Criticism of Mormonism/Books/No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith/Chapter 4

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Response to claims made in "Chapter 4: A Marvelous Work and a Wonder"

A FairMormon Analysis of: No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, a work by author: Fawn Brodie
Claim Evaluation
No Man Knows My History
Chart.brodie.ch4.jpg

Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 4: A Marvelous Work and a Wonder"

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Response to claim: 53 - Joseph warned Martin Harris that God's wrath would strike him down if he examined the plates

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph warned Martin Harris that God's wrath would strike him down if he examined the plates or looked at him while he was translating.

Author's sources: No source provided.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Joseph said that if he showed the plates to anyone that God would strike Joseph down, not Martin.

Question: Did Joseph Smith say that viewing the gold plates would result in death?

The only first-person account—that made by Joseph Smith himself—says that it was Joseph who would be destroyed if he showed the plates to any other person unless commanded to do so by the Lord

It is claimed that Joseph Smith said that the penalty for viewing the gold plates was death, and that this was just a way for Joseph to hide the fact that the plates really didn't exist. However, the only first-person account—that made by Joseph Smith himself—says that it was Joseph who would be destroyed if he showed the plates to any other person unless commanded to do so by the Lord. Many accounts attributed to Joseph in which he is supposed to have claimed that anyone else who viewed the plates would die originated with people who were hostile to Joseph and the Church. Significantly, Emma's statement makes no mention of the alleged penalty associated with the unauthorized viewing of the plates.

Primary source: Joseph Smith's own words

Joseph Smith-History 1:42 describes the conditions under which Joseph was to handle the plates:

Again, he told me, that when I got those plates of which he had spoken—for the time that they should be obtained was not yet fulfilled—I should not show them to any person; neither the breastplate with the Urim and Thummim; only to those to whom I should be commanded to show them; if I did I should be destroyed. While he was conversing with me about the plates, the vision was opened to my mind that I could see the place where the plates were deposited, and that so clearly and distinctly that I knew the place again when I visited it. (emphasis added)

According to this, it was Joseph who risked destruction if he showed the plates to anyone unless explicitly commanded to do so by the Lord, not the person to whom he showed them.

Of course, we also have the testimony of the Three and Eight witnesses, who all viewed the plates without any threat of destruction.

The idea that God would "strike down" anyone who viewed the plates came from a hostile secondary source

Fawn Brodie claimed that Joseph told Martin Harris that God's wrath would strike him down if he examined the plates or looked at him while he was translating. This is supported by a second-hand source: Charles Anthon's statement regarding the visit of Martin Harris in Eber D. Howe's anti-Mormon book Mormonism Unvailed. Anthon stated:

I adverted once more to the roguery which had been in my opinion practised upon [Harris], and asked him what had become of the gold plates. He informed me that they were in a trunk with the large pair of spectacles. I advised him to go to a magistrate and have the trunk examined. He said the "curse of God" would come upon him should he do this. [1]

In the critical bookMormonism Unvailed, Peter Ingersoll and Sophia Lewis claimed that Joseph told them that anyone who viewed the plates would perish.

Peter Ingersoll was a hostile source. Here is what he claims that Joseph said to him:

...On my entering the house, I found the family at the table eating dinner. They were all anxious to know the contents of my frock. At that moment, I happened to think of what I had heard about a history found in Canada, called the golden Bible; so I very gravely told them it was the golden Bible. To my surprise, they were credulous enough to believe what I said. Accordingly I told them that I had received a commandment to let no one see it, for, says I, no man can see it with the naked eye and live. However, I offered to take out the book and show it to them, but they refuse to see it, and left the room." Now, said Jo, "I have got the damned fools fixed, and will carry out the fun." Notwithstanding, he told me he had no such book, and believed there never was any such book....(emphasis added)[2]

Here we have a statement alleged to have been made by Joseph Smith that "no man can see it with the naked eye and live." However, we also see that, according to Peter Ingersoll, Joseph came up with the entire idea of the "golden bible" on the spur of the moment as a way to have "fun." Then he claims that Joseph confided to him that the plates didn't actually exist at all. There are so many inconsistencies between this story and the statements of numerous other witnesses that one wonders if Peter Ingersoll was the one who was having some "fun" with his audience. Ingersoll can also be discredited on his claim that Joseph made the story up on the spot, because Joseph was telling various people about his Moroni visits well before recovering the plates (see for example various Knight family recollections).

Examining the testimony of Sophia Lewis we find:

SOPHIA LEWIS, certifies that she "heard a conversation between Joseph Smith, Jr., and the Rev. James B. Roach, in which Smith called Mr. R. a d-----d fool. Smith also said in the same conversation that he (Smith) was as good as Jesus Christ;" and that she "has frequently heard Smith use profane language. She states that she heard Smith say "the Book of Plates could not be opened under penalty of death by any other person but his (Smith's) first-born, which was to be a male." She says she "was present at the birth of this child, and that it was still-born and very much deformed."(emphasis added)[3]

Here we find that not only could the plates not be viewed by another person, but that the only person who could "open" them would be Joseph's first-born child. Sophia Lewis's testimony is suspicious however. Hezekiah M'Kune, Levi Lewis and Sophia Lewis went together to make their depositions before the justice. Their testimonies bear a remarkable similarity and contain the unique claim that Joseph claimed to be "as good as Jesus Christ." This claim is not related by any other individuals who knew the Prophet, suggesting that these three individuals planned and coordinated their story before giving their depositions. [4]

Joseph's wife Emma did not recall any specific threat of destruction associated with the unauthorized viewing of the plates

It is interesting to note that Emma Smith, admittedly much closer to her husband Joseph than the hostile sources previously quoted, never mentioned a penalty for viewing the plates. In fact, in an interview with her son Joseph Smith III in 1879, the following conversation was recorded:

[Joseph Smith III} Q: I should suppose that you would have uncovered the plates and examined them?

[Emma Smith Bidamon] A. I did not attempt to handle the plates, other than I have told you, nor uncover them to look at them. I was satisfied that it was the work of God, and therefore did not feel it to be necessary to do so.

Major Bidamon here suggested: Did Mr. Smith forbid your examining the plates?

[Emma] A. I do not think he did. I knew that he had them, and was not specially curious about them. I moved them from place to place on the table, as it was necessary in doing my work.

[JS III] Q. Mother, what is your belief about the authenticity, or origin, of the Book of Mormon?

[Emma] A. My belief is that the Book of Mormon is of divine authenticity - I have not the slightest doubt of it. I am satisfied that no man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired; for, when acting as his scribe, your father would dictate to me hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he could at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him. This was a usual thing for him to do. It would have been improbable that a learned man could do this; and, for one so ignorant and unlearned as he was, it was simply impossible.(emphasis added)[5]

Emma, therefore, did not recall any specific threat of destruction associated with the unauthorized viewing of the plates.


Response to claim: 53 - Harris once tried to trick Joseph by substituting an ordinary stone for the seer stone

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Harris once tried to trick Joseph by substituting an ordinary stone for the seer stone.

Author's sources: Summary of Martin Harris' sermon in Salt Lake City, September 4, 1870, Historical Record, Vol. VI, p. 216.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

This is correct. Martin wanted to test Joseph's ability to actually use the stone, so he substituted it without Joseph's knowledge.



