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Criticism of Mormonism/Books/An Insider's View of Mormon Origins/Chapter 3
Response to claims made in "Chapter 3: The Bible in the Book of Mormon"
|Claims made in "Chapter 2: Authorship of the Book of Mormon"||
A FairMormon Analysis of: An Insider's View of Mormon Origins, a work by author: Grant Palmer
|Claims made in "Chapter 4: Evangelical Protestantism in the Book of Mormon"|
Response to claims made in An Insider's View of Mormon Origins, "Chapter 3: The Bible in the Book of Mormon"
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- Response to claim: 70-71, n3 - Joseph Smith Sr.'s 1811 dreams are similar to Lehi's "first" vision and his "tree of life" dream
- Response to claim: 83 - "Cowdery may be the only witness who knew about this, and he neglected to mention it"
- Response to claim: 83, n14 - The Book of Mormon contains twenty-six full chapters from a 1769 edition of the KJV
- Response to claim: 86 - Response to claim: 86 - The author claims that 3 Nephi 17:10-21 was derived from the Bible using passages from Luke 7, John 11 and Mark 10
- Response to claim: 90 - The Aramaic word "raca" would not have been intelligible to a Nephite
- Response to claim: 90 - "Whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain" refers to a Roman law and that it "would presumably have had no meaning in the New World"
- Response to claim: 90 - Three days of darkness occurred in the New World at Christ's death, as opposed to only three hours of darkness in Jerusalem
Response to claim: 70-71, n3 - Joseph Smith Sr.'s 1811 dreams are similar to Lehi's "first" vision and his "tree of life" dream
Joseph Smith Sr.'s 1811 dreams are similar to Lehi's "first" vision and his "tree of life" dream.
The dream of Joseph Smith, Sr. was recorded only long after the Book of Mormon was published.
Question: Did Joseph Smith incorporate his father's dream of the tree of life into the Book of Mormon?
The details of Joseph's father's dream were written long after the Book of Mormon was published
Critics point to similarities between a dream Joseph Smith's father had and Lehi's dream of the tree of life as evidence that Joseph wrote the Book of Mormon based on his own experiences. Significantly, none of Joseph's family regarded the similarities as evidence that Joseph Jr. was engaging in a forgery.
The details of the dream were written long after the Book of Mormon was published. Lucy's account is (at the very least) influenced in its verbiage by the Book of Mormon. Either Joseph Sr. had a remarkably similar dream, or Lucy used the material in the Book of Mormon to either bolster her memory, or it unwittingly influenced her memory.
There are three potential explanations for the similarities
- Joseph Smith plagiarized Joseph Sr.'s dream when he wrote the Book of Mormon. This is the stance adopted by the critics.
- Joseph Sr. had a dream that was similar to the dream experienced by Lehi, and this was a sign to the Prophet's family that he was translating a real record that came from God. This is certainly possible, though it is impossible to prove or disprove by historical techniques, and so will not be elaborated on. It remains, however, a viable option.
- Lucy Mack Smith's account of the dream (which she recorded many years after the fact, when the Book of Mormon account was well-known and published) may have influenced how she remembered and/or recorded her account of Joseph Sr's dream.
Details of Joseph Smith, Sr.'s dream of the tree of life
According to Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph Smith, Senior, the father of the Prophet, had the following dream in 1811 when the family was living in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Joseph Smith, Junior, would have been 5 years old at the time.
I thought...I was traveling in an open, desolate field, which appeared to be very barren. As I was thus traveling, the thought suddenly came into my mind that I had better stop and reflect upon what I was doing, before I went any further. So I asked myself, "What motive can I have in traveling here, and what place can this be?" My guide, who was by my side, as before, said, "This is the desolate world; but travel on." The road was so broad and barren that I wondered why I should travel in it; for, said I to myself, "Broad is the road, and wide is the gate that leads to death, and many there be that walk therein; but narrow is the way, and straight is the gate that leads to everlasting' life, and few there be that go in there at."
