Chapter Twenty-Four

How can you explain the many similarities between the Book of Mormon and The View of the Hebrews, The Late War, The Golden Pot and The First Book of Napoleon?

In the 1820s, there were no public schools in the United States. Americans’ of means had their children tutored, but the majority of children were either educated at home by their parents or they not educated at all.

These homeschooling parents passed along what they knew, but when it came to reading, the lessons typically meant reading and studying the most common English language text, the King James version of the Bible.

This was certainly the case in Joseph’s home.

throughout his childhood. There were no world maps on the walls and globes of the earth on the shelf. In the 1820s, people knew that the earth orbited around the sun but

Geologists at this time were just beginning the controversial argument that the earth was profoundly more than 6,000 years old. Charles Darwin was born in 1809, just four years after Joseph and his revolutionary book TheOriginofSpecies wasn’t published until 1859, fifteen years after Joseph’s death. The theory that all biologic life, including human life, had evolved from ancient, common ancestors over immense spans of time was unknown and, of course, it took another hundred years after Smith’s time to unravel the role of the DNA molecule in establishing the size, shape, and physiology of individual biologic life forms.

Americans in the 1820s believed that heaven and earth were about 6,000 years old, and created by God. They believed that God had designed and created all plants and animals and that people were direct descendants of Adam and Eve, created by God image.

Most Americans of European heritage descended through the Protestant Christian tradition.

There were no alternative religious beliefs except, for the new onslaught of the much disliked, Irish Catholics. But even these Catholics subscribed to the same dating of the earth.

Joseph Smith was the product of 19th-century knowledge and ignorance,

In 1823, the origin of the Native Americans was a great mystery. In intellectual circles, there were many competing theories concerning these pre-Columbian populations. Some felt that God had created human life separately in both the East and Western hemispheres. Others argued that the ancestral Native Americans had migrated from a wide range of previous homelands, including the mythical continent of Atlantis, the Rome, Israel, Egypt, Carthage, Britain and, even China.

It was contended that these migrants arrived either by walking across the sunken continent of Atlantis or by sailing across the oceans to America.

Without easily accessible maps or globes, 19th century Americans were unaware that North America was actually visible from Siberia across a narrow and shallow strait.

Understandably, nineteenth-century Americans looked to their known world of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East for the ancestral homelands of Native Americans.

The most popular of these homeland theories, both in America and Europe, saw the Native Americans as descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel.

The 12 Tribes of Israel are, of course, the familial descendants of the Old Testament patriarch Jacob’s 12 sons and collectively are known as the House of Israel. The most well-known of the twelve brothers was Joseph, who was sold into bondage by his brothers, became an adviser to the Pharaoh of Egypt.

It is important to recognize the idea that the American Indians were a remnant of Hebrew migrants was a very popular notion in Joseph Smith’s day and he was far from the first person to propose it.

In 1644, Antonio de Montezinos, a Portuguese traveler and, a Sephardic Jew convinced Menasseh Ben Israel, the Rabbi of Amsterdam, that he had found one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel living in the jungles of Ecuador. This supposed discovery gave a new impulse to Ben Israel’s Messianic hopes. Ben Israel, in turn, wrote a book about this narrative titled the TheHopeofIsrael in which he gave learned support to the theory that the native inhabitants of America were in fact descendants of the lost Ten Tribes of Israel.

Daniel Sewell, Thomas Thorowgood, John Elliott, Rogers Williams and even William Penn saw this link with the Hebrews and the lost tribes.

James Adair (c.1709–1783) a native of Northern Ireland who went to North America and became a trader with Native Americans, mostly Chickasaw, for more than forty years.

In 1775 he wrote a book, entitled, The History of the American Indians in which he discusses at length his hypothesis that the American Indians are descended from the lost ten tribes of Israel. Thomas Thorowgood, Roger Williams, and Jonathan Edwards were also inclined to favor this view.

1816 Elias Boudinot wrote a book entitled, AStarintheWest: A Humble Attempt to Discover the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel in which he proposes the same scenario.

In 1825, Josiah Priest wrote, The Wonders of Nature and Providence likewise proposing that the American Indians we the remnant of the lost tribes.

But it was a Vermont pastor named Ethan Smith (no known relation to Joseph Smith), in 1823, four years before Joseph’s discovery of the golden plates who wrote a very well received and widely distributed book called View of the Hebrews, that sought to prove the origin of the Native Americans as a lost tribe of Israel.

View of the Hebrews was so popular and successful that it was reprinted several times between 1823 and 1825.

View of the Hebrews was certainly available in Palmyra, New York. In fact, in 1826 Pastor Smith appeared in Palmyra while promoting his book; and given Joseph’s longtime fascination with American Indian lore, it would seem highly likely that Joseph heard of Pastor Smith’s theories, he may even have met him. We know he read his book.

view

Similarities between the Book of Mormon and the View of the Hebrews

The View of the Hebrews is an 1823 book written by Ethan Smith, a United States Congregationalist minister. While not claiming any divine command, this Smith, like his prophetic namesake, also argued that Native Americans were descended from the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Several commentators on Mormon history and the Book of Mormon, including LDS Church general authority B. H. Roberts and Fawn Brodie, Joseph Smith’s, biographer noted the considerable similarities in the content of View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon, which was published seven years after Ethan Smith’s book.

