There are 83 thoughts on “The Late War Against the Book of Mormon”.

  1. I am grateful Dr. Peterson re-shared the link to this article on his blog site. Not only is the article fascinating and timely (for this kind of attempt to discredit is still ongoing) but in addition, the comments afterward were valuable, also.

    Since reading the article and its accompanying comments, I have thought about the particulars regarding the modus operandi of those who attempt to discredit the Book of Mormon and/or Joseph Smith. Some of them are blatantly “in your face,” while others are more soft-spoken or downright insidious. Some attempt to use sophistry, while others attempt to force statistical analysis or warped data.

    Anyway, from my perspective, these anti-Mormons don’t use the same rules that members of the church, including apologists tend to use. From my perspective, these antagonists feel not only comfortable but free in stretching the truth. They seem willing to lie or distort the facts at their whim, in order to fit their paradigm. Their willingness to break the rules seems to know no bounds, and the integrity of their methods is shameful. If caught in their deceit, they will immediately deny it and then attempt to turn the tables by accusing us of being the ones forging the data or unwilling to “just open our hearts” to listen to their “lists” of exposes.

    I must admit that I come across a little spiteful here, but I have seen this same panorama play out time-after-time. Worse than just faulty data, out-of-context quotes or misconstrued analysis, sometimes the aftermath of their endeavors are wounded and bruised testimonies. This is a serious business to them and they will not stop just because they have been proven wrong. In fact, much of their faulty data and lists of complaints have been answered ‘ad nauseum’ from prior rebuttals and years of scholarly research.

    My point being that we are not on a level playing field, and we never will be. We are playing by the Marquis of Queensberry rules (and rightfully so because we are the good guys) while they are decked out for a street fight with brass-knuckles and butterfly knives.

    If it weren’t for the fact that we have the Savior on our side, we wouldn’t stand a chance, but with Him as our guide, we’ll manage to keep one step ahead of them and outfox them at every turn. His work will proceed, regardless of all the efforts of the adversary in its various and sundry forms.

  2. Have you read Holmes A Stylometric Analysis of Mormon Scripture and Related Texts? Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series A (Statistics in Society), Vol. 155, No. 1. (1992),
    pp. 91-120.

    Do you have a response to this research done by a non-biased Statistician?

  3. Quick couple of questions.

    Benjamin, you indicated, “The Book of Mormon text used in my apparatus was 269,551 words long with a unique vocabulary of 5,638 words.”

    Earlier, however, Hugh Nibley posited a vocabulary of only 3,000 words (“Good People and Bad People” in the book Since Cumorah (1988), 337-338).

    I’m trying to determine why there is such a marked discrepancy. I have two specific questions:

    1) When you developed your list of unique vocabulary words, did you potentially double-count words that had archaic and modern variants in the text? (e.g., did you count “you” and “thou” as separate vocabulary words, or the same word? Or words like “had” and “hath”?) Or did you actively count such variations as mere expressions of a single vocabulary word?

    2) In those cases where the language is specifically derived from the KJV (esp. Isaiah passages and NT/Sermon on the Mount passages), did you *exclude* the unique vocabulary words coming from those specific biblical sections in order to isolate the vocabulary that might be solely attributed to Smith/the seer stone?


    • William,

      I use unique words – which means that I would count “you” and “thou” as separate unique words. It also means that I separate words from their plurals, and that I count a verb along with all of its conjugate forms as separate words, and so on. I would assume that Nibley was using a different approach. We both make the same point – that the vocabulary is quite small.

      It would not be all that difficult to create groups of related words, and replace them within a text (like the Book of Mormon) with a representative word, and so produce a vocabulary as you suggest (or as Nibley used). And, if all we are interested in is the size of the vocabulary, there wouldn’t be anything wrong with this. The challenge here is that we are trying to compare texts – and so we couldn’t reduce the vocabulary of the Book of Mormon in this way without also reducing the vocabulary of every text we wanted to compare it with. And in doing this, we would (in effect) be flattening the texts – making them more homogeneous (and this would have a negative impact on the results). And we wouldn’t just be making individual texts more homogeneous, we would be making the entire body of texts used for comparison more homogeneous. And in the process, certain texts (and authors) would lose some of the uniqueness of their verbal footprint. In the original study, where frequency across the entire corpus of texts used played a significant role in valuing the parallels, this shift would cause significant changes to the results they obtained.