Traveling a short distance farther, I came to a narrow path. This path I entered, and, when I had traveled a little way in it, I beheld a beautiful stream of water, which ran from the east to the west. Of this stream I could see neither the source nor yet the termination; but as far as my eyes could extend I could see a rope running along the bank of it, about as high as a man could reach, and beyond me was a low, but very pleasant valley, in which stood a tree such as I had never seen before. It was exceedingly handsome, insomuch that I looked upon it with wonder and admiration. Its beautiful branches spread themselves somewhat like an umbrella, and it bore a kind of fruit, in shape much like a chestnut bur, and as white as snow, or, if possible whiter. I gazed upon the same with considerable interest, and as I was doing so the burs or shells commenced opening and shedding their particles, or the fruit which they contained, which was of dazzling whiteness. I drew near and began to eat of it, and I found it delicious beyond description. As I was eating, I said in my heart, "I can not eat this alone, I must bring my wife and children, that they may partake with me." Accordingly, I went and brought my family, which consisted of a wife and seven children, and we all commenced eating, and praising God for this blessing. We were exceedingly happy, insomuch that our joy could not easily be expressed.
While thus engaged, I beheld a spacious building standing opposite the valley which we were in, and it appeared to reach to the very heavens. It was full of doors and windows, and they were filled with people, who were very finely dressed. When these people observed us in the low valley, under the tree, they pointed the finger of scorn at us, and treated us with all manner of disrespect and contempt. But their contumely we utterly disregarded.
I presently turned to my guide, and inquired of him the meaning of the fruit that was so delicious. He told me it was the pure love of God, shed abroad in the hearts of all those who love him, and keep his commandments. He then commanded me to go and bring the rest of my children. I told him that we were all there. "No," he replied, "look yonder, you have two more, and you must bring them also." Upon raising my eyes, I saw two small children, standing some distance off. I immediately went to them, and brought them to the tree; upon which they commenced eating with the rest, and we all rejoiced together. The more we ate, the more we seemed to desire, until we even got down upon our knees, and scooped it up, eating it by double handfuls.
After feasting in this manner a short time, I asked my guide what was the meaning of the spacious building which I saw. He replied, "It is Babylon, it is Babylon, and it must fall. The people in the doors and windows are the inhabitants thereof, who scorn and despise the Saints of God because of their humility."
I soon awoke, clapping my hands together for joy.
There are many obvious connections between this dream and Lehi's vision of the tree of life
There are many obvious connections between this dream and Lehi's vision of the tree of life recorded in 1 Nephi 8:
- A desolate field representing the world (8:4).
- A narrow path (8:20).
- A river of water (8:13).
- A rope running along the bank of the river (similar in function to the rod of iron in 8:19, 24).
- A tree with dazzling white fruit (8:10–11).
- Joseph, Sr. desires that his family should partake of the fruit also (8:12).
- A spacious building filled with people who are mocking those who eat the fruit (8:26–27).
- Joseph, Sr. and his family ignore the mocking (8:33).
- The fruit represents the love of God (11:22).
- The building represents the world (11:36; 12:18).
The source of the dream is Lucy's manuscript for which she dictated in the winter of 1844–45, 15 years after the publication of the Book of Mormon
The source of the dream is Lucy's manuscript for Joseph Smith, The Prophet And His Progenitors For Many Generations, which she dictated to Martha Jane Coray in the winter of 1844–45. Note the date of Lucy's dictation: more than 15 years after Joseph Smith, Junior, dictated the Book of Mormon.
Dreams are notoriously ephemeral. It is difficult for most people to remember the details of a dream, and those details quickly fade in the first few minutes after awaking.
