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.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Spiderman and CES letter response

Over the years, a lot of people have asked me to respond to the CES Letter. I know plenty of people who have left the Church, gone inactive, or stopped investigating because of the CES Letter.

I haven't addressed it publicly because I'd find myself between CES Letter and the M2C citation cartel (FairMormon, BookofMormonCentral, BYUStudies, Interpreter, etc.). Because I haven't been hired by the Church to guide the Saints the way the M2C citation cartel claims to have been, the 14th Article of Faith doesn't apply to me. Fortunately.

To the extent that my explanations would make sense, the critics could deflect them by simply pointing back to the cartel as the true guides of the Church.

Seriously, as long as our own intellectuals are teaching that the prophets are wrong, what more harm can the CES Letter do anyway? 

BYU fantasy map teaching that the prophets
are wrong about the New York Cumorah

Does anyone think reading the CES Letter is worse than having students attend CES or BYU only to be taught the Book of Mormon by reference to a fantasy map that repudiates the teachings of the prophets?

I actually think it's worse for a member of the Church to attend CES or BYU and be taught that the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica than it is for a member of the Church to read the CES Letter. At least the CES Letter is clear about its assumptions.

CES and BYU don't explain to students that M2C is based on the premise that the prophets are wrong. Nor do they tell students what the prophets have actually taught.

To be sure, the cartel has responded to the CES Letter.  There has been some give and take between the cartel and the CES Letter, leaving the whole thing in somewhat of a stalemate in which all sides can confirm their own biases.

The question is, what would unbiased observers think? 

We're talking about the vast majority of the billions of people on the planet. Most don't care, but if you knew nothing about the Church except the CES Letter and the responses from the M2C citation cartel, which would you find more persuasive?

Temple Square Visitors Center teaching M2C
Frankly, I find many of the cartel's responses unpersuasive, but I'm not in the M2C bubble, and I assume those answers satisfy people who live in that bubble.

Not that I agree with the CES Letter, either. I think the author raised some good questions that many people have, and, if I shared his assumptions, I'd probably agree with him. If I shared the M2C assumptions, I'd be in the M2C bubble and I'd agree with them. I'd be stuck making the same unpersuasive answers that the cartel has provided. In both cases, it's bias confirmation.

One thing the CES Letter and the M2C citation cartel agree on: the belief that the scholars are right whenever they disagree with the prophets.

Spiderman with CES letter label (lower right)
The CES Letter is in the news because of a Spiderman comic that put a CES Letter label on the superhero's costume.

LDS Living has made sure that tens of thousands of Church members and their families will learn about the CES Letter if they already haven't.


Their article links to this one in the hollywood reporter:


I doubt many LDS have read the hollywoodreporter, but now they will. (I used to read it all the time for work, but haven't looked at it in years until now.)

In case there are any LDS or critics who haven't read the CES Letter, the Beehive Slate featured it as a major headline.
http://beehiveslate.com/ linked to businessinsider.


So far, the news hasn't arrived here in Africa, but I suppose it will soon enough. I suppose everyone in the world will know about the CES Letter. It's an impressive feat of persuasion by the person who slipped it in. Removing it was even more impressive, considering all the coverage it has received.

Back to the question of my response.

Until LDS scholars decide to accept the teachings of the prophets, including the ones they disagree with, a response is futile.

Still, I'll explain my approach and then give an example of how I would respond.

The CES Letter is an exercise in bias confirmation, as most such argumentation is. Its logic is generally sound. If you accept the premises, the conclusions follow. What you really have to do is assess the premises.

That's what I've been doing with CES Letter, the M2C citation cartel, and other issues I haven't addressed publicly.

Here are the results from the M2C citation cartel.

1. M2C premise: Joseph wrote the anonymous articles in the 1842 Times and Seasons that provided the foundation for the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory. Joseph was an ignorant speculator who  changed his mind about Book of Mormon geography and thereby confused, if not misled, the Church until LDS scholars rescued everyone with the M2C theory.

IMO, the facts contradict that premise on many levels, but basically I think Benjamin Winchester wrote the articles, that William Smith was the acting editor of the paper, and that W.W. Phelps was helping to edit. Joseph had nothing to do with them and, once they were published, he resigned as nominal editor. Consequently, these anonymous articles have zero prophetic authority and the entire M2C theory is based on a mistake in Church history.

2. M2C premise: The Hill Cumorah cannot be in New York and therefore all the prophets who taught that have been wrong.

IMO, the facts corroborate the New York Cumorah, both in terms of Church history and modern archaeology, anthropology, geology, etc. Oliver and Joseph actually visited Mormon's depository of records in the New York Cumorah, so when Oliver wrote Letter VII and stated it was a fact that the final battles took place there, he had good reason to do so. Joseph concurred by having Letter VII copied into his personal history as part of his life story and by having it reprinted in all the Church newspapers while he was alive.

3. M2C premise: there was only one set of plates, and the inexplicable events in Church history are the product of faulty memory, naive folk beliefs, and general confusion.

IMO, there were two separate sets of plates, which explains most of the otherwise inexplicable events and shows the original participants were telling the truth.

4. M2C premise: Joseph never actually used the plates.

IMO, the evidence from Joseph and Oliver, as well as the canonized revelations, shows Joseph did use the plates.

5. M2C premise: Joseph didn't even translate the ancient record because the text is archaic and sophisticated Early Modern English.

I've been addressing this premise in detail in the latest series on the blog.

This is a long way of saying that I believe what Joseph and Oliver taught, and I think the evidence corroborates what they said, not what the M2C citation cartel or the CES Letter say.

One example.

The CES Letter made a point about The Late War. I'm told it now just links back to the previous study, and I assume that's because the data from the Early Modern English theory (EME) goes a long way to prove that Joseph didn't copy The Late War.

That's the type of research that is beneficial for everyone. Lets get the facts out and eliminate faulty premises whenever we can.

The problem that remains is two-fold.

First, the M2C citation cartel responded to The Late War by claiming Joseph never read the book, a claim I consider unpersuasive for all the reasons I've given. When I read through the FairMormon responses in detail, I wonder if anyone outside the M2C bubble believes what they're saying. As long as these "guides for the Church" claim The Late War had no influence on Joseph Smith, unbiased observers are going to lean toward believing Joseph was influenced, and maybe copied some of The Late War into the Book of Mormon.

(By now, readers know that I think Joseph did read The Late War, adding its language to his own mental language bank, which naturally came out through his speech when he dictated the Book of Mormon. But that's not copying or even using the book.)

