Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Book of Mormon's Grammar Isn't So Strange...If You're From the 14th Century!

Something even lifetime Mormons have been aware of with the Book of Mormon is the seemingly awkward phrasing of some passages and sentences of the Book of Mormon. To our modern ears, they don't seem to fit the way people speak or write today.

Critics of the Book of Mormon have long held that the Book of Mormon's phrasing is the simplistic product of Joseph's unlettered mind trying to grasp at the language of the King James Version of the Bible.

But, as it turns out, according to new studies of the language and grammar of the Book of Mormon, the phraseology isn't all that bad. If you lived in the 1500s, it was perfectly natural, in fact.
Several sections of The Nature of the Original Language are dedicated to showing that virtually every expression that scholars and critics have proposed as representing the language of Joseph Smith’s time turns out to have existed in earlier English, including such striking expressions as “to endure the crosses of the world” and “to sing the song of redeeming love.” Some of these, indeed, are truly archaic expressions that died out of English prior to 1600 and that would, accordingly, not have been used by Joseph Smith in his own language. 
Nineteenth-century critics of the Book of Mormon typically mocked what they viewed as the Book of Mormon’s inelegant phraseology. For instance, the Rev. Alexander Campbell, in his blistering 1831 critique of the Book of Mormon, identified 121 of what he derided as “Smithisms.” Yet it turns out that all but one of them occurred in Early Modern English. In fact, some of them actually occurred in the King James Bible, but somehow Campbell, famed as a biblical scholar, failed to recognize them.
In his research, Royal Skousen identified 80 word uses, phrases, and expressions that didn't exist in Joseph Smith's time but were common up to three centuries prior.

So, the Book of Mormon is not a crude copy of the King James Bible language usage after all, as its critics have supposed, but was received in a direct translation using actual 1500s King James English, such as was not spoken in Joseph Smith's time at all. There's simply no other explanation, unless one wants to argue that Joseph was not unlettered, but rather a brilliant linguist who had the only copy of archaic idioms and grammar that other scholars of his time were not aware of.

It's almost as if God is challenging the learned of the world to figure out this mystery of how Joseph Smith got so many things right that people thought were so wrong for so long. The answer, for those who have the eye of faith, is that the Book of Mormon was given by direct revelation in exactly the way God intended it to be delivered.