A Comparison of the Book of Mormon’s Subordinate That Usage

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Abstract: This paper compares the Book of Mormon’s subordinate that usage with what is found in the King James Bible, pseudo-archaic writings, and the greater textual record. In this linguistic domain, the Book of Mormon manifests as thoroughly archaic, and it surpasses all known pseudo-archaic writings in breadth and depth of archaism. The implications of this set of linguistic data indicate that the translation as originally dictated by Joseph Smith cannot plausibly be explained as the result of Joseph’s own word choices, but it is consistent with the hypothesis that the wording was somehow provided to him.

Book of Mormon excerpt with an archaic subordinate that:
“after that they had hid themselves, I Nephi crept into the city”

(1 Nephi 4:5)1

In 1 Nephi 4:5, archaic subordinate that usage (also called pleonastic that in the literature)2 involves the time conjunction after. This “after that S” usage (where S stands for a sentence-like subordinate clause) is frequently found in the King James Bible (74 times by one count, if we include the Apocrypha, which was often present in earlier Bibles). Yet as we shall see, this particular archaic subordinate that usage, as well as [Page 2]subordinate that in general, occur to a limited extent in pseudo-archaic texts of the 18th and 19th centuries. The reason for this is twofold: some biblical subordinate that usage is only lightly represented in the King James text (≤ 5 times), and subordinate that usage “declin[ed] rapidly in the 17th century to such an extent that it became virtually obliterated towards the end of that same century.”3

I will first review biblical types of archaic subordinate that usage, then pseudo-archaic usage, and then the types found in the original Book of Mormon text. Pseudo-archaic writings constitute a control group that is important to consider (see below and the final section of the appendix for how these texts were chosen). The approach taken here is not to assume that any biblical usage was automatically reproducible by Joseph Smith, as a biblical imitator, since such an assumption is not a principled, rigorous approach.4 Rather, many pseudo-archaic texts have been consulted in order to determine which types were produced [Page 3]by various biblical imitators, and to what extent, both before and after Joseph’s 1829 dictation of the Book of Mormon.

Biblical Types of Archaic Subordinate That Usage

The King James Bible has seven types of archaic subordinate that usage (it also has a few other types that are not as clearly or obviously archaic):

  • after that S
  • because that S
  • before that S
  • for that S (meaning ‘because’)
  • how that S
  • lest that S
  • until that S till that S (morphological variants)

I recently counted — using a digital copy of a complete 1611 Bible — 211 instances of archaic subordinate that used with the above subordinating conjunctions. Here is the above list ordered according to how many of each type were found in the biblical text.

  • after that S (74)
  • how that S (45)
  • because that S (41)
  • for that S (39)
  • before that S (5)
  • until that S till that S (4)
  • lest that S (3)

The first four types occur much more frequently than the last three types. Here are a few examples of each of these seven types of archaic subordinate that usage, ordered alphabetically:

After that S [74 instances]

Leviticus 13:7 after that he hath been seen of the priest for his cleansing
Tobit 7:1 after that they had saluted one another, she brought them into the house
Mark 14:28 after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee

[Page 4]Because that S [41 instances]

Numbers 11:20 because that ye have despised the Lord which is among you
Tobit 3:8 because that she had been married to seven husbands
Mark 5:4 because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains

Before that S [5 instances]

Jeremiah 47:1 before that Pharaoh smote Gaza
John 1:48 before that Philip called thee
Galatians 2:12 before that certain [men] came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles

For that S [39 instances]

1 Chronicles 15:13 for that we sought him not after the due order
Proverbs 1:29 for that they hated knowledge,
and did not choose the fear of the Lord
1 Maccabees 5:67 for that they went out to fight unadvisedly

How that S [45 instances]

1 Samuel 24:18 how that thou hast dealt well with me
2 Esdras 5:54 how that ye are less of stature than those that were before you
Matthew 16:12 how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread

Lest that S [3 instances]

Genesis 38:9 lest that he should give seed to his brother
2 Maccabees 6:15 lest that … he should take vengeance of us
1 Corinthians 9:27 lest that … I myself should be a castaway

Until that S Till that S [4 instances]

Judges 5:7 they ceased in Israel until that I Deborah arose
Psalm 123:2 until that he have mercy upon us
Daniel 2:34 thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands
[Page 5]Acts 21:26 until that an offering should be offered for every one of them

Pseudo-Archaic Instances of Archaic Subordinate That

After counting instances of subordinate that in a digital version of the 1611 King James Bible, I checked to see which of the above seven types were found in a corpus of 25 pseudo-archaic texts. I included all the texts mentioned in Eran Shalev’s article on pseudo-biblicism,5 consulting other sources as well, and even adding some texts whose language is frequently archaic but for which scriptural style was not necessarily a guiding principle. The 12 longer pseudo-archaic writings in the corpus have between 14,000 and 132,000 words. (See the end of the appendix for a complete listing and for further information on how I made up the corpus.)

I found that four of the seven biblical types of subordinate that occurred in the 25 texts, the four most frequent types. The three infrequent types were not imitated (≤ 5 instances). In addition, only one shorter text (with fewer than 10,000 words) had an example of archaic subordinate that; it had an instance of “for that S” (shown below). The most commonly imitated type was “how that S”; five texts had examples of this. The higher usage of “how that S” can be explained by the uniqueness of how in this set. It functions adverbially rather than conjunctively, and in modernizations, the how can be dropped without replacement, without any loss of meaning. In contrast, the same conjunctions or synonymous conjunctions are needed in modernizations of the other subordinators.

Here are the pseudo-archaic examples that I found, ordered according to how many of such writings had them:

How that S [5 texts, 14 instances]

Book of Jasher (1751) [1 instance]
8:3 how that our fathers … dwelt in the land of Canaan and possessed the same
American Chronicles (1775) [3 instances]
1:27 how that he putteth the yoke of cannon upon the neck of the Bostonites
[Page 6]2:17 how that the heathen threatened their brethren the men of New England
3:54 how that he hath destroyed the sorcerers, the soothsayers, and the witches, out of the land
American Revolution (1793) [7 instances]
2:12 how that the people of the provinces had refused to obey the decree that he had made, and had destroyed the Indian weed
20:21 how that the servants of the king were gone into captivity
32:1 how that the servants of the king were slain and taken captive at Bennington
32:10 how that the people of the Provinces pressed hard upon the host of the king in the Northern Province
37:1 how that the Northern army was made captive by the people of the Provinces
40:2 how that the men of Britain were gone forth to forage and to distress the husbandmen
42:15 how that the strong hold was taken
Chronicles of Eri (1822) [2 instances]
3:19:19 how that he was going through Ullad, assembling the men of the land
4:9:30 how that she came over the waves of the sea from Dunmeanac
New Gospel of Peace (1863) [1 instance]
4:1:26 how that in the beginning he had said, Let the Phiretahs go

