writing a book in his own words small amounts of which were still hold overs from a previous time period.

  • Moontan Roanoke, VA
    Aug. 21, 2014 11:07 a.m.

    @Tyler D re. "...the Bible (almost exclusively the King James) and the works of Shakespeare..."

    The Bard was 46 in 1611 when the King James was published. Go to the 46th Psalm. 46th word from the top is Shake, and 46th word from the bottom is Spear.

    What does this mean? I have no idea. :)

  • atrulson cohoes, NY
    Aug. 21, 2014 11:08 a.m.

    Tyler D:
    "doesn’t the Book of Mormon purport to be a text written by ancient, ocean faring Hebrews who would have been totally unfamiliar with both the King James Bible (in terms of idioms) and Shakespeare?"

    It was originally written in Mormon's, Nephi's, Moroni's etc. language, then translated into English.
    What Skousen's study shows is that Joseph Smith translation into English was not of his own vocabulary, but he was given, (via the seer stone?), what appears to be a per-translated version of the book into a variant of English that predates the KJV. Where that translation comes from we don't know.
    While this creates more questions than it answers, it also challenges claims that Joseph Smith, or anyone from his era wrote the book.

  • Schnee Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 10:53 a.m.

    @coltakashi
    "It was also an era when Englishmen had very little understanding of Hebrew literary patterns such as chiasmus"

    It's really not noteworthy for someone to use something unusual when examples of it is sitting right next to him in the Bible.

  • Lledrav West Jordan, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 10:50 a.m.

    Joseph isn't the author. Neither is any other man. The Lord provided the text to Joseph.

    We have a mistaken tradition in the church that Joseph was the translator when in fact he was given the text via revelation. This is in agreement with this article and with the eyewitnesses.

    David Whitmer said that Joseph spelled out names, that he "was utterly unable to pronounce many of the names which the magic power of the Urim and Thummim revealed and therefore spelled them out ..."

    Emma said, "When my husband was translating the Book of Mormon, I wrote a part of it, as he dictated each sentence, word for word, and when he came to proper names he could not pronounce, or long words, he spelled them out, and while I was writing them, if I made a mistake in spelling, he would stop me and correct my spelling, although it was impossible for him to see how I was writing them down at the time."

    Joseph saw the text that the Lord revealed and dictated it to the scribe, spelling the words he didn't know and couldn't pronounce. The Lord chose 15th century English for the text.

  • John Marx Layton, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 10:10 a.m.

    coltakashi wrote,
    "What this means is that Joseph Smith was not the person who composed the "English" of the Book of Mormon, but he was reading text to his scribes, which he saw. The actual composer(s) of the "English" text were speakers of English native to the 1500s, over two hundred years before Joseph's day."
    I'm sorry, what?
    As the story goes, the Gold Plates were buried until Joseph Smith received them from Moroni in the 1820's. So how exactly did these people who spoke 1500's English translate the Book of Mormon? Who were they, and how did they get a copy of the plates? And why did Joseph even have the plates if he was just transcribing a version translated from someone else in the 1500's?

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    Aug. 21, 2014 10:09 a.m.

    If one wanted to concoct a hoax scripture and history that’s believable, might he not find it essential to employ a syntax that invites comparisons to widely accepted existing scripture/history? Joseph Smith knew that the language of the King James Bible was familiar to the readers of his time.

    The King James Bible is the landmark translation into English but it has its influences. The Tyndale Bible, the Great Bible, and the Bishop’s Bible all preceded it in the previous century (the 1500s).

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Aug. 21, 2014 9:42 a.m.

    Help me out here LDS folks because I’m confused as to what Dr. Peterson is trying to prove.

    Alexis de Tocqueville, in his tour of America as preparation for writing his classic Democracy in America, noted that America was a country of readers even down to the most itinerant farmers. Besides newspapers, he said that the two most prevalent texts he found in all the houses and log cabins he visited were the Bible (almost exclusively the King James) and the works of Shakespeare.

    Is Dr. Peterson claiming that the Book of Mormon contains some language and idioms (Elizabethan) that may best be represented by the Bard? And this is surprising in early 19th century America because… ?

    Further, doesn’t the Book of Mormon purport to be a text written by ancient, ocean faring Hebrews who would have been totally unfamiliar with both the King James Bible (in terms of idioms) and Shakespeare?

    What am I missing here… maclouie?

  • coltakashi Richland, WA
    Aug. 21, 2014 9:41 a.m.

    What this means is that Joseph Smith was not the person who composed the "English" of the Book of Mormon, but he was reading text to his scribes, which he saw. The actual composer(s) of the "English" text were speakers of English native to the 1500s, over two hundred years before Joseph's day. Joseph was not an Elizabethan scholar conversant with the grammar and vocabulary of Early Modern English, but the person who actually did the translation and prepared the text that Joseph read was a native speaker of that earlier dialect. Yet Joseph had no paper manuscript he was reading from. He saw that text through miraculous means. It dates to an era of the first encounters between Europeans and American Indians, so its knowledge of Meso-American geography and culture ius all the more remarkable. It was also an era when Englishmen had very little understanding of Hebrew literary patterns such as chiasmus, yet the Book of Mormon is replete with them. None of the theories about an 1800s American writing the book hold up.

  • maclouie Falconer, NY
    Aug. 21, 2014 9:28 a.m.

    @Craig Clark

    If you don't want to be limited by your "only explanation I can conceive" then watch the Book of Mormon Translation episode from the Joseph Smith Papers BYUtv Series. From that you will discover another explanation for the use of an old English language in the translation. And then watch it again until you "get it". I had to watch it several times until I "got it".

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    Aug. 21, 2014 8:50 a.m.

    "....I would assert that it is no longer possible to argue that the earliest text of the Book of Mormon is defective and substandard in its grammar. … It clearly draws on a wide array of … language forms and syntax from the Early Modern English period...."
    - Stanford Carmack
    ______________________________

    Why should it do that if it were being translated directly from an ancient language into 19th century English? The only explanation I can conceive is that of a telltale art or craft at work to make the volume seem to be something that it isn’t.

  • John Marx Layton, UT
    Aug. 21, 2014 7:51 a.m.

    Daniel Peterson writes "Those who regard Joseph Smith as the book’s author, however, should feel challenged and deeply perplexed." To be fair I think lots of people will be 'perplexed.' Let's say that the hypothesis put forward by this column is correct, that the Book of Mormon was written in pre-King James English.
    Why would it be?
    The claim is that Joseph Smith could not have known the obscure extinct version of English the Book of Mormon is written in. But why translate a Book into a language and grammar that is outdated, so outdated that no one in the time period could have known it. Doing so would only serve to make it more difficult to understand for modern readers.