Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

New Podcast with Stanford Carmack on Textual Analysis of the Book of Mormon

Over on the FAIRMormon blog, you can listen to "Syntax and Book of Mormon Authorship – Interview with Stanford Carmack." This new podcast lets Stanford share more about the strong evidence from the original Book of Mormon text that it is frequently not really KJV language, nor what a modern fabricator would be able to make up by imitating the KJV, but uses subtle syntax more characteristic of Early Modern English, several decades before the KJV. As he explains, it uses now archaic structures with the natural kind of variation typical of Early Modern English that the KJV translators made a point to eliminate as they imposed a good deal of uniformity in the grammar and language.

To me, these findings are still preliminary, being led by the data and not by preconceived notions about the translation process. The data, though, are pushing for a paradigm shift in how the translation was done, suggesting that there is an unexpected 16th-century imprint in the language. For those who believe Joseph wrote the text himself, or with the help of a friend, the apparent mastery of Early Modern English patterns poses a great challenge for previously proffered hypotheses.  For those who believe that there were gold plates translated by the gift of God, but given in Joseph Smith's language plus a dose of KJV verbiage, Carmack's work may suggest that the text was delivered deliberately with an Early Modern English accent in numerous subtle patterns that would be exceedingly difficult to mimic without a great deal of research--but why and how? Was there a pre-translation into Early Modern English? Deliberate tight control to impose a pre-KJV influence? And if the many archaic Early Modern English structures that now seem like bad grammar to us were important, why were so many removed from the text to fix or update the bad grammar? Was it important to be dictated originally for some reason, but OK to wipe out many of the "fingerprints" for modern readers?

Perhaps the point was to provide a subtle fingerprint in the originally dictated text that would only become apparent and useful to us much later, in a time--perhaps right when we really needed it-- when there would be the modern tools were have to examine Early Modern English texts, conduct statistical analysis for large bodies of text, and have the Critical Edition of the Book of Mormon to look at. I don't know, but if the analyses of Royal Skousen and Stanford Carmack hold up (as appears to be the case so far), then we may have something highly quantifiable and very difficult to fake, even if one were smart enough to try to fake it, that greatly weakens any theory of Joseph Smith or an associate of his being the author. But the details seem to leave very little room for just blind luck in imitating the KJV or other texts Joseph had access to. Something far more sophisticated is showing up in the syntax of the original Book of Mormon. Something really strange, almost like the ghostly voice of a a "familiar spirit" speaking from the dust.

Let me know what you think about his podcast and his previous articles at Mormon Interpreter on this topic.  If you are in a hurry but want to get some highlights fast, take a look at "English in the Book of Mormon" at the Book of Mormon Resources Blog  to see a summary of Stanford's recent talk on this topic given at a conference sponsored by Mormon Interpreter. Interesting findings.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Great Literature You May Have Missed: Joseph Smith's First Vision, Explained by Dr. Arthur Henry King

One of the most impressive figures on the BYU campus when I was a student was Dr. Arthur Henry King (1910-2000). He was a graduate of Cambridge in 1931 and then earned a  Doctor of Literature in stylistics from the University of Lund in Sweden. He taught English and English literature for fourteen years at the universities in Lund and Stockholm and was for many years on the British Council, which deals with educational and cultural affairs for the British government. He was twice decorated by Queen Elizabeth II for this work. He also served as Assistant Director-General in charge of Education in England.

With his deep foundation in literature, you may be surprised to learn that it was the literary power of Joseph Smith's First Vision account that captured his attention when he encountered the Church. This happened when he was as a mature, respected, active man with a lot to lose by joining the Church, as he did in 1966. Five years later, he would join the faculty of Brigham Young University, where he fascinated, challenged and sometimes overwhelmed many students.

Mormon Scholars Testify has an entry from him. I'd like to share a portion of that as he discusses his reaction to a piece of great literature whose literary value we Mormons often overlook. I'm glad he was paying attention and had the skills to recognize its value.

