“If Only I Had Known BEFORE I Left the Church…”

I received poignant email today from a good woman who left the Church several years ago, disillusioned by seemingly powerful anti-Mormon attacks on the Book of Abraham. The power of that book had been an important part of her early testimony, but when she read that it was all “proven” to be a fake, she was devastated. She and her husband left the Church, as did one other couple I know who were upset over the Book of Abraham issue. After reading my rebuttal on the Book of Abraham, she wrote me and said how she wished she had known about this before she left. Her old testimony is coming back and makes more sense now, but so much has changed now that the path back to the Church will be difficult and painful, if it is even possible.

I know a little of what the woman went through, as my testimony was shaken sorely when I read what the Tanners had cobbled together regarding the Book of Abraham over a decade ago. I turned to the Lord in prayer to understand the answer to the issue, and felt that I needed to keep reading and looking, and soon found that the Tanner’s had left out some important details that destroyed their case against the Book of Abraham. I, like many others, had been tricked. I realized that I would always have to be very careful in dealing with anti-Mormon literature, for it tends to be the work of dedicated enemies with a deadly ax to grind. Some pose as loving ministers, some as noble and objective Galileos seeking only truth, and as we have seen on this blog, some even pose as sincere members of the Church or sweet investigators, looking for truth.

People need to know that there are answers. Perhaps not yet for every attack, not for every puzzle, not for every question, but for many, many issues, there are answers and good reasons to believe. How sad that the adversary does manage to deceive some very good people and lead people to reject years of faith and testimony-building experiences with some of his sly attacks. Those who have left may not return, but many will, even when they seem hardened and harsh at the moment. Be patient and loving, and continue to minister, for perhaps some will wake up and return. I hope the woman who wrote me can manage to come back with her family.

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Author: Jeff Lindsay

98 thoughts on ““If Only I Had Known BEFORE I Left the Church…”

  1. From “An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins” – Grant Palmer, three-time director of LDS Institutes of Religion:

    “According to scholars, the scroll was written during the 1st century B.C. The papyri do not deal with Abraham. In fact, Abraham’s name does not appear anywhere in this narrative.”

    “Joseph Smith used other sources in ‘translating’ the Book of Abraham.” He continues on to cite “The Works of Flavius Josephus,” and “the Philosophy of a Future State” as source references, both of which Joseph and Oliver Cowdery are directly linked to (they owned copies).

    Sixty six out of seventy-seven verses in chapters 2,4,5, and 12 are quotations or close paraphrases of KJV wording. “The few Hebrew names and words in the Abraham text reflect Joseph’s study under the Hebrew scholar Joshua Seixas in Kirtland, Ohio, during the winter of 1835-36.”

    “I know of no substantial evidence to support his claim to have ever literally translated any document, leaving me to appreciate his writings at face value rather than because of their antiquity.”

    Palmer, pgs 12-22, 36.

  2. The “three-time institute director” bit is also, well, ahem, something of an exaggeration.

    But the simple fact is that Grant Palmer’s book isn’t very good, and that, since he refuses to read or acknowledge FARMS materials, and since FARMS, over the past quarter of a century, has been the principal publisher of relevant articles and books, his ignorance of substantial evidence supporting Joseph’s claim to translate is rather less impressive than it might otherwise have been.

    The FARMS reviews of Palmer’s book are well worth reading. Professor James Allen’s “Asked and Answered: A Response to Grant H. Palmer,” in FARMS Review 16/1 goes along with the several essays on the subject in 15/2. They are all available on the FARMS website.

  3. There are some answers. But many of them aren’t very good answers. There are reasons to believe. But many aren’t very good reasons.

    There are also reasons to doubt, many of which are very good reasons to doubt.

    If one wishes to make an honest judgement, all of the evidence needs to be jointly weighed. If only evidence from one side is considered, how can an honest conclusion be made?

  4. My only suggestion is that people actually read Palmers book themselves.

    James Allen’s review covers a great deal of the content, but he overlooks a great many of the important details. An accusation he actually makes of Palmer over and over.

    Also, Allen spends far too much time questioning Palmer’s credentials, an arguement that bewilders me. In essence Allen argues that because faithful LDS scholars do not agree with his theories, then they, as well as Palmer shouldn’t be given credence.