As I mentioned above, we certainly know that Joseph Smith had read the View of the Hebrews, as he refers to it in an article published in the Times and Seasons on June 1, 1842. Smith quoted View of the Hebrews as supporting the Book of Mormon. “If such may have been the fact, that a part of the Ten Tribes came over to America, in the way we have supposed, leaving the cold regions of Assareth behind them in quest of a milder climate, it would be natural to look for tokens of the presence of Jews of some sort, along countries adjacent to the Atlantic. In order to this, we shall here make an extract from an able work: written exclusively on the subject of the Ten Tribes having come from Asia by the way of Bherings Strait, by the Rev. Ethan Smith, Pultney, Vt.”

Elder B.H. Roberts, the LDS church historian, considering the profound similarities in this book published seven years before the Book of Mormon which Joseph Smith not only had access to but admits that he had read, couldn’t help but wonder:

“Did Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews furnish structural material for Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon? It has been pointed out in these pages that there are many things in the former book that might well have suggested many major things in the other. Not a few things merely, one or two, or half dozen, but many; and it is this fact of many things of similarity and the cumulative force of them that makes them so serious a menace to Joseph Smith’s story of the Book of Mormon’s origin.” 6

I have listed below just a few of the striking similarities and parallels between the two books:

View of the Hebrews Book of Mormon

Published: 1823 Published 1830

Published in: Vermont Published in: Vermont

Both feature:

The destruction of Jerusalem
The scattering of Israel
Hebrews leave Old World for the New World
The restoration of the ‘Ten Tribes’
Religion as the motivator
Encountered “seas” of “many waters,”
Reached an uninhabited America
Settlers then travelled Northward
Migrations by a long sea journey
They encounter the valley of a great river
Breastplate, Urim and Thummin present
Gospel preached in America
Quotes full passages in Isaiah
Lord visits America
Hebrews divide into two classes
The wicked destroy the righteous
Fortifications and “watchtowers,”
Egyptian hieroglyphics
Hebrew origin of Indian languages
Opposition in all things

View of the Hebrews:

A set of “yellow leaves” buried in Indian Hill. Elder B.H. Roberts noted these “leaves” may have been gold.

Book of Mormon:

Gold Plates buried in the Hill Cumorah

Can any reasonable and open-minded person read the following ‘warnings by a man on a wall’ and not conclude that the similarities are more than coincidence?

View of the Hebrews:

Jesus, son of Ananus, stood on the wall saying “Wo, wo to this city, this temple, and this people.” Came to preach for many days, cried in a loud voice, preached the destruction of Jerusalem and had stones cast at him.

Book of Mormon:

Samuel, the Lamanite, stood on the wall saying “Wo, wo to this city, or this people.” Came to preach for many days, cried in a loud voice, preached the destruction of Jerusalem

FairMormon pulls out the following statement by John W. Welch to bolster their position:

It is claimed that a 19th-century work by Ethan Smith, View of the Hebrews, provided source material for Joseph Smith’s construction of the Book of Mormon.
Some also postulate a link between Ethan Smith and Oliver Cowdery, since both men lived in Poultney, Vermont while Smith served as the pastor of the church that Oliver Cowdery’s family attended at the time that View of the Hebrews was being written.
“The View of the Hebrews theory is yet another attempt to fit a secular origin to the Book of Mormon. Many of the criticisms proposed are based upon B, H. Roberts’ list of parallels, which only had validity if one applied a hemispheric geography model to the Book of Mormon. There are a significant number of differences between the two books, which are easily discovered upon reading Ethan Smith’s work. Many points that Ethan Smith thought were important are not mentioned at all in the Book of Mormon, and many of the “parallels” are no longer valid based upon current scholarship.” 4

Firstly, is the current scholarship he refers to his own? Welch was the founding director of the now mercifully defunct FARMS apologist group.

Just a couple of comments on his statements:

“Advocates of the Ethan Smith theory must also explain why Joseph, the ostensible forger, had the chutzpah to point out the source of his forgery.”

Chutzpah indeed, just like Joseph never thought people would learn to read Egyptian and thereby expose his translation of the Papyri as nonsense, or figure out that the gold plates that Joseph tells us he darted through the woods with ‘at full speed’ would have weighed more than half as much as he did, or that people would notice when he went back and changed numerous passages in the Book of Mormon to match his evolving view of the Godhead!

“They must also explain why, if Joseph found this evidence so compelling, he did not exploit it for use in the Book of Mormon text itself, since the Book of Mormon contains no reference to the many “unparallels” that Ethan assured his readers virtually guaranteed a Hebrew connection to the Amerindians. The theory the Joseph Smith plagiarized View of the Hebrews was never advanced during his lifetime. The prevailing theory of the day was the Spalding Theory, which quickly lost credibility upon the discovery of an actual Spalding manuscript in 1884 which bore no resemblance to the Book of Mormon. There are no records which indicate that Joseph Smith came into contact with the View of the Hebrews during the period of time that he was translating the Book of Mormon. The View of the Hebrews theory was in fact first proposed by I. Woodbridge Riley in 1902, 58 years after the death of the prophet.”

