New Podcast with Stanford Carmack on Textual Analysis of the Book of Mormon

Over on the FAIRMormon blog, you can listen to “Syntax and Book of Mormon Authorship – Interview with Stanford Carmack.” This new podcast lets Stanford share more about the strong evidence from the original Book of Mormon text that it is frequently not really KJV language, nor what a modern fabricator would be able to make up by imitating the KJV, but uses subtle syntax more characteristic of Early Modern English, several decades before the KJV. As he explains, it uses now archaic structures with the natural kind of variation typical of Early Modern English that the KJV translators made a point to eliminate as they imposed a good deal of uniformity in the grammar and language.

To me, these findings are still preliminary, being led by the data and not by preconceived notions about the translation process. The data, though, are pushing for a paradigm shift in how the translation was done, suggesting that there is an unexpected 16th-century imprint in the language. For those who believe Joseph wrote the text himself, or with the help of a friend, the apparent mastery of Early Modern English patterns poses a great challenge for previously proffered hypotheses.  For those who believe that there were gold plates translated by the gift of God, but given in Joseph Smith’s language plus a dose of KJV verbiage, Carmack’s work may suggest that the text was delivered deliberately with an Early Modern English accent in numerous subtle patterns that would be exceedingly difficult to mimic without a great deal of research–but why and how? Was there a pre-translation into Early Modern English? Deliberate tight control to impose a pre-KJV influence? And if the many archaic Early Modern English structures that now seem like bad grammar to us were important, why were so many removed from the text to fix or update the bad grammar? Was it important to be dictated originally for some reason, but OK to wipe out many of the “fingerprints” for modern readers?

Perhaps the point was to provide a subtle fingerprint in the originally dictated text that would only become apparent and useful to us much later, in a time–perhaps right when we really needed it– when there would be the modern tools were have to examine Early Modern English texts, conduct statistical analysis for large bodies of text, and have the Critical Edition of the Book of Mormon to look at. I don’t know, but if the analyses of Royal Skousen and Stanford Carmack hold up (as appears to be the case so far), then we may have something highly quantifiable and very difficult to fake, even if one were smart enough to try to fake it, that greatly weakens any theory of Joseph Smith or an associate of his being the author. But the details seem to leave very little room for just blind luck in imitating the KJV or other texts Joseph had access to. Something far more sophisticated is showing up in the syntax of the original Book of Mormon. Something really strange, almost like the ghostly voice of a a “familiar spirit” speaking from the dust.

Let me know what you think about his podcast and his previous articles at Mormon Interpreter on this topic.  If you are in a hurry but want to get some highlights fast, take a look at “English in the Book of Mormon” at the Book of Mormon Resources Blog  to see a summary of Stanford’s recent talk on this topic given at a conference sponsored by Mormon Interpreter. Interesting findings.

Author: Jeff Lindsay

44 thoughts on “New Podcast with Stanford Carmack on Textual Analysis of the Book of Mormon

  1. "Perhaps the point was to provide a subtle fingerprint in the originally dictated text that would only become apparent and useful to us much later, in a time–perhaps right when we really needed it– when there would be the modern tools were have to examine Early Modern English texts, conduct statistical analysis for large bodies of text, and have the Critical Edition of the Book of Mormon to look at."

    But why would we need to discover the Early Modern English presence in the text? Why? And if so, why now more than ever? To give us some relief from the constant barrage of attacks against its authenticity?

    That is assuming that today's attacks are worse than any in the past.

    And if God knews we would desperately need college-educated linguistics scholars operating digital tools to uncover Early Modern English in a book that was supposedly an ancient record written by Jews using a modified form of Egyptian script all for the purpose of providing us with some desperately needed hard, scientific evidence of the books authenticity,…well….I can think of some better evidence than this confusing mess.

    God could've just left the plates in the Church's possession.

    But I'll be interested in listening to Mr. Carmack. He is most likely uncovering a piece of the puzzle. The finished picture will be the opposite of what he thinks it is, however.

  2. I hate to keep harping on this, but it's a crucial premise that no-one seems to want to examine.

    Why would it be so hard to produce the Book of Mormon's grammatical patterns by fakery? Don't they just amount to overuse of archaisms? You can say 'subtle' as many times as you want, but what's so subtle about it?

