Skip to comments.Mike Ash: Translation of the Book of Mormon
Posted on 12/21/2009 10:55:59 AM PST by Colofornian
According to some of Joseph's closest associates as well as those who saw Joseph translate the Book of Mormon, when Joseph looked into the Urim and Thummim he was able to see the English translation. Some witnesses even claimed that Joseph spelled out proper names and the English text remained in view until it was written down correctly. Most of the accounts that describe the translation process were recorded long after the fact and are often second or third hand. Because Joseph did not share the details himself, however, it is from these other reports that scholars attempt to deduce what took place when Joseph translated the Nephite record.
Among LDS scholars there are at least two different views as to the transmission of the Book of Mormon text into English. Some believe in a "tight control" and others in a "loose control" (still others believe in a combination of the two). Those who hold a "tight control" view of the translation believe that Joseph saw God-revealed English words that were then dictated to a scribe. According to this position, the English translation represents a fairly literal-translation from the Nephite text. It's important to note that such a translation would only have been "fairly literal" for at least three reasons:
(1) Many words do not have an exact word-for-word translation from one language to another. For instance, I understand that the Japanese language has no word which simply means "brother." Instead, there are different words for "older brother" and "younger brother." This presents an interesting problem when translating the "brother of Jared" into Japanese. Many other such examples could be found.
Word-for-word translations sometimes yield nonsense or even humorous results. If we translated the German word "Kindergarten" literally into English, for example, we would get "child garden" rather than the intended meaning of a school that precedes first grade.
(2) A literal translation to Joseph Smith would not necessarily equate to a literal translation to twenty-first century Americans or even other nineteenth-century contemporaries of Joseph Smith. This was discussed briefly in issue 18 and it relates to the problem we see with a word-for-word translation above. Words have meaning in the context of other words as well as the context of culture. The word "gay" for example, means something completely different to twenty-first century Americans than it did to nineteenth-century Americans. A crystal clear translation to Joseph Smith would not guarantee that other readers would understand the precise meaning just as clearly.
In other instances the words used to translate a foreign text may accurately reflect the sense of the original language but may not reflect a precise word-for-word conveyance of the foreign words.
(3) The accuracy of Book of Mormon translation would still have been dependant on the accuracy for which Joseph dictated the text as well as how accurate the scribe was in recording the dictation.
Tight control is not the same as what has been called "iron-clad control." LDS scholars do not believe that the English Book of Mormon manuscript was the perfect, unalterable word of God. This is typically the position taken by critics who wish to construct a straw man Book of Mormon which they hope to destroy. Many of those critics who impose this view on the Book of Mormon also believe that the Bible is the perfect, error-free word of God -- something not accepted by Latter-day Saints.
The second position held by many LDS scholars is a "loose control" view of the Book of Mormon translation. According to this view, Joseph was more than a mere fax machine for the English translation. Instead of seeing God-revealed English words, Joseph would have received God-given impressions that conveyed ideas, images, or concepts to Joseph's mind. Joseph then would have formulated -- in his own language -- words that expressed and conveyed those impressions. When English words were formed, that "fairly" accurately expressed those impressions, Joseph could have seen the result of such formulations as English text in the Urim and Thummim -- which he then dictated to his scribe.
Some people -- myself included -- believe in a combination of the two positions. I believe that while Joseph may have seen God-revealed English translations of the text -- especially in regards to proper names -- Joseph typically expressed that translation in his own language, as well as his understanding of the English of his day.
In the next issue we'll examine some of the implications and results of both tight and loose control for the Book of Mormon translation.
Ah, the great "waffler" apologist...
...knowing that he can't deny how bad the end result appeared...spelling wise, grammar wise, mistakes in the text, etc.
-- and how much editing was LATER needed to the document to make it appear King James-Bible like...
...Mormon apologist Ash knows he can't strictly hold to the first position...
...but then he knows if he holds the second position, strictly speaking, how on earth would Smith have known how to spell all of the proper names that pop up?
Therefore, he is compelled to believe that when it came to proper names, the Mormon god revealed His thoughts one way -- literally & straightforward without extra steps -- as if the spelling of proper names was the most important thing God had in mind...the Mormon god must be fanatical about spelling of places, I guess...
...but then on the most important things -- the historical & theological components, the Mormon god decided to let Smith do a lot of "free hand" translation??? (Yeah, right)
Ping for later
Either way, the aim was to sell the book for a profit...
Smith remained silent and elusive because had he opened his mouth it would have quicky shown him to be the fraud that he is.
