Thoroughly Modern Book of Mormon
Having recently written a two-part article on the seemingly undeniable connections between the Book of Mormon and the ancient world, I thought it only fair to examine the flip side of the coin, and set forth evidence that the Book of Mormon is not an ancient, but a modern, composition.
Like most people, Mormons have an innate ability to not think about things that challenge their world view. “I’ll think about that another day,” as Scarlett O’Hara put it. But as with Poe’s “Purloined Letter,” evidence that the Book of Mormon is a modern production hides in plain sight . . . within its own pages.
The Smoking Gun
We do not have to look far for evidence of Book of Mormon modernity—the smoking gun is found in the vast tracts of the King James Bible copied into the Nephite record. It may be a good thing that Book of Mormon readers have historically been stopped dead at the “Isaiah chapters” in 2 Nephi 12-24, where no less than eleven chapters of Isaiah (2-14) are faithfully reproduced from the King James Bible. Failing to read these chapters makes it easier to avoid the obvious fact that whoever produced the Book of Mormon was doing a lot of cribbing from the KJV. And I mean a lot.
I grant that the copying of these Isaiah chapters is not word for word, and that there are a few variants thrown in here and there. But it is undeniable that the KJV was used in some way to produce this section of the Book of Mormon. Only someone with an axe to grind would argue otherwise.
I have heard members say that the Book of Isaiah was contained in the brass plates taken by Lehi and company when they departed Jerusalem. This may well be so. But it does not change the fact that if Joseph Smith were freely “translating” an extremely early Isaiah text, it would not faithfully replicate the language of the KJV. To boil this down, the KJV was first published in 1611 and was the version widely used in Joseph Smith’s time and place. How is it, then, that the Book of Mormon, all of which occurred over a thousand years before the KJV was published, nevertheless contains many chapters taken from the KJV? While the “how” may not be clear, the fact that this is the case is obvious. And this fact leads ineluctably to the conclusion that the Book of Mormon is a modern production. It could not have been produced prior to 1611.
It has been postulated that Joseph Smith must have consulted the KJV when he came to such chapters, and followed the KJV where it did not contradict the “translation” he was getting off the plates. The first thing to note is that the only reason such a theory is put forward is because the plagiarism is obvious. And while this theory helps resolve some issues with Book of Mormon dependence on the KJV, it runs headlong into statements by witnesses of the translation (including Emma Smith) who are clear that Joseph consulted no books or papers at any time during the process. That the witnesses agree Joseph dictated the Book of Mormon with his face in a hat only serves to make such postulated KJV consultation less likely.
The “Isaiah Problem” becomes only more thorny with the advent of the Deutero-Isaiah theory (and even a Tritero-Isaiah theory), which hold that later chapters of the Book of Isaiah were written pseudonymously after the fall of Jerusalem. The problem this has for the Book of Mormon is that the brass plates were taken into the desert prior to Babylon dropping the hammer in 587 B.C.E. If the scholars are correct, none of the Deutero-Isaiah or Tritero-Isaiah material (comprising chapters 44-66) would have been on the brass plates to be copied into the Nephite record.
This would not be so bad if the Book of Mormon quoted only chapters 2-14 in 2 Nephi, but it goes on to quote Isaiah 53 (in Mosiah 14) and Isaiah 54 (in 3 Nephi 22). How does the Book of Mormon quote material that, according to the best Old Testament scholarship, was not even written by the original Isaiah and could not have been on the brass plates?
In order to explain this, some have maintained a distinctly minority position that the entirety of Isaiah was written by the one prophet (Isaiah) himself about a hundred years before Nephi killed a drunk man in order to steal his brass plates. It seems clear, though, that this position is argued largely in order to explain why late chapters of Isaiah appear in the Book of Mormon. (And it should not be forgotten that, even if this were the case, it does nothing to answer why once again, this material from the latter part of Isaiah still appears in good KJV English.)
The New Testament in the Book of Mormon
But the evidence of modernity only continues to mount. One can argue the unity of Isaiah until the cows come home, but it seems pointless when the Book of Mormon quotes three full chapters from Matthew (5-7 quoted in 3 Nephi 12-15), constituting the entirety of the Sermon on the Mount. While there are again minor variations in the text, the dependency on the KJV is unmistakable.