Second, EME does show that the syntax in the Book of Mormon is, in many respects, unlike that in the Bible or The Late War. That defeats the claim of plagiarism or copying. But EME goes further and claims that the Book of Mormon text is too sophisticated and archaic for Joseph to have been the translator.

Consequently, the M2C citation cartel have now managed to persuade at least people in the M2C bubble of these three key points:

1. The prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah.
2. The prophets are wrong about Joseph translating the Book of Mormon.
3. The prophets are wrong about Joseph even using the plates.

Every whack against the ties between the prophets and the Latter-day Saints weakens the remaining ties.

As long as we have a scholars vs. prophets problem going on at BYU, CES and COB, the CES Letter vs. prophets is a secondary concern.

M2C web part 7 - Bread lines and translation

We all know that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery said Joseph translated the plates. I think the evidence corroborates their claim.

Others disagree.

Critics who insist Joseph couldn't have translated the text from an ancient record fall into two categories:

1. Unbelievers who say the text is a crude copy or imitation of the Bible, The Late War, and other pseudo-biblical texts, written in the 19th century. 

2. Believers who say the text is too sophisticated to have been the product of the uneducated Joseph Smith living in the 19th century. This is EME-OT (the Early Modern English-Other Translator theory).

Today we'll look at more evidence for why I believe Joseph and Oliver.

BTW, I didn't mention this in previous parts of this series, but if you go to the Wikipedia article on The Late War, you'll see this:

Association with the Book of Mormon[edit]

In the 21st century, speculation arose that The Late War influenced the 1830 work The Book of Mormon. Believers in a miraculous origin for the Book of Mormon dismiss that claim.[1][4]

I'm a wikipedia editor and I thought about making a change here by inserting "some" before believers, and then adding this sentence at the end. "Other believers agree that The Late War, along with other books, naturally influenced Joseph Smith, but that the text is his actual idiomatic translation of ancient records."

But I don't have a citation (yet) and anyway, I looked at footnote 4, a reference to FairMormon's unpersuasive response. I figured they would object to my changes because of the 14th Article of Faith. Far better to have the people at FairMormon themselves make the change, assuming they can overcome their cognitive dissonance and stop making the unbelievable argument that The Late War had nothing to do with Joseph's dictation. Seriously, does anyone outside the M2C bubble believe that?

BTW 2: I uploaded a video explanation of my take on EME-OT here:
Subscribers already got a notice, so if you want such a notice, just subscribe to my youtube channel.

I'm all in favor of academics, study, research, publication, etc. But often we can learn more from the real world if we simply open our eyes.

Recently I stood in a bread line that explained how Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon.

We were lined up because the bakery had just brought a rack of baguettes out of the oven. The worker behind the counter was doling them out. People were taking 3, 4, 5 at a time. The bread was hot, almost too hot to handle, so long paper sacks were stacked on the counter. You had to slip the bread into each one so you could carry it.

Because I'm living in Mauritius, the people in front of and behind me were all Mauritians, descendants of immigrants from India, Senegal, and Madagascar, mostly. Our island was discovered by the Portuguese in 1507, settled by the Dutch in 1598 (the Dutch named the island after the Dutch Prince Mauritius), seized by the French in  1715, surrendered to the British in 1810, and granted independence in 1968. The French brought in slaves from Africa. When the British abolished slavery in 1835, they imported indentured servants and soldiers from India.

English is the official language of Mauritius, but everyone speaks French and Morisien, a form of Creole that is mostly French with a mixture of English and various African and South Asian languages that developed as a common language among immigrants. Mauritians speak Morisien at home, French at work, and English and French in school, although they mix everything everywhere.

Back to the bakery. Everyone was speaking Morisien, their unique and unwritten language.* And I thought, some future linguist would deny that anyone ever spoke Morisien because he/she wouldn't find any evidence by doing n-grams of published books.

That's one of the basic fallacies of EME-OT (the Early Modern English-Other Translator theory). 

In the real world even today, few local dialects are published. They have to be dictated to be authentic, anyway. The Book of Mormon is a rare example of a long dictated text. It's really the only one of its kind. (I've heard people compare it with the Koran, but that took 23 years to complete, not 3 months.)

The Lord explained that he gave these commandments to his servants "after the manner of their language" (D&C 1:24). For many believers, that settles the matter. It did for me for a long time.

But then EME-OT came along and we were confronted with faithful LDS scholars who said D&C 1:24 was wrong, or at least misunderstood and misapplied with respect to the Book of Mormon.

Whenever the intellectuals say the revelations or the prophets are wrong, I follow the adage "Trust, but verify." I mean, trust the prophets, but verify what they teach when challenged by the intellectuals.

Once again we ask, what does the evidence support? The prophets or the scholars?

The answer is in the bread line.

Everyone in line was waiting for French bread, even though Mauritius has not been ruled by France for over 200 years. French baguettes in Mauritius are an example of how cultural artifacts endure. The same is true of language artifacts.

Consider this sentence: "I took a digital photograph of a blue tattooed avatar eating lemon sorbet while kowtowing to a jaguar in a canyon swamped by a tsunami." 

Here are the origins of the words.

"I took [Norse] a digital [Latin] photograph [Greek] of a blue [French] tattooed [Samoan] avatar [Hindi] eating [Dutch] lemon [Arabic] sorbet [Turkish] while kowtowing [Chinese] to a jaguar [Portuguese] in a canyon [Spanish] swamped [Norse] by a tsunami [Japanese]."

We don't think consciously about the origins of the words before we speak them. We acquired our vocabulary from our parents and social environment, who acquired their language from their parents, etc. We build on that by reading books (I'm thinking 19th century) and maybe attending school.

Like English, Morisien, and every other language and local dialect, Joseph's dialect was a combination of numerous sources: his parents, siblings, people in the community such as preachers and teachers, plus books he read.

Some people think Joseph read only the Bible. Others think he read every book in the libraries in western New York (because they claim Joseph extracted ideas and doctrines from a wide variety of books).

Common experience and the available evidence tells me that both extremes are highly unlikely. Instead, I think Joseph read a few books on topics that interested him, including The Late War, which explained the war of 1812 and was published in New York in several editions between 1816 and 1819. In those years, the Smiths were living in Palmyra among veterans of the war. Recall that the British had invaded Pultneyville, just a few miles north of Palmyra, so the war was fresh on the minds of the people Joseph grew up with.