The amount of detail Lucy records and the second-hand nature and late date of her testimony have led many to the conclusion that Lucy's recollection was strongly influenced by what she read in the Book of Mormon. That is, it is difficult to establish how much Joseph Sr.'s original dream had in common with the Book of Mormon, since the details which we have are only available after the fact, when Lucy's memory would have been affected by what she learned in the more detailed Book of Mormon account (even as it stands, the Book of Mormon account is far more detailed and lengthy than the material from 1844-45).
Thus, it seems plausible that there is a relationship between the Book of Mormon and Lucy's text--but, we cannot know in what direction(s) that influence moved.
Response to claim: 83 - "Cowdery may be the only witness who knew about this, and he neglected to mention it"
Author's quote: Oliver was Joseph's main scribe day after day and perhaps the only one who really knew if a Bible was consulted. Oliver is silent on the matter. In fact, a Bible would have been needed only when quoting long passages; so again, Cowdery may be the only witness who knew about this, and he neglected to mention it.
The author attempts to make Oliver Cowdery a "silent witness" based upon things he didn't say. The most significant thing about this claim is the lack of a source.
Question: Did Oliver Cowdery "neglect to mention" that Joseph Smith consulted a Bible during the Book of Mormon translation process?
Oliver was far from silent regarding the process of translating the Book of Mormon
The critical book An Insider's View of Mormon Origins(page 83) makes the following claim:
Oliver was Joseph's main scribe day after day and perhaps the only one who really knew if a Bible was consulted. Oliver is silent on the matter. In fact, a Bible would have been needed only when quoting long passages; so again, Cowdery may be the only witness who knew about this, and he neglected to mention it. (emphasis added)
Incredibly, in his zeal to provide supporting evidence for his theory that Joseph Smith consulted a King James Bible during the translation of the Book of Mormon, the author attempts to make Oliver Cowdery a "silent witness" for the prosecution by implying that he neglected to mention it!
Oliver was far from silent regarding the Book of Mormon translation, and his enthusiasm at being a witness and participant in the translation process is clearly evident. Furthermore, Oliver clearly indicated that the translation was performed using the Urim and Thummim. Here is what Oliver did say about the translation process:
These were days never to be forgotten; to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, "interpreters," the history or record called "The Book of Mormon." (emphasis added)
Unlike the author's assertion, this one can be cited to an actual source.
Response to claim: 83, n14 - The Book of Mormon contains twenty-six full chapters from a 1769 edition of the KJV
The Book of Mormon contains twenty-six full chapters from a 1769 edition of the KJV.
- Walters, "Use of the Old Testament."
- Kenneth D. Jenkins and John L. Hilton, "Common Phrases between the King James Bible and the Book of Mormon," 1983.
Some of the Book of Mormon Isaiah passages generally match the version of Isaiah found in the Bible of the time, however, not all of them do.
Question: Were the Isaiah passages in the Book of Mormon simply plagiarized from the King James Bible?
Nephi and Jacob generally make it clear when they are quoting from Isaiah
If a Christian is making an accusation of plagiarism, then they are, by the same logic, indicting the Bible which they share with us. Close examination of the Old Testament reveals many passages which are copied nearly word for word including grammatical errors. Micah, who lived hundreds of years after Isaiah, copies word for word in Micah 4:1-3 from Isaiah's prophecy in Isaiah 2:2-4 without once giving him credit. We also find the genealogy from Genesis 5:10-11,36 repeated in 1 Chronicles, much of the history in Samuel and Kings is repeated in Chronicles, and Isaiah 36:2 through Isaiah 38:5 is the same as 2 Kings 18:17 through 2 Kings 20:6.
Although Old Testament scripture was often quoted by Old and New Testament writers without giving credit, Nephi and Jacob generally make it clear when they are quoting from Isaiah. Indeed, much of 2 Nephi may be seen as an Isaiah commentary. Of course, Nephi and Jacob do not specify chapter and verse, because these are modern additions to the text (as Joseph Smith somehow knew). It is ironic that critics of the Book of Mormon find fault with its "plagiarism," even though its authors typically mention their sources, while they do not condemn the Bible's authors when they do not.
