Textual Criticism of the Book of Mormon: Royal Skousen vs. Earl Erskine

Sure, but does he even have a podcast?

The Salt Lake Tribune recently released an article on the "mass resignation" of some 100 persons* from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This event was led by Kate Kelly, who has been busy dismantling the Patriarchy with op-eds for the Huffington Post. The group of soon-to-be ex-Mormons claimed in its ranks Earl Erskine, "host of the online video series 'Ex Mormon Files.'" Mr. Erskine, according to the Tribune, "said his withdrawal from the church began after he read an 1830 edition of the faith's signature scripture, the Book of Mormon, and noticed discrepancies with more recent printings." By "read an 1830 edition of the faith's signature scripture, the Book of Mormon, and noticed discrepancies with more recent printings" I'm betting that actually means "spent the better part of an afternoon reading Wikipedia and MormonThink and mindlessly regurgitating the standard anti-Mormon talking points," but that's just me. Regardless, Mr. Eskine is quoted as saying:
"I gave myself permission to think. … Mormons, bless their hearts, they're very intelligent, but they don't critically think very much."

(Pro tip: If you want to come across as smug and obnoxious as possible, use phrases like "bless their hearts" while giving your ideological opponent a thinly-veiled backhanded compliment.)

So there you have it. The proprietor of the illustrious and academically acclaimed "Ex Mormon Files" (don't be ashamed if you hadn't heard of it before; I had to Google it as well) allowed himself to think and, unlike us innocent and incorrigible Mormons, is a true critical thinker. This, of course, brought him to the inevitable conclusion that the LDS Church is false and corrupt. 

Frankly, I'm kind of upset that I wasn't given permission to think while attending BYU. I mean, it would've made things much easier if my bishop would've just signed my "Permission to Think" endorsement right alongside my ecclesiastical endorsement each year. Whatever. What's done is done. Maybe if I get 100% on my home teaching this month and pay 20% for my tithing my stake president will give me permission to think. 

Until then, I'm curious to hear Mr. Erskine's opinion of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana-trained linguist Royal Skousen. You know, the one guy who has spent nearly three decades working on the critical text of the Book of Mormon. The same guy who has published his work on the Book of Mormon with Yale University Press. That guy. Specifically, I'm curious if Mr. Erskine thinks Professor Skousen qualifies as a Mormon (bless his heart) who has been allowed to think critically for himself. I mean, Skousen's work on the critical text of the Book of Mormon is voluminous (literally) and his research has proven extraordinary important and influential on how modern historians, anthropologists, linguists, and literary critics approach the Book of Mormon. He is widely regarded as one of the premier scholars of the Book of Mormon of this generation, and he is undoubtedly the premier text critic of the Book of Mormon of any generation.  

Well, I think I already know why Mr. Erskine wouldn't qualify Professor Skousen as a Mormon who (through some incomprehensible feat of skill, luck, and shrewdness) has managed to secure permission to think for himself in the Church. You see, Professor Skousen is an absolutely firm believer in the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. "The evidence basically argues that Joseph Smith was not the author of the Book of Mormon, nor was he actually the translator," Skousen has written. "Instead, he was the revelator: through him the Lord revealed the English-language text (by means of the interpreters, later called the Urim and Thummim, and the seer stone)." In addition to his academic work, which has led him to this conclusion, Skousen has testified:
“Yet my personal testimony of the Book of Mormon is independent of my work on the critical text project. The Book of Mormon stands on its own and is ultimately not dependent on how that text may vary in printed editions or in the manuscripts. Moroni promised that the Lord will give a testimony of the book to the prayerful reader — irrespective of any infelicities and errors in the text (which Moroni recognized could be there, as he himself noted in the last part of the title page of the Book of Mormon). I received my own personal witness of this book long before I ever began work on this project. I have never needed to prove to myself that the text is from the Lord. Nor have errors in the text ever prevented the Spirit from bearing witness that the book is the Lord’s.” 

For Skousen, the ultimate question of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon is a religious one, to be sure. But his scholarship has without a doubt informed his testimony and strengthened it. He is confident (and this is easily discerned in his publications on the Book of Mormon found at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute and the Interpreter Foundation) that the textual evidence for the production of the Book of Mormon favors its divine authenticity, and he has unashamedly argued such for many years.

So here we have two choices. We can either listen to a man with a PhD in linguistics who has spent his academic career producing academically acclaimed work on the critical text of the Book of Mormon that has withstood all levels of scrutiny, or we can listen to a hack podcaster who has exactly zero academic training relevant to evaluating the critical text of the Book of Mormon, zero academic publications to his name on the critical text of the Book of Mormon, and zero credibility in the eyes of anyone who is remotely connected to any kind of academic study of the critical text of the Book of Mormon. 

I will let you decide for yourself, dear reader, whom you will choose as your guide for matters pertaining to the critical text of the Book of Mormon. As for me, I think it's pretty clear who the superior choice is, and whom I would recommend to you as a trustworthy source.

Then again, I've never actually been granted permission to think for myself, so I suppose you'll just have to take my recommendation with a grain of salt.



*Actually it was less, since the report indicates that many in attendance were already ex-Mormons.

Comments

  1. I read what ex Mormons say about the LDS doctrine and church. They knowingly lie, knowingly take quotes out of context, and parrot anti Mormon tripe. It is obvious they are out to get the church. Some use their "high" positions in the church to seem more credible.

    They deny the credentials of faithful LDS scholars, throw fits about lack of peer review, and use any dishonest tactic to get their way. They are bullies, like other groups not worth mentioning.

    They don't want honest discussion, nor do they want answers. They employ word games and word traps, use a double standard to judge (which we are not to do), and always move the goalposts. They do the very things they accuse the LDS of doing. They are hypocrites. Quite sad actually.

    Instead of using their time to reach out to Atheists and others to preach of Christ they go against the Bible and attack the LDS. Truth in Love.. ...oxymoronic statement.

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  2. Stephen, you may not remember me, but I know you. I still remember one time in Church I brought an 1830 Book of Mormon (reproduction, mind you), and you told me of some of the Hebrew constructs in it. Well, I have searched through the book and cannot find discrepancies in the doctrine, just mostly grammatical differences and many typos. I've read the "modern" Book of Mormon probably 20-30 times, so I know what I'm looking for. I really wonder about these people. Anyway, I still believe that you can only know the truth of it by the Spirit, but it is annoying to see lies spread like wildfire. And as far as "mass resignations" go, there are probably around 1000 people baptized each day, given an estimate of ~300,000 baptisms per year. Nonetheless, it is always sad to see people leave the Church and deny themselves eternal blessings.

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