Martin Harris describes how he swapped Joseph's seer stone during the Book of Mormon translation process

Stephen D. Ricks,

Martin Harris aided in the translation of the book of Lehi. Edward Stevenson reported about him:

After continued translation they would become weary, and would go down to the river and exercise by throwing stones out on the river, etc. While so doing on one occasion, Martin found a stone very much resembling the one used for translating, and on resuming their labor of translation, Martin put in [its] place the stone that he had found. He said that the Prophet remained silent, unusually and intently gazing in darkness, no traces of the usual sentences appearing. Much surprised, Joseph exclaimed, "Martin! What is the matter? All is as dark as Egypt!" Martin's countenance betrayed him, and the Prophet asked Martin why he had done so. Martin said, to stop the mouths of fools, who had told him that the Prophet had learned those sentences and was merely repeating them, etc. [6]
These and other independent witnesses to the translation provide modern researchers with significant information about the Book of Mormon plates. These firsthand witnesses are an indigestible lump in the throats of those who deny that the plates existed and try to explain the experience as an example of "collective hysteria." [7]

Response to claim: 54 - Lucy Harris stole the manuscript and "neither pleas nor blows could make her divulge its hiding place"

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Lucy Harris stole the manuscript and "neither pleas nor blows could make her divulge its hiding place."

Author's sources: Author's speculation.

FairMormon Response

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 author is speculating that Martin beat his wife in an attempt to get her to divulge what she had done with the manuscript.



  • Lucy states in the Hurlbut affidavits that her husband "has whipped, kicked, and turned me out of the house." Despite the fact that Lucy Harris makes no mention of the lost 116 pages of manuscript from the Book of Mormon, Fawn Brodie actually concludes that Harris beat his wife in order to get her to divulge what she had done with the lost 116 pages of manuscript.
  • The Hurlbut affidavits—Lucy Harris

Response to claim: 54 - Joseph realized that he could not duplicate the 116 pages exactly

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph realized that he could not duplicate the 116 pages exactly.

Author's sources: Author's conjecture.

FairMormon Response

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 author, of course, doesn't believe that Joseph was a prophet, so she has come up with a reason why the 116 pages could not be duplicated.



  •  Mind reading: author has no way of knowing this.

Question: Was Joseph Smith afraid to reproduce the text of the lost 116 pages of Book of Mormon manuscript because he could not do so?

It is inconsistent for the critics to believe that Joseph was capable of dictating in the manner that he did, and yet could not have easily dictated an alternate text to replace that which was lost

Upon completing the translation of the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon, known as the Book of Lehi, Martin Harris, who had acted as scribe during this period of time, asked the Prophet if he could show the manuscript to his wife Lucy. After repeated inquiries of the Lord, Joseph reluctantly agreed to let Martin take the manuscript home. The manuscript disappeared after Martin showed it not only to his wife, but to a number of other people as well.[8] Rather than re-translate the original portion of the record, the Lord instructed Joseph to translate an additional set of plates that had been provided, the record of Nephi, as described in DC 3: and DC 10:.

Critics have attempted to come up with a secular explanation of why Joseph Smith would create an entirely different text rather than simply reproducing the text of the 116 lost pages. One argument used by critics is that Joseph was afraid to reproduce the text of the 116 pages because he could not do so, and that he therefore chose to avoid the issue by creating an entirely different text.

Given the descriptions of the translation process by various witnesses, it is apparent that the translation proceeded in a very linear fashion. Each day Joseph would pick up the translation where he had left off the day before, without any recital of the previously written text. It is inconsistent for the critics to believe that Joseph was capable of dictating in this manner, and yet could not have easily dictated an alternate text to replace that which was lost. For the believer, it is much easier to accept that the Lord, in His wisdom, knew of the problem that would occur and provided an alternate text.

The loss of the 116 pages did not stop the Book of Mormon from coming forth. If the Book of Lehi (Mormon’s abridgment of what is currently found in the first books in the Book of Mormon today) had been preserved, we would not have had the “more spiritual” first person narrative of Nephi and Jacob. The incident provided a very valuable lesson about the importance of not opposing the Lord’s will. This incident affected the Prophet very deeply, and he was more determined than ever to regain the ability to translate. The lessons taught by this incident are meaningful and are taught even today to members of the Church.

The Lord taught Joseph an important lesson with the loss of the manuscript

The Lord taught Joseph an important lesson with the loss of the manuscript, and He provided an alternate text to compensate. It wasn't necessary to obtain the original pages, therefore there was no reason for Joseph to attempt to locate it using a seer stone. The Lord did not command him to do so. In fact, the Lord commanded Joseph not to retranslate the pages, therefore this is really an issue of whether or not one believes that Joseph was actually a prophet. Had the pages not been lost, we would not have the following:

And behold, how oft you have transgressed the commandments and the laws of God, and have gone on in the persuasions of men. For, behold, you should not have feared man more than God. Although men set at naught the counsels of God, and despise his words— Yet you should have been faithful; and he would have extended his arm and supported you against all the fiery darts of the adversary; and he would have been with you in every time of trouble. Behold, thou art Joseph, and thou wast chosen to do the work of the Lord, but because of transgression, if thou art not aware thou wilt fall. But remember, God is merciful; therefore, repent of that which thou hast done which is contrary to the commandment which I gave you, and thou art still chosen, and art again called to the work.

A looser translation model might cause other problems

Another possibility is raised by Brant Gardner. Gardner argues that the Book of Mormon translation was not a word-for-word process, and that Joseph had considerable freedom in how he rendered the text. This means that even a divinely-inspired translation would not be the same (and certainly not word-for-word the same) if done twice. Given the expectations in Joseph's environment (which saw scripture as inerrant and divinely inspired word-for-word), this might have caused problems for Joseph's contemporaries. They expected, even demanded that scripture be inerrant and revealed word-for-word. David Whitmer, for example, would later complain that Joseph ought not to edit the revelations he received--David was still stuck with the view of revelation shared by most nineteenth century believers.


Response to claim: 55 - Joseph's family was counting on sales of the Book of Mormon to prevent foreclosure on their farm

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph's family was counting on sales of the Book of Mormon to prevent foreclosure on their farm.

Author's sources: None

FairMormon Response

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 is absolutely no evidence that this is true.



Response to claim: 55 - Once Joseph had translated the small plates of Nephi, he could go back to the old plates and carry on

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Once Joseph had translated the small plates of Nephi, he could go back to the old plates and carry on.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

There is actually evidence that Joseph continued from where he left off, and then went back and translated the small plates of Nephi.

Question: What do we know about the chronology of the Book of Mormon translation and publication?

