Tuesday, November 15, 2022

My response to the Kraus "rejoinder"

Responding to Kraus and the Interpreter

Earlier this year (2022), the Interpreter published two separate reviews written by Spencer Kraus, with the assistance of Mike Parker and Gregory L. Smith, “other” family and friends (especially his father) and the pseudonymous “Peter Pan.” The first was a 23,000-word review of my book A Man that Can Translate: Joseph Smith and the Nephite Interpreters. The second was a 13,000-word review of my book Infinite Goodness: Jonathan Edwards, Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon.

I welcomed the consideration of my books because of the important issues involved. To a large degree, the fallacies in the Kraus articles are self-evident and I initially saw no reason to respond. I figured readers could tell by the tone and content that Kraus and his collaborators were venting their long-held (and inexplicable) antagonism towards me. Besides, people will believe whatever they want. The SITH-sayers would use the Kraus articles to confirm their biases and those who still accept the Urim and Thummim would spot Kraus’ fallacies.

On the other hand, readers of the Interpreter are rarely, if ever, given an opportunity to read perspectives that differ from the SITH and M2C narratives approved of and enforced by the editorial board. Writing a response would at least give readers something to consider.

I wrote to Jeff Lindsay, whom I consider the most open-minded participant with the Interpreter, and offered to write a response. He agreed, suggesting I follow the example of the response provided by Matt Grow to the Interpreter’s criticism of Volume 4 of the JSP Revelations and Translations, dealing with the Book of Abraham.  That response was about 2800 words. Jeff published a cordial rejoinder welcoming Grow’s response but noting remaining issues.

In my response to the Kraus articles, I addressed the four main points Kraus identified. My response was 3900 words, a little longer than the guidelines I was given but acceptable to the Interpreter. The editorial process was smooth. They asked me to omit the SITH acronym because they considered it offensive. I did so. There was a little additional give-and-take, but by any measure, they did a fair job. I even recorded my response in a hotel room in Chamonix, France, between midnight and 2 am to meet their deadline.

The Interpreter delayed publication until Kraus could complete a 4,000-word rejoinder, complaining that I didn’t respond enough to all of his points. He raised more questions and identified several specific points that, he claimed, “are critical to his theses, and as such a defense of them is warranted on Neville’s part.”


Faced with the challenge from Kraus that my defense “is warranted,” I asked the Interpreter if I could address his specific points. They refused to publish my additional response but said I could submit comments to the article if I wanted to.

Obviously, this is problematic because the published version of the Interpreter does not include comments, leaving readers with the impression that I had no response even if I posted comments to their online edition. And, of course, comments tend to be buried (assuming the webmaster approved them, a dubious assumption given the webmaster’s past practice of censoring comments he disapproves of.)

The length of Kraus’ rejoinder further complicates the idea of submitting my response as a comment to his article. Instead, I posted the entire response here on this blog and sent the link as a comment to his article in the Interpreter. We’ll see if the webmaster publishes my comment.

Another complication is the “whack-a-mole” nature of the exchange. Instead of having the Interpreter publish a lengthy “review” by avowed and public antagonists such as Kraus and his collaborators, a better procedure would be to have their work first peer-reviewed by their target—me—or at least by someone who didn’t share Kraus’ views. The editorial board of the Interpreter could referee tone and errors, thereby assuring publication of a useful critique that is factual and rational, accompanied by the original author’s alternative perspective, with clear areas of agreement and agreements to disagree with accompanying rationales. This would be similar to the way a court issues majority and dissenting opinions for everyone to see and evaluate.

Instead, the Interpreter has ended up with three lengthy articles confirming the editorial bias of its board, offset only by my single relatively brief response, relegating the more detailed response to mere “comments” (or, in this case to this separate blog).

I’ve long observed that the Interpreter is not a legitimate academic journal, and this latest experience is just another example of the problems with the present editorial board. And that’s fine, so long as everyone understands what the Interpreter actually is (as opposed to what it presents itself as).

Still, this episode opens the door to more constructive dialog. I continue to hope that someday, the interpreter will find a way to give a voice to a variety of faithful interpretations (multiple working hypotheses), and not merely to those specific interpretations long advocated by its principals.

With that introduction, here are my comments in response to Kraus’ rejoinder to my published response. I could have spent even more time delving into the details, but simple cost/benefit analysis gives priority to other projects. I encourage interested readers to consider Kraus' points more fully, but only after reading the books that started this give-and-take in the first place.

And, as I write at the conclusion of this response, I encourage full consideration of multiple working hypotheses, always pending additional information.

Jonathan Neville has offered some thoughts regarding my two recent reviews, and I am happy to discuss and defend what I wrote. In Neville’s response, he claims that I offered “caricatures” of his arguments that are “inaccurate” and that I “omitted” context in my reviews.1

As we’ll see, in this review Kraus commits the same mistakes yet again.

I do not believe this is an accurate assessment, and Neville misrepresents what I wrote and ignores citations that he himself included in his books to which I responded. Ultimately, his response fails to defend his works.

Naturally, he disagrees and accuses me of misrepresenting him, even when I quote him.

 After offering a brief overview of his Demonstration Hypothesis (which I will discuss shortly), Neville states the important context to be aware of is the competing claims regarding the origin of the Book of Mormon. This is true, and it is context with which many believers in the Restoration are intimately familiar.


Neville cites Eber D. Howe’s Mormonism Unvailed as proof for his view of competing origins, but misunderstands and misappropriates Howe’s arguments to apparently make this an issue regarding how the Book of Mormon was translated. This is not the issue for Howe, however. The issue for him—and the entire basis of his book—is not how the Book of Mormon was translated, but whether it was translated at all.


The title of his book explains Howe’s purpose; he wanted to reveal what was behind the “vail.” Howe answered with the Spalding theory. He described the SITH narrative only to show how ridiculous it was.

As I explained in AMTCT, 

Howe’s book used the term "unvailed" only once (apart from the title), and that was in connection with the curtain that Charles Anthon had described on page 270. "This young man was placed behind a curtain, in the garret of a farm house, and, being thus concealed from view, put on the spectacles occasionally, or rather, looked through one of the glasses, decyphered [sic] the characters in the book." 

On page 278, Howe wrote, “That there has been, from the beginning of the imposture, a more talented knave behind the curtain, is evident to our mind, at least; but whether he will ever be clearly, fully and positively unvailed and brought into open day-light, may of course be doubted.”



[Page 186]Howe believed that Joseph Smith was a fraud and the Book of Mormon was false. Latter-day Saints claim otherwise.

This misstates Howe’s argument. Howe claimed Joseph dictated the text from behind a curtain or “vail” because he was reading the Spalding manuscript, or a text based on the Spalding manuscript.