For that S [3 texts, 34 instances]

American Chronicles (1775) [1 instance]
1:5 for that they have rebelled against thee
Chronicles of Eri (1822) [32 instances]
1:4:44 for that Calma was no more
2:1:72 for that Er is not of the age
2:1:88 the land mourneth, for that Iber is no more
2:9:16 for that not one of the race of Iolar was of the age
3:2:47 for that Eocaid did abide thereon
3:7:82 Eocaid doth mourn for that Tatla is no more
[Page 7]3:19:50 for that the mind of Cairbre desireth repose
3:20:67 it is for that the words are true I feel the pain
4:1:65 for that he did not perform the promises he did make unto them
4:9:79 Eri was in trouble for that Fionn was no more
4:10:15 for that they so quickly passed his lips
4:10:94 Siorna chode with his brother, for that his ways were evil
4:10:117 Siorna died for that the men did do more than they were bidden to
4:12:14 for that all present did know the thing was contrived between them
4:24:12 they did imagine for that his words were not loud, he was consenting unto their fancies
4:24:13 for that they let it fall by the way
4:28:9 for that he delighteth not in things wherein other men have joy
4:28:53 for that all my remaining time of life, it would pain my spirit if you did
4:28:58 for that he did shun the haunts of men
5:2:37 Eri seemeth not to feel oppressed for that Maca is thereon
5:2:42 the children of the land mourned for that Maca was no more
5:5:5 for that they were pleased because of his pursuit after Bacad
5:5:9 for that Noid is as one of the princes of Gaeleii
5:6:17 for that words had come to Fearmor’s ears
5:8:23 for that he did come with many ships to Er
5:9:29 for that they entered into the land as the foe to take off a spoil
5:19:17 for that he felt no hope of a return of his love
5:24:16 for that a prince of the race of Er sat on the throne of Eri
5:24:22 they think for that Iolar ruled Erimionn, Eri should be theirs for ever
5:28:39 for that Geinter was within the portion of Er from the beginning
5:28:113 for that the mind of Scandt was filled with jealousy of the sons of Eri
5:29:41 for that Iolar first did take upon himself the name of Erimionn
[Page 8]Chronicles of Nathan (1758) [1 instance]
1:2:37 for that by the law of the Jews no man might suffer death for this thing

Because that S [2 texts, 11 instances]

History of Anti-Christ (1811) [1 instance]
2:8:11 because that no man was thought fit for a magistrate or church member
New Gospel of Peace (1863) [10 instances]
2:2:2 because that he could say more and mean less than any other man in that country
2:2:2 because that there was no man who could see more ways of making trouble for other folk and getting out of it himself
2:3:4 because that he had been driven out of the Wilderness of Pharjinnee and that they worked not with him to obtain the victory
2:4:34 for because that he was not a Kopur-hedd
2:4:48 for because that his case is desperate
3:1:4 because that in the days of James … he had joined himself unto the Schynnurs
3:5:29 because that the men of the Eunyun held themselves aloof
3:7:38 because that by your carelessness ye did so mislead and afflict the people
3:7:41 because that he would suffer no man to speak or to write evil of him
4:1:6 because that he cut his way into the country of the Phiretahs

After that S [1 text, 9 instances]

American Revolution (1793) [9 instances]
5:1 after that the army of the king of Britain had gotten safe to land
23:16 after that the host of Britain had gone into the ships
24:14 after that the host of the people of the provinces had fled from the army of Britain
25:11 after that William … had gotten into the city
28:1 now after that Donop the captain was slain
[Page 9]38:1 after that the king of Gaul had made a covenant with Benjamin
42:18 after that the people of the Provinces had gotten possession thereof
53:13 not many hours after that Nathaniel had assumed the command of the army
59:4 after that Cornwallis was taken captive

Four of the 12 longer pseudo-archaic texts had two types of archaic subordinate that:

  • American Chronicles (1775)
  • American Revolution (1793)
  • Chronicles of Eri (1822)
  • New Gospel of Peace (1863)

None of the pseudo-archaic texts had three or more types of archaic subordinate that.

The Book of Mormon’s Usage of Archaic Subordinate That

Most Book of Mormon instances of subordinate that were deleted early in the editing process, primarily for the 1837 edition. These edits by Joseph Smith made the text less biblical. Royal Skousen, as part of his critical text work, documented all the editing that has occurred over time for this syntactic usage, providing counts of the various kinds of subordinate that usage.6 What he found is that the vast majority of the time, but not always, there are biblical examples of the usage.

In contrast to pseudo-archaic writings, the Book of Mormon has six of the seven types of archaic subordinate that usage found in the King James Bible. Here are examples of these six types:

After that S [115 instances]

1 Nephi 19:4 after that I was gone
1 Nephi 15:13 after that the Messiah hath manifested himself in body unto the children of men
3 Nephi 28:3 after that ye are seventy and two years old

Because that S [34 instances]

1 Nephi 16:22 because that they had hardened their hearts again
[Page 10]2 Nephi 29:10 wherefore because that ye have a Bible
Mormon 9:20 because that they dwindle in unbelief

Before that S [8 instances]

1 Nephi 13:15 like unto my people before that they were slain
1 Nephi 19:2 the things which transpired before that I made these plates
Mormon 6:22 O that ye had repented before that this great destruction had come upon you!

For that S [1 instance]

Alma 21:21 for that his father had granted unto him that he might reign

How that S [8 instances]

Jacob 2:5 how that ye are beginning to labor in sin
Jacob 3:10 how that ye have grieved their hearts
Helaman 5:6 how that it is said … that they were good

Lest that S [3 instances]

Alma 22:22 he … feared lest that a multitude should assemble
Alma 36:11 lest perhaps that I should be destroyed
Helaman 2:11 he feared lest that he should be destroyed

Additional Types of Subordinate That Occurring in the Book of Mormon

In terms of semantics, the original Book of Mormon text has another type of archaic subordinate that usage also found in the 1611 Bible:

To that S [like biblical “till that S” and “until that S”] [1 instance]

1 Nephi 18:9
insomuch that they began to dance and to sing and to speak with much rudeness yea even to that they did forget by what power they had been brought thither

In terms of morphology, this one is different from what is found in the King James Bible.

[Page 11]Since that S [1 instance]

The original Book of Mormon text has another type of archaic subordinate that usage not found in the 1611 Bible:

1 Nephi 22:5
And since that they have been led away, these things have been prophesied concerning them,
The subordinate that was removed by Joseph Smith in 1837;7 the archaic that can be seen on page 56 of the 1830 first edition.

This same usage is found in the forerunner to the King James Bible, the 1568 Bishops’ Bible, in the book of Acts. This biblical passage can be found in the Early English Books Online database (EEBO).8 In the following excerpt, the spelling has been modernized:

1568, EEBO A10708 [Bishops’ Bible, Acts 2:33]
Then since that he by the right hand of God was exalted, and hath received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost,
King James reading:
Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost,

Besides this type of subordinate that, the Book of Mormon also has two subtypes of subordinate that (five instances) not found in the King James Bible; these are covered below.