    Wouldn't overuse of archaisms be just what you'd expect from a fraud in Smith's time? And wouldn't that naturally produce a style that correlated well with English grammar from somewhat before the KJV?

  3. There are a couple of other considerations here. One is that the use of some EModE structures (such as the "did" syntax) might well have persisted in the spoken discourse of the early 1800s (the dialect spoken by marginal people in remote areas is often more archaic than elsewhere). Carmack is making comparisons only to the period's written discourse.

    Since we don't have much of a record of the relevant spoken language, the argument that Joseph Smith couldn't have known of these archaic structures and frequencies of use might not ever be provable. There will always be the possibility that he knew them from his own dialect.

    More important I think is the possibility of a fatal methodological flaw concerning something like the Texas sharpshooter fallacy. Consider the following example of this fallacy given in Wikipedia:

    A Swedish study in 1992 tried to determine whether or not power lines caused some kind of poor health effects. The researchers surveyed everyone living within 300 meters of high-voltage power lines over a 25-year period and looked for statistically significant increases in rates of over 800 ailments. The study found that the incidence of childhood leukemia was four times higher among those that lived closest to the power lines, and it spurred calls to action by the Swedish government. The problem with the conclusion, however, was that the number of potential ailments, i.e. over 800, was so large that it created a high probability that at least one ailment would exhibit the appearance of a statistically significant difference by chance alone. Subsequent studies failed to show any links between power lines and childhood leukemia, neither in causation nor even in correlation.

    Wow — four times higher! No way that could be chance, right? But it was.

    Now consider how many archaic structures there are in EModE (maybe not 800, but maybe dozens? hundreds?). If we go in search of archaisms in general — rather than searching for one particular structure that has been predicted beforehand by a hypothesis, as in a properly designed study — odds are good that something will turn up by chance, just as happened in the flawed Swedish study.

    If Carmack submits his work to a peer-refereed journal, I have a feeling this is the main issue that will come up.

  4. The question of whether Smith could have known Early Modern English grammar just seems fundamentally confused to me.

    You don't have to have heard EmodE tense use frequencies to imitate them. You do have to have heard the constructions themselves; but they're in the King James Bible. Imitate the King James Bible clumsily — or with deliberate exaggeration, to appeal to an uneducated audience — and you naturally overdo the archaisms.

    Why does anyone think there's any more to this story than this?

  5. Take time to read the actual data Carmack and Skousen are presenting. This includes many patterns that you can't get from the Bible, with statistical patterns that would be hard to fake even with today's research tools. Things that looked awkward to Joseph so that many of them were edited out of the Book of Mormon, though they are legitimate EModE grammar offering a strange fingerprint in the subtleties of the text. Things like people doing things with all their "mights" (not found in the KJV), the "pleading bar" of God (one of the first EModE possibilities that caught Skousen's attention), and many more puzzling things that are difficult to explain by faking. And note that those modern writers who have deliberately written in KJV style generally do not break away from modern patterns in things like command structure and the use of "did." These patterns are subtle things you don't fake. We aren't talking about just using "did" a lot–there's much more to it than that.

  6. I agree, James. I think it's rather like Joseph Smith's use of "And it came to pass." Clearly he got this phrase from the KJV. He liked it so much he wound up using it in the Book of Mormon with greater frequency than it's used in the Bible. Ditto for Carmack's vaunted did-syntax: it's in the KJV, and Smith liked it so much he over-used it, with a frequency that just happens to resemble that of the EModE in the archive.

    Also: suppose Carmack's results check out. It seems to me the next step would be to frame a hypothesis that can account for the results, then design a study — consonant with the research protocols of linguistics — to test that hypothesis.

    So far, there are two hypotheses on the table:

    (1) The "chance" hypothesis, which is basically what James outlines above.

    (2) The "Divinely Implanted Evidence of Authenticity" hypothesis, which proposes that God stuck some EModE in the Book of Mormon in order to convince a later, empirically-minded generation of the book's divine origins.

    It's easy to see how someone might test (1). But how would we (2)?