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Spring 1820
First Vision
21 September 1823
Joseph receives a visit from Moroni—three that night, and one the next day. He is directed to and sees the plates for the first time. He is forbidden to take the plates at that time.[9]
Next four years
Joseph is to return to the hill once a year for four years for instruction, prior to receiving the plates.[10] Joseph never identified the hill as “the hill Cumorah,” but this designation was common among the early Latter-day Saints.[11]
18 January 1827
Joseph marries Emma Hale.[12]
22 September 1827
Joseph receives the gold plates from Moroni.[13]
December 1827
Joseph and Emma move to Harmony, Pennsylvania (Emma's parents' home).[14]
January 1828
Joseph translates some characters.[15]
February 1828
By this date, Martin Harris takes characters with translation to Charles Anthon.[16] See also Anthon transcript
12 April to 14 June 1828
The "Book of Lehi" (Mormon's abridgement) is translated; 116 pages total with Martin Harris as scribe.[17]
15 June 1828 
Emma and Joseph's first child (a son) is born and dies within hours. For a few weeks, Joseph is constantly at Emma's bedside, fearing she too may die.[18]
June 1828
Martin Harris loses 116 pages.
July 1828
Joseph goes to Manchester; interpreters and plates taken from him because of the loss of the 116 pages. The Urim and Thummim were returned to Joseph for him to receive D&C 3; they were then again taken away, though he regained the plates and interpreters "in a few days."[19]
22 September 1828
Plates and interpreters returned to Joseph by this date.[20]
December 1828
David Whitmer goes to Palmyra and meets Oliver Cowdery.
February 1829
D&C 4; Lord appears to Oliver Cowdery (approx. date)
February/March 1829
Joseph begins sporadically translating, with Emma as scribe
5 April 1829
Oliver arrives in Harmony to meet Joseph.[21] Soon after, he writes David Whitmer, saying that he is convinced that Joseph does have the plates.[22]
April 7 – end of June 1829
Joseph translates the Book of Mormon with Oliver as scribe.[23]
  • Translation begins on the 7th of April—two days after Oliver arrived.[24]
  • 15 May 1829 – Oliver and Joseph receive the Aaronic priesthood; Oliver indicated that their asking about baptism was stimulated by translating 3 Nephi.[25]
  • 1 June to 1 July – Due to persecution, David Whitmer moved Oliver and Joseph to his parents' homestead (Peter Whitmer, Sr.) in Fayette. [26]
  • 11 June 1829: Joseph registers the copyright via the title page.[27]
  • June 1829: 3 witnesses, 8 witnesses see the plates.See also: Book of Mormon witnesses
July 1829
Egbert B. Grandin and Thurlow Weed (a printer in Rochester) decline to print the Book of Mormon
August 1829
  • Grandin learns that Martin Harris and Joseph have gotten a quote from Elihu F. Marshall, another printer in Rochester;[28] he thus agrees to print the book since he realizes that if he doesn't, someone else will.[29]
  • Martin Harris' farm is required as collateral to reassure Grandin (mortgage dated 25 August)[30] after local residents approach him, threatening to boycott sales of the Book of Mormon. Grandin fears that he will not be paid for the large volume of books he is printing.[31]
6 November 1829
Printer's manuscript prepared up to Alma 36.[32]
16 January 1830
Document signed granting Martin Harris the first money back in sales, until his $3000 security against his farm is repaid. Harris ultimately has to sell 151 acres of the farm on 7 April 1831 to cover the costs.[33] It is not known whether he ever recouped the cost of printing the first edition of the Book of Mormon.[34]
26 March 1830
First public sale of the Book of Mormon[35]
6 April 1830
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is organized


Response to claim: 58 - The Isaiah chapters in the Book of Mormon were "chiefly those chapters from Isaiah mentioned in Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

The Isaiah chapters in the Book of Mormon were "chiefly those chapters from Isaiah mentioned in Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews.

Author's sources: No source provided.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

View of the Hebrews Chapter 2 quotes Deuteronomy 30; Isaiah 11, 18, 60, 65; Jeremiah 16, 23, 30-31, 35-37; Zephaniah 3; Amos 9; Hosea and Joel. Out of these, only Isaiah 11 appears in the Book of Mormon.



Question: Does the Book of Mormon rely primarily on those chapters from Isaiah mentioned in Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews?

An analysis of the use of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon and View of the Hebrews does not suggest that the former relies upon the latter

Isaiah scriptures in both Isaiah in View of Hebrews only Isaiah in Book of Mormon only
  • Isaiah 11 - all
  • Isaiah 3:18-21, 24-25
  • Isaiah 5:13, 26
  • Isaiah 6:11
  • Isaiah 7:8, 18
  • Isaiah 9:6
  • Isaiah 10:20-22
  • Isaiah 11:1, 11, 12, 13, 15
  • Isaiah 14:1
  • Isaiah 49:1, 11-13, 18-23
  • Isaiah 51:11
  • Isaiah 18 - all
  • Isaiah 60 - all (twice)
  • Isaiah 63 - all
  • Isaiah 18:1-7, 8-9
  • Isaiah 26:3, 19
  • Isaiah 28:1,2,3, 5, 8
  • Isaiah 35:1,5
  • Isaiah 36:19
  • Isaiah 40:1-2, 5
  • Isaiah 41:14, 18-20
  • Isaiah 42:19-20
  • Isaiah 43:1-2,4, 16, 19-20
  • Isaiah 44:3-4
  • Isaiah 51:3
  • Isaiah 54:5
  • Isaiah 56:8
  • Isaiah 59:19, 21
  • Isaiah 60:1,3, 8, 9
  • Isaiah 61:9
  • Isaiah 63:1-6, 16, 17-18
  • Isaiah 65:3, 7,8-9, 23
  • Isaiah 66:18-21, 30
  • Isaiah 48:1-22 [1 Nephi 20]
  • Isaiah 49:2-10, 14-17, 24-46 [1 Nephi 21]
  • Isaiah 50:1-11 [2 Nephi 7]
  • Isaiah 51:1-10, 12-23 [2 Nephi 8:1-10, 12-23]
  • Isaiah 52:1-2 [2 Nephi 8:24-25]
  • Isaiah 2:1-22 [2 Nephi 12]
  • Isaiah 3:1-17, 22-23, 26 [2 Nephi 13]
  • Isaiah 4:1-6 [2 Nephi 14]
  • Isaiah 5:1-12, 14-25, 27-30 [2 Nephi 15]
  • Isaiah 6:1-10, 12-13 [2 Nephi 16]
  • Isaiah 7:1-7, 9-17, 19-25 [2 Nephi 17]
  • Isaiah 8:1-22 [2 Nephi 18]
  • Isaiah 9:1-5, 7-21 [2 Nephi 19]
  • Isaiah 10:1-19, 23-34 [2 Nephi 20]
  • Isaiah 12:1-6 [2 Nephi 22]
  • Isaiah 13:1-22 [2 Nephi 23]
  • Isaiah 14:2-32 [2 Nephi 24]

TOTAL = 30 verses in common; 31.6% of VoH Isaiah verses and 8.3% of BoM Isaiah verses

TOTAL = 65 verses only in VoH; 68.4% of VoH Isaiah verses

TOTAL = 332 verses only in Book of Mormon; 91.7% of BoM Isaiah verses

An analysis of the use of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon and View of the Hebrews does not suggest that the former relies upon the latter, for the following reasons:

  • the Book of Mormon tends to quote large portions (i.e., complete chapters) of Isaiah and then provide commentary. View of the Hebrews uses short segments of Isaiah (at most a few verses; often only a phrase or few words) to make the argument that the Amerindians are the lost ten tribes. The style and pattern of usage is not analogous—merely claiming that both works quote Isaiah does not accurately reflect how Isaiah is used, and to what extent.
  • The vast majority of the Book of Mormon's Isaiah verses are not found in View of the Hebrews; almost two-thirds of the View of the Hebrews references are not found in the Book of Mormon at all. If anything, the Book of Mormon avoids the texts which View of the Hebrews finds so compelling.
  • Only 30 verses are shared between the two works. The actual text which they share is even less, since View of the Hebrews often cites fragments of the verses, while the Book of Mormon always reproduces the entire verse.
  • The Book of Mormon neglects to use all of the verses which Ethan Smith claims refer to America—a strange omission for the Book of Mormon, which the critics believe represents Joseph's attempt to write a history of the Americas.


Response to claim: 58 - Joseph was careful to modify primarily the italicized interpolation in the King James text

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph was careful to modify primarily the italicized interpolation in the King James text.

Author's sources: Author's conjecture.

FairMormon Response

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

This is the author's guess. Ironically, other critics criticize the Book of Mormon for including some of the italicized words from Isaiah.



