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The 1922 B.H. Robert's Meeting With General Authoriteis Re: Book of Mormon Problems and the Secret Meetings That Followed it


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10 hours ago, Kevin Christensen said:

And think about the rhetorical strategy enacted by referring to "true believers" who are "seldom troubled by "disconfirming evidence."

This!

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13 hours ago, Kevin Christensen said:

Jesus says it is most important to be self-critical first.  So one of my critical strategies over several decades, whenever I ran across something I did not expect, is to ask myself "What should I expect?"  That by itself, has led to a lot of expansion of my mind, and enlargement of my soul.  I have to start by reminding myself that I don't know all that much, rather than flattering myself that I am open-minded, objective, rational, and perfectly capable of following the facts to their inevitable conclusion, no matter the cost.

I guess I'm old-fashioned, but I still view open-mindedness, objectivity, rationality, and following evidence wherever it may lead as ideals worth pursuing. I am suspicious of people that never change their minds; who, having already "decided which paradigm is better," refuse to give serious consideration to anything that challenges their settled view of things.

I realize such sentiments are passé, but I like what the New Testament scholar Dale Allison says here about "the conscientious historian": 

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If one wants to call the appetite for truth just another ideology, so be it. But no one should pretend that people cannot be interested in what really happened, or that they cannot learn new things, or that they cannot change their minds about deeply held theological convictions. Jesus of Nazareth was or was not influenced by Cynic philosophy; he did or did not think the consummation at hand; he did or did not think of himself as Israel’s eschatological king. It is the business of the conscientious historian addressing these questions to answer them, when that is possible, honestly, whatever the theological payoff, if any, may be. Doing history means being open to the uncongenial as well as the congenial, the painful as well as the edifying, the useless as well as the useful.

— Dale C. Allison, Jr., "The Problem of Apocalyptic: From Polemic to Apologetics," in Apocalypticism, Anti-Semitism and the Historical Jesus: Subtexts in Criticism, ed. John S. Kloppenborg and John W. Marshall [JSNTSup 275; New York: T&T Clark International, 2005], 109–110).

Allison goes on to say:

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There are personal interests and theological agendas all around. Pretending otherwise is cheap argument. I should like to stress, however, that the ubiquity of theological and personal interests does not entail that we are necessarily wholly captive to them. . . . Speaking for myself, I did not reconstruct an apocalyptic Jesus because I wanted him for my own theology. On the contrary, I found such a Jesus and continue to find him in many ways troubling and uncongenial, and my life would be easier without him. The details need not be narrated here. All I need say is that somehow I acquired a conscience, which told me that I should be more committed to the truth than to my own orthodoxy. . . .

The point of all this is not to defend my own Jesus—a task autobiography cannot attempt—but simply to urge that while we are always moved, consciously and unconsciously, by our own ideological agendas, human beings also have the magical ability to be self-aware and self-critical and so to transcend, to some extent, those agendas. If there is no such thing as pure objectivity, we all know scholars who seem less objective and more ideologically driven than others. It is precisely this fact that should comfort those of us who seek, despite all the obstacles, endogenous and exogenous, to be conscientious historians. (122–123)

With regard to the Book of Mormon, I think there is much to be gained from examining it from a variety of perspectives. You observe that "it's easy for informed believers to notice all sorts of cool things about the Book of Mormon that get no serious mention in skeptical circles." Likewise, I find some informed skeptics notice things about the Book of Mormon that are ignored or downplayed in believing circles. It goes both ways, of course. Which is why I don't think taking an "open-minded" approach to Book of Mormon scholarship is a bad thing. "By proving contraries, truth is made manifest."

Edited by Nevo
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On 7/17/2020 at 8:43 AM, Bob Crockett said:

He did a lot of uncharacteristic things -- uncharacteristic of a general authority.

He championed the role of the Seventy as a General Authority when we expect general authorities to be rather understated in their appointments.

He had published a picture of himself crossing the plains.  

He disguised himself as a tramp to recover the bodies of two slain missionaries and then had a picture taken of himself as a tramp and had it published. 

He publicly opposed the Brethren for opposing his efforts to run for the US House of Representatives and that of apostate apostle Moses Thatcher.

He wrote novels.

He published a history of the church but freely edited out objectionable stuff -- contrary to historical standards.