    That's the problem with these "Goddidit" theories: they're not testable. And this is why Carmack is not doing science, but a linguistic variant of creation science.

    And if apologists like Carmack are not really doing science, but are unjustifiably trying to claim the authority of science for their work, then they must answer not only for a methodological problem but for a moral one.

  7. Jeff, even if Carmack feels his work is not ready for actual peer-review and publication, I would expect at the very least that he would run it by some other competent LDS linguists to see if they can spot any problems with the methodology.

    Has he done so? I haven't seen evidence of it.

    If he hasn't done so, why not?

    Also, as I noted above, there's a big problem here even if Carmack's data checks out.

  8. One more thing, Jeff. I have no real interest in reading more of this stuff until I can read it in a respected linguistics journal, or at least read about what happens when Carmack presents it formally at a real linguistics conference.

    Reading this stuff as it's presented in friendly apologetics venues is kinda like watching the Harlem Globetrotters playing in a high school gym.

  9. If the issue is not just grammatical constructions that occur in the KJB less often, but also vocabulary that never appears in the KJB at all, then Orbiting Kolob's point about spoken dialect persistence does indeed become important. Someone aiming at a portentous archaic flavor for the text they're making up might well be influenced by the way old folks talked in his childhood, as well as by the King James Bible. Indeed, precisely because making up a fake dialect isn't trivial, someone aiming for an impressive archaic style might well come out with a mixture of Genesis and Grandma. It's easier to do grand old speech than to keep faithfully to just one precise kind of grand old speech.

    So yeah, I've just invented a whole second aspect to my faking theory. That's the thing: faking is a complex subject. People are clever. There are lots of ways to cheat.

    That's why I really think you guys are begging the question of cheating, by accepting far too readily that certain patterns are somehow too subtle to fake. You speak as if these assumptions are firmly established. I don't think they're firmly established at all. I think you just want to think they are. Tackle them seriously. What is your evidence? How do you know what could and could not be faked?

  10. As I've said before, I think both the critics and the apologists have (to borrow a phrase from George Bush) misunderestimated the Book of Mormon. It's not just the grammar and syntax that are 16th century. There's a good deal of theology that fits that time frame too. So, what are we to make of this? Joseph Smith certainly didn't cook this thing up in Pennsylvania and upstate New York. But neither does it appear to be a purely ancient document. It's quite an enigma.

  11. Lew..

    The theology is 16th Century, too? You mean like right in the middle of the Great Apostasy?

    I've found many common Book of Mormon phrases turning up in the Christian writing between 1800 and 1828. These phrases are not Bible phrases. Many Mormons would consider them unique to Mormonism, because about the only place you can find them now is in Mormon scripture…..

    plain and precious truths…probationary state…real intent…new and everlasting covenant…true and living church…infinite atonement…and on and on and on………………..

  12. For those here who present the feesibility in imitating a dead language simply by over using or exaggerating certain expressions, could they produce a 600 + page book proclaiming it of ancient origin and do so by accurately using Early Modern English structures all within about three months' time? Basically, I'm asking them to take up the Nibley challenge in light of these lastest Early Modern English connections.

    Please let me know if anyone feels confident enough to accomplish this task. They even have the Book of Mormon as a resource to guide them in this endeavor.

  13. Darren, why would God put Early Modern English expressions in a book written for a 19th/2Oth Century crowd? A book that was originally written in an ancient language long before English was even in existence?

    I've asked Mr. Carmack quite a few times to summarize what conclusion he draws from his research. I haven't heard back from him.

    What conclusion do YOU draw from the presence of EModE in the Book of Mormon?

  14. Besides Darren,

    Is the Book of Mormon (forgetting the KJV quotations) consistently Early Modern English all the way throughout? Or does it only have elements of it?

    If it is consistently Early Modern English, then I think their is cause for excitement. I don't know for what reason, but this would be interesting.

    However, if it only shows certain aspects of the older dialect, than I simply don't know what this even proves.

  15. Everything;

    I really don't know why God would choose any such language, especially not at the preliminary outset of these linguistic.