Howe, in his work, relates two different options for the translation of the Book of Mormon, but as I discuss in my review of Neville’s work, he attacks any and all forms of translation and revelation in modern times. It is disheartening to see a response defending one’s work avoid dealing with the points raised in my reviews regarding Howe’s work, and does not bode well for the rest of Neville’s response.2

The question of whether the Book of Mormon was translated directly implicates the manner in which it was produced. 

Howe made the simple and obvious point that if Joseph didn’t use the plates at all—if instead he used SITH, as Kraus and other SITHsayers claim—then it not only was not a translation of the plates, but the testimony of the witnesses regarding the plates were irrelevant.

For that reason, Howe set out the SITH narrative just as SITH proponents do today—a point that I made in my response but Kraus inexplicably fails to address.


In fact, Howe was not the first to claim that a hat was used in the translation process, with this detail found as early as 1829.3 

Here is a Kraus sleight of hand. I never said Howe was the first to claim a hat was used.


On p. 52 of AMTCT, I wrote, “As we’ve seen already, SITH originated in the early days of the Church. The earliest known publication that mentioned the Book of Mormon was in the Palmyra Freeman, dated August 11, 1829 (end of Appendix 1). The article claimed Joseph put the “spectacles” in a hat.”

Another important witness to the translation of the Book of Mormon came in 1830 from Josiah Stowell, a faithful friend of the prophet Joseph who staunchly defended the young prophet and never lost his faith in Joseph’s prophetic gifts.

Josiah Stowell’s faith in Joseph as a prophet is irrelevant because Josiah was not a witness to the translation.

In 1830, as Joseph was (again) on trial for allegedly being a “disorderly person,” Stowell testified of the translation of the Book of Mormon in defense of Joseph, stating that: “as aforesaid, the prisoner [Joseph] said he translated the book of Mormon, prisoner put a certain stone into his hat, put his face into the crown, then drew the brim of the hat around his head to prevent Light—he could then see as prisoner said, and translate the same, the Bible, got from the hill in Palmyra.”4 Should Joseph had desired to clarify how the Book of Mormon was translated had this been a factually incorrect statement, that would have been the perfect opportunity to do so.

This nonsensical argument would have been edited out by even a cursory peer review.


The first and simplest answer to Kraus’ point here is right in the article he cites:


“To the charge, the defendant plead not guilty.


The charge to which Joseph pled not guilty?


“that he, the said Joseph Smith, Jr. had been guilty of a breach of the Peace, against the good people of the State of New York, by looking through a certain stone to find hid treasures, &c. within the Statute of Limitation.


Joseph pleaded not guilty to the charge of looking for treasure through a stone and Kraus thinks he should have elaborated by saying he looked through the Urim and Thummim instead?



Aside from the futility of making that distinction in a hostile court setting, even a nonlawyer should know that defendants have a right not to testify. Pleading not guilty to a charge of using a seer stone is hardly an admission of using a seer stone.

Neville does not take these early witnesses of the translation into consideration when determining that Joseph and Oliver decided to refute the seer-stone method only in 1834 (without even mentioning the seer [Page 187]stone as they did so).

While I could have used the 1832 newspaper article (Boston Christian Herald) that reported on the 1830 trial to show that Joseph pleaded not guilty to using a seer stone, the report of that case is not official, and his not guilty plea may have related to the statute of limitations. See the explanation here:




Notice, Kraus initially focused on the hat. Here he shifts to the “seer-stone method.”


Another Kraus fallacy is asserting that Joseph and Oliver decided to refute SITH only in 1834. We know the U&T narrative was known in 1832 because Orson Hyde related it in Boston. Whether they refuted SITH verbally prior to that is unknowable, but it is highly unlikely that Hyde invented the U&T narrative.

Through his focus on and misuse of Mormonism Unvailed, it could lead a reader to erroneously believe that Howe was the first to assert this method of translation.

Readers can hardly be led by my book to believe something contrary to what I wrote.


Still, Howe was the first to articulate and publish SITH the way the modern SITH-sayers present it. Earlier publications claimed “spectacles” in a hat, which is impossible because Joseph never displayed the U&T.


Neville next responds by claiming that “the fulcrum of the translation issue is the direct conflict” between Joseph and Oliver’s statements when faced with other witnesses to the translation.5 


Similarly, at the outset of his response, Neville reiterates his Demonstration Hypothesis, claiming that it offers “a faithful alternative reconciliation … between … what Joseph and Oliver claimed … and … what others claimed—that Joseph produced the Book of Mormon by dictating words that appeared on a stone he placed in a hat.”6


This is coy rhetoric, used in an attempt to paint the debate between those who believe Joseph versus those who disbelieve the prophet.

This sentence could use editing for clarity.

As has been shown in my review and as will be shown again, this is a false dichotomy upon which to base the debate.

This sentence could use editing for clarity.

As evidence for his claim, Neville cites three instances of Joseph claiming that he translated the Book of Mormon with the Urim and Thummim that Joseph had obtained with the plates (after possibly implying that I had purposefully left them out of the discussion), and then claims that “Joseph specified that the sole instrument he used to translate came with the plates.”7 

Readers can examine Joseph’s statements and decide for themselves.


One of my main points is that SITH sayers avoid quoting Joseph’s own statements in context. Kraus never quoted Joseph’s actual statements in his review and doesn’t do so here. Nor does the Gospel Topics Essay, the Saints book, the Institute and Come Follow Me manuals, etc.


What explanation can there be for censoring Joseph’s actual statements except that they refute the SITH narrative? IOW, if Joseph’s statements could be read to mean he didn’t use the U&T exclusively, or that he used the seer stone instead, or even that he used both, then why do the SITH sayers take such care to never quote what Joseph actually said?


Except, upon examination, it becomes obvious that this is a misreading of Joseph’s statements.

Claiming something is “obvious” does not make it so. In the next paragraph, we’ll look at JS’s statements and what Kraus claims is obvious.

He does not say that no seer stone was used or that only one instrument was used — Neville reads his own presuppositions into Joseph’s statements, as he has done in his books and as I have discussed at length in my two reviews.

JS: “I obtained them, and the Urim and Thummim with them, by the means of which, I translated the plates; and thus came the Book of Mormon. (Elders’ Journal, July 1838)”


Kraus says this statement makes it obvious that Joseph used more than one instrument. In my view, Joseph could not have written this any clearer to say he translated the plates with the U&T he obtained with the plates.


The Wentworth letter is equally clear.


“With the records was found a curious instrument, which the ancients called "Urim and Thummim," which consisted of two transparent stones set in the rim of a bow fastened to a breast plate. Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record by the gift, and power of God.”