The Book of Mormon stands out from pseudo-archaic texts in both types and number of instances of subordinate that. The longer pseudo-archaic texts, which together have more than twice as many words as the Book of Mormon, have fewer types of subordinate that, as well as fewer instances. Taken together, the 12 longer pseudo-archaic texts have half as many types and about one-fifth the rate of occurrence (1.2 instances per about 10,000 words versus 6.9 per 10,000 words in the Book of Mormon, which has approximately 250,000 words in mostly nonbiblical contexts).

[Page 12]Table 1. Comparison of archaic subordinate that usage with eight subordinators in the King James Bible, the Book of Mormon, and 25 pseudo-archaic texts.

King James Bible Book of Mormon Pseudo-Archaic Texts
after that S
how that S
because that S
for that S
before that S
lest that S
until/till/to that S
Since that S

Note: Five other subordinating conjunctions discussed in Grammatical Variation (see note 6) — “except (that) S”, “insomuch (that) S”, “notwithstanding (that) S”, “save (that) S”, and “than (that) S” — were not included in this study, either because the degree of archaism of the that-construction isn’t clear or the lack of that is often due to other grammatical factors. The correlation of the subordinate that usage of the King James Bible and the Book of Mormon is 0.78.

As shown in Table 2, none of the 12 longer pseudo-archaic texts has more than two types of subordinate that, yet the Book of Mormon has eight, one more than the King James Bible. In more than 580,000 pseudo-archaic words (more than 560,000 in the 12 longer texts), all that we find are four types. So from the assumption that, syntactically speaking, the Book of Mormon is a pseudo-archaic text worded by Joseph Smith — an assumption that many LDS scholars make (without necessarily saying so or using that terminology) — we do not expect eight types of this archaic syntax. The upper bound of what we expect is four.

Table 2. Number of types and instances of archaic subordinate that occurring in scriptural texts and 12 longer pseudo-archaic texts.

Texts Types Instances
King James Bible, including the Apocrypha 7 211
Book of Mormon, nonbiblical sections 8 172
6 longer pseudo-archaic (P-A) texts 0 0
2 longer P-A texts, considered individually 1 1, 1
4 longer P-A texts, considered individually 2 4, 11, 16, 34
All types and instances found in 12 longer P-A texts 4 67

Moreover, from the perspective that Joseph Smith was a pseudo-archaic author, each type beyond four occurring in the original Book of Mormon text was increasingly unlikely to occur. Specifically, the fifth and sixth biblical types occurring in the Book of Mormon, but [Page 13]not found in pseudo-archaic texts, were somewhat unlikely to occur. And the more obscure “since that S” and “to that S” types were unlikely and highly unlikely, respectively.

Above is an early modern example of “since that S”, from the 1568 Bishops’ Bible. Here is an early modern example of “to that S”:

1626, James Haig [letter]9
and to that I be into fashion, I am ashamed to presume in the sam[e]

Although there are other examples of this “to that S” language, they are rare, textually speaking, and from earlier in time.10

Biblical Subtypes of Archaic Subordinate That Usage

The King James Bible has three subtypes of archaic subordinate that usage involving an additional degree of complexity or archaism. Here is a case where the sentence has additional subordinate clauses headed by that:

How that S and that S [1 instance]

1 Corinthians 15:3–6 how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures and that he was buried and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve

In this passage, the main clause (not shown here) precedes the complex “how that S” subordinate clause. In a conjoined case like this one, the archaic that is repeated rather than the subordinator how, and the same meaning is conveyed. (This is more noticeable after the subordinator because; see below.) Modern versions drop the how and just use that repeatedly.

Archaic after that used with future subjunctive shall [1 instance]

Similar to how subordinate that was primarily a phenomenon of the 16th century and before, the use of shall as a subjunctive marker was much more prevalent in earlier times. In subordinate clauses, it often [Page 14]indicated future indefiniteness or contingency. In English subordinate clauses, the use was mostly taken over by the present indicative, with some initial present subjunctive use. In some languages, such as Spanish, present subjunctive forms have completely replaced future subjunctive forms, except in some relic formulaic uses, and have been maintained.

In English, future subjunctive shall usage diminished in the 17th and 18th centuries, becoming restricted in large part to legal registers. The combination of subordinate that and future subjunctive shall in the subordinate clause is thus a further indication of authentic or well-imitated archaism.

The following passage seems to have the only instance of future subjunctive “after that … shall/shalt” in the King James Bible:

Daniel 4:26 thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule.
Other potential instances have a pronominal that rather than a subordinate that, as well as a future indicative shall, such as in Genesis 18:5, Leviticus 14:8, and Acts 7:7.

In this verse, the verb know conveys an obsolete meaning of “come to know, acknowledge, realize,” as modern versions indicate. The New King James Version does not have a subordinate that, and it has the present tense instead of future subjunctive shalt:

Daniel 4:26 your kingdom shall be assured to you, after [ø] you [ø] come to know that Heaven rules.

Archaic before that used with future subjunctive shall [1 instance]

Similar to “after that … «shall»” syntax is “before that … «shall»” syntax. Here is the only instance found in the King James Bible:

Luke 22:34 the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me

In the following modern versions, until is used instead of before, and the subordinate that is missing, as well as future subjunctive shalt:

ESV, HCSB the rooster will not crow this day, until [ø] you [ø] deny three times that you know me.

Pseudo-Archaic Subtypes of Archaic Subordinate That Usage

In searching 25 pseudo-archaic texts for conjoined usage with that, I found only one example, after the subordinator because:

[Page 15]Because that S and that S

1863, Richard Grant White, New Gospel of Peace, 2:3:4
because that he had been driven out of the Wilderness of Pharjinnee and that they worked not with him to obtain the victory
To clearly indicate the continuing scope of because in modern usage, the because must be repeated, not the subordinate that.

This example comes from the editor of the Riverside Shakespeare. Beyond this, there were no further pseudo-archaic examples of conjoined usage. Nor were any examples of subordinate that found with future subjunctive shall. That combination of archaism was missing from all such archaic subordinate clauses.

