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Question: What is the "Ang Aklatan," and does it have anything to do with the Book of Mormon?
The source of this work says:
The Aklatan is a book which was translated by Elisha M. Enoc from a set of copper sheets he discovered after having a vision. The Aklatan contains a record of the ancient history of the Philippines, Taiwan, and Borneo. It also contains a record of God’s works among these ancient people. There are many prophecies about our day in the Aklatan.
The Aklatan was translated by Elisha M. Enoc through a series of dreams....
The Book of Visions was written by Elisha M. Enoc and contains a journal of the visions and visitations which led up to the translation of the Aklatan. The Selections form Ezekial are chapters 40 through 48 of Ezekiel copied directly from the Bible.All of the translation work was done in 1987. But the first publication of the Aklatan contains only a limited number of the total books. This is because only a small portion of the knowledge in these books is to be brought forth. As the work of spreading this information progresses more books, which have already been translated, will be published. Once the temple is built and the Kingdom of Maharlika is completely established all the books will be publicly available.
There are clear parallels to the Book of Mormon account. For example:
- both works are said to have been written on metal plates (gold vs. copper)
- both works were translated with divine aid
- both works tell the account of an ancient people, its relationship with God, and its future fate and role in God's purposes.
However, in addition to these thematic issues, an analysis of the text demonstrates considerable dependence upon the Book of Mormon text itself. This suggests that the author/translator was responding to the modern Book of Mormon text.
Preparing the text for analysis
FairMormon researcher Ben McGuire performed some textual analysis, and reported:
Occasionally, I dabble in questions about statistical modelings of texts.
I took one of my simple tools to compare texts. What I do is create a database, and include the texts I want to compare. Then I strip out the numbers and the punctuation (a process called normalization). This leaves me with a sequence of words. Next, I break the text into manageable chunks called locutions. I did this with the Lesser Gospel Written by Buka (it does take a little time so I only used the one text). The first part of it reads: “Now during the eleventh year of King Linurang there”. This becomes “Now during the eleventh”, “during the eleventh year”, “the eleventh year of”, and so on. Once I have completed this, I make a frequency chart of all of these phrases (giving me a list of all the unique four word phrases in a text). I used four words—primarily because experience has shown me that this gives us a good working range of statistics.
What can we learn from such analysis?
McGuire then describes how he interprets this data:
In general, two completely unrelated texts should share about a half of a percent to about a percent and a half in overlapping unique phrases (between .005 and .015). When we see books that use other books, this figure jumps above four percent (.04). So when I am making comparisons, I start looking at potential borrowing or dependence when I see that comparison rise above this four percent indicator.
Now this is a really rough estimate, and it doesn't replace more accurate stylometric approaches. But it is useful for ballpark analysis. The Book of Mormon uses a great deal of language from the King James Version. In fact running that comparison gives me a huge overlap of thirteen percent (.13).Of course, the Book of Mormon doesn't try to hide this, it makes it quite clear that it is quoting whole chapters from Isaiah. And it also identifies a major source in the Brass Plates (a copy of something like our Old Testament).
How close are the Book of Mormon and Ang Aklatan texts?
When I compared the Book of Mormon to the Lesser Gospel written by Buka (part of , the ratio was just under 16%—significantly higher than the Book of Mormon's use of biblical language from the King James Version. It isn't just the shared four word phrases either—there are more extensive sections which copy longer passages nearly verbatim. And in connection with some of these shared phrases, we also see paraphrases. The similarity is much higher than this statistic conveys.
What does this mean to me? It means to me that the Book of Mormon was an influence on this book—to an even greater extent than the Old Testament influenced the Book of Mormon. You might argue that in places we have Jesus saying the same things in both texts, which is true. But analysis at the level that I do it pulls out all of these phrases that occur outside of this sort of dialogue as well. So I conclude that it was intentionally written by someone using the Book of Mormon as a model.
Additionally, McGuire noted thematic elements responding to some aspects of LDS doctrine and discourse:
It was interesting when it expanded on the notion of "other sheep"—it doesn't stop with saying that the Nephites or those in the Philippines, it goes on to say:
"And there are also other sheep which are not in this land, and they are not in the land of Jerusalem, and they are not of those other people whom I have already visited. For there are many more lands and there are even many more worlds. And I have been commanded that I should go unto them."