When I was first brought to read Joseph Smith’s story, I was deeply impressed. I wasn’t inclined to be impressed. As a stylistician, I have spent my life being disinclined to be impressed. So when I read his story, I thought to myself, this is an extraordinary thing. This is an astonishingly matter-of-fact and cool account. This man is not trying to persuade me of anything. He doesn’t feel the need to. He is stating what happened to him, and he is stating it, not enthusiastically, but in quite a matter-of-fact way. He is not trying to make me cry or feel ecstatic. That struck me, and that began to build my testimony, for I could see that this man was telling the truth.

Joseph Smith begins his story in his matter-of-fact way, setting out carefully the reason that he is writing this history and the facts about his birth and family. Then he moves from the matter-of-fact to the ironical, even the satirical, as he describes the state of religion at the time—the behavior of the New England clergy in trying to draw people into their congregations. He tells about reading the Epistle of James. He doesn’t try to express his feelings. He gives a description of his feelings instead, which is a very different thing. Look at verse 12:
Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible. (JS—H 1:12)
I am not good enough to write a passage as good as that. That is beautiful, well-balanced prose. And it isn’t the prose of someone who is trying to work it out and make it nice. It is the prose of someone who is trying to tell it like it is, who is bending all his faculties to expressing the truth and not thinking about anything else—and above all, though writing about Joseph Smith, not thinking about Joseph Smith, not thinking about the effect he is going to have on others, not posturing, not posing, but just being himself. The passage continues as follows:
At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. (JS—H 1:13)
Notice the coolness: “At length I came to the conclusion.”
I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture. (JS—H 1:13)
Notice the rationality of it, the humility of it, the perfectly good manners of it.
So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. (JS—H 1:14)
Just imagine what a TV commentator would make of this sort of thing.
It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally. (JS—H 1:14)
Do you see how the tone is kept down, how matter-of-fact it is? Notice the effect of a phrase like “to pray vocally.”
After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. (JS—H 1:15)
Plain, matter-of-fact, truthful, simple statements in well-mannered prose. This is no posture. We are not thinking of Joseph Smith; we are just waiting, waiting, waiting to hear. Do you see how beautifully this is built up, how the tension is built up by his being so modest, so well mannered?
I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. (JS—H 1:15)
He is telling us about something terrible. But he is not trying to make us feel HOW TERRIBLE THIS IS. He is telling us that it happened.
Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction. (JS—H 1:15)
He felt he was going to be killed. But there is no excitement, no hysteria about this. He just tells us. Notice in particular the coolness of the phrase “for a time.”
But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm . . . (JS—H 1:16)
Notice the expression “of great alarm.” What would a posing sensationalist do with that? What kind of explosion would he devise, I wonder?
I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. (JS—H 1:16)
“A pillar of light exactly over my head,” “above the brightness of the sun,” “descended gradually”—note the modifiers, the exactness. What he is trying to do is tell us what happened. He goes on in the same tone. He doesn’t get ecstatic. He doesn’t run over. He just goes on telling us just what happened in this astonishingly cool, and at the same time reverential, way. This is a visit of God the Father and God the Son to a boy of fourteen. But he is not in undue awe. He doesn’t stare. He is not frightened. He was perhaps terrorized by what happened before, but he is not frightened of this. He doesn’t lose his self-confidence, and at the same time, he is modest.
And then the humor: he returns home, leans up against the fireplace, and his mother asks him what is wrong. He answers, “I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true” (JS—H 1:20). We have to remember that his mother had joined the Presbyterian Church shortly before this. How do you assess that as a conversation between a fourteen-year-old and his mother? All mothers know that sort of thing really happens to them with their teenagers.
As a former teenager, as a parent of four former teenagers, and in my roles as a leader over teenagers, that incredible understatement is so hilarious and yet natural, and speaks to the simple sincerity of Joseph's account.

Dr. King goes on to further assess what Joseph gave us, and classifies it as great literature.