    For example:

    “I will not attempt here to answer all the problems raised by Palmer; a few examples will illustrate the kind of faulty speculation, incomplete evidence, and misleading “parallels” that plague his book. My intent is simply to summarize some of his assertions, show that nearly all of them have been dealt with in detail by well-qualified LDS scholars, and point the interested reader to some of their readily available writings. These scholars all have advanced degrees, usually doctoral degrees, with a wide variety of specialties, among them early American history, ancient civilizations, ancient languages, linguistics, anthropology, law, and philosophy. It is clear in their writings, moreover (though they avoid belaboring the point), that they are also believers.”

    Any logicians readings this will recognize that a citation of authority is a bad way to prove an argument.

    Allen continues:

    “There seems also to be an implication that, over the years, Palmer has discussed these issues with other Latter-day Saint scholars and that some may agree with his analysis. I have no personal knowledge of any such conversations…”

    Is Allen’s personal knowledge required? Is Allen really arguing that because he hasn’t been included in any such conversations that he should have something to say about them?

    He goes on:

    “But such responses hardly imply that [the Scholars] agree with whatever viewpoints they are discussing, though some observers may be misled into thinking so. Of course there are people who agree with Palmer, but those he seemingly alludes to in his preface are not among them.”

    Without any personal knowledge how does he know? So sloppy… 🙁

    The worst example:

    “There is another implication, not stated by Palmer but apparently circulated in much of the discussion that goes on through the Internet and other places, that some people still in the employ of the church dare not come out with their “true” feelings because they are intimidated by fear of loss of employment and even loss of church membership.”

    Why bring this up if Palmer didn’t say it? It’s wrong to attach this issue, the readers inevitably are going to wrongly associate it with Palmer regardless.

    The above analysis just comes from the beginning, and it doesn’t get any better.

    I personally found his coverage of the “Golden Pot” theory lacking. Just for emphasis here is an incomplete list of the parallels:

    Both Joseph and Anselmus,

    1. recieve a shock, have a visions of angels, and recieve a message
    2. Are called to translate ancient works
    3. The next morning walk to the appointed place
    4. Think about riches
    5. Encounter an evil force
    6. recieve a brief sketch of the “ancients”
    7. The messenger in both accounts is a descendant of his people’s founders
    8. The messenger is the people’s last archivist
    9. The messenger is a spirit prince
    (Note: According to Abner Cole, “the elder Smith declared that his son Jo had seen the spirit,” also called “the prince of spirits.”(Cole, 12 June 1830; 14 Feb. 1831))
    10. The message is repeated and expanded
    11. Both Joseph and Anselmus are chastized for disobedience
    12. Have to wait one year
    13. The next visit is connected with the Fall equinox (Look it up if you need to, but Joseph receives the plates September 22nd 1827)
    14. Both were accompanied by a woman
    15. The characters are in an unknown language
    16. He translates by inspiration
    17. He produces a most correct book

    It’s very true that the Golden Pot does not read the same at all as Joseph’s story. But the parallels are indeed there and are specific.

    Allen doesn’t address the points in Palmers book in a way that delineates them and refutes them. He cites LDS scholarship as his rebuttal.

    My suggestion again, is those who are truly curious need to not rely on the assertions of a review such as this but need to read both the LDS work and the work of the “Palmers” of the world for themselves.

  5. good points byu gestapo, about the farm essay. you made it sound kind of ridiculous. then again, most anti-mormon works are rather ridiculous, w/ outrageous claims and a twisting or selective choosing of facts. you are one of the few i’ve seen who don’t seem to do that.

    i will admit, byu gestapo, that that list is very similar to joseph’s story. the only one’s that are questionable are 1,6,9, and 12, though only somewhat. however, it’s hard to believe your claim is that joseph read the golden pot and based the entire moroni/bom/translation story on it so obviously. did joseph not expect anyone to ever read it and make those conclusions? if i was going to make up an unbelievable story, i wouldn’t base most of it on hamlet or something. you have to admit that if joseph is a fraud, he was a pretty darn good one, and it just seems unrealistic that he would do something like steal his story straight out of one book. unless of course your argument is that he was playing reverse psychology, and making his plagiarism too obvious to be true.

    the parallels between the two may be strikingly similar, but the logic of the conclusion it draws does not cut it in my mind, though it may in yours. having read and reread the bom, i can’t deny the original doctrines it teaches, and how they seem to mesh w/ the bible so well. i can’t deny the power of the book. you can claim that joseph stole the whole JSH from the golden pot, and it is a good argument palmer has, but it’s hard to believe joseph would do that. or do any of the things critics claim. sorry.

  6. What I find odd about this is that he doesn’t tell us the names of these agnostic Jewish members of the so-called “Berkley group.” He (along with Jeff and Samuel) use their alleged non-LDS religion to give credibility to his findings, but never tells us what their names are.