Book of Mormon Subtypes of Archaic Subordinate That Usage

The Book of Mormon has five subtypes related to the above biblical usage, including two specific subtypes that do not occur in the King James Bible. The Book of Mormon also has more instances of each of the three biblical subtypes:

Because that S and that S (2 instances)

1 Nephi 2:11 because that he was a visionary man and that he had led them out of the land of Jerusalem
Jacob 5:60 because that I have preserved the natural branches and the roots thereof and that I have grafted in the natural branches again into their mother tree

How that S and that S [2 instances]

2 Nephi 30:4 how that we came out from Jerusalem and that they are a descendant of the Jews
Helaman 2:8 how that it was his object to murder and also that it was the object of all those which belonged to his band to murder and to rob and to gain power

Archaic after that used with future subjunctive shall [8 instances]

1 Nephi 11:7 And after that ye shall have witnessed him, ye shall bear record that it is the Son of God.
1 Nephi 13:35 after that thy seed shall be destroyed and dwindle in unbelief
[Page 16]2 Nephi 26:1 after that Christ shall have risen from the dead
2 Nephi 26:3 after that the Messiah shall come
2 Nephi 26:15 after that the Lord God shall have camped against them … and shall have laid siege against them with a mount … after that they shall have been brought down low in the dust
2 Nephi 32:6 after that he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh

Archaic before that used with future subjunctive shall [2 instances]

Jacob 7:16 I desire to speak unto the people before that I shall die
Enos 1:8 and many years passeth away before that he shall manifest himself in the flesh

Archaic after that used with past subjunctive should [3 instances]

This usage is the past-tense analog of “after that S” syntax with future subjunctive shall:
1 Nephi 10:14 Wherefore [Lehi] said … after that the house of Israel should be scattered, they should be gathered together again,
Ether 4:1 they were forbidden to come unto the children of men until after that [Christ] should be lifted up upon the cross
Ether 13:5 And [Ether prophesied] … after that [Jerusalem] should be destroyed it should be built up again an holy city unto the Lord
Modernized renderings of these three passages:
1 Nephi 10:14 Lehi said that … after the house of Israel was scattered they would be gathered back together
Ether 4:1 they were forbidden to come to the children of men until after Christ was lifted up on the cross
Ether 13:5 Ether prophesied that … after Jerusalem was destroyed it would be built up again as a holy city to the Lord

The three analytical subjunctive subtypes are unexpected in a pseudo-archaic effort, and the last subtype, with an analytical past subjunctive marker should, is somewhat more unexpected.

[Page 17]Table 3. Number of subtypes of subordinate that occurring
in scriptural texts and longer pseudo-archaic texts.

Texts Subtypes Instances
King James Bible, including the Apocrypha 3 3
Book of Mormon, nonbiblical sections 5 17
11 longer pseudo-archaic (P-A) texts 0 0
1 longer P-A text 1 1
All subtypes found in 12 longer P-A texts 1 1

It is possible to add even more archaic subtypes to the list in Table 3 (see below), but for this table I have confined it to subtypes related to biblical examples.

Summary of Findings

To recap the comparative biblical and pseudo-archaic evidence just seen, the occurrence in the Book of Mormon of the following seven types and subtypes of archaic subordinate that usage ranges from possible to somewhat unlikely to unlikely to highly unlikely:

  •    before that S
  •    lest that S
  • * since that S
  • † to that S
  •    after that … shallfut.subj. <infin.phrase>
  •    before that … shallfut.subj. <infin.phrase>
  • † after that … shouldpast.subj. <infin.phrase>

The cases marked with daggers (“to that S” and “after that … shouldpast.subj.”) probably qualify as usage that was highly unlikely to appear in a pseudo-archaic Book of Mormon. The starred case (“since that S”) was unlikely, as it also is not a King James or pseudo-archaic usage, though not as obscure as “to that S” or as complex as the analytical construction “after that … shouldpast.subj.”.

The degree of unlikelihood of each type and subtype is debatable, depending in part on how frequently they appear in the greater textual record close in time to 1830. Some of them are difficult to search for. “Since that S” is one of these, as the that following since is pronominal [Page 18]the vast majority of the time. One prose example from the last 30 years of Eighteenth Century Collections Online11 is this one:

1789, CW0117137214, 68
nor is this now wrinkled brow a stranger to the honours of the martial laurel, since that we have fought against the Barbarians, who did their utmost to deprive Greece of that liberty, which they themselves did not enjoy;

And here is a late 18th-century poetic instance:

1800, CW0124621154, 49
since that I have my first Love lost, And been in the same deeply crost,

So the usage was rare, but persistent. It is of course possible that original instances composed between 1801 and 1830 are found in Google Books or other databases.12 This remains to be verified. The same thing could be the case for most of the others. But “to that S” is not yet attested as occurring in the late modern period, after 1700. Perhaps a later Scottish English instance occurs somewhere in the textual record, since this was primarily a northern usage.

In the case of “lest that S” usage, the ECCO database shows a fair amount of persistent usage. In the last 30 years of ECCO, there are about one dozen instances of “lest that <subj.pron.> should <infin.phrase>” (the “lest that S” syntax with should is the type found in every King James Bible and Book of Mormon instance). (Because of optical character recognition errors, many of these ECCO examples turn up only by searching for left instead of lest.) But Google Books, between 1801 and 1830, has hardly any actual instances of “lest that <subj.pron.> should <infin.phrase>” (several false positives). Producing three instances of “lest that S” with should was possible for Joseph Smith in 1829, if somewhat unlikely.

In the case of “after that <subj.> should past.subj” syntax, EEBO shows that it was already very uncommon in the 1690s, at the end of the early modern era. (I currently know of two original instances in EEBO from that decade: 1692, A28933, 196; 1698, A52358, 119².) It is typically [Page 19]found after that time in older legal language. However, I did find one original example in the 1790s, part of a translation from Latin: a1797, CW0123112386 (1800), 459. (The author/translator Joseph Milner died in 1797.) A translator acquainted with a foreign language with analogous past-tense subjunctive usage is a likely profile for a person who might have produced this unfamiliar syntax.

As shown, a pseudo-archaic standard fails to explain the Book of Mormon data; and until we find “to that S” with a meaning of “until” in the early 1800s, the later textual record fails to completely explain the data as well.

One explanation of Book of Mormon archaism is to consider that any and all late modern usage was possible for Joseph Smith to have produced. It is reasonable to grant that individual cases of archaism were possible in many instances, but not that they were likely when persistent usage was textually rare and absent from pseudo-archaic writings. In any event, dozens of barely possible instances multiply into a highly unlikely combination of features.

Furthermore, if we say that the archaic syntax was accessible to Joseph because we can find it rarely in the contemporaneous textual record, then it was even more accessible to earlier pseudo-archaic authors. Yet as we have seen, the depth and breadth of archaic usage in this domain is absent from these biblically imitative writings. Thus the accessibility argument is a weak one. For it to reasonably explain the Book of Mormon’s variety of archaic subordinate that usage, in approximately 250,000 nonbiblical words, then we must have found more types and subtypes of archaic subordinate that in the approximately 350,000 words of the earlier pseudo-archaic writings in the corpus I have consulted.

Additional Archaic Subtypes of Subordinate That Usage

The Book of Mormon has two other archaic subordinate that subtypes not found in either the King James Bible or pseudo-archaic texts. These involve “after that S” subordinate clauses used with another linguistic feature that was more archaic than modern.