Yes, Joseph Smith and B. H. Roberts had a lot in common, and were pretty ostentatious about it.  Roberts was not a trained historian and likely knew little about professional historiography.  On the other hand, I always found his Comprehensive History very helpful in talking about things like seerstones, when others were more reticent.  I just don't think he was afraid of the controversial stuff, even though you think he was.  My mother was a lifelong Democrat as well as a founding DUP president, so I tend to love it that Roberts ran as a Democrat.  Might not be popular in Utah, but it gets points from me.

On 7/17/2020 at 8:43 AM, Bob Crockett said:

......................

And then, when he had his crisis of faith, he expected an arcade-like revelation.  Put in a dime and get a revelation. He set it up for that, even though he probably knew none of the Brethren were all that conversant with the the doctrines of the Book of Mormon or its history or story line. 

Jack Welch has championed him as a life-time believer but I don't think he was.  And it doesn't bother me.  Richard Lyman was kicked out for decades of secret adultery (general authorities who traveled with him on Church business would complain about his crudity); Moses Thatcher for apostasy.; Joseph Fielding Smith (the Patriarch not the President) for homosexuality; John A Taylor for apostasy; Matthias Cowley for apostasy;  George Lee for apostasy at a time he was a secret pedophile; James Hamula, for reasons I know and which plagued him while he was a general authority but I don't think are public.   Shows the church works despite the failures of men.  Helps me to understand the role of revelation and freedom of personal will in the Church. 

Reminds me of the ridiculous rumors that Hugh Nibley and perhaps the Brethren were secretly non-believers, as though every open believer must be a secret Elmer Gantry or Aimee Semple McPherson.  I do like the stories often told of Roberts and J. Golden Kimball on the road -- not so straitlaced as we are often led to expect of General Authorities.  Religion with a flawed and human face.  In the midst of the hurly burly, Jesus is willing to work with us, and that is comforting.

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On 7/17/2020 at 8:57 PM, Nevo said:

..................True believers are seldom troubled by disconfirming evidence.....................:

As always, the message is "Nothing to see here; move along." If the Book of Mormon "expressly indicates" something, then "few additional questions" need to be asked about it. According to this mindset, all contrary evidence is perforce wrong or inconclusive, while personal testimony is always probative.

In the same article, Welch writes: "If the Book of Mormon is accepted on other sufficient grounds as a true historical account [namely, "personal testimony"], then this record in turn adds new evidence concerning the perplexing issues of Isaiah authorship that has not been available to or considered by the scholarly world." If the Book of Mormon says Isaiah of Jerusalem wrote Isaiah 48—54, then the matter is settled. Nothing to see here........................

As ever, in discussions such as these, failure to strictly distinguish between two very separate modes of thought can lead to utter confusion about what the issues truly are:  Belief and science are those two entirely separate categories of thought.

What is even more problematic:  Most people are not scientists, and even those who are must be part of a group which exercises close knit monitoring (de facto peer review) of members' efforts to throw light on scientific issues.  All the moreso for publication, which speaks to the larger scientific community,  Add the final dimension of time, and you begin to describe what science is and does.

Completely separate is religious belief and endeavor, which are in no way similar to scientific belief and endeavor.  Non-scientists cannot ever be expected to exercise scientific analysis of their beliefs or religious practices.  And reading a brief account of scientific methods and conclusions cannot possibly be a substitute for being an actual scientist.  Indeed, one cannot scientifically "prove" a testimony or religious belief to be "true."  That is a category mistake.  Claiming to know by the power of the Holy Spirit that something is true is just not a scientific claim, nor is it scientifically testable.

Many non-scientists do not understand why these distinctions must be made.  Hard core philosophers of science do understand the reasons and frequently enunciate them -- and are ignored by the hoi polloi.  And so the confusion continues.

Peter Harrison, “Why Religion Is Not Going Away and Science Will Not Destroy It,” Aeon, Sept 6, 2017, online at  https://getpocket.com/explore/item/why-religion-is-not-going-away-and-science-will-not-destroy-it?utm_source=pocket-newtab .

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7 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Yes, Joseph Smith and B. H. Roberts had a lot in common, and were pretty ostentatious about it.  Roberts was not a trained historian and likely knew little about professional historiography.  On the other hand, I always found his Comprehensive History very helpful in talking about things like seerstones, when others were more reticent.  I just don't think he was afraid of the controversial stuff, even though you think he was.  My mother was a lifelong Democrat as well as a founding DUP president, so I tend to love it that Roberts ran as a Democrat.  Might not be popular in Utah, but it gets points from me.