    He also never mentioned whether “the Berkley Group” with its unnamed non-LDS scientists published their findings in a peer-reviewed journal. I infer from that that the answer is no. I also infer from that that the reason isn’t because they didn’t try–it is because their science is junk.

    Am I wrong? Who are the non-LDS research partners? Was their work published in a peer-reviewed journal? If not, why not?

    know the answer to this, jeff? i’d love to know the truth

  7. Youi can read the Golden Pot yourself at http://www.blackmask.com/books72c/goldpot.htm. Please read it! And then explain how that could possibly be a basis for the Book of Mormon. You can find MANY MORE and convincing but entirely random parallels in Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass – and in many works of fiction. A comparison of the Golden Pot and the Book of Mormon tells us more about Grant Palmer than it does about Joseph Smith.

  8. Okay, so I am supposed to believe that Joseph Smith was a brilliant enough forger to make up the Book of Mormon, the vast majority of which is found in no other book, but he had to have something to use for his story of the angel Moroni? Why, did his incredible intuition for forgery and deception desert him?

    Of course, the whole idea of the Golden Pot being the source of the Book of Mormon was probably the work of Mark Hoffman who first linked the work to the Book of Mormon by using the “Salamander letter” as the basis of Joseph’s interpretation (being that Salamanders are found several times in the Golden Pot and play an important role therein.)

    However, there is no real evidence that Mark Hoffman had used the Golden Pot, but he had a heck of lot more chances to access it than Joseph Smith, ie, he probably could have found it in any library he chose to enter.

    As for Joseph Smith having access, the first translation of the story into English was made by Thomas Carlyle in 1827 (this was in England.) I do not believe an American edition came out for quite some time. Now of course, JS could have had access to Carlyle’s four volume treatise of German literature, which was extremely limited in production but could have been sold in America, and he would have only had to dig around in the third volume to find the story.

    I mean come on people. If this is the best evidence you have for Joseph Smith being a fraud and a liar, I am even more convinced I made the right decision in joining the Church.

  9. BYU Gestapo: “James Allen’s review covers a great deal of the content, but he overlooks a great many of the important details. An accusation he actually makes of Palmer over and over.”

    Professor Allen’s review should be read in conjunction with the related essays in the previous number of the FARMS Review (particularly those of Mark Ashurst-McGee and Steven Harper).

    BYU Gestapo: “Also, Allen spends far too much time questioning Palmer’s credentials, an arguement that bewilders me.”

    Palmer’s claim (in the very title of his book) to being a historical “insider” implies for him a status that his non-existent scholarly track record prior to the publication of An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins utterly fails to justify. Moreover, his repeated tacit suggestion that he represents the silent consensus of professional Mormon historians is risible — a fact addressed particularly by the Davis Bitton review and the statement from the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History.

    BYU Gestapo: “Allen continues:
    ‘There seems also to be an implication that, over the years, Palmer has discussed these issues with other Latter-day Saint scholars and that some may agree with his analysis. I have no personal knowledge of any such conversations…’
    Is Allen’s personal knowledge required? Is Allen really arguing that because he hasn’t been included in any such conversations that he should have something to say about them?”

    As a former assistant Church historian, a past president of the Mormon History Association, a longstanding professor of history at the Church’s university, and one of the most-respected and most-published of all the historians of Mormonism, Professor Allen is a genuine “insider.” The fact that Mr. Palmer is essentially unknown to Dr. Allen (co-compiler, with David Whittaker, of the recently-published definitive bibliography of Mormon historiography) casts serious doubt upon Palmer’s claimed “insider” status as well as upon Palmer’s qualifications to somehow represent any consensus of the Mormon historical community.

    BYU Gestapo: “I personally found his coverage of the “Golden Pot” theory lacking.”

    Professor Allen scarcely deals with The Golden Pot. But the reviews by Louis Midgley and Mark Ashurst-McGee deal with it in devastating detail.

  10. Thanks Br Peterson for a nice ‘breadth and depth’ response to BYU Gestapo’s post. Not being particularily well read or connected in Mormon History circles, it’s nice to see someone who is responding publicly in a way that helps bring the picture into focus.

  11. I tried to read the Golden Pot linked to Mormanity’s post.

    I had difficulties in following the story. Perhaps I am an idiot.

    But what I skimmed through, it was difficult to see a connection. I have a difficult time in imagining Joseph Smith highly engaged in this book and gaining inspiration for the Book of Mormon.

