Bob Bennett – 2009

The following comes from Leap of Faith: Confronting the Origins of the Book of Mormon by Bob Bennett, Deseret 2009:

Three of them–Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and David Whitmer–swore that they had also seen and talked with Moroni and that the voice of God had told them that the plates were genuine and the translation correct.

Believers take comfort in the fact that none of these three ever disavowed his affirmation, although all of them became disenchanted with Joseph for a time. David Whitmer’s break with Joseph and the Church was perhaps the most dramatic because it was the only one that was permanent; still, he went to the trouble and personal expense of publishing a formal written statement, reaffirming his experience with Moroni and the plates, after Joseph Smith was dead. All the witnesses stood by their statements about the plates, regardless of their later experiences, good or bad, with Joseph.

AT THIS DISTANCE IN TIME IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR US TO EVALUATE HOW RELIABLE THEIR TESTIMONIES MAY HAVE BEEN (p. 43).

First, the witnesses did not know who the angel was. Second, David was interviewed thousands of times in his life, many of which were published. How Bennet (or his editor) could acknowledge that David published a “formal statement” yet conclude they don’t know how “reliable” his testimony is “at this distance” is ridiculous.

Had they read David’s pamphlet(s) they would have known its purpose was to “make clear” his testimony to the world – forever!

Before turning to the book of Ether, I must call attention to a golden nugget of forgery evidence found in Moroni’s final comments–an anachronism in the form of a word-for-word quotation from another source.  (p. 189)

This passage –“charity suffereth long, and is kind…seeketh not her own….nerver faileth,” etc.– is so clearly the language of Paul’s epistle, written in the Middle East, not America, that it is impossible for believers to shrug it off.

There are three attempts at explanation that I have heard.

The first one says that God inspired both men to use the same phrases. That is possible–by definition, God can do whatsoever he wants–but it is reaching.

The second is that Paul and Mormon were quoting from a common source that predated both of them. There is no evidence of any such source. (us: yet)

The third is that Joseph Smith inadvertently slipped into language with which he was familiar when he came to this sermon. That is the most plausible, but it runs contrary to the position held by some believers, including David Whitmer, that Joseph simply gazed into the interpreters and recited exactly whatever words were shown him. ONLY IF WE ASSUME THAT HE UNDERSTOOD GENERAL IDEAS RATHER THAN SPECIFIC WORDS AS HE LOOKED INTO THE INTERPRETERS CAN THE APPEARANCE OF PAUL’S LANGUAGE BE DEFENDED. If that was indeed the case, however, then one could argue that more of the book should be in Joseph’s language than it appears to be.

Claiming that this passage is not what it appears to be–an obvious anachronism–requires yet another leap of faith (pp. 190-191).

Bennett says that in order to believe David Whitmer, it would require a “leap of faith.” This is unfortunate, particularly in the light of Dr. Royal Skousen’s conclusion that says it was “word-for-word:”

The opposing viewpoint, that Joseph Smith got ideas and he translated them into his own English, cannot be supported by the manuscript and textual evidence. The only substantive argument for this alternative view has been the nonstandard nature of the text, with its implication that God would never speak ungrammatical English, so the nonstandard usage must be the result of Joseph Smith putting the ideas he received into his own language. Yet with the recent finding that the original vocabulary of the text appears to be dated from the 1500s and 1600s (not the 1800s), we now need to consider the possibility that the ungrammaticality of the original text may also date from that earlier period of time, not necessarily from Joseph’s own time and place. Joseph Smith is not the author of the Book of Mormon, nor is he actually the translator. Instead, he was the revelator: through him the Lord revealed the English-language text (by means of the interpreters, later called the Urim and Thummim, and the seer stone). Such a view is consistent, I believe, with Joseph’s use elsewhere of the verb translate to mean ‘transmit’ and the noun translation to mean ‘transmission’ (as in the eighth Article of Faith).

(http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2009/09/12-questions-and-a-book-by-royal-skousen/ See #8; also at:
http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2009/10/royal-skousens-12-questions-the-critical-text-version/

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