Reminds me of the ridiculous rumors that Hugh Nibley and perhaps the Brethren were secretly non-believers, as though every open believer must be a secret Elmer Gantry or Aimee Semple McPherson.  I do like the stories often told of Roberts and J. Golden Kimball on the road -- not so straitlaced as we are often led to expect of General Authorities.  Religion with a flawed and human face.  In the midst of the hurly burly, Jesus is willing to work with us, and that is comforting.

It doesn't matter to me whether he had a crisis of faith or was just being an obnoxious advocate for the devil.  I appreciate the finer points of human psychology demonstrated by Elder Roberts in juxtaposition with the demands of faith.  

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14 minutes ago, Kevin Christensen said:

"ince no paradigm solves all the problems it defines, and since no two paradigms leave all the same problems unsolved, paradigm debates paradigm debates always involve the question, which problem is it more significant to have solved?"  (Kuhn, 110)

Check strike-out formatting.

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1 hour ago, Kevin Christensen said:

So, is Deutero-Isaiah the most significant problem to have solved in accounting for the Book of Mormon?  What makes it so? 

I've read about some contrary evidence to the Deutero-Isaiah Hypothesis, but haven't personally looked into it. It's of a linguistic nature. So perhaps the DIH isn't "settled science". I gather that Nevo accepts that it is settled. I'm no expert on it, so I shall forbear.

What I do know well is such strong evidence that I don't even worry about the DIH (or similar things). I consider it to be weaker evidence, on less sure footing, than what I have expertise in.

Edited by champatsch
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57 minutes ago, champatsch said:

I've read about some contrary evidence to the Deutero-Isaiah Hypothesis, but haven't personally looked into it. It's of a linguistic nature. So perhaps the DIH isn't "settled science". I gather that Nevo accepts that it is settled. I'm no expert on it, so I shall forbear.

What I do know well is such strong evidence that I don't even worry about the DIH (or similar things). I consider it to be weaker evidence, on less sure footing, than what I have expertise in.

Deutero-Isaiah is dealt with pretty easily under your theory. From the looks of Christ's quotations in the New Testament, when He quotes the vernacular scripture, it becomes clear that Christ is not as concerned with pure urtexts as He is with communicating through recognizable means. I'm with Ostler's Modern Expansion for the most part, but I don't think the expanded parts had to come from Joseph, necessarily. 

Also, when it comes to "settled science", Holmes Rolston III has it right: "The religion that is married to science today will be a widow tomorrow. ... But the religion that is divorced from science today will leave no offspring tomorrow." This is true as much for social sciences as it is for the physical. We have to be open to the findings of scholarship...but we should not sell the farm on them. 

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On 7/17/2020 at 7:57 PM, Nevo said:

(That said, I do think his chapter in Legal Cases in the Book of Mormon comparing Sherem, Nehor, and Korihor is very good and expect Roberts would appreciate it too.)

That whole thing was a kangaroo court. Just cause you kill one obnoxious old guy......

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3 hours ago, Kevin Christensen said:

Again, what does it mean to be open-minded?  Does it mean, "If you really were open-minded, you would agree with me.  (Stands to reason, me being rational.)  And since you don't agree, that proves you are not."  Does that conclusion follow from the totality of available evidence, or from personal ideology?  Could we say that Othello was being open-minded by his being willing to entertain the notion that Desdemona could be unfaithful?  Was Othello being open-minded and notably perceptive, objective, and rational, when he referred to his tragically influential companion as "honest Iago?"  Was Stirling McMurrin being open-minded when he told Blake Oster, "You don't get books from angels, and translate them by revelation.  It's just that simple." 

You keep asking "what does it mean to be open-minded?" and then return to your Othello analogy, as though that shows how problematic the concept is. No, Othello is not an example of being open-minded. Neither is Sterling McMurrin. This is straw man stuff.