The translation process was reported by the scribes themselves - Emma, David Whitmer and Martin Harris - thus making it 'first hand' in that respect. Oliver Cowdery was Joseph's principal scribe for the Book of Mormon is silent on the matter, however, he is also linked to Rigdon and others and is probably duplicit in procuring the outside materials plagerized into the bom.
According to this position, the English translation represents a fairly literal-translation from the Nephite text. It's important to note that such a translation would only have been "fairly literal" for at least three reasons:
Here Ash is misrepresenting (building a strawman) of the "tight control" method. He is claiming essentially that Smith had control over the wording. However, if you review the testimonies of Emma, David Whitmer and Martin Harris (upon which this 'theory' is based), it was the stone itself that projected the wording - not Smith's 'translating' abilities. Ash tries to foist this onto Smith to avoid the reality that the method clearly took smith out of the loop and directly to the seer stone (under the power of god).
The second position held by many LDS scholars is a "loose control" view of the Book of Mormon translation. According to this view, Joseph was more than a mere fax machine for the English translation. Instead of seeing God-revealed English words, Joseph would have received God-given impressions that conveyed ideas, images, or concepts to Joseph's mind. Joseph then would have formulated -- in his own language -- words that expressed and conveyed those impressions.
This answer fails on a couple of points - using EITHER the seer stone OR the "Urim and Thummin" IF smith had been given the POWER to translate the writings, he would not have needed these props. IF smith had not used these props, then this could have been a "reasonable" theory. But the fact is that he DID use them and relied upon THEM to translate the material FOR HIM. Ash defeats his own arguement here:
When English words were formed, that "fairly" accurately expressed those impressions, Joseph could have seen the result of such formulations as English text in the Urim and Thummim -- which he then dictated to his scribe.
Once again, it is the 'prop' doing the translating - not smith - and any error in the 'translation' would be due to "god" and not smith.
I totally agree. If a Mormon can barf out garbage about how Joseph Smith read the text through his magical crystal, anyone else should be able to come on and post there opinion that this is retarded.
Don’t believe either thread is relevant here...appears to be a back-door exercize to trash Romney.
Romney trashes himself so anything past that is redundant..
Seems a little snarky also,
I agree with the poster who said Romney's trashed himself more than enough. Gay marriage, Romneycare and abortion are three that come to my mind.
No, I think this is another bash and bait Mormons thread. They're popular with a certain crowd here.
About this edition: Some minor errors in the text have been perpetuated in
past editions of the Book of Mormon. This edition contains corrections that
seem appropriate to bring the material into conformity with prepublication
manuscripts and early editions edited by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true.
17 It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the otherThis is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!
18 My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)and which I should join.
19 I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.
20 He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time. When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven. When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home. And as I leaned up to the fireplace, mother inquired what the matter was. I replied, Never mind, all is wellI am well enough off. I then said to my mother,
"Now the way he translated was he put the urim and thummim into his hat and Darkned his Eyes than he would take a sentance and it would apper in Brite Roman Letters. Then he would tell the writer and he would write it. Then that would go away the next sentance would Come and so on. But if it was not Spelt rite it would not go away till it was rite, so we see it was marvelous. Thus was the hol [whole] translated."---Joseph Knight's journal.
"In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us."
(History of the RLDS Church, 8 vols.(Independence, Missouri: Herald House,1951),"Last Testimony of Sister Emma [Smith Bidamon]," 3:356.
"I, as well as all of my father's family, Smith's wife, Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris, were present during the translation. . . . He [Joseph Smith] did not use the plates in translation."
---(David Whitmer,as published in the "Kansas City Journal," June 5, 1881,and reprinted in the RLDS "Journal of History", vol. 8, (1910), pp. 299-300.
In an 1885 interview, Zenas H. Gurley, then the editor of the RLDS Saints Herald, asked Whitmer if Joseph had used his "Peep stone" to do the translation. Whitmer replied:
"... he used a stone called a "Seers stone," the "Interpreters" having been taken away from him because of transgression. The "Interpreters" were taken from Joseph after he allowed Martin Harris to carry away the 116 pages of Ms [manuscript] of the Book of Mormon as a punishment, but he was allowed to go on and translate by use of a "Seers stone" which he had, and which he placed in a hat into which he buried his face, stating to me and others that the original character appeared upon parchment and under it the translation in English."