In 1832, Joseph reminisced about this time of his life in his brief hand-written journal:  thus from the age of twelve years to fifteen I pondered many things in my heart concerning the sittuation of the world of mankind 

His journal naturally focuses on religious issues, but what boy his age, pondering the "world of mankind," would be uninterested in a recent war that included an invasion not far from his home? Plus, Joseph wrote that "At about the age of twelve years my mind become seriously imprest with regard to the all importent concerns of for the wellfare of my immortal Soul which led me to searching the scriptures believeing as I was taught, that they contained the word of God thus applying myself to them and my intimate acquaintance with those of differant denominations led me to marvel excedingly..."

We see he was taught to believe the scriptures. His claim that he was "searching the scriptures" is given some context by his mother in her dictated history. She described how the family would gather around Joseph, "giving the most profound attention to a boy, nineteen <eighteen> years of age, who had never read the Bible through in his life; for he was much less inclined to the perusals of books then any of the rest of our children, but far more given to meditation and deep study."

Notice, he was not a Biblical scholar. He didn't read the entire Bible, but we know he read at least the book of James. Joseph didn't refuse to read, either; he was "less inclined" to peruse books, but he studied deeply.

In previous parts of this series, I showed the influence of The Late War and other books. I showed also showed examples of the Early Modern English syntax appearing in other dictated passages, including the D&C, the PofGP, and Lucy's History.

In this part, I'll look at the likely source of unique terms in the Book of Mormon.

Of the 5,673 unique words in the Book of Mormon, about 1,700 of them are used only once. Another nearly 800 are used only twice. This means nearly half of the unique words are used only once or twice. On top of that, there are unique word combinations, phrases, etc.

If, as I think, Joseph actually translated the ancient record, where did he learn these words and phrases?

1. Adieu. The word adieu appears once in all the scriptures, in Jacob 7:27. How did a French word appear in the text of the Book of Mormon?

FairMormon explains that adieu was a common English term used by Mark Twain in 1905, Chaucer in 1374, and Shakespeare in 1609. It even appears in the original unpublished draft of the Declaration of Independence. That's not a bad explanation--well, it's definitely overkill and comes across as highly defensive--but none of it explains how Joseph Smith, living in rural western New York, learned the term.

I think a simpler explanation is that Joseph Smith's aunt used the term in a poem she wrote shortly before she died in 1794. Lucy included a copy in her History.

“My friends, I bid you all adieu;

The Lord hath called, and I must go;

What is more likely?

1. Joseph Smith's mother shared her dying sister's poem with the family.
2. Joseph Smith obtained Thomas Jefferson's unpublished draft of the Declaration of Independence.

This is so obvious one has to wonder why FairMormon would not use this simple explanation. We aren't mind readers, so we have to infer that they either (i) didn't know about Lucy's History or (ii) don't want to acknowledge her influence on Joseph's dialect. (Okay, there is third option: maybe they just prefer long, complicated, unpersuasive explanations.)

Think about this when you consider which alternative is more plausible. FairMormon consists of anonymous contributors, many of them employed by the Church directly or indirectly, which makes them authoritative under the 14th Article of Faith. Could they really be unaware of Lucy's History?

Just asking.

And don't worry, I realize that's a gratuitous comment and I won't discuss FairMormon again here. But you can see why so many people find their explanations more confusing than useful. And we haven't even gotten to the real gems in their explanations of M2C.

2. Tremendous slaughter. This phrase appears only once in the Book of Mormon. The term tremendous appears only 3 times in the scriptures, all in the Book of Mormon:

Alma 28:2 And thus there was a tremendous battle; yea, even such an one as never had been known among all the people in the land from the time Lehi left Jerusalem; yea, and tens of thousands of the Lamanites were slain and scattered abroad.

3 Yea, and also there was a tremendous slaughter among the people of Nephi; nevertheless, the Lamanites were driven and scattered, and the people of Nephi returned again to their land.

Mormon 8:2
2 And now it came to pass that after the great and tremendous battle at Cumorah, behold, the Nephites who had escaped into the country southward were hunted by the Lamanites, until they were all destroyed.

Joseph could not have learned the term tremendous from the Bible. However, the term does appear in The Late War nine times, always as an adjective modifying noise, thunder or roar; e.g., "the battle continued with tremendous roar."

This is the kind of similarity that feeds both critics who claimed Joseph copied The Late War, and defenders who claim the usage is so different Joseph couldn't have read The Late War.

I think the evidence could be used to confirm either bias, but an unbiased observer would note that the context is similar, suggesting Joseph may have read the book, but the specific application is so different in the Book of Mormon that it's a most an influence. Or, as I say, a deposit into Joseph's mental language base.

How so I resolve this one?

I read Lucy's History.

Near the beginning of her History, Lucy explained "I have a sketch of my father’s life, written by himself, in which is detailed an account of his several campaigns and many of his advenures while in the army: From this I extract the following.—"

She puts the account in quotations, but it's not clear whether she read the account to her scribe or handed it over to be copied. Either way, part of the quoted account of her father (Joseph's grandfather) is this:

“The above engagement commenced early in the morning, and continued until about 3. o.clock P. M.; in which half of our men were either killed, wounded, or taken prisoners. In consequence of this tremendous slaughter, we were compelled to send to Fort Edwards for men in order to assist in carrying our wounded; which were about 80 in number." 

There it is, Joseph's exact phrase, taken from his grandfather's biography.

Next, we wonder if there is any evidence Joseph knew about his grandfather's biography. By now, you're probably figuring there is, and you're right. I'm going to share a long passage from Lucy's History.

Joseph told him that he was apprehensive of a mob being there that night, and, that they must prepare themselves to drive them away: but the first thing to be attended to, was to secure the record and breast plate. In view of this it was determined, that a portion of the hearth should be taken up, and, that the Record and breast plate should be burried under the same, and then the hearth be relaid to prevent suspicion.
This was accordingly done as speedily as possible; but the hearth was scarcely relaid, when a large company of men, well armed, came rushing up to the house. Joseph threw upen the doors, and taking a hint from the stratagem of his grandfather Mack [Solomon Mack Sr.], hallooed as if he had a legion at hand; meanwhile giving the word of command with great emphasis; while all the male portion of the family from the father down to little Carlos [Don Carlos Smith], ran out of the house with such fury upon the mob, that it struck them with terror and dismay, and they fled before the little Spartan band into the woods, where they despersed themselves to their several homes.

There are all kinds of interesting things in here I'd like to discuss, but let's just look at two.

First, the bolded passage relates back to an account in Lucy's father's biography you can read in the next section of this post. Here, Lucy makes the point that he "took a hint" from his own family history. That's solid evidence that his parents shared his grandfather's biography with him. Hence, I think this is the deposit of tremendous slaughter into Joseph's mental language bank.