Question: What do the italicized words in the Bible represent, and why is it relevant to the Book of Mormon?

Italicized text is used in some Bible translations to indicate when a word has been "added" because of necessity of English grammar

Often, the italicized word is a word which is implied in the original Greek or Hebrew text, but must be explicitly used in English. It is claimed by some that Joseph Smith was aware of this, and while copying the KJV passages, tended to alter the italicized words to make it look more like a translation.

Some members accept the possibility that the italicized words are often altered "intentionally," but disagree with what this means about the translation. They do not see it as threatening Joseph's inspiration, the divine nature of the translation, or the reality of an ancient text on the plates. Others hold that there is no evidence that Joseph even had access to a Bible, nor that he was aware of the italics' meaning.

Either option is a viable response, and each has its strengths and weaknesses. Hopefully more data will be forthcoming to help resolve the issue, that we might better understand the translation process of the Book of Mormon.


Question: Did Joseph know what the italics in the Bible meant?

Joseph didn't even know that Jerusalem had walls around it. His basic knowledge of the Bible was limited

Just as there is no evidence that Joseph owned a Bible, there is even less that he had any knowledge of what the italicized words in the translation meant. Emma made Joseph's early ignorance crystal clear:

When he stopped for any purpose at any time he would, when he commenced again, begin where he left off without any hesitation, and one time while he was translating he stopped suddenly, pale as a sheet, and said, ‘Emma, did Jerusalem have walls around it?’ When I answered, ‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘Oh! [I didn’t know.] I was afraid I had been deceived.’ He had such a limited knowledge of history at that time that he did not even know that Jerusalem was surrounded by walls.[36]

If Joseph didn't know this, how do the critics expect that he knew what the italics in a Bible (which he likely did not own) meant? This is something which many modern Bible readers do not know. However, one cannot conclude with certainty that Joseph did not understand what the italicized words meant. Some LDS scholars believe that he did.

Furthermore, italicization patterns varied between Bibles, and an analysis of Joseph's Book of Mormon "changes" to the KJV concluded that changes to the italics were not a determining factor.[37]


Barney: "three types of evidence favoring the conclusion that Joseph understood the meaning of the italicized words"

Some LDS scholars do believe that Joseph may have understood the meaning italicized words. Kevin Barney: [38]

I think there are basically three types of evidence favoring the conclusion that Joseph understood the meaning of the italicized words. First, and most importantly, is the distribution of the variants in Joseph’s inspired translations, which show a clear (though by no means absolute) tendency to revolve around the italicized words. Skousen and Wright agree roughly on this distribution, which is somewhere in the neighborhood of 30%, give or take, but they draw different conclusions from it. My experience spending a fair amount of time examining variants is that the italics were a significant factor.

Second is the practice of often crossing out italicized words in the “marked Bible” used as an aid in preparing the JST. Anyone with access to the critical text can see this phenomenon for herself, since they have actual pictures of the marked Bible text.

Third are near-contemporary statements from Joseph’s milieu evincing a familiarity with the purpose of the italics. A prominent example is this from a W.W. Phelps editorial in the Evening and Morning Star (January 1833):

The book of Mormon, as a revelation from God, possesses some advantage over the old scripture: it has not been tinctured by the wisdom of man, with here and there an Italic word to supply deficiencies.—It was translated by the gift and power of God.[39]


Question: Could Joseph have used a Bible during and simply dictated from it during Book of Mormon translation?

Nobody ever reported seeing a Bible, because Joseph was looking at the stone in the hat in full view of witnesses

The witnesses of the translation are unanimous that Joseph did not have a book or papers, and could not have concealed them if he did have. Since much of the translation was done via Joseph's seer stone placed into his hat to exclude the light, it is not clear how the critics believe Joseph concealed a Bible or notes in the hat, and then read them in the dark.

Emma Smith described this portion of the translation:

Q — [Joseph Smith III]. What is the truth of Mormonism?
A — [Emma]. I know Mormonism to be the truth; and believe the church to have been established by divine direction. I have complete faith in it. In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us.
Q —. Had he not a book or manuscript from which he read, or dictated to you?
A —. He had neither manuscript or book to read from.
Q —. Could he not have had, and you not know it?
A. — If he had anything of the kind he could not have concealed it from me.
Q. — Could not father have dictated the Book of Mormon to you, Oliver Cowdery and the others who wrote for him, after having first written it, or having first read it out of some book?
A. — Joseph Smith could neither write nor dictate a coherent and wellworded letter; let alone dictating a book like the Book of Mormon. And, though I was an active participant in the scenes that transpired, . . . it is marvelous to me, “a marvel and a wonder,” as much so as to any one else.[40]

NOTE: Some Mormon scholars believe that the passages in the Book of Mormon which match, for the most part, the wording of similar passages in the King James Bible, indicate that Joseph Smith simply used the wording from the Bible as he dictated. If this is the case, he clearly received that wording as part of the revelatory process, since the witnesses confirm that there was no book or Bible present at the time. For more information see Ensign (Sept. 1977): "If his translation was essentially the same as that of the King James version, he apparently quoted the verse from the Bible"


Ensign (Sept. 1977): "If his translation was essentially the same as that of the King James version, he apparently quoted the verse from the Bible"

Richard Lloyd Anderson (Ensign, September 1977):

In fact, the language in the sections of the Book of Mormon that correspond to parts of the Bible is quite regularly selected by Joseph Smith, rather than obtained through independent translation. For instance, there are over 400 verses in which the Nephite prophets quote from Isaiah, and half of these appear precisely as the King James version renders them. Summarizing the view taken by Latter-day Saint scholars on this point, Daniel H. Ludlow emphasizes the inherent variety of independent translation and concludes: “There appears to be only one answer to explain the word-for-word similarities between the verses of Isaiah in the Bible and the same verses in the Book of Mormon.” That is simply that Joseph Smith must have opened Isaiah and tested each mentioned verse by the Spirit: “If his translation was essentially the same as that of the King James version, he apparently quoted the verse from the Bible.” [41] Thus the Old Testament passages from Isaiah display a particular choice of phraseology that suggests Joseph Smith’s general freedom throughout the Book of Mormon for optional wording. [42]

NOTE: Witnesses to the translation process, including Joseph's wife Emma, state that Joseph Smith never consulted a Bible or any other book as he was dictating. If Joseph did indeed quote passages from the Bible word-for-word, as Richard Lloyd Anderson suggests, he did it without the aid of having a physical Bible present during the translation. For details, see Question: Could Joseph have used a Bible during and simply dictated from it during Book of Mormon translation?.


Question: Did Joseph own a Bible at the time of the Book of Mormon translation?

There is no evidence that Joseph owned a Bible during the Book of Mormon translation

The difficult financial circumstances of Joseph's family during the Book of Mormon translation are well known.[43] There is no evidence that Joseph owned a Bible during the Book of Mormon translation.[44] In fact, Oliver would later purchase a Bible for Joseph, who used it in producing his revision of the Bible (which became known as the Joseph Smith Translation). This purchase occurred on 8 October 1829, from the same printer that was then setting the type for the already-translated Book of Mormon.[45] Why would Joseph, poor as he was, get a Bible if he already owned one?


Response to claim: 58 - Joseph incorporated one of his father's dreams into the Book of Mormon

The author(s) make(s) the following claim:

Joseph incorporated one of his father's dreams into the Book of Mormon

Author's sources: Lucy Smith, Biographical Sketches, pp. 58-9.

FairMormon Response

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

Joseph Smith, Sr's dream was recorded years after the Book of Mormon was published, and the telling of it was likely influence by the story in the Book of Mormon.