Pluperfect “after that S” followed by a periphrastic past main clause [13 instances]

As mentioned at the outset, subordinate that usage occurred at a significantly higher rate in the 16th century — before the King James Bible was published — than in the 17th century. The 16th century was also the time of a decades-long surge in non-emphatic, affirmative [Page 20]periphrastic did usage, which dropped off dramatically in the 17th century. Consistent with the fact that the Book of Mormon has so much syntax characteristic of the middle of the early modern period, the earliest text has 13 instances of “after that S” in the pluperfect, followed by a past-tense main clause with archaic periphrastic did. Here are three Book of Mormon examples of this wording along with five early modern instances taken from EEBO (part of the “after that S” clause is in italics, periphrastic did is in bold, and the infinitive is in small caps; spelling modernized):

1 Nephi 8:25 And after that they had partook of the fruit of the tree, they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed.
1 Nephi 16:14 And after that we had slain food for our families, we did return again to our families in the wilderness
Ether 10:10 And after that he had established himself king, he did ease the burden of the people,
1550, A13758 after that they had sojourned there one day, they did take the ships of the Chians,
After that the Athenians had heard both parties, they did put the matter into deliberation two times.
1581, A68098 As the apostles, after that they had preached in Antioch, did plainly forbid the filthiness of idols.
1583, A08548 and after that I had given it him, he did defy me in mortal battle:
1594, A12568 after that they had begun their rebellion, they did invent, forge, and make many weapons of war,

The EEBO database, whose texts primarily span the years 1473–1700, gives evidence that this syntax was ten times more prevalent in the 16th century than in the 17th century (40 instances in 0.2 billion words versus 26 instances in 1.25 billion words). So once again we encounter a confluence of syntax in the Book of Mormon that was most characteristic of the time preceding the 17th century.

“Wherefore after that S” [4 instances]

The conjunctive adverb wherefore was at its most frequent use in the first half of the early modern era, during the 16th century and before, as was the subordinator after that. As a result, their co-occurrence in [Page 21]the following excerpts marks the language as either quite archaic or well-imitative of archaism:

1 Nephi 1:17 wherefore after that I have abridged the record of my father
1 Nephi 13:34 wherefore after that I have visited them in judgment
2 Nephi 31:8 wherefore after that he was baptized with water
2 Nephi 32:4 wherefore now after that I have spoken these words

These begin identically, though one does have an intervening now. The phrase in italics is not found in the King James Bible — not even the shorter phrase “wherefore after.”

A search of the EEBO Phase 1 and ECCO databases currently indicates that the phrase “wherefore after that” (with subordinate that) was more than 10 times as likely to be used during the 16th century compared to the 17th century, and about 40 times as likely to be used during the 17th century compared to the 18th century. “Wherefore after that S” was rare usage after 1750. (See the appendix for further details.)

Table 4. Summary of the number of types and subtypes of
archaic subordinate that in the King James Bible,
the Book of Mormon, and a leading pseudo-archaic text.

Text Types Subtypes
King James Bible (1611) 7 3
Book of Mormon (1829) 8 7
New Gospel of Peace (1863) 2 1

Discussion of Joseph Smith’s 1837 Editing

Suppose we argue that Joseph Smith worded the text because he was later willing to edit so much of it, such as the more than 100 deletions of archaic subordinate that. For example, Brant Gardner proposes that Joseph usually worded the text himself, converting concepts from the plates into his own language.13 And Gardner wrote the following about Joseph’s editing:

The most important lesson from looking at what Joseph produced is that he was willing to change words in the text [Page 22]after they had been dictated. In all important cases, the changes were made under Joseph’s supervision. Both as the original translator and as a prophet, he was in a position to understand whether or not the words of the text accurately portrayed the meaning intended for the text.14

Yet Gardner has given no evidence of having considered the massive amounts of English linguistic data — both lexical and syntactic — that arguably are key in evaluating whether the text dictated by Joseph Smith was largely shaped by him or by some other source.

To be sure, Gardner identifies some anachronisms in the translation, such as “they shall be driven before like a dumb ass” in Mosiah 12:5, which is obviously problematic in a Mesoamerican setting if presumed to represent an aspect of Mesoamerican culture.15 The English translation here seems to require a “conceptual translation” to convert what may have been a concept of punitive servitude on the plates into a metaphor that modern readers, especially those familiar with the King James Bible, could readily understand, given that neither beasts of burden nor asses were used in ancient Mesoamerica, as far as we know.

Gardner makes the same point about goats and lions in Alma 14:29, when frightened people fled “as a goat fleeth with her young from two lions.”16 However, it is still possible that the concept of asses as a beast of burden or fearsome lions existed among the Nephites based on many references in the brass plates. By the same token, modern writers may frequently make intelligible allusions to mythical creatures such as dragons or unicorns, extinct creatures such as dinosaurs and dodos, or living animals such as lions or kangaroos, which are not part of daily life for the intended audience or even on the same continent. But for expressions that seem most likely to be conceptual translations, there is no need to require that the conceptual translation be crafted by Joseph Smith.

The implications of the English linguistic data very strongly indicate that the translation, as originally dictated by Joseph Smith, abounded in archaic early modern syntax and lexis outside the realm of Joseph’s [Page 23]linguistic environment, and therefore was being provided to him.17 Gardner’s paradigm must, in my opinion, be reconsidered in light of the emerging linguistic data.

As for the idea that Joseph’s willingness to edit points to him being the translator, it is not a compelling argument in the case of stylistic, meaning-neutral edits, which constitute the vast majority of Joseph’s first edits in 1837 (when most edits were made). In 1837, for the second edition of the Book of Mormon, Joseph barely made any semantic edits. Relevant to this paper, more than 100 edits of archaic subordinate that were meaning-neutral edits. Those familiar with biblical language and English usage intuitively know that when a subordinate that is deleted, the meaning is unchanged. And there was nearby variation in this usage during the history of English. Indeed, there is immediate variation of “after that S” and “after S” in the King James Bible, even within the same verse, without any difference in meaning (see the biblical example given in the appendix).

Furthermore, if it were true that Joseph worded the text, then he probably would have understood its referent structure, syntax, and lexical usage better than he did. We can plainly see in some of his edits that he understood the original dictation language imperfectly, such as the eight times he incorrectly marked a nonpersonal which in the printer’s manuscript to be changed to who, with the edit being rejected at the typesetting stage.18 Furthermore, he misinterpreted the second which of Alma 51:7 as personal, and this one was not caught at the typesetting stage (“the which does not refer to people but instead heads a sentential relative clause”19). Because of this inopportune edit, to this day we read who there. (The also after the second which quite clearly indicates a nonpersonal reading.)