Elsewhere in her history, Lucy uses tremendous 3 more times and tremendously once. I take that as good evidence that the term was part of the language Joseph inherited. To read it in The Late War may have cemented it, but he likely heard the word as a child long before he read The Late War.

Second is another rare Book of Mormon term from Joseph's grandfather's biography: stratagem.

3. Stratagem. This term appears 8 times in the Book of Mormon, once in Joseph Smith-History, and zero times in the Bible or pseudo texts (The Late War, etc.).  Lucy uses it 5 times in her History. This, I think, is another solid deposit of family dialect into Joseph's mental language bank.

Here is Joseph Smith-History, 1:60 "For no sooner was it known that I had them, than the most strenuous exertions were used to get them from me. Every stratagem that could be invented was resorted to for that purpose."

Here is the passage from Joseph's grandfather's biography, related by Lucy: I saw my danger, and, that there was no way to escape unless I could do it by stratagem. So I rushed upon them, calling in the meantime at the top of my voice, ‘rush on! rush on my boys! we’ll have the devils.’

Here is another use by Lucy: but by various stratagems one we succeeded in keeping them out of their hands

I find this highly persuasive in terms of showing that Joseph dictated the Book of Mormon in his own dialect.

I did a google n-gram on the term. You can enlarge it by clicking on it.

You'll notice that the term was not common ever, but it is documented as far back as the early 1500s. That means it could support the EME-OT theory.

The term appeared to die out in the early 1700s. (Remember this data reflects published books, not how actual people actually spoke.) But then it revived with a substantial peak around 1760.

Lucy was born in 1775, which means she probably began reading serious literature around 1790. That was about where the second modern peak was. If Lucy didn't learn the term from her parents (see the caveat below), she could easily have learned it from reading.

Although I don't think n-grams are all that useful for assessing any particular local dialect, here we see that an EME term became popular again in the timeframe of Joseph and his parents.

There are a lot more examples, too many to describe in this blog, but I went through my methodology so you can do the same, according to your interest. There are more examples in my next book, too.

Here, I need to mention a caveat. If I believed that the Book of Mormon is actually an Early Modern English text that Joseph didn't translate because he was not an expert in EME, then I would seek to confirm my bias with an alternative explanation.

I would tell myself that because Lucy dictated her history after Joseph's death, she herself must have been influenced by the EME in the text. IOW, she read the Book of Mormon. She read the term tremendous in three different verses. Therefore, the term became part of her vocabulary, and she merely parroted it back when she dictated her history. And, she undoubtedly borrowed the Book of Mormon phrase and attributed it to her father.

I fully expect the EME-OT intellectuals to adopt some rationalization along these lines. Confirmation bias is that strong.

I think most people would recognize how unrealistic that position would be, but my response would not be merely an appeal to common sense. First, I would point to the n-gram above. Then I would point out that Lucy never, or hardly ever, used such common Book of Mormon language as behold, thou, wherefore, etc., except when she was explicitly quoting scripture (and she never used "it came to pass"). Next, I would point to what Lucy said about the reason why she dictated her history:

People are often enquiring of me the particulars of Joseph’s getting the plates seeing the angels at first and many other thing which Joseph never wrote or published I have told over many things pertaining to these matters to different persons to gratify their curiosity indeed have almost destroyed my lungs giving these recitals to those who felt anxious to hear them I have now concluded to write down every particular as far as possible and if those who wish to read them will help me a little they can have it all in one piece to read at their leasure

This indicates she had repeated these accounts for a long time. Historians will quibble with some of the details Lucy related and, if they have an EME bias, will use those quibbles to cast doubt on anything that contradicts EME. And it's also true that Lucy's first draft varied in many respects from her second, corrected draft.

Because of my bias, I weigh the evidence in favor of the proposition that Joseph and Oliver told the truth and that the scriptures are accurate; i.e., that the Lord revealed these things according to the manner of language of his servants.

Here are a few more interesting examples.

4. Watery grave. This term appears only in the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 18:18), The Late War, and Lucy's History. Joseph couldn't have learned it from the Bible, but he could have from either of the other sources.

5. Anxious. This term appears only twice in all the scriptures: Mosiah 29:38 (became exceedingly anxious) and D&C 121:27 (awaited with anxious expectation). It appears twice in First Book of Napoleon but not in the other pseudo texts (with anxious eye, anxious nights).

Lucy uses it 11 times in her History, often similar to the way Joseph used it (extremely anxious, very anxious, unusually anxious) and quotes Hyrum using it once (waiting anxiously). (Lucy also used the terms exceedingly and expectation, but not together with anxiety.)

When we remember that Lucy's history was also dictated, this is good evidence to support Lucy's influence on Joseph's dialect.

6. In consequence. Surprisingly, the term consequence does not appear in the Bible, but it is in the Book of Mormon 4 times (serious consequences, which consequences, awful consequences, and the consequences of sin), the D&C 9 times, and JS-History 3 times. It appears once in The American Revolution (the consequences of thy fall!) but not in the other pseudo books.

Lucy uses it over 20 times.

That's interesting enough but even more interesting is the odd phrase in consequence. Joseph uses it twice in JS-History.

Joseph Smith—History 1:29 In consequence of these things, I often felt condemned for my weakness and imperfections; 

46 and added a caution to me, telling me that Satan would try to tempt me (in consequence of the indigent circumstances of my father’s family), to get the plates for the purpose of getting rich. 

Every time consequence appears in the D&C, it appears as part of the phrase in consequence. Here are two examples.

Doctrine and Covenants 42:64 And even now, let him that goeth to the east teach them that shall be converted to flee to the west, and this in consequence of that which is coming on the earth, and of secret combinations.

Doctrine and Covenants 56:6 For behold, I revoke the commandment which was given unto my servants Selah J. Griffin and Newel Knight, in consequence of the stiffneckedness of my people which are in Thompson, and their rebellions.

[Note: the term which in verse 6 is supposedly evidence of archaic EME when it appears in the Book of Mormon because more modern usage is who or that.]

Here are some of the 26 instances of this phrase from Lucy's History. (2 of these are from her father's biography and 7 of these are from an affidavit by Hyrum Smith, showing that Joseph's brother also used the phrase as well as Joseph's grandfather.)

Lucy: In consequence of that which brother Page for the purpose of getting a room for the women and sick children; but returned unsuccessful. (That is lined out in the manuscript which suggests Lucy said it but then revised it--the type of automatic utterance of a phrase we expect in dictation. It's the identical phrase that I bolded in D&C 42:64.