Readers can decide for themselves.

Neville closes this portion of his response by claiming there are three explanations that Latter-day Saints can make regarding the origins of the Book of Mormon. He further asserts that “any of these explanations can be accepted by faithful Latter-day Saints.”8 


 These explanations are as follows:

1.     Joseph Smith translated the ancient engravings into English, using “translate” in the ordinary sense of the word of converting the meaning of a manuscript written in one language into another language.

2.     Joseph Smith (and/or confederates) composed the text and Joseph read it surreptitiously, recited it from memory, or performed it based on prompts or cues.

3.     [Page 188]Joseph Smith dictated words that supernaturally appeared on a seer stone he placed in a hat.9


Neville’s first and third explanations are simply a false dichotomy, as Neville demonstrates: “explanation 1 was the ‘faithful’ explanation, while explanations 2 and 3 were the critical or unbelieving explanations.

An editor should have helped Kraus with this.


He writes that 1 and 3 are a false dichotomy, but they are simply 2 out of 3 alternatives. Maybe he meant they are a trichotomy, two of which share a characteristic. But what’s the point?

Lately, explanation 3 has been embraced by many believers (including Kraus) as a faithful explanation that replaces explanation 1.”10

Kraus overall point is that Joseph used the seer stone as described in explanation 3.

This is an inaccurate claim, as the two are not mutually exclusive.


It is possible to believe that Joseph translated ancient engravings into English (explanation 1), and it is possible to simultaneously believe that Joseph did so as he read words that appeared on a divine instrument (explanation 3).

This is word thinking again. Kraus creates his own false dichotomy by simply changing my explanation 3 by replacing “seer stone” with “divine instrument” and then says it’s possible to believe his explanation 3 at the same time as believing explanation 1.


My point was that if Joseph read English words that appeared on a stone (not the U&T), then he was reading out loud—not translating.



Neville’s definition of translation appears to be a scholarly endeavor, which I have responded to at length in my review of A Man That Can Translate.11 

“Appears to be a scholarly endeavor” is Kraus own inference, and not what I said or implied.


At no time did I state, suggest or imply that Joseph learned the ancient characters the way a “scholar” would.

By offering a false dichotomy between “ordinary” translation (by divine means, per explanation 1) and dictating the translation with the aid of a seer stone (per explanation 3), however, Neville inadvertently avoids responding to my reviews of his work.

It's difficult to respond to an argument that keeps shifting.

Neville then mischaracterizes explanation 3 by asserting that it was historically a view of critics or unbelievers, only recently gaining acceptance by some believers, when in fact it is a form of miraculous translation compatible with the faithful belief that Joseph translated the plates through the power of God.

Historically, explanation 3 as I explained it (not as Kraus changed it) was always the view of critics and unbelievers, of which Mormonism Unvailed is just one example.


As we saw above, Joseph’s own explanation that the SITH sayers avoid is that he translated the plates by means of the U&T. He left no record in which he claimed he merely read English words that appeared on a stone.

This leads to another point of discussion raised in my reviews, which Neville also should have offered a response to in order to defend his work.


I discuss two citations from Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer that state that Joseph read words off of his translation instruments.

As Kraus admits, I cited these same sources in my book.

David Whitmer even describes that it was Joseph who related that information to him.

Kraus refers to DW’s 1885 statement, which he accepts on its face:


“25 Q. Were you present during any of the time of translation, if so, state how it was done.

Ans – The “Interpreters” were taken away from Joseph after he allowed Martin Harris to carry away the 116 pages of Mx—of the Book of Mormon as a punishment, but he was allowed to go on and translate by the use of a “Seer stone” which he had, and which he placed in a hat into which he buried his face, stating to me and others that the original character appeared upon parchment and under it the translation in English, which enabled him to read it readily.”


DW’s claim that Joseph did not receive the Interpreters after the 116 pages were lost directly contradicts what Joseph and Oliver always said. As to what DW says JS told him “and others” 56 years earlier, Gurley (the interviewer) didn’t press him on the matter for whatever reason. It’s a question of credibility, reliability, means, motive and opportunity. Gurley failed to ask who “others” were, why the original character would appear “upon parchment,” why the original character would appear at all, and most importantly, why Joseph said, in writing, that he translated with the U&T that came with the plates if, as DW claimed, Joseph didn’t even have the U&T.

From these citations, it would appear that Oliver, David, and likely Joseph himself saw no conflict between Neville’s first and third explanations, because none [Page 189]truly exists.12 

12. Ibid., 13. The relevant sources from Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer are Oliver Cowdery, quoted in Abram W. Benton, “Mormonites,” Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate 2 (9 April 1831): 120; David Whitmer, in “Questions asked of David Whitmer,” 1885, Zenos Gurley Collection, Church History Library; David Whitmer, quoted in E. C. Briggs, “Letter to the Editor,” Saints’ Herald 31 (21 June 1884): 396–97.

One reason I don’t give these sources much credence is they are hearsay from a critical source. Anyone interested should read the full article. Here is a citation to a modern critical source: https://www.mrm.org/mormonites


Here is the passage Kraus finds credible:


“During the past Summer he was frequently in this vicinity, and others of the baser sort, as Cowdry, Whitmer, etc., holding meetings, and proselyting a few weak and silly women, and still more silly men, whose minds are shrouded in a mist of ignorance which no ray can penetrate, and whose credulity the utmost absurdity cannot equal. In order to check the progress of delusion, and open the eyes and understandings of those who blindly followed him, and unmask the turpitude and villany of those who knowingly abetted him in his infamous designs; he was again arraigned before a bar of Justice, during last Summer, to answer to a charge of misdemeanor. This trial led to an investigation of his character and conduct, which clearly evinced to the unprejudiced, whence the spirit came which dictated his inspirations. During the trial it was shown that the Book of Mormon was brought to light by the same magic power by which he pretended to tell fortunes, discover hidden treasures, &c. Oliver Cowdry, one of the three witnesses to the book, testified under oath, that said Smith found with the plates, from which he translated his book, two transparent stones, resembling glass, set in silver bows. That by looking through these, he was able to read in English, the formed Egyptian characters, which were engraved on the plates. So much for the gift and power of God. by which Smith says he translate his book. Two transparent stones, undoubtedly of the same properties, and the gift of the same spirit as the one in which he looked to find his neighbor’s goods. It is reported, and probably true, that he commenced his juggling by stealing and hiding property belonging to his neighbors, and when inquiry was made, he would look in his stone, (his gift and power) and tell where it was.”

(Neville cited these statements in his book, which makes his false dichotomy all the more unconvincing.)13

First, it’s not a false dichotomy, and second, I cited the statements not because they are reliable or credible but because I think everyone should consider all the facts. The existence of the statements is a fact; whether the content of the statements is factual is a separate question. I find them not credible and irreconcilable with what Joseph and Oliver wrote and published.