      On your second question, I didn’t attempt to do this. While in the original study, there was an attempt to filter out the material related to the King James text (and I discuss this in my response), they did so both because the relationship between the Book of Mormon and the KJV is extensive and also because that language wasn’t particularly rare across the body of literature they were looking at. The King James text was likely the most influential piece of literature at the time of the publication of the Book of Mormon, and they viewed its inclusion in their study as introducing statistical noise, and the simplest way to avoid this noise was (for them) to cut it out. I don’t believe that this simplistic approach was the best way to deal with this (as indicated in my response).

      I think that there is a range of views among believers over the question of what the translation was (that is, what sort of process was used), and the specific role played in that translation by Joseph Smith. The orthodox version suggests that Joseph received all of the language of the Book of Mormon (including that material that is derived from the KJV) through the seer stone/Nephite Interpreters. So this idea that we can distinguish between “vocabulary that might be solely attributed to Smith/the seer stone” and language “derived from the KJV” really depends on the assumptions we bring about the translation process. This was not the focus of the original study or my response to it.

      • Benjamin,

        Thanks so much for your response. I appreciate your taking the time to explain the process you used. Thanks for going into detail.


  4. Concerning what D. Charles Pyle said in his last comment, that included evidence of Egyptian, esp. Egyptian naming, I just want to make an comment.

    While working at FARMS, way back in 1986 (I think), I was asked to look for a document in one of the file cabinets they had in a back room. (I worked in the back rooms doing shipping) I stumbled upon a copy of letter from William F. Albright to someone who was critical of the Book of Mormon and was asking Prof. Albright’s opinion about the same.

    He said, if I remember correctly, that he was not a believer, but that it was very interesting that J.S. would be able to correctly include some very Egyptian names in the BofM, considering the state of Egyptian linguistics at that time.

    Some how he got the names correct!

    I’m not sure who at FARMS, at that time, even knew that letter was there. I mentioned it to the lady who hired me. I even think I made a copy of it, but I would be hard pressed to find it now.

    Back then, I stumbled on a lot of interesting little things like that, there, in the BYU library, and the Ancient Studies Lib.

    Being a convert to the faith, I was converted to the Restored Gospel, not by scholarly argument but, by very intimate and personal revelation. While on my mission though, I was introduced to anti-mormon lit. (something that I had no idea existed), and struggled a bit with it. I have to say though, that study was not the answer to the questions I had, because of that stuff. It was getting direct answers to my plea’s, in the same way that I received my original witness of the Restore Church.

    After that, I was treated to many interesting experiences, like the one above, that were bits and pieces of fact and knowledge, that have just added to what I originally received.

    By itself, that tidbit is not proof, but it is interesting, and when you start adding things up, bit by bit, your understanding changes.

    I guess, in the long run, it depends on what you want. I think the scriptures bare that out. The Lord will give us what you want.


    • Sorry about the mistakes in my comments above. I should have read through before posting.

      I was not very clear as to who made the comment on the Egyptian names.

      That was Prof. Albright.

      He was telling the person, who was inquiring about J.S. and the BofM (if I remember correctly), that some how J.S. got some Egyptian names right. I believe he made ref. to the fact that the Rosetta Stone had not been fully translated yet, and that scholarly understanding of Egyptian was very rudimentary, but somehow J.S. correctly produced some authentic names in the BofM.

