D.E. Neighbors has an interesting new article at FAIRLDS.org, “The Book of Mormon vs. the Critics: Nit-Picking for Fun and Profit.” It deals with the issue of changes in the Book of Mormon, a topic I also address.
One interesting quote from that article comes from Joseph Smith:
“[A]s it required the exertions of all that were able to render any assistance for the support of the Family therefore we were deprived of the bennifit of an education suffice it to say I was mearly instructid in reading writing and the ground of Arithmatic which const[it]tuted my whole literary acquirements.”
I found this to be a great example of Joseph’s excessive modesty. As so many anti-Mormon scholars have pointed out, Joseph Smith drew upon vast intellectual resources to fabricate the Book of Mormon, relying on many dozens of books, maps, and periodicals as well as his profound knowledge of Hebrew to craft the many “internal evidences” of Book of Mormon authenticity. It even appears that he may have used a primitive but version of Google Earth to identify fertile regions in the Arabian Peninsula and to identify a plausible route for Lehi’s group to pass between two segments of the Empty Quarter and arrive safely in Bountiful in present day Oman. Joseph was a remarkably educated scholar using resources many decades ahead of his time, yet his excessive modesty compelled him to speak little of such attainments, dismissing his education as rough and rudimentary. Of course, critics will scream that this was all a lie, part of deception that convinced even those closest to him that he was poorly educated (and those misspellings in his writing – was this also part of an act?). But I prefer to give him a little credit and suggest that he was just incredibly modest. (This stands in contrast to some of our modern critics who have worked hard to inflate their academic credentials, even to the point of referring to degrees they didn’t exactly earn.)