Thank you, Dr. King, for helping us to better appreciate the power and pure sincerity of what Joseph Smith wrote to describe his scared experience. It is truly an example of great literature.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Did the Exodus Happen? A Case Where Evidence of "Plagiarism" May Be Evidence of Authenticity in the Biblical Record

Here's a case in which evidence of "plagiarism" in the Bible may actually be evidence for the authenticity of the record of the Exodus. Fascinating story. See Joshua Berman, "Was There an Exodus?," Mosaic, March 2, 2015, at Mosaicmagazine.com.

Given the "sustained absence of evidence" for the biblical Exodus (no Egyptian records confirming it, no obvious evidence from the Sinai, etc.), many scholars now question whether it ever really happened. But as Berman points out, once we recognize that the translation of numbers in the Old Testament pose many opportunities for inflation, the absence of evidence is less problematic. Why would the Egyptians advertize the fact that they failed to control a batch of slaves who escaped?

Berman also notes that there are some lines of evidence that support the plausibility of several parts of the account, but still, we have been without clear, direct evidence for the Exodus itself. However, Berman offers new evidence for the authenticity of the Exodus account, based on what one might call evidence of plagiarism from an Egyptian account, the Kadesh poem about Ramses II. The Hebrew text appears to incorporate numerous unique elements from the Egpytian source, but using it to tell the story of God's victory rather than Pharaoh's. Incorporating these details required knowledge of Egyptian lore and culture that would not likely have been accessible to a later Hebrew author. With these newly recognized details before us, the origins of the Exodus account are consistent with Hebrews in captivity in Egypt who came to Israel. Berman sums it up this way:
[T]he evidence adduced here can be reasonably taken as indicating that the poem was transmitted during the period of its greatest diffusion, which is the only period when anyone in Egypt seems to have paid much attention to it: namely, during the reign of Ramesses II himself. In my view, the evidence suggests that the Exodus text preserves the memory of a moment when the earliest Israelites reached for language with which to extol the mighty virtues of God, and found the raw material in the terms and tropes of an Egyptian text well-known to them. In appropriating and “transvaluing” that material, they put forward the claim that the God of Israel had far outdone the greatest achievement of the greatest earthly potentate.
When Jews around the world gather on the night of Passover to celebrate the exodus and liberation from Egyptian oppression, they can speak the words of the Haggadah, “We were slaves to a pharaoh in Egypt,” with confidence and integrity, without recourse to an enormous leap of faith and with no need to construe those words as mere metaphor. A plausible reading of the evidence is on their side.
Berman properly recognizes that parallels can occur in many unrelated works, something we see frequently among critics trying to find evidence of Book of Mormon plagiarism from a list of sources that grows longer every few months. However, Berman points to a totality of many unique details that make a strong case for a relationship between the Exodus account and Egyptian sources. This is a case where apparent "plagiarism" in a scriptural text actually provides evidence supporting its authenticity. With Passover nearing, this is food for thought as we contemplate the Exodus and its intricate role in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. It's a story that I believe goes beyond metaphor, but is reflected in ancient reality.

Special thanks to Jared A. (twitter.com/JaredAllebest) for calling this article to my attention.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

BYU Event on Saturday, March 14, Exploring Early Modern English and Other Complexities in Book of Mormon Language

Wish I could be in Provo Saturday for an interesting event on some of the complex and controversial aspects of the English language in the Book of Mormon text, especially the original text. The event is "Exploring the Complexities in the English Language of the Book of Mormon," sponsored by BYU Studies and the Interpreter Foundation.

By the way, if you think it's valuable to have this kind of discussion and enjoy the insights coming from the Interpreter Foundation, why not make a donation to keep their work moving along?

Here is the program, quoting from the announcement at MormonInterpreter.com:

On Saturday, March 14, 2015, a conference will be held in 251 Tanner Building on the BYU Campus in Provo, Utah, to report and discuss the latest investigations into a wide range of linguistic elements in the Book of Mormon, including expressions that do not appear to have been in use in the nineteenth century. As a result of twenty-seven years of investigations by Royal Skousen into the original English-language text of the Book of Mormon, these curiously archaic expressions have raised fascinating questions and discussions regarding the origins of this wondrous scripture.