I have heard some argue that Jesus just gave the same sermon to the Nephites that he gave in the Old World, like a stump speech a politician gives so many times he knows by heart. As unlikely as this theory may be, it cannot survive the fact that even if Jesus gave the same speech to the two different groups, it would not result in the same KJV language.
And then there are the passages from Paul’s epistles reproduced in the Book of Mormon. As Sidney B. Sperry wrote, “Chapters seven and ten of the Book of Moroni contain teachings which so closely parallel passages in I Corinthians 12, 13 that they constitute a literary problem,” and then goes on to note that “many phrases are word for word the same as in the King James version.” [Sidney B. Sperry, “The Problems of the Book of Mormon,” (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1964), 113, 117.] Sperry goes on to suggest that Paul and the Book of Mormon were drawing on an earlier body of teachings available to both. While a possibility, there is no evidence that this is the case. And even if there were, it does not explain why these teachings would be reproduced in the Book of Mormon in the very language of the KJV.
The reason I keep coming back to the KJV language in the Book of Mormon is because it is so easy to be diverted away from this unmistakable fact. Even if all 66 chapters of Isaiah existed before 600 B.C.E. (unlikely), it does not account for why Isaiah appears in the Book of Mormon in the language of the KJV. Even if Jesus gave the identical, word-for-word sermon to the Nephites that he gave in the New Testament (unlikely), it does not account for why the same sermon appears in the Book of Mormon in the language of the KJV. Even if passages from Pauline epistles existed in a more ancient though undiscovered text available to both Paul and the Book of Mormon prophets (unlikely), it does not account for why these passages appear in the Book of Mormon in the language of the KJV.
Because the KJV was not published until 1611 and the Book of Mormon nevertheless reproduces page after page of the KJV, it is incontrovertible that the Book of Mormon could not have existed prior to 1611 and is therefore a modern production. Book of Mormon believers tend to want to whistle past the graveyard on this issue. I know. I did exactly the same thing for many years.
I believe I have now demonstrated in this article that the Book of Mormon is a product of the modern world. I also believe I have demonstrated in my previous two-part article that the Book of Mormon is a product of the ancient world. The typical response for those who believe in the Book of Mormon is to cheer the evidences of ancientness and to discount by hook or crook the evidences of modernity. Conversely, the typical response for those who do not believe in the Book of Mormon is to do the opposite.
It is my opinion that neither response engages fully with the actual text, which to my mind bears unmistakable affinities to both the ancient world and the modern world. Taking the evidence as a whole, and resisting the temptation of special pleading, I am forced to conclude that the Book of Mormon is neither modern nor ancient, but is both at the same time. How can this be? I don’t know the answer to that, but it is where the evidence leads me. As Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living, so I have come to believe that the unexamined Book of Mormon is not worth reading, and perhaps not believing; at least for me.
The position that the Book of Mormon is both ancient and modern may give additional insight into a New Testament parable. As Jesus said of the scribe instructed into the kingdom of heaven, Joseph Smith appears to have brought forth out of his treasure “things old and new.” (Matt. 13:52).
I’m one of those ‘on the fence’ people, but I do love that book (the book of Mormon)
I have a great fondness for the BOM, too. Read superficially, it is as interesting as “Run, Spot, Run.”
But the closer I look, the more I see.
I think it is clear the BOM will wear me out long before I wear it out.
And at its core, I think that is probably the essence of what constitutes “scripture.”
For me, some of the more minor KJV quotations are even harder to explain because of the way they are re-situated so as to appear original to their BoM contexts. Mormon’s quotation of Paul is so transparent as to be obviously intentional. But what do I do with Nephi’s “O wretched man that I am!” that doesn’t seem at all conscious of its counterpart in Romans? And there’s dozens (hundreds?) of these.
You are right about this. I think some people (with a lot of time on their hands) have gone through the BOM and documented all of these, and there are many.
I can think of no way to explain this except to conclude that Joseph Smith was a virtuoso in the KJV as early as 1829.
For a modern day source for the Psalm of Nephi, you might want to look at William Penn’s speech given in 1694, published in 1822, which JS had access to.
“O wretched man that I am…all are in a condemned state out of Christ; but when once in Christ, there are new thoughts, new desires, and new will and affections. Then we shall shake off every weight and burden, and the sin that doth so easily beset us, and run with patience the race that is before us, and deny ourselves and take up the cross of Christ, and follow him, and learn of him a holy resignation to the will of our heavenly Father; and say with him, ‘Not my will but thy will be done.'”