    Now, my main concern is that, if it's so easy to fake a dead language, can anyone here do it consistantly in a self-written book of over 600 pages. If you're so confident, you even with a written record of EME (the Book of Mormon), to accomplish this, please say so

  16. Everything;

    No one has said, "this proves" anything but there are those, and I think they are correct, in pointing out that these new studies make it more difficult to argue that Joseph Smith plagiarized the Book of Mormon.

    So, again, if you're confident you can meet the challenge I laid out, just say so.

  17. At least some parts of the Book of Mormon are indeed plagiarized. This is without a doubt.

    And some other parts of it are clearly influenced/inspired by the Bible (Ether 12 vs Hebrews 11).

    And quite a few significant phrases/themes that are NOT in the Bible also show up in pre-1828 Christian sources. Such as:

    …plain and precious truths…God ceasing to be God…infant baptism a "gross error," a "solemn mockery," and an "abomination"….real intent…infinite atonement….bless and sanctify….probationary state….invite and entice….water my pillow….scales of darkness….can't look at sin with least degree of allowance…forth out of obscurity…procrastinate day of repentance…

    These are found word-for-word as they appear in the Book of Mormon in other Christian writings before 1828.

    On top of that, we also have 19th century racist ideals about skin color being a sign of a curse showing up in the Book of Mormon (and this ISN'T in the Bible) and now the Church has officially disavowed this teaching, effectively disavowing a significant theme within the Book of Mormon itself.

  18. The Book of Mormon is not written in Early Modern English. Nobody has actually claimed that, either. It has a few stylistic features which, according to one guy's analysis, correlate better with written English from a couple of generations before the King James Bible than with the KJB itself.

    I'm not going to write a six-hundred-page book just to prove this point, but I'm quite confident I could produce some fairly consistent funny syntax if I tried. As a matter of fact I've been slowly writing a novel for a couple of years now, in which different narrators have particular styles, none of which is the way I usually write. If I had nothing much else to do, and if I wasn't aiming for great literature, I really reckon I could pump out a thick book with anachronistic style within a few months.

    For example, give me a couple of months to soak myself in Thomas Carlyle's remarkable style, and then a few more months to write, and I bet I could concoct a book in imperfect pseudo-Carlylish which would show all sorts of weird correlations with 19th century English. I seriously don't see the difficulty in this kind of thing. Anybody who has a gift for narration can pull it off.

    If you really think that nobody could do that, well, keep in mind: professional stage magicians make a living by doing things, without great difficulty, that most people really think nobody could possibly do. Inability to imagine doing something yourself is not very hard evidence that the thing is really impossible. You need more evidence than that, to say that Joseph Smith could not have made up the Book of Mormon.

  19. James;

    "I'm not going to write a six-hundred-page book just to prove this point,"

    Because that's a huge task to do, no? Just as you don't want to give up your life in order to write a 600 page book, Joseph Snith did just that. Or, rather, he forwent (is that a word?) his normal duties inordercto produce the Book of Mormon.

    It's interesting that you rely on your already aquired knowledge of writing characteristics and the need to imerse yourself in an author's writing style in order to reproduce that kind of work. What evidence do we have of Joseph Smith having any such knowledge?

  20. Darren, no one is claiming that the Book of Mormon is written in EModE, whether faked or not. Carmack's claim is only that the book contains certain structures that are also found in EModE, and mine is that these structures appeared incidentally to Joseph Smith's deliberate imitation of the English of the King James Bible.

    Nibley's challenge has been stupid from the moment he issued it, based as it is on so many absurd assumptions about the Book of Mormon's supposed complexity and literary quality.

    I could easily write a book of such poor quality, with so much plagiarism, verbosity, and repetition. So could any number of other writers.

  21. Darren, the Book of Mormon is very poorly written. It's verbose, clumsy, repetitive, and more than 20 percent plagiarized (and the plagiarized portions are by far the best in quality).

    Many people could write such a lousy book in fairly short order, especially about a topic in which they were already interested (and contrary to your assertion that he went into his writing blind, Joseph Smith did indeed know a lot about things like the various theories of Native American origins and 19th-century theological disputes).

    When people decline to accept Nibley's challenge it's not because Nibley was right, but because they have far better things to do with their lives. So stop crowing already.

