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Response to MormonThink page "Could Joseph Smith have written the Book of Mormon?"

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Response to claim: "the "most correct of any book on earth" has undergone more than 3,000 textual and grammatical corrections."

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

Joseph Smith claimed that the Book of Mormon was "the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion." However, there have been numerous revisions of the text, the first occurring in 1837 and instituted by Joseph Smith himself.

FairMormon Response

Question: Does the Book of Mormon contain mistakes?

Mormon said "And now if there be fault, it be the mistake of men"

It should first be noted that the Book of Mormon itself does not claim to be free of errors. As Mormon himself stated in the introduction to the Book of Mormon:

And now if there be fault, it be the mistake of men: wherefore condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment seat of Christ. (1830 Book of Mormon title page)

Moroni said "because of the imperfections which are in it"

Mormon's son Moroni also acknowledges that the record that has been created is imperfect:

And whoso receiveth this record, and shall not condemn it because of the imperfections which are in it, the same shall know of greater things than these. Behold, I am Moroni; and were it possible, I would make all things known unto you. Mormon 8:12


Question: Why did Joseph Smith say that the Book of Mormon was the "most correct book"?

Joseph Smith: "I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth"

In the History of the Church, the following entry is recorded as having been made by Joseph Smith on November 28, 1841.[1]

Sunday, 28.--I spent the day in the council with the Twelve Apostles at the house of President Young, conversing with them upon a variety of subjects. Brother Joseph Fielding was present, having been absent four years on a mission to England. I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.

Critics of the Church assert that the phrase "the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth" means that the Prophet Joseph Smith was declaring the Book of Mormon to be without error of any kind. Since each edition of the printed Book of Mormon since 1829 (including editions published during the life of Joseph Smith) has included changes of wording, spelling, or punctuation, critics declare Joseph Smith's statement to have been demonstrably false, thus proving that he was a false prophet.

Joseph Smith referred to the Book of Mormon as the "most correct book" because of the principles it teaches

When Joseph Smith referred to the Book of Mormon as the "most correct book" on earth, he was referring to the principles that it teaches, not the accuracy of its textual structure. Critics of the Book of Mormon have mistakenly interpreted "correct" to be synonymous with "perfect," and therefore expect the Book of Mormon to be without any errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, clarity of phrasing, and other such ways.

But when Joseph Smith said the Book of Mormon was the "most correct of any book," he was referring to more than just wording, a fact made clear by the remainder of his statement: He said "a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book." When read in context, the Prophet's statement refers to the correctness of the principles it teaches. The Book of Mormon is the "most correct of any book" in that it contains the fulness of the gospel and presents it in a manner that is "plain and precious" (1 Nephi 13:35,40).


Question: Is any book of scripture perfect?

No book of scripture is "perfect"

Latter-day Saints do not subscribe to the conservative Protestant belief in scriptural inerrancy. We do not believe that any book of scripture is perfect or infallible. Brigham Young explained:

When God speaks to the people, he does it in a manner to suit their circumstances and capacities.... Should the Lord Almighty send an angel to re-write the Bible, it would in many places be very different from what it now is. And I will even venture to say that if the Book of Mormon were now to be re-written, in many instances it would materially differ from the present translation. According as people are willing to receive the things of God, so the heavens send forth their blessings.[2]

So while the Book of Mormon has come down to us with fewer doctrinal errors and corruptions than the Bible, even it could be improved if we were ready to receive further light and knowledge.

Infelicities of language are also to be expected when produced by revelators with little education, said George A. Smith:

The Book of Mormon was denounced as ungrammatical. An argument was raised that if it had been translated by the gift and power of God it would have been strictly grammatical.... When the Lord reveals anything to men, he reveals it in a language that corresponds with their own. If you were to converse with an angel, and you used strictly grammatical language he would do the same. But if you used two negatives in a sentence the heavenly messenger would use language to correspond with your understanding.[3]


Response to claim: "when the BOM was first published, he tried to sell the copyright to the BOM to a publishing company"

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

when the BOM was first published, he tried to sell the copyright to the BOM to a publishing company just like a regular book. Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery went to Toronto for this purpose, but they failed entirely to sell the copyright, returning without any money.

FairMormon Response

Question: Are there any eyewitness accounts of the events that resulted in the trip to Canada to sell the Book of Mormon copyright?

Joseph Smith decided this could be an opportunity to relieve some of the financial pressure associated with publishing the Book of Mormon

Joseph Smith had been told there were people in Canada willing to buy the copyrights to useful books. Due to the dire financial position of the Church, he decided this could be an opportunity to relieve some of the financial pressure associated with publishing the Book of Mormon. Four men went to Canada.

Joseph Smith received a revelation directing them to go to Kingston, Canada, with some conditions placed upon their success

Before leaving, Joseph Smith received a revelation directing them to go to Kingston, Canada, with some conditions placed upon their success.

...it Pleaseth me that Oliver Cowderey Joseph Knight Hyram Pagee & Josiah Stowel shall do my work in this thing yea even in securing the Copyright & they shall do it with an eye single to my Glory that it may be the means of bringing souls unto me Salvation through mine only Be{t\gotten} Behold I am God I have spoken it & it is expedient in me Wherefor I say unto you that ye shall go to Kingston seeking me continually through mine only Be{t\gotten} & if ye do this ye shall have my spirit to go with you & ye shall have an addition of all things which is expedient in me. amen & I grant unto my servent a privelige that he may sell a copyright through you speaking after the manner of men for the four Provinces if the People harden not their hearts against the enticeings of my spirit & my word for Behold it lieth in themselves to their condemnation &{\or} th{er\eir} salvation.

Revelation book 1 p. 15 1.jpg

The text of the actual revelation was recently discovered and published in The Joseph Smith Papers

The text of the revelation was published in the The Joseph Smith Papers: The Revelations and Translations Series. According to Marlin K. Jensen, Church Historian and Recorder,

Another interesting development from work on the Revelations and Translations Series has been the identification of a previously unpublished revelation on securing a copyright for the Book of Mormon in Canada. David Whitmer, after he left the Church, recalled that the revelation promised success in selling the copyright, but upon return of the men charged with the duty, Joseph Smith and others were disappointed by what seemed like failure. Historians have relied upon statements of David Whitmer, Hiram Page, and William McLellin for decades but have not had the actual text of the revelation. Revelation Book 1 will provide that.

Although we still do not know the whole story, particularly Joseph Smith’s own view of the situation, we do know that calling the divine communication a “failed revelation” is not warranted. The Lord’s directive clearly conditions the successful sale of the copyright on the worthiness of those seeking to make the sale as well as on the spiritual receptivity of the potential purchasers. [4]

Hiram Page, one of the participants, stated he for the first time understood how some revelations given to people were not necessarily for their direct benefit

Hiram Page, who was one of the individuals sent to Canada, laid out the event in a letter in 1848.[5] Page wrote that the revelation Joseph Smith received conditioned success upon whether those individuals in Canada capable of buying the Book of Mormon copyright would have their hearts softened. When unable to sell the copyright, the four men returned to Palmyra. Hiram Page stated he for the first time understood how some revelations given to people were not necessarily for their direct benefit—in fact, Hiram Page believed that the revelation was actually fulfilled.


Question: After receiving the revelation to attempt to sell the Book of Mormon copyright in Canada, did Joseph Smith later claim that the revelation was false?

David Whitmer, years after he left the Church, claimed that Joseph said that the revelation did not come from God

David Whitmer claimed that Joseph Smith received a revelation and prophesied that Oliver Cowdery and Hiram Page should go to Canada where they would find a man willing to buy the copyright to the Book of Mormon. When they failed to sell the copyright, Whitmer states that Joseph admitted that the revelation had not come from God.

David Whitmer was not a participant in the trip to Canada

The primary evidence supporting the negative aspects of the Canadian Mission story comes from David Whitmer, who was not a participant in the event, and who had left the church many years before. With the discovery of the Hiram Page letter of 1848 showing that the actual participants involved in the trip felt that Joseph Smith delivered an accurate revelation of what would transpire on the Mission, and in fact even found the event uplifting rather than negative, it is evident that no individual contemporary to the event felt that this represented a false prophecy by Joseph Smith. What we do see is excellent evidence in fulfillment of the teachings of Deuteronomy 12 and 18 that Joseph Smith was perceived as a true prophet of God by those involved in the Mission to Canada in early 1830.


Question: How did the erroneous story of the attempt to sell the Book of Mormon copyright develop over time?

Hiram Page’s 1848 account of the Canadian Mission trip was sent to William McLellin

Hiram Page’s 1848 account of the Canadian Mission trip was sent to William McLellin. Because it was private correspondence, its existence and details were unknown until the 1930’s, when the letter was donated to the RLDS Church’s archives as part of a larger collection of McLellin materials.[6] The content of the letter was not broadly known until after the document was stolen in 1985, but a copy of the original was donated by a private collector around the year 2000 who had made a copy prior to the theft of the original.