Finally, it is obvious that the use of King James language for passages shared by the Bible and the Book of Mormon allows the Book of Mormon to highlight those areas in which the Book of Mormon's original texts were genuinely different from the textual tradition of the Old World which gave us the Holy Bible.
A closer look at these duplicate Isaiah texts actually provides us an additional witness of the Book of Mormon's authenticity
Some question the presence of verses from Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, and assert that many Book of Mormon verses were copied from the King James Bible, which in their view, makes the Book of Mormon a fraud. While this might appear to be true to the casual Book of Mormon reader, a closer look at these duplicate texts actually provides us an additional witness of the Book of Mormon's authenticity.
The 21 chapters of Isaiah which are quoted (Chapters 2-14, 29, and 48-54) either partially or completely, represent about one-third of the book of Isaiah, but less than two and one-half percent of the total Book of Mormon. We also find that more than half of all verses quoted from Isaiah (234 of 433) differ from the King James version available to Joseph Smith. The Book of Mormon apparently follows the King James (Masoretic) text when it conveys the original meaning.
We often find differences in Book of Mormon Isaiah texts where modern texts disagree. One verse (2 Nephi 12:16), is not only different but adds a completely new phrase: "And upon all the ships of the sea." This non-King James addition agrees with the Greek (Septuagint) version of the Bible, which was first translated into English in 1808 by Charles Thomson.  Such a translation was "rare for its time."
The chapters of Isaiah actually quoted in the Book of Mormon (chapters 2-14 and 48-54) are those which would have been the most likely to have existed in Lehi's day
It is also significant that the chapters of Isaiah actually quoted in the Book of Mormon (chapters 2-14 and 48-54) are those which modern scholars widely agree correspond closely to the original Isaiah collection and therefore would have been the most likely to have existed in Lehi's day. Could Joseph Smith have known this? If Joseph or anyone else actually tried to plagiarize the Book of Mormon, critics have failed to show the source of the remaining 93% (when all similar texts are removed). A 100% non-biblical book of scripture wouldn't have been much more difficult to produce.
The author claims that 3 Nephi 17:10-21 was derived from the Bible using passages from Luke 7, John 11 and Mark 10:
3 Nephi 17 [They did] bow down at his feet, and did worship him; and as many as could come for the multitude did kiss his feet, insomuch that they did bathe his feet with their tears ... Jesus groaned within himself, and said ... I am troubled ... [H]e wept ... and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them (10, 14, 21).The author does the same thing when comparing 3 Nephi 18 with Matthew 7 and 1 Cor. 11.
Luke 7, John 11, Mark 10 [She] stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears ... and kissed his feet ... When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, ... he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled. And ... Jesus wept ... And he took them [children] up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them
In order to "prove" that 3 Nephi 17:10-21 was derived from the Bible, the author has to conflate scriptural verses from three different books in the New Testament!
- Luke 7: 38 And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.
- John 11: 33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled,
- John 11: 35 Jesus wept.
- Mark 10: 16 And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.
Response to claim: 90 - The Aramaic word "raca" would not have been intelligible to a Nephite
The Aramaic word "raca" would not have been intelligible to a Nephite.
Since the etymology for the Aramaic word “Raca” is as of yet uncertain, we cannot respond to this in light of current understanding and assuming that the Book of Mormon represents a “tight” translation of the source text. If the translation is tight, one may believe that the word was spoken and understood if Raca has origins to before the time of Lehi’s departure from Jerusalem. Another possibility is that the meaning of the word was explained without a record of it on the plates.
If we assume that this represents a functional equivalence of the source text, then the word makes perfect sense as an insult used in derision of those perceived as less intelligent and Joseph’s usage of the word would still not be problematic.
Response to claim: 90 - "Whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain" refers to a Roman law and that it "would presumably have had no meaning in the New World"
The author claims that Jesus' statement that "Whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain" refers to a Roman law and that it "would presumably have had no meaning in the New World."
