The apologists are congratulating themselves on Sic et Non for their great understandings of linguistics, relating times when a foreign language teacher showed them that a certain phrase in a foreign language is meaningless in English. Mr. Midgley boasts of being a great translator of Kant. Others speak of delving into Egyptian and Greek. They understand what's going on in the Book of Mormon and why a creative translation is necessary. But within their impressive learning and bravado is no point at all that I can see. That certain Klingon dishes can't be named properly in English is a pedestrian point, and it doesn't appear to be the point that Skousen is making.
Do they mean to interpret Skousen as saying that all translation is creative translation? If so, why call it a "creative translation," isn't that redundant? Skousen seems to be saying that a "creative translation" is a special case of translation, but it's not clear to me to what extent Skousen means the Book of Mormon is a creative translation or why a creative translation is necessary. For instance, it's easy to understand why a Klingon dish is difficult to describe in English. However, to "sit at meat" vs. Da Vinci's "last supper" is a totally different example. Is it not possible to draw people from Galilee sitting in the dirt and eating a humble meal without utensils? (or whatever it actually was) Skousen's other example is creating the Sermon on the Mount to cover various disparate sermons. Was it impossible to describe the disparate sayings as they happened in their various contexts? It doesn't seem that what Skousen is saying has anything at all to do with the vacuous points the insufferable rubes in the comments section are making about the difficulty of translating certain foreign or ancient ideas into English. And it seems that what Skousen is actually saying, contrary to his denials, is that a "creative translation" is in fact at the very least, a mythologizing translation, if not a fictionalizing one (by the apologists own standards even; see DCP's disagreement over Sermon on Mount).
I didn't mean to expend so many words on that point. That point is an introduction to getting back to Dr. Moore's point:
Dr. Moore wrote:I mean, taken far enough, we can legitimately ask whether the Nephites actually practiced Christianity... did they, or was that also a creative and cultural translation?
Moore introduces a fascinating constraint. Given "Christianity" is a holistic practice -- there are a lot of moving parts that all work together -- how is it possible that the Sacrament prayer that must be followed word-for-word when we bless the sacrament today and "do over" if a word is missed, is literal, but "judgment bar" is creative? I get that in everyday discourse, we mix figurative language in with literal language all the time, but this is a case of translation decision. It really does seem to be that "Christianity" within the Book of Mormon is most consistently on the whole, a creative cultural translation as Moore suggests.
This problem with expansions being fictional to a degree isn't new with Skousen. But there is something new that is very interesting to me. Whereas an expansion by Joseph Smith is a constraint of the mind of Joseph and represents "weaknesses of men", in Skousen's theory, the expansions are conspiratorial-level choices. The Ghost Committee had decades or centuries in the spirit world with all the best scholarship from the great Spirit Library at their disposal, and it's even worse if you choose Jesus himself as the translator. A choice was made to produce a flamboyant "Da Vinci's Last Supper" epic. And so argue until blue in the face that it was ultimately based on something that was historical, but just as Moby Dick wouldn't have lessons that are any better had it been real, we are taking a turn into the realm of the literary rather than the historical, and eventually, some sharp apologist out there will understand one day that Ockham's razor prefers an entirely fictional Book of Mormon in the case you've gone to the lengths of having a spirit world committee produce an epic work of 15th century literature. And with it, as Lemmie points out, all the problems with historicity are flushed.