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The Book of Mormon is a conundrum.

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53 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

While I clearly agree with you, I'd note that technically what you've established is it's not a written pseudo-archaic text. I'm not sure you've yet established it wasn't a pseudo-archaic dictation. That's significant because of the difference, especially in the 19th century, between spoken language and written language. And also because Joseph didn't write the Book of Mormon but dictated it to scribes. So if it was fraudulently or unconsciously dictated we'd expect that language to vary from consciously written texts.

The solution to this is to compare not only printed corpuses but spoken corpuses from early 19th century New England.

I'd be happy to look at a corpus of early 19c spoken English of New England. Why don't you direct me to one. It's not going to show anything surprising, however, since the odds of it having just half the archaic features of the dictation are extremely low. The verb complementation pattern won't be there, the personal relative pronoun pattern won't be there, the past tense pattern won't be there, the conditional shall usage won't be there, the conjunctive save usage won't be there, etc. No matter how much one might wish it to be otherwise, nothing but early modern competence works to explain the large majority of the text. There are just too many archaic features in it.

The Book of Mormon is like a written archaic text, not like an oral modern–archaic blend. And it's more British than American, I'd say.

(1 Nephi 1:17)
Wherefore after that I have abridged the record of my father, then will I make an account of mine own life. [strongly characteristic of the 16c]

(1 Nephi 11:7)
And after that ye shall have witnessed him, ye shall bear record that it is the Son of God. [the kind of syntax Thomas More used in the early 1530s]

Once it's shown definitively that the general spoken language of the early 19c doesn't explain the language of the Book of Mormon, then I suspect the next comparison to be asked for will be with an oral pseudo-biblical text of the early 19c. Do we know of such a text? Maybe you can point me to one. If there isn't one, then that can be conveniently appealed to as a possible, but uncorroborated explanation.

I've looked at The Sorry Tale, an early 20c dictated text, and it does have a number of interesting features, but it has some basic, unattested things like "they went them" (35×; presumably meant to be an archaic reflexive) and the three highest frequency words are not in biblical or early modern order, which is the, and, of. (Late modern order is the, of, and.) Also to is less frequent than unto. Worth overused and and unto.

The unto percentage of to and unto is 38% in the King James Bible and 36% in the Book of Mormon. Later pseudo-biblical texts are low: only 7% in The American Revolution and 17% in The Late War.

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46 minutes ago, hope_for_things said:

My comment about it being a fridge theory is independent of the veracity of the actual work you've done.  It could be completely 100% accurate and still be a fridge theory if the majority of Mormon scholars don't find it compelling.  

I personally think there are other possible explanations for the observations that you're making about why and how these forms of language are appearing in the BoM, not the least of which are some of the other examples of Joseph attempting to mimic biblical sounding language in the early revelations texts.  However, these patterns of Joseph's language changed over time as Joseph's education level and experience also changed.  

Part of my problem with this kind of study is that I think it leans too heavily on a basic assumption that this kind of language is not found anywhere in the 19th century and that it couldn't possibly have been spoken by Joseph the person, so it therefore must have been given to Joseph by someone else, either through a supernatural process or by someone much smarter than Joseph.  While all the historical evidence seems clear to me that Joseph is the one who dictated the book. 

In some ways your argument for a EmodE author actually runs counter to the orthodox Mormon narrative because it posits that Joseph didn't dictate the book himself, but must have had some outside helper.  If looked at from this perspective I'm the one arguing against the idea that an additional person helped Joseph to produce the book and you're the one arguing for an additional influencer that wasn't one of the traditional authors in the text itself.  I find that an interesting irony.  

Almost all LDS scholars are only offering uninformed opinions on this matter because they haven't studied the language systematically and holistically. They have nothing to say that is accurate.

There are a few dozen features in the text that are record-setting or near record-setting in their archaic usage and patterns for the year 1829.

I'm not arguing for an Early Modern English author. If you only accept a non-revelatory origin, then we're approaching this differently.

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1 hour ago, champatsch said:

I have some articles on the subject which are easy to access, and there are two essays in Skousen, The Nature of the Original Language, 2018.

Fifteen pseudo-biblical texts tell us what was typical for someone trying to sound biblical. The textual record gives us broad trends in usage, showing how the written and spoken language was changing. And there are several important syntactic features in the text which do not coincide with Joseph's personal modes of expression, judging from personal writings and from the general textual record.