In consequence of which I took a severe cold

In consequence of which the young man returned without his grain

In consequence of which they were compelled to absent themselves from the city

And in consequence of the injuries which we had received at his hands, suspicion immediately fastened itself upon Joseph

But in consequence of his misfortunes, he was unable to do so, with the property which remained in his hands

Hyrum: That night was a commencement of a fit of sickness from which I have not wholy recovered unto this day, in consequence of my exposure to the inclemency of the weather. Our provision was fresh beef roasted in the fire on a stick; the army having no bread in consequence of mills to grind grain.


That's more than enough for now!


*Lately there has been an effort to standardize a written form of Morisien. Plus, people use it in social media, so there is a recent written record of it. But for decades, the language remained unwritten. And Morisien is different from the creole spoken on neighboring islands such as La Reunion and the Seychelles.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

M2C web part 6 - Forget EME, except...

The really fun part of my analysis of the translation is seeing how Joseph's dialect was influenced by his family, but that's the topic of part 7. We're going to talk about why lawyers in New Zealand and Africa still wear wigs, and why the Hindus I live among right now line up to buy French baguettes.

Here, though, we're going to finish up with EME.

The Early Modern English (EME) bandwagon is heading to Provo in September, and although I recommend people attend the event to see for themselves, I'm not recommending that because I think EME is a valid theory, at least not the way it is being developed.

I want people to learn about EME as a case study in how confirmation bias works. 

At the outset I emphasize that all the scholars involved with EME are great people, faithful Latter-day Saints, smart, dedicated, nice in every way. None of my analysis has any reflection on any of the people involved, and I greatly respect and admire their work. This is purely an analysis of data and reasoning.

The bias being confirmed is the idea that the text is so complex it had to have been created by an expert in Early Modern English. When I first read about EME a few years ago, I was fascinated. I was persuaded. But recognizing that a jury is usually persuaded when they hear one side of a case, I looked into it a little more.

Now I think that confirmation bias has taken what started as an important, useful linguistic study* and expanded it to the point where EME has become EME-OT (Early Modern English-Other Translator). EME-OT proponents now claim Joseph didn't translate the text, which means Joseph, Oliver, and the relevant scriptures are all wrong. As are all the prophets who affirmed that Joseph translated the Book of Mormon.

Now do you see why I've been saying EME-OT is becoming what M2C has already become? I.e., it is becoming another way for scholars to repudiate the prophets. 

I realize these faithful scholars think their theory makes the Book of Mormon more miraculous. They seem enthusiastic about the idea that the text is so complex that it had to be translated by someone with expertise, someone with detailed knowledge of linguistics. 

Sure, they acknowledge that Joseph had divine help as a prophet to transmit the text as he read it off the seer stone. But the real work of translation--the hard stuff--was performed by someone with credentials and expertise--someone like them, not an uneducated youth such as Joseph Smith.

Once again, we see the intellectuals trying to persuade us that Joseph knew less about the Book of Mormon than today's scholars, who have been hired by the prophet to guide the Church pursuant to the 14th Article of Faith.  

By contrast, I think the same evidence supports Joseph's own claim; i.e., that he translated the Book of Mormon after the manner of his own language.

My disagreement with the EME-OT advocates is simple. I think Joseph dictated the Book of Mormon in his own dialect. The same archaic speech patterns, vocabulary, and syntax are present in the D&C, PofGP, and his mother's dictated History. There is no need, or even justification, for attributing these elements to another translator.

The essence of my point is that while I agree there are archaic EME elements in the text that statistically distinguish it from the Bible and the pseudo-biblical texts, these elements can be explained by looking at other material dictated by Joseph Smith and his own family. I'll give lots of examples in part 7.

The first question that struck me as obvious was why didn't the EME-OT advocates recognize this alternative explanation? 

They do mention Joseph's dialect, but they dismiss the possibility out of hand because they don't find evidence of such a dialect in publications indexed in databases such as google books (or at least not sufficient evidence to satisfy their unstated parameters). But that's a conceptual error so large it's almost impossible to believe no one asked about it. 

Maybe they address it more completely in the book than they have so far in the literature. I hope so. In the meantime, my analysis is based only on what they've already published, and based on that, and the accompanying data, I think the evidence refutes the EME-OT theory.

Here's how the article summarizes the dialect issue.

As mentioned toward the outset of this study, a number of LDS scholars believe that Joseph Smith’s mind was saturated with biblical language and that on that basis he could have produced the text of the Book of Mormon from a mixture of biblical language and his own dialect 

Opposed to this position is a growing body of descriptive linguistic evidence that there is a substantial amount of archaic vocabulary and syntax in the Book of Mormon that does not match King James idiom. 

The text is archaic and non-biblical in many structural ways. If we accept that Joseph’s mind was saturated with biblical language, then the earliest text’s overall form and structure argue that he did not produce it. 

Ultimately, the descriptive linguistic facts overturn views of Book of Mormon language that depend on his mind being imbued with biblical ways of expression.

I think you already see the twin logical fallacies here. 

First, no one suggests that Joseph's mind was imbued only with biblical language and ways of expression. Well, somebody may have, but if so, it's an absurd suggestion. People learn language from their parents and contemporaries. At some point, literate people learn from books, but such input can only add to the mental language bank, not replace what's already there. No one speaks like a book. We all have dialects, including idioms and patterns that we grew up with.

Second, the "body of descriptive linguistic evidence" consists of printed material. It's useful, but possibly irrelevant to the question because local dialects are rarely committed to print, even today (although social media is changing that). Efforts to capture idioms, such as Mark Twain's   Huckleberry Finn, were not common historically. Certainly not throughout the isolated American settlements of the early 1800s. Local communities did not have a resident author or documentarian who recorded every nuance.

Fortunately, in the case of Joseph Smith, we have a good, though not comprehensive, record of his dictation outside of the Book of Mormon text, as well as some important examples from his family and contemporaries, particularly his mother's dictated history. By examining these sources we can find evidence that the text of the Book of Mormon is an idiomatic translation based on Joseph's own dialect.


To understand EME-OT, look at these excerpts from Brother Carmack's article, a precursor to their book, which explain the EME-OT approach to Joseph as translator. (You can read my detailed review of the article here).

- large deviations from both biblical and pseudo biblical patterns that approach attested archaic usage could support the position that Joseph was not its author or English-language translator.

- Careful, thorough investigation of Book of Mormon grammar can therefore go a long way toward telling us whether Joseph could have been the author or English-language translator.

