There are some striking patterns in the language of the fundamentalists quoted and paraphrased in the book. This is most readily apparent in the language of 'revelations from God', which seem to be mostly rough and ready efforts to do King James English. But on p. 14, we get a hypothetical conversation with a sect leader:
I'm sorry I've done this to displease thee. What would thou have me do?That's odd, I thought ... is it like the famous Quaker pattern of pronominal use? I knew about — have even heard scholarly papers on — Utah English, including ample attention to Mormon usage, like for heck as a near-curse. So, I google 'Mormon language' and get lots of stuff about the original plates that Joseph Smith found in upstate New York from which he translated the Book of Mormon. (There's quite a literature on this, it turns out; and sorry if I'm lacking on details of the history here — that's why I'm reading the book.)
In poking around a little longer, I found arguments from (mainstream) LDS leaders for a kind of hagiodialectal style difference (this one from here):
In our day the words thee, thou, thy, and thine are suitable for the language of prayer, not because of how they were used anciently, but because they are currently obsolete in common English discourse. Being unused in everyday communications, they are now available as a distinctive form of address in English, appropriate to symbolize respect, closeness, and reverence for the one being addressed.Look at this passage from the book, in the same register (from p. 164 in a revelation):
And the thing that ye have thought concerning the One Mighty and Strong is correct. … For was not Moses the One Might and Strong … and art thou not One Mighty and Strong …?We've got ye, adjectives after a noun (in a fixed phrase, granted), for in an archaic use, and art thou. When these people are quoted as speaking freely, they speak clear western English with lots of non-standard features, then various switches to this.
That you'd get this with fundamentalists is unsurprising: As Karen Armstrong says in The Battle for God (quoted in the book), fundamentalist movements are about "a selective retrieval of certain doctrines and practices from the past." In fact, the quote above about prayer suggests that it's not just fundamentalists, and only slightest milder views can be found among (what I take to be) protestants defending the language of the King James Bible, like here.
But in looking around on this issue, I see basically no mention of this pattern in Mormon English … the Quakers are constantly mentioned, as are British dialects that retain some of the older pronouns, etc. Wikipedia's thou entry even has a section of 'religious uses' but nothing there either.
Update: Definitely read the comments below, and also this additional post.
Why this gap?