The Book of Mormon
Ancient or Modern?
In 1831 Alexander Campbell wrote concerning the Book of Mormon:
This prophet Smith, through his stone spectacles, wrote on the plates of Nephi, in his book of Mormon, every error and almost every truth discussed in New York for the last ten years. He decides all the great controversies;—infant baptism, ordination, the trinity, regeneration, repentance, justification, the fall of man, the atonement, transubstantiation, fasting, penance, church government, religious experience, the call to the ministry, the general resurrection, eternal punishment, who may baptize, and even the question of free masonary [sic], republican government, and the rights of man (Millennial Harbinger, February 1831, p. 93).
The Mormon writers George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl admit that the Book of Mormon deals "with a number of modern theological controversies," but they claim that "Religious controversies must have been, to a large extent, the same anciently as they are today" (Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, p. 419). There is, of course, some truth in this statement, but there are just too many things in the Book of Mormon that are similar to Joseph Smith's environment to be explained away in this manner.
The Book of Mormon not only makes the mistake of trying to solve all the great religious controversies of the nineteenth century, but it also contains material from books that had not even been written at the time the Nephites were supposed to have existed. For instance, the author of the Book of Mormon seems acquainted with the Westminster Confession—a document adopted by the General Synod of the Presbyterian Church in 1729. The Westminster Confession and Catechisms were a vital part of the Presbyterian faith in the nineteenth century. Alexander Campbell claimed that it was "the 'text-book' for the religious instruction of the offspring and households of Presbyterians" (The Christian Baptist, vol. 3, p. 42). According to Joseph Smith, his "father's family was proselyted to the Presbyterian faith" before he produced the Book of Mormon. Since the Westminster Confession and Catechisms were sold at the Wayne Bookstore in Palmyra (see Wayne Sentinel, January 26, 1825), it is very likely that the Smith family possessed them. Joseph Smith may have heard his brothers learning the catechisms at various times or he could have read the "Confession and Catechisms."
Although the Book of Mormon theology is not Calvinistic, certain portions of it resemble the Westminster Confession and
Catechisms. For instance, the Westminster Confession, chapter 32, is probably the source for Alma, chapter 40. Following is a comparison of the two:
|Book of Mormon||Westminster Confession and Catechism|
|1. Both claim to give information concerning the state of man after death:|
|"... the state of the soul between death and the resurrection..." (Book of Mormon, Alma 40:11)||"... the State of Men after Death, and of the Resurrection..." (The Westminster Confession, chap. 32, as printed in The Confession of Faith: The Larger and Shorter Catechisms, Philadelphia, 1813)|
|2. Both state that the souls of men return to God after death:|
|"... the spirits ... are taken home to that God who gave them life" (Alma 40:11)||"... their souls ...return to God who gave them" (Westminster Confession 32:1)|
|3. Both claim that the righteous are received into a state of peace:|
|"... the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness,..." (Alma 40:12)||"... The souls of the righteous, ...are received into the highest heavens, ..." (Westminster Confession 32:1)|
|4. Both state that the wicked are cast out into darkness:|
|"... the spirits of the wicked, ... shall be cast out into outer darkness;..." (Alma 40:13)||"... the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, ...and utter darkness,..." (Westminster Confession 32:1)|
|5. Both state that the souls of the wicked remain in darkness until the judgment:|
|"... the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness, remain in this state, ...until the time of their resurrection" (Alma 40:14)||"... the souls of the wicked.... remain in.... darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day" (Westminster Confession 32:2)|
|6. Both state that the soul will be united again with the body at the time of the resurrection:|
|"... the souls and the bodies are re-united,..." (Alma 40:20)||"... bodies ...shall be united again to their souls..." (Westminster Confessions 32:2)|
There are other parallels between the Book of Mormon and the Westminster Confession which we do not have room to include here.
One book which we feel may have had an influence on the Book of Mormon is Josiah Priest's The Wonders of Nature and Providence Displayed, published in 1825 at Albany, New York. This book was available in Joseph Smith's neighborhood prior to the time the Book of Mormon was "translated." In Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? pages 84-85, we present evidence suggesting that the author of the Book of Mormon was familiar with Josiah Priest's book.
The Wayne Sentinel, a newspaper published in Joseph Smith's neighborhood, and a dream which his father had in 1811 may have also furnished structural work for the Book of Mormon.
The King James Version of the Bible, which was not published until A.D. 1611, probably had more influence on the Book of Mormon than any other book. Apostle Orson Pratt maintained that Joseph Smith was "unacquainted with the contents of the Bible," but we feel that the evidence shows that Smith was very familiar with the Bible. In a manuscript which the Mormon church suppressed for about 130 years, Joseph Smith himself stated:
At about the age of twelve years my mind became Seriously imprest with regard to the all important concerns for the wellfare [sic] of my immortal Soul which led me to Searching the Scriptures believing as I was taught, that they contained the word of God ... thus from the age twelve years to fifteen I pondered many things ... and by Searching the Scriptures I found that ... there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the new testament ... ["An Analysis of the Accounts Relating Joseph Smith's Early Visions," by Paul R. Cheesman, Master's thesis, Brigham Young University, 1965, pp. 127-28).