This is further contrasted with Neville’s premise of believing Joseph and Oliver versus those who claimed “that Joseph produced the Book of Mormon by dictating words that appeared on a stone he placed in a hat” — especially because Oliver and probably Joseph (indeed, there is little reason to doubt David Whitmer on this subject) both claimed that exact method of translation.14

After accepting on its face the hearsay account from anti-Mormon critics in the passage I quoted above, Kraus goes further to assume that “probably Joseph” claimed he read words that appeared on a stone in the hat.


But we don’t have to guess what Joseph “probably” claimed because he made explicit claims; i.e., the U&T claims I quoted above.


Here, Kraus says “there is little reason to doubt DW on this subject.”


Think about that a moment. Over 50 years after the fact, an antagonistic DW claimed Joseph didn’t have the U&T after he lost the 116 pages. As early as 1834, both Joseph and Oliver said Joseph did have the U&T. This is a binary choice: i.e., they can’t both be correct. But Kraus believes DW over JS and OC.

This was all detailed in my review, and because Neville leaves this unrebutted in his response, it is entirely improper for him to attempt to frame the debate in this manner.15 

I thought Kraus’ argument was so weak that it didn’t merit discussion in my brief review. Now that I’ve explored it in more detail, readers can decide how much merit his argument has.

It is also worth keeping in mind that the term Urim and Thummim could be used to refer to multiple instruments — as early Latter-day Saints understood.16

Note that, in addition to all the other points I made on this topic, DW’s statement Kraus cites above directly contradicts the modern notion that JS and OC used the terms “interpreters” and “Urim and Thummim” to refer to the stone-from-the-well.

While Neville claims his ideas are “neo-orthodox” in his abstract, his framing of orthodoxy would challenge the faithfulness of multiple Church leaders in the Book of Mormon translation.17 Russell M. Nelson, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, D. Todd Christofferson, and Quentin L. Cook have all discussed Joseph’s use of the seer stone in the hat, as discussed in my review.18 

Kraus makes a straw-man argument here because he simply ignores my observation that faithful Latter-day Saints do believe the SITH narrative. I’ve never said otherwise.


While it’s a matter of public record that, at least in General Conference, no living member of the Quorum of the Twelve or First Presidency has ever quoted what JS and/or OC said about the translation (the last to do so was Elder L. Tom Perry in 2007), that does not constitute their repudiating what JS and OC said.


No one can address every issue, even in multiple talks in General Conference over many years. Kraus seems to argue that basic teachings become obsolete unless repeated in General Conference with some unspecified regularity.


Elders Perry, Boyd K. Packer, Robert D. Hales, Marion G. Romney, Mark E. Petersen, and others did quote JS and OC in General Conference. More importantly, all the modern prophets and apostles encourage us to study and rely upon the scriptures and the teachings of the prophets. Among these are the teachings of JS, including the Wentworth letter.




Kraus has not cited any modern prophet/apostle claiming revelation that repudiates what JS and OC taught about the U&T. We’re all reading the same historical sources and making our own assessment of relative credibility, reliability, means, motive, opportunity, etc.


A problem arises from modern intellectuals who insist on compliance with their own interpretation of history. By contrast, I argue in favor of multiple working hypotheses; i.e., we can all view all the facts and then assess alternative interpretations, always pending additional information coming to light.


Another problem is inherent in the SITH narrative. While many faithful Latter-day Saints think it doesn’t matter how Joseph produced the Book of Mormon (and that’s perfectly fine), many others (and most non-LDS) think it matters a great deal. Mormonism Unvailed did not articulate SITH in the hope that it would build faith in the Book of Mormon; quite the contrary.


While there are many reasons why people lose their faith or are deterred from reading the Book of Mormon, the SITH narrative is touted by critics as the primary reason to disbelieve the claim of divine origin.


In my view, JS and OC emphasized that JS translated the plates with the U&T because that was an essential evidence of its divine authenticity.


The Church’s Gospel Topics essay further demonstrates that it is an entirely faithful and orthodox view that Joseph did read words off of a divine instrument placed in his hat.19

Again, Kraus makes a straw-man argument here. I don’t say the essay reflects a critical view; I say it fails to recognize alternative faithful views that rely on what JS and OC said, as reaffirmed by numerous other prophets and apostles.


My point about the Gospel Topics essay is the way it omits what JS and OC actually said about the translation. I don’t follow the reasoning for omitting their statements in an essay that purports to discuss the translation.


Worse, the essay truncates one JS statement to change its meaning, while relying on less reliable statements from others (mingled with the theories of the scholars who wrote the essays).

[Page 190]Neville’s second explanation is also troublesome. It is difficult to see how surreptitiously reciting a text that Joseph or his confederates composed could be accepted by faithful members as anything but deception or fraud. However, Neville appears to adhere to a portion of this claim regarding the Isaiah portions of 2 Nephi.

This is one of the most inexplicable of Kraus’ arguments.


I pointed out that none of the alleged witnesses of the SITH translation ever described what, exactly, they heard JS dictate. Everyone has simply assumed that what they heard was the text of the Book of Mormon.


There is no chain of custody between the SITH sessions and the Original Manuscript. None of those SITH witnesses ever said they heard Joseph dictate 1 Nephi 3:7, or Jacob 4:6, or any other passage.


Given that, I suggested that, if what Joseph dictated during the SITH sessions did make it into the final text, the evidence from the Original Manuscript and other sources indicates it would have been a few of the Isaiah chapters in 2 Nephi.


IOW, my suggestion that Joseph dictated the Isaiah chapters during the SITH sessions is contingent on the assumption that what Joseph dictated during the SITH sessions is in the text—something that is unknowable, pending additional information such as a new source or document.

Responding to this particular concern, I would challenge the assumption that it is acceptable for faithful Latter-day Saints.

Now Kraus, who misrepresented my position on SITH sayers being faithful LDS, is going to tell us his view on what is acceptable for faithful LDS to believe.


This is another example of an inconsistency that any reasonably diligent editor would have addressed.

Elder Kim B. Clark recently discussed Book of Mormon historicity in no uncertain terms, which would rule out this explanation permanently:

The Book of Mormon is what it claims to be, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His restored Gospel means that we believe exactly what Joseph said it was. If you reverence it as a sacred text, but don’t believe in its historicity, you essentially deny its origin … as Joseph said. And so I think it is absolutely essential [for a] robust faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His restored Gospel.20

Here we have a complete non-sequitur. Elder Clark is absolutely correct, but his point has nothing to do with Kraus argument here.