In the case just mentioned, we know that for the pseudo-biblical authors the usage comes from trying to be biblical, since it was in obsolescence in the late 18c and early 19c. Yet we can see that the Book of Mormon goes way beyond their usage. And as stated, this is true in quite a few different syntactic and grammatical cases in the 1829 dictation language.

So we can take a leap of faith and believe that all the archaic, non-biblical lexical, grammatical, and syntactic features of the text were somehow known to Joseph and producible by him, or we can go with the hard evidence provided by the textual record.

Could you link to your articles? 

So, you think it is a leap of faith to not reach your conclusions?  That seems to be a huge stretch when there is a big hole in your EmodE proposition, in that we don't have any recording of JS's spoken dialect at the time in upstate New York.  The EmodE could be simply relics from Elizabethan English that was spoken in that area.  Further, why would God add so many layers between his supposed word and his children that are supposed to have the word and understand the word?  It's hard to believe that God didn't just give his words to JS like he did in the Book of Moses and the D&C.  It's hard enough for one to believe that God used plates that could not be seen and a seer stone that never worked in treasure hunts.  Now, you want to propose an additional layer of a pre-translation into some archaic language in order to avoid the inevitable inspired fiction model from becoming the model.  Given this, it sure seems that yours is where a lot of faith is required.

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25 minutes ago, champatsch said:

I'm not arguing for an Early Modern English author. If you only accept a non-revelatory origin, then we're approaching this differently.

Can you help me understand how a revelatory origin doesn’t also introduce an additional author into the equation?  Do you posit that God translated an ancient text first into EmodE and then into 19th century English?  Or do you propose that some other humans who spoke EModE were involved in some form of intermediary translation effort?  Or perhaps some combination of those possibilities? 

All of the above these theories run counter to the traditional narrative and complicate things significantly and require some additional theological explanations for what the purpose of such complications might be.  This is what I find ironic, that your position as an apologist is arguing for complicating the church’s traditional narrative while I’m actually more aligned with the traditional narrative in this case.  

Edited by hope_for_things

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52 minutes ago, hope_for_things said:

Can you help me understand how a revelatory origin doesn’t also introduce an additional author into the equation?  Do you posit that God translated an ancient text first into EmodE and then into 19th century English?  Or do you propose that some other humans who spoke EModE were involved in some form of intermediary translation effort?  Or perhaps some combination of those possibilities? 

All of the above these theories run counter to the traditional narrative and complicate things significantly and require some additional theological explanations for what the purpose of such complications might be.  This is what I find ironic, that your position as an apologist is arguing for complicating the church’s traditional narrative while I’m actually more aligned with the traditional narrative in this case.  

The original narrative is probably that the Book of Mormon was a revelation of words. What the dictation witnesses said works best with that, as also Joseph Smith's own statement in 1840 that he wasn't the author, that God was. Then, because of bad grammar, the narrative morphed into a hybrid: a revelation of words (names) and a revelation of ideas. Except no one ever worked through the details and the problems with that view. And no one ever actually studied the language and determined that a lot of the bad grammar would not have been Joseph's. Even now, leading proponents of the B. H. Roberts view haven't studied the bad grammar carefully, or the rest of the grammar, or the lexical usage, or the syntactic usage. It's a big problem that very few seem to care about. In any event, I'm actually advocating what is probably the earliest narrative.

What are you advocating? Joseph Smith as fictional author?

Edited by champatsch
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1 hour ago, Exiled said:

So, you think it is a leap of faith to not reach your conclusions?  That seems to be a huge stretch when there is a big hole in your EmodE proposition, in that we don't have any recording of JS's spoken dialect at the time in upstate New York.  The EmodE could be simply relics from Elizabethan English that was spoken in that area.  Further, why would God add so many layers between his supposed word and his children that are supposed to have the word and understand the word?  It's hard to believe that God didn't just give his words to JS like he did in the Book of Moses and the D&C.  It's hard enough for one to believe that God used plates that could not be seen and a seer stone that never worked in treasure hunts.  Now, you want to propose an additional layer of a pre-translation into some archaic language in order to avoid the inevitable inspired fiction model from becoming the model.  Given this, it sure seems that yours is where a lot of faith is required.