Joseph Smith began his "translation" of the Book of Mormon
at the time when there was a controversy over the Apocrypha. Apostle Bruce R. McConkie explains:
Scholars and Biblical students have grouped certain apparently scriptural Old Testament writings, which they deem to be of doubtful authenticity or of a spurious nature, under the title of the Apocrypha....
The Apocrypha was included in the King James Version of 1611, but by 1629 some English Bibles began to appear without it, and since the early part of the 19th century it has been excluded from almost all protestant Bibles. ...the British and Foreign Bible Society has excluded it from all but some pulpit Bibles since 1827.
From these dates it is apparent that controversy was still raging as to the value of the Apocrypha at the time the Prophet began his ministry (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p. 41).
When Joseph Smith purchased a Bible in the late 1820's he picked one which contained "the Apocrypha," and evidence seems to show that he had a real interest in it (see Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? p. 72). The Apocrypha seems to solve the mystery of the origin of the name "Nephi." While the name "Nephi" is not found in either the Old or New Testament of the Bible, it is one of the most important names in the Book of Mormon. At least four men in the Book of Mormon are named "Nephi." It is also the name of several books in the Book of Mormon, a city, a land, and a people. Mormon scholars have never been able to find the source of this name. Dr. Wells Jakeman admitted that "there does not seem to be any acceptable Hebrew meaning or derivation for this name." He states, however, that Nephi's name might have been derived from "the name of the young Egyptian grain god Nepri or Nepi," Dr. Nibley, on the other hand, feels that the name was derived from another Egyptian source. Other Mormon writers suggest entirely different sources for this name.
While Mormon writers seem to be in a state of confusion with regard to this name, the King James translation of the Apocrypha seems to settle the matter. In 2 Maccabees 1:36 we read: "And Neemias called this thing Naphthar, which is as much as to say, a cleansing; but many men call it Nephi."
It is obvious, then, that Joseph Smith must have borrowed the name "Nephi" from the Apocrypha. The name "Ezias" (Heleman 8:20) also seems to have been taken from the Apocrypha, 1 Esdras 8:2. There are many other parallels between the Apocrypha and the Book of Mormon which we do not have room to include here. Since the apocryphal books were written hundreds
of years after the Nephites were supposed to have left Jerusalem, the parallels tend to demonstrate that the Book of Mormon is not the ancient record it claims to be.
There can be no doubt that the first books of the Bible furnished a great deal of source material for the writing of the Book of Mormon. The book of Genesis, for instance, seems to have had a real influence upon the first few chapters of the Book of Mormon. Two of Nephi's brothers, Joseph and Jacob, have names taken from the book of Genesis. His mother's name is Sariah, which reminds us of Abraham's wife Sarah—also called Sarai (Gen. 17:15). Ishmael—a friend of the family—is also a name taken from Genesis (see Gen. 17:18). The name Laban is likewise found in Genesis (see Gen. 24:29).
The story of Nephi in some ways parallels the story of Joseph found in Genesis, and the story of Moses leading the children of Israel out of bondage seems to have been the source for a good deal of the material found in the first book of Nephi and the book of Ether.
The Mormon leaders claim that the Nephites had the Old Testament books which were written prior to the time they left Jerusalem—i.e., about 600 B.C. More than eighteen chapters of Isaiah are found in the Book of Mormon. The Ten Commandments and many other portions of the Old Testament are also found in the Book of Mormon. In this book we cannot even begin to list all of the verses that are taken from the Old Testament. Since it is claimed that the Nephites had the books written before 600 B.C., we are not too concerned about quotations taken from them. The Book of Mormon, however, borrows from books written after 600 B.C. For instance, the book of Daniel seems to have had some influence on the Book of Mormon.
One of the most serious mistakes the author of the Book of Mormon made was that of quoting from the book of Malachi many years before it was written. Below is a comparison of some verses which were supposed to have been written by Nephi sometime between 588 and 545 B.C., and some verses which were written by Malachi about 400 B.C. In Malachi 4:1 we read: "For behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up...."
In the Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 22:15, Malachi's words have been borrowed: "For behold, saith the prophet, ... the day soon cometh that all the proud and they who do wickedly shall be as stubble; and the day cometh that they must be burned."
There are also portions of 2 Nephi, chapters 25 and 26, which are taken from Malachi.
About 600 years after Nephi was supposed to have written these words, Jesus appeared to the Nephites and said: "... Behold other scriptures I would that ye should write, that ye have not" (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 23:6). Jesus then told the Nephites to "write the words which the Father had given unto Malachi, which he should tell unto them.... And these are the words which he did tell unto them, saying: Thus said the Father unto Malachi—Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me ..." (3 Nephi 24:1).
"For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up ..." (3 Nephi 25:1).
These words, attributed to Jesus, very plainly show that the Nephites could not have had the words of Malachi until Christ came among them. The Mormon writer George Reynolds acknowledged: "As Malachi lived between two and three hundred years after Lehi left Jerusalem the Nephites knew nothing of the glorious things that the Father had revealed to him until Jesus repeated them" (Complete Concordance of the Book of Mormon, p. 442). Now, if Nephi knew nothing concerning these words until the coming of Christ, how did Nephi quote them 600 years before?