William Penn speech in 1694
Published in “The Harmony of Divine and Heavenly Doctrines.” (1795 and 1822)
“I believe I have now demonstrated in this article that the [English translation of the] Book of Mormon is a product of the modern world.”
Fixed that for you 😉
I think I get your point, Ben, but I’m not sure.
The earliest version of the Book of Mormon we have is the English translation, so it seemed best to address that text.
(That and the fact I can’t read it in any other language . . . including Reformed Egyptian.) 😉
Thanks for the other side.
Corbin, I have to say that your conclusion is entirely unsatisfying, was that your intent?
I would love to see you address the anachronisms of the Book of Mormon, as well as mis-translations of the original text that appeared in the KJV, and were faithfully reproduced in the Book of Mormon.
Thanks for reading.
Why do you find the conclusion unsatisfying? Is it because you feel the evidence goes another way? If so, I would be interested in hearing why.
I find it in satisfying because it appears to be a cop out to me. You can’t have it both ways, and you even seem to admit that. How can a book be of both modern and ancient origin? If, as the LDS church posits, the book is the most “true” of any book on earth then it must be of entirely ancient origin. It must be an actual account of actual people who travelled to America, etc. If it is not that, then it is a work of fiction produced entirely by a brilliant but utterly dishonest young man named Jospeh Smith.
To say it is a work of fiction does not mean that it cannot be inspiring to you and others, but the are lots of inspiring books out there. Just because it makes people feel good does not make it “true,” it just makes it a nice book.
Also, you didnt respond to the second part of my original question.
I think the Church, as well as its critics, have championed a false dichotomy–both claiming the BOM is either completely ancient or completely modern. (I want to focus on this language rather than “true” or “false” because “ancient” and “modern” are to some degree objectively measurable, while “true” and “false” are not.)
But the evidence indicates the BOM is both modern and ancient at the same time. You ask how this can be. As I said in the article, I don’t have the answer to that. But just because I don’t know “how” doesn’t mean I can’t conclude that is where the evidence leads me.
One can know the sun exists without knowing how it produces light.
You see it as a “cop out.” That’s fine. But I see it as the only rational approach that works for me which takes into account all the evidence, both pro and con.
I know I am staking out somewhat of a new position with this, and I appreciate the owners/operators of this website for giving me the chance to posit it.
I also appreciate all the comments from everybody who has taken the time to consider it.
Interesting read! I have a question and it’s not intended to be apologetic in anyway, it’s a legitimate question I have. You seem to suggest that bc the BoM contains KJV language, specifically you point to the Isaiah chapters and sermon on the mound, and that this is one of the reasons it’s is a modern production. You say, “it does not account for why the same sermon appears in the Book of Mormon in the language of the KJV.” Why exactly is this a big deal? Couldn’t JS simply use *scriptural* language he was familiar with in transmitting this new *scripture*? What variation of English would we expect it to be in?
Thanks for your comment, Jeremy!
Let’s go with your example of the Sermon on the Mount.
The first problem is most scholars are agreed that Jesus never gave this sermon in the first place, which is why it looks like a bunch of random, largely disconnected, free-floating sayings (logia) of Jesus cobbled together long after his ministry and presented as a full-blown sermon.
How does Jesus give a sermon to the Nephites that he never gave to his disciples in the Old World?
Look at it another way–if you were an English teacher and a student of yours presented you the BOM Sermon on the Mount, might you be a wee bit suspicious he had cribbed it from Matthew?
Or how about this? Say that you knew Greek and you were given an early version of Matthew 3-5 to translate. Do you expect it would come out just like the KJV?
Sidney Sperry’s theory that Joseph Smith just opened up a Bible when he got to these parts and copied except where the inspiration told him it was different, seems hard to maintain–especially in light of the witnesses who are adamant Joseph never used any papers or books in the process.
Even so, it would not explain, as Mike mentioned before, how the BOM abounds with KJV snippets. Even Bible experts reading the BOM would likely miss many of these KJV phrases, and yet, somehow, Joseph Smith catches them all and puts them in KJV English.
I am not sure how to account for this, either, but it seems to most definitely be the case.
Fair analysis. There’s plenty of KJV – including New Testament KJV – in the Book of Mormon. This fits in well with the theory of the Book of Mormon as a 19th century production. However, I would also argue that it fits in with the theory of the Book of Mormon as a 19th century TRANSLATION of an ancient text. The translation NOT being a tight translation, but one that drew liberally on KJV language and on Joseph Smith’s phraseology.