There isn't a big hole since English had already shifted in significant ways away from many Book of Mormon patterns 100 years before Joseph Smith was born.

I'm not interested in exploring why questions with you; they are much weaker evidence than what questions.

Doctrine and Covenants language was probably in very large part the result of a revelation of words as well. Anyway, one can't use that language to say anything about Book of Mormon authorship since we don't know for sure that it represents Joseph's own language.

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8 minutes ago, champatsch said:

The original narrative is probably that the Book of Mormon was a revelation of words. What the dictation witnesses said works best with that, as also Joseph Smith's own statement in 1840 that he wasn't the author, that God was. Then, because of bad grammar, the narrative morphed into a hybrid: a revelation of words (names) and a revelation of ideas. Except no one ever worked through the details and the problems with that view. And no one ever actually studied the language and determined that a lot of the bad grammar would not have been Joseph's. Even now, leading proponents of the B. H. Roberts view haven't studied the bad grammar carefully, or the rest of the grammar, or the lexical usage or the syntactic usage. It's a big problem that very few seem to care about. In any even, I'm actually advocating what is probably the earliest narrative.

What are you advocating? Joseph Smith as fictional author?

I don't think it’s that simple as you’d have to create a theological justification to support the idea of God inserting EmodE into the narrative.  

Joseph Smith was the real author, not a fictional one.  

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2 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

While all the historical evidence seems clear to me that Joseph is the one who dictated the book. 

Agreed. I don't know of anyone who argues that Joseph did not dictate it. The real question is what the source is. We have two competing ideas that both seem outlandish. One, is that God is the source. The other idea is that the source is Joseph's imagination. So let me offer a much less outlandish idea. The source is somebody other than Joseph Smith who had the requisite knowledge, education, and time to compose it. Doesn't that seem like the most likely option?

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34 minutes ago, hope_for_things said:

This is what I find ironic, that your position as an apologist is arguing for complicating the church’s traditional narrative while I’m actually more aligned with the traditional narrative in this case.

That's probably because the complicated linguistic analysis from Skousen and Carmack poses a problem for your worldview. The linguistic data overwhelmingly argues that Joseph wasn't responsible for the text, while the historical data overwhelmingly argues that he dictated it in the space of three short months, with probably only about 60 actual working days available for translation. (See today's BMC article on this, which summarizes John W. Welch's recent BYU Studies article). And there is absolutely zero historical evidence that the text was produced by some source other than Joseph Smith's dictation.

A divinely prepared English translation (albeit with unexpected grammar, syntax, and lexical items) can easily account for these otherwise competing sets of data. Skeptics, however, have to come up with highly speculative and unsupportable theories to explain away either the historical or linguistic data. In my view, the linguistic data, although certainly too complicated for most people to even understand, provides one of the most powerful and unexpected evidences of the Restoration. I don't find it surprising at all that you prefer the traditional (and it should be noted, non-official and non-doctrinal) assumptions about the nature of the translation. The real irony is that those who supposedly favor a rigorous, scientific approach to truth conveniently sweep the hard linguistic data under the rug.

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15 minutes ago, JarMan said:

Agreed. I don't know of anyone who argues that Joseph did not dictate it. The real question is what the source is. We have two competing ideas that both seem outlandish. One, is that God is the source. The other idea is that the source is Joseph's imagination. So let me offer a much less outlandish idea. The source is somebody other than Joseph Smith who had the requisite knowledge, education, and time to compose it. Doesn't that seem like the most likely option?

I can’t think of any authors or artists or any people who produce works of all kinds that we don’t give the credit to those individuals as being the “source” of the products they produce.  Seems pretty straight forward if you think about it.  Joseph is the source.  

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14 hours ago, Rivers said:

 I believe it’s inspired but saying it’s historical is still a leap for me.  A strange book indeed.  

 

 

I can say that its historical is that I believe the events actually happened and the people actually existed.  However proving that based on current knowledge is impossible to do.  So I say its historical but not historically proven.   Lots of things have happened in history since the dawn of time but proving those things by evidence is not possible.  Evidence even if it is recorded can fade away over time.  Most of the things that have happened to me in my life are not recorded and I have no evidence to prove those events to anyone.  That does not mean the events did not happen.

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48 minutes ago, hope_for_things said:

I can’t think of any authors or artists or any people who produce works of all kinds that we don’t give the credit to those individuals as being the “source” of the products they produce.  Seems pretty straight forward if you think about it.  Joseph is the source.  