  22. Orbit;

    Do note that I did not say the Book of Mormon was writeen entirely in Early Middle English. I was only pointing out that imitating a dead language is not nearly as easy as it has been portrayed to be by some here (not by a long shot). Also, if doing it is stupid and a waste of tine of sorts then, arguably. Joseph Smith wasted his time in producing the Book of Mormon. You really want to go there with your arguments?

    As of today, 185 years after its first publication, the Book of Mormon stands as a unique publication, nobody has pruduced its equal. Hardly a waste of time to prove that fact wrong. These new studies on Early Modern English and the Book of Mormon strengthens its uniqueness in the literary world. How did Joseph Smith accomplish this?

  23. "
    I could easily write a book of such poor quality, with so much plagiarism, verbosity, and repetition. So could any number of other writers."

    Keep on point. Could you do it consistantly using Early Modern English?

  24. So far two people here have risen to the challenge and clain they can reproduce an equivalent to the Book of Mormon. The first person, James Anglin, claims, if by implication, he could do so after researching archaistic styles unique to the Book of Mormon. That's something Joseph Smith never did yet wrote, distinct to his own personal writings, in a language dead by his time. The second person, Orbiting Kolob, claims he could easily do it, but yawns at the opportunity to make history and accomplish the task because, apprently, such an endeavor would be a waste of his time.

  25. I find the argument that the Book of Mormon is so unique and amazing that it is not easy explained to be a really poor argument.

    As an artist/educator, I have often pondered over the words of Spencer Kimball who said that some day we'll have another Beethoven, Michelangelo, or Shakespeare rise up among the Saints. A lot of Mormon artists have desired to fulfill his words. But Beethoven, Michelangelo, and Shakespeare were not the legends they are today in their own time. Today, these men are more than they ever were, and in reality, more than they really are.

    A certain set of events have enshrined them in their high position today. Yes, their quality work had something to do with it. But Shakespeare has some real clunkers in his oeuvre. He isn't all Hamlet, you know.

    There will never be another Shakespeare. Because even Shakespeare of the 1600's isn't as marvelous and legendary as Shakespeare of the 21st Century.

    The Book of Mormon is what members think it is because of decades of enshrining it within the culture. Sure, it may have some qualities that have captured our attention, but decades of talking about it have created a myth around the book that, while perfectly valid for those who buy into it, simply does nothing to prove its authenticity.

    There have been other fraudulent works of literature that have masqueraded as ancient literature that have captured the attention of many people. Many highly placed people, I might add.

    Interestingly, occultic traditions often spring off of these fraudulent works. And they persist even after the book is determined to be a fraud.

    Learn about the Corpus Hermeticum and the big splash it made, and continued to make, even into Renaissance Europe among the most educated elite.

    Those who buy into the legend around the Book of Mormon cannot see the book in any context outside of that legend.

    With many decades of reverence paid to that book between today and 1829, it is ludicrous for any believing Mormon to think he/she could form any sort of objective opinion about the quality or significance of it.Just like we can never know Shakespeare like Shakespeare knew Shakespeare every day when he looked into his own mirror before he got down to work on such renowned masterpieces as….Titus Andronicus????? or, uh…..Pericles, Prince of Tyre????

  26. Writes Darren:

    Orbiting Kolob claims he could easily [meet Nibley's challenge], but yawns at the opportunity to make history and accomplish the task because, apparently, such an endeavor would be a waste of his time.

    This might come as a surprise to you, but most of the non-Mormon world, to the extent it thinks of Joseph Smith at all, does not think very highly of him, nor of the history he made.

    We certainly don't think of him as on par with Jesus or Buddha, but rather as an early version of L. Ron Hubbard.

    Also, if [meeting Nibley's challenge] is stupid and a waste of time of sorts then, arguably, Joseph Smith wasted his time in producing the Book of Mormon. You really want to go there with your arguments?

    This statement is not just "arguable," it's silly. It assumes that just because one person, at one point in history, finds something a waste of time means that someone else, in completely different circumstances, will also find it a waste of time.

    That's just silly.

