Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Joseph Smith didn't know how to write a date!

Last Sunday I was teaching the lesson to my primary class of nine-year-old children. In it we were discussing the Book of Mormon in the Book of Mormon, and at one point we read the verse Mormon 2:2, which says,
2 Therefore it came to pass that in my sixteenth year I did go forth at the head of an army of the Nephites, against the Lamanites; therefore three hundred and twenty and six years had passed away.
After reading that verse one of my students commented and said, "Why do they have to keep saying all the and's? Why do they say "three hundred and twenty and six years"? Why can't they just say "three hundred twenty six years"?"

This is a rather interesting question considering the fact that all dates are given in this bulky and unwieldy format. This problem has not escaped the critics of the Book of Mormon who frequently complain about the bulky language and bad grammar of the book. As one critic put it, the grammatical errors "document[ed] that the writer [of the Book of Mormon] had a very poor knowledge of the English language." To this I have to say I agree. Mormon had absolutely no knowledge of the English language and thus wrote a book that was full of very poor English grammar, such as all the and's. (Also as a side note, if you review the original manuscript of the English version of the Book of Mormon you will also find thousands of spelling and grammar errors, again demonstrating that Joseph Smith "had a very poor knowledge of the English language." The trouble with that criticism is that it only makes the Book of Mormon that much more remarkable since if the people that supposedly "wrote" it had that little command of the English language then how did they produce a book that is so deep, rich and complex, and also so exact and internally self-consistent.)

I was able to explain to my class that the Book of Mormon was not written in English and that if you read it in the original language then all those and's that seem so bulky and annoying in English would suddenly seem grammatical and proper.

1 comment:

LL said...

I don't know how many (if any) people in this era have seen a Urim and Thummim, but I can tell you that I have not. Therefore, it's very difficult to discuss what Joseph saw, what he didn't see - what he felt and what he didn't feel.

I don't think that Joseph had a good grasp on English grammar, but Oliver Cowdery did most of the 'writing' while Joseph translated. Sometimes Emma Smith wrote and I doubt that her grammar was any better than the men.

People who are critical because Joseph Smith Jr. was unlearned simply defeat their own argument.

Orson Pratt divided the work into chapters and verses and others changes punctuation. BUT you can still draw closer to God by reading it than by any other work.