In 1872 William McLellin wrote about the journey to Canada

In 1872 William McLellin wrote about the journey to Canada.[7] He had no first hand knowledge of the event, as he did not join the Church until 1831. He apparently got the description of the event from Martin Harris, who was likewise not there and had no first hand knowledge. From the published account, McLellin ignores Hiram Page’s 1848 letter, and asserts that all involved in the Canadian Mission viewed it as a complete failure. Since all involved were dead, and the only known account by one of the participants, who obviously viewed it as a success, was in McLellin's possession, he apparently did not worry about being corrected.

In about 1881 J.L. Traughber wrote a letter to a German correspondent, who published it in 1886, retelling McLellin’s second or third hand knowledge of the event

In 1881 or shortly thereafter a man by the name of J.L. Traughber wrote a letter to a German correspondent, who published it in 1886, retelling McLellin’s second or third hand knowledge of the event.[8]

In 1886, David Whitmer mentions the trip to sell the copyright for the first time

Beginning in 1886, David Whitmer reports for the first time of the Canadian Mission.[9] Initially Whitmer reports the event in the third person, but by the time of his 1887 pamphlet An Address to All Believers in Christ, 57 years after the event occurred, he reports to having been a first hand witness, and Joseph Smith having given a false prophecy. Whitmer states,

Joseph looked into the hat in which he placed the stone, and received a revelation that some of the brethren should go to Toronto, Canada, and that they would sell the copyright of the Book of Mormon. Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery went to Toronto on this mission, but they failed entirely to sell the copyright, returning without any money. Joseph was at my father's house when they returned. I was there also, and am an eye witness to these facts. Jacob Whitmer and John Whitmer were also present when Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery returned from Canada.

Well, we were all in great trouble; and we asked Joseph how it was that he had received a revelation from the Lord for some brethren to go to Toronto and sell the copyright, and the brethren had utterly failed in their undertaking. Joseph did not know how it was, so he enquired of the Lord about it, and behold the following revelation came through the stone: "Some revelations are of God: some revelations are of men: and some revelations are of the devil." So we see that the revelation to go to Toronto and sell the copyright was not of God, but was of the devil or of the heart of man.[10]

Whitmer was looking for evidence to support his conclusion that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet

One must remember that not only was Whitmer looking for evidence to support his conclusion that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet, but he also wrote with no fear of contradiction, as all the witnesses to the event were dead.


Question: How does David Whitmer's account of the attempt to sell the Book of Mormon copyright compare to those of the eyewitnesses?

Whitmer's account is at variance in several ways with Hiram Page’s account

Whitmer's account is at variance in several ways with Hiram Page’s account. Whitmer gets the destination city in Canada wrong (he says Toronto, the other accounts, and the revelation itself, say Kingston) and he did not correctly identify all of the participants (he identified Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery, while Page noted Joseph Knight and Josiah Stowell). Note that the text of the revelation itself finally clears up the issue of exactly who the revelation was directed to,

...it Pleaseth me that Oliver Cowderey Joseph Knight Hyram Pagee & Josiah Stowel shall do my work in this thing...

Page, an eyewitness, makes no mention at disappointment in Joseph Smith, nor is there any mention of a "false prophecy"

Page also makes no mention or even a hint at disappointment in Joseph Smith, nor is there an accusation that the trip was based upon a "false prophecy," so naturally no subsequent "revelation" is noted by Page explaining the mission’s failure.

In Whitmer’s 1887 account we learn for the first time of the supposed post-mission revelation where Joseph Smith is told that some revelations are from God, some from devils, some from men. This account is in all likelihood a fabrication. Unlike his consistent, life-long statements concerning the witness of the Gold Plates, this account, which is probably a second-hand retelling of events 57 years after their occurrence, suddenly appears and is wrong on several of the documentable facts, as well as being inconsistent with the first-hand testimony of Hiram Page, given 40 years earlier than Whitmer and by comparison much closer to the actual event.


Question: How did Latter-day Saint scholars respond to the attempt to sell the Book of Mormon copyright prior to Page's letter coming to light?

B.H. Roberts expressed doubt as to the accuracy of the story, and suggested that David Whitmer may not have recalled all of the details correctly

The letter from 1848 by Hiram Page was not publically available until the 20th Century. As a result, various LDS responses to the accounts by Whitmer and McLellin of necessity must explain why the apparent anomalous revelation does not make Joseph Smith a fallen prophet. Such was the case when B.H. Roberts expressed doubt as to the accuracy of the story, and suggested that David Whitmer may not have recalled all of the details correctly, yet went on to address the claim anyway. Roberts concluded:

Does that circumstance vitiate his claim as a prophet? No; the fact remains that despite this circumstance there exists a long list of events to be dealt with which will establish the fact of divine inspiration operating upon the mind of this man Joseph Smith. The wisdom frequently displayed, the knowledge revealed, the predicted events and the fulfilment thereof, are explicable upon no other theory than of divine inspiration giving guidance to him. [11]

As it happens, the passage of time and the uncovering of additional information has vindicated that confidence.


Response to claim: "the first edition of the BOM has on its title page the author listed as Joseph Smith"

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

the first edition of the BOM has on its title page the author listed as Joseph Smith although the "Preface" page in the first edition of the Book of Mormon states that Joseph translated it. Subsequent editions changed the term 'author and proprietor' to 'translator'.

FairMormon Response

Question: Why is Joseph Smith listed as "author and proprietor" of the 1830 Book of Mormon instead of as "translator"?

Copyright law in 1830 in New York, where the Book of Mormon was first published, provided for the granting of copyrights to "authors and proprietors" but did not offer the same to translators

Joseph Smith is listed as the "author and proprietor" in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon. Critics of the Church consider this evidence that Joseph wrote the book himself. However, in order to secure the copyright, Joseph had to apply as the "author and proprietor." As one historian noted:

The fact is, Joseph Smith was complying with federal law (see I Statutes 124, 1790, as amended by 2 Stat. 171, 1802), which dictated the words the district clerk had to write when a person was taking out a copyright on a book. It can be demonstrated historically that many translators, including those who produced the 1824 edition of the King James Version of the Bible, were listed as "Author" to conform to this law.[12]

The first edition of the Book of Mormon contained a transcript of the secured copyright making this clear:

Northern District of New York, to wit:

BE IT REMEMBERED, That on the eleventh day of June, in the fifty-third year of the Independence of the United States of America, A. D. 1829, JOSEPH SMITH, JUN., of the said District, hath deposited in this office the title of a Book, the right whereof he claims as author, in the words following, to wit: "The Book of Mormon: an account written by the hand of Mormon, upon plates taken from the Plates of Nephi. Wherefore it is an abridgment of the Record of the People of Nephi; and also of the Lamanites; written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the House of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile; written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of Prophesy and of Revelation. Written, and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed; to come forth by the gift and power of God, unto the interpretation thereof; sealed by the hand of Moroni, and hid up unto the Lord, to come forth in due time by the way of Gentile; the interpretation thereof by the gift of God; an abridgment taken from the Book of Ether. Also, which is a Record of the People of Jared, which were scattered at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people when they were building a tower to get to Heaven: which is to shew unto the remnant of the House of Israel, how great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever: and also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile, that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting Himself unto all nations. And now if there be fault, it be the mistake of men; wherefore condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment seat of Christ.—By Joseph Smith. Jun. Author and Proprietor."

In conformity to the act of the Congress of the United States, entitled, "An act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of Maps, Charts, and Books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned;" and also the act, entitled, "An act supplementary to an act, entitled, "An act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of Maps, Charts, and Books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned, and extending the benefits thereof to the arts of designing, engraving, and etching historical and other prints."

R. R. LANSING

Clerk of the Northern District of New York

The title page of the 1830 Book of Mormon

The State of New York would have rejected the copyright if it had been assigned to "God" or "the angel Moroni" as the "author and proprietor"

It would be unreasonable if Joseph Smith were to apply for the copyright and assign "God" or "the angel Moroni" as the "author and proprietor". This complaint is not a serious issue, but merely an effort to find fault. Besides, the 1830 edition also states that the book was a translation of ancient records.

The 1830 Book of Mormon clearly identifies Joseph Smith as the translator of the work

Notice in the first paragraph of the copyright form above that even though Joseph Smith legally claimed his right as "author" he still inserted information making it clear that the text originated from an ancient, pre-written "abridgment" that came forth to the modern world "by the gift and power of God" and through an act of "interpretation" or translation.

