How Joseph Smith’s Grammar Differed from Book of Mormon Grammar: Evidence from the 1832 History

Abstract: Some of the grammar of Joseph Smith’s 1832 History is examined. Three archaic, extra-biblical features that occur quite frequently in the Book of Mormon are not present in the history, even though there was ample opportunity for use. Relevant usage in the 1832 History is typical of modern English, in line with independent linguistic studies. This leads to the conclusion that Joseph’s grammar was not archaizing in these three types of morphosyntax which are prominent in the earliest text of the Book of Mormon. This corroborating evidence also indicates that English words were transmitted to Joseph throughout the dictation of the Book of Mormon. Continue reading

Scripture Roundtable 17: D&C Gospel Doctrine Lesson 13

(Originally published on 6 March 2013.)

This is a Scripture Roundtable from The Interpreter Foundation, in which we discuss Doctrine & Covenants Gospel Doctrine Lesson #13, “This Generation Shall Have My Word through You,” bringing in various insights to help us better understand the scriptures. These roundtables will generally follow the 2013 Gospel Doctrine schedule of scriptures, a few weeks ahead of time.

Panelists for this roundtable include Ben McGuire, Bryce Haymond, Daniel Peterson, and Mike Parker.

This roundtable is also available as an audio podcast, and will be included in the podcast feed. You can listen by pressing the play button or download the podcast below:

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Link to Creed Haymond story audio recording.

Seers and Stones:
The Translation of the Book of Mormon as Divine Visions of an Old-Time Seer

Abstract: Joseph Smith used the term the Urim and Thummim to refer to the pair of seer stones, or “interpreters,” he obtained for translating the Book of Mormon as well as to other seer stones he used in a similar manner. According to witness accounts, he would put the stone(s) in a hat and pull the hat close around his face to exclude the light, and then he would see the translated text of the Book of Mormon. By what property or principle these stones enabled Joseph Smith to see the translated text has long been a matter of conjecture among Mormons, but the stones have commonly been understood as divinely powered devices analogous to the latest human communications technology. An alternative view, presented here, is that the stones had no technological function but simply served as aids to faith. In this view, the stones did not themselves translate or display text. They simply inspired the faith Joseph Smith needed to see imaginative visions, and in those visions, he saw the text of the Book of Mormon, just as Lehi and other ancient seers saw sacred texts in vision. Although Joseph Smith also saw visions without the use of stones, the logistics of dictating a book required the ability to see the translated text at will, and that was what the faith-eliciting stones would have made possible. Continue reading

Scripture Roundtable 7: D&C Gospel Doctrine #3

(Originally published on 28 December 2012.)

This is the seventh Scripture Roundtable from The Interpreter Foundation, in which we discuss Doctrine & Covenants Gospel Doctrine Lesson #3 (First Vision), bringing in various insights to help us better understand these scriptures. We apologize that the recording picked up after we had already begun. These roundtables will generally follow the 2013 Gospel Doctrine schedule of scriptures, a few weeks ahead of time.

Panelists for this roundtable include Brant Gardner, William Hamblin, Craig Foster, and Martin Tanner.

This roundtable is also available as an audio podcast, and will be included in the podcast feed. You can listen by pressing the play button or download the podcast below:

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The Great and Spacious Book of Mormon Arcade Game: More Curious Works from Book of Mormon Critics

Abstract: A novel theory for the origins of Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life has been offered by Rick Grunder, who argues that the story was inspired by a June 1829 visit to Rochester where Joseph could have seen a “great and spacious building,” a river, an iron railing, and even fruit trees. The purported source for the great and spacious building, the Reynolds Arcade, has even been suggested by one critic as a place where Joseph might have found “rare maps,” such as a map of Arabia that could have guided his fabrication of Lehi’s trail. As beautiful as such theories may be to their champions, they utterly fail to account for Nephi’s text.

Among the shortcomings of Grunder’s theory and creative extensions of it, the timing is problematic, for Joseph’s visit to Rochester likely occurred well after 1 Nephi was dictated. The proposed parallels offer little explanatory power for Book of Mormon creation. (For comparison, two online appendices for this article have been provided to illustrate how interesting random parallels can be found that may be more compelling than those Grunder offers.1) Further, any inspiration from a visit to Rochester as the plates of Nephi were being translated fails to account for the influence of Lehi’s vision and Nephi’s text on other portions of the Book of Mormon that were translated long before Joseph’s trip to Rochester. Finally, Nephi’s account of the vision of the Tree of Life and surrounding text cannot be reasonably explained by Grunder’s theory of last-minute fabrication inspired by Rochester or by any other theory of modern fabrication, as it is far too rooted in the ancient world and far too artfully crafted to have come from Joseph Smith and his environment. Continue reading