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1. See Michael Hubbard MacKay, “‘Git Them Translated’: Translating the Characters on the Gold Plates,” in Approaching Antiquity: Joseph Smith and the Ancient World, edited by Lincoln H. Blumell, Matthew J. Grey, and Andrew H. Hedges (Provo: Religious Studies Center and Deseret Book, 2015), 83–116; Ann Taves, Revelatory Events: Three Case Studies of the Emergence of New Spiritual Paths (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2016); Ann Taves, Fits, Trances, and Visions: Experiencing Religion and Explaining Experience from Wesley to James (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999).
2. Michael Hubbard MacKay, “Performing the Translation: Character Transcripts and Joseph Smith’s Earliest Translating Practices,” in Producing Ancient Scripture: Joseph Smith’s Translation Projects in the Development of Mormon Christianity, edited by Michael Hubbard MacKay, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Brian M. Hauglid (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2020), 81–104.
3. Richard E. Bennett, “Martin Harris’s 1828 Visit to Luther Bradish, Charles Anthon, and Samuel Mitchell,” in The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon: A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, edited by Dennis L. Largey, Andrew H. Hedges, John Hilton III, and Kerry Hull (Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center and Deseret Book, 2015), 103–15.
4. Michael Hubbard MacKay, Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, and Robin Scott Jensen, “The ‘Caractors’ Document: New Light on an Early Transcription of the Book of Mormon Characters,” Mormon Historical Studies 14, no. 1 (2013): 131–52.
5. This was recognized as early as 1829 when Cornelius Blachtely asked for the possibility of accessing the gold plates to identify a one-to-one translation. See Michael Hubbard MacKay and Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, From Darkness unto Light: Joseph Smith’s Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon (Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center and Deseret Book, 2015), chap. 12; Larry E. Morris, A Documentary History of the Book of Mormon (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019), 375.
6. For a remarkably clear examination and critique of the literature and evidences see Samuel Morris Brown, “Seeing the Voice of God: The Book of Mormon on Its Own Translation,” in Producing Ancient Scripture, especially 146–67.
7. Willard Van Orman Quine, Word and Object (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2013), chap. 2. In opposition to the indeterminism of translation, John Searle argues that this would lead to skepticism or the possibility of anyone ever understanding anyone else. John R. Seale, “Indeterminacy, Empiricism, and the First Person”, Journal of Philosophy 84, no. 3 (Mar. 1987): 123–46.
8. The recognition of the problem of translation has deep roots in religious studies and the translation of liturgy, scripture, and sermons. See Willis Barnstone, The Poetics of Translation: History, Theory and Practice (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1993); George Steiner, After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation (London: Oxford University Press, 1975); Lydia H. Liu, ed., Tokens of Exchange: The Problem of Translation in Global Circulations (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1999); Christopher R. King, One Language, Two Scripts: The Hindi Movement in Nineteenth Century North India (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988); Naoki Sakai, Translation and Subjectivity: On Japan and Cultural Nationalism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997).
9. Talal Asad argues that to know what the term secular means is to understand the binaries that it creates. Secularims constrains the meaning and power of terms and concepts to their binaries and disallows a singular preference within a binary. Faith is solidified by its shift and delineating relationship with Reason. Talal Asad, Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2003), 23.
10. See Leigh Eric Schmidt, Hearing Things: Religion, Illusion, and the American Enlightenment (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000); James Delbourgo, A Most Amazing Scene of Wonders: Electricity and Enlightenment in Early America (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2006); Eric R. Schlereth, An Age of Infidels: The Politics of Religious Controversy in the Early United States (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013); Sarah Rivett, The Science of the Soul in Colonial New England (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011).
11. John Lardas Modern, Secularism in Antebellum America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011), 7.
12. Modern, Secularism in Antebellum America, 282. Modern’s thesis is important here in its ability to identify a network of ideas that animates individuals and society to replicate and authenticate particular normative conditions. This is important for the secular idea of translation or the notion of commensurability in translation, which this article demonstrates is set in opposition to incommensurability. Compare this sense of normativity to “hyper-normativity” in Peter Coviello, Make Yourselves Gods: Mormons and the Unfinished Business of American Secularism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019), 25 and 100. Talal Asad writes, “Only religions that have accepted the assumptions of liberal discourse are being commended, in which tolerance is sought on the basis of distinctive relation between law and morality.” Formations of the Secular, 182.
13. Charles Taylor foundationally argued that secularism is a force that is opposed to religion and it is certainly not the opposite of religion. Religion in the secular age thrives, not just as a reaction to secularism but in part because of secularism. As Talal Asad has argued, secularism produces binaries that can easily be associated with good and bad religion, rational and irrational religion, both of which are relevant to the binary of commensurability and incommensurability in Joseph Smith’s translations. Asad, Formations of the Secular, 147.
14. Edward Stevenson, “The Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon,” Millennial Star 48, July 12, 1886, 437.
15. Quine writes, “An artificial example which I have used elsewhere depends on the fact that a whole rabbit is present when and only when an undetached part of a rabbit is present; also when and only when a temporal stage of a rabbit is present. If we are wondering whether to translate a native expression ‘gavagai’ as ‘rabbit’ or as ‘undetached rabbit part’ or as ’rabbit stage,’ we can never settle the matter simply by ostension—that is, simply by repeatedly querying the expression ’gavagai’ for the native’s assent or dissent in the presence of assorted stimulations.” “Ontological Relativity,” Journal of Philosophy 65, no. 7 (Apr. 4, 1968): 188.
16. “History, 1838–1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805–30 August 1834],” 161, The Joseph Smith Papers, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1838-1856-volume-a-1-23-december-1805-30-august-1834/167.
