Question: Was the content of Alma Chapter 40 derived from a Presbyterian document called ''The Westminster Confession''?

Table of Contents

Question: Was the content of Alma Chapter 40 derived from a Presbyterian document called The Westminster Confession?

If Joseph were attempting to plagiarize The Westminster Confession, he ought to have taken the easier route of duplicating entire sentences or even paragraphs in the manner that the critics accuse him of doing with passages from Isaiah

When one considers the short amount of time in which production of the Book of Mormon was completed, it is not reasonable to believe that such detailed and difficult method of generating text was a factor in the process even if one does not believe in the book's divine origin. If Joseph were attempting to plagiarize The Westminster Confession, he ought to have taken the easier route of duplicating entire sentences or even paragraphs in the manner that the critics accuse him of doing with passages from Isaiah. Why would Joseph “plagiarize” a well known source such as the Bible so precisely, yet go through a potentially slow and difficult process of extracting phrases and ideas from a lesser known source in order to produce a few verses in a single book in the Book of Mormon?

Critics can always find “source material” for the Book of Mormon if they extract small enough phrases from their alleged source documents. Since both the Book of Mormon and The Westminster Confessional are religious documents, it is not unreasonable to expect similar words and phrases.

The critics would have us believe that Joseph Smith read the first two verses in Chapter 32 of The Westminster Confession, and then produced Alma 40:11, 13, 14 and 20

The critics would have us believe that Joseph Smith read the first two verses in Chapter 32 of The Westminster Confession, and then produced Alma 40:11, 13, 14 and 20. In addition to the verses shown, it is indicated by the critics that there is much additional material that shows a relationship between the two texts. The following is a comparison of the verses shown in Alma 40 and The Westminster Confession, Chapter 32:1-2 as they are presented and arranged by the critics:

Alma 40:11, 12, 13, 14 and 20 The Westminster Confession Chapter 32 Verses 1-2
"... the state of the soul between death and the resurrection..." (Book of Mormon, Alma 40:11) "... the State of Men after Death, and of the Resurrection..." (The Westminster Confession, chap. 32, Title)
"... the spirits ... are taken home to that God who gave them life" (Alma 40:11) "... their souls ...return to God who gave them" (Westminster Confession 32:1)
"... the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness,..." (Alma 40:12) "... The souls of the righteous, ...are received into the highest heavens, ..." (Westminster Confession 32:1)
"... the spirits of the wicked, ... shall be cast out into outer darkness;..." (Alma 40:13) "... the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, ...and utter darkness,..." (Westminster Confession 32:1)
"... the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness, remain in this state, ...until the time of their resurrection" (Alma 40:14) "... the souls of the wicked.... remain in.... darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day" (Westminster Confession 32:2)
"... the souls and the bodies are re-united,..." (Alma 40:20) "... bodies ...shall be united again to their souls..." (Westminster Confessions 32:2)

Notice the careful and extensive use of ellipses in order to string together various short phrases from the two sources in order to force a similarity. When arranged in this manner, the "similarities" look obvious. However, by examining the full text of the verses from both Alma 40 and The Westminster Confession Chapter 32, we see a much more convoluted comparison (Phrases which are claimed to be similar between the two texts are highlighted in bold).


Alma 40:11, 12, 13, 14 and 20 The Westminster Confession Chapter 32 Verses 1-2
11 Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life. (Alma 40:11)

12 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.

13 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil—for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house—and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil.

14 Now this is the state of the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this state, as well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection.

15-19...

20 Now, my son, I do not say that their resurrection cometh at the resurrection of Christ; but behold, I give it as my opinion, that the souls and the bodies are reunited, of the righteous, at the resurrection of Christ, and his ascension into heaven.

CHAPTER XXXII. Of the State of Man After Death, and of the Resurrection of the Dead.

I. The bodies of men, after death, return to dust, and see corruption; but their souls (which neither die nor sleep), having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them. The souls of the righteous, being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies; and the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day. Besides these two places for souls separated from their bodies, the Scripture acknowledgeth none.


II. At the last day, such as are found alive shall not die, but be changed: and all the dead shall be raised up with the self-same bodies, and none other, although with different qualities, which shall be united again to their souls forever. "

This tortured comparison represents only five verses across a span of ten verses in a single chapter in Alma against two verses in The Westminster Confession

It is difficult to believe or accept the convoluted process that Joseph Smith would have had to go through in order to produce completely coherent text in Alma 40 verses 11-20 while selectively stealing ideas and phrases from the verses highlighted in The Westminster Confession. Furthermore, one should not be surprised to see words such as "soul," "spirit," "wicked," "resurrection," and "mortal" used in two different religious texts.

One short phrase which could be claimed to have been copied verbatim into the Book of Mormon from the Westminster Confession in the verses shown above: "God who gave." However, the same claim could be made that this phrase was copied from Ecclesiastes 12:7:

Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. (Ecclesiastes 12:7) (emphasis added)

To make a comparison at this level of sentence breakdown becomes an exercise in absurdity.

Notes