Joseph dictating portions of the Isaiah chapters from memory has no implication for the historicity of the Book of Mormon.


Actually, in my view, SITH destroys historicity by separating the text from the plates.


IOW, if Joseph merely read words that appeared on a stone in the hat, there is no tangible connection to an ancient source. Worse, SITH undermines the narrative of the plates, rendering them irrelevant (as Mormonism Unvailed pointed out).

Indeed, as Joseph Smith likewise stated on no uncertain terms, “Take away the book of Mormon, and the revelations, and where is our religion? We have none.”21 Stephen Smoot has similarly offered persuasive arguments for the necessity of a historical Book of Mormon, which is entirely incompatible with Neville’s second proposed explanation.22

Kraus continues his non-sequitur here.

Next, Neville discusses the “caricature” I provide of his ideas, quoting the outset of my review of Infinite Goodness. 

In this response, I’ve shown several examples of the way Kraus caricatured my ideas.

Relating the conclusions reached in my previous review of A Man That Can Translate, I state that Neville argues

[Page 191]that (1) Joseph Smith memorized and recited Isaiah from memory rather than translate it from the Book of Mormon record; (2) Joseph Smith tricked his close friends and family, making them believe that he was translating the aforementioned sections of the Book of Mormon; (3) many witnesses to the Book of Mormon are not to be believed; and (4) we should instead rely on sources hostile to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to properly understand Joseph’s translation effort.23

We’ll discuss each of these in sequence below.

As Neville discusses each of the four points in depth, I will respond to him accordingly.


First, Neville argues at length that Joseph memorized portions of Isaiah to recite in his “demonstration” to the Whitmers (this appears to involve Neville’s explanation 2) and continues to do so in his response. He falsely asserts that the argument provided in my review “is a semantic mess because he argues that Joseph read words off a seer stone instead of translating the Book of Mormon record.”24 Rather than respond to my claims — including an analysis of the Masoretic text compared with the Book of Mormon — Neville avoids discussion by claiming it to be a “semantic mess,” without explanation.25

I said Kraus’ argument is a semantic mess because he cites some of my examples but ignores others. Then he finds a comment from John Tvedtnes to the effect that some of the discrepancies between the KJV and BofM may reflect the Masoretic text, but he ignores other differences between the Masoretic and the BofM.


Kraus apparently didn’t notice that I was using Royal Skousen’s part Five on the KJV. For example, he says I “mistakenly” and “erroneously” identified variants in 2 Nephi 17:1 and 11, but I used Skousen’s reading in both cases.


Time is short and there’s little use responding to Kraus’ sloppy scholarship.


Readers can assess his points for themselves, but Kraus’ argument is incoherent because he insists on the SITH scenario, which proposes that Joseph merely read words off a stone, not that Joseph actually translated an ancient text.



He then claims I “forgot to quote” a passage of his book relating to his Demonstration Hypothesis, although no real mistake was made on my part and signifies mind-reading on the part of Neville.26 

Kraus claims he intentionally didn’t quote a relevant passage, which is even worse than forgetting to do so.

Neville’s argument that “it is impossible to determine what portion of the Book of Mormon was being dictated”27 when the seer stone was used is inconsequential, and did not merit an in-depth response — of course it is impossible to date with exact precision any part of the Book of Mormon translation and what tool was used.

It is “inconsequential” only if one assumes Joseph used SITH throughout. Because Kraus embraces SITH, his position is understandable. But his assertion here is incoherent, because he previously endorsed DW’s claim that JS never received the U&T after he lost the 116 pages. Thus, by Kraus’ own claims, there could have been no part of the Book of Mormon that JS translated with the U&T (the interpreters that came with the plates).

However, Emma Smith and Elizabeth Ann Whitmer Cowdery relate observing Joseph using the seer stone for extended periods of time — day after day and hours at a [Page 192]time.28 

This is not a “however;” the accounts Kraus endorses say Joseph used SITH exclusively for the text we have today.

Neville should offer a defense of why these timeframes provided by Emma and Elizabeth should be discounted in favor of his proposed Demonstration Hypothesis involving Joseph’s recitation of Isaiah, but he fails to do so.

Neither provided a “time frame” involving any dates or even days, let alone what JS dictated during these alleged SITH sessions.


I addressed the credibility problems with Elizabeth’s purported affidavit (the original doesn’t exist; all we have is the document McLellin claims he copied from the original, but McLellin also insisted that JS never had the U&T).


I discussed the evidentiary issues with Emma’s statements in detail.

Neville defends his claim that Joseph cited Isaiah by citing an article by Stan Spencer that claims that many Isaiah variants do not offer substantial differences to the meaning of Isaiah’s message.29 Indeed, Spencer’s analysis is true, but it is in no way indicative that Joseph memorized Isaiah.

As I said in the book, Spencer’s observations are consistent with, but not determinative of, Joseph reciting from memory.

Neville further asserts that he believes Joseph memorized Isaiah, but does not deal with my review wherein I compare many of his proposed “memorization errors” to the Masoretic text in light of modern scholarship.

Addressed above.

I conclude that many of the Isaiah variants in the Book of Mormon that Neville believes were memorization errors are supported by ancient sources and would therefore be better understood as a translation of an ancient text. Neville would have done well to respond to my arguments rather than avoid them.

I’m fine with Kraus proposing an alternative. I, too, once accepted that idea. I always encourage multiple working hypotheses.

Regarding the Isaiah variants in the Book of Mormon, there must be a logical point where coincidence for memorization errors matching ancient texts is too fantastical a claim when weighed with the evidence.

Some of the memorization errors may coincidentally correspond to someone’s interpretation of parts of the Masoretic text, but there is no one-to-one correspondence. The BofM text doesn’t reflect all the differences between the KJV and other interpretations of the Masoretic or other texts.

Unfortunately, Neville continues to ignore the decades of scholarship on this issue in favor of a single statement from Stan Spencer that he can use in a context Spencer did not intend.

Kraus’ inept analysis, where he ignores Skousen’s work and most of the examples I gave, hardly justifies more work on this issue, but I welcome him continuing to work on the topic if he or others think it’s important.



An odd remark in Neville’s response is his declaration that “whatever Joseph was doing with the seer stone, it was—by his own declarations—not translating the plates.”30 No citation is offered, and I know of no declaration by Joseph that he never used a seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon. Neville relies exclusively on his own speculation.

I cited Joseph’s three explicit published statements that he translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates. Maybe four statements would have convinced Kraus? Or Five?





Neville also states that he “never wrote nor implied that Joseph tricked anyone.”31 This is an issue of semantics — Neville never explicitly writes in his books that Joseph lied to anyone, nor does he use the word “tricked.”

