My position is that the Book of Mormon is a translation of the gold plates, exactly as every account suggests. What does translation mean? That a message was taken from one language, and put into the words of a different language. I recall having said something similar in a past post.As I have pointed out, you need to find a definition of 'translation' which actually agrees with your position.
Now, what role Joseph played in the translation is debatable, as we have established. But I do not think it is our task to debate that in this discussion, though it may lead to that.
In my examination of what BH Roberts said, I came to a very different conclusion than you did.You also need to deal with the fact that as early as the 1930s BH Roberts was making the point that the Book of Mormon could not have been said to have been 'translated' in the true sense of the word, that the 'old theory' of how it was 'translated' was completely unsustainable, and that certain present day Mormon apologists make the same argument.
The "old theory" that Roberts is attempting to refute is the belief that the Urim and Thummin gave Joseph a word for word translation, and that he played no part in translation(which happens to be precisely your theory). He argues that because of grammatical mistakes in the Book of Mormon, the Urim and Thummim could not have been the sole source for the translation. A more imperfect medium would have needed to be required. He argues that Joseph must certainly have played a part in the translation, and his human weakness allowed for mistakes in grammar."Are these flagrant errors in grammar chargeable to the Lord? To say so is to invite ridicule. The thoughts, the doctrines, are well enough; but the awkward, ungrammatical expression of the thoughts is, doubtless, the result of the translator's imperfect knowledge of the English language ... that old theory cannot be successfully maintained; that is, the Urim and Thummim did the translating, the Prophet, nothing beyond repeating what he saw reflected in that instrument; that God directly or indirectly is responsible for the verbal and grammatical errors of translation. To advance such a theory before intelligent and educated people is to unnecessarily invite ridicule, and make of those who advocate it candidates for contempt ...
Also, as a sidenote, BH Roberts is not the be-all end-all of Mormon apologetics, as Hugh Nibley also is not. His opinions are respected, but certainly are not accepted as true simply because they fell from his lips. That modern apologists will agree with him is doubtless, and that modern apologists will disagree is also doubtless.
So what was BH Roberts arguing for? That the translation was exactly that, in the true sense of the word. That the characters on the plates were translated via Joseph Smith and the Urim and Thummim. This allows for mistakes in grammar while preserving the divinity of the book.
And what would that evidence need to consist of? I can demonstrate that at least some of the time the plates were present, and that Joseph copied characters from them, but it cannot be proven that he was not just looking at the plates while privately writing the story in his head. If it is in a language that is lost to mankind, and was translated by the power of God, then such a demonstration of evidence is extremely difficult.You need to provide actual evidence that what was on the plates is the material which found its way into the Book of Mormon.
What is clear is that at least one of the scribes described that when using the seerstone, the egyptian characters appeared on the stone followed by an english translation.
If we are to trust that David Whitmer explained the process in accurate manner, then it is true that the characters that appeared on the stone were in fact the same characters on the gold plates. This refutes your earlier comment:"I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man."
In order for him to have translated the text on the plates, he would have had to actually read the characters on the plates and then rendered them into English, but every single eye witness says that during the miraculous process of writing, he did not read the characters even once, he only ever read English text which was revealed to him
While using the seerstone, Joseph did read the characters that were on the plates. It was by the power of the seerstone that he was able to see them, without focusing his eyes physically on the plates.
This also refutes another statement you made:
David Whitmer described a process of translation, and that it was done by the power of God. Whether Joseph Smith simply read the english that appeared, or if the english that appeared reflected his own translation, is not quite the point.* In addition to this, the eye witnesses could not read the text on the plates, nor confirm that the English dictated by Smith was a translation of the text on the plates, nor did they ever see or describe a process of translation (they saw and described a process of dictation, Smith reading from an alleged English text which they could not see)
Whitmer specifially said that it was a translation, not merely dictation. Yes, dictation was part of the process, but translation was also going on. No, he doesnt say that Joseph Smith translated it, but he does affirm that it was a translation of what was on the plates, through divine means.
You might argue that Joseph merely told him, and he believed. But that would then discount him as an eye witness. If we were to assign this same evaluation to every witness who described how Joseph recieved the translation or translated the plates, we would have no eye witnesses with which to work. But there is nothing that suggests that they did not literally witness the "spiritual light" that shone from the stone as David Whitmer describes. There was no curtain, there was no way to keep them from catching a glimpse of what was going on in the hat. Noone said anything to the manner that Joseph was extremely secretive about the process, in fact, he allowed Oliver Cowdery to try it.
One other side note, is that David Whitmer himself was a scribe and he admits in this testimony that Oliver Cowdery was the prinicipal scribe, despite your disagreement.
Along with David Whitmer's refutation of your argument, the mere facts don't support this. It is a well documented and accepted fact that Oliver Cowdery was the scribe for a large majority of the Book of Mormon. The apologists certainly aren't divided on this one, not to my knowledge.* All the other accounts say that different scribes were used in the writing process, sometimes writing for 'hour upon hour', indicating that the entire Book of Mormon ('save a few pages'), certainly could not have been dictated to Cowdrey
This fact makes Cowdery's testimony very significant.
We can discuss the details of Oliver and Martin's respective testimonies afterwards.
Gotta run. More later.