This is the fourth part of the Mike Parker clarification. For Parts I-III, see
Again, I appreciate Mike's willingness to discuss these issues, and I think he has done a good job summarizing the M2C position. We both realize we disagree about some of these things but we also agree it is useful for us to have a fair and open dialog about them.
I welcome any additional input by other M2C advocates, if any.
Jonathan Neville’s synopsis of
Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery both told the truth about the translation of the Book of Mormon; i.e., that Joseph translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates.
Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery both intentionally misled everyone about the translation because in fact, Joseph never used the plates or the Urim and Thummim to translate the Book of Mormon (at least the text we have today).
1. Framing the issue as “Joseph and Oliver intentionally misled people” dishonestly misrepresents the views of those who accept that Joseph also used a seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon.
2. Martin Harris—Joseph’s first scribe in translating the Book of Mormon—testified that Joseph used both the Nephite interpreters and a seer stone in the process. The historical record suggests that early Latter-day Saints referred to both items as “Urim and Thummim.”
3. And it’s more that a little disingenuous for Jonathan Neville to accuse others of claiming Joseph Smith “intentionally misled everyone about the translation” when he himself has used his “demonstration theory” to argue that Joseph Smith did exactly that. (See below.)
Mike: 1. Framing the issue as “Joseph and Oliver intentionally misled people” dishonestly misrepresents the views of those who accept that Joseph also used a seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon.
My response: This is a binary question regarding the Book of Mormon as we have it today. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery always and unambiguously said Joseph used the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates. Neither of them said or implied that Joseph used a seer stone, let alone a seer stone in a hat.
Therefore, those who say Joseph used a seer stone to produce the Book of Mormon necessarily imply (and some outright state) that Joseph and Oliver misled everyone.
Sources that say Joseph used "both" refer to his work on the lost 116 pages, not the Book of Mormon we have today, as I clarified with my parenthetical. If there are historical sources that say he used both, and Mike can provide citations, then I'll revise my summary here.
Mike: 2. Martin Harris—Joseph’s first scribe in translating the Book of Mormon—testified that Joseph used both the Nephite interpreters and a seer stone in the process. The historical record suggests that early Latter-day Saints referred to both items as “Urim and Thummim.”
My response: Martin Harris referred to the 116 pages, which I clarified when I wrote the parenthetical "(at least the text we have today)." The Turley article to which Mike refers states a theory as a fact: "By 1833, Joseph Smith and his associates began using the biblical term “Urim and Thummim” to refer to any stones used to receive divine revelations, including both the Nephite interpreters and the single seer stone." (Apparently the article was published before the discovery of the 1832 Boston article in which Orson Hyde explained that Joseph used the Urim and Thummim to translate the plates.)
For support, Turley cites only a journal entry by Wilford Woodruff from 1841. Turley doesn't mention that the 1835 book Mormonism Unvailed, explicitly distinguished the SITH narrative from the Urim and Thummim explanation, showing the terms were not commingled at that time. Turley also doesn't mention that other contemporaries of Joseph and Oliver also distinguished the Urim and Thummim from the seer stone.
Mike: 3. And it’s more that a little disingenuous for Jonathan Neville to accuse others of claiming Joseph Smith “intentionally misled everyone about the translation” when he himself has used his “demonstration theory” to argue that Joseph Smith did exactly that. (See below.)
My response: I'm glad Mike raised this point. First, I'm not accusing anyone. "Accusation" is a pejorative term for merely reporting what the SITH proponents have said and published, as anyone can see.
My demonstration scenario does not propose any intentional or unintentional misleading. Just the opposite. Joseph explained clearly that he could not display the Urim and Thummim or the plates, but his supporters wanted to understand the translation process. This is why Gurley said Joseph used the seer stone to "satisfy the awful curiosity" of his supporters. The eyewitness testimony has Joseph putting a stone in a hat, covering his face with the hat, and dictating words. No one recorded what he dictated. It was only later that people began saying Joseph produced the Book of Mormon with SITH, but Joseph and Oliver left no room for SITH in their published statements.
To be clear, my demonstration theory is a conditional hypothetical. It arose from the assumption that (i) the SITH witnesses accurately reported what they observed and (ii) what Joseph dictated from SITH has made its way into the text we have today (despite the lack of a chain of evidence). Based on the extant original manuscripts, and assuming that what the SITH witnesses observed was Joseph dictating the text we have today, I think he probably dictated the Isaiah passages from 2 Nephi from memory, having seen during the actual translation upstairs that Nephi was quoting Isaiah. Thus, he was actually dictating his translation. He just was not dictating a "live" translation, but instead dictated material he had previously translated before doing the demonstration.
People can interpret this as "misleading" if they want to. But that requires inferring that Joseph told the SITH witnesses something false, which we do not have evidence of. Instead, it appears that the SITH witnesses inferred that his demonstration was the actual translation process (or later claimed that to refute the Spalding theory, which seems more likely to me).
What we do have is Joseph's own explicit, unambiguous published statements that he translated the record with the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates. If instead he produced the text from a stone in a hat, then there is no reasonable, fact-based alternative to concluding he misled everyone with his published statements.
Because I give the statements of Joseph and Oliver greater weight than the statements of those who were not directly involved with the translation (especially those who later turned against Joseph), this is an easy call for me, based on the available evidence.
But I'm fine with people disagreeing. I just think they should own the implications of their explanation so people can make informed decisions.