It should also be pointed out that in the Preface of the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon the Prophet Joseph Smith designated himself as the "Author" but also indicated no less than six times that he was the translator of the text. Likewise, it can be seen in the 1830 testimony of the Eight Witnesses that Joseph Smith is called the "Author and Proprietor of this work" but it is also said that he "translated" the golden plates in order to obtain the text of the Book of Mormon.

Page 1 from the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon: "I would inform you that I translated, by the gift and power of God...."


Response to claim: "This wasn't a family of illiterates. Education was important to the Smith family"

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

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.

FairMormon Response

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. [13]


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. [14]

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. [15]

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.[16]


Response to claim: "Joseph was known for story-telling"

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

Critics often say that young Joseph was known for story-telling and often cite the following account from Joseph's mother....LDS apologist and General Authority B.H. Roberts who suggests that Joseph could not have learned any of these things from Moroni:

(Author's sources: Lucy Smith, Biographical Sketches, p. 85.)

FairMormon Response

Question: Was the young Joseph Smith a teller of "tall tales"?

The Prophet's mother's account of her son telling "amusing recitals" about the ancient inhabitants of the American continent occurred during the years that Joseph was being prepared to receive the plates

Lucy's 1853 autobiography, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for many Generations was considered inaccurate by Brigham Young and was ordered to be rewritten. The reasons for this had nothing to do with Lucy's account of her son Joseph's "amusing recitals." The 1853 autobiography and the 1845 manuscript upon which it was based still exist, and both confirm that the "amusing recitals" mentioned by Lucy were done during the period during which Joseph was being instructed by the angel as he waited to retrieve the gold plates. Lucy Mack Smith said the following in her 1853 autobiography:

During our evening conversations, Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of travelings, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them.[17]

The quote from Lucy Mack Smith is used by critics of the Church to show how Joseph Smith told "yarns" about Native Americans "long before any golden plates had been found." The chronology found in Lucy Mack Smith's history, however, tells just the opposite story, and puts this quotation in its proper context. Lucy says that the angel Moroni told her son (during his first appearance) about the existence of the plates and informed him where they were buried (see Lavina F. Anderson, ed., Lucy's Book: A Critical Edition of Lucy Mack Smith's Family Memoir [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2001], 335-36). Lucy then states that Joseph (the evening after he had seen the Nephite record in their place of deposit) told his family all about "the plates" (ibid., 343).

Lucy Mack Smith: "From this time forth Joseph continued to receive instructions from time to time and every evening we gathered our children"

Lucy Mack Smith's account of her son telling "amusing recitals" about the ancient inhabitants of the American continent occurred during the years that Joseph was being prepared to receive the plates. The stories that he was telling related to information that he was receiving from the angel Moroni: These were not "tall tales" that he fabricated for his family's amusement.

From Lucy's 1845 manuscript, we read:

Now said he[,] Father and Mother the angel of the Lord says that we must be careful not to proclaim these things or to mention them abroad For we do not any of us know the wickedness of the world which is so sinful that when we get the plates they will want to kill us for the sake of the gold if they know we had <have> them...by sunset [we] were ready to be seated and give our atten undivided attention to Josephs recitals...From this time forth Joseph continued to receive instructions from time to time and every evening we gathered our children togather [together]...In the course of our evening conversations Joseph would give us some of the most ammusing [amusing] recitals which could be immagined [imagined]. he would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent their dress their man[n]er of traveling the animals which they rode The cities that were built by them the structure of their buildings with every particular of their mode of warfare their religious worship as particularly as though he had spent his life with them...The angel informed him at one time that he might make an effort to obtain the plates <on> the <22nd of the> ensueing september....[18]

Clearly, Joseph Smith told his stories after he learned about, and saw, the golden plates. Indeed, it is known that Moroni showed Joseph visions and gave him information regarding the people whose stories were found on the Nephite record (see Times and Seasons, vol. 3, no. 9, 1 March 1842, 707-708), so the young man undoubtedly had quite a few stories to tell. Lucy Mack Smith simply said in her autobiography that her son told the family about information connected with the angel and the Book of Mormon plates.[19] Lucy told the same information to Wandle Mace about seven years prior to producing her 1845 autobiography and clarified that this information was connected with the Book of Mormon "Nephites" and was shown to her son by vision.

In Joseph Smith's own official history he confirmed that he learned this information through the power of visions[20] and Oliver Cowdery made note of the same thing.[21] Thus, the origin of the stories mentioned by Joseph's mother in her autobiography was a heavenly one—she was not even remotely implying that her son was a teller of tall tales.


Response to claim: "Roberts...concluded that Joseph Smith had sufficient imagination"

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

In his book Studies of the Book of Mormon, Roberts answers the question as to whether or not Joseph Smith could have produced the Book of Mormon. He concluded that Joseph Smith had sufficient imagination and was capable of producing the BOM even though he had little formal education. He was, however, prone to made [sic] silly mistakes. It is these telling inconsistencies and problems that Roberts lists: 1) evidence of an undeveloped mind, 2) repetition of the same themes, 3) repetition of the same villains, 4) repetition of same battles and wars, 5) conversions typical of 19th century conversions.

FairMormon Response

Question: Did B.H. Roberts state that it was possible for Joseph Smith to have come up with the Book of Mormon on his own?

B.H. Roberts was a believer in the divine origin of the Book of Mormon, and talked of young Joseph Smith as he sat up late detailing to the family the wonderful conversations he had with the angel

B.H. Roberts retained his belief that the Book of Mormon was of divine origin up until the end of his life. Yet, according to one critical website, B.H. Roberts "postulated that it was certainly possible for Joseph Smith to have come up with the Book of Mormon on his own." [22] Roberts, however, believed that Joseph had conversations with the Angel Moroni.

B.H. Roberts, in his critical study of the Book of Mormon, pointed out how future critics might make use of this.

The face of it is first established by the testimony of the mother who bore him, Lucy Smith. Speaking of the days immediately following the revelation making known the existence of the Book of Mormon to her son...Lucy Smith in her History of the Prophet Joseph Smith, recounts how in the evening of that day, the young prophet sat up late detailing to the family the wonderful conversations he had with the angel;[23]


Question: Did B.H. Roberts lose his faith in the Church and the Book of Mormon?

An excellent argument against the claim that B.H. Roberts abandoned the Book of Mormon can be found in his last book, which he considered his masterwork

Critics charge that the 'problems' with the Book of Mormon made Brigham H. Roberts (an early LDS apologist and member of the First Quorum of Seventy) lose his faith in the its historicity. The primary source upon which this criticism is based originates with Roberts' manuscripts detailing his critical study of the Book of Mormon, which was published under the title Studies of the Book of Mormon years after his death.

An excellent argument against the claim that B.H. Roberts abandoned the Book of Mormon can be found in his last book, which he considered his masterwork. [B. H. Roberts, The Truth, the Way, the Life: An Elementary Treatise on Theology, edited by John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Studies, 1994).] Given Roberts' clear respect for the Book of Mormon in this volume, there can be little doubt that he continued to believe in and treasure it.

Ironically for the critics, many of the issues which drew Elder Roberts' attention have now been solved as more information about the ancient world has become available. He expressed faith that this would be the case, and has been vindicated:

We who accept [the Book of Mormon] as a revelation from God have every reason to believe that it will endure every test; and the more thoroughly it is investigated, the greater shall be its ultimate triumph.[24]

Roberts was an able scholar, and he was not afraid to play 'devil's advocate' to strengthen the Church's defenses against its enemies

In a presentation on some potential Book of Mormon 'problems' prepared for the General Authorities, Roberts wrote a caution that subsequent critics have seen fit to ignore:

Let me say once and for all, so as to avoid what might otherwise call for repeated explanation, that what is herein set forth does not represent any conclusions of mine. This report [is] ... for the information of those who ought to know everything about it pro and con, as well that which has been produced against it as that which may be produced against it. I am taking the position that our faith is not only unshaken but unshakeable in the Book of Mormon, and therefore we can look without fear upon all that can be said against it.[25]

Roberts felt that faith in the Book of Mormon was a given, and so did not consider any 'negative' points to be of ultimate concern

Roberts felt that faith in the Book of Mormon was a given, and so did not consider any 'negative' points to be of ultimate concern, though he did seek for better answers than he then had. The critics have often published his list of of "parallels" between the Book of Mormon and Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews, without informing modern readers that Roberts did not consider the problems insoluable, or a true threat to faith in the Book of Mormon. They also do not generally cite the numerous other statements in which, to the end of his life, he declared the Book of Mormon to be a divine record.

Roberts' studies also made him willing to modify previous conceptions, such as when he concluded that the Book of Mormon was not a history of the only immigrants to the New World.

