Interesting information, but I feel compelled to comment on the astounding mushy thinking from you two in trying to “soften” the data to preserve some wiggle room for faith.
Joseph Smith called the JST an inspired translation of the Bible. Demonstrating he plagiarized Adam Clark to produce it conclusively refutes that claim. Your effort to equate creative infusions Joseph put into the plagiarized material to divine inspiration is absurd. It’s called creativity, and as a storyteller, I do that all the time, so I know whereof I speak.
Joseph Smith was adamant throughout his life that he was translating ancient writings by the power of God. This has been the “narrative,” as you call it, of the church for its entire existence until modern scholarship and the Internet blew that approach out of the water.
To say the church’s lifelong narrative has to be “softened” and updated to a new narrative is nothing but postmodern gobbledygook. It’s an admission that the original narrative was a lie, and if you revise a lie to keep it viable, you end up with a revised lie, not a revitalized faith.
Added to that is your blatant admission that the whole project was conducted with the intent of interpreting it and reporting it in as faithful a manner as possible. This is an admission that the study is heavily biased.
And yet your conclusion was still that Joseph Smith plagiarized the JST. To come up with that conclusion even with and in spite of the heavily pro-faith bias of the methodology is damning evidence that there is no wiggle room for faith.
Prominent church members in the past often admitted that there is no (postmodern) wiggle room between the acceptance or repudiation of Joseph’s claims to divine inspiraiton. “It’s either of God or the devil” was uttered on more than one occasion by more than one prominent member.
When the claim has been to be an authorized and inspired speaker for God in a manner where the representatives of God cannot lead their followers astray, there is no room for a softened middle ground. Either they speak for God or they don’t. Either they can’t lead us astray or they can.
In spite of your effort to categorize the two sides of the dichotomy as extremes and we need to find some squishy, feel-good middle ground that allows us to preserve our faith in the face of compelling evidence that the whole thing is a fraud, the fact is there is no middle ground. Either Joseph was an authentic prophet or a fraud, whether deliberately or self-deceived. This is not extremism. This is called logic.
The increasingly silly apologetics that defenders of the faith have to resort to as more and more facts come out challenging Joseph and his claims is a testament to the fact that his claims are indeed indefensible.
If you have to revise the claims of generations of those who are ostensibly divinely inspired spokesmen for God to preserve your faith, the game has already been lost. If you have to keep apologizing for your prophets and massaging the messages they preach just to preserve your faith in them as prophets, of what use is such a prophet anyway? We can never trust what he says, because we may have to soften it in the future.