As a person with knowledge of church doctrine and history and as a convert to the Church who has read a plethora of anti-Mormon material, I feel I have a duty to not only help Jaxon with his project, but also to go claim by claim through Runnells' text and respond to them. Runnells' claims are not new; anyone familiar with Church history will be aware of them, or ought to be. These posts are not against the man himself; I have talked to Runnells a few times over Facebook, and I came away feeling that he was a sincere skeptic and overall a nice man, although I thought it was inappropriate for him to post his disciplinary council online.
Before I get started with the rebuttal, I would like to point out two lessons I have learned that I think will be helpful to my readers and those struggling with the claims that Runnells and others have made through their books, videos, and memes. The first comes from philosopher Edward Feser, author of the books The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism, Aquinas, and Locke among many others. In an interview with Catholic Answers Live, Feser mentioned to a caller that although there are questions that one can reasonably raise against the Roman Catholic Church (Feser is a devout Catholic), it does not follow that the questions cannot be answered. The same goes for the LDS Church, it is true that there are good questions that can be asked, but it does not mean that the questions cannot be answered, or that if one person does not know the answer, that no one knows the answer. Members who have questions now and in the future should realize this before they leave over a question or concern they have.
The second lesson comes from my friend historian W. Paul Reeve, author of Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness. Over lunch one day he mentioned that he often had students ask him questions, but that they often wanted quick responses while some questions required lengthy responses. While we all at some point or another want our questions answered quickly, many times we will need to do some reading (or occasionally, quite a bit of reading) before we get an answer. At the end of each of my posts, I will post some material that engages with the question in mind that has been written by a scholar on that issue so one does not have to take my word as the definitive answer.
Because Runnells makes multiple claims under a single issue, I will address each claim in the book, but I will only do one at a time so my readers will have time to digest each issue. Without further delay, let's begin.
Claim one: What are 1769 King James Version edition errors doing in the Book of Mormon? An ancient text? Errors which are unique to the 1769 edition that Joseph Smith owned?
The claim here is that because the Book of Mormon is supposed to be an ancient text, there should not be any similarities in the text to the King James Version of the Bible, and if there are any, there should not be any errors in the text that is mentioned.
While the Book of Mormon was said by the Prophet Joseph Smith to be "the most correct of any book on Earth" (Book of Mormon Introduction), it does not follow that there are no errors in the book, or that the book cannot be better than it is. Anticipating this problem, Moroni states in the Book of Mormon Title Page:
And now if there are any faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore condemn not the things of God, that ye be found spotless at the judgment-seat of ChristClose quote. Before one even gets to First Nephi, Moroni tells us that there are errors in the text. This should not come as a surprise to anyone who understands human nature. We all make mistakes, and prophets and historians are no different. In other words, it would be a shock to read a religious text or any other kind of text that did not have errors in it. The Book of Mormon was not written by God, who is a perfected being, but by men who were inspired by Him, who are far from perfect even in their best state.
Now, the substance of the question is not whether there are errors in the text, but why this particular error. The most common explanation is that translation is interpretation, meaning that when Joseph Smith was translating the Book of Mormon, he probably saw that some of the text was different than what he was accustomed to and made changes to it that brought it in accordance with what he was familiar with and what those of his era were also familiar with. None of his scribes mention the Prophet having a Bible out during the translation process, so the corrections were more than likely done during the editing process. The Book of Mormon itself was not in King James English; remember that translations are interpretations relative to the translators language and culture, so it is no surprise that some of the text has a familiar spirit if you will.
Additional reading: A Reason for Faith: Navigating LDS Doctrine and History edited by Laura Harris Hales (Chapter 3), Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Lyman Bushman (Chapter 3), An Other Testament: On Typology by Joseph M. Spencer, Book of Mormon Translation Gospel Topics Essay, The Book of Mormon as a Modern Expansion of an Ancient Document by Blake T. Ostler