Sticking with my topic for the week, I have a couple of essays to offer as my online essays of the week. The first essay is a 1911 Improvement Era article by B. H. Roberts entitled Higher Criticism and the Book of Mormon. Elder Roberts took Book of Mormon apologetics seriously and is still regarded as one of the Church's finest intellectuals, a truly remarkable accomplishment given that he grew up poor and was largely self-taught. He was not one to shrink from an intellectual challenge. Here's a quote supporting in principle, if not in all its generally held conclusions, the application of "higher criticism" to the scriptures:
You recognize, do you not, that the methods of higher criticism are legitimate; that is to say, it is right to consider the various books of the scriptures, the Old Testament and the New, as a body of literature, and to examine them internally, and go into the circumstances under which they were written, and the time at which they were written, and the purpose for which they were written? All that we recognize as legitimate, though I must say, in passing, that when one enters into the details of these methods, it is rather astonishing, at least it is to me, to see what heavy weights are hung upon very slender threads! The methods, then, of higher criticism we recognize as proper; but we must disagree as to the correctness of many of the conclusions arrived at by that method.
Here's another quote from Roberts, where he states one of the frequent criticisms leveled at scholars who adopt the presumptions common to higher criticism, generally referred to in present LDS apologetic debates as "naturalistic" assumptions:
Higher critics, as a rule, insist that the miraculous does not happen, that wherever the miraculous appears, there you must halt, and dismiss the miraculous parts of narratives, since they suggest fraud on the one hand and credulity upon the other — therefore we are asked to reject the second part of Isaiah as being the work of the prophet who wrote the first part of the book of that name, since accepting it would involve us in the belief of the possibility of Isaiah being so immersed in the events of future time as to speak from the midst of them as if they were present.
The second essay is by the renowned Sidney B. Sperry, first presented at BYU in 1959 and subsequently republished. It is entitled The Book of Mormon and Textual Criticism. Keep in mind the distinction that some commentators make between textual criticism or "lower criticism, and historical criticism or "higher criticism." Here is the abstract to Sperry's presentation, as given at the beginning of the article:
The text of the Book of Mormon contributes to the understanding of the Pentateuch and to a confirmation that Moses was indeed its author. The Book of Mormon also helps confirm that Isaiah was the author of the book of Isaiah. The Isaiah chapters quoted in the Book of Mormon are a better translation than the King James Version, as they are undoubtedly from an older version. Micah and Malachi are quoted with clarification, and selected New Testament scriptures are augmented.
I won't offer any commentary. It is plain from these two essays why many LDS scholars and leaders have come to view "higher criticism" with considerable wariness and distrust. On the other hand, the essays also show that LDS scholars are quite familiar with the substance and method of higher critics, although they understandably dispute the assumptions that some scholars bring to their work and the conclusions that many higher critics draw from their research.