In 1930, he enthused about the Book of Mormon a century after the Church's organization:

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for God hath spoken. ... The Record of Joseph in the hands of Ephraim, the Book of Mormon, has been revealed and translated by the power of God, and supplies the world with a new witness for the Christ, and the truth and the fulness of the Gospel.[26]

Other witnesses by B.H. Roberts of truth of the Church and the Gospel

The book Discourses of B.H. Roberts of the First Council of the Seventy, compiled by Ben R. Roberts (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company 1948) contains the last seven discourses delivered by Elder Roberts: four in Salt Lake City, one in San Francisco (on the radio), and the last two at the World Fellowship of Faith in Chicago, in August-September 1933. He died three weeks after the last discourse. Roberts had returned from a lengthy illness, which made him realize how precious life is. He determined to leave his testimony, especially for the youth of the church.

From the first of these addresses:[27]

It has always been a matter of pride with me, in my more than fifty years of ministry in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that it was no trivial thing which called this Church of the New Dispensation into existence. It was not founded upon the idea that men differed in relation to how baptism should be administered, whether by sprinkling or pouring, or immersion; or whether it was for the remission of sins, or because sins had been forgiven. I always rejoice that it had a broader foundation than whether the form of church government and administration should be Episcopal or Congregational, or the Presbyterian form of government; or any other minor [23] difference of theologians. It went to the heart of things, and astonished the world, and at the same time, of course, aroused its opposition.

When the Prophet of the New Dispensation asked God for wisdom, and which of the many churches about him he should join, he was told to join none of them, for they were all wrong; their creeds were false; they drew near to the Lord with their lips, but their hearts were far removed from him; they had a form of godliness but denied the power thereof; that the Christian world, especially, had, in fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy, transgressed the laws, changed the ordinances, and had broken the everlasting covenant (Isaiah 44), of which the blood of the Christ was the blood of that everlasting covenant. He promised the incoming of a New Dispensation of the Gospel of Christ, which would link together and unite all former dispensations, from Adam down to the present time, the great stream of events speeding on towards an immense ocean of truth in which it would be united with all truth. It was a world movement. To lay the foundations of a greater faith, it brought forth the American volume of scripture, the Book of Mormon. In time the authority of God, the holy priesthood was restored, the minor phase of it, through John the Baptist; and later Peter, James and John, who held the keys of the kingdom of heaven, bestowed upon them by the Christ, appeared to the Prophet Joseph and Oliver Cowdery, and the divine and supreme authority from God was conferred upon them. By this authority and under the power of it they organized the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, outlined its doctrines, and established it firmly in the earth.

That is how the New Dispensation began—not whether baptism should be by immersion, or for the forgiveness of sins. The rubbish of accumulated ages was swept aside, the rocks made bare, and the foundations relaid” (22-23).

Roberts then refers to a statement in David Whitmer, To All Believers in Christ, about the translation of the Book of Mormon being interrupted due to some problems between Joseph and Emma:

He [Joseph] took up the divine instrument, the Urim and Thummim, tried to translated but utterly failed. Things remained dark to his vision. David Whitmer tells how Joseph left the translating room and [26] went to the woodslot on the Whitmer farm, and there corrected himself, brought himself into a state of humiliation and of exaltation at the same time. He went back to the house, became reconciled to Emma, his wife, came up to the translating room, and again the visions were given and the translation went on. But he could translate only as he was in a state of exaltation of mind and in accord with the Spirit of God, which leads to the source of hidden treasures of knowledge” (25-6).

Roberts then refers to the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price, which was revealed shortly after the Church was organized, in June 1830:

It goes further than we have come, this knowledge by faith. After the Prophet had translated the Book of Mormon he began to receive the revelations which today make up the Book of Moses, the translation of [27] which began to be published about six months after the Book of Mormon had been translated” (26-7).

I admire the achievements of the men of science and hold them in honor…. But what am I to think of the Prophet of God, who speaking a hundred years before him, and speaking by the knowledge that comes by faith, revealed the same truth—viz., that as one earth shall pass away, so shall another come, and there is no end to God’s work? This gives to the Church of the New Dispensation the right to voice her protest against a dying universe—its death blows to the immortality of man.

Oh, ye Elders of Israel, this is our mission, to withstand this theory of a dying universe and this destruction of the idea of the immortality and eternal life of man. We have this knowledge revealed of God, and it is for us to maintain the perpetuity of the universe and the immortal life of man. Such was the mission of the Christ, such is ours” (29).

I am one of the special witnesses of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, made so by the office I hold, and I want to begin a return to my ministry in this pulpit by exercising my duty as a special witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. Here it is: Jesus Christ is the very Son of God, the incarnation of all that is divine, the revelation of God to man, the Redeemer of the world; for as in Adam all die, so shall they in Christ be brought forth alive. Also Jesus is the Savior of individual man, through him and him alone comes repentance and [30] forgiveness of sins, through which the possibility of unity with God comes. As his witness I stand before you on this occasion to proclaim these truths concerning the Christ, not from scientific knowledge or book learning, but from the knowledge that comes by faith” (29-30)

It is difficult to see these as the words of one who has lost his faith in the Church, the Book of Mormon, or Joseph Smith.


Truman Madsen: "Among readers who came to the Book of Mormon with hard, skeptical assumptions, B.H. Roberts is notable"

Truman G. Madsen:

Among readers who came to the Book of Mormon with hard, skeptical assumptions, B.H. Roberts is notable. He was capacitated by temperament and equipped by study for penetrating analysis. Moreover, at many junctures of his life he had profound personal reasons and emotional and spiritual stresses which might have led a man of lesser integrity to discard wholesale his religious heritage. But on his other side was his capacity for constant, patient study. This he brought (for more than a half century) to the Book of Mormon as he did to his work in history, never letting go, never fully satisfied with what he had written or said, and never unwilling to consider afresh the latest spate of difficulties.[28]


Response to claim: "Joseph simply incorporated this dream experience, that had such an impact on his father, into the BOM"

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

Critic's comment: This is the 'Tree of Life' story as told in the Book of Mormon starting in 1 Nephi 11:25. Joseph's father must have told Joseph about this dream many times when Joseph was growing up. Although faithful LDS try to explain this as evidence that Joseph's father was also inspired, there is another more plausible explanation - Joseph simply incorporated this dream experience, that had such an impact on his father, into the BOM.

FairMormon Response

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.[29]

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: "Many parts of the BOM are identical to the Bible....Plagiarism is not difficult for anyone to do"

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

Many parts of the BOM are identical to the Bible. Entire chapters of the Bible are contained within the BOM. Plagiarism is not difficult for anyone to do.

FairMormon Response

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.[30] 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 critics question the presence of verses from Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. They often assert that many Book of Mormon verses were copied from the King James Bible, which in their view, makes it 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.[31]

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.[32] 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.[33] 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. [34] Such a translation was "rare for its time."[35]

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.[36] 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.


Response to claim: "The King James version of The Holy Bible has some translation problems...the BOM has these same errors"

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

The King James version of The Holy Bible has some translation problems with it as stated in the Articles of Faith. These translation errors occurred when the original Greek and Hebrew Bibles were translated into English. Obviously if the BOM used the Old Testament records that the Nephites brought with them from Jerusalem in 600 BC, then they would not have English translation errors made in the Middle Ages. However the BOM has these same errors.Provenance of this claim:Grant H. Palmer, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002) 10. ( Index of claims )

FairMormon Response

Question: If the Book of Mormon is an accurate translation, why would it contain translational errors that exist in the King James Bible?

The only description of the translation process that Joseph Smith ever gave was that it was performed by the "gift and power of God"

The Book of Mormon incorporates text which seems to be taken from the Bible, including passages which are now considered to be mistranslations in the King James Version. If the Book of Mormon is an accurate translation, why would it contain translational errors that exist in the King James Bible? [37]

We do not know the specific mechanism by which the biblical passages were included in the translation, therefore we cannot answer this question based upon current historical information. The only description of the translation process that Joseph Smith ever gave was that it was performed by the "gift and power of God," and that the translation was performed using the "Urim and Thummim." Joseph Smith stated the following in July 1838:

Question 4th. How, and where did you obtain the book of Mormon? Answer. Moroni, the person who deposited the plates, from whence the book of Mormon was translated, in a hill in Manchester, Ontario County, New York, being dead, and raised again therefrom, appeared unto me, and told me where they were; and gave me directions how to obtain them. I obtained them and the Urim and Thummim with them; by the means of which I translated the plates and thus came the book of Mormon. (Joseph Smith, (July 1838) Elders Journal 1:42-43.)

Witnesses to the translation process never reported that a Bible or any other book was present during the translation

Joseph performed most of the translation in the open using the stone and the hat. The stone, in addition to the Nephite interpreters, was also referred to as the "Urim and Thummim" several years after the translation was complete (See Church essay "Book of Mormon Translation' on LDS.org [38]). Witnesses to the translation process never reported that a Bible or any other book was present during the translation. Given this evidence, we could assume that the Biblical passages were revealed to Joseph during the translation process in a format almost identical with similar passages in the King James Bible.