The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain

There was also a textbook written in 1819 in King James language entitled, The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain; used in New York state schools which Joseph Smith likely was exposed to, that reads very much like and has staggering parallels and similarities to, the Book of Mormon. Another coincidence?

Both books contain:

  • Devices of “curious workmanship” in relation to boats and
  • “Stripling soldiers “
  • “A certain chief captain…was given in trust a band of more than two thousand chosen men, to go forth to battle.”
  • Fortifications: “the people began to fortify themselves and entrench the high places round about the city.”
  • “Their polished steels of fine workmanship.”
  • “Rod of iron.”
  • War between the wicked and righteous.
  • Righteous Indians vs. savage Indians.
  • Conversion of Indians.
  • Brass plates.
  • Worthiness of Christopher Columbus.
  • Ships crossing the ocean. `
  • A battle at a fort where righteous white protagonists are attacked by an army made up of dark-skinned natives.
  • A cataclysmic earthquake followed by great darkness.
  • Elephants in America.
  • Literary Hebraisms/Chiasmus.
  • The mind-numbing overuse of “it came to pass,”

This textbook, written by Gilbert J. Hunt in scriptural style discussed, among things, the War of 1812. It was published in New York in 1816 and marketed “for the use of schools throughout the United States” under the title, The Historical Reader. It was used in the schools that both Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery attended, and it is also highly likely that Oliver Cowdery taught from it. I think any reasonable person would agree there are major similarities.

There is a relatively new and powerful technique in the field of computational linguistics and probability called n-gram analysis.

The concept itself is quite simple but its application all but impossible until the advent of powerful computers. An n-gram is a contiguous sequence of items from a given sequence of text or speech.

The items can be words, letters, or syllables. The ‘n’ in n-gram represents the number of elements of the sequence, for example, 4-gram would be four words in sequence, ‘now is the time.’

With the aid of modern, powerful computers, we can compare two documents regarding how often the same four (or three words in the case of 3-gram, five words in the case of 5-gram, etc.) words in the same sequence or order appear in both. When two books have a high relative frequency of n-grams the greater the probability that plagiarism has occurred. I say relative because the n-gram finding is compared to n-gram frequencies found within other documents from the same period.

An example would be comparing the Book of Mormon (1830) with Pride and Prejudice (1813). You would expect that the 4-gram would show a very low frequency. This is, in fact, the case. In October 2013, researchers Chris and Duane Johnson conducted an n-gram analysis of The Book of Mormon comparing it to over 100,000 books from the pre-1830’s era. They found that a book called The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain had a very high n-gram score.

In fact, the computer algorithm found over 100 rare 4-grams shared by both The Book of Mormon and The Late War. To put this into perspective, they found that The Late War contained more 4-gram connections to The Book of Mormon than 99.999% of the other books published before 1830.

These findings are highly significant because they show beyond any reasonable doubt that the author(s) of the Book of Mormon plagiarized from The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain published in 1816, fourteen years before the Book of Mormon.

Does this in itself prove that Joseph Smith consciously, purposefully and with fraudulent intent copied material from The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain?

While likely, I don’t think we can go quite that far.

In 1976, former ‘Beatle’ George Harrison was sued by Bright Tunes Music, the publisher of “He’s So Fine,” on behalf of Ronnie Mack, the songwriter who had died in 1963, shortly after his tune became the No. 1 hit in the United States. Harrison testified at trial, “I wasn’t consciously aware of the similarity between ‘He’s So Fine’ and ‘My Sweet Lord’ when I wrote the song, as it was more improvised and not so fixed.”

Judge Owen, who analyzed the music of both songs, ruled that “it is perfectly obvious to the listener that in musical terms, the two songs are virtually identical.”

The judge found that Harrison “subconsciously” plagiarized “He’s So Fine.” He also stated that, “…I do not believe he did so deliberately,”’ but “under the law, infringement of copyright is no less so even though subconsciously accomplished.”

It is impossible for us to know what went on in Smith’s head, perhaps we can best determine his motivations by examining his conduct and character in other matters.

The First Book of Napoleon

There are a couple of similarities in the text but not enough to make an issue out of it, for example:


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.


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.

The Golden Pot

In 1814, E. T. A. Hoffman wrote a German novella entitled, “The Golden Pot”? It tells the story of a German boy, named Anselmus who meets an ancient and mystical archivist from the lost civilization of Atlantis. Anselmus is told that he has been chosen to interpret and translate some special Atlantean documents. “The Golden Pot” also has some similarities to Smith’s accounts, a few of which are:

  • Pillar of bright and blinding light when his guide first appears to him, and later that same night he receives a second vision.
  • Both are given a special message of where they will find a hidden ancient record.
  • Eventually, a holy artifact made of solid gold is revealed to Anselmus, and he is asked to decipher the writing on it by magical means.