"Martin Harris related an incident that occurred during the time that he wrote that portion of the translation of the Book of Mormon which he was favored to write direct from the mouth of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He said that the Prophet possessed a seer stone, by which he was enabled to translate as well as from the Urim and Thummim, and for convenience he then used the seer stone, Martin explained the translation as follows: By aid of the seer stone, sentences would appear and were read by the Prophet and written by Martin and when finished he would say 'Written,' and if correctly written that sentence would disappear and another appear in its place, but if not written correctly it remained until corrected, so that the translation was just as it was engraven on the plates, precisely in the language then used."
(Edward Stevenson, "One of the Three Witnesses,"reprinted from Deseret News, 30 Nov. 1881in Millennial Star, 44 (6 Feb. 1882): 86-87.)
In 1879, Michael Morse, Emma Smith's brother-in-law, stated:"When Joseph was translating the Book of Mormon [I] had occasion more than once to go into his immediate presence, and saw him engaged at his work of translation. The mode of procedure consisted in Joseph's placing the Seer Stone in the crown of a hat, then putting his face into the hat, so as to entirely cover his face, resting his elbows upon his knees, and then dictating word after word, while the scribes Emma, John Whitmer, O. Cowdery, or some other wrote it down."
(W.W. Blair interview with Michael Morse,Saints Herald, vol. 26, no. 12June 15, 1879, pp. 190-91.)
Joseph Smith's brother William also testified to the "face in the hat" version:"The manner in which this was done was by looking into the Urim and Thummim, which was placed in a hat to exclude the light, (the plates lying near by covered up), and reading off the translation, which appeared in the stone by the power of God"("A New Witness for Christ in America,"Francis W. Kirkham, 2:417.)
"The manner in which he pretended to read and interpret was the same manner as when he looked for the money-diggers, with the stone in his hat, while the book of plates were at the same time hid in the woods."---Isaac Hale (Emma Smith's father's) affidavit, 1834.
(gotta love the the jeopardy game you both are playing...You both give the answers to selections like ‘Motives for 300’ — and you don’t even know what the questions are!)
LOL...there's no need for "back door" approaches when the owner of this website is anti-Romney....take a look at the postings at the beginning of the threads.
Yeppers there actually was no “translating” to it...
A recipe for a charlatan’s Tale
Take One conman, one stove pipe hat, one rock from a fraudalent “treasure” dig...
Put the rock in the hat,
Put the conmans devious head in the hat,
Pretend that words in the English language appear in the rock, one at a time,
pretend to “read” each separate word and just say a word out loud to a “Scribe”, always your own wife or gullible friend, and never someone who might have questions...
dont let anyone else look in the hat or at the rock...
Make up a fairy tale that you dont realize will be proven a lie by enfolding time...
Make lots of money and seduce lots of women and get yourself lots of power over other people while you can...
Stole this from a post over on FLAK. I guess the church is just banking on members not reading anything in the Joseph Smith papers collection. I am guessing that, at most, TBM's will buy them to sit neatly on a bookshelf but never open them. Reading garbage like this really makes me wonder how people back then believed a word he said. Anyone else have any excerpts from the versions released so far?
The Document (As transcribed in Joseph Smith Papers, Revelations and Translations Volume 1: Facsimile Revelation Books, page 265, with some of the transcription simplified)
A SAMPLE of pure language given by Joseph the Seer as copied by Br Johnson
[There is one continuous vertical line which crosses out the Qs and As below]
Question What is the name of God in pure Language
Q The meaning of the pure word Aman
A It is the being which made all things in all its parts.
Q What is the name of the Son of God.
A The Son Awman.
Q What is the Son Awman.
A It is the greatest of all the parts of Awman which is the godhead the first born.
Q What is man.
A This signifies Sons Awman. the human family the children of men the greatest parts of Awman Sons the Son Awman
Q What are Angels called in pure language.
A Awman Angls men
Q What are the meaning of these words.
A Awmans Ministering servants Sanctified who are sent forth from heaven to minister for or to Sons Awmen the greatest part of Awman Son. Sons Awmen Son Awmen Awman [End page and end of Sample of Pure Language] Sampling from the Joseph Smith Papers
Now could you imagine a Mormon Christmas play where they decide to use the "pure language" for angels & referenced them as Joseph Smith did -- "Awman Angls men?"
Or why when this "Son" is referenced there's a Q&A that references Him as a "what" (not a Who) and starts off in the answering referencing Him as an "it"?
(Somebody else at the source cited referenced how the word "Ahman" is used in D&C 78:20 & 95:17)
Interesting. I may buy a copy of the book after all. :)
I read an individual over his head and thinking the only way out is to dig deeper.