I am not sure I understand the argument that Don's presentation destroys the "strong" critical argument against Joseph Smith based on the Kinderhook Plates translation. Don presents the "strong" critical argument as, essentially, "a true prophet would not be fooled into translating bogus plates." But I am not sure I follow the logical chain from "Joseph used the GAEL to 'translate' the KP" to "the KP translation therefore has no bearing on whether Joseph Smith was a fraud." Leaving aside the question of whether Don accurately presents the "strong" critical argument, and taking it at face value, I still don't see the significance of the finding about the character comparison (although I do find it interesting). Here's a summary of what we know:
1. The Kinderhook Plates were not ancient; they were a 19th-century creation.
2. The KP contained made-up characters that do not comport with any known actual language.
3. William Clayton says that Joseph Smith attempted to translate the characters and that he produced a partial translation, in which Joseph Smith said the KP were about the fellow with whom they were found and that "He was a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, and that he received his Kingdom from the ruler of heaven and earth."
4. Don's presentation confirms that William Clayton was telling the truth, and that Joseph Smith actually did attempt a translation, and that this is what Joseph said the plates were about.
5. The translation Joseph produced was about the purportedly ancient skeleton with whom the KP were allegedly buried anciently and recently uncovered.
6. Because the characters on the KP were just gobbledygook, no "secular" translation was possible.
7. If Joseph Smith attempted a secular translation, he would have failed; he would be unable to produce anything other than gobbledygook. Any resulting English text would necessarily be fraudulent. That is, there is no way he could get the story about the "descendant of Ham" through a secular translation.
8. If Joseph Smith used revelation to translate the KP, he would have known that it was a hoax. That he produced a translation, again, shows that he was engaged in the act of deceiving his followers into believing he had the "gift" of translation. Whether he used "secular" means (i.e., consulting a lexicon, even a bogus one like the GAEL) or "revelatory" means to adduce the translation, the conclusion is the same: he pretended to translate something he could not, and he gave a translation that did not match what was on the plates. There is one out, I suppose: God could be a trickster, like Loki, or something along those lines.
The two principal foundations of the critical argument with respect to the KP are these: (1) Joseph Smith attempted a translation and what he produced was bogus, which shows he was a fraud; and (2) Joseph was tricked, did not have the spirit of discernment one would expect from a Prophet who speaks face to face with Jesus (as he claimed), etc. and this casts doubt on his prophetic claims (likewise, the church leaders who followed him who believed in and proclaimed the authenticity of the plates for over a century.
It seems Don solidified the critical arguments and severely weakened the chief apologetic argument, which has been in recent years that Clayton's account could not be trusted. As long as it was plausible that Joseph Smith did not actually say that the KP were about the descendant of Ham, etc., the apologist could maintain that Smith was not necessarily fooled by the hoax. But even a "secular" translation shows that Smith was engaged in fraud in deception.
Last edited by Equality
on Sun Aug 07, 2011 3:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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