Mark Twain said that the Book of Mormon "seems to be merely a prosy detail of imaginary history, with the Old Testament for a model; followed by a tedious plagiarism of the New Testament" (Roughing It, p. 110). The ministry of Christ seems to have been the source for a good deal of the Book of Mormon. For instance, the story of Christ raising Lazarus from the dead seems to have had a definite influence upon the story of Ammon in the Book of Mormon. (The story of Ammon was supposed to have taken place in "about B.C. 90," or about 120 years before Christ began his public ministry.) Following are a few parallels between the two stories.
|Book of Mormon||New Testament|
|In both stories a man seems to die and a period of time passes:|
|"And it came to pass that after two days and two nights they were about to take his body and lay it in a sepulchre..." (Alma 19:1)||"Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the gave four days already" (John 11:17)|
|Both Martha and the queen use the word "stinketh":|
|"... others say that he is dead and that he stinketh ..." (Alma 19:5)||"... by this time he stinketh..." (John 11:39)|
|Both Ammon and Jesus use the word "sleepeth" with regard to the man:|
|"... he sleepeth ..." (Alma 19:8)||"... Lazarus sleepeth ..." (John 11:11)|
|Both Ammon and Jesus say that the man will rise again:|
|"... he shall rise again ..." (Alma 19:8)||"... They brother shall rise again" (John 11:23)|
|The conversation between Ammon and the queen contains other phrases that are similar to those used by Jesus and Martha:|
|"And Ammon said unto her: Believest thou this? And she said unto him: ...I believe ..." (Alma 19:9)||"Jesus said unto her ... Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe ..." (John 11:25-27)|
|In both cases the man arose:|
|"... he arose ..." (Alma 19:12)||"... he that was dead came forth ..." (John 11:44)|
In the Book of Mormon we read the story of a great storm which the Nephites encountered on the way to the "promised land" (see 1 Nephi 18:6-21). This story bears a remarkable resemblance to a story concerning Jesus in Mark 4:3-39.
|Book of Mormon||New Testament|
|The two stories use identical language when speaking of the storm:|
|"... there arose a great storm..." (1 Nephi 18:13)||"... there arose a great storm ...." (Mark 4:37)|
|In both stories the storm becomes so severe that the people are about to "perish," and they seek help from their spiritual leader:|
|"... my brethren began to see that ... they must perish ...wherefore, they ... loosed the bands ..." (1 Nephi 18:15)||"... They awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?" (Mark 4:38)|
|In both cases, after the leaders come forth, the storm ceases. Almost identical wording appears in both accounts concerning the calming of the sea:|
|"... the winds did cease ... and there was a great calm" (1 Nephi 18:21)||"... the wind ceased, and there was a great calm" (Mark 4:39)|
It is very obvious that the author of the Book of Mormon has borrowed from Mark, yet the book of Nephi is supposed to be about 600 years older than the book of Mark. Therefore, the appearance of this story in the Book of Mormon proves beyond all doubt that it is not an ancient book.
One of the most striking parallels is the beheading of John the Baptist in the New Testament and the attempted beheading of Omer in the Book of Mormon. In Matthew 14:6-11 we read how "the daughter of Herodias danced before" and "pleased" Herod. When Herod promised to give her "whatsoever she would ask," she wanted "John Baptist's head in a charger." Now, in the Book of Mormon we read the following:
And... let my father send for Akish,... and I will dance before him, ... wherefore if he shall desire of thee that ye shall give unto him me to wife, then shall ye say: I will give her if ye will bring unto me the head of my father ... the daughter of Jared danced before him that she pleased him, insomuch that he desired her to wife.... And Jared said unto him: I will give her unto you, if ye will bring unto me the head of my father, the king (Ether 8:10-12).
While the incident in the Bible happened during Christ's lifetime, the incident in the Book of Mormon was supposed to have occurred many hundreds of years before Christ.
Wesley M. Jones points out that "the ministry of St. Paul is duplicated almost exactly in the ministry of Alma, one of Joseph's characters—even in manner of speech and travels" (A Critical Study of Book of Mormon Sources, pp. 14-15). The reader will no doubt remember that when Paul was on the way to Damascus to persecute the church, the Lord appeared to him and said: "... Saul, why persecutest thou me?" (Acts 9:4). In the Book of Mormon, Alma also persecuted the church and, like Paul, he received a vision. The "angel of the Lord" spoke to him and said: ... Alma, ... why persecutest thou the church of God?" (Mosiah 27:11,13). We have found seventeen interesting parallels between Alma and the apostle Paul.
As we have already shown, the Nephites were not supposed to have had the books of the New Testament because they were
written hundreds of years after they left Jerusalem. Nevertheless, we find many New Testament verses and parts of verses throughout the Book of Mormon. In the following list of parallels between the Book of Mormon and the New Testament we have tried to eliminate verses that also appear in the Old Testament. All of the verses from the Book of Mormon were supposed to have been written between 600 B.C. and A.D. 33. (In the following BM refers to the Book of Mormon and KJV refers to the King James Version of the Bible.)
