There are 3 thoughts on “Joseph Smith’s Translation Projects under a Microscope”.

  1. To preface my remarks, I actually love the idea that we incorporate how Joseph, the human, interacted with the divine in bringing forth “revealed” scripture. I certainly appreciate Brant Gardner’s assessment of the related papers presented on this topic. I especially appreciate his willingness to set aside his belief while he attempted the process of reviewing this “academic” collection.

    One of the concerns which I have as a believer, is what happens if someone “purports” to be a believer, when in reality he or she is not? What if that someone manages to sneak their carefully crafted doubts and manufactured hypotheses and suggestions into a book not necessarily meant for believers, but one which will ultimately impact believers by the supposed follow-up scholarship later-on attributed to that one initial endeavor?

    By this I mean, what if someone claims belief but in reality is ultimately attempting to coerce their “unbelief” upon those who do believe? What exactly is there, or what mechanism is in place to prevent the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” from posting their hypothesis in the guise of a believer when in fact they are a ravening wolf?

    –For example, wouldn’t their attempted process begin very softly and subtly with small suggestions that Joseph utilized the divine only as a secondary peripheral participant but that he, Joseph himself, was the primary contributor? Wouldn’t their craving doubts begin with a subtle nod to human implications instead of divine involvement? Why would they express a belief in divine intervention if they secretly believed that no such intervention existed? For me, I believe that in their unbelief, such a person would intentionally lead down the path of subtly hypothesizing that Joseph was the primary, –but well-intentioned– deliverer of the multiple accounts he left us. If I could not make an explanation for the complex and extremely difficult to discount Book of Mormon, then I would focus on the Kinderhook plates, the GAEL or Egyptian alphabet, followed by Egyptian papyri and the Book of Abraham. I would purport lack of divine provenance in these things in order to obfuscate the provenance, –divine or not– of the Book of Mormon.
    For another thing, I might do this knowing that multiple scholars thereafter would gladly expand upon my theories and hypotheses, no matter how much Joseph, divinely mandated witnesses, other close and personal associates and actual historical documentation proclaimed the opposite. I mean, if I can discount the hard evidence, then I can maneuver following research along the lines I proscribe rather than what was actually believed by Joseph Smith and his contemporaries. Touchdown by misdirection!

    I just think that there are some slippery slopes which ought to be considered, addressed and perhaps even contradicted, all things considered.

  2. It’s not my place to ask Interpreter or individual scholars what to publish, but I for one would absolutely love to see a more thorough response to some of these individual essays. I think Brother Lindsay is quite right that not all the essays were created equal.

    In a very real sense theory of translation (translatology for kicks) underlies every form of Book of Mormon apologetics. The question of metallurgy could be resolved by the idea of “creative and cultural translation”, perhaps, but a more literal form of translation would be needed, imo, for Brother Gardner’s theory on Mesoamerican cardinal directions to really apply (though I’m not 100% on that opinion, could think otherwise, and am not sold on translation inerrancy.) I am pretty pleased with Samuel Morris Brown’s work on that and it would likely be a fruitful subject for Interpreter to cover.

  3. Thank you, Brant. I appreciated your careful introduction, spelling out the different natures of this journal and the book you reviewed. Very helpful. There are some great moments in the book, but also a few questionable sections that, in spite of the appearance of scholarly rigor, are seriously flawed and blinded by pet assumptions. Many chapters would benefit from a separate detailed review, as we recently had from Kent Jackson, but for a good overall view of the book, this was excellent.

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