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Radio Free Mormon: 127: Lost in Translation Part 2

Radio Free Mormon continues his investigation of the events surrounding the translation of the Book of Mormon.  This episode is cram packed with new insights and fascinating discoveries!


12 thoughts on “Radio Free Mormon: 127: Lost in Translation Part 2”

  1. Has there been discussion of Moroni/Nephi speaking English to JS? Did he speak the Adamic language and ole Joe picked it up? Did he speak in the ” learning of his fathers”? Did he speak Reformed Egyptian? What has been written about that? If the angel spoke English, is it to be concluded angels can speak all languages? And while I’m on it, how did Moroni/Nephi become an angel? Could it be JS would be familiar with Matthew 22 where Jesus says we will be like the angels in heaven.
    Great podcast, again.

  2. RFM, I have been a follower of your podcast since I went down the rabbit hole. Congratulations on winnings the awards. Trust me, people didn’t vote for you because of your pretty face (although you are a handsome and intelligent man), but because of the quality of episodes such as this one. I am a relatively young man (35 years old), but there is nothing I enjoy more than spending time with my wife and kids, and doing yard work or working out while listening to your podcast. This series in particular has been particularly eye opening, and it gives me better insight as to why you still believe the Book of Mormon might be scripture; even though I am not LDS anymore, I can see it too! It is totally plausible that Joseph Smith could have written this book in the manner you describe on this series, and still be an inspired work! I wish the Church, after Bringham Young would have gone with that line of thought instead of the current rhetoric. Why does it need to be historically accurate? It does in fact testify of Jesus Christ, so nothing else matter, right? Except they started getting super shady (maybe even Joseph Smith, but less so than the modern LDS church).

    Anyway, I am looking forward to the last episode in the series. So, Please please please don’t stop creating this awesome content man. You are so knowledgeable and insightful that it scares the crap outta me hitting F5 (on my web browser) on a Sunday morning (about 9AM for a Texan like me), and not seeing a new episode… in which case I have but to resort to older episodes (Bill Reel contributions are a refreshingly welcomed as well), and enjoy all the same. Again, congratulations on your well deserved awards; I voted for every single category in which you and/or Bill competed, and it makes me so happy knowing you won!

    I dont know you in person man, but I love you! Keep up the good work, and to everyone else reading my comment, DONATE!!!!! $5, $10, $20, it makes a huge difference.

    Peace and love.


  3. How to use a divining rod to translate.

    We see this method all the time in the modern church. Plenty of members have done this without realising it. Ever been asked to give a spiritual thought at short notice on your mission? You open your scriptures at random, and riff on whatever you find. You “Liken the scriptures to yourself”, recalling that God speaks the same things to all people at all times. So this random page can (you hope) be paraphrased and becomes REVELATION FROM GOD to your district for that day’s tracting in Kyoto in the 1980s. It is the word of God to Japan!!!

    The key is to recall that Oliver Cowdery was a schoolteacher. That is, he has BOOKS. Maybe not many books, but more than Joseph, and that may be why Joseph was willing to let him contribute: Oliver was supposed to add something that looked educated. Oliver was supposed to choose just the right passage from an encyclopedia, and that is what God was ALSO saying to the ancient Americans. So just reword it.

    Example: Imagine you are Oliver. You wave your rod over your bookshelf, then open a book and the rod chooses a page. It’s page 96 of the Farmer’s Almanac. That page tells you the right kind of soil for growing tomatoes. You feels inspired! Tomatoes come from the Americas! Obviously God prepared it that way: he guided the natives to find these plants and cultivate them. That saved them from starvation and taught them the tender mercies of God! Like the seagulls and crickets, or manna in the wilderness. You write up how it must have happened, in King James English. Hold the rod, it approves. This is what God did! You show Joseph and he says “great job!” because he knew nothing about the origin of tomatoes and you have added some much needed interest to the story.

    You could use the rod in similar ways to find anything that connected with America in a school teacher’s mind. Maybe a book about the mound builders. Maybe something about the ten lost tribes. If it inspires you to think “I bet this is how it happened in America” then that is revelation and Olver is good to go. Joseph was relying on the schoolteacher to add something good.

    But instead Oliver didn’t come up with anything useful. So Joseph has to carry on doing it all himself.

    Do Mormons still do spiritual thoughts and the old “I haven’t prepared, I will open a book at random” thing? Or maybe that was just my mission. I have been out for a while.

