Readers here know that I don't agree with the currently popular idea among LDS intellectuals that Joseph Smith merely read words that appeared on the seer stone-in-the-hat (SITH) and did not really translate the golden plates.
I'm adding another acronym: JDT for "Joseph Didn't Translate."
[Notice the acronym list I've added to the menus on the right]
These intellectuals claim that an unknown translator, probably from the 1500s, somehow caused words that they should appear on the seer stone Joseph put in a hat, transforming it into a sort of supernatural teleprompter. All Joseph had to do is read the words that appeared. His scribes wrote what he dictated, and that's how we got the Book of Mormon.
That part didn't make me laugh. JDT is a serious belief, based on what its proponents think the original manuscript shows. I respect their work, although I completely disagree with their conclusions.
What made me laugh (in spite of myself, because I welcome everyone's ideas), is a new claim that this unknown translator confused Joseph Smith by omitting the italicized words from the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible.
It's not enough that we have a mysterious unknown supernatural translator (MUST) that Joseph forgot to mention.
It's not enough that Joseph didn't really translate anything (JDT).
It's not even enough that Joseph misled everyone by taking credit for this translator's work.
Now we're speculating (mind-reading) about why he/she/it deliberately changed the KJV, leaving a hopelessly ignorant Joseph Smith to make up corrections to the text that don't make any sense.
I've discussed the article on my Interpreter blog, here:
Here is the punch line from the article:
the many minor differences between Isaiah in the Book of Mormon and the KJV... are more consistent with the idea that he [Joseph] was making ad hoc edits as he read and dictated a text [on the supernatural teleprompter, aka SITH] from which he believed words were missing, and from which the KJV’s italicized words had in fact been omitted by someone else. This idea... explains the odd way the Book of Mormon treats the KJV’s italicized words — omitting italicized words that are grammatically important in English, treating the same italicized word in parallel phrases differently, and replacing italicized words with synonyms. It also explains why many other words and short phrases have been inserted into the biblical quotations — Joseph Smith believed that words were missing but didn’t always know the precise locations, so he sometimes added words at the wrong locations or overcompensated and added words when none were in fact missing.
Okay, it was late at night when I read this and started laughing, and you probably don't think it's so funny, but seriously, think about what this means.
|The MUST omitting italics from the text he's|
going to send to the supernatural teleprompter,
aka the seer stone Joseph found in a well
Then, centuries later, Joseph Smith is reading along and comes to the modified KJV text. Even though he supposedly is an "unlearned reader" (a key element of SITH and JDT), he recognizes something is amiss.
As the article explains, Joseph adds words at the wrong locations and adds words when none were missing.
If that's not a recipe for disaster, nothing is.
This latest theory is the inevitable result of SITH and JDT. It opens up the text for all kinds of mischief. If the MUST was free to omit italicized words from the supernatural teleprompter, there's no reason why he/she/it could not have omitted other words from the text.
|Jade jaguar in the jungle|
Maybe we finally have the evidence for M2C!
We can just assume the MUST, living in England in the 1500s, knew nothing about Mayan culture, so he/she/it simply omitted the 3 Js and all the other indicia of Mesoamerica that were surely on the original plates.
Sadly, Joseph failed to supply those words, but our modern M2C scholars can do it. They're eager to do it.
No doubt some M2C believer has already proposed this. It's probably written up in an article that will appear soon in the Interpreter.
This is not a new theory, after all. It really is no different that the other aspects of Mayan society that the M2C scholars "see" in the text as they provide their own interpretations to supplement the John Sorenson version of the Book of Mormon.
Some readers have contacted me to ask why I'm talking about Church history issues on this blog about Book of Mormon geography and historicity. It's a good question.
In my view, M2C is a product of a mistake in Church history; i.e., people mistakenly believing that Joseph Smith had anything to do with the anonymous articles in the 1842 Times and Seasons that claimed ruins in Central America were left by Nephites (even though those particular ruins post-dated Book of Mormon time frames, as it turned out).
The mistake led faithful people (starting with RLDS scholars and eventually LDS scholars) to reach two conclusions: (i) that the prophets were wrong about the NY Cumorah and (ii) that the Book of Mormon took place within a limited area in Mesoamerica. The academic cycle perpetuated those conclusions as the M2C scholars educated RLDS and LDS youth for decades. By now, it's a given--except for the few and declining number of members of the Church who still believe what the prophets have taught about Cumorah.
Naturally, the intellectuals who developed and promoted M2C have big investments in M2C in terms of time, finances, emotions, reputations, etc. Book of Mormon Central (BMC) spends millions of dollars a year trying to persuade LDS (and non-LDS) people that M2C is "evidence" of the Book of Mormon, as well as "evidence" that the prophets are wrong about the NY Cumorah. BMC employees take to social media to spread M2C. BMC censors alternative perspectives and interpretations. It's quite an industry.
To those of us outside the M2C bubble, the M2C arguments are even more irrational now than they were at the outset in the late 1800s because we've learned so much about Mesoamerican culture. Predictably, no matter what evidence is uncovered in Mesoamerica, our M2C intellectuals figure out a way to adapt it to confirm their M2C bias. But the whole idea is fundamentally flawed, as anyone who believes the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah should have known a long time ago.
Back to the question.
I discuss Church history here because I figure that one way to correct a mistake in Church history is to understand why the mistake was made in the first place.
I realize there's no chance to change anyone's mind, and as I've always said, I'm not trying to persuade anyone. People can believe whatever they want.
I'm sharing my ideas because people have asked me to and because, for me, the teachings of the prophets make far more sense than the contradictory teachings of the intellectuals.
If that hasn't been obvious before, maybe the combination of SITH, JDT and the mischievous UST are finally making it obvious enough for all but the most fervent adherents of M2C, SITH and JDT to see.
It becomes increasingly apparent that the prophets have been right all along.
Joseph Smith did translate the engravings on the plates, using the Urim and Thummim that Moroni provided specifically for that purpose. The Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in western New York. And the teachings of M2C, SITH, JDT, MUST, etc. cause faithful members of the Church to become confused and disturbed in their faith.