Moreover, in many of the edited aspects of the text, such as subordinate that, Joseph Smith was unlikely to have produced the original forms found in the dictation language. The assumption that he could have been responsible for producing, in a sustained manner, much more convincing archaism than the best pseudo-archaic authors is a dubious one. One [Page 24]such author was the Shakespearean scholar Richard Grant White, who wrote his text in the early 1860s. Lexically and syntactically speaking, the Book of Mormon far exceeds his and other pseudo-archaic authors’ archaic usage. This is the case, despite the fact that Joseph knew much less Early Modern English than White, and had little or no time to pause and introduce extra archaism through deliberation, as pseudo-archaic authors did when they penned their works.


Overall, when we consider the Book of Mormon’s original subordinate that usage and compare it to pseudo-archaic data, we find that it is remarkable for its time and for its presumed genre. It even exceeds the King James Bible in archaism in this domain, and it does so in a way that shows sophistication in language use and early modern sensibility. Indeed, I have found that comparatively studying Book of Mormon English is like taking a master class in lesser-known early modern usage. In many ways, we can learn more about earlier forms and structures reading the Book of Mormon than the King James Bible.

A reviewer of this paper stated that in this domain “there [were] very few syntactic niceties that could bolster an argument that it would have taken a superb philologist to have matched the [early modern] record.” I disagree with this assessment, and encourage readers to consider all the intriguing coincidences with early modern syntax described above, and summarized in the tables, as a way to determine which perspective is more likely to be valid.

Because no pseudo-archaic text comes close to having the Book of Mormon’s array of subordinate that usage, the odds that Joseph Smith authored this one aspect of its language are low. Quite simply, in this domain, the dictation language is about five times as impressive in its archaism as any pseudo-archaic writing I have considered to date.

In the Book of Mormon, subordinate that usage is clearly early modern in character and not late modern in character, despite remnants of it beginning to be found in the later period (after the year 1700). It is inaccurate to call this linguistic feature 19th-century in character or even 18th-century in character. Probably more than 95 percent of original examples occur in early modern texts, despite far fewer titles being published then. That the Book of Mormon shows more depth and breadth of usage in this domain than the King James Bible means that the text has something special and unexpected in this regard. Not only [Page 25]that, the Book of Mormon has many other syntactic markers which show similar early modern characteristics.

While this archaic subordinate that usage is certainly not the strongest syntactic evidence against Joseph Smith authoring the language, it is solid evidence of it, and one part of the bigger picture of how extremely improbable it was for him to have been responsible for producing Book of Mormon English.


On the relative frequency of the word that in the Book of Mormon

The versatile word that is the fourth most common word in the Book of Mormon, after the ubiquitous words the, and, of. In virtually all lengthy texts, that is not the fourth most common word. The words to, a, and in almost always rank ahead of that in frequency. The relatively high frequency of that in the Book of Mormon is mostly due to three stand-out syntactic features: its heavy finite clausal complementation (which almost always features the complementizer that after various verbs); archaic personal relative pronoun patterns (where the text, though preferring personal which, uses personal that more than who or whom); and heavy subordinate that usage. The first two linguistic patterns indicate that Joseph was not the author of the Book of Mormon much more strongly than does its archaic subordinate that usage.

Nearby variation in subordinate that usage

Subordinate that usage was optional in the early modern period, and immediate variation occurs in the King James Bible:

Leviticus 14:43

And if the plague come again, and break out in the house,
after that he hath taken away the stones,
and after [ø] he hath scraped the house,
and after [ø] it is plastered;

This same nearby variation is also found in the original Book of Mormon text, but not in the current 1981/2013 text:

Ether 4:1–2

until after [ø] Christ should shew himself unto his people.
And after that Christ truly had shewed himself unto his people,

[Page 26]This next example is a case of variable subordinate that usage after two different subordinators:

3 Nephi 20:26–27

and this because [ø] ye are the children of the covenant.
And after that ye were blessed,

The variation is even found here:

Doctrine and Covenants 42:32

And it shall come to pass,
that after [ø] they are laid before the bishop of my church,
and after that he has received these testimonies
concerning the consecration of the properties of my church,

It could be that the first after did not have a subordinate that because of the immediately preceding conjunctive that.

In my experience, many Latter-day Saint scholars seem to think that Joseph Smith was responsible for wording Doctrine and Covenants revelations and that the issue is settled. For example, Grant Hardy accepts it as a given at the end of his recent Book of Mormon study edition.20 However, in-depth comparative syntactic analysis must be done before coming to such a conclusion, and most researchers have done very little work in this regard. In Hardy’s case, I know that he has not done the necessary comparative syntactic work that might enable him to know that Joseph Smith worded Doctrine and Covenants revelations.

To back up the claim that Joseph worded Doctrine and Covenants revelations, Latter-day Saint scholars sometimes point to grammatical usage found in various revelations, grammar which is ultimately best seen as early modern in character, and which Joseph Smith was probably not directly responsible for.21 Latter-day Saint scholars typically hold [Page 27]narrow views about grammaticality, a field in which they have little or no expertise. Some Doctrine and Covenants grammar includes natural language variation of the earlier period, such as we see immediately above. As shown, some of the variation is actually found in the 1611 King James Bible, or in earlier Bibles (sometimes corresponding biblical examples are not readily apparent).

Projecting prophetic authority by means of archaism

One academic hypothesis proposes that Joseph Smith used many archaic biblical forms in his 1829 dictation of the Book of Mormon in order to enhance his perceived ecclesiastical authority.22 Its textual history, however, casts doubt on this hypothesis. Eight years after dictating the text, Joseph reversed many perfectly acceptable biblical archaisms, including scores of archaic subordinate that and nearly 1,000 instances of archaic personal which. So all the editions after the first edition did not have more than 1,000 markers of original archaism.

Strictly early modern nonbiblical archaism

The Book of Mormon’s nonbiblical syntax and lexis are not all found in the modern period. In a few cases, even some “bad grammar” has not yet been found in the modern textual record, such as the phrase “there was many which …” (Alma 1:16; 1548, 1550, 1655), where many which refers to persons. Moreover, the Book of Mormon currently appears to have [Page 28]at least 10 lexical meanings that had died out before major American colonization, according to the current Oxford English Dictionary.23

In the domain of subordinate that usage, “to that S” is a potential case of strictly early modern usage (see above). And pluperfect “after that S” with non-emphatic periphrastic did was in effect obsolete before the end of the 18th century.24

Details related to “wherefore after that S” language

Here are some additional details related to archaic “wherefore after that S” language. In the EEBO Phase 1 database, twenty-eight 16th-century [Page 29]instances of “wherefore after that S” were found, but only ten 17th-century instances. These centuries are represented by 135 million and 625 million words, respectively. In ECCO, only five 18th-century instances of “wherefore after that S” were found in about nine billion words. From these figures we get that, textually speaking, the phraseology “wherefore after that S” occurred at 13 times the rate during the 16th century compared to the 17th century, and at about 40 times the rate during the 17th century compared to the 18th century. This indicates that the 16th-century textual rate of “wherefore after that S” was between two and three orders of magnitude greater than the 18th-century rate.