It’s hardly a semantic issue. Words have meaning.

He does, however, imply that Joseph did trick and lie to his [Page 193]close friends regarding the translation of the Book of Mormon. This was not only done to the Whitmers, but to neighbors such as Jacob Ingersoll, who Neville claims is a trustworthy source when he states that Joseph informed him there were no actual gold plates.32

Kraus may have inferred that Joseph tricked/lied, but I never implied that.


Perhaps Kraus is conflating my position with that of Royal Skousen, who has explicitly stated that JS and OC deliberately misled everyone by claiming that JS translated the plates with the U&T.


That said, yes, I do think JS probably misled the people who were trying to steal the plates. Lucy Mack Smith relates Joseph’s use of a “sratigem” to scare off a large company of men coming for the plates, and a few days later he fooled another mob by putting an empty box under the floor of the cooper shop.





Regarding Ingersoll’s claims that Joseph lied to a toll collector, Neville claims this “demonstrates Joseph’s willingness to let others make inferences without correcting them.”33

Ingersoll himself noted that JS didn’t lie, so why does Kraus frame JS as lying?

 Joseph comes out on top in this instance, without having had to pay for half of his journey — hardly honest behavior. (This is contrasted with Joseph ensuring that his debts were paid before leaving for Harmony later in life.)

Hard to fathom Kraus’ point here.

Neville next claims that “it seems plausible that Joseph would seek to deter [efforts to steal the plates] by spreading the word that he didn’t really have plates. A confidant such as Ingersoll would be an effective method to spread such a rumor.”34

Again, see the examples Lucy Mack Smith gave.

Neville would do well to recall that you do not have to say something explicitly to discuss any certain principle; how one says something is just as important, if not more so — he does not have to say Joseph lied or tricked others about having the plates, he just has to say it seems like Joseph said that.

Again, hard to fathom Kraus’ point. Did he think Joseph was supposed to tell the people who were trying to steal the plates where they were, how much they weighed, how much they were worth, etc?

The word “lie” and “trick” were not specifically used, but for all intents and purposes, that is exactly what Neville describes Joseph as doing. “Pious fraud,” as critics often call Joseph’s actions, is still fraud, and there is little that distinguishes Joseph lying about having plates and lying about not having plates, since both were allegedly performed to further his prophetic career.

More of the same incoherent argument.

Neville further insinuates that such trickery (although he fails to call it such) occurred in relation to the witnesses.

I didn’t call it such because I don’t think it was such, as I explained in the book.

He claims that Martin Harris’s account of swapping the seer stone with one found by the stream offers proof for his Demonstration Hypothesis:

The way Martin tells the story comes across as Joseph playing along with Martin’s test. He sits, silently (as Martin infers he is unable to read anything on the stone). Then he looks up and asks Martin what the problem was.35

There’s more to this story than I put in AMTCT. The additional information is in my upcoming book, co-authored with James Lucas. I’ll defer that discussion to that book’s release.

Later, Martin may have “realized Joseph was merely playing along with him,” but still shares his experience anyway.36 “Playing along with” [Page 194]Martin’s need for evidence through a “demonstration” is no evidence at all, and would be more harmful to faith than helpful once Martin learned the truth.

Again, I’m eager to delve into this more, but I’ll wait until the additional information is published.

While Neville relates instances of the Prophet’s sense of humor as proof for his alleged tendency “to let others make inferences,” the examples he cites are wholly at odds with his certain desire to assuage Martin’s insecurities.37 Joseph “playing along” with Martin versus Joseph “tricking” Martin becomes merely an issue of semantics.

It was Martin who sought to trick Joseph, not the other way around. How could Kraus have overlooked this obvious point?

In like measure, the same could be said for all of the witnesses who Neville claims were left to “infer” that they were witnessing a translation.38 While it might be possible for Neville or his readers to claim that the Whitmers understood this as a demonstration, such does not accord with the historical record or Neville’s insistence that they simply inferred Joseph was translating when they witnessed this proposed event. The above points are clearly laid out in my review.

Notice that throughout his review, Kraus doesn’t address the conflict between what JS and OC said and what a few purported SITH witnesses said. He accepts the statements of the SITH witnesses at face value without assessing the probative value of the statements we have, and tries to persuade his readers that JS and OC, contrary to what they wrote, actually meant to say that JS dictated the text with his face in a hat, without using the plates.


To accept the way Kraus weighs the evidence, a rational person would inevitably reach the same conclusion that Royal Skousen reached; i.e., that JS and OC intentionally misled everyone.


In my view, JS and OC were direct and honest in what they reported. I also think the SITH witnesses reported what they observed fairly accurately, but they inserted their own inferences, assumptions, and hearsay as most witnesses do. That doesn’t mean JS and OC misled anyone, as I explained in the book but Kraus seems unable to comprehend.


This raises a larger point. I long assumed that historians study the basic rules of evidence used by lawyers, or some equivalent system of assessing the probative value of witness statements. The way Kraus and his collaborators have responded to my analysis, I’m less confident of that. Maybe they’re just not historians. But frankly, the way other LDS historians have approached the historical evidence suggests a serious inability to test witness statements. It’s an ongoing problem.

As a final note regarding this important point, there is a large discrepancy between Neville’s proposed method for the translation of the Book of Mormon and Joseph’s alleged demonstration of such. Neville fails to consider why Joseph must have felt obligated to use a stone in a hat when a pair of spectacles borrowed from a neighbor would have sufficed.

I think I mentioned that Joseph’s contemporaries had faith in seer stones. There are accounts of them asking him for a revelation and then asking him to use the stone, as though they didn’t trust his words unless he used the stone.

If Joseph wanted to appease their curiosity regarding the translation method, a device that resembles the Nephite interpreters would have been a much more understandable approach.

The old “would have” argument, which amounts to nothing other than what Kraus thinks he would have done  under the circumstances.

By “demonstrating” the translation in a method completely at odds with what he had actually done (and one which he would allegedly try to refute later in life), Joseph is performing a dishonest action to get his friends to stop bothering him. Whether intentionally or not, Neville has painted Joseph in a negative light.

This is the “outrage theater” type of argument in which Kraus assume the role of deciding how others would view Joseph Smith based on the historical evidence.


In terms of “negative light,” we need look no further than Mormonism Unvailed and its SITH explanation. Yet Kraus embraces the SITH narrative.


By now, many Latter-day Saints are familiar with the SITH-promoting critics such as CES Letter, Mormon Stories, and many others. That these SITH promoters have been joined by the scholars, students, and followers of FAIRLDS, the Interpreter, and Book of Mormon Central is one of the astonishing developments of our day.


In my view, affirming what JS and OC said about the translation of the plates with the U&T is the most positive interpretation of the historical evidence possible.