The program will run from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The public is invited and admission is free.

The conference will be filmed, and videos of the presentations will be made available online in the weeks following.

This conference is sponsored by BYU Studies and the Interpreter Foundation.

9 a.m.

Welcome by Daniel C. Peterson, Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies, BYU; and President of the Interpreter Foundation

9:15 a.m.
Stanford Carmack, JD, Stanford University; PhD, University of California at Santa Barbara (historical syntax); independent scholar

Exploding the Myth of Unruly Book of Mormon Grammar: A Look at the Excellent Match with Early Modern English
The grammar of the Book of Mormon has been naively criticized since its publication in 1830. The supposedly bad grammar is a match with language found in the Early Modern English textual record. Syntactic usage, especially past tense with did and the command construction, points only to that era. Book of Mormon language exhibits well-formed variation typical of the 16th and 17th centuries.
10 a.m.
Jan J. Martin, Assistant Visiting Professor of Ancient Scripture, BYU

Charity, Priest, and Church versus Love, Elder, and Congregation: The Book of Mormon’s connection to the debate between William Tyndale and Thomas More
Thomas More and William Tyndale were staunch opponents but they did agree on two things: (1) that language and theology were inseparable, and (2) that errors of language could lead to serious errors in theology. These two commonalities fueled their famous debate about Tyndale’s translation of the Greek words presbuteros, ekklÄ“sia, and agapÄ“ into English as elder, congregation, and love. Though three centuries separate the Book of Mormon from More and Tyndale, that gap will be closed as the Book of Mormon’s use of charity/love, priest/elder, and congregation/church are analyzed within a sixteenth-century context.
10:45 a.m. 15-minute break

11:00 a.m.

Nick Frederick, Assistant Professor of Ancient Scripture, BYU

“Full of grace, mercy, and truth”: Exploring the Complexities of the Presence of the New Testament within the Book of Mormon
While it has often been observed that the language of the New Testament plays a key role in the English text of the Book of Mormon, how the New Testament appears in the Book of Mormon has not been thoroughly explored. This presentation will offer some preliminary suggestions on how we can adequately identify New Testament passages within the Book of Mormon, as well as examining the variety of ways the New Testament text is woven throughout the pages of the Book of Mormon.
11:45 a.m.

Royal Skousen, Professor of Linguistics and English Language, BYU; and editor of the Book of Mormon critical text project, 1988 – present
“A theory! A theory! We have already got a theory, and there cannot be any more theories!”
Three common views regarding the translation of the Book of Mormon, still held by some, can be summarized as follows: (1) as Joseph Smith translated, ideas came to his mind and he expressed those ideas in his own language and phraseology; (2) as a result, the original English language of the Book of Mormon is based on Joseph’s upstate New York dialect, intermixed with his own style of biblical English; and (3) the Book of Mormon deals with the religious and political issues of Joseph’s own time. In this paper I will draw upon the work of the Book of Mormon critical text project to argue that all of these views are essentially misguided and are based on a firm determination to hold to preconceived notions, no matter what the evidence.
12:45 p.m.

Concluding remarks by John W. Welch, Robert K. Thomas University Professor of Law, BYU; and Editor in Chief, BYU Studies

Sunday, March 08, 2015

From The Truth, The Way, and the Life: The Truth About the Way B.H. Roberts Viewed the Book of Mormon at the End of His Life



