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Translation of Languages

Translation of Languages

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Published by Robert F. Smith
Eyewitness accounts of the Book of Mormon translation process are remarkably consistent and provide powerful insight into the claims of Joseph Smith.
Eyewitness accounts of the Book of Mormon translation process are remarkably consistent and provide powerful insight into the claims of Joseph Smith.

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Published by: Robert F. Smith on Jan 05, 2011
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A
TRANSLATION OF LANGUAGES
@
 (
ʽ
ΕΡΜΗΝEIΑ ΓΛΩΣΣΩΝ I Cor 12:10)
 by
8
Robert F. Smith
 
At best, translation is appropriation (at worst, following the Italianadage, it is betrayal). I take
A
appropriation
@
to mean the phenomenon bywhich the various expressive means in the source are exploded andrecomposed in the target language: through it, we absorb and make ourown the expression as originally intended. If the initial expression iscaptured, absorbed,
A
appropriated,
@
if it emerges to new life as it becomes
A
our
@
expression, then, we may say, a successful translation has takenplace.Giorgio Buccellati
1
 
A
These commandments are of me, and were given unto to my servants intheir weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come tounderstanding.
@
[D&C 1:24] The revelations were not God
=
s diction,dialect, or native language. They were couched in language suitable toJoseph
=
s time. The idioms, the grammar, even the tone had to becomprehensible to 1830s Americans.Richard L. Bushman
2
 . . . the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh untomen according to their language, unto their understanding.II Nephi 31:3
1
Buccellati,
A
On Poetry
B
Theirs and Ours,
@
in Abusch, Huehnergard, and Steinkeller, eds.,
 Lingering Over Words
(Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990), 105. Published version of his 1978 AOSSymposium presentation.
2
Bushman,
 Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling
(N.Y.: Knopf, 2005), 174.
 
 2
A
TRANSLATION OF LANGUAGES
@
 (
ρμηvεία γλωσσ
v I Cor 12:10)
 
by
8
Robert F. Smith
3
 2010
. . . the interpreter
=
s understanding of a text is shaped by his own questionsand pre-judgments. But the text, in turn, speaks back to the interpreter, sothat his initial questions and pre-judgments are reshaped. The term
A
hermeneutical circle
@
may be misleading, for in the hermeneuticalmovement between text and interpreter, genuine progress will be achievedtowards a fusion of two horizons, provided that there is both criticalreflection and also a humble listening to the text.A. C. Thiselton
4
 
I would like to take serious issue with a number of unfortunate claims contained in EdwardAshment
=
s recent
A
The Book of Mormon
B
A Literal Translation?
@
 
Sunstone
, 5/2 (Mar-Apr 1980),10-14. For, although his previous piece (on the facsimiles of the book of Abraham) was of thehighest quality, and, although I know Ed to be a well-trained and unusually careful scholar, therecan be no excuse for such a poorly or hastily conceived piece as that hereunder review. Had hedone his homework, he might have found a competent appraisal of a wider range of sources
5
inJames E. Lancaster
=
s
A>
By the Gift and Power of God
=
: The Method of Translation of the Book of Mormon,
@
in the RLDS
Saint 
=  
s Herald 
, 109 (Nov 15, 1962), 798-802, 806, 817.
6
With hispurview thus broadened, Ashment might have reached somewhat different conclusions on anumber of points.Ashment first erred most grievously in his assessment of the testimonies of severaleyewitnesses:
3
This is essentially my
June 1980 draft
(with few alterations), as sent to
Sunstone
.
4
Thiselton,
ρμηvεύω, in Colin Brown, ed.,
The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology
, I (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975), 584.
5
Note also the major deficits of Ashment,
A>
A Record in the Language of My Father
=
: Evidence of Ancient Egyptian and Hebrew in the Book of Mormon,
@
in Brent L. Metcalfe, ed.,
 New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology
(SLC: Signature Books, 1993), 329-394
B
hiscomments on Hebraisms reviewed by J. A. Tvedtnes in
FARMS Review of Books
, 6/1 (1994), 34-39.Well-integrated appraisals include R. Ll. Anderson,
A
By the Gift and Power of God,
@
 
The Ensign
, 7/9 (Sept1977), 79-85; and B. H. Roberts,
 A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-daySaints
, I (1907), 275-311.
6
Now available in D. A. Vogel, ed.,
The Word of God: Essays on Mormon Scripture
(SLC:Signature Books, 1990), 97-112.
 
TRANSLATION OF LANGUAGES 3Emma Smith Bidamon was 74 years old when she answered the questions of her sonJoseph III and his entourage
7
in February of 1879. The questions were specific and detailed, heranswers convincing and fresh
B
except on the very personal and emotional issue of polygyny.She died shortly thereafter, in that same year, and was, therefore, neither 78 nor 79 years old whengiving this final testimony
B
as Ashment
=
s article and caption incorrectly suggest on page 11
B
nordoes her testimony in any way call into question the validity of B. H. Roberts
=
theory of translation.Moreover, already at age 65, Emma had, in her own hand, written a description of the translationprocess in reply to a query from Mrs. George W. (Emma) Pilgrim:
Now the first that my husband translated was translated by the use of Urim and Thummim,and that was the part that Martin Harris lost. After that he used a small stone, not exactlyblack, but was rather a dark color.
8
 
Mrs. Pilgrim
=
s request for Emma
=
s testimony may have been prompted by an earlier statement byDr. William E. McLellen that
A
after the 116 pages were lost Joseph translated the rest of the Book of Mormon with a stone.
@
9
 Other eyewitness testimony is corroborative of the general details. For example, Emma
=
sbrother-in-law, Michael Morse, knew Joseph in Harmony, Pennsylvania, and saw him translatingon several occasions. He later recalled that Joseph would place
the Seer Stone in the crown of a hat, then putting his face into the hat, so as to entirely coverhis face, resting his elbows upon his knees, and then dictating, word after word, while thescribes
B
Emma, John Whitmer, O. Cowdery, or some other, wrote it down.
10
 
Still earlier, between 1833 and 1847, Joseph Knight, Sr., described in his diary the translationequipment and process. Note his
 personal
recollection of Joseph on the morning of September22, 1827:
7
 
Saints
=  
Herald 
, 26 (Oct 1, 1879), 289-290.
8
Emma Smith Bidamon letter to Emma Pilgrim, Nauvoo, March 27, 1870 (RLDS Archives P4f20, reverse side);
The Return
, 4/12 (July 15, 1895), 2; F. Brodie,
 No Man Knows My History
, 20, gives theyear as 1871, but the RLDS Archives classifies it as 1870, and I defer to that judgment.
9
 
The Return
, 4/12, p. 2; cf.
Saints
=  
Herald 
, 19 (Aug 1, 1872), 473; McLellan was a member of thefirst Council of the Twelve Apostles.
10
W. W. Blair letter, May 22, 1879, Sandwich, Illinois, to
Saints
=  
Herald 
, 26 (June 15, 1879),190-191.

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