I just recently finished Brant Gardner’s book “The Gift and Power” which I strongly recommend in coming to terms with how the Book of Mormon was translated. Gardner hypothesizes that the translation of the BM took place at a pre-conscious level in Joseph Smith’s brain, therefore using Joseph’s language and experience in transmitting it. The KJV language simply reflects Joseph’s personal, family and cultural background in the KJV – as well as reflecting the idea of scriptural language sounding like the KJV. Seeing the Book of Mormon as generally more of a “loose” translation of an ancient text fits much better with the evidence than does the idea of a tight-knit word-for-word translation.
Brant Gardner generally does not go as far as Blake Ostler, whose perspective seems more compatible with your contention that the BM is both ancient and modern. Blake Ostler arguing for Joseph Smith much more liberally expanding on an ancient text that essentially makes it a combined ancient/19th-century production. While I think Ostler goes too far, I would argue that passages such as the repeat Sermon on the Mount do show expansion.
Thanks for your comments, Erik.
The reason I hammer home so hard on the KJV passages that appear at length in the BOM is that it is so easy to be diverted away from this simple fact. I know. I have spent the better part of my time as a Mormon doing so.
It is also easy to slightly alter the argument to make the BOM easier to defend in this regard. For example, you say, “The translation NOT being a tight translation, but one that drew liberally on KJV language and on Joseph Smith’s phraseology.”
But the problem is not that the BOM “drew liberally on KJV language.” The problem is that the BOM plagiarizes vast swaths of the KJV Bible itself.
It is not a handful of sentence fragments that come from the KJV, and which one could justifiably argue were rolling around in Joseph Smith’s head and were so dictated when he came to a BOM passage that contained a similar idea.
But the entire Sermon on the Mount, comprising three consecutive chapters of KJV Matthew, just isn’t going to fit that scenario.
Neither is chapter after chapter of KJV Isaiah. Or KJV Malachi. Or famous passages of KJV Paul.
Because the KJV was not published until 1611, it is obvious the BOM was in some very important sense a modern production.
It seems so obvious a conclusion I have a hard time understanding how one can argue against it . . . even though I myself did so for many years.
So I suppose I can afford to be charitable. 😉
Well, thanks for the charity 🙂 It is appreciated… and I must confess that my perspective is influenced or framed by me being a traditional believer, at least when it comes to the basic divinity and historicity of the BM. I’m in the process of working out my views on the subject and I do try to be open to considering both sides.
I still maintain that as the KJV language was considered the scriptual language of the time, and since translation of texts can in fact differ substantially from the original text in phraseology and the use of expressions, the use of the KJV does not necessarily argue against the BM as a modern translation of an ancient text. Translators can take artistic liberties – especially with regards to poetry – and obviously Joseph Smith did with the BM (which has its poetic language and structures).
Nor do I see a problem with JS relying on the KJV when the BM quotes from Isaiah, Malachi, etc. Though perhaps considered lazy or unprofessional to trained translators, if those chapters are on the plates I’m okay with Joseph setting aside the plates’ expression of Isaiah and using the KJV.
I do see a valid criticism in the Sermon on the Mount and (especially) in Second Isaiah being in the Book of Mormon. Perhaps these really are expansions on the original text, maybe even enough to term the BM a partly modern work. But the majority of the BM is not a lengthy paraphrasing of the KJV or of any other text – most of the stories and sermons in the BM are original to the BM. You might consider that originality as coming from Joseph Smith’s mind (or View of the Hebrews, Spaulding, or whatever), though I personally take those to be expressing in modern and KJV language what was on the angel-delivered metal plates. So I still see the BM as being an ancient work, though perhaps with some modern expansions in it (and certainly a modern translation).
Funny, I had some difficulties with the liberal quoting and paraphrasing of the KJV until I read Brant Gardner’s book, which helped me to see that the use of the KJV can be considered part of the translation rather than the original text. In any case, the common fundamentalist scriptural reading of the BM – where every turn of phrase is viewed as inspired with potential spiritual significance – holds little water with me.
When criticisms of the BM are described against a traditionalist/fundamentalist model of scripture and translation there is a lower quality of discussion than when such criticisms are given vis-a-vis a more open-ended view of scripture and translation.