      Again, sorry about the poor presentation. I never have been very good at getting my thoughts onto paper (hah, this isn’t even paper!), and I’m very much dis-inclined to read over little I write. (Lazy)


  5. I may have missed this, but was there an analysis between LW and the KJV? Also, someone above commented that the translation is in the language of the time of JS but what I have read or heard recently, ie JS Papers, the language of the BOM is closer to 15th century English. Is LW more like 15th century English? If so then maybe all one needs to do to write 15th century English is to write like scripture. Since LW is written like scripture and the BoM is scripture (or also written like scripture), then why is anyone surprised by the analysis of LW vs BoM?

    • So far as I am aware, they strip out KJV n-grams before running the analysis.

      For LW, that text was deliberately modeled after KJV language by its author, but it was written fairly close to Joseph Smith’s time. It doesn’t surprise me that what is left after stripping out KJV n-grams comes close to Joseph Smith’s vocabulary and use of so-called n-grams for that reason alone.

      Another interesting case study would be in the way the JST contains more of the English style of the period in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants as opposed to the way in which it exists in the extant manuscripts and printed texts.

  6. If you have read and studied the Book of Mormon and then prayed about it, received the answer that its true whatever men say is irrelevant

    • John, for every person for whom that statement is both true and self-evident, there are others whose testimonies develop differently. For many it is important to know even more about the Book of Mormon. My favorite Hugh Nibley quotation is that “you can never know too much about the Book of Mormon.”

    • I totally agree. I have spent several hours reading the threads but don’t have the skills to analytically respond to much of the research but when all is said and done, the only question remaining for me is whether or not Joseph told the truth. If so, case closed, if not, the church has some explaining to do. I know he told the truth. Besides, it would have had to have been a complex conspiracy involving many people for Joseph to have done it any other way. He also would have been an extraordinary masochist to set himself up for the persecution that followed. From just a logical standpoint it is highly unlikely that BOM could have come forth fraudulently. The doctrine within it certainly dispels any argument of its fictionalization. It is true. I can see how this could divide some saints from the “wannabes” but I pray that the witness from the HG will touch the hearts and minds of those wavering souls with the truth. As Elder Uchtdorf said “doubt your doubts but not your faith”.

  7. Everybody has exactly the same body of evidence.

    Why is it that Mormon apologetic arguments and conclusions based on that body of evidence, is persuasive virtually only to believers already committed and invested?

    • That, of course, would depend upon which body of evidence to which you refer. As for myself, any evidence I have found typically comes from careful study of the Book of Mormon, followed by non-purposeful reading of scholarly works outside the LDS tradition. I’ve found quite a few for myself, quite by accident. Perhaps they might not be as persuasive to someone outside the faith but they certainly were of great interest to me when I found them.

      On the other hand, my conversion to the Book of Mormon did not come in the usual way. It came through conversion by the Spirit of God to the Doctrine and Covenants. After coming to accept the Doctrine and Covenants as revelation from God, I determined it would have been foolhardy to reject the Book of Mormon when the Doctrine and Covenants testifies to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Any evidences I found after that time were merely ancillary to the text itself but interesting nonetheless.

      For instance, besides Hebraisms there are Egyptian ideas in the Book of Mormon, as well as Mesoamerican ideas in the Book of Mormon, and these all would be consistent with such a milieu stated for the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon speaks concerning sacrifice of blood, and how it isn’t possible that one man’s blood could be sacrificed for another, but that there must be an infinite atonement, etc.

      “Now there is not any man that can sacrifice his own blood which will atone for the sins of another. Now, if a man murdereth, behold will our law, which is just, take the life of his brother? I say unto you, Nay.” (Alma 34:11)

      Sacrificing of blood (as opposed to blood sacrifice) was a very Mesoamerican way of doing things. Blood itself was sacrificed there by the Maya and other culture groups. One technique was to draw one’s blood by stabbing and drip the blood on bark paper, which blood on the paper would then be sacrificed by being burned.

      Book of Mormon kingship among the Lamanites shares affinities with Mesoamerican kingship. Among the Maya, persons could be kings of lands, towns, cities, and have kings that would preside over two or more of such kingships, in some cases with a “Great King” presiding over them all. Such can be seen in the Book of Mormon, with Lamanite kings over cities and lands, with a “Great King” presiding over them all. Am I saying that the Maya were the Lamanites? Not at all. This cannot be proven, but it is an interesting parallel nonetheless.