This means that if Joseph Smith was the author or English-language translator of the Book of Mormon, then he must have deliberately produced all this divergent finite syntax that was a best fit with early modern usage, including ditransitive syntax...

There are a number of archaic features of complementation missing from the four pseudo-biblical writings in this domain. This argues against Joseph having been the author or English language translator of the Book of Mormon...

That being the case, Gardner 2011 and Barlow 2013 have effectively ended up arguing (unintentionally) against Joseph’s being the English-language translator or author of the Book of Mormon text. Had he produced the text from his own biblically saturated language, the form and structure of the Book of Mormon would be quite different and much more pseudo-biblical in its structure. 

Theoretically speaking, the profile of the person required for crafting much of the English language of the Book of Mormon was a first-rate, independent philologist — someone extremely knowledgeable in the linguistics and literature of earlier English, but not beholden to following King James patterns.

Because the Book of Mormon has so much extra-biblical vocabulary and syntax, its usage cannot be classified as a biblical–dialectal mixture either. Furthermore, there is plenty of “bad grammar” not attributable to Joseph Smith.

In addition, as shown in a recent paper, Joseph’s 1832 History is different syntactically from the earliest text in three important ways.

Because we now have a critical text and searchable databases of earlier English, the Book of Mormon can be shown to be genuinely archaic. [i.e., not a product of 1829]

I'll give just two examples of why I think the EME elements in the text are better explained as Joseph's dialect than as the careful creation of an EME-OT expert.

In his article, Brother Carmack states this: "Complex finite syntax is a strong marker of archaism."

There is a lot of such technical language in the article, but he gives some examples.

Here is the complete explanation:


This next section mainly focuses on whether the verbal complement following five high-frequency verbs — causecommanddesiremake, and suffer — is infinitival or finite. Also of concern is whether finite cases are simple or complex, and whether a modal auxiliary verb occurs in the complement. As an example, consider the following Book of Mormon excerpt:
3 Nephi 2:3
causing [them]object 1
that they should do great wickedness in the land ]object 2
This is ditransitive or dual-object syntax: the verb cause takes two objects. The first object in the above example is a pronoun and the second object is a clause: a sentence follows the conjunction (or complementizer) that. In this case the following sentence is “they should do great wickedness in the land,” and it contains the modal auxiliary verb should

Modal auxiliary usage is a sign of archaism, especially shall, and the Book of Mormon has plenty of it. The above syntax can also be called a complex finite construction, since an extra constituent occurs before the that-clause. 

Complex finite syntax is a strong marker of archaism.

In other words, the example from 3 Nephi 2:3 is a strong market of archaism; i.e., it is something Joseph Smith would not and could not know about.

And yet, if I understand this correctly, here is a complex finite syntax from March 1829, before any of the current Book of Mormon was translated.

D&C 5:3 "And I have caused you that you should enter into a covenant with me." 
The current version has been changed from the original. In the 1833 Book of Commandments, this passage read, "I have caused him that he should enter into a covenant with me, that he should not show them..." 

Either way, we can diagram it like 3 Nephi 2:3 above:
D&C 5:3
caused [you]object 1
[that you should enter into a covenant with me]object 2
Again, recall from the article that "Complex finite syntax is a strong marker of archaism." Yet D&C 5 was received in March 1829, before Oliver ever met Joseph and before any of the current Book of Mormon was translated. 

I take both the original and the edited versions of D&C 5:3 as evidence of Joseph's own syntax even before he translated the Book of Mormon text we have now.

D&C 5 is not a translation of anything, so the EME-OT theory doesn't explain it. I suppose one could argue that Joseph may have learned EME syntax by transmitting the "other translator's" translation of the Book of Lehi (the lost 116 pages), and then replicated that syntax when he received D&C 5. Or else the Lord spoke to him in EME syntax for some reason.
But the natural explanation is this is the way Joseph spoke. This is his dialect.
Or, as the Lord said, he spoke to Joseph "in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding." (D&C 1:24)

Another question about EME-OT. Why would the Lord use another translator to render the original Nephite text into a complex, archaic syntax if the objective was that Joseph and his contemporaries "might come to understanding" as D&C 1:24 says?


The second example is the phrase "more part."

Brother Carmack's article explains it this way:

The Book of Mormon’s morepart usage is quite unexpected from a perspective of Joseph generating it from his own biblically-styled language. One must go back in time 250 years to Holinshed’s Chronicles (1577) to encounter a text with the level of usage found in the Book of Mormon.49 
As a result, its morepart profile fits the occasional use found in the first half of the early modern period and no other time. Intimate knowledge of neither the King James Bible nor pseudo-biblical texts would have led to the distinctive and relatively heavy use of the more part found in the Book of Mormon. (emphasis mine)

This is a good argument in favor of EME, but it presents the same problem as the other examples of EME because we have instances of Joseph and his contemporaries using what appears to be EME.
A quick search found several examples of the use of "more part" after the Book of Mormon was published. These include the writings of Parley P. and Orson Pratt and Joseph himself. 

An 1834 letter by Joseph includes this: "I shall proceed first to answer some of the most important items contained in your last communications, the more part which gave us much satisfaction." Here, of is omitted, but this is a copy of the letter and the line ends at part, so the missing of was likely overlooked during the copying.

Orson Pratt: "These teachings of Jesus were engraved upon plates, some of which are contained in the book of Mormon; but the more part are not revealed in that book, but are hereafter to be made manifest to the saints."

In a letter to O. Cowdery dated Sept. 5, 1836, Orson wrote, "they also began to be divided the more part were determined to hear..."M&A, Oct 1835, p. 397.

Parley P. Pratt: "It will be seen, that the more part of the following..."

In the Sept. 15, 1844, trial of Sidney Rigdon, Parley P. Pratt said, "they too in the absence of the more part of the quorum of the Twelve..." Times and Seasons, 5:17, pl 651. 

An editorial by Oliver Cowdery in the Messenger and Advocate explained, "We are indebted to them for the more part of the information of this kind..." Jan 1835, p. 63.

There are probably many other examples, but these show that the more part was not unusual usage among Joseph's contemporaries. 

How this evidence should be weighed is up to each individual, but my bias leads me to lean toward a common usage not necessarily reflected in the literature of the day.

As I mentioned above, there is another possibility. Are these subsequent usages of the more part attributable to the EME of the dictated Book of Mormon text?

IOW, did Joseph and his contemporaries learn how to speak in EME when he translated the text?
That seems to me a remote possibility because these other examples do not otherwise mimic Book of Mormon language. 