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

  1. Joseph Smith plagiarized Joseph Sr.'s dream when he wrote the Book of Mormon. This is the stance adopted by the critics.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.[46]

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: 59 - Early in the writing Joseph vigorously attacked the Catholic Church as the "great and abominable church" and the "whore of all the earth"

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Early in the writing Joseph vigorously attacked the Catholic Church as the "great and abominable church" and the "whore of all the earth"

Author's sources: Source not provided.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The "great and abominable church" is never given a name.

Question: Do Latter-day Saints believe that the scriptural terms "church of the devil," the "great and abominable church," and the "whore of all the earth" refer to a specific religion?

According to the Book of Mormon, the "great and abominable church" and "whore of all the earth" refers to any organization that opposes the true Church of Jesus Christ

The Church does not teach or endorse the idea that these terms refer to any specific religion or organization. It is clear that in cases where past church authorities have modified this definition through speculation, that the First Presidency has firmly declared those speculations to be in error.

The criticism is based upon references in the Book of Mormon to the "church of the devil," which is referred to as the "whore of all the earth." For example:

And he said unto me: Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth. (1 Nephi 14:10)

George Q. Cannon publicly associated the "whore of all the earth" with those that persecuted the Church

Although the scriptures do not associate this "church" with a specific organization or religion, several early 19th century church leaders stated their opinions regarding who they considered the "whore of all the earth." For example, George Q. Cannon publicly associated the "whore of all the earth" with those that persecuted the Church:

And to-day, those who are inciting mobs against this people; those who go to Congress, and incite persecutions against us; those who fulminate threats and frame petitions; those who meet together in conventions; those who gather together in conferences, are those who belong to this "mother of abominations," this "whore of all the earth," and it is through the influence of that accursed whore, that they gather together and marshal their forces in every land against the Latter-day Saints, the Church of the living God.[47]

Heber C. Kimball associated the "whore of all the earth" with the national government

Heber C. Kimball associated the "whore of all the earth" with the national government that failed to help the Saints during their times of persecution:

It is very easy to be seen that the nation that has oppressed us is going down. The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith something about the judgments that await the inhabitants of the earth, and he said in the revelations that the judgments should commence at the house of God. I will read to you parts of the revelations which speak of these things....and that great and abominable church, which is the whore of all the earth, shall be cast down by devouring fire, according as it is spoken by the mouth of Ezekiel the Prophet....[48]

Orson Pratt claimed that it was the founder of the Catholic Church in a publication that was later repudiated by the Church

Orson Pratt, in his 1853-1854 periodical The Seer, claimed that the founder of the Roman Catholic Church was “the Devil, through the medium of Apostates, who subverted the whole order of God” and that they derived their “authority from the Devil....”[49] The Seer, however, never achieved sufficient circulation to propagate this idea through the general Church membership. In fact, The Seer was disowned by the First Presidency in 1865 for containing "doctrines which we cannot sanction."[50]

Bruce R. McConkie's first edition of Mormon Doctrine associated it with the Catholic Church, before that edition was refuted by the First Presidency

Bruce R. McConkie is credited with promoting the idea within the modern church that the "great and abominable church" was in fact the Roman Catholic Church. The first edition of McConkie's Mormon Doctrine, a book which contained sufficient errors that the First Presidency declared that the book was "not approved as an authoritative book"[51] and that it should not be re-published, contained this rather direct statement:

It is also to the Book of Mormon to which we turn for the plainest description of the Catholic Church as the great and abominable church. Nephi saw this ‘church which is the most abominable above all other churches’ in vision. He ‘saw the devil that he was the foundation of it’ and also the murders, wealth, harlotry, persecutions, and evil desires that historically have been a part of this satanic organization.[52]

The offending language was removed in the second edition of Mormon Doctrine and replaced with language more consistent with the Book of Mormon

When the first edition of Mormon Doctrine went into circulation, the idea that the "great and abominable church" was the Catholic Church became embedded in popular belief, despite the fact that this idea was never sanctioned or preached over the pulpit. A second edition of Mormon Doctrine was eventually released with the offending language regarding the Roman Catholic Church removed. In the second edition, McConkie states:

The titles church of the devil and great and abominable church are used to identify all churches or organizations of whatever name or nature — whether political, philosophical, educational, economic social, fraternal, civic, or religious — which are designed to take men on a course that leads away from God and his laws and thus from salvation in the kingdom of God.[53]

This statement more closely aligns with what the scriptures themselves say, without any additional interpretation. Modern church leaders have stayed close to the definition in the Book of Mormon, by identifying the "great and abominable" church as any organization the leads people away from the Church of Jesus Christ.


Response to claim: 60 - Lucy Smith's stories about the Golden Bible had converted Oliver Cowdery

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Lucy Smith's stories about the Golden Bible had converted Oliver Cowdery.

Author's sources: Author's conjecture.

FairMormon Response

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

This is the author's speculation. The author provides absolutely no evidence of this claim.




Response to claim: 62 - Joseph Smith's lack of education is "a favorite thesis designed to prove the authenticity" of the Book of Mormon

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith's lack of education is "a favorite thesis designed to prove the authenticity" of the Book of Mormon.

Author's sources: Author's opinion.

FairMormon Response

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

This is simply the author's opinion, without the benefit of any evidence.



Question: Does the Church teach or believe that Joseph Smith was "illiterate"?

The Church teaches that Joseph was uneducated, not "illiterate"

One website that is critical of the Church makes the following claim about Joseph Smith's education:

This wasn't a family of illiterates. Education was important to the Smith family, and although Joseph may have only had limited formal education in a typical classroom, his parents undoubtedly schooled him at home. Also Joseph was going to high school when he was 20 years old in Harmony PA with the Stowell children.
....
Even today many people home-school their children. Would anyone say that these home-schooled children are uneducated? It's true that they do not have a formal education but for the most part, home-schooled children have similar, and in some cases superior, education than traditionally-schooled children. [54]

The fact that Joseph could read the Bible demonstrates that he was not illiterate

The Church never taught that Joseph Smith was "illiterate." The official account of the First Vision refutes this, since it demonstrates that Joseph was fully capable of reading and understanding the Bible. The statement from the critics that Joseph's family "wasn't a family of illiterates" argues against a point that is never being made.

More to the point, equating Joseph Smith's "home schooling" to 21st-century home schooling is a false comparison. It was Joseph himself that said in his 1832 history that he was "deprived of the benefit of an education." One must ask the question: Why did Joseph's contemporaries not think him capable of producing the Book of Mormon? 21st century "homeschooling" has nothing to do with education on the frontier of 19th century America.

Joseph Smith himself, two years after the Book of Mormon was published, wrote that he "was mearly instructid in reading and writing and the ground rules of Arithmatic"

Here's what Joseph wrote in 1832 (original spelling retained):

I was born in the town of Charon [Sharon] in the State of vermont North America on the twenty third day of December AD 1805 of goodly Parents who spared no pains to instructing me in the christian religion at the age of about ten years my Father Joseph Smith Siegnior moved to Palmyra Ontario County in the State of New York and being in indigent circumstances were obliged to labour hard for the support of a large Family having nine chilldren and as it required the exertions of all that were able to render any assistance for the support of the Family therefore we were deprived of the bennifit of an education suffice it to say I was mearly instructid in reading and writing and the ground rules of Arithmatic which constuted my whole literary acquirements. [55]

Joseph's wife Emma stated the Joseph "could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter, let alone dictate a book like the Book of Mormon"

Who would have known Joseph's abilities and weaknesses better than his wife?