KJV: That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you (1 John 1:3)
BM: to declare unto them concerning the things which he had both seen and heard (1 Nephi 1:18)
KJV: that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not (John 11:50)
BM: that one man should perish than that a nation should ... perish in unbelief (1 Nephi 4:13)
KJV: the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts (Rom. 5:5)
BM: the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts (1 Nephi 11:22)
KJV: made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 7:14)
BM: made white in the blood of the Lamb (1 Nephi 12:11)
KJV: shall be saved; yet so as by fire (1 Cor. 3:15)
BM: shall be saved, even if it so be as by fire (1 Nephi 22:17)
KJV: O wretched man that I am (Rom. 7:24)
BM: O wretched man that I am (2 Nephi 4:17)
KJV: death and hell delivered up the dead (Rev. 20:13)
BM: death and hell must deliver up their dead (2 Nephi 9:12)
KJV: he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still (Rev. 22:11)
BM: they who are righteous shall be righteous still, and they who are filthy shall be filthy still (2 Nephi 9:16)
KJV: endured the cross, despising the shame (Heb. 12:2)
BM: endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame (2 Nephi 9:18)
KJV: to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life (Rom. 8:6)
BM: to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life (2 Nephi 9:39)
KJV: Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female (Gal. 3:28)
BM: Jew and Gentile, both bond and free, both male and female (2 Nephi 10:16)
KJV: there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12)
BM: there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, ... whereby man can be saved (2 Nephi 25:20)
KJV: the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29)
BM: the Lamb of God, who should take away the sins of the world (1 Nephi 10:10); the Lamb of God, which should take away the sins of the world (2 Nephi 31:4)
KJV: stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work (1 Cor. 15:58)
BM: steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works (Mosiah 5:15)
KJV: O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory (1 Cor. 15:55)
BM: the grave should have no victory, and that death should have no sting (Mosiah 16:7)
KJV: they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:29)
BM: If they be good, to the resurrection of endless life and happiness; and if they be evil, to the resurrection of endless damnation (Mosiah 16:11)
KJV: Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free (Gal. 5:1)
BM: stand fast in this liberty wherewith ye have been made free (Mosiah 23:13); stand fast in that liberty wherewith God has made them free (Alma 58:40)
KJV: Marvel not that ... Ye must be born again (John 3:7)
BM: Marvel not that all mankind ... must be born again (Mosiah 27:25)
KJV: come out from among them, and be ye separate, ... and touch not the unclean thing (2 Cor. 6:17)
BM: come ye out from the wicked, and be ye separate, and touch not their unclean things (Alma 5:57)
KJV: lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us (Heb. 12:1)
BM: lay aside every sin, which easily doth beset you (Alma 7:15)
KJV: I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel (Luke 7:9)
BM: I say unto thee, woman, there has not been such great faith among all the people of the Nephites (Alma 19:10)
KJV: And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up (John 3:14)
BM: And as he lifted up the brazen serpent in the wilderness, even so shall he be lifted up who should come (Helaman 8:14)
The verses or parts of verses from the Book of Mormon which we have presented above were all supposed to have been written between 600 B.C. and AD. 33. Those which follow were supposed to have been written between A.D. 34 and AD. 421. In AD. 34 Jesus was supposed to have appeared to the Nephites and given them the Sermon on the Mount (see 3 Nephi, chapters 12-14). Since it is possible that Jesus could have given the same sermon to the Nephites we will not bother to list any of those verses. There are many other verses which Jesus was supposed to have given to the Nephites which are parallel to verses found in the four Gospels. We will not deal with any of these quotations in this study.
KJV: and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter (2 Cor. 12:4)
BM: and heard unspeakable things, which are not lawful to be written (3 Nephi 26:18)
KJV: whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell (2 Cor. 12:3)
BM: whether they were in the body or out of the body, they could not tell (3 Nephi 28:15)
KJV: he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9)
BM: the Lord spake unto me, saying: ... my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness (Ether 12:26)
KJV: Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; ... is not puffed up, ... seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things (1 Cor. 13:4-7)
BM: charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not,... is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things (Moroni 7:45)
KJV: For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom (1 Cor. 12:8)
BM: For behold, to one is given by the Spirit of God, that he may teach the word of wisdom (Moroni 10:9)
KJV: to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit (1 Cor. 12:8)
BM: to another, that he may teach the word of knowledge by the same Spirit (Moroni 10:10)
KJV: to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit (1 Cor. 12:9)
BM: to another, the gifts of healing by the same Spirit (Moroni 10:11)
These are only a small number of the parallels between the New Testament and the Book of Mormon. In Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? we listed over 200 parallels, and in another study we had a list of 400. We have found over a hundred quotations from the New Testament in the first two books of Nephi alone, and these books were supposed to have been written between 600 and 545 B.C.
One of the most serious mistakes in the Book of Mormon occurred when Christ appeared to the Nephites after His crucifixion and told them He was going to quote the words of Moses. The words which He should have quoted are found in Deuteronomy 18:15, 18 and 19:
The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; ... I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not harken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.
Instead of quoting these words from Deuteronomy, however, Jesus quoted from Peter's paraphrase of Moses' words found in Acts 3:22-26. This is very obvious when we compare Peter's paraphrase of Moses' words and the words Christ was supposed to have quoted to the Nephites. Below is Peter's paraphrase as found in the book of Acts:
For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities (Acts 3:22-26).