An advertisement of a literary magazine’s review of Hoffman’s “The Golden Pot” appeared in Joseph Smith’s local newspaper The Wayne Sentinel, 30 November 1827.
Again, not much here either.

The Westminster Confession of Faith

The Westminster Confession of Faith was drawn up by the 1646 Westminster Assembly as part of the Westminster Standards to be a confession of the Church of England and has been very influential within Presbyterian churches throughout the world.
Again, not much here either.

The name Westminster Confession comes from the fact that in In 1643, the English Parliament called upon “learned, godly and judicious Divines”, to meet at Westminster Abbey to provide advice on issues of doctrine, government, and discipline within the Church.

The Confession was adopted by the Presbyterian Church in the United States in 1729.

We, of course, know that members of Joseph Smith’s family joined the Presbyterian church in the 1820’s,

It would seem by examining the following passages, that Joseph Smith also plagiarized this document, specifically, the Westminster Confession and Catechism.

Please make a note of the fact that the thoughts in each document progress in the same order:

Alma 40:11 – the state of the soul between death and the resurrection . . .

Westminster Confession, Ch. 32 – the state of Men after death, and of the resurrection

Alma 40:11 – the spirits . . . are taken home to that God who gave them life.

Westminster Confession, Ch. 32:1 – their souls . . . return to God who gave them.

Alma 40:12 – the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness.

Westminster Confession, Ch. 32:1 – The souls of the righteous . . . are received into the highest heavens . . .

Alma 40:13 – the spirits of the wicked . . . shall be cast out into outer darkness;

Westminster Confession, Ch. 32:1 – the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, and utter darkness.

Alma 40:14 – the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness . . . remain in this state . . . until the time of their resurrection.

Westminster Confession, Ch. 32:1 – the souls of the wicked . . . remain in darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day.

Alma 40:20 – the souls and the bodies are re-united, . . .

Westminster Confession, Ch. 32:1 – bodies . . . shall be united again to their souls

Mosiah 5:3 – infinite goodness of God

Westminster Confession, Ch. 5:4 – infinite goodness of God

Alma 42:2 – our first parents

Westminster Confession, Ch. 6:1 – our first parents

2 Nephi 28:21 – carnal security

Westminster Confession, Ch. 33:3 – carnal security

It is not my intention here to go into the myriad examples of where Joseph may have found ‘inspiration’ from the many atlases and maps available to him when he chooses names and places. But let me give you one.

It is the suspicious link between the hill Cumorah and the Comoros Islands off the eastern coast of Mozambique, the capital of which is Moroni,

The apologists, of course, claim coincidence and that ‘Comoros’ in not close to ‘Cumorah’. The truth, however, is that in Smith’s day, prior to the French occupation of the late 1860s, Comoros was known by its original Arabic name, Camora and so listed on the maps of the day.

Is it more than a little suspicious that the 1830 Book of Mormon uniformly spells ‘Cumorah’ as ‘Camorah, ‘for example:

“And I, Mormon, wrote an epistle unto the king of the Lamanites, and desired of him that he would grant unto us that we might gather together our people unto the land of Camorah, by the hill which was called Camorah, and there we would give them battle.”

Could Joseph Smith have written The Book of Mormon?

As an aside, I would like to comment on the view often expressed by apologists and others within the church, that Joseph Smith, an ignorant young farm boy could never have created something like the Book of Mormon. A book which:

  • Covered a period from 2200 B.C. to 421 A.D.
  • Has 102 chapters, twenty-five of them about wars, ten histories, twenty-one prophecy, and thirty-two about doctrine.
  • Includes the history of two distinct and separate nations, along with histories of different contemporary nations or groups of people.
  • Describes the economic, religious, social, and political cultures of these two distinct nations.
  • Contains over 500 pages with over 500 words per page.
  • Includes ancient Hebrew literary writing styles such as idioms and Chiasmus.
  • That introduces roughly 150 new proper nouns

Could an uneducated boy come up with 531 pages of ancient scripture on his own that was historically accurate and prophetic in nature?

The short answer is, YES, of course, he could have!

In the first place, Joseph had a lot of time. The translation of the Book of Mormon did not really take place in less than three months. It spanned a year, and Joseph may have possibly been working on the storyline for several years before the reported start date.

Remember too that the Book of Mormon, “the most correct of any book on earth” might better be called. “the most corrected book on earth,” having undergone thousands and thousands of textual and grammatical corrections as well as many significant changes in doctrine. Some have said 100,000 changes.

Over 3,000 substantive, non-grammatical changes. King Benjamin changed to King Mosiah, Scores of time ‘the Son of’ changing Christ’s divinity and obviously added to reflect Smith’s changing view of the Godhead. 1 Nephi 11:18, !!;21, 11:32, 13:40 are examples. Scott Fauling compiled all the changes made to ‘the most correct book in the world’ in October of 1981 (Seventh East Press, Provo) but the list would take several pages.

