Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Mystifying Rationale of Mesoamerican Directions – Part XVI

Continuing with Brant A. Gardner’s rationale of the Mesoamericanists’ skewed Land of Promise, and the various meanings of words that Joseph Smith used in the translation and their accuracy, and with Royal Skousen’s comments)
Continuing below with Brant A. Gardner’s three pointy (#1 concluded the last post) and our response:
2. Royal Skousen’s (left) understanding that Joseph Smith precisely read a translation that had already been done and which appeared in some manner when using the interpreters. Again, this is not correct. Joseph did not just sit there and wait for the words to appear, even though it is thusly described by Martin Harris and others who were privy to the translation. It is simply that they did not understand the process. Joseph had to exert his mind to encompass the wordage and come up with his best understanding. During the many years while waiting to receive the record and translate, he had several discussions with Moroni, was taught about the Nephites, no doubt Moroni gave him a complete picture of his people. By the time Joseph began translating, he was nearly as familiar with the Nephite customs, experiences, wars, and struggles as Moroni.
    How exactly the translation worked, Joseph never said. Those who saw him translating have given us their understanding. But as the Lord told Oliver Cowdery, “You have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me” (D&C 9:7)
    Obviously, Joseph Smith put a lot of thought and effort into translating and became so in tune with the Spirit in his effort, that as his wife stated, “Joseph never had to be told where he had left off in translation, or have his previous translation read back to him, but always picked up after a break in exactly the place where he left off without any notes or asking what he had last read.”
    Thus, Oliver was not able to translate because he did not “study it out in your own mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore you shall feel it ids right" (D&C 9:8).
3. Gardner’s (far left) own analysis of the available data is more in line with B.H. Roberts (left) opinion (Royal Skousen, "Translating the Book of Mormon: Evidence from the Original Manuscript," Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins, Noel B. Reynolds, ed. (FARMS, Salt Lake, 1997, pp61-93.
    Like Oliver Cowdery, and many others who saw Joseph translate such as David Whitmer Martin Harris, and Emma that were genuine eyewitnesses, they still were stating their opinions on Joseph’s mental processes about things they could not know. Nor does Gardner, who like others, seems to have little idea of how the translation process took place. While it is true that Joseph used the language of his day in deciphering the Book of Mormon, and where he had no knowledge of a current word, phrase, or item, he used the original word, complete with the equivalent of its original spelling, as in the case of the animals curelom and the cumom (Ether 9:19), the plants neas and sheum (Mosiah 9:9), and the metal ziff (Mosiah 11:8).
 Still, as Orson Scott Card (left) has stated in: “Royal Skousen makes much of one twenty-eight-word passage written in, presumably, the Prophet's own hand. Skousen speculates that the scribe was suddenly called away, and Joseph Smith had to take over to write down the words that were currently in his mind before he forgot them (72-75). To Skousen, this indicates that Joseph felt he needed to write down this passage before the words disappeared from the seerstone. But to me, it seems that they indicate the opposite -- for if these words were on the seerstone when the scribe went away, would they not continue to be on the seerstone when he returned? Why should Joseph Smith have to hasten to write them, if they would simply appear at will on the stone? On the other hand, if Joseph Smith, studying out the translation in his mind, had got the language right just as the scribe was called away, and the words therefore did not appear anywhere except in Joseph Smith's own mind at that moment, then he would have some urgency about writing them down in his own hand without waiting for the scribe to return” (Card, “Defending the Faith,” Vigor, Iss.16, Greensboro North Carolina, September 1998).
It is far more likely that Card’s interpretation of this is correct, for as David Whitmer (left) a witness to the Divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon, wrote (An Address to All Believers): “I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man” (Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ” (Pamphlet), Richmond, Missouri, 1887, p12) .
     Martin Harris further explained: “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, the 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” (CHC 1:29).
However, still, none completely seem to understand Joseph’s specific role in this. As the Lord told Oliver Cowdery (left), he had to figure it out in his own mind. To think that the Spirit of the Lord merely put words on the stone or parchment before Joseph in the hat in which he looked for him to just read, is not to understand how the Lord works, and what he has so clearly stated. Gardner: “In the case of Book of Mormon directions, I suggest that Joseph used common vocabulary to express the Book of Mormon system of spatial orientation and that the perception of cardinal directions in the text is the result of the translation rather than the plate text. I also suggest that there are sufficient hints to allow us to reconstruct that plate text system from traces remaining in Joseph’s translation.”
    Response: First of all, Gardner again is suggesting that Mormon, Joseph Smith, and the Holy Spirit all got the translation wrong, and that Gardner and other Mesoamericanists are the only ones who have gotten the translation correct. This is a curious view when we realize that “the Lord said: I will prepare unto my servant Gazelem, a stone, which shall shine forth in darkness unto light, that I may discover unto my people who serve me, that I may discover unto them the works of their brethren…” (Alma 37:23)
    As the servant mentioned in Alma, Joseph Smith, or Gazelem, had a stone—called the seer stone—which “shall shine forth in darkness unto light” when he put the stone into a hat to block out the light so the words “of their brethren” could be discovered, or translated, including the darkness and evil known to the Jaredites, through the Lord’s process of the “stone shining forth in darkness unto light,” or unto reading by Joseph as he looked into the darkened hat where he had placed the stone.
    This stone, along with the two stones of the Urim and Thummim, which Joseph removed from the breastplate for easier use, were originally given to the Brother of Jared (Ether 3:23;D&C 17:1) that were to be, in the Lord’s due time, “that these stones shall magnify to the eyes of men these things which ye shall write” (Ether 3:24). That is, the two stones the Lord gave the Brother of Jared, along with the seer stone Joseph Smith obtained, were used to interpret the plates, including those of the Jaredites. These interpreters, including the breastplate, and Urim and Thummim, sword of Laban, the directors (Liahona), were not only shown to Joseph and Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer, they were had by the Nephite prophets and handed down.
The Urim and Thummim: Urim (oo-reerm) stands for lights, thee oracular brilliancy of the figures in the High Priest’s breastplate as an emblem of complete light; Thummim: (toom-meem’) stqands for perfections, one of the epithets of the High pris5’ breastplate as an emblem of complete truth 

What the Brother of Jared saw through these interpreters, included all the inhabitants of the earth even to the ends of the earth, is what he wrote down and sealed up (Ether 3:22). The point is, in all of this, the Lord’s hand was involved, the stones were prepared for this translation purpose, Joseph had them and translated by them. So how is it that Gardner, Sorenson and other Mesoamericanists think his translation is wrong and that they had the correct meaning?
Secondly, Gardner ends his comment with a footnote. This Footnote #22 reads:
(See the next post, “The Mystifying Rationale of Mesoamerican Directions – Part XVII,” and the continuation of Gardner’s rationale of the Mesoamericanists’ skewed Land of Promise, and see Stoddard’s quote in Footnote #22 and our response)


  1. David Whitmer was around when the translations was taking place, but he was never a scribe. So I would tend to believe his explanation of how the translation took place has to be a second hand account. Is there evidence that he actually was in the room with Joseph and the scribe when the translation took place?

  2. David Whitmer was one of the three witnesses to see the plates, friend of Oliver Cowdery, one of the six original members of the Church in 1830, was President of the church in Missouri and Joseph’s successor, President of the High Council in Zion; however, there is no indication or writing that he was a scribe in the translation of the plates into the Book of Mormon. It is quite likely he was speaking in the quote of this article with second hand knowledge, for he knew most if not all of those who were scribes for Joseph Smith in that work.