Third, Neville does not respond to any of my in-depth analyses regarding his claims about the various witnesses to the translation where I claim that Neville argues they should not be believed.

I did look at his “in-depth” analysis and responded to some in my separate review, but that didn’t make the cut for my brief Interpreter response, both due to time and space, and due to relevancy.

He states that these witnesses merely inferred that a translation was occurring, but his [Page 195]historical analysis is fundamentally flawed. As he has not responded to any of my arguments, I would simply refer the reader to my review.39


Fourth, Neville claims that “it’s difficult to know what to make of this allegation” that we ought to believe sources critical of Joseph per Neville’s analysis.40 

Exactly. Why does Kraus give more credence to DW than to JS and OC?


Why does Kraus cite a hearsay attribution to OC, made by harsh opponents of JS and the Book of Mormon, as we saw above in this response?

A lengthy portion of my review, however, deals with that exclusively — Neville defends affidavits in Mormonism Unvailed, defends his use of Mormonism Research Ministry, and attacks multiple sources published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.41

This is another example of what I mean when I say historians (or whatever Kraus is) are unable or unwilling to assess historical statements.


The provenance of a statement is only one of many factors to consider. I don’t “defend” or “attack” affidavits based solely on the source, as I explained repeatedly in the book. The reason I cited MRM for Journal of Discourses is they did a good job making JD accessible. They didn’t change the text. Actually, had I cited the less useful BYU resource, non-LDS critics sharing Kraus’ mentality would reject my citations. Why anyone cares who provides the historical reference (assuming it is accurately presented) is inexplicable.


By “multiple sources published by the Church” Kraus cites Ensign articles and the Gospel Topics essays. Obviously, I don’t attack the publications; I point out factual errors and omissions with the hope of improving future material.


The story of the Gospel Topics essays deserves more analysis than I can provide here, but I did discuss it here:


 (Indeed, it is ironic that he should again claim in his review that I parrot Mormonism Unvailed regarding the translation, when I clearly lay out my arguments against using Mormonism Unvailed apologetically as he does in his books.)42

If Kraus can explain the difference between the SITH narrative that I quoted from Mormonism Unvailed and his own SITH narrative, I’d like to see that in a side-by-side format.

 Neville should be under the onus, in a defense of his work, to offer some explanation why he had done so, but none is offered.

I’ve done so repeatedly.

Regarding my review of Infinite Goodness, Neville states that my conclusions are flawed because I did not “not consult [Neville’s] database of over 1,000 nonbiblical terms and phrases used by Edwards” nor did I cite his “separate biblical intertextual database.”43

Which is true.

 Neither of these were available at the time I wrote my reviews, although upon review it is easily determined that his databases suffer from many of the same problems that his appendices in Infinite Goodness do. A single word — sometimes just a different conjugation of a verb or alternative spelling — or phrase is poor “proof” for intertextuality.44

They were available had Kraus requested them.


In the book I pointed out that a single word is not “proof” of intertextuality because English is a common language; i.e., everyone uses the same words or they wouldn’t have a common meaning.


Intertextuality has two basic meaning:

1.   The idea that a given text is a response to what has already been written, be it explicit or implicit.

2.   The reference to another separate and distinct text within a text.


I’ve offered numerous examples of both types of intertextuality.


The Edwards intertextuality started with an analysis of the non-biblical language in the Book of Mormon. To corroborate Joseph’s claim that he translated the text, I sought evidence of the source of his lexicon. My hypothesis was that the sources would be local; i.e., in Palmyra pre-1829. The Palmyra newspapers contained some of the non-biblical lexicon, but the Edwards material provided almost all of the rest. Anyone who consults the database can see it consists of far more than “a single word.”

Neville also claims that my “review invokes sources not known to be readily available to Joseph Smith,” thus weakening my conclusions.45 However, as I point out in my review, the use of these sources is done to demonstrate that the words and phrases that Neville sees as influenced by Edwards do not originate with Edwards and reflected a wider religious tradition.46 

The use of sources not readily available to Joseph Smith hardly demonstrates that these sources were available to Joseph Smith.

These words and phrases were in the common vernacular, and it does not require any theological treatise to have been consulted on Joseph’s part. That Neville appears to believe I would argue that Joseph [Page 196]was familiar with each of the sources I cite (such as Martin Luther) underscores how little he understood my arguments.

To show these words and phrases were “in the common vernacular” by citing references that were not available to Joseph Smith is irrational.


We won’t know whether Kraus could have found available sources for much of the non-biblical lexicon and concepts unless he continues his research.

Finally, in Neville’s response, he argues that believing that Joseph used a seer stone links the Book of Mormon to “mystical origins”47 that can lead to false claims regarding its nature. This is a false dichotomy yet again — the Urim and Thummim provide the same “mystical origins” that a seer stone would provide. What Neville fails to consider is how his definition of translation differs from mainstream Latter-day Saint thought since 1830.

If, as he claimed, Joseph translated the engravings on the plates, there is no “mystical origin” because we know the origin.


By contrast, if the only source of the text was words that appeared on a stone in the hat (SITH), there is zero demonstrable connection with a real-world source.


For some faithful Latter-day Saints, this is fine. Some even claim SITH is a feature, not a bug, because the mystical origin narrative appeals to them. I have no argument with that approach. If it works for someone, that’s fine with me.


I merely observe that people of all religious beliefs rely on mystical origins of this nature.


For me, the unique feature that JS and OC provide is a direct link to an actual historical record. They not only explained it; their narrative is canonized in the D&C and PGP.


Replacing their narrative with SITH is problematic because, to do so, SITH sayers simply omit (censor) what JS and OC wrote. Kraus doesn’t even quote or address what they wrote.


“Mainstream” LDS thought since 1830 has always been what JS and OC claimed, not SITH. Until recently…

In A Man That Can Translate, Neville argues that

Joseph translated the engravings on the plates in the ordinary sense of the word …. The translation was inspired both because of the aid of the interpreters and because, although Joseph had to study it out in his mind (D&C 9:8), the Spirit confirmed the translation he came up with as he dictated it to his scribe. Viewed in this way, the idea that Joseph actually translated the Nephite records into English seems obvious.48

Note Kraus’ ellipses here, which omit most of the page he cites.

Neville does not offer an explanation as to how, should Joseph have been performing a scholarly translation, the Urim and Thummim would truly be used.

Haha, Kraus’ ellipses omit my explanation for why he needed the Urim and Thummim!

An inference many readers might make is that the interpreters became incidental to the translation process, which is further strengthened by his claims that Joseph could have “ended previous [translating] sessions at the bottom of a particular plate” in an effort to explain how Joseph could reportedly begin translating from where he left off, as witnesses such as Emma Smith testified.49 

Naturally, readers can make any inference they want, but I never said or implied that the interpreters were incidental.