Surely you can see that Joseph could dictate something he didn't create. Given that, which is more likely: that the Book of Mormon was created by Joseph or by somebody with more talent, education and time?

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50 minutes ago, Ryan Dahle said:

That's probably because the complicated linguistic analysis from Skousen and Carmack poses a problem for your worldview. The linguistic data overwhelmingly argues that Joseph wasn't responsible for the text, while the historical data overwhelmingly argues that he dictated it in the space of three short months, with probably only about 60 actual working days available for translation. (See today's BMC article on this, which summarizes John W. Welch's recent BYU Studies article). And there is absolutely zero historical evidence that the text was produced by some source other than Joseph Smith's dictation.

A divinely prepared English translation (albeit with unexpected grammar, syntax, and lexical items) can easily account for these otherwise competing sets of data. Skeptics, however, have to come up with highly speculative and unsupportable theories to explain away either the historical or linguistic data. In my view, the linguistic data, although certainly too complicated for most people to even understand, provides one of the most powerful and unexpected evidences of the Restoration. I don't find it surprising at all that you prefer the traditional (and it should be noted, non-official and non-doctrinal) assumptions about the nature of the translation. The real irony is that those who supposedly favor a rigorous, scientific approach to truth conveniently sweep the hard linguistic data under the rug.

I was just pointing out that this theory creates a theological problem for the traditional narrative and that I think those promoting the theory need to address this if they hope to garner more support for a fridge theory.  

As I mentioned earlier I don’t think the linguistic data proves Joseph wasn’t the author.  That’s the simplest explanation supported by historical data and the wholistic picture including textual evidence.  The burden to prove otherwise is squarely on the shoulders of those promulgating supernatural explanations.  

Do you have any proposals for how to fix the theological implications of another author being introduced or of a God that deliberately inserted both EModE linguistic  elements and 19th century ones?  What would possibly be the purpose for a God of order to introduce such seemingly unnecessary complexity and how does this correlate with the traditional Mormon narrative.  

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5 minutes ago, JarMan said:

Surely you can see that Joseph could dictate something he didn't create. Given that, which is more likely: that the Book of Mormon was created by Joseph or by somebody with more talent, education and time?

I’ve never been persuaded by the Spaulding theory or theories of different authors.  I acknowledge that it theoretically possible, but I haven’t seen compelling evidence to support that idea.  

I think Joseph’s creativity and skills are frequently underestimated and downplayed by apologists.  I see him as being an earnest learner with a very creative mind and I think there is much evidence to support this throughout his career as leader of the Mormon movement.  

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25 minutes ago, hope_for_things said:

I’ve never been persuaded by the Spaulding theory or theories of different authors.  I acknowledge that it theoretically possible, but I haven’t seen compelling evidence to support that idea.

I'm not asking if any of the proposed authors is more likely than Joseph. I'm asking you to consider the entire universe of people that existed prior to or contemporaneously with Joseph. This includes a lot of very smart people who had a lot of time. This is a hypothetical question so the presence or lack of evidence for any single person is irrelevant to the question for now. So in a choice between Joseph and the universe, which is more likely?

32 minutes ago, hope_for_things said:

I think Joseph’s creativity and skills are frequently underestimated and downplayed by apologists.  I see him as being an earnest learner with a very creative mind and I think there is much evidence to support this throughout his career as leader of the Mormon movement.  

Joseph was a genius in his own way. So was Einstein. Neither was the right kind of genius to have produced the Book of Mormon. I see the Book of Mormon as no less than a literary masterpiece. Without all of the baggage I think the world would recognize it as such, as well. Maybe one day they will.

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1 hour ago, Ryan Dahle said:

And there is absolutely zero historical evidence that the text was produced by some source other than Joseph Smith's dictation.

What kind of historical evidence would you expect if somebody else had created it? I know you believe in the traditional model, but put that aside for a moment and pretend there is a naturalistic explanation. What clues would you look for (particularly textual clues) to determine it's source?

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5 minutes ago, JarMan said:

I'm not asking if any of the proposed authors is more likely than Joseph. I'm asking you to consider the entire universe of people that existed prior to or contemporaneously with Joseph. This includes a lot of very smart people who had a lot of time. This is a hypothetical question so the presence or lack of evidence for any single person is irrelevant to the question for now. So in a choice between Joseph and the universe, which is more likely?