Some Latter-day Saint scholars believe that Joseph may have simply consulted a Bible when these passages were translated

Although there is not a single witness that saw Joseph consult any books during the translation process, some scholars believe that it is still a possibility that he did consult a Bible. If so, then he could have copied the relevant passages whenever he reached a point in the translation which he knew matched material in 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.” [39] 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. [40]

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?.


Response to claim: "Some LDS apologists admit that Joseph must have used the King James Bible when bringing forth the Book of Mormon"

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

Some LDS apologists admit that Joseph must have used the King James Bible when bringing forth the Book of Mormon. They explain that translating was hard on Joseph, and when he recognized that parts of the golden plates were identical to the Bible, he used the Bible instead so Joseph would not have to go through the more laborious method of translating the BOM using the seer stones. This apologetic answer really sounds like they are grasping for straws to provide some sort of answer to this problem.

FairMormon Response

Response to claim: "if the sermon on the mount was not translated correctly in the Bible, why then, is it the same incorrect translation in the BOM?"

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

Christ's Sermon on the Mount in the BOM and the Bible are identical. Yet later on, in the Joseph Smith translation of the Bible, Joseph corrected many of the parts of the Sermon on the Mount. So the question is, if the sermon on the mount was not translated correctly in the Bible, why then, is it the same incorrect translation in the BOM? Why is it not corrected like Joseph later did with his Bible translation?

FairMormon Response

Response to claim: "View of the Hebrews was a very popular book published in New England in 1823"

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

View of the Hebrews was a very popular book published in New England in 1823 which said that the American Indians are really descended from Hebrews and that they came over here to America and separated into two factions, one civilized and one wild and bloodthirsty, and that there were lots of wars between them, and finally the wild faction wiped out the civilized faction.

FairMormon Response

Question: Could Joseph Smith have used Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews as a guideline for creating the Book of Mormon?

Criticisms related to View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon

  • It is claimed that a 19th century work by Ethan Smith, View of the Hebrews, provided source material for Joseph Smith's construction of the Book of Mormon.
  • Some also postulate a link between Ethan Smith and Oliver Cowdery, since both men lived in Poultney, Vermont while Smith served as the pastor of the church that Oliver Cowdery's family attended at the time that View of the Hebrews was being written.

Many of the criticisms proposed are based upon B. H. Roberts' list of parallels, which only had validity if one applied a hemispheric geography model to the Book of Mormon

The View of the Hebrews theory is yet another attempt to fit a secular origin to the Book of Mormon. Many of the criticisms proposed are based upon B. H. Roberts' list of parallels, which only had validity if one applied a hemispheric geography model to the Book of Mormon. There are a significant number of differences between the two books, which are easily discovered upon reading Ethan Smith's work. Many points that Ethan Smith thought were important are not mentioned at all in the Book of Mormon, and many of the "parallels" are no longer valid based upon current scholarship.[41]

Advocates of the Ethan Smith theory must also explain why Joseph, the ostensible forger, had the chutzpah to point out the source of his forgery. They must also explain why, if Joseph found this evidence so compelling, he did not exploit it for use in the Book of Mormon text itself, since the Book of Mormon contains no reference to the many "unparallels" that Ethan assured his readers virtually guaranteed a Hebrew connection to the Amerindians.


Question: Was the View of the Hebrews theory of Book of Mormon origin advanced during the lifetime of Joseph Smith?

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

The theory the Joseph Smith plagiarized View of the Hebrews was never advanced during his lifetime. The prevailing theory of the day was the Spalding Theory, which quickly lost credibility upon the discovery of an actual Spalding manuscript in 1884 which bore no resemblance to the Book of Mormon. There are no records which indicate that Joseph Smith came into contact with the View of the Hebrews during the period of time that he was translating the Book of Mormon. The View of the Hebrews theory was in fact first proposed by I. Woodbridge Riley in 1902, 58 years after the death of the prophet.[42]

Joseph Smith quoted View of the Hebrews as supporting the Book of Mormon

There was, however, a reference to View of the Hebrews within Joseph Smith's lifetime, but it came from the prophet himself. In an article published in the Times and Seasons on June 1, 1842, Joseph quoted View of the Hebrews in support of the Book of Mormon:

If such may have been the fact, that a part of the Ten Tribes came over to America, in the way we have supposed, leaving the cold regions of Assareth behind them in quest of a milder climate, it would be natural to look for tokens of the presence of Jews of some sort, along countries adjacent to the Atlantic. In order to this, we shall here make an extract from an able work: written exclusively on the subject of the Ten Tribes having come from Asia by the way of Bherings Strait, by the Rev. Ethan Smith, Pultney, Vt., who relates as follows: "Joseph Merrick, Esq., a highly respectable character in the church at Pittsfield, gave the following account: That in 1815, he was leveling some ground under and near an old wood shed, standing on a place of his, situated on (Indian Hill)... [Joseph then discusses the supposed phylacteries found among Amerindians, citing View of the Hebrews p. 220, 223.][43]

It strains credulity to claim that Joseph drew attention to the work from which he derived most of his ideas. Why would he call attention to the source of his forgery?


Question: What did B.H. Roberts say about View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon?

B.H. Roberts was playing "devil's advocate" when he examined View of the Hebrews, and showing what a critic might do

The View of the Hebrews theory was examined in detail by B. H. Roberts in 1921 and 1922. Roberts took the position of examining the Book of Mormon from a critical perspective in order to alert the General Authorities to possible future avenues of attack by critics. The resulting manuscripts were titled Book of Mormon Difficulties and A Parallel. Roberts, who believed in a hemispheric geography for the Book of Mormon, highlighted a number of parallels between View of the Hebrews and The Book of Mormon. Roberts stated,

[C]ould the people of Mulek and of Lehi...part of the time numbering and occupying the land at least from Yucatan to Cumorah...live and move and have their being in the land of America and not come in contact with other races and tribes of men, if such existed in the New World within Book of Mormon times? To make this seem possible the area occupied by the Nephites and Lamanites would have to be extremely limited, much more limited, I fear, than the Book of Mormon would admit our assuming.[44]

Roberts concluded that, if one assumed that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon himself, that View of the Hebrews could have provided him with a foundation for creating the book. In fact, many of the issues highlighted by Roberts vanish when a limited geography theory is considered. The acceptance of the View of the Hebrews theory is therefore contingent upon the acceptance of a hemispheric geography model for the Book of Mormon. In order to promote View of the Hebrews as a source, critics necessarily reject any limited geography theory proposal for the Book of Mormon.

Roberts rejected the idea that the Book of Mormon was not divine

In 1985, Roberts' manuscripts were published under the title Studies of the Book of Mormon. This book is used by critics to support their claim that B. H. Roberts lost his testimony after performing the study. Roberts, however, clearly continued to publicly support the Book of Mormon until his death, and reaffirmed his testimony both publicly and in print.


Question: What are the similarities and differences between View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon?

Examples of parallels and differences

Some parallels do exist between the two books. For example, View of the Hebrews postulates the existence of a civilized and a barbarous nation who were constantly at war with one another, with the civilized society eventually being destroyed by their uncivilized brethren. This has obvious similarities to the story of the Nephites and the Lamanites in the Book of Mormon.

"Parallels" that actually aren't parallels

Many of the "parallels" that are discussed are not actually parallels at all once they are fully examined:

Both speak of... View of the Hebrews Book of Mormon
...the destruction of Jerusalem... ...by the Romans in A.D. 70. ...by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.
...Israelites coming to the American continent... ...via dry land across the Bering Strait. ...via the ocean on board a ship.
...colonists spread out to fill the entire land... ...from the North to the South. ...from the South to the North.
...a great lawgiver (whom some assume to be associated with the legend of Quetzalcoatl)... ...who is identified as Moses. ...who is identified as Jesus Christ.
...an ancient book that was preserved for a long time and then buried... ...because they had lost the knowledge of reading it and it would be of no further use to them. [45] ...in order to preserve the writings of prophets for future generations.
...a buried book taken from the earth... ...in the form of four, dark yellow, folded leaves of old parchment.[46] ...in the form of a set of gold metal plates.
...the Egyptian language, since ...an Egyptian influence is present in hieroglyphic paintings made by native Americans.[47] ...a reformed Egyptian was used to record a sacred history.

Parallels that are everywhere

Some "parallels" between the Book of Mormon and View of the Hebrews are actually parallels with the Bible as well:

The Book of Mormon View of the Hebrews The King James Bible
The Book of Mormon tells the story of inspired seers and prophets. View of the Hebrews talks of Indian traditions that state that their fathers were able to foretell the future and control nature. The Bible tells the story of inspired seers and prophets.
The Book of Mormon was translated by means of the Urim and Thummim, which consisted of two stones fastened to a breastplate. View of the Hebrews describes a breastplate with two white buttons fastened to it as resembling the Urim and Thummim. The Bible describes the Urim and Thummim as being fastened to a breastplate (Exodus 28:30).