In the Book of Mormon we read:
Behold, I am he of whom Moses spake, saying: A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that every soul who will not hear that prophet shall be cut off from among the people. Verily I say unto you, yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have testified of me. And behold, ye are the children of the prophets; and ye are of the house of Israel; and ye are of the covenant which the Father made with your fathers, saying unto Abraham: And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. The Father having raised me up unto you first, and sent me to bless you in turning away every one of you from his iniquities ... (3 Nephi 20:23-26).
It is obvious, then, that the Book of Mormon follows Peter's paraphrase rather than the actual words of Moses recorded in Deuteronomy. Verses 24 through 26 of the third chapter of Acts, though slightly rewritten, are quoted in the Book of Mormon. These words have nothing to do with Moses, but are in reality the words of Peter. Peter spoke these words at the temple in Jerusalem some time after the day of Pentecost. While it is possible that these words could have been recorded at the time, the book of Acts was probably not written until twenty or thirty years later. George B. Arbaugh made the following statement Concerning this matter:
" 'Christ' in Book of Mormon Quotes Material Not Yet Written ... Simon Peter here paraphrases and condenses Moses' lengthy statement.... The wording is quite different from that in Deuteronomy, but the writer of the Book of Mormon failed to check on the original statement and assumed that Peter's report of it was a verbatim quotation. Therefore the Book of Mormon quotes Acts" (Gods, Sex, and Saints, p. 36).
It is interesting to note that Nephi—who was supposed to have written between 600 and 545 B.C.—also quoted this portion of the book of Acts (see I Nephi 22:20).
Another serious mistake made by the author of the Book of Mormon was that of having Jesus quote part of Revelation 21:6 to the Nephites. Following is a comparison of the way the words appear in the book of Revelation and the way they are found in the Book of Mormon.
"I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end" (Rev. 21:6).
"I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end" (3 Nephi 9:18).
The words Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Apostle Bruce R. McConkie acknowledges this fact: "These words, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, are used figuratively ..." (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p. 31).
The Greek language was used throughout the Roman Empire at the time of Christ; therefore, the New Testament was written in Greek and the words Alpha and Omega were well understood. The Nephites, however, were supposed to have left Jerusalem 600 years before the time of Christ, and therefore they would not have been familiar with these words. If Jesus had told the Nephites that He was "Alpha and Omega," it would have had absolutely no meaning to them. When the author of the Book of Mormon lifted these words from the book of Revelation he evidently did not realize that they were from the Greek language. Mormon writers maintain that the Book of Mormon "does not contain any of the numerous words in the New Testament that are of Greek origin" (Contents, Structure, And Authorship of the Book of Mormon, By J. N. Washburn, p. 161). This idea is certainly incorrect. The words Alpha and Omega are definitely of Greek origin.
The Book of Mormon also contains the name Timothy (3 Nephi 19:4). Timothy is a Greek name and never appears in the Old Testament. In the same verse that we find the name Timothy we also find the name Jonas. Jonas is the New Testament name for Jonah and is found in Matthew 12:39. Joseph Smith seems to have been oblivious to the fact that the Book of Mormon contains Greek words. When it was suggested that the word Mormon came from the Greek, he stated: "This is not the case. There was no Greek or Latin upon the plates from which I, ... translated the Book of Mormon" (Times and Seasons, vol. 4, p. 194). The appearance of Greek words in the Book of Mormon—especially the words Alpha and Omega—is another evidence that it is not an ancient record, but rather a modern composition.
Mormon writers have tried to explain why so much of the New Testament is found in the Book of Mormon, but we feel that their explanations are only wishful thinking. The only reasonable explanation is that the author of the Book of Mormon had the King James Version of the Bible. And since this version did not appear until AD. 1611, the Book of Mormon could not have been written prior to that time. The Book of Mormon, therefore, is a modern composition and not a "record of ancient religious history."
Origin of the Indians
Joseph Smith's mother tells that he had a great interest in the "ancient inhabitants" of this continent and that before he "translated" the Book of Mormon he used to entertain the family with stories about them: "He would describe ... their dress, mode of traveling, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them" (History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, 1954 ed., p. 83).
It is not surprising that Joseph Smith would take an interest in the ancient inhabitants of this continent, for many people were discussing the question at that time. The Palmyra Register for May 26, 1819, reported that one writer "believes (and we think with good reason) that this country was once inhabited by a race of people, at least, partially civilized, & that this race has been exterminated by the forefathers of the present and late tribes of Indians in this country."
The Wayne Sentinel, published at Palmyra, contained similar statements on July 24, 1829:
The Aborigines ... are fast dwindling away, and will soon be buried in the depths of that oblivion which conceals the history and fate of a people who (judging from the traces discovered of the progress which they had made in civilization, and the arts and sciences, as developed by the western antiquities) must have been but a little behind the present generation in many respects. When we look at the straggling Indians who ... reveal the ravages of intemperance and almost every other loathsome vice, we can hardly persuade ourselves that they are remnants of the powerful race of people who, as it were but yesterday, stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific ... we may picture them in our minds as a flourishing and mighty nation ... powerful in wealth and natural resources; combining moral and political excellence ... and we may suppose that some dreadful plague, some national calamity swept them from the face of the earth; or perhaps that like Sodom and Gomorrah of old, their national sins became so heinous, that the Almighty in his wrath utterly annihilated them....