Joseph was a genius in his own way. So was Einstein. Neither was the right kind of genius to have produced the Book of Mormon. I see the Book of Mormon as no less than a literary masterpiece. Without all of the baggage I think the world would recognize it as such, as well. Maybe one day they will.

I wonder why the famous author Mark Twain didn't think so? I'm asking sincerely why you think it is a literary masterpiece, if it's been corrected over 4,000 times. I know more for grammar issues. But would you mind explaining more? I've not been able to get through the whole book because it's so repetitious. But would love if you could point to some scripture in it that could get me excited to read it again. Have you read the version that is in chapters? I have a copy of it and need to try and read it since the chapter verson would probably be easier for me to read.

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8 hours ago, Glenn101 said:

How many LDS scholars have expressed an opinion that it is a fringe theory? Especially any other LDS linguists?  I have not heard of any that do not accept it as a fact that there is EmodE in the Book of Mormon.  There are some LDS scholars that are a bit chary of the conclusions that Stanford Carmack has expressed, believing that the EmodE to be possibly a frozen artifact in some part of Joseph's environment. Stanford has dutifully researched just about every avenue for that theory and has yet to find any evidence for EmodE in Joseph's secular writings.

Glenn

Stanford's linguistic descriptions are not the issue. I doubt there is any fault in them. The problem with the statement that there is no Early Modern English in Joseph's secular language is first that there is a clear difference  between quotidian speech and any attempt to produce pseudo-KJV language. That means that not finding it in his secular writings is quite beside the point. We wouldn't expect the same quantity. The second issue is that there are other pseudo-KJV writings, and Carmack's discussion of those isn't that they don't have Early Modern English, but that Joseph's writings have a larger percentage. We then have the issue that the Plot of Zion has those features as part of language reflecting divinity, and Carmack therefore assumes that it is revelation because if he didn't, then there would be a document that wasn't revelation which had those features--which would invalidate the study. To me, that is a conclusion predicated on the predetermined solution rather than only upon the data.

Finally, we have the problem of dating. The point of the Early Modern English was that Joseph couldn't create it. That was suggested because most of it faded from published writings prior to the early 1800's. Except there is some that is later, but still in Joseph's writings, and one that they don't find until after Joseph. That tells me that the data do not support the conclusion. Of course, Carmack (if I remember correctly) suggests that God knows the future and could use a future form. Of course, that is correct, but again derived from defending a conclusion and not the whole of the dataset.

Please understand that Carmack vehemently disagrees with me, so I am offering my take on the situation. His will be very different.

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8 hours ago, champatsch said:

If we combine the usage of 15 pseudo-biblical texts, we don't come close to getting what we have in the Book of Mormon in this regard, which even goes beyond the King James Bible in a couple of instances ("since that S" and "to that S") and in terms of conditional shall/should usage and "because that . . . and that".

This is one case in one syntactic domain out of many. The totality of the evidence indicates that the Book of Mormon is not a pseudo-archaic text, which of course means that Joseph Smith wasn't (couldn't have been) the author or the English-language translator of the text. That should be the starting point for anyone's fanciful surmisings.

I would disagree with this conclusion. The data indicate that this is not unique. Therefore, it is a difference in quantity, not absolute presence. So we could say that Joseph was more heavily pseudo-archaic, but concluding that what he produced isn't pseudo-archaic is beyond the evidence. There is a difference in Joseph's volume of pseudo-archaic elements, but not an absolute absence in the other texts. 

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4 hours ago, champatsch said:

Then, because of bad grammar, the narrative morphed into a hybrid: a revelation of words (names) and a revelation of ideas.

I really don't think that was the cause, but the historical development of ideas about translation isn't the issue here.

Quote

Except no one ever worked through the details and the problems with that view. And no one ever actually studied the language and determined that a lot of the bad grammar would not have been Joseph's. Even now, leading proponents of the B. H. Roberts view haven't studied the bad grammar carefully, or the rest of the grammar, or the lexical usage, or the syntactic usage. It's a big problem that very few seem to care about. In any event, I'm actually advocating what is probably the earliest narrative.

