Dear 100 Hour Board
This is a follow up question to question 11989 regarding Lord vs LORD and God vs GOD and why the all caps form of the words are not used in the BoM. Two replies confuse me. Basically, I see a lot of "it doesn't matter" but with God vs GOD, that is the difference between Jehovah and Elohim, and I think that is huge in light of Mormon doctrine which says that Elohim is Heavenly Father and Jehovah is Jesus. I personally stopped reading the Book of Mormon for many days because I was trying to reconcile the phrase "they crucify the God of Israel" because that translates to "they crucify Elohim Israel". I spent days on lds.org and in my Hebrew Bible trying to figure it out. I ran into many other problems regarding this along the way, so I think it really does matter. Though I have continued reading the BoM, I do so with much sceptism. I was expecting the BoM to "clear up the confusion", but since it doesn't differentiate between God and GOD using the standard key the King James Translators were inspired to use and because it doesn't have any other way, we can't translate that phrase back to Hebrew without having a contradiction with Mormon doctrine. Also, I saw the reply that the BoM was in reformed Egyptian, but wouldn't the part that was taken from Laban in Jerusalem have been in Hebrew? In the very least, wouldn't it be a translation from the Hebrew into reformed Egyptian, and wouldn't GOD have ensured that there was a way to know when adonai is present, when Elohim is present, and when YHWH was present in the original language. He had the King James Translators designate it because it is obviously important. Can't we count on him to be consistent? He is not the author of confusion right?
Dear Mr. King,
A couple months ago, I went to stake institute, and since the terms in the summer are shorter and there isn't really time to do a full institute class, a couple of the teachers had decided to put together a class on Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. I went to that class once (one of my friends was called as a teacher for the other class, so I switched), and the teacher talked about Moses talking with God as described in Moses 1. I feel like the idea behind the class was good, but they spent the first 40 minutes talking about something that should've only taken three. What were they talking about for so long? They were discussing whether Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ had appeared to and talked with Moses face to face. Well, I'm gonna tell you exactly what you don't want to hear: it doesn't matter.
Here are two reasons why it doesn't matter. First, Jewish doctrine and Jewish theology are very different from Mormon doctrine and Mormon theology. To the Jews, there were many gods, but only one was their God, YHWH. To them, there was no difference between Elohim and Yahweh, those were just two different words that they used to describe the same being. Second, when you try to figure out theology by translating and back-translating, it stops being a question of theology and starts being very much a question of linguistics, which is a totally different thing. We use these two words, derived from Hebrew, to describe two separate entities whom we consider to both be God, but that doesn't mean that the Jews are retroactively bound to use them the same way we do today. This is why we need modern revelation, so that we have a direct connection with God that can give us truth, rather than having to piece it together from incomplete and sometimes contradictory ancient manuscripts.
Finally, I want to echo Kirito below: the translators of the KJV were not prophets. They did their best to translate all the original meaning of the Bible into English, but they weren't infallible, and not everything they did was inspired. Just because they used one style convention doesn't mean we have to.
One thing I like about the King James version of the Bible is that it is very careful and consistent with its word choices. You cite one here with God vs. GOD. It would be neat if the Book of Mormon made a similar distinction. But for the sake of argument, I'll pick a side, and I will defend the Book of Mormon every time. It's true, and that comes first.
The translators of the King James version were not prophets. I'm sure they were inspired to a degree, but that doesn't make every decision they made perfect. A lot of the decisions were stylistic, made in a time completely different from both Joseph Smith's day and our day. In this case, the translators didn't want to use the word Jehovah as it appeared in the Hebrew, so they decided to use LORD for the word Jehovah and Lord for every other instance. (source) It's not like they were consciously differentiating between God and Jesus Christ—they just didn't want to use the word Jehovah, but they didn't want to lose the clarity of the original text either, hence the usage of LORD.
The Book of Mormon simply uses different style conventions. It's clear enough, and we understand the Godhead well enough, that we can usually figure out who it's talking about by context. The book chooses to emphasize the Godhead's unity of purpose rather than their separateness, and I think capitalizing one and not the other would get in the way of that message. God and Jesus Christ are about the exact same work, a message that the Book of Mormon focuses on more than perhaps any other book of scripture (see 2 Ne. 31:21).
I believe the principles taught in the Book of Mormon are true. I don't believe it's perfect, especially not the typesetting. I mean, what we have is a transcription of Joseph Smith's dictation. Joseph Smith had no reason to have to copy the King James convention, especially since he wasn't really translating, he was receiving the words by revelation. Maybe the capitalization would be better as you suggest. But the book doesn't have to be perfect to be true.
Church doctrine is very clear that Jesus Christ (Jehovah) was the God of the Old Testament. That means that "God of Israel" must refer to Jesus Christ, regardless of capitalization. Our different books of scriptures were written by different people for different purposes, translated in different ways from different languages. It's okay if they aren't completely consistent. They were written by inspired men, not by God directly.
Hope some of that helps. These are big questions, and hopefully you'll find answers that work for you. I just want to share that I know the Book of Mormon is true. It's changed my life. Even with interesting academic questions such as this one, I have to put what I know first and what I don't know second. And I know the book is true.