So you don't have to guess what I think being open-minded means with respect to the Book of Mormon, I'll tell you. I think Grant Hardy is a good example. Professor Hardy is a brilliant reader and interpreter of the Book of Mormon and is clearly himself a believer. But in Understanding the Book of Mormon you don't see him discount skeptical viewpoints out of hand. Some examples: 

"If Joseph Smith had intended to author a religious morality tale, either to gain converts or to make money, he could have written something much simpler. Latter-day Saints regard the integrated complexity of the text (especially in light of oral dictation) as evidence of both its divine transmission and the contingencies of its origins as an actual historical record. Skeptics might point to the presence of early modern novels by authors such as Aphra Behn, Samuel Richardson, Laurence Sterne, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Mary Shelley that similarly incorporated letters, memoirs, and diaries. Or they might note that Gothic novels of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries offered a profusion of fictions framed as discovered-manuscript stories..." (121)

"What the list seems to demonstrate is a close, unique literary connection between the first chapters of Ether and First Nephi. This might be explained as inadvertent repetition on Joseph Smith's part, particularly since . . . Ether and First Nephi were written within a few weeks of each other. Yet when we reenter the world of the text, other explanations are possible..." (233)

Hardy doesn't shy away from presenting evidence that undercuts his own views. He acknowledges, for example, that

  • the scholarly consensus on Deutero-Isaiah—which challenges the historicity of the Brass Plates—is based on "a significant body of detailed historical and literary analysis" (69).
  • "any discussion of Lehi's dream should note that Joseph Smith's father had a very similar dream several years before the dictation of the Book of Mormon manuscript" (287n34).
  • "Ethan Smith was writing in nearly the same time and place" as Joseph Smith "and their ideas exhibit many similarities" (289n12).
  • "Any quotations in the Book of Mormon from biblical writings composed after 600 BC are anachronistic, potentially challenging both the book's historicity and its credibility" (255).

He notes that Moroni's use of Hebrews in Ether 12 is "glaringly problematic" and provides "some of the most compelling evidence that the book has its origins in the nineteenth century" (255, 260). At the same time, he sees Ether 12's allusions to Moroni 9:26 and 2 Nephi 33:11, which come later in the dictation sequence, as providing "perhaps the strongest textual validation for the historicity of the Book of Mormon" (260).

Hardy doesn't entirely shed his own biases (or try to), but he engages contrary, or "disconfirming," evidence with an openness and candor that is rarely or never seen in apologetic writing about the Book of Mormon, which by definition tends to be defensive and calculated to bolster believers' testimonies.

Edited by Nevo
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19 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

B. H. Roberts was a homespun polymath and "Defender of the Faith."  He was brilliant and systematic.  No one else in the LDS Church was as prolific in a substantive way.  He was never afraid to ask hard questions.

However, Roberts and his fellow Brethren of the LDS Church faced two major problems which prevented them from having the meaningful discussion which Roberts sought:  (1) None of them was a biblical scholar, and (2) none of them was a trained historian or anthropologist.  A couple of the Brethren were scientists (Widtsoe a chemist and Talmage a geologist), and they knew that the age of the Earth had to be measured in the billions of years, but could say very little else -- except bear their testimonies, which is the fundamental base of LDS belief anyhow, even in modern times.

Most of the difficulties listed by Roberts were a result of ignorance of the Bible, and of history and anthropology.  Because his meeting with the Brethren remained confidential and unpublished, it had nothing to do with future developments in scholarly understanding among LDS academics. That came naturally with the PhDs which successive LDS students received in history and  anthropology after the death of Roberts.  Without those academic tools, LDS scholarship could not even get started.  In the late 40s and early 50s an interesting assortment of young LDS PhDs in Utah began study groups.  Roberts would have found those discussions far more to his liking.  Men like Leonard Arrington and John L. Sorenson were good friends and members of such groups.

You’re much more harsh in your judgement than I. I would call them innocent and naive.  

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Nevo, you bring up Hardy. I've found that you can't always trust what he publishes. As one specific case, in BYU Studies 57.1 (2018) he wrote that the Book of Mormon had only "a few words that make more sense if they are read with obsolete meanings". He's followed Skousen's work for decades, and he was reviewing some of it in this essay, and he knew this was a mischaracterization, that at a minimum a few dozen was the accurate figure. Yet he wrote "a few" anyway, and didn't give any context — no comparison with pseudobiblical baselines.

So, why did he choose to write something that is far from accurate, and certainly leaves the wrong impression on readers? Probably to appeal to a constituency that he values or to signal that he wasn't going to give aid and comfort to a position that so strongly argues against the text being merely a 19c production.