I agree that you and Skousen have done the work on the description of the grammar. I don't see any issue with the descriptive work. That someone hasn't studied the grammar indicates that you know the grammar better than they, but the issue isn't grammar. The issue is what that grammar means for the translation process. What you are suggesting is that it is necessarily meaningful beyond the description.

So, first to "bad grammar." As a linguist, you are aware that grammar changes, and the correctness of grammar changes. What is considered correct is a statistical collective at any given time. Earlier forms, as you note, were in a more flexible period before correctness was decided. That doesn't mean, however, that what was once correct, or an option of correctness, becomes "bad" with the changing of time. Thus, regardless of when the Early Modern English forms were correct, they were not correct to the reception audience of the Book of Mormon. Regardless of how you believe the language arrived to Joseph's lips, it was not correct for the literate standard of the day, and was (according to your statistics) even more "wrong" that other pseudo-archaic texts. Indicating that it was correct earlier does not say it was correct when it was delivered.

That means that we still have the problem of some kind of divine creation of language that was incorrect for received literary forms on the day it was dictated. I suppose one might suggest that it was done to create an eventual proof of the text, but it seems a stretch, given that the proof was unavailable for close to 180 years.

As I have noted before, the problem is not the description of the grammar, but the insistence that there is an overarching meaning that seems beyond the data.

 

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1 hour ago, JarMan said:

I'm not asking if any of the proposed authors is more likely than Joseph. I'm asking you to consider the entire universe of people that existed prior to or contemporaneously with Joseph. This includes a lot of very smart people who had a lot of time. This is a hypothetical question so the presence or lack of evidence for any single person is irrelevant to the question for now. So in a choice between Joseph and the universe, which is more likely?

I don’t think the BoM is a work of genius.  It was influential in my religious upbringing, for sure, but how does it compare to the great literature of history, I’m probably not the right person to answer that question as I don’t have a comparative literature background and I don’t consider this an area of expertise.  As for authorship I’m not sure i understand your thought experiment, i think Joseph was the author.

1 hour ago, JarMan said:

Joseph was a genius in his own way. So was Einstein. Neither was the right kind of genius to have produced the Book of Mormon. I see the Book of Mormon as no less than a literary masterpiece. Without all of the baggage I think the world would recognize it as such, as well. Maybe one day they will.

I wouldn’t compare Joseph to Einstein and I’m not sure I think of the BoM as great literature, although it is clearly creative and  audacious and has been important to a significant number of people in a very influential religious movement.  I think it’s an enigma.  

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8 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

  Doesn't the system save a draft?

Only when I don't want it to, it seems.

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3 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

I was just pointing out that this theory creates a theological problem for the traditional narrative and that I think those promoting the theory need to address this if they hope to garner more support for a fridge theory.

You keep calling it a "fridge" theory. I'm starting to think that even you think it is pretty cool. 😜

 

3 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

As I mentioned earlier I don’t think the linguistic data proves Joseph wasn’t the author.  That’s the simplest explanation supported by historical data and the wholistic picture including textual evidence.  The burden to prove otherwise is squarely on the shoulders of those promulgating supernatural explanations.

I don't think the linguistic data "proves" Joseph wasn't the author either. I just think that is, by far, the best explanation of the data.

I actually find this whole situation rather ironic, but apparently for different reasons than you. Those who disbelieve in the text's historicity often appeal to the alleged anachronisms from the ancient world to justify their disbelief (while usually ignoring the many connections the text has to the ancient world that would be extremely difficult to guess or know in a 19th century environment). And then they turn around and explain away the linguistic anachronisms (pervasive EModE in the text) by appealing to an absence of evidence argument. This argument usually posits that the variety of EModE features in the Book of Mormon were present in Joseph's environment even though they are sparse or completely absent from the entire textual record. 

Of course those who believe in the Book of Mormon's historicity also appeal to absence of evidence arguments when it comes to some alleged anachronisms. But here is the catch: one set of data (modern linguistic data) has hundreds of thousands of texts to work with and literally millions of scanned pages, as well as quite a bit of data directly from Joseph's environment, while the ancient inscriptions that might potentially verify a Book of Mormon character or toponym (archaeological data from the ancient world) are comparatively insignificant. 

In other words, one area of research (modern linguistic research) has far more ability to make negative claims (ruling out possibilities based on an absence of evidence) than the other (epigraphic research in ancient America). 