    I understand that Palmer does have his theory but I also understand that much of historical interpretation can be highly speculative in analysis.

  12. I’m absolutely convinced that the best cure for believing in Grant Palmer’s Golden Pot scenario is actually reading The Golden Pot.

    I might note that, among other places, it’s available for a dollar in a Dover paperback edition, accompanied by Hoffman’s other (much better known) novella The Nutcracker.

  13. BYU Gestapo’s post alleges, among other things, that Anselmus tranlates a book by inspiration. OK, it’s contest time: I have a standing liberty 1-ounce legal tender silver dollar as the prize that I will mail to the first person who can point out the place in the Golden Pot where Anselmus does actual “translation” by inspiration.

  14. In the translation of G.P. you linked to, there are no words beginning with “transl,” so it looks like “nowhere” is the answer. But he does copy some words, but copying is not translating – not the kind that Palmer means. But don’t blame Gestapo for this – he just bought Palmer’s spin (and book, unfortunately). But what Palmer did is to contort the meaning to try to force a parallel where no plausible parallel exist. Can we trust his other “parallels”?

  15. Okay, are you guys realy getting hung up on one word? We refer to Joseph’s experience as a translation, with Anselmus the word used is copy.

    Is the short answer really to dismiss the whole analysis because the ambiguity of a single word? No.

    Since everyone is so keen on reading the original text, lets do it:

    Midgley, in his FARMS review, refers to a passage that states:

    “…a number of manuscripts, partly Arabic, Coptic, and some of them in strange characters, which do not belong to any known tongue. These he wishes to have copied properly, and for this purpose he requires a man who can draw with the pen, and so [to] transfer these marks to parchment, in Indian ink, with the highest exactness and fidelity.”

    Indeed the word copied is used, and not translation, but contrary to what Midgley argues, the concept of a translation here is not “gratuitous.”

    Arabic, Coptic (adjective for Egypt) is apparently referring to a language from Egypt and also the mentioned “strange characters…” that are from an unknown tongue are all foreign languages.

    What would be the point of copying them “with high fidelity,” in Indian Ink. Indian Ink, used to write the US constitution by the way, is known for it’s archival quality. It’s meant to last. So why all the fuss to make such a high quality copy?

    Later on, Anselmus begins to do more than copying, he “directed his eyes and thoughts more and more intensely on the superscription of the parchment roll; and before long he felt, as it were from his inmost soul, that the characters could denote nothing else than these words: Of the marriage of the Salamander with the green snake…”

    Anselmus upon concentrating, gains understanding and knowledge of the works of these foreign tongues that was previously unknown to him.

    Here is the primary definition from the dictionary for the word translate:

    1. To render in another language.

    Anselmus takes what was previously Arabic, Coptic, or an unknown tongue and then renders it into his own words, specifically German.

    It’s instructive that our historical understanding of the translation process for Joseph relates closely to the latter “Golden Pot” quote.

    B.H. Roberts, undeniably a historical “insider” was of the opinion, “The translation of the Book of Mormon by means of the “Interpreters” and “Seer Stone,” was not merely a mechanical process, but required the utmost concentration of mental and spiritual force possessed by the prophet… (Young Men’s Manual, 1903-4, p. 69)”

    One final interesting tidbit, ironically enough, two of the three BOM witnesses, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris described that the sentences would appear to Joseph already in English and he would read them off, ie; copy.

    In fact much of the Book of Mormon was putatively translated through a seer stone in a hat, without the Golden Plates even present. Emma stated, “In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us.”(History of the RLDS Church, 8 vols. (Independence, Missouri: Herald House, 1951), “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” 3:356)

    You can’t translate if you have no source to translate from. Indeed those who were witness to the translation process have this recurring theme in their accounts of the words or characters appearing to Joseph in English and he reads them off.

    So actually the two experiences are quite surreally similar.

    Now listen, I do NOT think this is damning evidece however. Let’s be clear on that before you all flame me to death. For emphasis, the “Golden Pot” theory is just that, a theory, and alone it means little. But it’s place in the larger picture adds credence, however minute, to the idea that the BOM is literary.

    Again, it’s just a small piece in a large puzzle.

    Many on this blog have been quick to dismiss it as completely irrelevant. I hope I’ve shown that at a minimum, that is a very myopic stance to take.

  16. BYU Gestapo:

    I was sufficiently interested by your post to read the Golden Pot. You really want me to believe that Joseph Smith lifted his story from this book? I’m not familiar with how this nonsense got started– was there some sort of contest to come up with the next great fraud accusation? When this one runs it’s course, let me know. I’d like an opportunity to win the next one. I’ve been working on a list of similarities between the J.S. story and Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown. I’ve never done this before– what can I win?