The mention of the mythological tower of Babel…. stating there was no death before Adam….and so much other evidence that this book is a modern work and nothing ancient. We know the tower of babel is myth and never happened. We also know that there was death for millions of years before Adam supposedly was brought to life. The anachronisms are obviously an issue. The appearance multiple times of KJV is an issue. Too much evidence against and not enough evidence for unless you are willing to bend and stretch reality
Thanks for your comments, Garrett.
There is a reason I focused on the KJV in the BOM as the smoking gun of modernity, as opposed to the examples you cite.
1. The Tower of Babel–I agree this is almost certainly a myth. But the fact that the BOM mentions it as an origin story for the Jaredites does not mean the BOM is not ancient. The Iliad contains numerous stories we would consider myths, and yet that does not mean the book itself is not ancient.
2. Stating There is No Death Before Adam–If the Book of Mormon does in fact state this (and I expect it would be in 2 Nephi 2 if it does), this is not evidence the BOM is not ancient. Many ancient documents promulgate teachings with which we do not agree, or which may contradict subsequent scientific findings.
So while I appreciate your comments, I think these examples do not go to the ancientness or modernity of the BOM.
They may go, in some sense to whether it is “true” or “false, but as I indicated above, those words are so subjective that it is difficult to deal with them in any meaningful way, and so I prefer to restrict the analysis to whether it is “ancient” or “modern.”
As to a definition of truth, one of my favorite quotes is from G.K. Chesterton, who said, “Fairy tales are not true because they tell us dragons exist. Fairy tales are true because they tell us dragons can be defeated.”
Corbin, I used those examples because of the claim that this is the most correct book on the face of the earth. If it is in fact the most correct book on earth, was inspired by god, and in fact contains the true gospel then it would not contain fictitious events and claims that god himself would know never happened
Nice post. Enjoyed it.
For those who want to read a very scholarly analysis of the B of M translation process, I want to echo Erik’s recommendation for “By the Gift and the Power,” by Brant Gardner. And for those who want a good analysis of the ancient vs. modern debate, then check out “An Imperfect Book,” by Early Wunderli.
Thanks for your comments, EFF. I have not read Brant Gardner’s book, but I have heard him talk about it on a few podcast when it was published not so long ago. Brant Gardner is a very smart fellow.
The second book you mention I have not heard of at all, and appreciate your drawing it to my attention.
It is modern because it was translated in modern times by a man who is purported to have a photographic memory. Also, the same mistakes that Joseph Smith points out in the Bible are found in the Book of Mormon where those parts are reproduced.
Joseph saw the similarity in my opinion and went with it. That does not take away from all the work that Mormon and Moroni did to the final record though.
Thanks for your comments, Rodric.
There are some interesting instances where the BOM KJV introduces a textual variant not found in the KJV but found in other early texts.
One example is in the Sermon on the Mount, where the KJV states:
Matthew 5:22–“But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment”
The BOM drops the clause “without a cause” and states:
3 Nephi 12:2–“But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment.”
The BOM is supported in its dropping of this clause by other Matthew texts, including the Vulgate. I am pretty sure that scholars are generally agreed that this clause was added to the text by a later scribe.
So here is one instance of a textual variant in the KJV where the BOM appears to restore an earlier version than the one available to Joseph Smith.
Very interesting article! I went to Armenia on my mission and I know that the Armenian translation of the BoM pulls verses exactly from the “Ararat Bible” when they are directly quoted in 2 Ne., etc. To my knowledge, this method of translation holds true with most non-English forms of the BoM. I don’t work in the translation dept. in SLC, but I imagine that translations are done this way so that native speakers can more easily see the connection between the BoM and their version of the Bible.
I don’t want to sound too much like an apologist (because I rather liked your interpretation that the BoM is inexplicably both modern and ancient), but I wonder if the obvious quoting from the KJV was done so that BoM readers (who were undoubtedly KJV readers at the time) would be able to more easily see the connection between the two. As stated above, it seems like that’s what translators have since when translating the BoM from English to whatever.
Hi, Andrew! Thanks for joining in the discussion.
Yes, it makes sense that when doing a normal translation of a text quoting the Bible, a person might well go to the accepted version and copy out of it.
This is the kind of argument Hugh Nibley once made, saying that when Gabriel appeared to announce the birth of Jesus to Mary, and quoted from the Old Testament, Gabriel quoted the Septuagint (LXX) and not some ancient Urtext.
