On Doctrine and Covenants Language and the 1833 Plot of Zion

Abstract: Contrary to the generally accepted view, it seems likely that much of the wording of the Doctrine and Covenants was transmitted to Joseph Smith as part of the revelatory process. Apparent bad grammar and a limited reading of “after the manner of their language” (D&C 1:24) have led to the received view that “the language of the revelations was Joseph Smith’s.”1 This judgment, however, is probably inaccurate. Abundant cases of archaic forms and structures, sometimes overlapping with Book of Mormon usage, argue for a different interpretation of “after the manner of their language.” Scholars have chosen, for the most part, to disregard the implications of a large amount of complex, archaic, well-formed language found in both scriptural texts. As for the 1833 Plot of Zion, transmitted words in Doctrine and Covenants revelations, a key statement by Frederick G. Williams, and a small but significant amount of internal archaic usage mean that the layout, dimensions, and even some language of the city plat were specifically revealed as well. Continue reading

The Next Big Thing in LDS Apologetics: Strong Semitic and Egyptian Elements in Uto-Aztecan Languages

Review of Brian D. Stubbs, Changes in Languages from Nephi to Now (Blanding, UT: Four Corners Digital Design, 2016) and Exploring the Explanatory Power of Semitic and Egyptian in Uto-Aztecan (Provo, UT: Grover Publications, 2015).

Abstract: Following several articles and presentations over the past two decades on tantalizing finds linking Uto-Aztecan languages with Near Eastern languages, LDS linguist Brian Stubbs has recently published two significant works offering extensive details and documentation. The more comprehensive volume intended for scholars and serious students of language is Exploring the Explanatory Power of Semitic and Egyptian in Uto-Aztecan, a highly technical work providing 1,528 sets of cognates with intricate details linking Uto-Aztecan languages with two versions of Semitic and with Egyptian. This is followed by an analysis of puzzles in Uto Aztecan explained by Egyptian and Semitic ties as well as an exploration of grammatical and morphological parallels and many other details that further strengthen the case for an ancient connection to Near Eastern languages. Stubbs has made his work more accessible to general LDS readers with a less technical and highly readable work, Changes in Languages from Nephi to Now, that relates his findings to the Book of Mormon and what we can infer about the languages of Book of Mormon peoples. The changes in those languages, correspond remarkably well with the infusions of Near Eastern language that can be seen in abundance in Uto-Aztecan. Numerous questions remain that may require lifetimes of further research, but the meticulous foundation Stubbs has laid must not be treated like past amateurish and erroneous efforts over the centuries to find Hebrew in Native American languages. This is a serious, scholarly work that rises above the standards typically used to establish authentic language families. The evidence for, say, Hebrew in Uto-Aztecan is actually more impressive than the linguistic evidence for Hebrew influence in Yiddish. While implications for these finds on the Book of Mormon can be overstated, what Stubbs has uncovered may be among the most impressive scholarly finds related to the Book of Mormon.

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What Command Syntax Tells Us About Book of Mormon Authorship

Abstract: The variety of command syntax found in the Book of Mormon is very different from what is seen in the King James Bible. Yet it is sophisticated and principled, evincing Early Modern English linguistic competence. Interestingly, the syntactic match between the 1829 text and a prominent text from the late 15th century is surprisingly good. All the evidence indicates that Joseph Smith would not have produced the structures found in the text using the King James Bible as a model, nor from his own language. The overall usage profile of command syntax seen in the Book of Mormon strongly supports the view that the Lord revealed specific words to Joseph Smith, not simply ideas. Continue reading

A Look at Some “Nonstandard” Book of Mormon Grammar

Abstract: Much of the earliest Book of Mormon language which has been regarded as nonstandard through the years is not. Furthermore, when 150 years’ worth of emendations are stripped away,1 the grammar presents extensive evidence of its Early Modern English character, independent in many cases from the King James Bible. This paper argues that this character stems from its divine translation. Continue reading

I Do Not Think That WORD Means What You Think It Means

Review of E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2012), 240 pp. $16.00.

Of course, the correct quotation of Inigo Montoya’s famous line in The Princess Bride is “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Unfortunately, it made too long a title, though in homage to Richards and O’Brien’s book, I have substituted the culturally defined Word for its more common reference. That is precisely the message of the book. You keep reading that Word. It doesn’t mean what you think it means. From their introduction:

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