Did Joseph Smith Write the Book of Mormon?

Let’s be precise. For this post, I only ask, “Did the language of Joseph Smith, Junior, influence the original English version of the Book of Mormon?” Questions about the contents of the book—the history, persons, and principles in the book—let’s leave for another time.

Somebody once said that Joseph Smith’s own language traits were in the Book of Mormon. What he neglected to say was what traits and to what degree. He assumed his statement was enough to discredit the idea that the book was of Divine origin. Let’s look deeper.

Are the language traits of the translators of the King James Bible to be found in that version of the Bible? Of course. But nobody suspects that the Bible originated in England a few centuries ago. That’s traditional translation. How does it relate?

Joseph Smith never said or implied, to my knowledge, that his own English had no influence on what words were used in the coming forth of the Book of Mormon in the early nineteenth century. What version of English would God use, if his words needed to be understood by Americans in and around the state of New York, in the 1830’s? Would not words known to a farm boy like Joseph Smith suffice? Would not many common American citizens of the early-nineteenth century understand his language?

God uses imperfect tools, mortal humans in particular. But he provides means for us to improve, including opportunities to improve our language skills. Farm boys in the new American nation, in the early nineteenth century, would sometimes learn to read the Bible, sometimes learning from school teachers, not always in school buildings but sometimes when a teacher would stay at a farm house. God sometimes provides ways for us to improve in ordinary ways, including ways of learning to use language according to accepted traditions of our own time.

Does it seem odd that God would allow the Book of Mormon to come forth in the language used by Joseph Smith? Does it seem odd that God would allow that farm boy to later learn language skills that would lead to revised versions of the Book of Mormon, with corrections in grammar in particular? Not at all.

Just as the King James version of the Bible has evidence of both ancient language origin and English language traditions, the Book of Mormon has evidence of both ancient language origin and English language traditions. Both volumes of scripture have come to us through the grace of God, although the manner of translation differs.

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