    1. I typed that before finishing the podcast. I think your conclusion confirms it. The hardest part of creating the Book of Mormon was finding the best sources.

      As the Naked Mormonism podcast showed, there were a ton of esoteric and historical books on sale in Palmyra. The hard part was finding the parts that would work best on the Book of Mormon (given limited time and funds). The thing that Joseph Smith needed more than anything was an educated guy who could find stuff. Oliver and his divining rod!! But Oliver flunked the test.

  4. RFM I’m a big fan. But I’m having a hard time understanding why you are so interested in beating this dead horse. After reading Palmer’s “Insider’s View”, there is absolutely no shred of the idea of “translation” left in my mind. Totally a mediocre midrash of contemporary sources and legends. I agree that as per church SOP they have done their best to propagate a false narrative. But I’m pretty sure that “rock in a hat” is equally ridiculous an idea as Urim and Thummin.

  5. Once again, thank you and congratulations. Doctrine and Covenants section 50 verses 10 through 12 and many other scriptures emphasize the importance of reasoning with each other. I admire your mental discipline and ability to reason with logic. I have thought after listening to episodes that Maxwell Smart would have a comment. He might say the old ellipsis in the quotation trick, the old rewrite the history trick, or the old make the innocent guy the bad guy trick. Thank you and best wishes.

  6. RFM my bad. I hadn’t finished the episode when I did my last comment (today). I really enjoyed your clever and crafty segue into “gosh, looks like JS made it all up”. And the divining rod commentary was hilarious. I should have figured you were way ahead of the game 🙂

  7. RFM,

    I had an interesting epiphany while listening to this episode, and I’m not sure if you had also made this connection consciously, yet.

    The god who is speaking to Oliver Cowdery in Sections 8 and 9 acts very much like the trickster guardian spirits that Joseph was used to interpreting the will of during his treasure seeking days. The seer would lay down all the rules either given by the guardian spirit or magic tradition, but no matter how closely the other treasure seekers would follow the rules of the seer, when the hole was dug and no treasure was found the rules would change or some minute detail that was not followed would be revealed as reason for the treasure slipping deeper into the earth.

    Indeed, this is purportedly how the guardian spirit who guarded the gold plates acted when Joseph first sought them, as we heard in Episode 1.

    One is left to wonder if the trickster god who interacts with Oliver through his seer Joseph ever truly meant to give Oliver the ability to translate through the means of his divining rod, or if like the treasures sought in his early career, the promise of translation was just another con meant to increase the seekers reliance on the seer.

  8. 4. A week after it was recorded that the personage’s name was Nephi, Smith spent the afternoon “in answering the questions proposed in the Elders Journal” (Scriptory Book, 39, entry for 8 May 1838). Question number four was, “How, and where did you obtain the book of Mormon?” Smith answered, “Moroni, the person who deposited the plates, from whence the book of Mormon was translated, in a hill in Manchester, Ontario County, New York, being dead, and raised again therefrom, appeared unto me, and told me where they were; and gave me directions how to obtain them. I obtained them, and the Urim and Thummim with them; by the means of which, I translated the plates; and thus came the book of Mormon” (Elders’ Journal 1 [July 1838]: 42-43). Some writers have concluded that both Moroni and Nephi visited Smith, others feel that the name Nephi was a clerical error in the manuscript, though it was never corrected by Smith. The current [p.xx]version in
    the Pearl of Great Price says it was Moroni who appeared in the bedroom.

  9. A problem that I have is that Oliver Cowdery was not allowed to see the plates. Remember that the 3 and 8 witnesses never were allowed to see the plates until AFTER the translation was complete. How was Oliver supposed to “study it out in his mind” without even seeing was he was supposed to be translating. Without seeing a single character on the “gold plates”, he was supposed to study it out in his heart and come up with a proper “translation”? What was he supposed to study?

  10. I find it odd that god allowed JS to use the interpreters which were made specifically for the translation of the BoM, but that Oliver Cowdery was forced to make due with a divining rod.

  11. One note about “study it out in your mind.” In the 7-volume History of the Church, Joseph Smith, probably tongue-in-cheek, mentions how he “studies” law. “About noon, I lay down on the writing table, with my head on a pile of law books, saying, ‘Write and tell the world I acknowledge myself a very great lawyer; I am going to study law, and this is the way I study it;’ and then fell asleep.” Vol. 5, p. 307.

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