A remote possibility is not an impossibility, so everyone has to decide the relative probability of these alternatives. I think it is far more likely that Joseph dictated with EME phrases because they were part of the dialect he grew up with, for which we have lots of evidence.


Speaking and dictating are different from writing. Speaking is faster.** Speakers rely on recycled expressions and formulas, with simpler structures and vocabulary. 

This is a good description of the Book of Mormon text. As we've seen, phrases and expressions are recycled from the Bible and the pseudo-biblical books, exactly as we would expect from a dictated text. That's not plagiarism; that's speech.

The vocabulary is simple; the Book of Mormon contains fewer unique words than the New Testament, even though it contains nearly 100,000 more words. 

Text                       Words   Total words
OT                          10,842   609,233
NT                          6,063     180,380
BofM                     5,672     267,170
D&C                       4,721     111,912
PofGP                   2,411     26,045

In part 7 we'll look at some of the unique vocabulary and see where Joseph could have picked it up.

The text contains a lot of repetition, which we also expect in a dictated text. The phrase "it came to pass" appears 1,399 times in the text, 1,168 of which begin with "and." (The rest begin with "for," "but," "now," "wherefore," or "behold.") 

Notice I wrote simpler structures. The EME analysis indicates there are complex archaic structures, but another way to interpret the evidence is to notice all the inconsistencies. Rules of grammar and syntax are followed arbitrarily, if at all. This is a common characteristic of the other colloquial evidence we have from Joseph's other dictated works and the records from his family and associates.

We'll look at this in part 7.

*EME started as a legitimate response to a potentially serious problem; i.e., critics said that similarities between The Late War and the Book of Mormon showed that Joseph copied The Late War. This caused a sensation among anti-Mormon critics. It became part of the CES Letter and other anti-Mormon sites. The claim was easy to demonstrate and easy to understand, which made it persuasive to many people. 

Plus, Latter-day Saints were unprepared for the similarities. People wondered, "How could such a book, published before the Book of Mormon, look so much like the Book of Mormon?" The Late War generated considerable cognitive dissonance.

FairMormon provided responses that included some good points, observing that many of the similarities were contrived by the critics. But ultimately, FairMormon's responses were unpersuasive except to those who sought to confirm their bias that the Book of Mormon is true. 

Then Brother Carmack did a statistical analysis that uncovered something surprising: the Book of Mormon contains archaic language not present in the Bible, The Late War, or three other pseudo-biblical texts. He and Brother Skousen collaborated and produced the book that is being launched in September. I think their work is exceptional and definitely shows that Joseph didn't plagiarize the Bible, The Late War or the other pseudo-Biblical texts. 

The problem is, Brothers Carmack and Skousen convinced themselves that Joseph couldn't have produced the Book of Mormon, either, because it is too complex. Now they're claiming that Joseph transmitted, but did not translate, the text.

This means that Joseph and Oliver, and the relevant scriptures, are all wrong.
** One of the notable aspects of the translation is the speed with which it was accomplished. Joseph dictated the entire text in about 3 months. (Oliver was able to write that fast because he was taking dictation, which is much faster than composing.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

M2C web part 5 - EME and other influences

Just as President Joseph Fielding Smith warned, people are confused and disturbed in their faith in the Book of Mormon because of M2C. A similar problem is arising with respect to the translation of the text, which makes this is a very important issue.*

In this post, I'm proposing that Joseph Smith actually translated the plates, and that he did so by drawing upon his own mental language base, which was a product of his environment and his education.

IOW, he didn't copy or plagiarize anyone else's work, and he didn't merely read someone else's translation into English that appeared on a seer stone.

Instead, he dictated the Book of Mormon in his own dialect, working it out in his mind as the Spirit drew upon his specific mental language base to render the text into English, "after the manner of his language." (D&C 1:24)

Among the influences we can document are:

1. the Bible (see an excellent article on intertextuality here:

2. The pseudo-biblical texts including The Late War and The First Book of Napoleon (not merely the similar phrases taken out of context and stitched together by critics).

3. The dialect of his parents, siblings, and neighbors, with the primary source being Lucy Mack Smith's dictated History.

This is what we would naturally expect, since it's how every human acquires and expresses language. Most if not all of the vocabulary, grammar, patterns and syntax in the Book of Mormon is drawn from these three sources and appear in the other dictated revelations and letters of Joseph Smith, both before and after he translated the Book of Mormon, in the D&C, PofGP, and elsewhere. 

Other possible sources include other books including Christian commentaries, news sources such as the local Palmyra paper, and input from other associates including Emma, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris. These are all more difficult to document.

There is a big difference between the way people talk and the way they write, as anyone who has read trial transcripts knows. One linguist explained that "speed [of speech] has consequences for the kind of language we use and hear. When speaking, we rely on recycled expressions, formulae we use over and over again, and less complex structures [but a lot of unnecessary or shadow pronouns]." The Book of Mormon consists of many, many recycled expressions and formulae. We'll discuss the structures and pronouns below.

Bottom line, Joseph's writings, such as the 1832 history, don't reflect the way he spoke, but his dictated texts do.

Consequently, I think the EME (Early Modern English) theory provides data that is great for disproving plagiarism and copying, but not for proving or even suggesting that Joseph didn't perform the first translation into English.

There are a lot of LDS scholars jumping on the EME bandwagon, and because that wagon is coming to town in September (well, to Provo, not to Africa), it's fascinating for me to watch how confirmation bias operates in real time.

I realize this series is too detailed for most readers, but it's an important issue because EME is being embraced by the same intellectuals who brought us M2C, the idea that Joseph never used the plates, and other gems widely accepted concepts. Despite the detail in these posts, some readers have been reading carefully and commenting to me, which is very helpful. Some are sending me additional material and resources that I am incorporating as I work my way through this issue.

If you don't have time to read all of these posts now, a version of them will be in my next book. Plus, you can always refer back to them on this blog, at least for a while.

When we consider the translation of the Book of Mormon, there seem to be three possible interpretations, each with various nuances.

1. Joseph (or other contemporaries) wrote the text; i.e., it's fiction, whether plagiarized or copied or composed with elements from other sources, and Joseph merely read a prepared manuscript to his scribes. The EME evidence demonstrates significant yet subtle differences from contemporary books, thereby tending to disprove the plagiarism issue (unless EME texts were plagiarized/copied).

2. Joseph had no involvement with translation, per se, because he merely read what appeared on a seer stone; i.e., it's pure revelation, with the translation performed by God directly, or through an unknown spiritual intermediary. This is the gist of the EME theory.