19. Coviello argues that “secularism’s negative, its enemy, is not religion; it is bad belief.” This is framed first by the binary religion and secularism that moves to other binaries like civilizing and imbruting, or in this case, “God’s voice” and “humankind’s voice.” They thrive off one another, but appear without analysis to be trying to eliminate each other. Make Yourselves Gods, 27–29.
20. “History, 1838–1856,” 162.
21. Steiner, After Babel, 29.
22. The scope of these visions is demonstrated in this passage by referencing them as including past, present, and future. “For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round” (1 Nephi 10:19).
23. “And also others who have been, to them hath he shown all things, and they have a written them; and they are sealed up to come forth in their purity, according to the truth which is in the Lamb, in the own due time of the Lord, unto the house of Israel” (1 Nephi 14:26).
24. According to the Book of Mormon, John is the author of the book of Revelation in the New Testament.
25. For Samuel Brown, he has firmly moved toward the translation as metaphysical.
26. There four typical ways of interpreting Revelation, of which Joseph Smith does not conform to or attempt to conform to in his interpretation of Revelation in D&C 77. See Grant R. Osborne, Revelation (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2002), 20.
27. Joseph Smith Papers, 2:214.
28. Orson Pratt, “The Holy Spirit and the Godhead,” Feb. 18, 1855, Journal of Discourses, 2:342.
29. There are multiple nonextant documents that included characters copied from the plates. The extant document includes some of them, but Phelps may have had a different copy or document than the extant document. The fact that these line up create an interesting situation. MacKay, Jensen, and Dirkmaat, “The ‘Caractors’ Document,” 131–52. See W. W. Phelps, Pure Language chart.
30. Interestingly, notions of Adam and Adam-ondi-Ahman were added to Doctrine and Covenants (see changes in Doctrine and Covenants sections 27, 78, and 107) in early 1835 just before Phelps wrote his letter to his wife in May.
31. Joseph Smith Papers, 4:53.
32. Joseph Smith Papers, 1:345–52.
33. For an example of contemporary comparison see Oliver Cowdery to William Frye, Dec. 22, 1835, copy in Oliver Cowdery Letterbook, 72, photocopy at Church History Library; Cowdery, “Egyptian Mummies—Ancient Records,” Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, December 1835, 235.
34. Joseph Smith Papers, 4:112.
35. The Grammar is “split into two parts, each of which is further divided into five subsections, called “degrees.” The degrees in each part appear in reverse numerical order. Part I begins with the firth degree and works backward to the first, then part 2 starts over with the firth degree and proceeds in the same manners.” Joseph Smith Papers, 4:112.
36. See Brian M. Hauglid, “‘Translating an Alphabet to the Book of Abraham’: Joseph Smith’s Study of the Egyptian Language and His Translation of the Book of Abraham,” in Producing Ancient Scripture, 363–90.
37. “Part 1 begins with the fifth degree and works backward to the first, then part 2 starts over with the fifth degree and proceeds in the same manner.” JSP, Revelations and Translations Vol. 4, 112.
38. Hauglid, “Translating an Alphabet.”
39. This scholarly debate continues to be waged primarily between Egyptologists (John Gee and Kerry Muhlestein) and others (like Robin Jensen and Brian Hauglid). Joseph Smith was determined that it came from God.
40. For studies on semiotic translation, see Umberto Eco, A Theory of Semiotics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976); Dinda L. Gorlée, Semiotics and the Problem of Translation: With Special Reference to the Semiotics of Charles S. Peirce (Amsterdam and Atlanta: Rodopi, 1994).
41. Richard L. Bushman, “Joseph Smith’s Place in the Study of Antiquity in Antebellum America,” in Approaching Antiquity, 17.
42. Samuel Brown, “Joseph (Smith) in Egypt: Babel, Hieroglyphs, and the Pure Language of Eden,” Church History 78, no 1 (Mar. 2009): 26–65.
43. Emanuel Swedenborg, A Hieroglyphic Key to Natural and Spiritual Mysteries, translated by James John Garth Wilkinson (London, 1874); Sampson Reed, New Jerusalem Magazine 4 (Oct. 1830): 69–71; and J. D., “Egyptian Hieroglyphs,” New Jerusalem Magazine 4 (Feb. 1831): 233–36.
44. Bushman, “Joseph Smith’s Place in the Study of Antiquity,” 19.
45. See Matthew J. Grey, “Joseph Smith’s Use of Hebrew in his Translation of the Book of Abraham,” in Producing Ancient Scripture; Moses Stuart, A Grammar of the Hebrew Language, 5th ed. (Andover, Mass.: Gould and Newman, 1835), 9–10 (charts no. I–III); Samuel Rafinesque, “Tabular View of the Compared Atlantic Alphabets & Glyphs of Africa and America,” Atlantic Journal (1832); Jean-François Champollion, Précis du système hiéroglyphique des anciens Égyptiens (Paris: Imprimerie royale, 1828).
46. His late work on the Kinderhook plates demonstrates his distance from linguistic precision, but his continued prophetic and revelatory expressions show why he would be so intrigued by those plates without concern for a determinacy of language. See Don Bradley and Mark Ashurst-McGee, “‘President Joseph Has Translated a Portion’: Joseph Smith and the Mistranslation of the Kinderhook Plates,” in Producing Ancient Scripture.
47. Joseph Smith, “Mysteries of Godliness,” Times and Seasons, Oct. 9, 1843.
49. “Letterbook 1,” 4.
50. “Letterbook 1,” 4.
51. Tomoko Masuzawa, The Invention of World Religions: Or, How European Universalism Was Preserved in the Language of Pluralism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 29–30.
52. Asad, Formations of the Secular, 182–83.
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