Edited by champatsch
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2 hours ago, Fair Dinkum said:

You’re much more harsh in your judgement than I. I would call them innocent and naive.  

Perhaps, but "innocent and naive" makes the Brethren (including Roberts) seem like hayseeds who had just fallen off the turnip truck.  Doesn't seem to fit a guy like Widtsoe, who graduated cum laude from Harvard in 1894, and then rec'd his PhD from the Univ of Göttingen in 1899.  Similarly for James Talmage.  Neither of them saw any conflict between science and religion.

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2 hours ago, champatsch said:

Probably to appeal to a constituency that he values or to signal that he wasn't going to give aid and comfort to a position that so strongly argues against the text being merely a 19c production.

Probably not best to assume motivations unless they tell us. I have found it is remarkable how different people see things I think are obvious. 

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2 hours ago, champatsch said:

Nevo, you bring up Hardy. I've found that you can't always trust what he publishes. As one specific case, in BYU Studies 57.1 (2018) he wrote that the Book of Mormon had only "a few words that make more sense if they are read with obsolete meanings". He's followed Skousen's work for decades, and he was reviewing some of it in this essay, and he knew this was a mischaracterization, that at a minimum a few dozen was the accurate figure. Yet he wrote "a few" anyway, and didn't give any context — no comparison with pseudobiblical baselines.

So, why did he choose to write something that is far from accurate, and certainly leaves the wrong impression on readers? Probably to appeal to a constituency that he values or to signal that he wasn't going to give aid and comfort to a position that so strongly argues against the text being merely a 19c production.

Thank you for sending me back to this review. It actually confirms my high opinion of Grant Hardy.

For those following along at home, here is the context of Hardy's statement:

Quote

The structure of Grammatical Variation, which starts with the Book of Mormon text and then looks for parallels with the Bible and EModE, guarantees that similarities are highlighted; I would be interested in the explicit identification of characteristic features of EModE that are not replicated in the Mormon scripture (such as the frequent use of the demonstrative pronoun yon/yonder). Already I have seen online discussions in which Latter-day Saints excitedly assert that the Book of Mormon is an EModE text (and thus could not have been written by Joseph Smith), as if it were lifted straight from the seventeenth century. This does not seem right to me. It may share some syntactic patterns, and there are a few words that make more sense if they are read with obsolete meanings, but most people would have little trouble differentiating a passage from the Book of Mormon with one from a book actually written in the Early Modern Period. It seems more likely that the language of the Book of Mormon is something of a hybrid, combining linguistic features of modern English and EModE (however one might explain that), while at the same time incorporating hundreds of distinct phrases from both the Old and New Testaments, starting with 1 Nephi (however one might explain that), and also bringing in nonbiblical expressions that were commonly used in the nineteenth century (however one might explain that).

You argue that "a few" should be "at a minimum a few dozen." Perhaps he agrees that the figure is a few dozen and is intentionally downplaying it, but given the rest of his comments, I think it's possible that he doesn't agree that the figure is at least a few dozen. Perhaps you and he have a different idea of what "makes more sense"—which is somewhat subjective, after all (pseudobiblical baselines aside).

In a footnote Hardy adds:

Quote

Examples of [nonbiblical expressions that were commonly used in the nineteenth century], through the first sixty-five pages of the 1830 edition, would include “first parents,” “condescension of God,” “temporally and spiritually,” “day(s) of probation,” “final state,” “watery grave,” “God of nature,” “working(s) in/of the Spirit,” “land of liberty,” “cold and silent grave,” “infinite goodness,” “instrument in the hands of God,” “fall of man,” “sacrifice for sin,” “miserable forever,” and “Great Mediator.” In recent lectures, Skousen has appeared eager to find examples of such phrases in EModE, and indeed most of these do occur as early as the seventeenth century, yet the fact that they were widely familiar in Joseph Smith’s time is not an inconsequential aspect of the language of the Book of Mormon and how it would have been understood and received by its first readers. A text that was revealed by God in 1829 in a fairly exact form could just as easily have included contemporary phrases as well as archaic, nonstandard syntax from several centuries earlier.

I think these are his genuine observations. I don't think he's saying this just to appeal to some constituency or to distance himself from a seemingly crackpot theory. Samuel Morris Brown goes even further in his recent Americanist Approaches essay when he says "I'm aware of but find fruitless recent suggestions that The Book of Mormon may contain pre-Jacobean English" (181n28). Hardy at least allows that it could be a hybrid of modern English and EModE.