This highlights the fact that general parallels are likely to be found between works that treat the same types of subjects, such as ancient history. In what ancient conflict did one side not see themselves as representing light and civilization against the dark barbarism of their enemies?

"Unparallels"

Critics generally ignore the presence of many "unparallels"—these are elements of Ethan Smith's book which would have provided a rich source of material for Joseph to use in order to persuade his contemporaries that the Book of Mormon was an ancient history of the American Indians, and that they were descended from Israel. Yet, the Book of Mormon consistently ignores such supposed "bulls-eyes," which is good news for proponents of the Book of Mormon's authenticity, since virtually all of Ethan's "evidences" have been judged to be false or misleading.

The lack of such "unparallels" is bad news, however, for anyone wanting to claim that Joseph got his inspiration or information from Ethan Smith.

Scripture use in View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon

If the View of the Hebrews served as the basis for the Book of Mormon, one would think that the Bible scriptures used by Ethan Smith would be mined by Joseph Smith for the Book of Mormon. Yet, this is not the case.

Why was this only discovered later?

No contemporary critic of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon pointed out the supposedly "obvious" connection to the View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon. It is only with the failure of the Spaulding theory that critics began seeking a new naturalistic explanation for Joseph's production of a 500+ book of scripture. As Stephen Ricks notes:

Beyond these "unparallels," there is a further question that must be answered by proponents of the View of the Hebrews hypothesis: why do none of the early critics of the Book of Mormon mention Ethan Smith in their attacks on it? If the parallels are so evident, why weren't they noticed by individuals who were not only acquainted with Ethan Smith's book, but were also existentially interested in its claims? Why wasn't it prominently mentioned as a source for the Book of Mormon until the beginning of the twentieth century, when the book itself had only an antiquarian interest and its contents were no longer so widely a part of popular discussion? My suspicion is that what appear today to be "distinctives" of View of the Hebrews, eschatological and otherwise, seemed less so in the early part of the nineteenth century, when these ideas flowed freely in published and unpublished forums.[48]


Question: Has the book View of the Hebrews been readily available?

Because availability was limited, BYU's Religious Studies Center re-published the 1825 edition of View of the Hebrews in 1996

The View of the Hebrews theory became more popular as the availability of the book itself diminished. The best evidence that argues against View of the Hebrews as the primary source for the Book of Mormon is a reading of the text itself, yet the ability to access that text had become more difficult over the years. In order to provide the interested reader with the ability to decide for themselves, BYU's Religious Studies Center re-published the 1825 edition of View of the Hebrews in 1996.[49] It is also available at wikisource.


Question: Is there a link between Ethan Smith, author of View of the Hebrews, and Oliver Cowdery?

Both Ethan Smith and Oliver Cowdery lived in Poultney, Vermont while Smith served as the pastor of the church that Oliver Cowdery's family attended

Critics postulate a link between Ethan Smith and Oliver Cowdery, since both men lived in Poultney, Vermont while Smith served as the pastor of the church that Oliver Cowdery's family attended at the time that View of the Hebrews was being written. Beyond speculation based upon this circumstantial evidence, there is no indication of a connection between View of the Hebrews, Oliver Cowdery, and the Book of Mormon.


Response to claim: "There was a reference to View of the Hebrews within Joseph Smith's lifetime"

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

There was a reference to View of the Hebrews within Joseph Smith's lifetime, but it came from the prophet himself. In an article published in the Times and Seasons on June 1, 1842, Joseph quoted View of the Hebrews in support of the Book of Mormon: "If such may have been the fact, that a part of the Ten Tribes came over to America..."

FairMormon Response

Response to claim: "Early American Influences in the Book of Mormon stands in direct contradiction to the testimonies of witnesses to Joseph Smith's translation process"

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

Early American Influences in the Book of Mormon stands in direct contradiction to the testimonies of witnesses to Joseph Smith's translation process. Translation is a generous term considering the word for word dictation method as observed by those closest to Smith. The multiple accounts of Smith's glowing stone in his hat delivering each word in order leaves little room for Smith interpreting or translating what he saw. Yet, when compared to available contemporary writing, the Book of Mormon is shown repeatedly to borrow verbiage and phrases from its time.

FairMormon Response

Response to claim: "Joseph Smith may simply have had help from someone else to write the Book of Mormon"

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

Joseph Smith may simply have had help from someone else to write the Book of Mormon. Someone else may have written the BOM (or most of it) and Joseph was merely the one to deliver it to the world. There are many theories regarding this idea. They generally involve some combination of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon and perhaps an author by the name of Solomon Spalding.

FairMormon Response

Response to claim: "The Spalding theory often does not get much attention...We think that the Tanners and Fawn Brodie did a disservice to the theory"

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

The Spalding theory often does not get much attention because two of the biggest critics of the LDS Church dismissed it years ago - The Tanners and Fawn Brodie. LDS apologists dismiss it similarly saying that it was refuted long ago. We think that the Tanners and Fawn Brodie did a disservice to the theory as there is some significant information that supports the theory that is worthy of further study.

FairMormon Response

Response to claim: "Dale Broadhurst has amassed a collection of various 1800s newspaper articles that report many accounts of those that support the Spalding Theory"

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

Dale Broadhurst has amassed a collection of various 1800s newspaper articles that report many accounts of those that support the Spalding Theory and witnesses that claimed Sidney Rigdon admitted his involvement in producing the Book of Mormon.

FairMormon Response

Response to claim: "A lost Spalding manuscript was found in Hawaii"

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

A lost Spalding manuscript was found in Hawaii and LDS believers have said that puts the nail in the Spalding Theory coffin. The manuscript that was discovered was Manuscript Story, not Manuscript Found, even though it was given that name later on, perhaps as wishful thinking so the Spalding theory would die. Yet discussions have included both names over the years. So then if there was only one manuscript, then it was/is Manuscript Story, and Manuscript Found doesn't exist, unless it is indeed the second manuscript, the one which Solomon Spalding did indeed submit to a print shop in Pittsburgh. The point of contention then becomes whether that manuscript later became the basis for the Book of Mormon.

FairMormon Response

Book of Mormon/Authorship theories/Spalding manuscript/Summary

Response to claim: "Ethan Smith - the author of A View of the Hebrews was Oliver Cowdery's minister from 1823-1828"

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

1. Ethan Smith - the author of A View of the Hebrews was Oliver Cowdery's minister from 1823-1828 - they both are from Poultney, VT. This is also where the book was published. 2.Solomon Spalding was also a classmate of Ethan Smith and both were graduates of the same religious college. Some people believe that both Ethan and Solomon's works are plagiarized in the Book of Mormon.

FairMormon Response

Response to claim: "More ongoing work is currently being performed in order to try to find a link between Rigdon and Smith before the BOM was published"

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

We don't necessarily support the Spalding theory; however there is more evidence to support the theory than we initially thought. If this theory is true then it neatly answers many of the concerns that faithful members have who question the church based on other problematic issues such as the temple ceremony and Book of Abraham translation issues but still don't think that Joseph could have come up with the Book of Mormon on his own. Many people currently support the theory. It may or may not be true, but it's certainly worthy of further study. More ongoing work is currently being performed in order to try to find a link between Rigdon and Smith before the BOM was published.

FairMormon Response

Response to claim: "It should also take into consideration the fact that Joseph Smith had years to come up with text and plot"

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

It should also take into consideration the fact that Joseph Smith had years to come up with text and plot. There are tons of books, far superior in writing style and story line, that didn't take nearly as long as the Book of Mormon did to complete. It may have been dictated in 90 days but he had been working on it, if only in his head, for years. Of course if the Spalding theory has any validity to it, the translating speed is not an issue at all as he would have basically been dictating a book already written.

(Author's sources: An Insider's View of Mormon Origins, Grant Palmer, pp 66-67.)

FairMormon Response

Response to claim: "If Joseph was indeed committing a fraud...He simply acted like he didn't know that Jerusalem had walls...OR if the BOM came from another source...then he may have been genuinely surprised"

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

Critic's Comment: If Joseph was indeed committing a fraud, but wanted to convince his wife that he was really translating an ancient document, then that is exactly the kind of stunt that Joseph would do. He simply acted like he didn't know that Jerusalem had walls so she would think he was translating from another document and not merely making it up. OR if the BOM came from another source such as Sidney Rigdon, then he may have been genuinely surprised to read that and simply stated as such.

