long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

More fun with SITH and M2C

FYI, I started a series on agenda-driven history on my LetterVII blog.



One of the issues that our M2C scholars debate is the translation of the Book of Mormon. 

Anyone who reads the Book of Mormon knows it describes nothing like Mayan culture. There are no references to jade, jungles and jaguars, nothing about massive stone pyramids, nothing about volcanoes, nothing about ubiquitous stone engravings relating the history of the people beginning long before Lehi arrived, etc.

This leads our M2C intellectuals to conclude that Joseph didn't translate the plates literally, or even close to literally. They think the Book of Mormon is a "loose" translation.  

Basically, the M2C proponents insist that Joseph Smith mistranslated the Book of Mormon. Here's how Brant Gardner, one of the more prominent M2C proponents, puts it: "We have evidence that Joseph dictated 'north.' What we do not have evidence of is what the text on the plates said." 

Did you catch that? According to our M2C scholars, Joseph Smith's translation is not evidence of what the plates said!

This is why, despite the language in the text, they "cannot unsee" Mesoamerican culture when they read it. A "horse" is a "tapir," a "tower" is a "massive stone pyramid," etc.

Such a "loose" translation seems to conflict with the idea of an "iron-clad" translation promoted by various LDS scholars; i.e., the idea that Joseph read words that appeared on the stone in the hat (SITH). 

LDS scholars such as Royal Skousen say Joseph was not the translator. This excerpt discussing SITH is from his book on the King James language in the text. 

What this means is that the Book of Mormon is a creative and cultural translation of what was on the plates, not a literal one. Based on the linguistic evidence, the translation must have involved serious intervention from the English-language translator, who was not Joseph Smith. Nonetheless, the text was revealed to Joseph Smith by means of his translation instrument, and he read it off word for word to his scribe. To our modern-day, skeptical minds, this is indeed "a marvelous work and a wonder." 


SITH depends on the theory that the Mysterious Unknown Supernatural Translator (MUST) somehow translated the plates into English and caused the words that they should appear on the stone in the hat. 

To reconcile SITH with M2C, our M2C scholars have to conclude it was not Joseph who mistranslated the plates, but the MUST, who provided a "creative and cultural translation" but forgot to include all the elements of Mayan culture.

To many of us, this sounds ridiculous, but that is what M2C boils down to. 

Of course, people can believe whatever they want. That's fine with me. All we do on this blog is discuss the facts and ramifications of the various theories.


Previously, we've discussed the awesome Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Translation (GTE).


The GTE forgot to even quote (let alone discuss) what Joseph and Oliver said about the translation with the Urim and Thummim.

Instead, the GTE mingles the theories of scholars with quotations dated decades after the events from people such as David Whitmer and Emma Smith.

For example, here's a screen capture from the essay:

That quotation comes from Oliver Cowdery's Letter I, an excerpt of which is found in the Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith-History, note 1. Here it is in context, with the omitted portion in red.

Oliver Cowdery describes these events thus: “These were days never to be forgotten—to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, ‘Interpreters,’ the history or record called ‘The Book of Mormon.’

(Joseph Smith—History, Note, 1) also at https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1834-1836/49

Many faithful Latter-day Saints find it astonishing that a Gospel Topics Essay on the Translation of the Book of Mormon would not even inform readers what Joseph and Oliver had to say. 

But many of us also find it astonishing that the GTE on Book of Mormon Geography is silent about Cumorah, precisely the same way that the Saints book, volume 1, is silent on Cumorah.

That's one of the topics I'll be discussing in the series on the Letter VII blog.


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