    Example 1: it wasn't a waste of time for Tycho Brahe to make all those precise measurements of planetary positions, but it sure would be a waste of time for you or me to do it today.

    Example 2: It wasn't a waste of time for a man like Joseph Smith, with so few legitimate opportunities to rise to fame, to concoct a faux scripture that, however poorly written, could trick some of the more gullible of his contemporaries into believing him to be a prophet of God. But that doesn't mean it wouldn't be a waste of time for someone like me, fortunate enough to have been born into much better circumstances, to try a similar trick.

    L. Ron Hubbard tried it, and look at the legacy he left behind.

  27. Joseph Smith did NOT have to research any archaic styles to write the Book of Mormon. All he had to do was know the King James Bible, but fail to reproduce its style perfectly.

    My claim is that if you let me get as familiar with some other style as Smith was with the KJB, then I would be able to produce a document which was similarly like my target style, but not perfectly like it. The result would be a document with similarly 'subtle' patterns of language, due to the combination of imitation and imperfection.

    My Carlyle imitation would seem like Carlyle at first glance, except a bit overdone. On close inspection it would likely show weird mixtures of Abraham Lincoln, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the King James Bible and my grandfather. Since this mix would represent my own subconscious associations with Carlyle's style, it would be a peculiar dialect that no-one else could exactly reproduce if they tried.

    But plenty of other people would be able to do something similar of their own. There is nothing miraculous about the style of the Book of Mormon. On the contrary, even with all its 'subtle' patterns, it is very much what I would expect from a fraud by Joseph Smith.

  28. A warning to those reading here. Serious study of the 2009 Yale edition and Skousen's research needs to be done by many of these commenters before they weigh in on these matters. They have betrayed their own lack of engagement with the data and arguments in their comments.

  29. Isn't that just a runaround?

    I'm not an expert in English historical linguistics or in the Book of Mormon. My questions and my arguments are based on common sense and general knowledge.

    Why can't you answer me in kind?

    If Skousen or anyone else has made a substantial point, why can't it be summarized? If it's too incoherent for anyone to explain it briefly, then I'm afraid I wouldn't call it a substantial point.

    I teach quantum mechanics for a living. It's a difficult subject. I still usually manage to give the gist of its major ideas, and indicate in lay person's terms why we believe in them. Sometimes people do ask me things that I can't explain in a few sentences. When this happens, I don't blame them. I apologize for not understanding my subject as well as I should.

  30. Another warning to those reading here. Serious scholars do not limit their publications to friendly apologetics venues like the Interpreter.

    Serious scholars actively invite the most capable experts in their field, including secular experts, to scrutinize their work.

    Beware those who trade on their academic authority without truly earning it.

  31. A warning to those reading here. Serious study of the 2009 Yale edition and Skousen's research needs to be done by many of these commenters before they weigh in on these matters. They have betrayed their own lack of engagement with the data and arguments in their comments.

    Nonsense. Joseph Smith himself edited the 1837 edition of the Book of Mormon. Why is Skousen's edition of the 1830 version more authoritative?

  32. Hi James,

    The concept about Early Modern English and the Book of Mormon was presented clearly and succinctly. You happened to disagree with the concept thus requiring more explanation. Is an electron (or photon) a particle or a wave? The answer can be given briefly and succinctly until I start prying further thus requiring more explanations.


  33. Sadly, Jacque has just demonstrated what I cautioned against, as have others who frequently comment here, time and time again. I would simply suggest that interested parties spend time reading the relevant literature before commenting on things they haven't taken the time to study and know. For those who wish to limit their research to works not published by LDS-affiliated organizations, why not examine the 2009 Yale edition. After all, it's published by a reputable, independent university press. Then compare it with the vast textual record that is available free of charge to anyone with internet access.

  34. Actually, Champ, Jacques has raised some very interesting questions.

    To ask why believers should trust the Yale edition rather than one vetted by Joseph Smith himself is implicitly to ask why believers should suddenly transfer their allegiance from subjective revelation to objective, secular-style scholarship.

    I have a similar question. If, as you now insist, the Yale edition is necessary for anyone who seeks a careful reading of the Book of Mormon, and since the Church encourages everyone to read the book carefully, then will the Church adopt the Yale edition as the official version (the one it hands out to everyone)?