FairMormon Response

Response to claim: "Joseph likely memorized the pages well enough to continue where he left off or he may very well have peaked at the last page before he started again"

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

Critic's Comment: According to Oliver Cowdery, Oliver scribed the entire Book of Mormon 'save a few pages'. Emma may have only done a few pages here and there. Joseph likely memorized the pages well enough to continue where he left off or he may very well have peaked at the last page before he started again - it's not like Emma kept the pages. Joseph would have kept the pages already done, and he simply looked at them before he gave them to Emma to begin translating again. It's not that remarkable when you think about it. And if there was a curtain between them, as was commonly taught when we were growing up in the Church, then Joseph could have obviously had notes or any material he wanted to look at.

FairMormon Response

Response to claim: "we were clearly taught that there was a curtain between Joseph and Oliver Cowdery...If that's the case...Joseph could have simply read from notes or even whole papers"

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

Growing up in the church we were clearly taught that there was a curtain between Joseph and Oliver Cowdery, the principle scribe for the BOM. This was done presumably so that the scribe could not see the plates. If that's the case, then the dictation isn't even an issue as Joseph could have simply read from notes or even whole papers that were already developed by him or someone else.

FairMormon Response

Response to claim: "knowledgeable LDS historians endorse the idea that Joseph put his face in a hat with a seer stone and dictated the BOM to a scribe"

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

However, LDS historians support the idea that there was often not a curtain between Joseph and the scribe. If a curtain was used at all, it was to separate Joseph and Oliver from others in the house. Although still unknown to the vast majority of Latter-day Saints, knowledgeable LDS historians endorse the idea that Joseph put his face in a hat with a seer stone and dictated the BOM to a scribe when the plates were either covered or not even in the room.

FairMormon Response

Response to claim: "Emma blatantly lies in the following questions seriously damaging her credibility"

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

When LDS faithful quote the above two questions and answers by Emma they never quote the rest of the interview by Emma. That's because Emma blatantly lies in the following questions seriously damaging her credibility. Here are other questions and her answers from that same letter:

FairMormon Response

Question: How did Emma Hale Smith react to Joseph's practice of plural marriage?

Emma was aware of Joseph's plural marriage and sometimes gave permission, but did much to try and thwart it

Emma was aware of plural marriage; it is not clear at exactly what point she was made aware, partly due to there being relatively few early sources on the matter. Emma was generally opposed to the practice of plural marriage, and did much to try and thwart it. There were times, however, when Emma gave permission for Joseph's plural marriages, though she soon changed her mind.[50] Emma was troubled by plural marriage, but her difficulties arose partly from her conviction that Joseph was a prophet:

Zina Huntington remembered a conversation between Elizabeth [Davis] and Emma [Smith] in which Elizabeth asked the prophet’s wife if she felt that Joseph was a prophet. Yes, Emma answered, but I wish to God I did not know it.[51]

Emma did teach her children that Joseph had never taught the doctrine of plural marriage, and blamed its introduction on Brigham Young

Emma never denied Joseph's prophetic calling; she did, however, teach her children that Joseph had never taught the doctrine of plural marriage, and blamed its introduction on Brigham Young. Torn between two certitudes—her conviction of Joseph's prophetic calling, and her hatred of plural marriage—Emma had difficult choices to make for which we ought not to judge her.

But, the critics ought to let all of Emma speak for herself—she had a great trial, but also had great knowledge. That she continued to support Joseph's calling and remain with him, despite her feelings about plural marriage, speaks much of her convictions. As she told Parley P. Pratt years later:

I believe he [Joseph] was everything he professed to be.[52]

Allen J. Stout: "from moments of passionate denunciation [Emma] would subside into tearful repentance and acknowledge that her violent opposition to that principle was instigated by the power of darkness"

Allen J. Stout, who served as a bodyguard for Joseph, recounted a conversation he overheard in the Mansion House between Joseph and his tormented wife. A summary of his account states that "from moments of passionate denunciation [Emma] would subside into tearful repentance and acknowledge that her violent opposition to that principle was instigated by the power of darkness; that Satan was doing his utmost to destroy her, etc. And solemnly came the Prophet's inspired warning: 'Yes, and he will accomplish your overthrow, if you do not heed my counsel.'"[53]

Emma Smith: "The principle is right but I am jealous hearted. Now never tell anybody that you heard me find fault with that [principle;] we have got to humble ourselves and repent of it

Emma's inner conflict was also dramatized in another report:

Maria Jane Johnston, who lived with Emma as a servant girl, recalled the Prophet's wife looking very downcast one day and telling her that the principle of plural marriage was right and came from Heavenly Father. "What I said I have got [to] repent of," lamented Emma. "The principle is right but I am jealous hearted. Now never tell anybody that you heard me find fault with that [principle;] we have got to humble ourselves and repent of it."[54]

Emma Smith: "I desire a fruitful, active mind, that I may be able to comprehend the designs of God, when revealed through his servants without doubting"

Emma asked Joseph for a blessing not long before he went to Carthage. Joseph told her to write the best blessing she could, and he would sign it upon his return. Wrote Emma:

I desire with all my heart to honor and respect my husband as my head, ever to live in his confidence and by acting in unison with him retain the place which God has given me by his side...I desire the spirit of God to know and understand myself, I desire a fruitful, active mind, that I may be able to comprehend the designs of God, when revealed through his servants without doubting.[55]


Response to claim: "Emma's answers are blatant lies, as the historical record shows"

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

Critic's Comment: Emma's answers are blatant lies, as the historical record shows. Her intentions are fairly clear - she is lying in order to protect Joseph Smith's legacy. What she said in the same letter about Smith's involvement in creating the Book of Mormon is equally suspect. Emma said this to her (and Joseph's) son, Joseph Smith III, who was president of the Reorganized Church. She had ample motive to defend the Book of Mormon to her own son who was president of a Church that she was a member of, and which also considered the Book of Mormon to be scripture.

FairMormon Response

Response to claim: "she didn't want to be portrayed as the woman whose husband made a fool of by claiming divine right to have relations with dozens of other women while he was married to Emma"

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

Comments on Emma

Although Emma likely believed Joseph, even if she didn't, she would still have supported her husband. If she suspected that Joseph was indeed making this stuff up and she stated that to the public, Joseph's enemies surely would have taken it out on him. Emma obviously wouldn't want any harm to come to her husband, and the father of her children, regardless of the reason. Also Emma lied when she felt it was necessary. In addition to her false claim that Smith couldn't "write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter", she also lied to her son about polygamy. She lied repeatedly to her children when asked if their father practiced polygamy. She denied it so strongly so her children would not have a tainted view of their father. Emma's lies are one of the reasons that the RLDS (Community of Christ) church was formed.

In view of the documentary record, together with the fact that Emma also testified that Joseph had no wife but her, it can be surmised that her "memory" was probably more concerned with how she wanted things to be remembered more than how they had actually happened. And of course she didn't want to be portrayed as the woman whose husband made a fool of by claiming divine right to have relations with dozens of other women while he was married to Emma.

FairMormon Response

Response to claim: "If there are others that produced works that far exceeded their capabilities, then this would show that Joseph's experience was not unique"

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

One reason stated by many Latter-day Saints to support their belief in the Book of Mormon is their assertion that Joseph Smith didn't have the education and knowledge to produce such a work. They cite that no one else of Joseph's Smith comparable background ever produced anything well-beyond their apparent capabilities as Joseph did. If there are others that produced works that far exceeded their capabilities, then this would show that Joseph's experience was not unique and perhaps there are more earthly explanations for the Book of Mormon's origins.

FairMormon Response

Response to claim: "Their lack of ability, in each case, did not seem to deter them from producing works which equal, or easily surpass, the Book of Mormon in literary style and quality"

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

Both Mohammed and Pearl Curran were of like mental ability to Joseph Smith. Mrs. Curran had a slightly better education than Smith, although it was still not outstanding by any means. Mohammed's formal education, on the other hand, was virtually nil. He was illiterate, unlike Smith, who could read and write. (It should be noted that the claim that Mohammed was unlettered has been disputed by a number of professional historians, including some Muslim scholars).

Their lack of ability, in each case, did not seem to deter them from producing works which equal, or easily surpass, the Book of Mormon in literary style and quality. We find then that the LDS claim that Smith could not have written the Book of Mormon is without foundation. Not only has a similar feat been performed before, it has been performed better.

If the Book of Mormon is held up as proof of Joseph Smith's prophetic calling on the basis that he could not have written it, then we must grant the same status to Pearl Curran and Mohammed, on the same grounds. Anything less would amount to intellectual dishonesty.