Critics often claim that a famous LDS General Authority, intellectual, and prolific defender of the faith, B.H. Roberts, lost his testimony of the Book of Mormon after investigating its weaknesses, including evidence that it was a modern creation based on other works available in Joseph Smith's day. This conclusion is based on writings from the early 1920s in which he explored the arguments that critics might make. Though incisively written and developed at length, he clearly explained that this was a case of playing devil's advocate to help the Church prepare for future challenges and did not reflect his personal beliefs:
Let me say once and for all, so as to avoid what might otherwise call for repeated explanation, that what is herein set forth does not represent any conclusions of mine. This report herewith submitted is what it purports to be, namely a ‘study of Book of Mormon origins’ for the information of those who ought to know everything about it pro et con, as well as that which has been produced against it, and that which may be produced against it. I am taking the position that our faith is not only unshaken but unshakable in the Book of Mormon, and therefore we can look without fear upon all that can be said against it.  (Letter to President Heber J. Grant dated March 15, 1922, as cited by McKay V. Jones, "Evasive Ignorance: Anti-Mormon Claims that B.H. Roberts Lost His Testimony," FAIRMormon.org, emphasis by M.V. Jones.)
His personal beliefs after that exercise can most accurately be gauged by his magnum opus, The Truth, The Way, the Life, a book which he spent many years preparing and which summarized his lifetime of learning and experience in matters of faith and theology. This book was unpublished at his death because he refused to tone down some sections related to evolution (the existence of "pre-Adamites") that worried other leaders in the Church.

Now that the book has been published, though, we can evaluate where he stood on the Book of Mormon, and the result is unquestionable and undeniable: he firmly believed it was an ancient record of a real people in the ancient Americas, preserved on gold plates, delivered to Joseph Smith through the ministry of an angel, and translated by the power of God by a true and living prophet. The Book of Mormon in his view was a powerful witness of the reality of Jesus Christ and contained a powerful, "thrilling" account of his visit to the ancient Americas. Those who claim B.H. Roberts secretly lost his testimony do not know B.H. Roberts and have ignored his statements about his devil's advocate Studies of the Book of Mormon, and more importantly, have ignored his subsequent magnum opus. To perpetuate the claim that he lost his testimony is now inexcusable.

Here are some excerpts from Robert's crowning work, The Truth, The Way, The Life: An Elementary Treatise on Theology, ed. John W. Welch, 2nd ed. (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 1996). From my perch here in China, I only have access to the Kindle edition and so my reference to page numbers is problematic. Where page numbers are given, I have found statements from others citing the passages; please let me know if any are in error.

Excerpts from B.H. Roberts, The Truth, The Way, The Life

In Chapter 47, "Renewal of 'The Way," Roberts examines various witnesses, ancient and modern, of the Restoration. He treats the Book of Mormon as a genuine witness from an ancient people, with no hint of a decayed testimony. (On Kindle, this section begins about 64% through the book; p. 469 ff.)
The second vision of the New Dispensation: The Book of Mormon revealed. Three years after this first revelation an angel of God named Moroni was sent to the Prophet to reveal the existence of an ancient volume of scripture known as the Book of Mormon, a book which gives an account of the hand-dealings of God with the people whom he brought to the continents of America from what we now call the “Old World.”
(a) The Jaredites. The first colony came from the tower of Babel at the time of the dispersion of the people from the Euphrates Valley; they were called Jaredites, after their leader, named Jared. They occupied the land located in the southern part of Central America and founded a nation which existed for about sixteen centuries, and then were overwhelmed at last in a series of wars which ended in their complete destruction, on account of their great wickedness. This about 600 b.c.
(b) The Nephite colony. It was about the time of the destruction of the Jaredites that a small colony was led from Jerusalem, under divine guidance, to the western continents, where they too developed into a great people and into national life. This colony was made up of Israelites of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, and later augmented by a second small colony made up of Jews. They continued in occupancy of the land—chiefly in North America—until about 400 a.d. Then came their destruction because of their rebellion and wickedness against God. They lost touch with faith and righteousness until their civilization was overthrown, and they survived only in the tribal relations such as existed at the advent of the Europeans.
(c) Summary of the book and its translation. This record discloses the hand-dealings of God with these ancient people through the prophets and teachers God sent unto them, and also gives the account of the visits of the risen Christ to them, the introduction of the fulness of the gospel by his ministry, which established a true church of Christ in the western world, with all the principles and the ordinances of the gospel necessary to salvation. Therefore it contains the fulness of the gospel. In this record God has brought forth a new witness to the truth of the things whereof the Hebrew scriptures, the Old Testament and the New also bear witness. Thus an angel came bringing the everlasting gospel which is to be preached to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. This American volume of scripture, God’s new witness to the old truths of the everlasting gospel, Joseph Smith was commanded to translate, and was given the power and means by which he could translate the unknown language of these ancient American peoples. The “means” provided was a “Urim and Thummim.” This consisted of two transparent stones set in the rim of a bow, a divine instrument used in ancient times for obtaining knowledge from God. This instrument for translation was found with the gold plates on which the above record was engraven. Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, and through a century now, it has been published to the world. In It is translated into fifteen of the world’s languages.
Here Roberts is unequivocal. There is no struggle to find faithful words to spin something he doesn't believe in. There is no trace of vague statements about what Joseph "felt" or "imagined" his writings might reflect, no suggestion that he applied his imagination to craft inspiring stories, no equivocation about finding uplifting power in inspired fiction. Joseph was visited by a real angel, was given a genuine record from an ancient people, and was given divine power to translate. The result is scripture, authentic ancient scripture from ancient prophets and a powerful witness of Christ.