It is interesting to note that the Book of Mormon states that the Nephites were a civilized people who were destroyed by the Lamanites—a wicked people—for their sins.
An article published in the Palmyra Herald on February 19, 1823, said that one group of people might have "crossed the Pacific Ocean, and made settlements in North America" and that the "descendants of Japheth might afterwards cross the
Atlantic, and subjugate" the first group. The article goes on to state: "What wonderful catastrophe destroyed at once the first inhabitants, with the species of the mammoth, is beyond the researches of the best scholar and greatest antiquarian." There are some very interesting parallels between this article and the Book of Mormon which are discussed in Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? p. 82.
During and even before Joseph Smith's time it was believed by many people that the Indians were the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. Although the Book of Mormon does not claim that the Indians are the Lost Ten Tribes, it does claim that they are descendants of Joseph, thus making them Israelites. Because of this similarity anti-Mormon writers have suggested that Joseph Smith borrowed his idea concerning the origin of the Indians from the thinking of his time. Several books had been published prior to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon which contained the idea that the Indians were of Israelite origin. In 1816, at Trenton, New Jersey, Elias Boudinot published a book entitled, A Star in the West; or, a Humble Attempt to Discover the Long Lost Tribes of Israel...." On pages 279-80 of this book we find the following rhetorical question: "What could possibly bring greater declarative glory to God, or tend more essentially to affect and rouse the nations of the earth, ... and thus call their attention to the truth of divine revelation, than a full discovery, that these wandering nations of Indians are the long lost tribes of Israel...."
Furthermore, the following was published in the Wayne Sentinel (the paper to which the family of Joseph Smith apparently subscribed) on October 11, 1825: "Those who are most conversant with the public and private economy of the Indians, are strongly of opinion that they are the lineal descendants of the Israelites, and my own researches go far to confirm me in the same belief" (Wayne Sentinel, October 11, 1825, as photographically reprinted in Larry Jonas, Mormon Claims Examined, p. 45).
One of the most interesting books on this subject which was published prior to the Book of Mormon was Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews. The first edition was printed in 1823; it was soon sold out and an enlarged edition appeared in 1825. The Mormon historian B. H. Roberts read View of the Hebrews and evidently became concerned because of the many parallels between it and the Book of Mormon. He prepared a manuscript in which these parallels are listed. Mimeographed copies of Roberts' list of parallels were "privately distributed among a
restricted group of Mormon scholars," and in January 1956 Mervin B. Hogan had them published in The Rocky Mountain Mason. A careful reading of B. H. Roberts' work leads one to believe that he had serious doubts about the Book of Mormon. Notice some of his comments:
"Query: Could all this have supplied structural work for the Book of Mormon"? (p.20)
"Was this sufficient to suggest the strange manner of writing the book of Mormon in the learning of the Jews, and the language of the Egyptians, but in an altered Egyptian"? (p. 22)
"Query: Would this treatise of the destruction of Jerusalem suggest the theme to the Book of Mormon author, is the legitimate query, since the View of the Hebrews was published seven to five years before the Book of Mormon"? (pp. 24-25)
"Query: Did the author of the Book of Mormon follow too closely the course of Ethan Smith in this use of Isaiah, would be the legitimate query"? (p. 25)
B. H. Roberts lists eighteen parallels between View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon. In his fourth parallel Roberts states: " ... It is often represented by Mormon speakers and writers, that the Book of Mormon was the first to represent the American Indians as the descendants of the Hebrews; holding that the Book of Mormon is unique in this. The claim is sometimes still ignorantly made" (p. 18).
In parallel number 5, B. H. Roberts points out that the idea of the Indians having a lost book may have been suggested by Ethan Smith's book. In parallel number 9, Roberts shows that the idea of the Lamanites destroying the Nephites and their culture could have been derived from View of the Hebrews. We cannot take the space here to discuss Roberts' parallels, but Hal Hougey of Pacific Publishing Company, Concord, California, has reprinted them in a pamphlet entitled "A Parallel"—The Basis of the Book of Mormon.
Some new evidence concerning B. H. Roberts' interest in View of the Hebrews has recently come to light. It has been discovered that Roberts wrote a manuscript of 291 pages entitled, "A Book of Mormon Study." In this manuscript 176 pages were devoted to the relationship of View of the Hebrews to the Book of Mormon. The manuscript was never published and remained in the family after his death. Only a few scholars have been allowed access to it. Michael Marquardt was given the privilege of reading the manuscript and has told us of its contents. It now appears that the eighteen "parallels" were a mere
sampling from the longer manuscript.*
Like the Book of Mormon, the View of the Hebrews has statements concerning the color of the Indians: "Mr. Adair expresses the same opinion; and the Indians have their tradition, that in the nation from which they originally came, all were of one color" (View of the Hebrews, 1825, p.88). "The Indians in other regions have brought down a tradition, that their former ancestors, away in a distant region from which they came, were white" (p.206).