Only two of the five original instances found in ECCO were from the last 50 years, even though it has many more titles and words than the first 50 years:

1760, CW0102878820, 712

Wherefore, after that Aix and Caaut had fought for the space of half an hour at the entry of the street that led to the port-royal,

1761, CW0107197386, 208

Wherefore after that a mature consideration of the disease … had irresistibly determined me to prefer the operation,

Google Books cannot currently be searched easily. One must invent indirect strategies to determine persistent usage of many types of syntax. That database currently provides four readable quotes for the archaic wording “wherefore after that <definite/indefinite article>”; they are all from the early modern period, as in these two examples:

1600, lh8DytLfi6QC

Wherefore after that the clods are well broken and all made plaine,

1663, qAhmAAAAcAAJ

Wherefore after that a company of them had met at Antioch in Syria,

Though no attempt was made to be exhaustive, I did find one early 19th-century example in Google Books. It was written by the Church of England clergyman and Swedenborgian preacher John Clowes (1743–1831). It is unclear when he first penned this archaism. He might have initially written it down in the 18th century. It occurs, with some variability, in multiple books, such as these two:

1817, KbZjAAAAcAAJ

Wherefore, after that He was scourged, and led forth carrying the crown of thorns,

[Page 30]1853, Et9NAQAAMAAJ

Wherefore after that He was scourged and led out, bearing the crown of thorns,

The Pseudo-Archaic Corpus

A pseudo-archaic text is one in which an author attempted to emulate earlier English usage or King James style — including syntax and lexical usage — in writing a history or related work. Scriptural-style texts of widely varying lengths were popular from about the mid-1700s into the 1800s, in both the British Isles and America.

In order to make the corpus of 25 pseudo-archaic writings, I first consulted Eran Shalev’s article on pseudobiblicism25 and the following website: https://github.com/wordtreefoundation/books (contributors: Duane Johnson, Matt White, and Chris Johnson). Then I communicated with Shalev and Duane Johnson by email, asking them whether they knew of other pseudo-archaic texts. In the process, I added a few other texts that I found on my own or that I saw mentioned online. My current corpus has longer texts up to 1863, 34 years after the Book of Mormon was set down in writing. It is more likely to be deficient in shorter pseudo-archaic texts, as there are probably many very short pseudo-archaic writings in early newspapers. Yet these are much less important for purposes of comparison with the Book of Mormon, since for the most part we are interested in sustained usage and patterns, which the shorter texts cannot provide.

Here is a list of the pseudo-archaic texts examined for purposes of comparing subordinate that usage; these 25 texts contain approximately 585,000 words total:

Longer pseudo-archaic texts (12)

  1. Robert Dodsley, Chronicle of the Kings of England (1740) [London] [about 16,500 words]
  2. Jacob Ilive, The Book of Jasher (1751) [London] [about 22,800 words]
  3. John Leacock, American Chronicles (1775) [Philadelphia] [about 14,500 words]
  4. Richard Snowden, The American Revolution (1793) [Philadelphia] [about 49,300 words]
  5. Matthew Linning, The First Book of Napoleon (1809) [Edinburgh] [about 19,000 words]
  6. [Page 31]Elias Smith, History of Anti-Christ (1811) [Portland, ME] [about 15,000 words]
  7. Gilbert Hunt, The Late War (1816) [New York] [about 42,500 words]
  8. Roger O’Connor, Chronicles of Eri (1822) [London] [about 131,700 words]
  9. W. K. Clementson, The Epistles of Ignatius and Polycarp (1827) [Brighton, UK] [about 18,000 words]
  10. Philemon Stewart, Sacred Roll (1843) [Canterbury, NH] [about 62,000 words]
  11. Charles Linton, The Healing of the Nations (1855) [New York] [about 111,000 words]
  12. Richard Grant White, The New Gospel of Peace (1863) [New York] [about 59,000 words]

Shorter pseudo-archaic texts (13)

  1. Horace Walpole, Book of Preferment (1742) [London] [about 2,700 words]
  2. The French Gasconade Defeated (1743) [Boston] [about 900 words]
  3. Benjamin Franklin, Parable Against Persecution (1755) [Philadelphia] [about 400 words]
  4. Chronicles of Nathan Ben Saddi (1758) [Philadelphia] [about 3,000 words]
  5. Samuel Hopkins, Samuel the Squomicutite (1763) [Newport, RI] [about 600 words]
  6. The Book of America (1766) [Boston] [about 2,500 words]
  7. Chapter 37th (1782) [Boston Evening Post] [about 600 words]
  8. Chronicles of John (1812) [Charleston SC?] [about 800 words]
  9. The First Book of Chronicles, Chapter the Fifth (1812) [The Investigator, SC] [about 1,800 words]
  10. Jesse Denson, Chronicles of Andrew (1815) [Lexington, KY] [about 4,800 words]
  11. White Griswold, A Chronicle of the Chiefs of Muttonville (1830) [Harwinton, CT] [about 900 words]
  12. Reformer Chronicles (1832) [Buffalo, NY] [about 700 words]
  13. Chronicles of the Land of Gotham (1888) [New York] [about 1,300 words.

1. All Book of Mormon quotes are taken from Royal Skousen, ed., The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009), https://bookofmormoncentral.org/content/book-mormon-earliest-text; https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Book_of_Mormon/680cn0KpjVMC?gbpv=1&bsq=crept.
2. See, for example, Javier Calle Martín, “‘When That Wounds Are Evil Healed’: Revisiting Pleonastic That in Early English Medical Writing,” Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 52, no. 1 (2017): 5–20. Pleonastic means ‘redundant.’
3. Ibid., 5.
4. An anonymous reviewer wrote the following:

First, the construction tends more to the lexical than grammatical on the lexico-grammatical scale. The addition of “that” doesn’t change the structure at all, and is in fact obtrusive, so I would expect that those who have read enough older texts, including the KJV, could have easily noticed the construction. That so many pseudobiblical texts include the construction may indicate that it is a noticeable pseudoarchaic feature. Second, it occurs in the KJV a fair amount, so it may be even more available because of that.

Against what this reviewer wrote, the pseudo-archaic evidence exemplified and summarized in this paper indicates limited, not universal, availability to those authors: first, even the most common biblical subordinate that type, “after that S,” occurs in only one of the 25 pseudo-archaic texts; second, very uncommon biblical subordinate that usage — whether we call it lexical or syntactic — was not imitated by pseudo-archaic authors. As an additional example, more part phraseology, which rarely occurs in the King James Bible, was hardly imitated in the pseudo-archaic genre. At this point, I have not encountered any imitation until William Morris’s late 19th-century writings. Before the 1870s, we find only rare, sporadic usage by various non-pseudo-archaic authors.