Earlier in the text, Roberts has this to say about the Boo of Mormon's witness of Christ (about 54% through, according to Kindle; p. 395):
The testimony of the Book of Mormon. Also in the Book of Mormon is given a most dramatic and soul-thrilling testimony to the resurrection of the Christ by the appearance of the risen Redeemer to a multitude of people in America, shortly after the resurrection of the Christ; for to the people of America, no less than to the people of the Eastern hemisphere, did God give assurances through their ancient prophets from time to time of the existence of his gospel and of its power unto salvation; and lastly the risen Christ came to them to assure them of the verities of the plan of salvation and especially of this feature of it, the resurrection from the dead, by his own glorious appearance among them, and his quite extended ministry among them. Here the resurrected Christ according to the Nephite record, descended out of heaven and appeared to the multitude, proclaiming himself to be the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world; and the multitude blessed the name of “the Most High God,” “And they did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did worship him” (3 Ne. 11:17).
Assurance of the resurrection. No incident in the gospel history is more emphatically proven than this great truth, the resurrection of the Son of God, and the promise of the resurrection of all men.
The Nephite record is part of the evidence that makes the resurrection of Christ one of the most "emphatically proven" truths in the scriptures. This is not the thing that a closet doubter would write, especially a frank and strong-willed man like B.H. Roberts.

Other statements from Roberts again support his appreciation of the Book of Mormon. For example, regarding the sacrament prayers in the Book of Mormon, he writes (53% through the book):
These prayers of consecration, are the most perfect forms of sacred literature to be found. So perfect they are that one may not add to them or take ought from them without marring them.
He then explores at length the meaning and the power of the sacrament prayers. Clearly, he finds the literary value of these items in the Book of Mormon to be extraordinary. His previous ramblings about the weak-minded author of the poorly crafter Book of Mormon fraud have no place in his personal beliefs. This is a man who finds intellectually satisfying beauty in the Book of Mormon, a man who shows no doubt when he declares: "More consistent is it with right reason --which is but intelligence in action--to accept the light-giving and inspiring thought of the ancient American Scripture--the Book of Mormon..." (23% through; p. 165).