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See my article on the Ngram Viewer where I look at these phrases and address Hardy's position on them.

In this article I discuss how most of these phrases could have reached peak popularity much earlier than the early 19c. These conclusions are based on serious investigative work, not glancing at the Viewer.

Edited by champatsch
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Bob, I wish it were that he is getting used to the idea of Early Modern English. It just isn't so. He's known about it longer than I have, and he has even sent me bits of Early Modern English from the Book of Mormon that he's wondered about, such as "What is it that thy marvelings are so great?" (Alma 18:17). And I reply with 16c and 17c examples of the language.

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We can read multiple times in Hardy's recent writings where he speaks of the Book of Mormon narrative as complex or impressive in some way, but of its English as substandard in some way. One effect of this is to make him seem open-minded and objective. Another effect is to leave the impression that it's Joseph Smith's creation.

In that same BYU Studies article he leaves the impression that none of the Book of Mormon's syntax is sophisticated.  Maybe he hasn't studied it in a comparative vein. The text has a number of syntactic structures that aren't in pseudobiblical texts and that are found in earlier English statutes — so it has quite a bit of nonbiblical, high-level, formal language from yesteryear in it.

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2 hours ago, champatsch said:

We can read multiple times in Hardy's recent writings where he speaks of the Book of Mormon narrative as complex or impressive in some way, but of its English as substandard in some way. One effect of this is to make him seem open-minded and objective. Another effect is to leave the impression that it's Joseph Smith's creation.

I'm old enough to remember when Skousen himself thought the nonstandard English in the Book of Mormon represented Joseph Smith's upstate New York dialect. E.g.,  "drownded" (1 Nephi 4:2), "they was yet wroth" (1 Nephi 4:4), "this shall be your language in them days" (Helaman 13:37), "the armies of the Lamanites are a marching" (Alma 57:31).

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7 hours ago, Nevo said:

I'm old enough to remember when Skousen himself thought the nonstandard English in the Book of Mormon represented Joseph Smith's upstate New York dialect. E.g.,  "drownded" (1 Nephi 4:2), "they was yet wroth" (1 Nephi 4:4), "this shall be your language in them days" (Helaman 13:37), "the armies of the Lamanites are a marching" (Alma 57:31).

Exactly. In the 1980s he thought that. Some time in the 1990s he changed his view based on the textual and manuscript evidence he was encountering in his critical text work. And Hardy has followed his work all the way. He's read more of Skousen's text-critical materials than almost anyone.

Bringing this back to Roberts for a moment, he set forth perceived problems with the text, among them the grammar. He pointed out more than once that it had bad diction and grammar. He couldn't easily do comparative grammatical work on the language like we can today. See the first page and footnote of this paper for my comments on this point. We're no longer in the dark ages of grammatical study of the Book of Mormon, yet Hardy still acts like we are, publicly. So my question is why he does this. I've made some educated guesses about it, based on my personal knowledge of the situation.

We've had quite a few direct exchanges about all of this. I've made him aware of many things, beyond what he has gleaned from reading ATV, GV, and NOL. I asked him about his writing "a few" lexical archaisms when he knew there were at least 40. He told me that "a few" was an appropriate descriptor since the text has 270,000 words. In conversation, it's fine to use a few. Precision isn't expected. But on an important point, in academic writing, no, it's not appropriate, because it leaves the wrong impression, which as an expert in writing he of course knows. What he almost always does when he mentions Book of Mormon English is leave a negative impression of the language, without important context. So why does he do this? It's not for the sake of accuracy. There are other motivations. I won't speak further to motivations here, but I will mention the effect his misleading comments have. Readers who think the text is Joseph Smith's creation have their conclusions confirmed and readers who wonder about the issue tend to draw that conclusion.

