Tuesday, April 5, 2016


On this day in history, Sunday, April 5, 1829, Oliver Cowdery met Joseph Smith for the first time. The place was Harmony (modern Oakland), Pennsylvania. The most intense portion of the translation miracle was about to unfold beginning with our current Book of Mosiah.
Oliver Cowdery as an Attorney in the 1840's
Image from the Library of Congress
The dynamic duo of Royal Skousen and Stanford Carmack have been rapidly strengthening their theory of divine tight control over the Book of Mormon translation process. In their view, Joseph read words that appeared in the seer stone and was not at liberty to articulate thoughts in his own vernacular. Brant Gardner continues to advocate a theory of loose control that gives Joseph much more leeway to express thoughts in his own words. Jack Welch, Dan Peterson, and other Book of Mormon scholars are now lining up firmly behind Skousen/Carmack as the six eye witness accounts of the translation process become more widely known and as evidence for Early Modern English in the 1829 text continues to accumulate.

The loose control theory has been convenient for scholars because it gives them freedom to interpret and even manipulate the text to suit their purposes. One of the arguments the loose control camp makes is that the title page calls Joseph Smith the translator of the record and in order to be a translator in the modern sense he must have freedom to express translated meaning in his own vocabulary. This suggests an interesting question. The word "translate" appears in the Book of Mormon. How did Nephite record keepers describe the translation process?

King Limhi semantically linked the phrase "interpret languages" Mosiah 8;6 with the word "translate" Mosiah 8:11. Therefore, the instrument called "interpreters" in the text Mosiah 8:13, Alma 37:21 could also have been called "translators." The same interpreters possessed by Mosiah2,
Alma2, and Helaman1 were delivered by Moroni to Joseph Smith Ether 4:5. Moroni equates the process of interpretation with the instrument Ether 4:5.

And what did the ancient Nephite prophets do to interpret or translate? They looked which is why they were called seers Mosiah 8:13. Was the translation done through natural means? No. It was a miracle, a high gift from God Mosiah 8:14 and the person possessing the gift was a revelator Mosiah 8:16. Mosiah 8 is clearly intertextual with D&C 107:92 and D&C 124:125 which refer to Joseph Smith.

The Book of Mormon says the interpreters were two stones which performed the work of translation Mosiah 28:13. So, it is not surprising that the text also mentions Joseph Smith's seer stone Alma 37:23 which shone forth in the darkness of the prophet's hat.

The Book of Mormon sense of the word "translate" is to change from one state to another via supernatural power as in Ether 15:34. Joseph translated using the gift and power of god Title Page just as Mosiah1 had done Omni 1:20 approximately 2,000 years earlier. They both looked into a stone or stones and perceived divinely rendered words - i.e. tight control.