Joseph Smith could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter, let alone dictate a book like the Book of Mormon. And, though I was an active participant in the scenes that transpired, and was present during the translation of the plates, and had cognizance of things as they transpired, it is marvelous to me, 'a marvel and a wonder,' as much so as to anyone else.[56]


Joseph Smith (1832): "we were deprived of the bennifit of an education suffice it to say I was mearly instructtid in reading and writing and the ground <rules> of Arithmatic"

Text in blue is in Joseph Smith's own handwriting, the remainder in the handwriting of Frederick G. Williams.

my Father Joseph Smith Seignior moved to Palmyra Ontario County5 in the State of New York and being in indigent circumstances were obliged to labour hard for the support of a large Family having nine chilldren6 and as it required their exertions of all that were able to render any assistance for the support of the Family therefore we were deprived of the bennifit of an education suffice it to say I was mearly instructtid in reading and writing and the ground <rules> of Arithmatic which const[it]uted my whole literary acquirements. [57]


Response to claim: 62-63 - Joseph Smith borrowed many stories from the Bible

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith borrowed many stories from the Bible.

Author's sources: Author's opinion.

FairMormon Response

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

This is simply the author's opinion, without the benefit of any evidence.



Question: Does the Book of Mormon plagiarize the King James Bible?

The Book of Mormon emulates the language and style of the King James Bible because that is the scriptural style Joseph Smith, translator of the Book of Mormon, was familiar with

Critics of the Book of Mormon claim that major portions of it are copied, without attribution, from the Bible. They present this as evidence that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon by plagiarizing the Authorized ("King James") Version of the Bible.

Quotations from the Bible in the Book of Mormon are sometimes uncited quotes from Old Testament prophets on the brass plates, similar to the many unattributed Old Testament quotes in the New Testament; others are simply similar phrasing emulated by Joseph Smith during his translation.

Critics also fail to mention that even if all the Biblical passages were removed from the Book of Mormon, there would be a great deal of text remaining. Joseph Smith was able to produce long, intricate religious texts without using the Bible; if he was trying to deceive people, why did he "plagiarize" from the one book—the Bible—which his readership was sure to recognize?


Response to claim: 63 - Joseph's sentence structure in the Book of Mormon was "loose-jointed, like an earthworm hacked into segments that crawl away alive and whole"

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph's sentence structure in the Book of Mormon was "loose-jointed, like an earthworm hacked into segments that crawl away alive and whole."

FairMormon Response

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

This is the author's opinion. In fact, quite the opposite is true.



Question: What is special about the chiasmus found in Alma 36?

Joseph actually produces an eloquent, persuasive man in the mold of the ancient world that comes through even in translation

Joseph Smith does not produce the kind of speaker that people of his day would think of as eloquent or fiery or powerful. Instead, Joseph actually produces an eloquent, persuasive man in the mold of the ancient world that comes through even in translation.

A - 1 MY son, give ear to my words; for I swear unto you,

B - that inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land.
C - 2 I would that ye should do as I have done, in
D - remembering the captivity of our fathers; for they were in bondage, and none could deliver them except it was the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and
E - he surely did deliver them in their afflictions. 3 And now, O my son Helaman, behold, thou art in thy youth, and therefore, I beseech of thee that thou wilt hear my words and learn of me; for I do know that
F - whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be
G - supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day.
H - 4 And I would not that ye think that I know of myself—not of the temporal but of the spiritual, not of the carnal mind but of God. 5 Now, behold, I say unto you,
I - if I had not been born of God I should not have known these things; but God has, by the mouth of his holy angel, made these things known unto me,
J - not of any worthiness of myself; 6 For I went about with the sons of Mosiah, seeking to destroy the church of God; but behold, God sent his holy angel to stop us by the way. 7 And behold, he spake unto us, as it were the voice of thunder, and the whole earth did tremble beneath our feet; and we all fell to the earth, for the fear of the Lord came upon us. 8 But behold, the voice said unto me: Arise. And I arose and stood up, and beheld the angel. 9 And he said unto me: If thou wilt of thyself be destroyed, seek no more to destroy the church of God.
K - 10 And it came to pass that I fell to the earth; and it was for the space of three days and three nights that I could not open my mouth, neither had I the use of my limbs. 11 And the angel spake more things unto me, which were heard by my brethren, but I did not hear them; for when I heard the words—If thou wilt be destroyed of thyself, seek no more to destroy the church of God—I was struck with such great fear and amazement lest perhaps I should be destroyed, that I fell to the earth and I did hear no more. 12 But I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins. 13 Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments.
L - 14 Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror. 15 Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds.
M - 16 And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul.
N - 17 And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins,
O - behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God,
[center] - to atone for the sins of the world.
O' - 18 Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.
N' - 19 And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
M' - 20 And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain! 21 Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.
L' - 22 Yea, methought I saw, even as our father Lehi saw, God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God; yea, and my soul did long to be there.
K' - 23 But behold, my limbs did receive their strength again, and I stood upon my feet, and did manifest unto the people that I had been born of God.
J' - 24 Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. 25 Yea, and now behold, O my son, the Lord doth give me exceedingly great joy in the fruit of my labors; 26 For because of the word which he has imparted unto me, behold, many have been
I' - born of God, and have tasted as I have tasted, and have seen eye to eye as I have seen;
H' - therefore they do know of these things of which I have spoken, as I do know; and the knowledge which I have is of God.
G' - 27 And I have been supported under trials and troubles of every kind, yea, and in all manner of afflictions; yea, God has delivered me from prison, and from bonds, and from death; yea, and
F' - I do put my trust in him, and
E' - he will still deliver me. 28 And I know that he will raise me up at the last day, to dwell with him in glory;
D' - yea, and I will praise him forever, for he has brought our fathers out of Egypt, and he has swallowed up the Egyptians in the Red Sea; and he led them by his power into the promised land; yea, and he has delivered them out of bondage and captivity from time to time. 29 Yea, and he has also brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem; and he has also, by his everlasting power, delivered them out of bondage and captivity, from time to time even down to the present day; and I have always retained in remembrance their captivity; yea, and ye also ought to retain in remembrance, as I have done, their captivity. 30 But behold, my son, this is not all;
C' - for ye ought to know as I do know, that
B' - inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land; and ye ought to know also, that inasmuch as ye will not keep the commandments of God ye shall be cut off from his presence.

A' - Now this is according to his word.

John Welch: "Alma 36 is worthy in form to the best of any ancient chiastic writer"

Said John Welch of this passage:

It is difficult to imagine a more paradigmatic or a more effective use of chiasmus than this. Alma 36 is worthy in form to the best of any ancient chiastic writer. Two further points deserve particular attention: first, as if to remove any doubt concerning the fact that this chiastic arrangement was intended to accentuate the contrast between the agony and the joy which Alma had experienced, he makes that contrast explicit in verse 20 when he states: "My soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain." Second, it says much for Alma's artistic sensitivities that he succeeds in placing the turning point of his life at the turning point of this chapter. Such effects, it would appear, do not occur without design. As natural as it might seem to use chiasmus as a literary device in contrasting opposites such as those Alma had experienced or in emphasizing the turning point of one's conversion, its usage is not at all obvious or automatic, as is evidenced by the fact that Alma did not use it when he described his conversion as a young man [in Mosiah 27]. Such a use of chiasmus is, rather, a conscious creation of an imaginative and mature artist [such as Alma was by the time this was written, just prior to his passing]. [58]

In other words, one does not just get up from being unable to talk or move for a few days and ‘spontaneously’ break into chiasmus, any more than one can ad-lib a Shakespearean sonnet. Chiasmus—especially one as rich and detailed as Alma 36—is a work of conscious creation. It is also an impressive performance, since while it flawlessly follows the chiasmus model, nothing feels forced or artificial. The mirror parts aren’t just slavish repetition either; most have differences or elaborations in either the first or second ‘part’ to expand Alma’s meaning.