Nevo, you of course know that the Book of Mormon has plenty of nonbiblical, nonpseudobiblical archaism that isn't considered substandard, such as ditransitive clausal complementation with the verb cause, "of which hath/has been spoken" referential phraseology, heavy doses of "if it so be" language, more than any other text, "for this cause that <subj> might/may <inf>" language, "after that <subj> should <inf>" subjunctive syntax, "since that S", etc. There are even a couple of things which are barely in the King James Bible and are more frequent in the Book of Mormon with a usage pattern that isn't biblically imitative. For instance, a couple dozen instances of "more part" language, including two rare early modern variants. In view of this, and because the "bad grammar" is enveloped in mostly early modern syntactic structures, and because the questionable grammar occurred during that time, it's reasonable to view it as early modern, especially since a lot of the bad grammar wasn't of the kind that JS was known to use, such as most instances of the Book of Mormon's object they usage. The last one you mention above, a-Ving, is biblical usage. "Them days" is found in the 17c writings of the Dean of the High Kirk of Edinburgh and elsewhere. John Bunyan employed "they was" at times, including in free variation with "they were", as we find in Alma 9. George Fox and others also employed it, and we find matching of other grammatical bits in the writings of a few different 17c Quakers. "Drownded" was around in the early modern period. It's also possible that this one entered the text because of a Whitmer scribe.

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9 hours ago, champatsch said:

Nevo, you of course know that the Book of Mormon has plenty of nonbiblical, nonpseudobiblical archaism that isn't considered substandard, such as ditransitive clausal complementation

Yes, of course I know that. LOL.

Have you given any thought to Hardy's suggestion to look for characteristic features of EModE that don't appear in the Book of Mormon? I'd be interesting in seeing those percentages.

BTW, as I was poking around some of Skousen's older articles, I noticed that he described personal which as a "nonstandard American dialectical form" and gave the following example from the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: "two young women which I couldn't see right well" (source). I guess he's changed his mind since then.

6 hours ago, Kevin Christensen said:

Consider the example of Hardy . . .

I could just as easily have picked Richard Bushman. I didn't realize Hardy would be such a lightning rod...

The examples I gave from Hardy were selected more or less at random. I don't wish to litigate each one here (though I will mention that Hardy did cite Welch's response to Roberts regarding Ethan Smith.) Certainly more could be said about each topic than he mentioned in his book, but no editor in the world would have allowed him to indulge in the long apologetic excurses that you wish he had written. That is what the Interpreter is for.

Anyway, I don't disagree with your call to "keep a broadly based perspective and an active imagination and a healthy sense of one's own limitations." That's sound advice. And I am glad to hear that you still consider some questions to be open. I'd be interested to know what they are.

Edited by Nevo
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1 hour ago, Nevo said:

Have you given any thought to Hardy's suggestion to look for characteristic features of EModE that don't appear in the Book of Mormon? I'd be interesting in seeing those percentages.

BTW, as I was poking around some of Skousen's older articles, I noticed that he described personal which as a "nonstandard American dialectical form" and gave the following example from the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: "two young women which I couldn't see right well" (source). I guess he's changed his mind since then.

It's going to be hard to overturn the significance of the Book of Mormon's personal which. I suppose if you keep trying, you might find something I haven't. I've been scanning databases and considering alternatives for years.

We can see in his early writings that JS didn't employ personal which very much. I think it's 3%, and the Book of Mormon is over 50%. There's the early modern "he that" ~ "they which" divergence as well. Again, there's no pseudobiblical support for the Book of Mormon's pattern and it isn't biblical but it is early modern, just less common: about 4% of EEBO1 texts.

Not everything that Hardy mentions is of no value, but that suggestion isn't really relevant. The Book of Mormon isn't a monolithic Early Modern English text. An absence of a feature isn't going to mean it isn't mostly early modern in its syntax or vocabulary.  Many olders texts don't have a number of early modern features.  I think he brings up yon and yonder.  Well, the large majority of early modern texts don't have these words (yon, however, is difficult to consider, since it can often be a typo of you), and their popularity might have actually increased toward the end of the early modern period.

As an example of one valuable comment in his BYU studies article, we do find pseudobiblical support for the Book of Mormon's periphrastic past in one longer text, Chronicles of Eri (1822). So this syntactic feature ends up needing some support from stronger items like personal which and finite clausal complementation in order to be convincing. Still, the Book of Mormon's archaic did usage is a little more complete than what we see in Chronicles of Eri. And overall, the Book of Mormon is far above pseudobiblical texts in archaism in many different areas. It's really quite impressive in its archaism.

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      Here is the 2019 end of year seminary assessment my kids received yesterday. Would love to hear your thoughts on the questions, the probable answers, and the doctrine taught.  Don't forget the last 4 questions pertaining to the Explain Doctrine section.  
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