FairMormon Response

Response to claim: "A righteous man who was deluded could have written the Book of Mormon, not aware that he was lying"

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

A righteous man who was deluded could have written the Book of Mormon, not aware that he was lying. There are hundreds of examples of well-meaning (righteous) people who have produced "scriptures" which we (as LDS members) would not accept such as Mohammed, Zoroaster, Lao Tze, to mention only a few. Even well-meaning believers in Joseph Smith have produced nice-sounding scriptures. Here are a few examples:

FairMormon Response

Response to claim: "Some people believe that Joseph Smith's hand was moving by some strange force like the channelers do"

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

Some people believe that Joseph Smith's hand was moving by some strange force like the channelers do. Now the channeling hypotheses cannot be dismissed out of hand. Joseph was trained by his father in the hermitic arts. His use of the seer stone is consistent with a long tradition stretching back to Europe. Our Thoughts: We don't give credence to any particular theory of channeling, but just state that those who "believe" (or who say that they do) are capable of complex and lengthy documents that seem to greatly exceed the normal capabilities demonstrated by the 'mediums' when not in a trance.

FairMormon Response

Response to claim: "The book is clearly of purely human origin, penned by an author with a vivid imagination ....Together with the duplicity of Smith's associates Cowdery, Harris and Whitmer"

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

Ending summary by critics. The book is clearly of purely human origin, penned by an author with a vivid imagination ....Together with the duplicity of Smith's associates Cowdery, Harris and Whitmer, their affirmation of the Book of Mormon as a part of "God's restoration of the true Church" helped attract the hundreds, than thousands who would travel with them across the Midwest to create their own religious utopia, Zion, which would evolve into the LDS Church of today.

FairMormon Response

Response to claim: "unless Laban was in the habit of coming home with blood-drenched clothing"

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

The only thing remarkable about the Book of Mormon is how remarkably bad it is. How much genius does it take to write about god telling Nephi to hack off Laban's head and then put on Laban's clothing to fool Laban's servants into thinking that Nephi was Laban? (A slightly intelligent writer would almost instantly see that there was a problem with this scenario, unless Laban was in the habit of coming home with blood-drenched clothing and dripping blood and gore all over the place.)

FairMormon Response

Nephi's killing of Laban: blood loss from decapitation

Jump to Subtopic:


Source quotes without critical commentary

Summary: If you would like to read all of the source quotes without wading through all of the "Critic's comments," "Apologetic rebuttals" and "Our Thoughts" sections, we present the critical web page as it would appear if only the source quotes were provided without any additional commentary. We also try to provide accurate references and direct links to the original source text rather than simply linking to other websites where you have to search for them.

Notes

  1. 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), 4:461. Volume 4 link
  2. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 9:311. [13 July 1862]
  3. George A. Smith, Journal of Discourses 12:335. [15 November 1863]
  4. Marlin K. Jensen, “The Joseph Smith Papers: The Manuscript Revelation Books,” Ensign (July 2009) off-site
  5. Letter to William McLellin, February 2, 1848, as cited in Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, Vol. 5, pages 257-9.
  6. Ibid., page 257
  7. William McLellin to Joseph Smith III, September 8, 1872. See Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, Vol. 5, page 328.
  8. John L. Traughber correspondence, which appears to date from 1881. Dan Vogel’s editor comments in “Early Mormon Documents”, Vol. 5, page 333, explain his assumption this was written to James T. Cobb. See page 334 for relevant statements concerning the Mission to Canada.
  9. David Whitmer Interview with Omaha (NE) Herald, Oct. 10, 1886, as quoted by Dan Vogel in Early Mormon Documents, Vol. 5, pages 174-181. See page 180 for relevant material.
  10. David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ by a Witness to the Divine Authenticity of The Book of Mormon (David Whitmer: Richmond, Virginia, 1887).
  11. Brigham H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1965), 1:165. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  12. Kenneth H. Godfrey, "Not Enough Trouble, review of Trouble Enough: Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon by Ernest H. Taves and Joseph Smith and the Origins of the Book of Mormon by David Persuitte," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19 no. 3 (Fall 1986), 143.
  13. "History, circa Summer 1832," The Joseph Smith Papers.
  14. "Could Joseph Smith have written the Book of Mormon?", MormonThink.com http://mormonthink.com/josephweb.htm#full
  15. 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
  16. 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.
  17. Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 1:296. citing Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool, S.W. Richards, 1853), 36-173.
  18. Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 1:294–296. citing the 1845 manuscript of Lucy Mack Smith's autobiography.
  19. Lucy Smith, Lucy's Book: Critical Edition of Lucy Mack Smith's Family Memoir, edited by Lavina Fielding Anderson and Irene M. Bates, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 2001), 346. ISBN 1560851376.
  20. Times and Seasons 3 no. 9 (1 March 1842), 707. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  21. Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1 no. 7 (April 1835), 112.
  22. "Could Joseph Smith have written the Book of Mormon?", MormonThink.com
  23. B. H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, (Salt Lake City, UT; Signature Books, 1992) 243. Some online ministries quote Roberts' use of Lucy's quote as "evidence" that Roberts lost his testimony of the Book of Mormon. They completely ignore Roberts's statements on the same page that Joseph was describing the "wonderful conversations he had with the angel."
  24. B. H. Roberts, "The Translation of the Book of Mormon," Improvement Era no. 9 (April 1906), 435–436.
  25. B. H. Roberts to the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, March 1923. (See Studies of the Book of Mormon (1992), p. 58. On page 33, note 65, the editor of this work states that the date on this letter should be 1922 rather than 1923.)
  26. Brigham H. Roberts, Conference Report (April 1930), 47.
  27. B. H. Roberts, “Protest Against the Science-Thought of a ‘Dying Universe’ and no Immortality for Man: The Mission of the Church of the New Dispensation,” delivered SLC Tabernacle, Sunday, 23 January 1932; reproduced in Discourses of B.H. Roberts of the First Council of the Seventy, compiled by Ben E. Roberts (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company 1948), 11–30.
  28. Truman G. Madsen, "B. H. Roberts and the Book of Mormon," Book of Mormon Authorship (1982).
  29. Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph Smith, The Prophet And His Progenitors For Many Generations, chapter 14
  30. See A. Melvin McDonald, Day of Defense (Sounds of Zion Inc., 2004[1986]), 49. ISBN 188647253X.
  31. 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)
  32. See Book of Mormon note to 2 Nephi 12:2
  33. 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.
  34. 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.
  35. "Thomson's Translation," Wikipedia (accessed 11 Feb 2015) off-site
  36. 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.
  37. Grant H. Palmer, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002) 10, 83. ( Index of claims ); Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults (Revised) (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1997), 205. ( Index of claims ); La Roy Sunderland, “Mormonism,” Zion’s Watchman (New York) 3, no. 7 (17 February 1838) off-site
  38. "Book of Mormon Translation," Gospel Topics, LDS.org. off-site
  39. Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), p. 141.
  40. Richard Lloyd Anderson, "By the Gift and Power of God," Ensign (September 1977).
  41. John W. Welch, "View of the Hebrews: 'An Unparallel'," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, edited by John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1992), 83–87.
  42. I. Woodbridge Riley, The Founder of Mormonism (New York, 1902), 124–126.
  43. Joseph Smith, Jr., "From Priest's American Antiquities," (1 June 1842) Times and Seasons 3:813-815.
  44. Brigham H. Roberts, Brigham D. Madsen, ed., Studies of the Book of Mormon, (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1985) ISBN 0252010434 .
  45. View of the Hebrews: 1825 2nd Edition Complete Text by Ethan Smith, edited by Charles D. Tate Jr., (Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1996), 223. ISBN 1570082472. off-site wikisource
  46. Ethan Smith, 220.
  47. Ethan Smith, 184-185.
  48. Stephen D. Ricks, "Review of The Use of the Old Testament in the Book of Mormon by Wesley P. Walters," FARMS Review of Books 4/1 (1992): 235–250. off-site
  49. Andrew H. Hedges, "Review of: View of the Hebrews," FARMS Review of Books 9/1 (1997): 63–68. off-site
  50. Emma gave permission for at least the marriages of Eliza and Emma Partridge, and Sarah and Maria Lawrence. See Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 409, 475. ( Index of claims )
  51. Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 261. ( Index of claims )
  52. Mary Audentia Smith Anderson (editor), "Memoirs of Joseph Smith III (1832–1914)," The Saints Herald (2 April 1935): 431–434.
  53. Allen J. Stout, "Allen J. Stout's Testimony," Historical Record 6 (May 1887): 230–31; cited in Wendy C. Top "'A Deep Sorrow in Her Heart' – Emma Hale Smith," in Heroines of the Restoration, edited by Barbara B. Smith and Blythe Darlyn Thatcher (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 17–34.
  54. Emma Smith to Maria Jane Johnston, cited in Wendy C. Top "'A Deep Sorrow in Her Heart' – Emma Hale Smith," in Heroines of the Restoration, edited by Barbara B. Smith and Blythe Darlyn Thatcher (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 17–34.; quoting Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma, 161.
  55. Emma Hale Smith, Blessing (1844), Church Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.