3. Joseph actually translated the plates with the gift of God; i.e., he studied the characters and worked the translation out in his mind, aided by the Nephite interpreters, but he (and the Spirit) rendered the text in his own dialect, drawing on his own mental language base. This is what I think.

It is well-known that Joseph made hundreds of changes to the text after the 1830 edition was published. That seems consistent with alternative 1 and 3, but more difficult to reconcile with alternative 2.

The translation process has also been framed as "tight" or "loose," a scale describing different levels of flexibility Joseph may have had when he dictated; i.e., was he required to read exactly what appeared on the interpreters, or did he have some input somehow, such as by using his own term (horse) to describe an animal mentioned on the plates (e.g., tapir, using the M2C approach).

Jeff Lindsay provided a nice overview here, with a bonus early introduction to EME as well:

In parts 1-4 we looked at some of the issues involved with The Late War and other pseudo-biblical books published before the Book of Mormon. To recap: Some critics claimed there is evidence that Joseph plagiarized the Book of Mormon from those texts. In response, defenders claim that evidence is wrong, misinterpreted, or not convincing.

The latest response is the theory that the Book of Mormon was translated into Early Modern English (EME), a form allegedly unknown to Joseph Smith. I agree that the data disproves the critics' plagiarism claim, but I don't agree that the data shows Joseph didn't translate the plates into English.

Next month, on September 25, 2018, BYU Studies and the Interpreter Foundation are launching a new book on EME by Royal Skousen and Stanford Carmack titled The Nature of the Original Language of the Book of Mormon (NOL). See the announcement here. I encourage anyone interested to attend or view it remotely, if possible.

Of course, my conclusions are based on what has been published so far. Maybe NOL will address the issues I'm raising here and I'll change my mind accordingly.

We'll start by analyzing the NOL announcement (in blue), with my comments in red.

Critics of the text have viewed the nonstandard grammar of the original text ("they was yet wroth" and "in them days") as an indication of Joseph Smith's dialect, but Skousen and Carmack argue in GV that the so–called bad grammar of the original text was actually Early Modern English and represents language that appeared in published texts from the 1500s and 1600s. 
I love the work of Brothers Skousen and Carmack, but I think their fundamental assumption about Joseph's dialect is a mistake. I agree with their data, but not with their premise or conclusion that Joseph didn't translate in his own language. Because I accept D&C 1:24, I think Joseph dictated the Book of Mormon (and other revelations) in his own dialect; i.e., "after the manner of their language." I think the evidence supports and corroborates D&C 1:24, not the Skousen/Carmack theory; i.e., "after the manner of centuries-old language." 
Now in NOL, Skousen (again with the assistance of Carmack) argues that virtually all of the language of the Book of Mormon is found in Early Modern English. 
We would expect this, given the Colonial lag of English in the U.S. More on that below.
Not only is [sic] the vocabulary, phrases, and expressions of the text from Early Modern English, but a good many of them ceased to exist in English prior to 1700 (examples like but if 'unless', do away'to dismiss', and idleness 'meaningless words'). 
The earliest British settlers of America arrived in the early 1600s (Jamestown, VA, 1607, Pilgrims in Plymouth, MA, 1620, etc. As contemporaries of Shakespeare (1564-1616), Bacon (1561-1626), Donne (1572-1631), etc., these settlers would have spoken a similar dialect (although settlers came from many parts of England, bringing regional dialects that persisted in their American communities). The theory of "Colonial lag" claims that American English changed slower than British English, such that in some ways American English is still closer than British English to Shakespearean English. 
In all, Skousen identifies about 80 word uses, phrases, and expressions that disappeared from English one to three centuries before Joseph Smith's time. 

I discussed the ones in his article here: http://interpreterpeerreviews.blogspot.com/2018/08/peer-review-of-early-modern-english.html. When the book is released, we can see whether and how he addressed the issues raised in my peer review and these blogs. I'd be happy to change my views in response to new information and analysis.
Going further, Carmack discusses the syntax of the Book of Mormon and investigates the plural –th ending ("Nephi's brethren rebelleth"), the periphrastic past–tense did ("they did quake"), and complex finite clausal complements ("he can cause the earth that it shall pass away"). The Book of Mormon's extensive (and particular) use of this syntax is not found in the King James Bible, nor in Joseph Smith's writings or in the pseudobiblical writings common to his time. But it was prevalent in the English of the second half of the 1500s.
Early Modern English was both spoken and written, but spoken dialects rarely make it into print. In my peer review I went through the examples from the article and showed they actually reflect Joseph's own language. All of Joseph's vocabulary and syntax can be found in the sources for his specific mental language base; i.e., the Bible, the pseudo-Biblical books and other contemporary religious books, the dialect he grew up with (e.g., Lucy Mack Smith's History), etc., and the same dialect shows up in the pre-and post-Book of Mormon revelations in the D&C and PofGP.
Finally, Skousen argues that the themes of the Book of Mormon — religious, social, and political — do not derive from Joseph Smith's time, but instead are the prominent issues of the Protestant Reformation, and they date from the 1500s and 1600s rather than the 1800s — examples like burning people at the stake for heresy, standing before the bar of justice, secret combinations to overthrow the government, the rejection of child baptism, the sacrament as symbolic memorial and spiritual renewal, public rather than private confession, no required works of penance, and piety in living and worship.
I don't think it matters when these issues originated. The question is whether they were still "alive" during Joseph's lifetime. Which they clearly were. People still discuss them today, except reframed as "deep state," "fake news," "organized religion vs individual worship," etc.

In the next post, I'll give some specific examples of why I think EME does not explain the text of the Book of Mormon, and why I think the other influences do.

*The translation of the Book of Mormon is an important topic for anyone who doesn't simply accept the Book of Mormon on faith, which means it's important for the vast majority of God's children on Earth. 

People who have the spiritual gift of "exceedingly great faith" (Moroni 10:11) need to realize that many (most) others don't have that gift. Moroni himself reminded us that there are many spiritual gifts. Those who have a gift of knowledge or wisdom, for example, need facts and reason to discern truth, at least to the point where they can also exercise faith.

Plus, the Title Page explains the Book of Mormon was written to convince people that Jesus is the Christ. That means we need to understand and address any impediments to their fair consideration of the Book of Mormon. While it's true that facts and logic don't usually outweigh confirmation bias, clarity about our message, combined with at least plausibility, provides a framework for sincere truth seekers. 

The Gospel Topics Essay on the translation is a helpful start, but doesn't address the specific issues that many people wonder about, such as the influence of The Late War and other books. You can see my suggestions for that essay here.