The Book of Mormon: Ancient Record or 19th Century Creation?

Historians now say they have identified the source material for about 75% of The Book of Mormon. They contend that Joseph Smith wrote the BoM using these sources. The remaining 25% they have not yet identified. This thread is to focus in on the sources of the 75%.

One of the biggest sources (about 25% according to LDS historian Grant Palmer) is the 1769 edition of the King James bible. Joseph used stories, motifs, verses, and entire chapters from the KJV when he wrote the BoM. Joseph would change the character names and places, but use the same stories. In addition, even modern translation errors from the KJV appear in the BoM. (One would think that if the BoM was truly translated from ancient golden plates, there wouldn’t be the same modern translation errors as seen in the KJV).

Besides the bible, Joseph included a great deal of evangelical Protestant concepts, practices, and exhortations (particularly Methodist) in the BoM. These are ideas he got from his own backyard, from sources such as revivals, meetings, etc. The preachers in the BoM are exactly what Joseph encountered at Methodist revivals. He also incorporated the war strategies from the war of 1812 and the Indian wars into the BoM. Furthermore, he used ideas from his own family life experiences, particularly his own father’s dreams.

This list is not exhaustive, but is a good start. In future posts we can discuss specific examples.

Other noted plagiarisms come from View of the Hebrews published in Vermont in 1825.

[quote=Letter to a CES Director]Reverend Ethan Smith was the author of View of the Hebrews. Ethan Smith was a pastor in Poultney, Vermont when he wrote and published the book. Oliver Cowdery – also a Poultney, Vermont resident – was a member of Ethan’s congregation during this time and before he went to New York to join his cousin (third cousins) Joseph Smith. As you know, Oliver Cowdery played an instrumental role in bringing forth the Book of Mormon.

Additionally, The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain, an 1819 textbook. the first chapter reads:

[quote=The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain][LIST=1]
*]Now it came to pass, in the one thousand eight hundred and twelfth year of the christian era, and in the thirty and sixth year after the people of the provinces of Columbia had declared themselves a free and independent nation;
*]That in the sixth month of the same year, on the first day of the month, the chief
Governor, whom the people had chosen to rule over the land of Columbia;
*]Even James, whose sir-name was Madison, delivered a written paper to the Great Sannhedrim of the people, who were assembled together.
*]And the name of the city where the people were gathered together was called after the name of the chief captain of the land of Columbia, whose fame extendeth to the uttermost parts of the earth; albeit, he had slept with his fathers…

This is stunning in how BoM-like it reads.
An exhaustive study of this can be found here:

Another is The First Book of Napoleon from 1809.
Here is a side-by-side comparison of the beginning of The First Book of Napoleon with the beginning of the Book of Mormon:

[quote=The First Book of Napoleon]Condemn not the (writing)…an account…the First Book of Napoleon…upon the face of the earth…it came to pass…the land…their inheritances their gold and silver and…the commandments of the Lord…the foolish imaginations of their hearts…small in stature…Jerusalem…because of the perverse wickedness of the people.

[quote=Book of Mormon]Condemn not the (writing)…an account…the First Book of Nephi…upon the face of the earth…it came to pass…the land…his inheritance and his gold and his silver and…the commandments of the Lord…the foolish imaginations of his heart…large in stature…Jerusalem…because of the wickedness of the people.

Combined with how much of the KJV of the bible (and it’s errors) were copied over leads the logical mind to consider the strong probability that it is not only a 19th century fabrication, but one rife with plagiarism.

Just incredible.

It would be entirely and utterly uncharitable to attack The Book of Mormon. Mormonism is a major American religion, and it should be accorded respect. Plus, I think the fact that it’s “modern” shouldn’t mean it’s okay to abuse it.

There is no abuse here. Please read other threads pertaining to the book of Mormon and Mormonism.

Speaking the truth in charity is what we are called to do. It is neither abusive or uncharitable.

Where do you see abuse? Where do you see a lack of charity?

Nonsense. There is nothing uncharitable about telling the truth and exposing fraud.

Here are some examples of KJV modern translation errors that somehow also found their way into The Book of Mormon:
“by them of old time” (Matthew 5:27/3 Nephi 12:27)

“should be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:30/3 Nephi 12:30)

“bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and…which despitefully use you” (Matthew 5:44/3 Nephi 12:44)

“for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever, Amen” (Matthew 6:13/3 Nephi 13:13)
These errors accumulated in hand-written manuscripts and the KJV over centuries, yet here they are in The Book of Mormon, which according to Joseph Smith was translated from ancient gold plates he dug up. How is that possible?

