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Royal Skousen's Work On The Bom Manuscripts


Sargon

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Royal Skousen's article about the translation of the Book of Mormon reveals much excellent information. Among his discoveries is a small piece of evidence suggesting that during the dictation of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith did not know beforehand what he was going to say. I believe this is evidence to some degree for the authenticity of the BoM, but I am always interested to hear opposing thoughts.

http://farms.byu.edu/display.php?table=jbms&id=167

The word chapter and the corresponding chapter numbers were not part of the revealed text

Evidence from both the original and printer's manuscripts shows that Joseph Smith apparently saw some visual indication at the end of a section that the section was ending. Although this may have been a symbol of some kind, a more likely possibility is that the last words of the section were followed by blankness. Recognizing that the section was ending, Joseph then told the scribe to write the word chapter, with the understanding that the appropriate number would be added later.

There is considerable evidence in both manuscripts to support this interpretation. First, the word chapter is never used by any writer in the text itself, unlike the term book, which is used to refer to an individual book in the Book of Mormon (such as the book of Helaman) as well as a whole set of plates (such as the book of Nephi, meaning the large plates of Nephi).

Second, chapters are assigned before the beginning of a book. For instance, in the original manuscript, we have the following at the beginning of 2 Nephi:

second Chapter I

The ^ Book of Nephi ^

An account of the death of Lehi . . .

Oliver Cowdery first wrote Chapter at the conclusion of the last section in 1 Nephiâ??that is, at the conclusion of Chapter VII in the original chapter system; our current chapter system dates from Orson Pratt's 1879 edition of the Book of Mormon (which has 22 chapters in 1 Nephi). At this point, Joseph Smith had no indication that a new book was beginning. All he could see was the end of Chapter VII (namely, the words "and thus it is Amen" followed probably by blankness or maybe a special symbol). Later, when Oliver was adding the chapter numbers, he first assigned the Roman numeral VIII to this first chapter of 2 Nephi. But when he realized that this was actually the beginning of a new book, he crossed out the whole chapter designation and inserted (with slightly weaker ink flow) "Chapter I" after the title of the book, which originally was simply designated as "The Book of Nephi". Later he realized that there was more than one book of Nephi, which led him to also insert the word second (with considerably heavier ink flow).

This system of assigning chapters also explains why the two manuscripts have chapter numbers assigned to the short books found at the end of the small plates (Enos, Jarom, Omni, and the Words of Mormon) as well as 4 Nephi. These books contain only one section, but at the beginning of each of these short books, Joseph Smith apparently had no knowledge that this was the case. This fact further shows that Joseph himself did not know in advance the contents or structure of the text.

Probably the strongest evidence that the word chapter is not original to the revealed text is that the chapter numbers are assigned later in both manuscripts. The numbers are almost always written with heavier ink flow and more carefully. In many cases, Oliver Cowdery took turns to add serifs to his Roman numerals. On the other hand, his Chapter is always written rapidly and with the same general ink flow as the surrounding text. In the printer's manuscript, at the beginning of Chapter XVII in Alma (now the beginning of Alma 36), the Roman numeral XVII was written in blue ink, not the normal black ink. This example clearly suggests that this part of the original manuscript itself did not yet have chapter numbers assigned to it when Oliver started to copy it, perhaps six months after it had been dictated.

Sargon

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31 views and no comments? Is it that boring of a topic!!?? :P

I've read through this a couple of times and still can't figure out how the process of determining chapters is evidence for the Book of Mormon's authenticity. If I could, I might have a response, but I'm drawing a blank (which would not be the first time).

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evidence suggesting that during the dictation of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith did not know beforehand what he was going to say.

Sargon

I thought that one of the apologetic arguments bolstering a "loose translation" method was that Joseph Smith supposedly, "thought it out in his mind"?

Skousen's theory implies a tight translation.

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I thought that one of the apologetic arguments bolstering a "loose translation" method was that Joseph Smith supposedly, "thought it out in his mind"?

Skousen's theory implies a tight translation.

Yes, it does. About 15 years ago, Royal Skousen came to explain his project to a small group of church employees, and he told us specifically that he believes in a very tight translation process.

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I've read through this a couple of times and still can't figure out how the process of determining chapters is evidence for the Book of Mormon's authenticity. If I could, I might have a response, but I'm drawing a blank (which would not be the first time).

Really? Maybe it isn't as clear-cut as I thought it was.

When Joseph finished dictating a chapter, he knew the chapter was over by some sort of symbol or blank space between sections. When he came to this point in his dictation he would signal to Oliver that the chapter had ended, and that a new one was beginning. Oliver would then write the word "chapter".

After reading the last words of 1 Nephi, Joseph indicated to Oliver that a new "chapter" was beginning in the narrative. Oliver faithfully wrote the word "chapter" as an indication that a new chapter was beginning. Only after writing this did they discover that in fact a whole new book, 2 Nephi, was beginning.

This process continues through the small books of Enos, Jarom, Omni, and the Words of Mormon. Each of these small books was first thought to be another "chapter" of the book preceding it, and only after writing "chapter" did they discover it was not a new chapter, but an entire new book.

This indicates to us that Joseph and Oliver did not know beforehand that a new book was about to begin. It suggests that the beginning of 2 Nephi and other books was a surprise for both of them. This stands in contrast to the hypothesis that Joseph and/or Oliver were authoring the BoM themselves, a task which could not be done without some idea of what was coming in the text.

Sargon

Yes, it does. About 15 years ago, Royal Skousen came to explain his project to a small group of church employees, and he told us specifically that he believes in a very tight translation process.

Yes, Skousen in the article concludes that the BoM was translated/dictated by a "tight control" process. However, he also clearly rejects an "iron-clad control" process.

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I'm not an expert on the subject, but it seems that a "tight" or "loose" translation process doesn't apply to this discussion. However the text was translated between chapters, the point is that there was some sort of marker or indication that the chapter had ended and a new chapter would start.

I would guess the reason the idea has value in apologetics, is that if Joseph Smith had written the book himself, he'd certainly have an idea of what the book structure was going to have before he started dictating. He'd have at least a rough outline in mind of how the book would flow from one book or writer to the next. He likely wouldn't just say - "next chapter" and then start dictating a new book. It's more likely to say "that's the end of Alma, now let's start on Helaman" or something like that.

Just think about how you've written just about any paper or book. You start with an outline with a clear idea on when you've switched from one section to the next.

Sargon, please correct if I'm just not getting this...

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