On Wikipedia and Book of Mormon Anachronisms

If anything, the Wikipedia page on Book of Mormon (BOM) anachronisms needs more work. Links to the BOM in the notes need to be fixed, e.g., note 62, note 50. The sections on the “compass” and “satyr” are ambiguous and need editing. The section on languages and the “Anachronisms perpetuated from the King James Bible” could be filled out much better. Richard Packham’s recent Exmormon conference talk (“A Linguist Looks at Mormonism” (Exmormon foundation conference 2009)) could helpfully be interpolated here. For my taste, there is too little dust-up in the “discussion” section of the Wikipedia entry page; it’s anemic. The more issues are explored there, the more it goes in the favor of the critics. So I would urge people to go there and find things to LEGITIMATELY discuss.

The apologists are CONSTANTLY on flimsy ground with these entries. Nevermos would find the whole “debate” ludicrous and hardly credible. Only true believing Mormons would catch at the strands of gossamer offered by the apologists as reasons to stay.

Among the problems with the various entries:

The “goats” in the BOM are actually, apologists tell us, deer, even including the possibility of domesticated deer–natives even making cheese from their milk?! Or steel doesn’t mean “steel”; it means something more like brass or copper alloy. So why didn’t JS say that or say “golden steel” or some other easily had approximation rather than supply outright misinformation? “Steel” isn’t brass or copper alloy.

The apologists are always having to come up with approximations that COULD have been meant–well then, why didn’t GOD explain things better to JS? Why didn’t JS clarify? It would have been easy for JS, who, along with his mid-19th century audience, knew what deer were, to distinguish between “wild deer” and “deer” used for milking and ready meat. The whole thing is just an exercise in insulting human intelligence.

If the BOM is BETTER presented linguistically than the KJV, as the Articles of Faith would have it (“insofar as it [the KJV] is translated correctly”), then why do apologists keep referring to the KJV to get the BOM non-translation (direct word of God, right?) out of hock?

The “barley and wheat” section is a hoot. Either the “little barley” variety was used instead of actual barley, or the English generic term “corn” means any possible grain BOM peoples used. But “little barley” was unknown in Mesoamerica and wasn’t cultivated in North America or by the Norse until long after the time period of BOM peoples.

On lack of wheeled vehicles in pre-Columbian America? Wheeled toys is the answer?

On Scimitars, JS couldn’t have just written “curved wooden knives”? “Curved”? Why would BOM people “curve” and warp wooden swords or knives?? Would they waste wood by carving curved templates from existing wood? Would they go through the time consuming process of using water to help bend and warp wood? (That’s all assuming the scimitars weren’t made with steel, which is probably going to be most readers’ likely inference. So why would God deceive people when it’s so easy to clarify the actual meaning?

Compass: The section is ambiguous. Did the apologists’ argue that the compass was a term used in the BOM as a linguistic equivalent? That the Liahona was made by God removes the argument from any naturalism (a terrain the apologists typically try to defend with other BOM anachronisms). What about the Liahona? There’s an example of JS using a word not in the English language in his time to describe something that acts like a compass. So why use the word compass? Or why not use the word “compass” in a clear simile? JS could have given the WORD OF GOD much more clearly, if indeed he was inspired, a true prophet, etc.

Windows–a word, the apologists say, that simply parallels KJV translation. Again, why would JS and the church rely on the KJV translation when they see the BOM as a direct transcription from JS’s prophetic inspiration–why are we continually brought back to the KJV when 1) later biblical scholarship has surpassed it and 2) JS himself distanced the church from it because its translations were imperfect? And leather or wood for the “window” covering wouldn’t be anymore likely to be “dashed to pieces” than any other part of the boat. When people of Smith’s time read of a “window” being “dashed to pieces,” we (as well as would the mid-19th c. Americans) have a clear idea of what was meant–a fragile, brittle glass covering a hole in the boat.

Likewise with “church” and “synagogue” apologists refer (defer) to the KJV.

The use of the name “Isabel” in the BOM is indefensible unless one resorts yet again to the KJV (which doesn’t contain it). (Oh wait, apologists will say “Isabel” was actually derived, corrupted from “Jezebel”–but why would JS, a prophet of God, corrupt anything?)

The problem with “Satyr” as something “not known to have ever existed” 1) needs to be clarified (existed to whom?) and 2) if resort is made to the KJV, then the knowledge of Elizabethans can basically supplement any supposed anachronism in the BOM and that is just too convenient and seems to empty out the apologists’ points when they defer yet again to the KJV.

The whole defense based on the KJV translation is maddening 1) because JS rightfully had doubts about the KJV translation and 2) the language of the KJV can be excused as the means of communication at the time that JS would need to use when all other resources failed him–and yet, why would God (and JS) not do a better job than the KJV translators? Or not do a job as well as the recent New Revised Standard Edition translators, led by NT scholar Bruce Metzger, or of the NIV? Why is the BOM language locked into the language of the KJV? Because it is a fraud and JS wasn’t a true prophet of God.

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