Barlow on Book of Mormon Language: An Examination of Some Strained Grammar

Abstract: Comments made by Philip Barlow on Book of Mormon language for an Oxford-published book are examined. Inaccuracies are pointed out, and some examples are given that show matching with 1611 King James usage as well as with other earlier usage. One important conclusion that can be drawn from this study is that those who wish to critique the English language of the Book of Mormon need to take the subject more seriously and approach it with genuine scholarship, instead of repeating earlier errors. This has a direct bearing on forming accurate views of Joseph Smith and Book of Mormon translation.

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The Implications of Past-Tense Syntax in the Book of Mormon

Abstract: In the middle of the 16th century there was a short-lived surge in the use of the auxiliary did to express the affirmative past tense in English, as in Moroni «did arrive» with his army to the land of Bountiful (Alma 52:18). The 1829 Book of Mormon contains nearly 2,000 instances of this particular syntax, using it 27% of the time in past-tense contexts. The 1611 King James Bible — which borrowed heavily from Tyndale’s biblical translations of the 1520s and ’30s — employs this syntax less than 2% of the time. While the Book of Mormon’s rate is significantly higher than the Bible’s, it is close to what is found in other English-language texts written mainly in the mid- to late 1500s. And the usage died out in the 1700s. So the Book of Mormon is unique for its time — this is especially apparent when features of adjacency, inversion, and intervening adverbial use are considered. Textual evidence and syntactic analysis argue strongly against both 19th-century composition and an imitative effort based on King James English. Book of Mormon past-tense syntax could have been achieved only by following the use of largely inaccessible 16th-century writings. But mimicry of lost syntax is difficult if not impossible, and so later writers who consciously sought to imitate biblical style failed to match its did-usage at a deep, systematic level. This includes Ethan Smith who in 1823 wrote View of the Hebrews, a text very different from both the Bible and the Book of Mormon in this respect. The same may be said about Hunt’s The Late War and Snowden’s The American Revolution.

Editor’s note: Because of the complex typesetting of this article, it has not been reproduced on this webpage. The reader is referred to the PDF version to view the article.

Changes in The Book of Mormon

Author’s preface: I originally gave this presentation in August 2002 at the LDS FAIR conference held in Orem, Utah. A transcript of this paper, based on the 2002 version, appears online at www.fairmormon.org. Since then I have published updated versions of the first half of that original presentation. The most recent history of the Book of Mormon critical text project can be found in my article “The Original Text of the Book of Mormon and its Publication by Yale University Press”, published in 2013 in Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, volume 7, pages 57-96. Until now, I have not published a printed version of the second half of my original presentation, “Changes in the Book of Mormon”.

Abstract: In that part of the original article (here presented with some minor editing), I first describe the different kinds of changes that have occurred in the Book of Mormon text over the years and provide a fairly accurate number for how many places the text shows textual variation. Then I turn to five changes in the text (“the five chestnuts”) that critics of the Book of Mormon continually refer to. At the conclusion of the original article, I provide some specific numbers for the different types of changes in the history of the Book of Mormon text, including the number of changes introduced in The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text, the definitive scholarly edition of the Book of Mormon, published in 2009 by Yale University Press. Continue reading

The Original Text of the Book of Mormon and its Publication by Yale University Press

An earlier version of the following paper was presented 5 August 2010 at a conference sponsored by FAIR, the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (now FairMormon). The text of this paper is copyrighted by Royal Skousen. The photographs that appear in this paper are also protected by copyright. Photographs of the original manuscript are provided courtesy of David Hawkinson and Robert Espinosa and are reproduced here by permission of the Wilford Wood Foundation. Photographs of the printer’s manuscript are provided courtesy of Nevin Skousen and are reproduced here by permission of the Community of Christ. The text of the Yale edition of The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text (2009) is copyrighted by Royal Skousen; Yale University Press holds the rights to reproduce this text.

In this paper I discuss the work of the Book of Mormon critical text project and the attempt to restore and publish the original text of the Book of Mormon. I’ve been working on the critical text project from 1988 up to the present, and thus far ten books have been published as part of this project. Continue reading