Further insights can be found in the editor's remarks from John W. Welch (emphasis mine):
Indeed, not knowing what we as editors would encounter in the manuscripts of TWL [The Truth, the Way, the Life], I was surprised to find that TWL pointedly and repeatedly asserts the antiquity of the Book of Mormon. While such affirmative statements may seem unremarkable, it is precisely their routine orthodoxy that makes them so notable. Coming from one of the great intellects of the Church, whose views about the Book of Mormon supposedly became more intellectually sophisticated in his last years, these unequivocal statements will disappoint anyone who has imagined Roberts as a closet doubter or late-in-life skeptic. TWL especially reveals how Roberts felt about the Book of Mormon after he wrote his “Book of Mormon Study” in 1922. That work identified several Book of Mormon problems and called urgently for further study. Some have seen “Book of Mormon Study” as evidence that Roberts had changed his views on the historicity of the Book of Mormon, but readers can now determine that Roberts did not waver in his belief because of that study. In TWL, Roberts describes the miraculous coming forth of the Book of Mormon in strong, straightforward, traditional terms. For example, he says:
Three years after this first revelation an angel of God named Moroni was sent to the prophet to reveal the existence of an ancient volume of scripture known as the Book of Mormon, a book which gives an account of the hand-dealings of God with the people whom he brought to the continents of America from what we now call the “Old World.” (469)
In addition Roberts affirms that “Joseph Smith was commanded to translate, and was given the power and means by which he could translate the unknown language of these ancient American peoples” (470). TWL contains several statements that necessarily assume the antiquity and literal truthfulness of this ancient American scripture. For example, Roberts speaks literally of the words that the resurrected Jesus spoke “to the assembled Nephites to whom he appeared on the Western Continent” (482–83; compare 388, 389). Indeed, Roberts believed that “no incident in the gospel history is more emphatically proven than this great truth, the resurrection of the Son of God” (395), and he used as his key witness the appearance of the resurrected Christ to the Nephites (395).
TWL often identifies Book of Mormon prophets by the centuries in which they lived. Lehi, Roberts says, lived “before the birth of Christ, early in the fifth [sic] century, b.c.” (401). Roberts identifies a prophecy in the book of Alma as “one written near the close of the second century b.c.” (401). Moreover, Roberts goes out of his way to describe the book’s authors as “ancient.” He calls Lehi “an ancient American Prophet” (75). He cites “revelations of God to the ancient inhabitants of America” (275). He calls the book “the American volume of Scripture,” written by “the old prophets of the ancient American race” (259; see also 21, 152, 263, 275, 427, 445). He also treats many Book of Mormon passages as the unique, authoritative source of revealed knowledge on important topics. He takes joy in drawing attention to doctrines “derived almost wholly from the teachings of the Book of Mormon” (444). He extols it as a masterful work. Of a Book of Mormon reading he exclaims, “how beautifully clear this principle of purity in thought is set forth” (501).
There is more to say about the relevance of Ethan Smith as a modern source for the Book of Mormon and the other arguments that Roberts considered, but there is one thing we can say with confidence: he did not lose his testimony of the Restoration and the Book of Mormon through his brief investigation into areas of potential weakness in the test.

However, in 1933, Wesley P. Lloyd met with B.H. Roberts, who was Lloyd's former mission president, and then wrote a lengthy journal entry that critics use to argue that Roberts felt the Book of Mormon was not historic and that the plates were just a "subjective" creation of Joseph Smith. The critics' use of this journal entry is unjustified, as McKay V. Jones explains in detail in "Evasive Ignorance: Anti-Mormon Claims that B.H. Roberts Lost His Testimony," FAIRMormon.org.

The Wesley Lloyd Journal entry appears to be summarizing what Roberts had argued in playing devil's advocate, calling attention to weaknesses in need of more buttressing. Roberts had expressly rejected the subjective theory before and there is no evidence that he had now been swayed by it. If Roberts actually mentioned it in that conversation, it would have been in the context of restating the challenges yet to be faced in defending the Book of Mormon--and his position was clearly and long had been that of one that believed in Joseph Smith as a prophet.

Lloyd shows no indication then or later of worrying that Roberts had lost his testimony. Roberts, like many of us apologists, recognized that there are weaknesses and points of attack that demand attention and defense. Calling for further research, analysis, and even revelation to resolve a current apparent problem is not the same as abandoning faith. Roberts certainly did not abandon the Book of Mormon, and turned to it as an authentic ancient record translated by a real prophet of God when he prepared his great final work on theology, The Truth, the Way, the Life.