Standard, secular assumptions about lexical usage and syntax are exactly what Carmack has represented in his papers. Individuals simply don't pervasively and consistently use a variety of lexical, syntactic, and grammatical features from earlier time periods when there is no plausible method of transmission. It is unheard of. It is not a known phenomenon, as far as I'm aware. Critics often make fun of "apologists" for appealing to loan shifting as a possible explanation of some alleged anachronisms in the BofM, but at least that phenomenon is well attested in many different ancient and modern societies. As far as I'm aware, there are no known analogs to the Book of Mormon's remarkable use of archaisms. 

When it comes to the variety of things we find in the BofM, there is no plausible method of transmission. Joseph would have had to have read an impressive and mostly inaccessible array of archaic books, notice their peculiar features, and then consistently employ them from memory in a fast-paced translation setting. Or the people in his community would have had to use all these archaic features consistently enough in oral discourse for Joseph to have picked up on them (assimilation into working vocabulary usually takes significant exposure), but then never have used them in written discourse, even in informal letters and so forth. 

It just doesn't make sense, at all, that this quantity and variety of EModE features were preserved in Joseph's environs and never made their way into any publication but his--where, all of a sudden, they pour out in a veritable flood of unprecedented usages. And then, suddenly Joseph flips a switch and never uses most of these archaic linguistic features again in the rest of his publications, even though he was surely somewhat familiar with them by then, having spoken them repeatedly while dictating the translation, and then also encountering them in his reading of the text once it was published. It looks suspiciously like Joseph had no idea that most of these features were in the text. 

Sure, he caught some of the obvious grammatical things that one would expect him to catch when preparing the text for the 1837 edition, but the more elusive EModE features never got edited out. Somehow he was able to consciously edit them out of his own usage in subsequent publications but wasn't able to consciously edit them out of the BofM in 1837? It just doesn't make sense.

As for burden of proof, the funny thing is that secular data is what gets skeptics into this bind in the first place. Both the linguistic and historical data can be independently evaluated without having to appeal to or accept any supernatural phenomena. The linguistic data, when viewed as objectively as possible via secular means, would definitely point to Joseph Smith not being the author. Yet the historical data, when viewed as objectively as possible, places the production of the text between April 7 and June 30, 1829, when it was dictated for hours on end, day after day, in the presence of multiple witnesses. No historical evidence can reliably tie the text to any other author or source. People can cite vague parallels to View of the Hebrews and the Late War etc. all day long, but that doesn't erase the much stronger EModE data which argues that Joseph (and most likely no one in his environment) could have created the text.

When either of these sets of data (linguistic or historical) is viewed in isolation, those skeptical of the restoration are usually fine with them because they feel they can account for them from a secular perspective. However, as soon as it is discovered that the sets of data directly conflict when viewed in relation to one another, those not inclined to believe in miracles quickly try to downplay one set or the other without any real justification (except, possibly, that they really aren't inclined to believe in angels and revelation).

The standard Latter-day Saint narrative (that Joseph translated the text by the gift and power of God) can easily resolve this dilemma because, as the narrative consistently goes, Joseph was reading English words that miraculously appeared before his eyes! In such a situation, there is good reason to believe that he probably wasn't producing these words himself. The explanation of the translation consistently given by Joseph Smith perfectly explains why one set of data overwhelmingly says the text isn't Josephs and another set of data overwhelmingly says that it first appeared in the world when he dictated it to his scribes at a phenomenal rate. 

3 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

Do you have any proposals for how to fix the theological implications of another author being introduced or of a God that deliberately inserted both EModE linguistic  elements and 19th century ones?  What would possibly be the purpose for a God of order to introduce such seemingly unnecessary complexity and how does this correlate with the traditional Mormon narrative.

I'm not sure what these drastic implications are that you refer to. Divine beings, in Latter-day Saint theology, have far better linguistic control and access to linguistic knowledge than mortals. God could have created the English translation or assigned the task to a being or group of divine beings. Moreover, the idea of an angel delivering a prepared text for a prophet to read has scriptural precedent: 

Blake T. Ostler, “The Throne-Theophany and Prophetic Commission in 1 Nephi: A Form-Critical Analysis,” BYU Studies 26/4 (1986): 79–80.

 

As for the EModE specifically, there could be a variety of purposes or explanations:

1. To give the text an archaic (ancient) feel, and place it in the same linguistic milieu from which the KJV--the most prominent sacred text at the time--was derived.