Of course, it really doesn’t make sense that Gabriel himself would do that kind of quoting; but it does make sense that somebody coming along later would recognize where it came from and defer to the accepted Greek translation in the LXX.
This is, I think, where Sidney Sperry was going when postulating that Joseph Smith would come to passages he recognizes as from the Bible, open up his KJV and copy away, changing it only when the KJV differed from the message he was getting off the plates.
I will repeat that it does not help that the actual witnesses to the translation process, such as Emma Smith Bidamon, are clear that Joseph did NOT consult any books or other documents during the translation process.
Indeed, such would have been made only more difficult by the coming-to-be-accepted fact that Joseph Smith dictated the BOM with his face in a hat.
And this theory does nothing to address the issue of KJV translations of Bible material that would not have been on the brass plates when Lehi left Jerusalem circa 600 B.C.E. (such as Deutero-Isaiah, Matthew and Paul).
Thanks for the reply. (I should have proofread my 1st post as the last sentence was almost incomprehensible.) I definitely agree that the fact that Emma, et. al. insisted that no other books were used in the translation process is a big stumbling block to that theory. Would you say then, that she and other witnesses were lying (possibly in order to make the origins of the BoM appear more mystical/divine)?
No. I would not say they were lying.
If Joseph Smith were pretending to translate the Book of Mormon, and during much of the process was reading straight out of the family Bible, I think that would have raised a few eyebrows.
I’m wondering why it doesn’t make sense that Gabriel would quote the Septuagint, if that was what Mary was familiar with? Moroni quoted the KJV when he visited Joseph Smith in vision. Your explanation is also possible, I’m just not sure how it can be established as preferable.
I think you are missing something; according to the evidence we have Joseph is given as the translator, but he did not translate on his own, who put the words on/in the seer stone or Urimandthumin he dictated from? If I were God and giving the world my translation of this ancient text I would give it in the language of the people it was intended for. Therefore when the message of the BofM paralleled that of the KJV Bible I would give it exactly the same unless I wanted to correct something. I wouldn’t paraphrase it but express it exact, maybe for two reasons, 1 it is familiar to readers of the Bible and confirms that teaching exactly, 2 it honors the early translators many of whom were inspired to translate and gave their lives that we could have the words which were expressed so eloquently and correctly.
I would also leave enough of the Nephite’s language use, phrasing and structure that scholars could see its roots.
From accounts I doubt Joseph at that stage knew language or the KJV anywhere well enough to do much more than read from the stone. I do not believe the greatest scholars ever, even using computers to cross reference could ever produce anything approaching the solid non contradicting body of work that was brought to us through Joseph Smith.
Thanks for your post, Mark. I appreciate your comments but have to respectfully disagree with you.
We understand that God’s ways are not our ways, but if I were God, and I were “giving the world my translation of this ancient text,” I wouldn’t do it in such a way as to set up Joseph Smith as a plagiarist. 😉
Ok, but by all accounts I’ve seen, Joseph dictated from the seer stone or interpreters, who or what put the words, some of which he spelled out, on there?
Also what did God state about the translation recorded by witnesses?
I cannot see how that sets Joseph up as a plagiarist. How could Isaiah be quoted differently than the ‘acceptable to God’ translation already in the world? (it’s acceptance is shown by God’s statement to the witnesses) It would just add confusion.
If the same facts occurred in another context, would not any reasonable person conclude plagiarism occurred?
My view is that only because we are dealing with a book believed to be scripture will its adherents resort to any line of argument, no matter how implausible, in order to explain away the obvious.
I hope that doesn’t come across as harsh, but it is how I see it.
Just my two cents.
I understand your position to be that God put the KJV Isaiah and Sermon on the Mount and Pauline passages on the seer stones for Joseph to dictate.
This is an argument that would convince only a believer.
But it does have the advantage of being non-falsifiable. 😉
re: your comment “if I were God.” As a mere mortal I have often questioned why God commanded some of the things He did in the early, struggling days of the restoration: one party voting, polygamy, and cultish behavior just to name a very few. If I were God I would have hired a real good pr guy. So, the only final statement that makes sense is the His ways are not our ways. He knows the beginning from the end and we don’t
Ascribing to God ways that are not our ways has been, from time immemorial, the classic method of explaining away anything believed to be from God but that offends either our moral or rational sensibilities.
