The Book of Mormon’s Complex Finite Cause Syntax ePub feed of Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship

    • Christianity

Abstract: This paper describes and compares the Book of Mormon’s 12 instances of complex finite cause syntax, the structure exemplified by the language of Ether 9:33: “the Lord did cause the serpents that they should pursue them no more.” This is not King James language or currently known to be pseudo-archaic language (language used by modern authors seeking to imitate biblical or related archaic language), but it does occur in earlier English, almost entirely before the year 1700. In the Book of Mormon, the syntax is always expressed with the modal auxiliary verbs should and shall. Twenty-five original examples of this specific usage have been identified so far outside of the Book of Mormon (not counting two cases of creative biblical editing — see the appendix). The text’s larger pattern of clausal verb complementation after the verb cause, 58 percent finite in 236 instances, is utterly different from what we encounter in the King James Bible and pseudo-archaic texts, which are 99 to 100 percent infinitival in their clausal complementation. The totality of the evidence indicates that Joseph Smith would not have produced this causative syntax of the Book of Mormon in a pseudo-archaic effort. Therefore, this dataset provides additional strong evidence for a revealed-words view of the 1829 dictation.



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Example: “… the Lord did cause the serpents that they should pursue them no more” (Ether 9:33)1

In grammar, a complement is one or more words added to another to complete the meaning. Complementation is completion of the meaning by the addition of a complement. In this paper, we are interested in clausal complementation — specifically, where the complement that completes the meaning of the verb cause is another verb phrase. Finite complementation means that there is a tensed verb in the complement [Page 114]clause. In the Book of Mormon, these tensed verbs are very often auxiliary verbs, most often shall and should. Infinitival complementation means there is no tensed verb in the complement, only an infinitive. This will all become clear as we consider quite a few examples.

In carrying out these syntactic studies, the issue I am primarily interested in is whether the Book of Mormon was the result of a revelation of ideas or a revelation of words.

Abstract: This paper describes and compares the Book of Mormon’s 12 instances of complex finite cause syntax, the structure exemplified by the language of Ether 9:33: “the Lord did cause the serpents that they should pursue them no more.” This is not King James language or currently known to be pseudo-archaic language (language used by modern authors seeking to imitate biblical or related archaic language), but it does occur in earlier English, almost entirely before the year 1700. In the Book of Mormon, the syntax is always expressed with the modal auxiliary verbs should and shall. Twenty-five original examples of this specific usage have been identified so far outside of the Book of Mormon (not counting two cases of creative biblical editing — see the appendix). The text’s larger pattern of clausal verb complementation after the verb cause, 58 percent finite in 236 instances, is utterly different from what we encounter in the King James Bible and pseudo-archaic texts, which are 99 to 100 percent infinitival in their clausal complementation. The totality of the evidence indicates that Joseph Smith would not have produced this causative syntax of the Book of Mormon in a pseudo-archaic effort. Therefore, this dataset provides additional strong evidence for a revealed-words view of the 1829 dictation.



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Example: “… the Lord did cause the serpents that they should pursue them no more” (Ether 9:33)1

In grammar, a complement is one or more words added to another to complete the meaning. Complementation is completion of the meaning by the addition of a complement. In this paper, we are interested in clausal complementation — specifically, where the complement that completes the meaning of the verb cause is another verb phrase. Finite complementation means that there is a tensed verb in the complement [Page 114]clause. In the Book of Mormon, these tensed verbs are very often auxiliary verbs, most often shall and should. Infinitival complementation means there is no tensed verb in the complement, only an infinitive. This will all become clear as we consider quite a few examples.

In carrying out these syntactic studies, the issue I am primarily interested in is whether the Book of Mormon was the result of a revelation of ideas or a revelation of words.