Why wouldn't this statement have meaning to someone in the New World? The statement certainly has meaning to us, and we are not Romans either. Why would the inhabitants of the New World not have understood Christ's meaning?
Response to claim: 90 - Three days of darkness occurred in the New World at Christ's death, as opposed to only three hours of darkness in Jerusalem
Three days of darkness occurred in the New World at Christ's death, as opposed to only three hours of darkness in Jerusalem.
It is entirely feasible for three days of darkness to occur in one part of the world without it occurring in another.
Question: How is it possible that there were three days of darkness in the New World and not in the Old World?
When the Book of Mormon says “the whole Earth” it does not actually mean the entire planet, but rather every place within the local people’s experience
Some argue that the "three days" of "darkness upon the face of the land" in the New World following Christ's death is implausible. There are also a number of references to the destruction in the New World that accompanied Christ's death to "the whole Earth." However, When the Book of Mormon says “the whole Earth” it does not actually mean the entire planet, but rather every place within the local people’s experience.
Note that in the gospel of Luke is says that Caesar taxed "all the world" (Luke 2:1). But he clearly could not have taxed anyone outside the Roman Empire, which, large as it was, was not "all the world." It certainly did not include India or China, or much of anywhere else east of Judea, nor most Arabia to the south and the vast majority of the African continent--let alone the Americas, obviously, which they did not even know. Likewise, when Jesus commanded the apostles to preach the gospel throughout "all the world" (Mark 16:15) there no evidence they went beyond the Roman Empire either.
The phrases "all the world" and "the whole earth" in the scriptures and other ancient sources generally lack the global perspective we have today, and are in fact hyperbolic, referring to a more limited region
The three days of darkness are consistent with a massive volcanic and seismic eruption
The Book of Mormon 3 Nephi 8:5-25 provides a detailed description consistent with a massive volcanic and seismic eruption. Such details are precise for both ancient and modern accounts, though they would have been unknown to Joseph Smith.
Remarkably, one of the models most favored by LDS scholars (Sorenson's Mesoamerican model) has candidate eruptions which are largely restricted to the proper time period.
The three days of darkness is consistent with a period of intense volcanism. This explanation of the darkness has been particularly popular among those who advocate a limited geographical model of the Book of Mormon. Most LGT models place Book of Mormon lands in central America; this area is well-known for active seismic activity.
One author suggested:
- The basic cause of the destruction was a tremendous seismic upheaval.
- Numerous destructive mechanisms were involved, but rain was not one of them.
- The accompanying period of darkness was caused by an immense local cloud of volcanic ash.
- The unprecedented lightning was due to electrical discharges within the ash cloud.
- The intense thunder was due both to the lightning and to the rumbling of the earth due to seismic movements.
- The vapor of darkness (1 Nephi 12:5; 19:11) and the mist of darkness (3 Nephi 8:20) were volcanic ash and dust stirred up by the quaking of the ground.
A concentration of dense volcanic gases (carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide) at ground level is sufficient to prevent igniting of the kindling and to cause suffocation
The inability to ignite the exceedingly dry wood is interesting in view of the fact that a few people are also described as dying from suffocation during the period of destruction which preceded the period of darkness (3 Nephi 10:13). This suggests that in some regions the concentration of dense volcanic gases (carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide) at ground level was sufficient to prevent igniting of the kindling and to cause suffocation. The uncle of Pliny died of suffocation as a consequence of a volcanic eruption.
Volcanic eruptions could have accompanied the violent earthquake described in 3 Nephi
James Baer notes that volcanic eruptions could have accompanied the violent earthquake described in 3 Nephi. He notes that these would have made the atmosphere dark with dust and cinders and would have released carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and sulfurous gases, which would have been suffocating and could have made fire kindling impossible.