The Book of Mormon states that the descendants of Lehi were white, but that the Lamanites were cursed with a dark skin: "And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, ... as they were white, and exceeding fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them" (2 Nephi 5:21).
We have previously mentioned that Josiah Priest's book, The Wonders of Nature, may have provided source material for the Book of Mormon. It is interesting to note that this book quotes extensively from Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews. Over thirty pages are devoted to "Proofs that the Indians of North America are lineally descended from the ancient Hebrews." Priest's book was in the Manchester rental library and was circulated constantly in 1827 by members of the library.
Changes in the Book of Mormon
In 1965 we published a photographic reproduction of the first edition of the Book of Mormon showing that thousands of changes were made in the text since it was first published. We printed this study under the title 3,913 Changes in the Book of Mormon.
*A false rumor concerning this suppressed manuscript has recently been circulated—i.e., that B. H. Roberts tried to answer the objections which he himself had raised in his shorter work of eighteen parallels. This idea is certainly far from the truth. We have recently had the privilege of studying Roberts' work and have found that it not only fails to answer the objections to the Book of Mormon mentioned in the shorter work, but that it raises many new problems as well. In Part 1, chapter 14, Roberts summarizes: "In the light of this evidence, there can be no doubt as to the possession of a vividly strong, creative imagination by Joseph Smith, the Prophet. An imagination, it could with reason be urged, which, given the suggestions that are to be found in the 'common knowledge' of accepted American Antiquities of the times, supplimented [sic] by such a work as Ethan Smith's 'View of the Hebrews', would make it possible for him to create a book such as the Book of Mormon is." In Part 2, chapter 1, Roberts freely admits that "there is a certain lack of perspective in the things the book relates as history that points quite clearly to an undeveloped mind as their origin. The narrative proceeds in characteristic disregard of conditions necessary to its reasonableness, as if it were a tale told by a child, with utter disregard for consistency."
Most of the changes are related to the correction of grammatical and spelling errors, but there are some that alter the meaning of the text. According to Joseph Smith's own testimony, there should not have been any reason to make changes in the Book of Mormon. He stated that when he and the witnesses went out to pray concerning it, "We heard a voice from out of the bright light above us, saying, 'These plates ... have been translated by the power of God. The translation of them which you have seen is correct ..." (History of the Church, vol. 1, pp. 54-55). On another occasion Joseph Smith stated that he "told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth ..." (vol. 4, p. 461).
The four most important changes in the Book of Mormon are related to the doctrine of a plurality of Gods, and therefore we will deal with them in chapter 7.
Another important change was made in Mosiah 21:28. In this verse the name of the king has been changed from Benjamin to Mosiah. In the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon we read: "... king Benjamin had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings ..." (Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., p. 200).
In modern editions of the Book of Mormon, this verse has been changed to read: "... king Mosiah had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings ..." (Book of Mormon, 1964 ed., p. 176, v. 28).
From chronology found in the Book of Mormon (see Mosiah 6:3-7 and 7:1) it would appear that king Benjamin should have been dead at this time, and therefore the Mormon church leaders evidently felt that it was best to change the king's name to Mosiah. Another change involving the names of Benjamin and Mosiah is found in the book of Ether. On page 546 of the first edition of the Book of Mormon we read: "... for this cause did king Benjamin keep them...." In the 1964 edition (p. 485, v. 1) this was changed to read: "... for this cause did king Mosiah keep them...."
It is interesting to note that even the signed statement by the eight witnesses to the Book of Mormon has been altered. In the 1830 edition the last page read: "... Joseph Smith, Jr. the Author and Proprietor of this work, has shewn unto us the plates...." In modern editions it has been changed to read: "... Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates...."
In the first edition of the Book of Mormon, page 87, this statement appears: "... the mean man boweth down...." In modern editions (p. 74, v. 9) this has been changed to read:
"... the mean man boweth not down..."
The first edition of the Book of Mormon plainly shows that it was written by a man who did not have a great deal of education, although we must admit that the writer had ability and imagination. On page 31 of the first edition we read: "... neither will the Lord God suffer that the Gentiles shall forever remain in that state of awful woundedness.... " In modern editions (p. 24, v. 32) this was changed to read: "Neither will the Lord God suffer that the Gentiles shall forever remain in that awful state of blindness...."
On page 214 of the first edition we read: "My soul was wrecked with eternal torment...." This was changed to read as follows in modern editions (p. 188, v. 29): "My soul was racked with eternal torment...."
One of the most frequent mistakes in the first edition of the Book of Mormon is the use of "was" instead of "were." The following are extracts from the first edition of the Book of Mormon in which "was" has been changed in later editions to "were":
"... Adam and Eve, which was our first parents ..." (p. 15).
"... the bands which was upon my wrists ... " (p. 49).
"And great was the covenants of the Lord ..." (p. 66).
"... the arms of mercy was extended towards them; for the arms of mercy was extended ... " (p. 189).
"... the priests was not to depend ... " (p. 193).
"... those that was with him" (p. 195).
"... there was seven churches ..." (p. 209).
"... there was many ... " (p. 209).
"... I had much desire that ye was not in the state of dilemma ... " (p. 241).
"... they was angry with me, ... " (p. 248).
"... there was no wild beasts ... " (p. 460).