Here is an example of The Book of Mormon using the same basic story as one found in the bible, and just changing the names. The biblical story is that of St. Paul, and the BoM is that of Alma the younger. Notice the parallels:

  1. Both men were wicked before their dramatic conversion (1 Tim 1:12-13/Mosiah 27:8)

  2. Both traveled about persecuting and seeking to destroy the church of God (1 Cor 15:9, Acts 22:4/Alma 36:6)

  3. Both were persecuting the church when they saw a heavenly vision (Acts 26:11-13/Mosiah 27:10-11)

  4. Their companions fell to the earth and were unable to understand the voice that spoke (Acts 22:9, 26:14/Mosiah 27:12)

  5. Both were asked in a vision why they persecuted Lord (Acts 9:4, 22:7/Mosiah 27:13)

  6. Both were struck dumb/blind, became helpless, and were assisted by their companions. They went without food before converting (Acts 9:8-9, 18/Mosiah 27:19, 23-24)

  7. Both preached the gospel and both performed the same miracle (Acts 9:20, 14:10/Mosiah 27:32, Alma 15:11)

  8. While preaching, they supported themselves by their own labors (1 Cor 4:12/Alma 30:32)

9 They were put in prison. After they prayed, an earthquake resulted in their bands being loosed (Acts 16:23, 25-26/Alma 14:22, 26-28)

  1. Both used the same phrases in their preaching (see next post for examples).

Here are some examples of parallels showing the same phrasing of preaching by St. Paul from the bible and Alma the younger in the BoM:
St. Paul in Hebrews 3:7-13, 15-18

The Holy Ghost saith,…To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation…So I swear in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest. Take heed brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief…But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened…To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. For some, when they had heard, did provoke…that they should not enter into his rest.

Alma the younger in Alma 12:33-37

But God did call on men,…saying: If ye will repent and harden not your hearts,…behold I swear in my wrath that he shall not enter into my rest. And now, my brethren,…if ye will harden not your hearts ye shall not enter into the rest of the Lord; therefore your iniquity provoketh him that he sendeth down his wrath upon you as in the first provocation. And now, my brethren,…let us…harden not our hearts, that we provoke not the Lord our God to pull down his wrath upon us;…but let us enter into the rest of God…
It’s reasonable to assume that God would have similar dealings with his people both in the old world and the new, but would we expect the scriptural phrasings to be nearly identical and in the same sequence? It seems far more plausible that Joseph Smith borrowed heavily from the bible when he wrote the BoM. These are just a small sample of similar story motifs between the bible and BoM. There are many, many more.

Not that I have any stake in this, but I think the questions of antiquity are irrelevant. The point of any religious work is not in the literal truths, but the moral truths.

Also, using accusations of novelty and plagiarism to attack the Book of Mormon is intellectually dishonest. The methodology used to deconstruct the BOM in this thread can also be used to show that the Genesis flood account heavily borrowed from Epic of Gilgamesh, or that the Pentateuch was not, in fact, written by Moses.

Mormonism teaches that their Book of Mormon is literal truth. If they de-emphasized this, they would have to compare Mormonism to the Book of Mormon, and realize that Mormonism has apostatized from the best of the BoM. We acknowledge that the Biblical stories have similarities with other stories from that area. We acknowledge that ascribed authors are not necessarily the true authors-- as God was the Ultimate Author.

Note that I’ve met many Christians who believe that the Bible is the inerrant, cohesive, *unique *channel of God’s views; to claim otherwise seems to be an application of the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. Thus, the sentiment that Mormons believe that the Book of Mormon is literal truth despite all evidence, and that their book picks and choose from the Bible does not necessarily disqualify their belief that God acted through Joseph Smith.

Major American religion? The LDS church itself claims 15 million members globally with less than half in the U.S. However, estimates of self-identified “active” Mormons only number 3-5 million.

So let’s just use their own numbers. 7.5 million LDS in the US / 320 million U.S. population = 2.34%

If we use the most generous estimate of active, self-identifying Mormons, the numbers look even smaller. 2.5 million / 320 million = 0.78%

These numbers are hardly indicative of a “major” American religion. The reason so many Americans know about the Mormons is because the LDS church has a lot of money and spends some of that money on PR which includes sending out thousands of missionaries to knock on doors.