Joseph Smith takes an enormous chance with his supposed 'creation' of Alma the Younger. One of the great challenges for writers of fiction is writing—not the writing of the story, but the inclusion in the story of actual writing which a character has purportedly produced.

There are two options: the safer approach is for the author to tell the reader how wonderful an orator or writer the character is, but only give us glimpses of the actual speech, and instead convey the character's skill by describing the reactions of others.

The more difficult approach—and the one chosen by the Book of Mormon—is to actually produce the great oratory. This runs the risk of having the reader realize that the speech or the writing isn't really that great after all.

Joseph Smith chooses the second option, and succeeds. He introduces us to Alma the Younger, who is described as a master orator:

8 Now the sons of Mosiah were numbered among the unbelievers; and also one of the sons of Alma was numbered among them, he being called Alma, after his father; nevertheless, he became a very wicked and an idolatrous man. And he was a man of many words, and did speak much flattery to the people; therefore he led many of the people to do after the manner of his iniquities. 9 And he became a great hinderment to the prosperity of the church of God; stealing away the hearts of the people; causing much dissension among the people; giving a chance for the enemy of God to exercise his power over them. (Mosiah 27:8–9).

Up until now, one might say that Joseph Smith (or whoever is supposedly writing this little 'frontier fiction') is playing it safe: he’s telling the reader what Alma did, and the effects of it, but the audience isn't given the actual words.

But, later on Joseph delivers extensive quotations from Alma’s own sermons and writings. Amazingly, Alma delivers!


Response to claim: 65 - The story of the Gadianton band reflects the anti-Masonic feelings in New York at the time that the Book of Mormon was produced

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

The story of the Gadianton band reflects the anti-Masonic feelings in New York at the time that the Book of Mormon was produced.

Author's sources: No source given.

FairMormon Response

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

This is simply the author's conjecture.



Question: Are the Gadianton robbers in the Book of Mormon actually references to the anti-Masonic panic of Joseph Smith's era?

Joseph's contemporaries did not embrace the allegedly obvious link between the Book of Mormon and masonry

Some claim that the Gadianton robbers are thinly disguised references to the anti-Masonic panic of Joseph Smith's era. However, Joseph's contemporaries did not embrace the "obvious" link between the Book of Mormon and masonry. Proponents or opponents of Masonry simply tended to blame their opponents for Mormonism.

Given Joseph Smith's long family involvement with the institution of Freemasonry and the fact that he would, in 1842, become a Mason himself, it seems unlikely that anti-Masonry was the "environmental source" of the Gadianton robbers found in the Book of Mormon. The members of his day likewise had little enthusiasm for anti-Masonic sentiments.

Any similarities in language between some anti-Masonic agitators and the Book of Mormon are more plausibly explained by the fact that similar words can be—and were—used to describe a variety of different tactics and organizations.

The claim that "secret combinations" was always used to refer to Masons is clearly false.


Question: Does the Book of Mormon contain anti-Masonic language?

It would seem unlikely that Joseph would be using anti-Masonic language and terms, given his family's close connection and association with the institution of Freemasonry

Many have speculated that the supposed use of anti-Masonic language in the Book of Mormon is 'proof' of 19th century authorship. The authors of these speculations fail to take into account four critical issues which discredit the association between the Gadianton robbers of the Book of Mormon and the anti-Masonry of the opening decades of the 19th century [1826 through 1845].

Joseph Smith grew up with and was surrounded by Freemasons in his home. Both his father, Joseph Smith, Sr., and his elder brother Hyrum Smith were Masons in New York. It would seem unlikely that Joseph would be using anti-Masonic language and terms, given his family's close connection and association with the institution of Freemasonry.

Joseph Smith, Jr. became a Mason himself

In 1842, Joseph Smith, Jr., became a Mason. Had Joseph intended to tie the Gadianton robbers to the Freemasons, it seems most unlikely that only 12 years later he would then join the very group which the critics' theories require that he oppose so vehemently in the Book of Mormon.

To credit the critics' theories, wrote anti-Mormon Theodore Schroeder, we must accept that

when the Book of Mormon was finished, Smith's 'obsession' [with anti-Masonry] suddenly and permanently disappears without any other explanation, and Joseph Smith himself became a Mason, in spite of this anti-Masonic obsession.[59]

The Book of Mormon is a translation, and its phrasing may sometimes reflect the time and place in which it was translated

Any similarity between the language of the anti-Masonic movement and Joseph's translation can better be explained by Joseph using the language of his time and place rather than by a deliberate connection to anti-Masonry.[60]

The phrase "secret combination" was not used exclusively in a Masonic context in Joseph Smith's day

Some have claimed that the phrase "secret combination" was used exclusively in a Masonic context in Joseph Smith's day. This is simply not the case, however. In 1788, during the debates at New York's state convention to ratify the federal constitution, Alexander Hamilton stated:

In this, the few must yield to the many; or, in other words, the particular must be sacrificed to the general interest. If the members of Congress are too dependent on the state legislatures, they will be eternally forming secret combinations from local views.[61]

And, in 1826, Andrew Jackson complained about Henry Clay's "secrete [sic] combinations of base slander."[62] Jackson was a prominent and well-known Mason, and his presidency was rich fodder for those who feared a Masonic conspiracy. Yet, despite the critics' claims that "secret combination" must refer only to Masons, a prominent Mason here complains about an attack on him in exactly those terms.

Latter-day Saints saw the Book of Mormon's prophecies as fulfilled by the U.S. government

Furthermore, the Saints of the 19th century saw the Book of Mormon's prophecies of latter-day "secret combinations" fulfilled by the persecution which they received at the hands of American citizens and the U.S. government. They did not invoke the Masons, which suggests that those who knew Joseph Smith did not recognize anti-Masonic themes in the Book of Mormon.[63]