    John

  17. Hi,

    I’m not an American. I am from Scandinavia so please forgive me for my poor English.

    I have actually read ”The Golden Pot” twice. The connection between Moroni and the gold plates narrative and the story in the novel is not very obvious unless you have read Palmer’s book. I appreciate Palmer’s book and I appreciate FARMS reviews as well. I got a clearer picture of the whole thing. During the last three years I have been studying a lot about Mormon theology and history. Both sides of the story and it have been enlightening in many ways.

    As I understand Grant H. Palmer he means that Hoffman’s novel describes the fundamental thoughts that where present in Europe and in USA as well among common people. The novel is built on traditional folklore and represents “the thinking of the day” among the not to well educated people. Hoffman’s puts this in to his story makes a novel out of it. Both the novel and Joseph Smiths story emerges from this magic environment. The parallels between the both stories should therefore not surprise anyone.

    Palmer builds up his case in this manner. It is proven by fact that young Joseph knew Luman Walters in the early 1820:s. Luman Walter had been in Europe at the time the novel where published. The book was not printed in English until 1827 but Luman Walters probably knew German and French and thereby could be able to read and understand the story. Luman might have told the magic story during the evenings of fruitless treasure diggings and young Josephs frantic imaginations did the rest.

    The English version of this book came out in 1827 the very same year as Joseph received the plates from the angel. There are no proofs however- as far as I know – that either Luman Walters or Joseph Smith ever owned Hoffman’s novel or were acquainted with it in any way.

    The wording parallel that Palmer presents is weak because the likeliness that Walters told the story with a correct translation in English before the book was published in English are very small. The novel however describes the magic thinking of the early 19: th century. It shows that some element of this magic turns up in both the Moroni and golden plates narratives and in Hoffman’s novel.

    Palmer makes a big mistake when he strengthens the weak parallels by using the word translates for copy etcetera. Here the FARMS review is very helpful. More examples are to be found in the reviews.

    One very interesting details is the date in September. The magic day when night and day are equal in length (equinox). This day has been very important in the magic cults in a very same way as midsummer have been (I’m from Sweden Scandinavia so I know what the magic of midsummer is). The plates however are finally turned over to Joseph in 22 September 1827. The equinox however is 23 September. There however another way of looking at this very day. I got this from The Meridian.

    Significance of the Date

    This angelic visitation took place on the 21st – 22nd of September 1823, and Moroni returned four more years on September 22. Perhaps there is some significance in the fact that at the same time Moroni was instructing the Prophet, the Jews were celebrating the autumn pilgrimage Festival of Ingathering. This festival celebrated the beginning of the harvest season. In Hebrew this festival is called hag ha’asiph (the holy day of gathering). It is noteworthy that the word asiph and the name Joseph come from similar Hebrew words. Joseph means “he who adds / he who increases” in Hebrew. So just as the ancient Joseph increased the gathering of grain from the harvest and added to the Pharaoh’s storehouse, so also the Prophet Joseph stood at the beginning of a new season of ingathering and through his instrumentality in bringing forth truth and light he increased the gathering of God’s children.
    (This writing can be found of the following link http://www.meridianmagazine.com/gospeldoctrine/dc/050111dc5.html).

    What are my conclusions of all this? There needs to be opposition in all things. The same goes for the BofM and the Moroni and golden plates narrative. Do I Believe in the BofM? Yes, I do. Could the opponents to our faith find support for their conclusion? Oh yes they can. Palmer does not argue that Joseph actually read the story itself, only that Joseph in the same manner as Hoffman borrowed the general magic background when he created his own narrative.

    I guess that is how must be if we are supposed to trust the Spirit. Are the Mormon theology shaken? Hardly. Should one read Palmer’s book? Only if you also reads the answers from FARMS. The worst in all this is the reply from Ron Priddis…… which is to be found at Signature Books…..

  18. “What would be the point of copying them “with high fidelity,” in Indian Ink. Indian Ink, used to write the US constitution by the way, is known for it’s archival quality. It’s meant to last. So why all the fuss to make such a high quality copy?”

    Ges, I really enjoy your posts and discussing these things with you, but you dont want to hurt your case by being loose with the facts. The US Constitution (and the Declaration and the Bill of Rights) were written with iron gall ink, not india ink. Just letting you know.