There are also many places where the word "were" has been changed to "was." The following are extracts from the first edition:
"... it were easy to guard them ..." (p. 375).
"Behold I were about to write them ..." (p. 506).
"... and I were forbidden that I should preach unto them (p. 519).
Another common mistake in the first edition of the Book of Mormon is the use of the word "is" when it should read "are." The following are extracts from the first edition in which the word "is" has been changed to "are":
"... there is save it be, two churches ... " (p. 33).
"... the words which is expedient ... " (p. 67).
"But great is the promises of the Lord ..." (p. 85).
"And whoredoms is an abomination ..." (p. 127).
"... things which is not seen ... " (p. 315).
"... here is our weapons of war..." (p. 346).
Another common mistake in the first edition is the use of the word "a" where it was not necessary. In the following extracts "a" has been deleted in later editions:
"As I was a journeying ... " (p. 249).
"... as Amman and Lamoni was a journeying thither ..." (p. 280).
"... he found Muloki a preaching ..." (p. 284).
"... had been a preparing the minds ... " (p. 358).
"... Moroni was a coming against them ..." (p. 403).
On page 260 of the first edition the following statement appears: "Behold, the Scriptures are before you; if ye will arrest them, it shall be to your own destruction." In modern editions (p. 229, v. 20) this has been changed to read: "Behold, the scriptures are before you; if ye will wrest them it shall be to your own destruction." A similar mistake is found on page 336 of the first edition: "... some have arrested the Scriptures... ." In modern printings (p. 297, v. 1) this has been changed to read: "... some have wrested the scriptures... ."
The extracts that follow are from the first edition; the word "no" has been changed to "any" in later editions:
"... have not sought gold nor silver, nor no manner of riches ."
"... they did not fight against God no more ..." (p. 290).
"... neither were there Lamanites, nor no manner of Ites..." (p. 515).
On page 289 of the first edition this statement appears: " ... or Omner, or Himni, nor neither of their brethren ... " In the modern edition (p. 255, v. 1) this has been changed to read: "... or Omner, or Himni, nor either of their brethren ..."
In Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? pages 90-93, we included a much longer list of changes, but the examples we have cited here should give the reader an idea of some of the more interesting changes in the Book of Mormon. Many Mormons have claimed that there have never been any changes in the Book of Mormon. Although this is certainly incorrect, some anti-Mormons have gone to the other extreme and tried to make it appear that the Book of Mormon has been completely rewritten. As we stated earlier, most of the 3,913 changes which we found were related to the correction of grammatical and spelling errors and do not really change the basic meaning of the text.
Actually, the changes in the Book of Mormon do not even begin to compare with the serious changes found in Joseph Smith's revelations and in the History of the Church. Although we must not overemphasize the changes in the Book of Mormon, even changes in spelling and grammar are important when we consider the claims concerning the translation which were made by Joseph Smith and the witnesses to the book. Smith claimed that the Book of Mormon was "the most correct of any book on earth," and Martin Harris said that the words which appeared on the seer stone would not disappear until they were correctly written. Oliver B. Huntington recorded in his journal that in 1881 Joseph F. Smith, who later became the sixth president of the Mormon church, taught that the Lord gave Joseph Smith the exact English wording and spelling that he should use in the Book of Mormon:
Saturday Feb. 25, 1881, I went to Provo to a quarterly Stake Conference. Heard Joseph F. Smith describe the manner of translating the Book of Mormon ... Joseph did not render the writing on the gold plates into the English language in his own style of language as many people believe, but every word and every letter was given to him by the gift and power of God.... The Lord caused each word spelled as it is in the book to appear on the stones in short sentences or words, and when Joseph had uttered the sentence or word before him and the scribe had written it properly, that sentence would disappear and another appear. And if there was a word wrongly written or even a letter incorrect the writing on the stones would remain there.... and when corrected the sentence would disappear as usual ("Journal of Oliver B. Huntington," p. 168 of typed copy at Utah State Historical Society).
Anti-Mormon writers criticized the grammar of the Book of Mormon stating that God could not make the many grammatical mistakes found in the Book of Mormon. Finally, the Mormon church leaders became so embarrassed about the grammar that they decided to abandon the idea that God gave Joseph Smith the English that is found in the Book of Mormon; their new idea was that God just gave Joseph Smith the idea and that he expressed it in his own words. This new theory makes it easier to explain why grammatical and spelling changes were made, but it does not explain changes such as the one where "Benjamin" was changed to "Mosiah."
Most of the more important changes in the Book of Mormon were made by Joseph Smith in the second edition, but the Mormon scholar Sidney B. Sperry admits that Apostle Talmage made many of the changes in 1920: "The writer happens to know that Dr. Talmage was a stickler for good English.... He
knew as well as anyone the imperfections of the literary dress of the First Edition of the Nephite record and took a prominent part in correcting many of them in a later edition of the work (1920)" (The Problems of the Book of Mormon, p. 190).
When a person examines the unchanged text of the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon it becomes very obvious that it was written by someone without a great deal of education. The style and the type of mistakes which are found in the first edition of the Book of Mormon are similar to those found in a document written by Joseph Smith in the early 1830's (see Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? pp. 88-89).