The "mist of darkness" and "vapor of darkness" is consistent with the falling of volcanic ash
Another mechanism, however, seems an equally likely explanation of the inability to ignite the dry tinder. If one assumes that sparks from flint were the common method of starting fires, then the heavy ash fall could have been effective in preventing ignition. This heavy ash fall also offers a likely explanation for the terms mist of darkness and vapor of darkness used in 1 Nephi 12:4–5.
There is evidence dating volcanic eruptions in Mesoamerica to the proper timeframe
Given the wide variety of geographic models proposed for the Book of Mormon, there is obviously not evidence of volcanism in all areas, especially at the proper (i.e., at around AD 30, at Christ's death). (If the volcanic hypothesis for the three days' darkness is true, this provides one data point which can exclude many models, including a hemispheric or exclusively North American model.)
However, Sorenson's Mesoamerican model has been noted to have some interesting features in this regard: volcanoes do exist in the proper area, and these volcanoes have been shown by modern dating to have erupted only during two periods during the past 8600 years (3% of the time):
- 1230–1190 BC [too early]
- 30 BC – AD 170 [matches the circa AD 30 eruption at Christ's death]
Thus, Sorenson's model could have been easily disproven by these data, but was not.
Furthermore, ice core data is consistent with a major volcanic event at the time of Christ's death, within the margin of error provided by the dating measurements, though it is not at present possible to determine the location of these eruptions.
- Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph Smith, The Prophet And His Progenitors For Many Generations, chapter 14
- "Letter from Oliver Cowdery to W.W. Phelps" (Letter I), (September 7, 1834). Published in Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate, Vol. I. No. 1. Kirtland, Ohio, October, 1834.
- See A. Melvin McDonald, Day of Defense (Sounds of Zion Inc., 2004), 49. ISBN 188647253X.
- See Michael Hickenbotham, Answering Challenging Mormon Questions: Replies to 130 Queries by Friends and Critics of the LDS Church (Horizon Publishers & Distributors, 1995) (now published by Cedar Fort Publisher: Springville, UT, 2004),193–196. ISBN 0882905368. ISBN 0882907786. ISBN 0882907786. (Key source)
- See Book of Mormon note to 2 Nephi 12:2
- See also Kirk Holland Vestal and Arthur Wallace, The Firm Foundation of Mormonism (Los Angeles, CA: The L. L. Company, 1981), 70–72. ISBN 0937892068.
- The implications of this change represent a more complicated textual history than previously thought. See discussion in Dana M. Pike and David R. Seely, "'Upon All the Ships of the Sea, and Upon All the Ships of Tarshish': Revisiting 2 Nephi 12:16 and Isaiah 2:16," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/2 (2005): 12–25. off-site wiki For earlier discussions, see Gilbert W. Scharffs, The Truth about ‘The God Makers’ (Salt Lake City, Utah: Publishers Press, 1989; republished by Bookcraft, 1994), 172. Full text FairMormon link ISBN 088494963X.; see also Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon (Kolob Book Company, 1964),100–102.; Hugh W. Nibley, Since Cumorah, 2nd edition, (Vol. 7 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988),129–143. ISBN 0875791395.
- "Thomson's Translation," Wikipedia (accessed 11 Feb 2015) off-site
- Hugh W. Nibley, Since Cumorah, 2nd edition, (Vol. 7 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988),142–143. ISBN 0875791395.
- Russell H. Ball, "An Hypothesis concerning the Three Days of Darkness among the Nephites," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2/1 (1993): 107–123. wiki
- Russell H. Ball, "An Hypothesis concerning the Three Days of Darkness among the Nephites," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2/1 (1993): 107–123. wiki (italics in original); citing James Baer, "The Third Nephi Disaster: A Geological View," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19 no. 1 (Spring 1986), 129–132.
- "Book of Mormon Geophysics," mormonmatters.org (28 August 2010) off-site
- Benjamin R. Jordan, "Volcanic Destruction in the Book of Mormon: Possible Evidence from Ice Cores," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12/1 (2003): 78–87. off-site wiki