    Or will the Church continue to condemn the vast majority of readers to what you consider to be a fatally inferior edition?

    In part, of course, these are questions about the revelatory authority of the Church and the secular authority of objective scholarship — that is to say, questions important enough not to be dismissed as cavalierly as you've done here.

  35. @Steve

    My complaint is with champatsch's demand that everyone 'engage the data' by reading Skousen, before posting about how supposedly subtle language patterns in the Book of Mormon actually sound consistent with fraud, through the simple process of imperfect imitation.

    The call to 'engage the data' may sound only reasonable, but in fact it presumes way too much. There is nothing so foolish that someone, somewhere cannot produce hundreds of pages of careful analysis about it. A pretty cursory glance around the internet will turn up vast quantities of 'data' on all kinds of wacko subjects, all based on worthless assumptions.

    Even if the Book of Mormon really is everything that Mormons believe it is, intelligent Mormons like the ones who post here must surely recognize that the basic story can only sound a bit bizarre to an outsider. A guy in the 1830s saw words in his hat, which miraculously translated ancient plates, which then disappeared. I can accept that intelligent people believe that, but I hope they can understand why my initial reaction is bound to be, Uh huh.

    The Book of Mormon is starting from a dubious position. Then there's a bunch of analysis published only in friendly journals, which claims to establish a point whose meaning is unclear even if it is true: we've got 1830's New England, and ancient Americas somewhere, but now Early Modern English is also in the mix? Why?

    I'm sorry, but this is still just a long way from being 'data' that anyone has to 'engage'. It's still at the cocktail party banter stage of, "I see. Interesting idea. But what about this?" There's a long way to go before the plausibility level gets high enough to be worth any time in serious reading.

    The response to simple suggestions about imperfect imitation as a source of otherwise 'subtle' language patterns seems a bit evasive so far. How about engaging with that suggestion a bit more? That only takes common sense and general knowledge; there's no need to go and read anyone's papers.

  36. Jacque wrote: "Why is Skousen's edition of the 1830 version more authoritative?" That question shows a lack of engagement with the scholarship. Others have shown their lack of engagement with the scholarship as well, over and over. As a result, they have written misleading things, over and over. Skousen's work is NOT an edition of the 1830 version.

  37. Here I address Orbiting’s recent musings, although I believe that he knows the answer to the issue he references. Makes me wonder what his game is, to use his own phrase. If one wants to engage in scholarly study of the BofM (such as English linguistics), then one certainly consults the Yale edition. That is the unexpurgated text that is very close to the revealed text (the dictation). Church leadership has designated the 1981 edition (2013 printing) as the canonical text. For church solidarity, one uses that in almost all church-related activities. Differences between the two barely impact doctrine, but the differences are numerous and important if one is studying BofM language. For instance, if one wants to make KJB italics arguments, one had better consult the Yale edition.

    Skousen has discussed 1837 edits throughout his 4,000+ page ATV, freely available to anyone interested. He has recent articles that discuss many textual points relevant to some of Smith's 1837 edits, articles that are easily accessed by anyone. Some like to make various trinitarian and racism arguments about them, but these arguments are not reliable because they disingenuously overlook unedited passages in order to make those points. Smith was inconsistent and incomplete in his 1837 editing, most of which is grammatical in nature–e.g. changing which to who.

  38. How about this, champatsch. I'll admit that I'm as woefully ignorant as you like, and that I am not (yet at least) willing to work very hard to investigate the Book of Mormon. So you can stop making posts that just accuse me of ignorance and unseriousness, and save a few gazillion electrons.

    You yourself have evidently done a lot of serious, thoughtful reading of Skousen and the Yale edition of the Book of Mormon. You must have noted the clear, cogent arguments. Can you not be so kind as to pass this understanding along? Help a brother out? On just one little point?

    Just what is it about the Book of Mormon's language that could not result naturally from imperfect imitation?

    If Skousen's work is worth anything, then he will surely have provided a solid and succinct answer to that question, and a thoughtful reader like you must have grasped his point easily. So you could explain it briefly to someone like me.


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