I believe God gave us our morality. I believe God gave us our rationality. I believe God did not give us these gifts “to fust in us unused.”
One of the most interesting of these passages to me is 3 Ne 13:25-27. In this passage, the BoM copies word for word from the KJV of Matt 6:25-27.
BUT Joseph Smith later went back over and “corrected” this section of the Bible. His JST of Matt 6:25-27 is notably different from the passage in 3 Nephi 13.
So if Smith were copying from the Bible as he “translated” the golden plates, and making inspired corrections here and there as he went along, then wouldn’t you expect the JST text to appear in 3 Nephi rather than the original KJV text? If the text was so ridiculously correct in the KJV that it matched up word for word perfectly with what was written in the golden plates, why would Smith later go back and “correct” that passage in his JST?
Of course, this all makes perfect sense if he were just making it all up, and just copied stuff he liked from the Bible. Then, later in his life, he decided to re-write parts of the Bible to make it match up better with what he was preaching, and he simply forgot to double-check to make sure the two didn’t conflict.
They don’t conflict, what are you talking about? The Joseph Smith translation for 3rd Nephi 13;25 (the end of)becomes Matt 6;28 in the JST 3rd Nephi 13;26 becomes Matt 6;29 (minus the last sentence) and Nephi 13;27 becomes Matt 6;31 (minus the ‘for’ at the start) verses 25-27 are different to the KJV because the alterations moves the KJV verses into later verses in the JST not because they have changed. That’s with looking at the full chapter from the JST rather than a LDS bible that quotes only pieces of the JST and can be misleading for that little section at least. So either Joseph did indeed double check or he was inspired, there is no glitch.
It appears you’re right. My mistake.
I dont know if you have addressed this in a different article, but another hard to believe aspect of these KJV quotes is the fact that the mormon profets would quote so extensively from the bronze plates, when the bronze plates already exist. Why rewrite something that is already preserved and something that God knows will be preserved for the future generations, obviously intact, because Joseph Smith didnt make any changes. My point is important because the ancient BOM profets are writing in golden plates, which is not impossible, but it must’ve been hard to do. What’s the point of chiseling 11 chapters of the book of Isaiah on the golden plates (gold also being hard to extract, melt and purify). Why didnt moroni just leave them out of his hard work and preserve the bronze plates for Joseph to dig out and translate ass well. Hey… That would make too much sense.
Thanks for your comments, Joe. Your point is important and I do not address it in the other articles, so will take this opportunity to say a few words about it here.
First, you are right that it would have been a lot of work to transcribe Isaiah (or anything else!) from the brass (bronze) plates to the gold plates. This would indicate that the information contained in the transcription must have been considered important. I think it would not have been important for us, as we already have the Isaiah passages (as you mention). Rather, it must have been important for the Nephites and their descendants themselves.
Which brings us to your question–if the Nephites already had this information in the brass plates, why go to all the trouble of copying them onto the gold plates?
Of course, any proposed answer must be speculative, as the text does not address this issue.
Many sermons throughout history begin with a quotation of a biblical text and go on from there to expound on the text. Even Joseph Smith did this from time to time. This may account for some of the transcriptions.
Another possibility is that brass plate material was quoted in the gold plates in order to ground the subsequent teachings in an authoritative source. (This is similar to the first reason.) I see instances of this in the Sermon on the Mount in 3 Nephi, as well as the three Old Testament chapters quoted at the end.
Some OT texts I have examined are used to structure and ground the surrounding text.
One of the pervasive themes from the 2 Nephi quotations from Isaiah has to do with the scattering and gathering of Israel. The Nephites, if actual people, would have seen themselves as “eating the bitter bread of banishment,” having been separated from their homeland by so great a distance and an ocean, as well. They were among the most scattered of all Israel. They could not simply decide to go back. It seems they were permanently cut off.
Jacob talks about their lives passing away as if it were a dream; that the Nephites were a lonesome and a solemn people, wanderers, cast out from Jerusalem, born in tribulation, in a wilderness, and hated of their brethren, wherefore they did mourn out their days. (Jacob 7:26)
It makes sense to me that a people viewing themselves in such a condition would take solace from Isaiah’s predictions that remnants of Israel would be scattered into the earth (even unto the isles of the sea), but that ultimately they would be gathered once more to their homeland.
Just some thoughts.