Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Howdy!" spake Abrahm for he was sore afraid.

It's very easy to tell that a text is not genuine just from the language.  I was on google+ this morning when I read the post of someone in my circle and this was what he wrote.

I had not heard of Doctrine and Covenants before and so I clicked on the link and I was taken to the lds.org website which is of course the official website of the Mormon Church or the Church of the Latter-day Saints.  The link took me directly to Section 24 of a book called "Doctrine and Covenants" which is one of their sacred texts.  This was what I saw:

That was of course the introduction and immediately after that, was the sacred text itself:

Just the first four verses and I smelt a rat.  I went on.

Obviously, something is amiss.  My gut feeling tells me instantly that this text is a forgery.  Or to use less provocative language, it is not genuine.  My eyes then skipped some of the verses and I read the end of it, convinced that something was seriously wrong with the text.

I have said many times before that I do not, as a rule, criticise other people's religion.  I think it's more appropriate for me to criticise my own religion, which I have done many times in this blog and my other blog on religion.  I have shown why the Bible contains very serious errors and possibly even outright lies by the evangelists.

If I am to say something about the sacred text of the Mormons, I have to be more careful.  I may go on the anachronism of the language but I should draw no conclusion.  Perhaps it's good to bring this to the attention of a Mormon.  If there is anyone who can offer a defence of the text, it's got to be a Mormon.  After all, Mormons all over the world seem very eager to chat with strangers about their religion and surely a polite question about the use of language in their sacred text should be warmly received.  Besides, I'm a milk drinker and I don't like the taste of coffee and alcohol and I should be the darling of any Mormon Elder.

So I wrote this in response to his google+ posting:

Sorry for the break. Screen-capture can only be done in segments.

I haven't yet got a response to this.  I don't think I was insensitive or rude.  I have only read a few verses and it's already like opening a can of worms.

Language is a good tell-tale sign that a document is a forgery.  I can't speak for Mormon sacred texts but I know that scholars have shown that some New Testament texts are clearly forgeries.  They were written by Hellenistic Christians long after St Paul's time and they set out to convince their readers that the epistles were in fact written by St Paul.  What they did not realise is that it's very hard to fake another person's language even if he lived only about possibly 50 to 70 years before the forgery, as can be seen in some New Testament books.  Joseph Smith wrote in a language 200 years before his time and it's not surprising that he blundered.  No, I'm not insulting a Mormon prophet.  I'm saying he already did a very good job.

[Edited: 7:38pm, 24 April 2012:  A friend of mine brought to my attention the fact that the Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith and so my complaint that the language was contrived to give a semblance of antiquity should not be seen as directed at God since Smith alone was to blame.  I then realised how ignorant I was about Mormonism.  Frankly, apart from their practice of baptising the dead, the famous holy underwear, their earlier (and subsequently banned) practice of polygamy and the super friendliness of their missionaries who always wore a white short-sleeved shirt and a broad smile, I knew absolutely nothing about their religion.  I just did a search in wikipedia and it seems the Doctrine and Covenants is a separate revelation from the Book of Mormons.  Interestingly, wikipedia says:

The revelations were not God's words verbatim, but "couched in language suitable to Joseph's time."  In 1833 Smith edited and expanded many of the previous revelations, publishing them as the Book of Commandments which later became part of the Doctrine and Covenants.
But my point is it's not couched in language suitable to Joseph's time.  It's in a language that purports to be 200 years BEFORE Joseph's time but Joseph got it wrong and that is precisely what I'm talking about.    Notice Joseph even had time in 1833 to edit his revelations but he continued to couch them in pseudo-Jacobean language.  Why did he do that?]

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