Book of Mormon: Translation, Publication, and Structure

As part of the Joseph Smith Papers Project.  Click below to watch associated videos:

Translation

Royal Skousen — the leading authority on the Book of Mormon manuscripts — hasn’t found a word in the Book of Mormon that is found to have come into English (according to the Oxford English Dictionary) later than 1720.  The Book of Mormon is an archaic, biblical-sounding text.  It’s not simply the King James Text.

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It’s an Early Modern English text, not an Upstate New York dialect.  Skousen doesn’t fully know what it means.

Skousen believes Joseph saw words, and in many cases spellings, in the interpreters.  Not simply ideas.

Printing (click to watch BYUtv video)

 

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Consider the structure of the Book of Mormon:

Structure (click to watch BYUtv video)

Interesting complexities in the Book of Mormon:

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The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon (click to watch discussion on BYUtv)

 

This LDS historian, Gerrit Dirkmatt, points out details in history you’ve never heard.  Joseph and Martin visited several printers before their negotiations led them back to Grandin (who finally agreed, after getting paid much more than usual).

Dirkmatt points out additional details, such as early accounts of Joseph’s visions (possibly the first mention of the 1st Vision), that were published in a competing print shop around the time of the Book of Mormon printing.

Book of Mormon Witnesses: 3, 8, and others

From the fun-loving, light-hearted 3 Mormons:

Jeff at Latter-day Saints Q & A shares his insights:

 

I’ll take a moment to debunk common comparisons with Bigfoot.

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Critics frequently compare LDS witnesses to those who claim to see the virgin Mary (or Bigfoot or still others).  Similar?  Not more than superficially.

Do 3 or even 8 people see Mary or Bigfoot simultaneously?  Hear Mary’s voice together?  Videotape Bigfoot in daylight hours? See a table full of Catholic relics, shown to the 3 one by one? Then hear God command them to testify?

No.  From my experience, Bigfoot and Mary witnesses are similar: no lasting evidence.  And testimonies almost always wilt under cross-examination or sustained questioning.

These elements are what provide such strong support for the Book of Mormon witnesses, the 3 and the 8.  Ditto for the testimony of 8 witnesses.

Testimony of the 3 Witnesses

Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true. And it is marvelous in our eyes. Nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.

Oliver Cowdery

David Whitmer

Martin Harris

Testimony of the 8 Witnesses

Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names unto the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen. And we lie not, God bearing witness of it.

Christian Whitmer

Jacob Whitmer

Peter Whitmer, Jun.

John Whitmer

Hiram Page

Joseph Smith, Sen.

Hyrum Smith

Samuel H. Smith

 

Keith Erekson shares his thoughts:

Brett McDonald at LDS Truth Claims YouTube channel created these videos relative to the witnesses.  Brett has done his homework.

Brian Hales debunks the anti-Mormon claims against the Book of Mormon witnesses.

Part II:

Did the witnesses leave the church?  Yes.  Deny their testimony?  No.

More insights from Jeff:

Tangible Restoration: Eye Witnesses to Gold Plates

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3 Witnesses:  saw and heard an angel.  The angel held the Gold Plates, flipped through the pages, called David by name, and testified.  The three witnesses, additionally, observed a table on which rested many ancient artifacts:  Gold Plates, Brass Plates, other plates, Liahona, Sword of Laban, and interpreters (seer stones).  These 3 witnesses were David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris.

 

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8 witnesses:  saw, held, and hefted the Gold Plates; flipped through the metal pages; and noted the engravings on the pages.   The plates were set on a stump. The eight men reported the sealed portion and the three D-shaped rings.  The eight saw the plates 1-2 days after the 3 witnesses saw the angel and objects.  These eight were Christian Whitmer, Jacob Whitmer, Peter Whitmer, Jr., John Whitmer, Hiram Page, Joseph Smith, Sr., Hyrum Smith, and Samuel Smith.

 

Richard L. Anderson (Harvard Law graduate & Berkeley PhD) is a leading authority on the Book of Mormon witnesses.  As an attorney, he understood the value of witnesses.  During Richard’s study of these witnesses, he collected documents with over 200 positive and affirming statements from the 11 witnesses.

The three witnesses:  30 interviews or reports of contact w/ Oliver Cowdery, minimum of 70 with David Whitmer, and about 50 with Martin Harris.  The eight witnesses shared up to 60 reports, affirming their experiences holding and evaluating the Gold Plates.

In contrast, a very small number of records critical to the witnesses’ testimony exist (8 to 10 total).   8-10 vs. 200.   So, around 5% of the total records relative to the witnesses argue that the witnesses made it all up.  Anderson shows how these critics — 1 named Stephen Burnett was recently excommunicated and hostile to the Church — take the witnesses’ stories out of context, misreport, and otherwise claim the witnesses were not credible.  Richard discusses the topic  and critics below.

 

More anecdotes by Richard Anderson:

 

Richard Anderson wrote a wonderful book on this topic (red book below) that you can find here.

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Dan Peterson is a professor at BYU and long-time defender of the LDS Church.  I enjoy Dan’s style and share his 2006 presentation below:

Brian Hales debunks Dan Vogel and the CES Letter’s claims critical to the Book of Mormon Witnesses: