Sunday, April 28, 2013

The purpose of this project

The idea for this project came while I was doing some investigation for a separate project. The idea for the other project started a few years ago when I came across a comment left under a story on DeseretNews.com. The commenter made the assertion that Joseph Smith had just used place names from around where he lived in New York in order to write the Book of Mormon. But unfortunately for the credibility of the commenter he actually left a list of place names (supposedly from New York) with their "corresponding" name in the Book of Mormon. I did a brief investigation of the list and found it to be entirely unreliable.

But that got me thinking about the origin, and the meaning of the different names in the Book of Mormon. I thus began a more extensive investigation into all the names found in the Book of Mormon. Because my search required me to try and find possible matches and origins to all the names that lead to a lot of Google searches on the names of the Book of Mormon. This lead me to a large number of anti-Mormon sites with extensive lists of all the possible problems with the Book of Mormon. While the great majority of the stuff on those sites was rather childish (i.e. they don't know, or don't care, about the difference between quoting and plagiarism), the one thing that I found rather impressive was the extensive lists of verses or chapters in the Book of Mormon that are quotes of Bible passages.

These lists represented a significant amount of work, time and effort. This is even more amazing considering that the vast majority of the members of the Church don't even attempt to make such lists, or even read the scriptures enough to make such lists. (Though to be fair, most of the sites I looked at the people who posted the lists didn't actually make the lists themselves, they just copied the lists, errors and all, from other places. So not a lot of original content.) Unfortunately all of these lists came with the inflammatory accusation of plagiarism (i.e. "Look! Here is a verse in the Book of Mormon and here is the same verse in the Bible! Proof that Joseph Smith plagiarized the Bible when he wrote the Book of Mormon!" If that counts as plagiarism then they better not read the New Testament and compare it to the Old Testament, since "plagiarism" (quoting as it is called by normal people) tends to happen a lot.) So I set out to see if any members of the Church had any similar lists, or even a side-by-side comparison of the Bible verses quoted in the Book of Mormon.

I looked and I looked, but the vast majority of the sites out there were all run by anti-Mormons, and none had a side-by-side comparison of the texts. I did find a very little known book that apparently has a side-by-side comparison, but not really useful for the vast majority of the members of the Church who do not know about the book, or don't really have the inclination to dish out $18.98 (+s/h). There were a few scholarly papers published on The Maxwell Institute site but those did not contain the oh so convenient lists found on the anti-Mormon sites, nor were they written for a general audience. In other words, if some random seminary student (or teacher!) came across it they would probably have a hard time understanding most of what was being discussed (also the massive texts are just visually intimating). I did come across this handout from Victor Ludlow from a previous BYU Education Week that listed all the Isaiah chapters, quotes and references in the Book of Mormon. It is quite useful, but still not a side-by-side comparison of Isaiah text from the Bible with that found in the Book of Mormon.

So I decided to just make a site and do my own side-by-side comparison of the texts. I am sure that people have done this before. I am sure that their work is better than mine, but I just wanted to do my own version so that I would have the experience, and see the differences for myself. Then I would put my work out there so that anyone who happens to come across my blog can see, side-by-side, the similarities and differences between those verses that are found in both the Book of Mormon and the Bible.

So this site is for the casual reader, the seminary or institute student or teacher, the Sunday School teacher, the bishop, the Relief Society President, the nursery leader, the ward clerk, the common member, the interested non-member, the person who always saw the "Compare Isaiah ___" in the Book of Mormon and either never actually went to Isaiah to do the comparison or did and, like me, got bogged down with the constant switching between books to the point that it became annoying, in other words anyone who goes looking for a side-by-side comparison and finds it, this site is for you.

From this project I have learned that there are important differences between the two texts, and I can tell that while Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon he may have relied on the Bible for the general language of the Book of Mormon, he did not do a verbatim, or even a sloppy, copy of passages from the Bible. There are subtle and very important differences that indicate that he was relying on a similar, but still different original text of Isaiah than the one (or ones) that we have in our current version of the Bible.

The other thing I learned is that the actual mechanics of the Book of Mormon translation were rough and not refined. There may be minor errors in our text of the Book of Mormon, but the message, intent and truth contained therein is complete. The people working with Joseph Smith on the translation were not scholars. They were not keen on the intricacies of translation, but they managed to produce something that is far beyond their collective capabilities. That is perhaps one of the strongest testaments to the veracity of Joseph Smith's claim regarding the Book of Mormon. Between Joseph Smith and all his scribes, they had a hard time spelling common words correctly, yet they managed to translate and publish the Book of Mormon which has withstood all the attacks of the critics.

4 comments:

  1. Thank you! I think I've said it before, but it's worth repeating. Thank you for sharing! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading and I hope you found this useful.

      Delete
  2. What is your base BofM text? Is it the earliest text? If not, then it needs to be.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I started this it was a personal project done out of personal curiosity. Certainly a proper study would require using the earliest text. Some day I may get around to doing that.

      Delete