The Book of Mormon is not well written. The ‘plot’ if you could call it that, is far less complex than the ‘Game of Thrones’ or Faulkner’s ‘Absalom, Absalom’ or Tolkien’s ‘The Silmarillion’ or ‘Lord of the Rings.,’ and certainly far less entertaining!

It certainly lacks any signs of genius that we find in the writings of say Shakespeare.

It is indeed not a candidate for a Booker Prize; it’s characters are wooden and unidimensional. They are all good or all bad making it read like a 19th-century melodrama. 

Remember too that, Joseph had a lot of time. The translation of the Book of Mormon did not take place in less than three months. It spanned a year, and Joseph may have possibly been working on the storyline for several years before the reported start date.

It is supposedly written by Jews, a passionate people, yet there is no romance, no sex, no ambivalence of character. 

Unlike the Bible which is full of music, David and his harp, and romantic love and sex, David and Bathsheba, the Song of Soloman, that Smith wrote in the margin, “the Song of Solomon is not inspired scripture.” What about the colors spoke of in the Bible, or food, and wine and wedding celebrations and the joy of life, and children, where are they? Nephi doesn’t even mention his children’s names. He mentions his own name, ‘I Nephi.’ 86 times.  He doesn’t mention his wife once.  Sister or sisters are never spoken of, nor, grandmothers. Smith said, ‘It came to pass,’ 1,407 times yet there was not enough space to mention the important role women must have played in the Book of Mormon?

I think Dr. Freud could write an essay, no a book, on the value and place Joseph put women particularly regarding his abuse and manipulation of them during his life.

There is a beautiful song in ‘Fidler on the Roof’ call, ‘Tradition,’ that rightfully speaks to the importance that these wonderful people placed on ritual and practice. The Book of Mormon does not reflect the importance of tradition.

What about the weather, surely a people coming from the Middle-East to Northeastern North America would have something to say about the frigid winters, the snow, and ice they had never known.

This speaks volumes to me. When I was five, my mother and sister traveled along across the ocean to Quebec and then by train across the vast Canadian plains to the Alberta prairies. My Mother was a great diarist and recorded that thing so strikingly different than our native Ireland, and the hast Canadian winter was indeed worthy of note.  These immigrants from a much warmer and more arid land make no mention of it whatever?

Of course, FairMormon will say, ‘oh, that is because they landed in Izapa or somewhere near the border of Guatemala and Mexico.’ This however still does not explain the dearth of any mention of weather. Jerusalem is one of the driest places on earth. The following shows the average humidity:

DRY

Izapa on the otherhand is one of the most humid places on earth:

wet

A large portion of the Book of Mormon, of course, simply quotes and plagiarizes the Bible, and many of its themes bear strong parallels to ideas popular in nineteenth-century America as well as Smith family dreams and experiences.

As well, as I have already discussed, there are amazing similarities to The View of the Hebrews, The Last War Between the United States and Great Britain and the Book of Napoleon. Way too many similarities or identical content to suggest coincidence.

There is no question that much of the content of the Book of Mormon was sourced from these popular books all published prior to the Book of Mormon.

There is a theory that Sydney Rigdon stole an unpublished manuscript written by Solomon Spalding that Smith used extensively in writing the Book of Mormon. However the manuscript is not extant and there is just not enough evidence to go there.

I think I have however shown beyond a reasonable doubt that Smith plagiarized from many books of his day.

Although the thousands of changes that have been made to it have cleaned it up a great deal, there still remain examples of very poor sentence structure. Surely the ‘gold plates’ didn’t say as Smith wrote in 2 Nephi 4:14:

“…for a more history part are written upon my other plates.”

Huh?

Non-LDS authors or literary critics generally are not so impressed with it as to entertain the notion that it could not have been written without Divine assistance.

It is boring, far too wordy and repetitive. While I am sure he didn’t suffer through the whole thing, Mark Twain commented:

“The book is a curiosity to me, it is such a pretentious affair, and yet so “slow,” so sleepy; such an insipid mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print. If Joseph Smith composed this book, the act was a miracle–keeping awake while he did it…”

“…The author labored to give his words and phrases the quaint, old-fashioned sound and structure of our King James’s translation of the Scriptures; and the result is a mongrel–half modern glibness, and half ancient simplicity and gravity. The latter is awkward and constrained; the former natural, but grotesque by the contrast. Whenever he found his speech growing too modern–which was about every sentence or two—he ladled in a few such Scriptural phrases as “exceeding sore,” “and it came to pass,” etc., and made things satisfactory again. “And it came to pass” was his pet. If he had left that out, his Bible would have been only a pamphlet.”

The essential question is, what is more logical. That Joseph Smith wrote the book, or that a Divine being showed a young treasure-hunter the location of golden plates which by placing a “magic stone,” in his hat, could translate.

And finally, he could have had help.