Ending a session at the bottom of a plate would be a natural place to stop, but has no implications for the importance of the Urim and Thummim.

A scholarly translation of the plates removes the mystical origins from the Book of Mormon, ultimately providing a disservice to the book of scripture.50 By making the Book of Mormon a scholarly feat rather than a divine translation as described by Joseph, Neville’s historical analysis falters in multiple points.

Kraus keeps using his term, “scholarly translation.” Nowhere did I state, imply, or suggest that JS engaged in a “scholarly translation.”


Surely Kraus doesn’t actually expect me to respond to his straw man argument here.

My two reviews offer many other claims that Neville does not mention. Many of these are critical to his theses, and as such a defense of them is warranted on Neville’s part.

This is the fun part. The Interpreter wanted a short response, which I provided, and then refused when I offered a longer, more detailed response to Kraus’ challenge here.

Examples include:

§  [Page 197]His presentism when discussing the word “peruse” in Lucy Mack Smith’s history51

It's not “presentism” to use contemporary sources dating to the early 1800s.

§  Why Joseph should be understood as having great literary capacities when his own testimony and the testimonies of his family suggest otherwise52

If by “great literary capacities” Kraus means ability to memorize, there’s an article on that topic soon to be published that explains it more thoroughly than this response does.

§  My rebuttal to Neville’s claim that Jonathan Edwards was an Elias figure to Joseph53

Kraus identifies another Elias figure, but inexplicably insists there can be only one.

§  My critique of the proposed theological influences that Jonathan Edwards had on Joseph Smith, such as the doctrine of plural marriage (of which Joseph’s revelations and Edwards’s sermons are deeply at odds with one another)54

This is a side issue that Kraus doesn’t handle effectively anyway.

§  My critique of the various errors in Neville’s proposed intertextuality with Edwards, all of which are considerably weak55

Kraus’ cursory review is intellectually lazy.

§  My response to Neville regarding chiasmus in the Book of Mormon being another influence of Jonathan Edwards on Joseph Smith56

Another weak argument not worth addressing.

§  My response to Neville’s weak conclusions regarding additional outside influences on the Book of Mormon, including The Late War merely because (when comparing it to the Book of Mormon), “In both cases, we have a Title Page, a Copyright Page, and a Preface.”57

Another lazy argument. The design similarities were insignificant, as Kraus says, but Kraus forgets to mention that I pointed out that The Late War contains an endorsement by Samuel L. Mitchill, the New York Professor whom Martin Harris visited to solicit a similar endorsement. Readers can decide whether it is likely JS would have read a book written for his age group that involved the War of 1812 which by proximity to both Vermont and Palmyra was the equivalent to JS of the 9/11 attacks in New York City to someone living in 2001.

§  Neville’s misuse of Alma 37’s reference to a seer stone in regard to both modern scholarship and historical sources58

Multiple working hypotheses…

§  My response to Neville’s conflation of the seer stone with Skousen and Carmack’s theories regarding Early Modern English in the Book of Mormon59

Skousen and Carmack insist that JS was not the English translator. That’s the point of their EME theory.

§  My critique of Neville’s definition of “translation” and how it differs from Joseph’s definition60

JS never “defined” translation. Kraus makes a series of assumptions about what JS meant.

§  [Page 198]My critique of Neville’s use of David Whitmer to argue for a large “demonstration,” when David’s statement Neville cites from does not support such a reading (this includes Neville’s erroneous belief that David described the seer stone in this purported demonstration, when the record states that the “spectacles” were used)61

Kraus keeps framing this newspaper article as David Whitmer’s statement. This was not David’s statement but a reporter’s account, published in a newspaper, as I pointed out. As such, it was an accumulation of information published as a narrative.

Other accounts referred to the “spectacles,” but as I explained, the witnesses could not have viewed the U&T because Joseph was commanded not to display them.


This leaves us with sorting through the article to ascertain what was credible and what was not. Again, multiple working hypotheses.


Perhaps JS used common spectacles or the stone for the demonstration. DW and Emma separately said JS used only the stone after losing the 116 pages, but if we believe JS and OC, we know what DW and Emma said was false.



§  In addition to my analysis of Isaiah variants that better reflect ancient manuscript evidence rather than memorization errors, Neville has made multiple transcription errors regarding Isaiah in the Book of Mormon that deserve acknowledgment62

We discussed this above. Kraus forgot that I explained I used Skousen’s part Five.


BTW, in Part 5 Skousen also wrote, “I show that in nearly every case the biblical quotations in the Book of Mormon come from the King James Bible instead of from earlier biblical translations dating from the 1500s… Taking the variation in the italicized words into account, we can narrow down the copytext to a King James edition printed between the 1770s and the 1820s.

Ultimately, Neville’s response to my two reviews is weak. He does not deal directly with the substance of my arguments, instead doubling down on his claims provided in his two books.

As I explained above, I wrote a short response at the request of the Interpreter, and I focused on the key point that SITH contradicts what JS and OC said.


Kraus glides over that fundamental problem, both here and in his original reviews.


Many of Kraus’ arguments, as I’ve pointed out in this response, involve his own straw men, red herrings, and lazy analysis. His other arguments involve alternative hypotheses and interpretations, which are fine with me.

This is troublesome behavior for one who claims to be open-minded and willing to discuss anything he has overlooked or mistaken.63 As I discussed in the conclusion to my review of A Man That Can Translate, “History … is written through the careful analysis of documents in their context and against a wide array of evidence.”64 


I’m happy to discuss serious criticism, but not lazy research or logical fallacies.


That’s why I’m happy for readers to discuss multiple working hypotheses.


In the future, I recommend that Kraus and other reviewers address my actual arguments instead of their rephrasing and rewriting of my arguments.

This includes determining the method in which Joseph translated the plates, especially in light of Joseph’s few references to the method throughout his life. Neville is under no imperative to accept any of my conclusions, of course — but he has not adequately dealt with my arguments in his response nor has he adequately dealt with the historical evidence regarding Joseph’s translation of ancient scripture.

I invite readers to consider all the evidence, along with the ensuing multiple working hypotheses.


But I also invite readers to begin by studying what JS and OC actually left us, in full context. Then read what their fellow apostles declared, both their contemporaries and their successors. Only then, if readers are curious, should they veer into the self-contradictory, hearsay statements that contradict what JS and OC said.


And I invite readers to leave the musings of scholars, LDS and otherwise, to the scholars to debate among themselves.


But I encourage full consideration of multiple working hypotheses, always pending additional information.








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