One of the most interesting puzzles about the Book of Mormon is the recent discovery that much of the language is archaic in ways not easily explained by imitating the King James Version. We’ve previously discussed work from Royal Skousen and Stanford Carmack showing apparent influence from Early Modern English in the words dictated by Joseph Smith. Why that is the case is still a subject for debate, but there is solid data and careful scholarship behind that observation. Part of the scholarship has included looking at specific words that appear to have archaic meanings that predate Joseph Smith’s era.
In The Nature of the Original Language, parts 3 and 4 of volume 3 of the massive Book of Mormon critical text project, Skousen and Carmack compiled evidence from searches of Early Modern English texts that showed many aspects of the Book of Mormon (meanings of certain words, the use of specific phrases, and many aspects of grammar) had fallen out of use by the 1740s. Their findings at that time were limited by the challenges in searching the databases of Early Modern English texts. Since then, better search abilities and access to more data has made it possible to more fully test their published work, and over the past year, the authors have been carefully reviewing the data to more fully evaluate their prior findings. As a result, they have found a need to issue an update since a few of the archaic words and phrases turn out to have persisted longer than initially thought, while many remain solid examples of archaic language in the Book of Mormon. This is a great example of strong scholarship, reflecting a willingness to continue learning and to correct and revise one’s findings in the ever tentative quest for knowledge.
To rapidly facilitate Book of Mormon scholarship and to make further review and feedback from others possible, a preliminary version of their update was just published by the Interpreter Foundation. See “Pre-print of ‘Revisions in the Analysis of Archaic Language in the Book of Mormon’” by Stanford Carmack and Royal Skousen. The document is a pre-print of what will be published part 8 of Volume III: The History of the Text of the Book of Mormon in the critical text project. It is meant to be viewed only, not printed or saved.