The reality is that the LDS church has historically been very anti-Catholic although they have toned it down quite a bit over the last couple of decades.

If a book was published today and a significant amount of that book was plagiarized from other sources, I don’t think anyone here would be saying that is uncharitable to state the truth of the matter.

Thank you for gentling down on your previous statement. I agree that Mormons are diverse, despite their attempts at correlation. Yes, they also had to turn their god into a polygamist.

Then you don’t understand Mormonism and it’s stance on the Book of Mormon. They hold it up as the most correct book on the planet, devoid of error.

Again, how is that different from Christian sects who believe in Biblical inerrancy?

Interesting and amazing information.

The bible and the BoM could not be more different. The bible contains actual historical people, places, and events. This is backed up by archeological and historical evidence from many sources outside of the bible. The BoM is fictional. It’s about people, places, and events that are fictional and have no supporting evidence outside of itself (with the exception of the parts that are copied from the bible).

Also, the claim that the BoM is actual history is a foundational claim of the Mormon Church. If the BoM is not actual history, then the LDS church has no basis for its truthfulness. So you can see that this topic is very important and has far-reaching implications for the Mormon church.

Darryl (and Marie),
Just to clear up this error.

The BOM does not even claim to be error free. It is not a LDS teaching that the BOM is error free or that the Bible is error free. It would be fair to say that LDS believe that the BOM is “more perfect” than the Bible, but not fair to say either book in LDS thought is inerrant.
On the title page of the BOM we read:
And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.
Here is a more complete list:

Title Page (Moroni)
And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.
1 Nephi 19:6 (Nephi)
Nevertheless, I do not write anything upon plates save it be that I think it be sacred. And now, if I do err, even did they err of old; not that I would excuse myself because of other men, but because of the weakness which is in me, according to the flesh, I would excuse myself.
Mormon 8:12, 16-17 (Moroni)
12 And whoso receiveth this record, and shall not condemn it because of the imperfections which are in it, the same shall know of greater things than these. Behold, I am Moroni; and were it possible, I would make all things known unto you…
16 And blessed be he that shall bring this thing to light; for it shall be brought out of darkness unto light, according to the word of God; yea, it shall be brought out of the earth, and it shall shine forth out of darkness, and come unto the knowledge of the people; and it shall be done by the power of God.
17 And if there be faults they be the faults of a man. But behold, we know no fault; nevertheless God knoweth all things; therefore, he that condemneth, let him be aware lest he shall be in danger of hell fire.
Mormon 9:31 (Moroni)
Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been.
Ether 12:23-25 (Moroni)
23 And I said unto him: Lord, the Gentiles will mock at these things, because of our weakness in writing; for Lord thou hast made us mighty in word by faith, but thou hast not made us mighty in writing; for thou hast made all this people that they could speak much, because of the Holy Ghost which thou hast given them;
24 And thou hast made us that we could write but little, because of the awkwardness of our hands. Behold, thou hast not made us mighty in writing like unto the brother of Jared, for thou madest him that the things which he wrote were mighty even as thou art, unto the overpowering of man to read them.
25 Thou hast also made our words powerful and great, even that we cannot write them; wherefore, when we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words.

Concerning the topic of this thread, save the KJV of the Bible, I do not think it likely Joseph Smith derived his “translation” from other books with any consciousness (and I am not sure if Joseph Smith was conscious of the KJV connections, just that I believe them to exist). 19th century texts that attempt to reproduce King James language show similarities to the BOM. This aligns with my belief that Joseph Smith was not an automaton translating, but was a person INSPIRED by God.
The methods used to find “sources” for the BOM also point to potential sources for Jane Austin. The authors acknowledge this difficulty, but rather than accusing Jane Austin of plagiarism they claim that she was influence by her environment (though less than Joseph Smith). I claim Joseph Smith the divine assisted translator of the BOM was “influenced by his environment,” but that this is not incongruent with divine inspiration.
And as I have said many times here, Lehi’s journey from Jerusalem to Nahom to Bountiful AND less concrete but more numerous contacts between BOM text and Mesoamerican ethnohistory are the parts of the BOM that I find unable to explain from a non-believing perspective. These together with a number of other things lead me to conclude that the BOM is very unlikely to be a 19th century production. LDS scholars (and Margaret Barker and Paul Owen two non-LDS point to many non-19th century aspects of the BOM that lead them to believe it is not a 19th century production). More than errors in the Bible or even difficulties with the Catholic Church, these form an intellectual anchor for me.
Charity, TOm

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