Source:Echoes:Ch6:10:Complexity of Book of Mormon

Consistency in complexity of the Book of Mormon

Consistency in complexity of the Book of Mormon

One of the strongest arguments for the antiquity of the Book of Mormon is the amazing depth of complexity addressed in a consistent manner throughout the book. This argument, first developed and perfected by Hugh Nibley, points to Joseph Smith's lack of education and his dictation of the Book of Mormon line by line without notes and without reviewing what was said minutes, hours, days, or even months earlier. Yet despite these circumstances, a large number of complex relationships are developed in the book and consistently maintained from beginning to end. Many of these relationships have taken scholars longer to sort out than it took Joseph Smith to translate the entire book.39

For example, the Book of Mormon employs at least three independent dating systems with remarkable accuracy. It also contains a complex system of religious teachings that is enriched as new sermons are added but is never confused or contradicted. The book's authors refer to a huge and complex set of sources—including official records, sermons, letters, monument inscriptions, and church records—that always maintain a consistent relationship in the final text. A large number of ancient literary forms, typical of ancient texts but virtually unknown in English in most cases, are woven into the narrative. Subtle and complex political traditions evolve early in the text and surface in a variety of forms in later sections, always plausibly and consistently. The book describes various ebbs and flows of ethnic interaction without once losing track of even the most minor groups. Hundreds of individual characters are successfully introduced and coherently tracked. The geographical data in the text is diverse and complex, yet when carefully analyzed, it is perfectly consistent and matches an identifiable portion of Mesoamerica as well. This list of examples could go on at great length.

Melvin J. Thorne has argued that the improbability of alternative theories of the origin of the Book of Mormon increases rapidly as the number of elements establishing Book of Mormon complexity and parallels with the ancient world increases.40 He utilizes the statistical rule that the probability of two events occurring by chance at the same time is equal to the product of their separate probabilities of occurring at all; in other words, two events that are likely to occur half the time independently are likely to occur jointly only one quarter of the time (.5 x .5 = .25). From a probabilistic point of view, the large number of ancient elements in the Book of Mormon, which would be natural in an ancient book but not in a nineteenth-century production, yields a joint probability that is astronomical against its being a nineteenth-century composition that just by chance is historically and culturally accurate.[1]


  1. Noel B. Reynolds, "By Objective Measures: Old Wine in New Bottles," in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), Chapter 6, references silently removed—consult original for citations.