The Book of Mormon 2/18
I might as well go back to before I read the Book of Mormon (hereafter BOM). I got my first copy of the BOM in August of 1996. I know that because the friend who gave it to me wrote a dedication on the inside of it:
To Sam HarperHe sent this to me after I had written him a letter telling him I had been visiting with some Mormon missionaries. The missionaries gave me references to read, which I did, but I didn't read the whole book at the time.
I hope this book brings you light and happiness.
The first thing I noticed about the BOM was that it imitated the King James Version. It was not written in modern English, which made me suspicious. The King James Version had been the most widely read translation of the Bible for a few hundred years, so it would make sense that if you're going to try to pass off your writing as scripture that you might want to immitate what was already widely accepted as scripture. Putting it in Elizabethan English might give it an illusion of authenticity. But if it were translated by the power of God, then such pretensions would be unnecessary. God would speak in the language of the people he was talking to just as he did in the Bible. I asked the Mormon missionaries why it was in King James English, and they said it was for the sake of formality, or something like that.
My impression since then has not changed. I don't think the style of the BOM proves it is a fake, but it does make me suspicious. My suspicions have been heightened by my discovery that the original 1830 publication of the BOM had some grammatical errors that are not at all surprising under the assumption that the BOM was written (not translated) in the 1800's, but that would be surprising if the BOM was translated the way it supposedly was.
Lemme say something about that "supposedly was." There is no official Mormon position on exactly how Joseph Smith translated the BOM, but according to David Whitmer, it was translated like so:
Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling a parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. (Address to All Believers in Christ, Richmond, Missouri, 1887, p. 12)David Whitmer was one of the three witnesses who in the introductory pages of the BOM signed a statement saying they had seen the plates (or a vision of the plates, depending on how you interpret it) and that they "had been translated by the gift and power of God."
Now I suppose a Mormon might say that grammatical mistakes are no indication that it was not translated by the power of God since perhaps grammar was not standardized among the early Mormons, and God was simply writing in their language. But if that's the case, we shouldn't expect it to be in King James English either. You see, that's the thing. There's an inconsistency. Was the Book of Mormon translated in 19th century backwoods language, or was it translated in 15th century King James language? Both, apparently. Though not a solid proof, I suspect the best explanation is that a 19th century author was simply making an imperfect attempt to imitate the language of the Bible, and he lapsed sometimes into his own vernacular.
You can use google to find a list of the grammatical changes made between the original 1830 edition of the BOM and subsequent editions, but I'll provide you with a few examples along with a link to a scanned copy of the 1830 edition so you can see for yourself.
"...they did not fight against God no more." --1830 edition
"...they did not fight against God any more." --1981 edition
3 Nephi 3:5
"Therefore, I have wrote this epistle, sealing it with mine own hand..." --1830 edition
"Therefore, I have written this epistle, sealing it with mine own hand..." --1981 edition
"Now this he done that he might preserve their hatred towards the Nephites." --1830 edition
"Now this he did that he might preserve their hatred towards the Nephites." --1981 edition
These same kinds of mistakes are found throughout the the BOM. The longest list I've been able to find through Google is here. Given the URL, it's obviously an anti-Mormon site, but you can easily check them out by looking up the references here and see it in a scanned copy of the 1830 edition. I've looked up a few on that page, and so far they all check out.
One last thing before moving on. If David Whitmer's account of how the BOM came to be is accurate, then that throws the whole enterprise into question, I would think. If it's true, then the golden plates were not consulted at all during the production of the BOM. They might as well have been left in the hills. How can anybody be sure that the BOM is a translation of those plates? What role did the plates play in anything? It seems to me that Joseph Smith himself ought to have had some questions about it.