Notes

  1. Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH, 1834), 272. (Affidavits examined)
  2. Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH, 1834), 235-236. (Affidavits examined)
  3. Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH, 1834), 269. (Affidavits examined)
  4. Hugh W. Nibley, Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass: The Art of Telling Tales About Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (Vol. 11 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by David J. Whittaker, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1991), 128. ISBN 0875795161. GL direct link
  5. "Interview with Joseph Smith III", in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 1:542.
  6. Edward Stevenson's account of Harris's Sunday morning lecture in Salt Lake City, 4 September 1870, published in the Deseret News of 30 November 1881 and in the LDS Millennial Star 44 (6 February 1882): 86–87. Cited in Stephen D. Ricks, "Converging Paths: Language and Cultural Notes on the Ancient Near Eastern Background of the Book of Mormon," in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), Chapter 12, references silently removed—consult original for citations.
  7. Stephen D. Ricks, "Converging Paths: Language and Cultural Notes on the Ancient Near Eastern Background of the Book of Mormon," in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), Chapter 12, references silently removed—consult original for citations.
  8. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 67.
  9. Joseph Smith History 1:29–49.
  10. Joseph Smith History 1:53–54.
  11. See Rex Reeve, Jr., and Richard O. Cowan, "The Hill Called Cumorah," in Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint History (Provo: Brigham Young University Department of Church History and Doctrine, 1992), 71–91, cited in James E. Smith, "Nephi's Descendants? Historical Demography and the Book of Mormon (Review of Multiply Exceedingly: Book of Mormon Population Sizes by John C. Kunich)," FARMS Review of Books 6/1 (1994): 255–296. off-site
  12. Joseph Smith History 1:57
  13. Joseph Smith History 1:59.
  14. Donald L. Enders, "Two Significant Sites of the Restoration," Ensign (September 1998), 30.
  15. Joseph Smith History 1:62.
  16. Joseph Smith History 1:63.
  17. Kenneth W. Godfrey, "A New Prophet and a New Scripture: The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon," Ensign (January 1988), 6. Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Gold Plates and Printer’s Ink," Ensign (September 1976), 71.
  18. Lucy M. Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, Lucy Mack Smith, edited by Preston Nibley (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1958), 124.
  19. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 1:23. Volume 1 link; Dennis L. Largey (editor), Book of Mormon Reference Companion (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2003), 124. ISBN 1573452319.
  20. Dennis L. Largey (editor), Book of Mormon Reference Companion (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2003), 157. ISBN 1573452319.
  21. Joseph Smith History 1:66.
  22. Larry C. Porter, "From a Book Coming Forth," Ensign (July 1988), 42.
  23. John W. Welch, "'How long did it take Joseph Smith to translate the Book of Mormon?', I Have a Question," Ensign (January 1988), 46.
  24. Joseph Smith History 1:67.
  25. Joseph Smith History 1:72. John W. Welch and Tim Rathbone, “The Translation of the Book of Mormon: Basic Historical Information”, FARMS, 1986, 33–37.
  26. David Whitmer interview with a reporter of the Kansas City Daily Journal, 5 June 1881, cited in Larry C. Porter, "From a Book Coming Forth," Ensign (July 1988), 42.
  27. Anonymous, "The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon," Ensign (December 1983), 31. Dennis L. Largey (editor), Book of Mormon Reference Companion (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2003), 155. ISBN 1573452319.
  28. Larry C. Porter, “A Study of the Origins of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the States of New York and Pennsylvania, 1816-1831,” diss., Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 1971, 86–87. See also: Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 1:58–71. Volume 1 link
  29. Anonymous, "Discovery: Historic Discoveries at the Grandin Building," Ensign (July 1980), 48.
  30. Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Gold Plates and Printer’s Ink," Ensign (September 1976), 71.
  31. Donald L. Enders, "Two Significant Sites of the Restoration," Ensign (September 1998), 30.
  32. Based on a letter from Oliver to Joseph of this date. See Anonymous, "The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon," Ensign (December 1983), 31. Dennis L. Largey (editor), Book of Mormon Reference Companion (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2003), 155. ISBN 1573452319.
  33. Discussed in D&C 19:28. See also Richard Howard, “Martin Harris’ March 1830 Commitment to Book of Mormon Publication,” Saints Herald (March 1980): 28.
  34. Dennis L. Largey (editor), Book of Mormon Reference Companion (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2003), 135. ISBN 1573452319.
  35. Larry C. Porter, "From a Book Coming Forth," Ensign (July 1988), 42.
  36. Joseph Smith III, “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Advocate 2 (Oct. 1879): 51.
  37. See "Italics in the King James Bible," in Royal Skousen, "Critical Methodology and the Text of the Book of Mormon (Review of New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology by Brent Lee Metcalfe)," FARMS Review of Books 6/1 (1994): 121–144. off-site
  38. Kevin Barney, "KJV Italics," bycommonconsent.com (13 October 2007)
  39. W.W. Phelps, The Evening and the Morning Star (January 1833)
  40. Edmund C. Briggs, “A Visit to Nauvoo in 1856,” Journal of History (Jan. 1916): 454; cited in Russell M. Nelson, "A Treasured Testament," Ensign 23 no. 7 (July 1993), 62.
  41. Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), p. 141.
  42. Richard Lloyd Anderson, "By the Gift and Power of God," Ensign (September 1977).
  43. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Urbana and Chicago, Illinois: University of Illinois Press; Reprint edition, 1987), 95–100. ISBN 0252060121.
  44. Matthew Roper, "A Black Hole That's Not So Black (Review of Answering Mormon Scholars: A Response to Criticism of the Book, vol. 1 by Jerald and Sandra Tanner)," FARMS Review of Books 6/2 (1994): 156–203. off-site See also John A. Tvedtnes and Matthew Roper, "Joseph Smith's Use of the Apocrypha: Shadow or Reality? (Review of Joseph Smith's Use of the Apocrypha by Jerald and Sandra Tanner)," FARMS Review of Books 8/2 (1996): 326–372. off-site
  45. Robert J. Matthews, A Plainer Translation": Joseph Smith's Translation of the Bible: A History and Commentary (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1985), 26; cited in footnote 165 of John Gee, "La Trahison des Clercs: On the Language and Translation of the Book of Mormon (Review of New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology by Brent Lee Metcalfe)," FARMS Review of Books 6/1 (1994): 51–120. off-site
  46. Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph Smith, The Prophet And His Progenitors For Many Generations, chapter 14
  47. George Q. Cannon, "PREDICTIONS IN THE BOOK OF MORMON, etc.," (April 6, 1884) Journal of Discourses 25:128.
  48. Heber C. Kimball, "OBSERVANCE OF THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD," (January 6, 1861) Journal of Discourses 9:131.
  49. Orson Pratt, The Seer (Washington D.C., April 1854).
  50. Deseret News (12 August 1865): 373.
  51. Dennis B. Horne, Bruce R. McConkie: Highlights From His Life & Teachings (Eborn Books, 2000), [citation needed].
  52. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine [1st edition] (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1958).
  53. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 760. GL direct link
  54. "Could Joseph Smith have written the Book of Mormon?", MormonThink.com http://mormonthink.com/josephweb.htm#full
  55. Joseph Smith Letterbook 1, pp. 1-6. Published in: Dean Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith. This text was copied from Wikisource. The editor notes that insertions are indicated like this and deletions are indicated like this. Text in blue is in Smith's own handwriting, the remainder in the handwriting of Frederick G. Williams. off-site
  56. Joseph Smith III, "Last Testimony of Sister Emma," Saints' Herald 26 (October 1, 1879): 289–90; and Joseph Smith III, "Last Testimony of Sister Emma," Saints' Advocate 2 (October 1879): 50–52.
  57. "History, circa Summer 1832," The Joseph Smith Papers.
  58. John W. Welch, Chiasmus In Antiquity (Provo, Utah: FARMS, Research Press, 1981), 207.
  59. Theodore Schroeder, "Authorship of the Book of Mormon: Psychologic Tests of W. F. Prince Critically Reviewed," American Journal of Psychology 30 (January 1919): 70.
  60. Paul Mouritsen, "Secret Combinations and Flaxen Cords: Anti-Masonic Rhetoric and the Book of Mormon," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12/1 (2003): 64–77. off-site
  61. Jonathan Elliot, ed., The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, as Recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia in 1787, Together with the Journal of the Federal Convention, Luther Martin's Letter, Yates's Minutes, Congressional Opinions, Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of '98-99 and other Illustrations of the Constitution, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1861), 318, emphasis added.
  62. Robert V. Remini, Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union (New York and London: Norton, 1991), 340; cited in Daniel C. Peterson, "Secret Combinations" Revisited," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 1/1 (1992): 184–188.
  63. Daniel C. Peterson, "Notes on 'Gadianton Masonry'," in Ricks and Hamblin, eds., Warfare in the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1990), 174–224.