Furthermore, I see little reason to be interested in whether we call subordinate that lexical or syntactic. I tend to call subordinate that syntactic, and Javier Calle Martín does as well, if his keyword “historical syntax” is any indication (see note 2). Indeed, archaic repetition of subordinate that, instead of modern repetition of the subordinator, qualifies as more syntactic than lexical (see examples in the body of the paper).

5. Eran Shalev, “‘Written in the Style of Antiquity’: Pseudo-Biblicism and the Early American Republic, 1770–1830,” Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture 79, no. 4 (2010): 800–26.
6. Royal Skousen, Grammatical Variation (Provo, UT: FARMS and BYU Studies, 2016), 1018–40.
7. See under this verse in Royal Skousen, Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2004–2009); Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, 2nd ed. (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2018).
8. Early English Books Online (website), https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebogroup.
9. A footnote in John Russell, ed., The Haigs of Bemersyde (Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1881), 178, https://archive.org/stream/haigsofbemersyde00russuoft#page/178/mode/2up; gives the meaning ‘till’ for “to (that).”
10. For further examples, see Royal Skousen, The Nature of the Original Language (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2018), 264.
11. Eighteenth Century Collections Online (website), https://www.gale.com/primary-sources/eighteenth-century-collections-online, hereafter referred to as ECCO.
12. Google Books Advanced Book Search (website), https://books.google.com/advanced_book_search.
13. See, for example, Brant A. Gardner, The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Kofford Books, 2011).
14. Brant A. Gardner, “Translating the Book of Mormon,” in A Reason for Faith: Navigating LDS Doctrine and Church History, ed. Laura Harris Hales (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2016), 28.
15. Gardner, The Gift and Power, 188.
16. Ibid.
17. See “Stanford Carmack,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/author/stanfordc/?journal. See also Royal Skousen, “The Language of the Original Text of the Book of Mormon,” BYU Studies Quarterly 57, no. 3 (2018): 81–110; https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/language-original-text-book-mormon.
18. See Skousen, Grammatical Variation, 1209.
19. See ibid., and Skousen, Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, 2743.
20. Grant Hardy, ed., The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ (Maxwell Institute Study Edition) (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship and Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2018), 623.
21. See, for example, Grant Underwood, “The Dictation, Compilation, and Canonization of Joseph Smith’s Revelations,” in Foundational Texts of Mormonism: Examining Major Early Sources, ed. Mark Ashurst-McGee, Robin Scott Jensen, and Sharalyn D. Howcroft (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018), 101–23. On page 118, in a section that focuses on some early editing of what is now Doctrine and Covenants section 20, Underwood writes: “Oliver Cowdery revised the grammatically incorrect ‘nor no’ to ‘neither.’ ”

Comparative study has led me to conclude that “nor no” grammar — originally found in both the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants — is not reliable evidence that Joseph Smith worded these revelations. First, “nor no” was probably not something Joseph would have produced from spiritual impressions, which is a key question. His early writings do not provide evidence that he used this kind of mostly archaic double negative. Second, much of the surrounding language of Doctrine and Covenants revelations is early modern in character, and “nor no” usage is much more characteristic of the early modern period than the late modern period. Third, “nor no” was not grammatically incorrect in the early 19th century, even from the narrow view that grammaticality is properly determined by the well-educated (a view that Underwood apparently adopted). At this point, I have been able to verify that it was still occasionally used in the late 18th century by some well-educated persons. The latest examples I have seen are British; further study might reveal some American instances.

22. Gregory A. Bowen, Sounding Sacred: The Adoption of Biblical Archaisms in the Book of Mormon and Other 19th Century Texts (Dissertation, Purdue University, December 2016), xii: “inexpert use by writers with a need to establish a sense of spiritual authority indicates that biblical imitation was an active choice used to project an identity as a prophet.”
23. See Skousen, The Nature of the Original Language, and the pre-print versions of updates to relevant chapters provided in “Pre-print of Revisions in the Analysis of Archaic Language in the Book of Mormon,” Interpreter Foundation Blog, Oct. 22, 2020, https://interpreterfoundation.org/blog-pre-print-of-revisions-in-the-analysis-of-archaic-language-in-the-book-of-mormon/; “Pre-print of Revisions in the Analysis of Archaic Phrases in the Book of Mormon,” Interpreter Foundation Blog, Nov. 9, 2020, https://interpreterfoundation.org/blog-pre-print-of-revisions-in-the-analysis-of-archaic-phrases-in-the-book-of-mormon/; “Pre-print of Revisions in the Analysis of Archaic Grammar in the Book of Mormon,” Interpreter Foundation Blog, Nov. 19, 2020, https://interpreterfoundation.org/blog-pre-print-of-revisions-in-the-analysis-of-archaic-grammar-in-the-book-of-mormon/; and “Pre-print of Revisions in the Analysis of Archaic Expressions in the Book of Mormon,” Interpreter Foundation Blog, Dec. 2, 2020, https://interpreterfoundation.org/blog-pre-print-of-revisions-in-the-analysis-of-archaic-expressions-in-the-book-of-mormon/. The updates to the original write-ups found in The Nature of the Original Language should be published in 2022 or 2023. This updated text-critical work on archaic vocabulary largely supersedes my prior publications in this journal on this subject, which include the following: Stanford Carmack, “Why the Oxford English Dictionary (and not Webster’s 1828),” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 15 (2015): 65–77, https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/why-the-oxford-english-dictionary-and-not-websters-1828/; Carmack, “A Look at Some ‘Nonstandard’ Book of Mormon Grammar,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 11 (2014): 209–62, https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/a-look-at-some-nonstandard-book-of-mormon-grammar/; and Carmack, “Joseph Smith Read the Words,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 18 (2016): 41–64, https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/joseph-smith-read-the-words/, with the full article provided as a PDF at https://cdn.interpreterfoundation.org/jnlpdf/carmack-v18-2016-pp41-64-PDF.pdf.
24. In the last 30 years of ECCO, I found one original instance, in a poem, the refuge for relic uses: “After that Boswel thus had said, / Our pastor did proceed / To pray’r” (1790, CW0113123187, 42). The other example that presented itself was from the important 17th-century author John Bunyan: “after that he had finished all actual obedience on earth, did in the power and strength of his Godhead, yield up himself to the wrath of his Father” (1656, CW0119288740 [1771], 64).
25. See note 5.

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About Stanford Carmack

Stanford Carmack has a linguistics and a law degree from Stanford University as well as a doctorate in Hispanic Languages and Literature from the University of California, Santa Barbara, specializing in historical syntax and textual analysis. He currently researches Book of Mormon syntax and lexis as they relate to English usage and contributes to aspects of the Book of Mormon critical text project carried out by Royal Skousen.

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