Elder Uchtdorf's devotional talk at BYU Education Week focused on Mosiah 18:21, one of the favorite passages in the Book of Mormon.
Mosiah 18:21 also happens to be a focus of understanding the translation. Here is an excerpt from my book, A Man that Can Translate. I developed this approach in much more depth in my latest book, Infinite Goodness, which focuses on non-biblical intertextuality.
In my view, the appearance of non-biblical intertextuality is solid evidence that Joseph Smith actually translated the engravings on the plates.
p. 225. ... passages in the text
include bits of New and Old Testament phrases joined together to compose a
single verse in the Book of Mormon. Royal Skousen describes this as “blending.”
[Blending] is quite
different from a paraphrastic quoting of a single King James passage (or a
midrash-like commentary on it). It is as if the translator knows the King James
Bible so well that hardly anything can be translated without using biblical
phrases and expressions. Thus the Book of Mormon translation is much more than
a literal rendition of what was originally on the plates. It is a highly
creative translation affected by a thoroughly absorbed knowledge of the King
The concept of blending is comparable to the concept of
chunking. In both cases, the author
or speaker rearranges terms, phrases and concepts drawn from his/her mental
language bank to express his/her thoughts that often have little or nothing to
do with the original source.
The blending in the Book
of Mormon is fluid. The manuscripts show no evidence of trial-and-error
dictation or collaboration. And this is exactly how language works in our
minds. We formulate thoughts by arranging and rearranging chunks of language we
have heard or read elsewhere, converting those chunks into our own unique
The first example of
blending Skousen offers is from Mosiah 18:21, “having their hearts knit
together in unity and in love one towards another.”
This passage contains
the only usage of the term knit in the Book of Mormon. The term appears
seven times in the KJV. Three of these involve the term heart(s).
Epistle Dedicatory. “is
that which hath so bound and firmly knit the hearts of all Your
Majesty’s loyal and religious people unto You…”
1 Chronicles 12:17. “If
ye become peaceably unto me to help me, mine heart shall be knit
Colossians 2:2. “That their
hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love…”
the blending this way:
Skousen points out that
other writers used similar phrases.
1652, John Clarke, “and
had their hearts knit together in a more than ordinary bond of
1656, Alexander Grosse,
“and to have our hearts knit together in love.”
Of course, both of
these authors postdated the 1611 King James Version and the Epistle Dedicatory,
so they represent blending of biblical passages themselves.
There is another
element of Mosiah 18:21 that has a relationship to a Biblical passage. The
phrase “in unity” appears only once in the Book of Mormon and once in the
Bible. Psalm 133:1 reads, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren
to dwell together in unity!”
Adding this passage to
the blending gives us a more complete accounting for the passage:
Whether he composed the
text or translated it, Joseph could have blended Colossians and Psalms
subconsciously, by randomly choosing passages from different parts of the
Bible, or by coincidence. The
combination of Old and New Testament verses is problematic for a literal
translation because the Book of Mormon authors presumably had no access to New
Testament texts. That’s why this is good evidence of both composition and
translation. Note, however, that we still must omit much of Colossians and
Psalms to make the blending work.
Skousen treats KJV
blending as evidence that Joseph did not translate the text.
It is as if the translator
knows the King James Bible so well that hardly anything can be translated
without using biblical phrases and expressions… Each example provides an
extraordinary demonstration of linguistic gymnastics. Of course, all of this is
quite amazing, perhaps even miraculous, if one assumes that Joseph Smith must
have been the one responsible for all of this textual manipulation.
As a rule, preachers and theologians quote, paraphrase, and rearrange passages from the Bible. The blending in the Book of Mormon is different, though, in the sense that passages (chunks) of biblical and theological language are used not to borrow authority from the original, but instead to repurpose the chunks for an entirely different document. That distinction is key to understanding how Joseph translated the text.
Let’s start with
Jonathan Edwards, the “father of American theology.”
He introduced Colossians 2:2 with his own preface and paraphrased the rest. Separately, he spoke of counsel to live in
unity and love one another. His work offers a simpler and cleaner blending than
one derived solely from the KJV.
Jonathan Edwards: “and
seemed, by their discourse and behavior after public worship, to have their ‘hearts
knit together in love’ Colossians 2:2.” Also: "giving of them counsel,
to live in unity and love one another, as one that was going from
quotations, we see a closer fit than the KJV verses, and without the omissions
those verses require. Plus, the Edwards phrase starts with a form of the verb have.
To be sure, Edwards used
the Bible here, but he did so in chunks, putting biblical passages in his own
construction to paraphrase rather than directly quote the Bible, much the same
way that the Book of Mormon does. Because the original chunks are so diverse, I
suggest this blending in the Book of Mormon is not evidence of copying
from the Bible (or from Edwards) but instead is evidence of composition
or translation from Joseph’s lexicon, his mental language bank.
Wilson (2012): 132.
 Skousen, Part 4 (2018): 1031.
 Skousen, Part 4 (2018): 1032.
Skousen, Part 4 (2018): 1031.