This fascinates me a little bit because it impacts an early discussion in Mormon thought. Consider what Brigham Young said on this topic in a General Conference address in 1854:
"Let me open the eyes of your understanding. There has never been a time when the creations of worlds commenced. They are from eternity to eternity in their creations and redemption. After they are organized they experience the good and the evil, the light and the dark, the bitter and the sweet as you and I do. There never was a time when there were not worlds in existence as this world is, and they pass through similar changes in abiding their creation preparatory to exaltation. Worlds have always been in progress, and eternally will be. Every world has had an Adam and an Eve, named so simply because the first man is always called Adam and the first woman, Eve. And the oldest son has always had the privilege of being ordained, appointed and called to be the heir of the family if he does not rebel against the Father, and he is the Savior of the family. Every world that has been created has been created upon the same principle. They may vary in their varieties, yet the eternity is one: it is one eternal round."
Now, perhaps Brigham Young was wrong in his views. But, it seems clear to me that while this text of the Ang Aklatan draws on various ideas that we see in the LDS Church, I see here and in other places some differences and views that go beyond. In this way, I don't see the Ang Aklatan as being something original, rather it seems to me to be responding to certain ideas in the LDS Church.
In a way, this is similar to Ang Aklatan's claim that John the Revelator appeared and gave permission for something to be added to scripture. This is included as a response to a relatively modern sort of attack based entirely on a fundamentalist Christian interpretation of scripture as complete, authoritative, and self-revealing.
Outside of that context (which is a modern concern), we not only don't see a preoccupation with it, but we don't see a need for a corresponding response to it either. Early Christianity had a somewhat fluid canon—and yet this notion never seems to come up. At any rate, these kinds of responses are also a hint pointing towards a textual dependence not only to more recent literature but also to modern responses to scripture, and this leaves me a little concerned over the contents as well.
Thus, concludes McGuire:
It's not surprising that it sounds good to us. It uses this language and these ideas from the Book of Mormon (and not independently as far I can tell without really spending a lot more time with it). And we already believe the material that comes out of the Book of Mormon. It is where it goes beyond that we are likely to find ourselves running into conflicts. So, my thought is that it's worth being very cautious of this sort of thing.
Evidences of authenticity?
The Ang Aklatan website also offers a variety of "evidences" for the book's authenticity.
With all of the above in mind, the evidences from the website don't really work well. There is that metal plate which was translated in 2007. Not coincidentally, that was the same year that the first part of the Ang Aklatan was published. For this to work well as evidence, we would also need something to show that the text was actually written in 1987 (when it was alleged to have been written) instead of in 2007 when it was first published. The same is true of the alleged references to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. It would be a singular thing if it was written about in an ancient text, or even in a text written in 1987. Since the attacks occurred in 2001, they don't really matter as much for validating a text written in 2007.
Oliver Cowdery's 1839 Defence in a Rehearsal of my Grounds for Separating Myself from the Latter Day SaintsSummary: Although this document purports to have been published in 1839 by Oliver Cowdery, the earliest copies in existence are dated 1906. The document was "discovered" by the Reverend R. B. Neal, who was a leader in the American Anti-Mormon Association. No references to this document exists prior to 1906. This document was believed to be authentic for many years, until it was discovered that it consists primarily of a selection of Cowdery's phrases taken from various issues of the Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate that were removed from their original context and placed in a different context. A number of talking points appear to have been reworded from David Whitmer's 1887 An Address to All Believers in Christ. Historians now agree that this document is a forgery.
- "About," Ang Aklatan: A Book About the History and Future of the Maharlika (accessed 14 June 2014). http://angaklatan.wordpress.com/about/about/
- For a discussion of McGuire's methodology, see "The Late War Against the Book of Mormon," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 7 (2013), 323-355. McGuire's description of his work on the Ang Aklatan is here published for the first, and is based on reply to a question forwarded to FairMormon.
- Brigham Young, "For This Is Life Eternal," in Eldon Watson (editor), Brigham Young Addresses (1982), 2:230.