2. To connect the text with the Bible (the BofM's usage of biblical language is more impressive than many other pseudo-biblical texts) but also show that it wasn't completely derivative of the Bible.

3. To get the text away from Joseph's linguistic milieu in order to stymie arguments that he simply made it up, and yet be an odd enough feature that it doesn't, on its own, compel belief. 

4. To be discovered at a time when secularism is threatening religion, so that it acts as another stumbling block to those who attempt account for the Bofm's origins using purely naturalistic explanations. 

5. It may also have something to do with how the text is used on the other side of the veil or how it will be seen in hundreds or thousands of years from now. We need to think bigger. 

6. Although this is speculative, it could have something to do with what being or beings were chosen to translate it on the other side of the veil. 

Of course, I don't feel confident in any of these explanations (although I think the first two are pretty reliable), but neither can anyone really be confident in dismissing them. There is too much we don't know about God's plans and purposes. What I can say is that there are enough reasonable possibilities that this really isn't a "theological problem" as you put it. The fact is that, at the current moment, Joseph's own miraculous explanation of the text (that it was given him by God) happens to be the only way to resolve what are otherwise two very strong sets of conflicting data (IMO). 

 

 

 

Edited by Ryan Dahle
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On 3/15/2019 at 11:43 PM, Brant Gardner said:

Of course, Carmack (if I remember correctly) suggests that God knows the future and could use a future form.

Where does that come from? Maybe from a prior discussion of lexical items like unwearyingness, when you were trying to impose a late date on the text. In the end, it's really just speculation I'm not that interested in. Nothing in the Book of Mormon actually hinges on God knowing future forms. The Book of Mormon may currently have the first attestation of a few things, like unwearyingness and ites, but that doesn't mean such rare unattested usage wasn't within the grasp of God to formulate based on knowledge of English up to the year 1829.

The problem with using this same strong analogical view with Joseph Smith is that he must have made analogically derived hits with extra-biblical early modern usage hundreds of times.

On 3/15/2019 at 11:43 PM, Brant Gardner said:

The second issue is that there are other pseudo-KJV writings, and Carmack's discussion of those isn't that they don't have Early Modern English, but that Joseph's writings have a larger percentage.

That's not accurate. There are many archaic things not found in pseudo-biblical texts that are in the Book of Mormon. For example, "the more part" hasn't been encountered yet in pseudo-biblical texts, but there are a few late 19c texts with it. The reason that this Book of Mormon usage is remarkable is because the level of use is the highest since 1577, it's never biblical in form when it could have been a dozen times, two rare variants are used that aren't in the late 19c texts, and four variants total are used. According to Gardner, when God gave Joseph the ideas of 'many', 'most', 'majority', Joseph came up with all these forms, some rare, 26 times, based on his knowledge of the King James Bible and based on his own language.

A second example. Four of the eight archaic subordinating conjunctions I just laid out aren't in the 15 pseudo-biblical texts I have checked. That doesn't mean that there isn't a pseudo-biblical text with "before that S", etc., just that if there is, it is a rare pseudo-biblical usage, in no way altering the conclusion that the Book of Mormon's overall usage, in just this one domain, is remarkable and unexpected naturalistically.  Even combining the usage of 15 pseudo-biblical texts and the King James Bible doesn't cover all the Book of Mormon usage, which is fully attested in Early Modern English.

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On 3/15/2019 at 9:31 PM, hope_for_things said:

I think Joseph’s creativity and skills are frequently underestimated and downplayed by apologists.  I see him as being an earnest learner with a very creative mind and I think there is much evidence to support this throughout his career as leader of the Mormon movement.  

Sorry, creativity just doesn't work. Humans can be endlessly creative and they still can't speak in foreign languages they don't know, since they have not accumulated subconscious linguistic knowledge of these languages: lexis, grammar, syntax.

When we go through the language Joseph dictated in 1829, we encounter thousands of things that go against biblical and modern ways of expression, but that are consonant with early modern patterns and usage. So what you believe in is not only Joseph coming up with the extremely complicated content but also consciously dictating forms of expression that he didn't know and which run counter to biblical and modern ways of expression. You do understand how extremely unlikely that is, right? If you don't, then that's for you to work out.  It could be summed up this way: on the very strongest evidence, you hold an extremely weak position.

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