When General Authority, B.H. Roberts was asked if he thought Joseph Smith could have written the Book of Mormon, he stated

“… was Joseph Smith possessed of a sufficiently vivid and creative imagination as to produce such a work as the Book of Mormon from such materials as have been indicated in the preceding chapters …? That such power of imagination would have to be of a high order is conceded; that Joseph Smith possessed such a gift of mind there can be no question.” 11

He also quotes Smith’s mother’s history of Joseph, “During our evening conversations, Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of travelings, 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 as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them.” 12

Roberts concluded that “these evening recitals could come from no other source than the vivid, constructive imagination of Joseph Smith, a remarkable power which attended him through all his life. It was as strong and varied as Shakespeare’s and no more to be accounted for than the English Bards.” 11

“Since Oliver Cowdery was born in 1806 and was in Poultney from 1809 to 1825, he was resident in Poultney from 3 years of age until he was 19 years of age – 16 years in all. And these years encompassed the publication of View of the Hebrews, in 1822 [1823] and 1825. His three little half-sisters, born in Poultney, were all baptized in Ethan Smith’s church. Thus, the family had a close tie with Ethan Smith.” 13

19th Century American Influences on the Book of Mormon

It should be noted as well that there were numerous contemporary sources that Smith had access to and likely plagiarized as well.

For example, Mercy O. Warren (1728-1814) wrote a book entitled, History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution, which was published in 1805. 

Can you see the similarities between the phrasing and wording of Warren’s previously published work and the Book of Mormon?

Warren    

that man, in a state of nature (p. 12)

Book of Mormon

men that are in a state of nature (Alma 41:11)

Warren

a consciousness of their own guilt (p. 109

Book of Mormon

a consciousness of his own guilt (Alma 14:6)

Warren

that manly spirit of freedom (p. 31)

Book of Mormon

a true spirit of freedom (Alma 60:25)

Warren      

learn wisdom (p. 645)

Book of Mormon

learn wisdom (2 Nephi 22:30)

Warren    

cause of his country (p. 168)
the cause of their country (p. 34)

Book of Mormon

cause of his country (Alma 62:1)
the cause of their country (Alma 56:11)

Warren  

The minds of the people (p. 87)

Book of Mormon

the minds of the people (Alma 17:6)

Warren

deprive them of their rights (p. 332)
to maintain their rights (p. 337)

Book of Mormon

deprive them of their rights (Alma 2:4)
to maintain their rights (Alma 51:6)

Warren

every man might (p. 628)

Book of Mormon

every man might (Mosiah 29:34)

Warren

high birth (p. 236)

Book of Mormon

high birth (Alma 51:8)

Warren

the powers of the earth (p. 551)

Book of Mormon

the powers of the earth (3 Nephi 28:39)

Warren  

surrendered themselves prisoners of war (p. 182)

Book of Mormon

surrendered themselves prisoners of war (Alma 57:14)

Warren  

to harass their march (p. 269)

Book of Mormon

did harass them (Alma 51:32)

Warren

deprive them of their rights (p. 332)
to maintain their rights (p. 337)

Book of Mormon

deprive them of their rights (Alma 2:4)
to maintain their rights (Alma 51:6)

Warren

surrendered themselves prisoners of war (p. 182)

Book of Mormon

surrendered themselves prisoners of war (Alma 57:14)

Warren  

they determined to maintain (p. 170)

Book of Mormon

they were determined to maintain (Alma 56:26)

Warren

the powers of the earth (p. 551)

Book of Mormon

the powers of the earth (3 Nephi 28:39)

Warren

surrendered themselves prisoners of war (p. 182)

Book of Mormon

surrendered themselves prisoners of war (Alma 57:14)

Warren    

to harass their march (p. 269)

Book of Mormon

did harass them (Alma 51:32)

Warren

destroyed by the sword (p. 221)

Book of Mormon

destroyed by the sword (Alma 57:23)

Warren

an ignominious death (p. 584)

Book of Mormon

an ignominious death (Alma 1:15)

Warren    

watery grave (p. 215)

Book of Mormon

watery grave (1 Nephi 18:18)

Warren

surrendered themselves prisoners of war (p. 182)

Book of Mormon

surrendered themselves prisoners of war (Alma 57:14)

Warren

delight in blood (p. 137)

Book of Mormon

delight in blood (Mosiah 11:19)

There is also a high likelihood that Smith also a source for Smith appropriated some of George Washington’s writing;

Washington

The cause of America and of liberty

Book of Mormon

the cause of our liberty (Alma 58:12)

Washington

We are determined to preserve them or die

Book of Mormon

they were determined to conquer in this place or die (Alma 56:17)

David Ramsay was a friend of George Washington, who wrote The Life of George Washington and The History of the American Revolution, Even a superficial analysis of these two works reveal remarkable similarities to the wording Smith used in the Book of Mormon:

Ramsey

the blessings of liberty (p. 85)

Book of Mormon

the blessings of liberty (Alma 46:13)

Ramsey

liberties, property, wives, and children (p. 277)

Book of Mormon

Their liberty, their lands, their wives, and their children (Alma 48:10)

Ramsey

the justice of the cause (p. 267)

Book of Mormon

the justice of the cause (Alma 46:29)

Ramsey

the cause of liberty (p. 90)

Book of Mormon

the cause of liberty (Alma 51:17)