  19. My family first joined the church in the 1830’s and were among the first pioneers in Utah. I say this to establish that the Church in my family has historic roots and so I have heard it all. I doubt that there is little of the intolerance, bigotry, lies and distortions told by the Adversaries minions that I have not heard. I am of the opinion that if comes from an outsider’s mouth it is wrong. There is only one source for informaton and that is the Prophet, the Twelve or other authorized person. The one thing all this noise has made clear to me is that I am absolutely, totally and irreconcilably adverse to anything coming from the mouth of a non-member when it comes to the Church or religious truths. I am sick to death of them.

  20. BYU Gestapo said:

    “We refer to Joseph’s experience as a translation, with Anselmus the word used is copy.” (Emphasis added).

    I am certifiably NOT a scholar, but I do understand the difference between the words translate and copy. In my profession, recurring problems happens when people start with a conclusion then try to find facts to support their position. Their arguments are contrived and the results are never good. The Anti- stuff seems to fall into this category. Ether 12:25-28 also seems to cover their comments.

    I am grateful for the many serious studies of the gospel written by LDS and non-LDA authors. These works seem to start with questions then review the available material to reach conclusions. Sincere work and commentary, even when they ask tough questions, has strengthen my testimony of the divinity of Christ and the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith in restoring the gospel to the earth.

    Being a natural skeptic, I find it comforting that I should not trust in any mortals’ work – Jeremiah 17:5, but can trust God – Psalm 56:4. For this reason my testimony of the Saviour, his atonement, and the latter-day restoration is built upon the “rock” of personal revelation from my Father in Heaven, not the arguments of men (sand?).

    I appreciate the way Nephi (as translated by Joseph Smith) expressed this concept: “O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.” 2 Nephi 4:34.

    So while I will continue to be educated by reading sincere works (including this blog) on the gospel by authors of many faiths, my testimony and faith is in Christ.

  21. BYU Gestapo: “Okay, are you guys realy getting hung up on one word? We refer to Joseph’s experience as a translation, with Anselmus the word used is copy.
    Is the short answer really to dismiss the whole analysis because the ambiguity of a single word? No.

    As Midgley and Ashurst-McGee demonstrate, the problems with Palmer’s rather silly Golden Pot hypothesis go far beyond “the ambiguity of a single word.”

    Not even Palmer’s fellow Signature authors Brent Metcalfe and Dan Vogel have been convinced by him on this.

    BYU Gestapo: “Indeed the word copied is used, and not translation, but contrary to what Midgley argues, the concept of a translation here is not ‘gratuitous.'”

    It is gratuitous to the nth degree. There is a world of difference between copying and translating. I can promise you that a student in one of my Arabic classes who merely transcribed a passage rather than, as requested, translating it, would fail the assignment.

    Much of the rest of what you say (about India ink and the like) is simply irrelevant obfuscation.

    BYU Gestapo: “So why all the fuss to make such a high quality copy?”

    What difference does it make? High quality copying no more implies translation than does accurate photography.

    BYU Gestapo: “Anselmus upon concentrating, gains understanding and knowledge of the works of these foreign tongues that was previously unknown to him.”

    We’re given no reason to believe that he accurately understands the meaning of the texts. He could just as easily be hallucinating a meaning in line with his own personal obsessions — which, given the overall nature of this very weird story, seems more likely.

    BYU Gestapo: “Now listen, I do NOT think this is damning evidece however.”

    It’s not relevant evidence at all.

    BYU Gestapo: “For emphasis, the ‘Golden Pot’ theory is just that, a theory, and alone it means little.

    Little or, more accurately, nothing.

    BYU Gestapo: “But it’s place in the larger picture adds credence, however minute, to the idea that the BOM is literary.”

    It adds nothing of any substance to a critic’s case against the Book of Mormon, and wise critics won’t touch it.

    BYU Gestapo: “Again, it’s just a small piece in a large puzzle.”

    It’s wandered in from another puzzle box, and has no relevance to this one. Time spent arguing for its importance to the Book of Mormon is time wasted.
     

  22. Incidentally, it isn’t clear that Joseph Smith even knew Luman Walters (“the Magician”), and very, very little is known about Walters himself. (Some have even doubted his existence.)

    So Palmer’s suggestions that Walters might have lived in Europe and, there, might have encountered Der goldne Topf in its original German, and might have known German well, and might have read Der goldne Topf, and might have had extensive conversations with the Smiths, and might have recited to them a summary of the Hoffman novella, and etc., and etc., and etc., is the weakest of weak historical speculation.