Tuesday, May 11, 2010

how he did it

In many ways, the most reasonable way to understanding the odd combination of ancient and modern elements in the Book of Mormon is to assume that Joseph Smith introduced nineteenth-century terms and concepts into the text during the translation process as he struggled to put the ideas into his own words. [Royal] Skousen’s [studies], backed up by the 4000 pages of his six-volume analysis of textual variants, made me change my mind. I now believe that the preponderance of the evidence suggests that the Book of Mormon is not in Joseph’s words, but that he read a pre-existing translation off the seer stone—a translation provided by God. Usually, closer analysis leads away from traditional, conservative, or naive ideas; history is nearly always more complicated than we first imagined. In this case, however, the most comprehensive, detailed study points toward the simpler, more miraculous alternative (even if it leaves us scratching our heads about the non-standard grammar and sometimes awkward diction).

I had always assumed that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon in much the way the process is depicted in LDS artwork, but the evidence for his use of a seer stone in a hat is so clear and compelling that I was entirely persuaded. I realized that God does not always work in ways that seem respectable or reasonable to us, and I decided that I would not be embarrassed or defensive about following the evidence, wherever it might lead.
--Grant Hardy

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