Ramsey

spirit of freedom (p. 156)

Book of Mormon

spirit of freedom (Alma 60:25)

Ramsey

to maintain their rights and privileges (p. 232)

Book of Mormon

to maintain their rights and the privileges (Alma 51:6)

Ramsey

critical circumstances (p. 448)

Book of Mormon

critical circumstances (Alma 57:16)

Ramsey

began their march (p. 341)
had begun his march (p. 573)
marched over (p. 381

Book of Mormon

began their march (3 Nephi 4:25)
had begun his march (Alma 52:15)
marched over (Alma 43:25)

Ramsey

took possession of (p. 429)
take command (p. 412)
take up arms (p. 370)

Book of Mormon

took possession of (Mosiah 23:29)
took command (Alma 53:2)
take up arms (Alma 2:10)

Ramsey

a profound silence (p. 187)

Book of Mormon

a profound silence (Alma 55:17)

It appears that Joseph also ‘borrowed’ a great deal from the writings of Jonathan Edwards, Jr. (1745-1801) and his “The Salvation of All Men,” was first published in 1789.

Edwards

the justice of God (p. 8)
plan of mercy (p. 11)

Book of Mormon

the justice of God (Alma 42:1)
plan of mercy (Alma 42:15)

Edwards

endless happiness (p. 26)
endless misery (p. 60)
everlasting misery (p. 93)
misery and torment (p. 93)

Book of Mormon

endless happiness (Alma 41:4)
endless misery (Alma 41:4)
everlasting misery (Helaman 7:19)
misery and endless torment (Mosiah 3:25))

Edwards

infinite goodness is in God (p. 121)

Book of Mormon

infinite goodness of God (Mosiah 5:3)

Edwards

temporal death (p. 169)

Book of Mormon

temporal death (Alma 42:8)

Edwards

state of happiness (p. 184)
happy state (p. 184))

Book of Mormon

state of happiness (Alma 40:12)
happy state (Mosiah 2:4)

Edwards

persuade all men (p. 187)

Book of Mormon

persuade all men (2 Nephi 26:27)

Edwards

brought to repentance (p. 189)

Book of Mormon

brought to repentance (Alma 35:14)

Edwards

the first death (p. 204)
the second death, with respect to temporal death (p. 207)

Book of Mormon

the first death (Alma 11:45)
a second death…a temporal death (Alma 12:16)

Edwards

final state of the wicked (p. 240)

Book of Mormon

final state of the wicked (Alma 34:35)

Coincidence?

References

1 Source: Robert M. Bowman, Jr., The Book of Mormon and the Bible, March 2012

2 https://infidels.org/library/moder n/curt heuvel/bom_kjv.html

3 http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/bom/plag/

4John W. Welch, “The Miraculous Translation of the Book of Mormon,” from Opening the Heavens, Accounts of Divine Manifestations 1820-1844, p.77-213, (2005), Brigham Young University.

5 Elden J. Watson, Approximate Book of Mormon Translation Timeline, April 1995

6_ Roberts, B.H., Studies of the Book of Mormon, p. 240

7 David Ramsay (1749-1815), The History of the American Revolution, ed. Lester H. Cohen (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund). Reprint (Philadelphia: R. Aitken, 1789), 219.

8 George Washington (1732-1799), George Washington: A Collection, ed. John C. Fitzpatrick (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund), 46.

9 The Works of Jonathan Edwards, 278.

FairMormon’s Comments

Comment No.1

FACT CHECKING RESULTS: THIS CLAIM CONTAINS PROPAGANDA AND/OR SPIN – THE AUTHOR, OR THE AUTHOR’S SOURCE, IS PROVIDING INFORMATION OR IDEAS IN A SLANTED WAY IN ORDER TO INSTILL A PARTICULAR ATTITUDE OR RESPONSE IN THE READER

It is claimed that a 19th-century work by Ethan Smith, View of the Hebrews, provided source material for Joseph Smith’s construction of the Book of Mormon.

Some also postulate a link between Ethan Smith and Oliver Cowdery, since both men lived in Poultney, Vermont while Smith served as the pastor of the church that Oliver Cowdery’s family attended at the time that View of the Hebrews was being written.

The theory the Joseph Smith plagiarized View of the Hebrews was never advanced during Joseph Smith’s lifetime.

DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

I can’t seem to find your arguments here other than to draw attention to the fact that Joseph knew of the book as he quoted from it and that Oliver Cowdery not only came from the small town where the author lived but attended the church where Ethan Smith, the author, was the pastor.

Absent any argument on FairMormon’s part, I would again point to similarities I detailed above.

Comment No. 2

The many similarities between the Book of Mormon and
The Golden Pot

FACT CHECKING RESULTS: THIS CLAIM CONTAINS MISTAKES AND/OR ERRORS – THE AUTHOR HAS STATED ERRONEOUS OR INCORRECT INFORMATION OR MISINTERPRETED THEIR SOURCES

The “Golden Pot” theory by Grant Palmer is claimed to be a source for the story of Moroni’s visit to Joseph Smith, not a source text or inspiration for the Book of Mormon text.

DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

I am a little confused as I don’t think I suggested in my letter that the Golden Pot was a likely reference source for the Book of Mormon. Perhaps you meant to discuss the Westminster Confession of Faith where there was considerable plagiarism.

redd

Comment No. 3

The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain; used in New York state schools which Joseph Smith likely was exposed to, that reads very much like and has staggering parallels and similarities to, the Book of Mormon

FACT CHECKING RESULTS: THIS CLAIM CONTAINS PROPAGANDA AND/OR SPIN – THE AUTHOR, OR THE AUTHOR’S SOURCE, IS PROVIDING INFORMATION OR IDEAS IN A SLANTED WAY IN ORDER TO INSTILL A PARTICULAR ATTITUDE OR RESPONSE IN THE READER

The spin: The “staggering” parallels aren’t so “astounding” once you take a closer look at them. The facts: The critic scours a book in order to extract similar phrases, then declares that this proves that this book was a source for the Book of Mormon.

DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

Again, FairMormon does not deal with my concerns but provides thirty-two links to prior generic apologies they have made on this subject. This lazy-man’s approach is similar to the way Uchtdorf handles questions directed at him.

Before I comment further on this topic I would invite the reader to compare the form-letter response I got from President Uchtdorf in 2017 with the form-letter response Jennifer received from him in 2014:
reply

jennifer

Time to create a new boilerplate.

I don’t think I used the word, “astounding “ to describe the similarities between The Book of Mormon and The Late War between the United States and Great Britain, but I agree they are astounding.

This textbook, written by Gilbert J. Hunt in scriptural style discussed, among things, the War of 1812. It was published in New York in 1816 and marketed as “for the use of schools throughout the United States” under the title, The Historical Reader. It was used in the schools that both Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery attended, and it is also highly likely that Oliver Cowdery taught from it.

Yes, there are staggering parallels and similarities between it and the Book of Mormon. FairMormon has not provided any explanation. Are we to write it off as another coincidence?

As I have detailed in my letter, both books contain numerous common terms, devices of “curious workmanship,” “Stripling soldiers,” “rod of iron.” These are unusual terms.

There is a relatively new and powerful technique in the field of computational linguistics and probability called n-gram analysis.

The concept itself is quite simple but its application all but impossible until the advent of powerful computers. An n-gram is a contiguous sequence of items from a given arrangement of text or speech.

The items can be words, letters, or syllables. The ‘n’ in n-gram represents the number of elements of the sequence, for example, 4-gram would be four words in sequence, ‘now is the time.’

With the aid of modern, powerful computers, we can compare two documents regarding how often the same four (or three words in the case of 3-gram, five words in the case of 5-gram, etc.) words in the same sequence or order appear in both. When two books have a high relative frequency of n-grams the greater the probability that plagiarism has occurred. I say relative because the n-gram finding is compared to n-gram frequencies found within other documents from the same period.

An example would be comparing the Book of Mormon (1830) with Pride and Prejudice (1813). You would expect that the 4-gram would show a very low frequency. This is, in fact, the case. In October 2013, researchers Chris and Duane Johnson conducted an n-gram analysis of The Book of Mormon comparing it to over 100,000 books from the pre-1830’s era. They found that a book called The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain had a very high n-gram score.

In fact, the computer algorithm found over 100 rare 4-grams shared by both The Book of Mormon and The Late War. To put this into perspective, they found that The Late War contained more 4-gram connections to The Book of Mormon than 99.999% of the other books published before 1830.

These findings are highly significant because they show beyond any reasonable doubt that the author(s) of the Book of Mormon plagiarized from The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain published in 1816, just fourteen years before the Book of Mormon.

Does this in itself prove that Joseph Smith consciously, purposefully and with fraudulent intent copied material from The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain?

While most likely, I don’t think we can go quite that far.

In 1976, former ‘Beatle’ George Harrison was sued by Bright Tunes Music, the publisher of “He’s So Fine,” on behalf of Ronnie Mack, the songwriter who had died in 1963, shortly after his tune became the No. 1 hit in the United States. Harrison testified at trial, “I wasn’t consciously aware of the similarity between ‘He’s So Fine’ and ‘My Sweet Lord’ when I wrote the song, as it was more improvised and not so fixed.”

Judge Owen, who analyzed the music of both songs, ruled that “it is perfectly obvious to the listener that in musical terms, the two songs are virtually identical.”

The judge found that Harrison “subconsciously” plagiarized “He’s So Fine.” He also stated that, “…I do not believe he did so deliberately,”’ but “under the law, infringement of copyright is no less so even though subconsciously accomplished.”

It is impossible for us to know what went on in Smith’s head, perhaps we can best determine his motivations by examining his conduct and the worth of his character in other matters.

Did Joseph Smith lie to his wife and his followers about his polygamy? Did he set up a bank and lie about it’s assets?  Did he ‘marry’ 14 year old girls and other men’s wives? Was he arrested for running a treasure hunting con before he turned his hand to writing the Book of Mormon

 

yelloww