      The very Egyptian idea of gods as gatekeepers also can be seen in the Book of Mormon, notwithstanding this idea cannot be found in the Bible. Nephi describes God as follows:

      “O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.” (2 Nephi 9:41)

      In one of the pyramid texts of Teti we find the following for comparison:

      “Stand at the gates which bar the common people! The gatekeeper comes out to you. He grasps your hand, takes you into heaven…”

      Where would Joseph Smith get such an idea of God as gatekeeper? In popular culture, St. Peter is said to stand in control of the “Pearly Gates” to admit people into heaven. The Book of Mormon puts a check to that idea. Did he just make it up all on his own and this was just a mere coincidence? He could not have gotten the idea from a book. The pyramid texts of Teti were not available to Joseph Smith, or to anyone else in America, in 1830.

      Alma was regarded as a female name. Here comes the Book of Mormon giving the name Alma as an exclusively male name. It was a laugh-getter in a number of circles. In recent times it was offered as one of 43 reasons to reject the Book of Mormon in favor of the Bible, or common sense. And, yet, Alma turned out to be a real Hebrew male name, as was shown in the Bar Kochbah land deed (published in 1977), in the name “Alma son of Judah.” Anti is a name element in the Book of Mormon. It also turns out to be one in Egyptian. Ani is a Book of Mormon name or name element. It turns out also to be an Egyptian name. (There are other Egyptian names but we will not consider those here for now.)

      Even the name Irreantum may well be another interesting evidence. In Egyptian, many names in written texts actually are word-phrases with meaning, or phrase-names. Nefi (spelled the Egyptian way) can be seen in two such phrase-names I have seen. Irreantum also appears to me to be another one of those kinds of phrase-names that would need interpretation into Hebrew or other language, just as it appears in the Book of Mormon. If we break up the Book of Mormon phrase-name into its components, we see the following: Ir re antu m. This could correspond with Egyptian jrrj ntw m or Egyptian Jr r ntw m. Both of these would translate as “more than all bodies of water, which Nephi tells us by interpretation is, “many waters.” For many years I was curious about that name and never really could see anything satisfactory to explain it until the last decade. An attempt was made to correlate it to a South Semitic dialect (and it might still be so, even if not proven) but I instead think it really is an Egyptian name-phrase like those which are ubiquitous in Egyptian written texts. I could not explain the m element at the end until one day while I was flipping through one of the most recent Egyptian lexicons on the market, those of the Hannig series. An entry had a form of m and listed as one definition thereof was “all.” That clinched it for me and it all came together for me, at that time. It could one day turn out to be mistaken. Who knows but God? But it is interesting nonetheless.

      There are many examples that could be provided. The thing I have noticed over the years of my life, though, is that most people outside the faith cannot be bothered to consider the evidence as a whole, or even the statistics underlying the probability that Joseph Smith could have found some of that information when much of it wasn’t known. But, most I have known and with whom I have corresponded won’t even read it all except cursorily. And if all the evidence cannot be considered on the merits rather than merely relying on other peoples’ negative opinions and claims regarding the evidence, how is it that any (who claim such as you have) really would have considered the evidence as a whole for themselves? To each his/her own, I suppose.

  8. This comment is not specifically on the outlined analysis and response, but on the suggestion that we cannot realistically evaluate angels and miracles as contributors to the Book of Mormon and its origin.

    I know that folks tend to get focused on physical, material types of sources for possible origins of the Book of Mormon rather than believing Joseph Smith’s reports of divine visitors, specifically the angel Moroni and others, but what is interesting to me is the complete lack of attention or regard for the numerous accounts of spiritual encounters with the individuals identified in the Book of Mormon by Latter-day Saints over the last 180 years since the book’s publication.

    In brief, take the prophet Moses, whose story is in the Bible, as an example. An “independent proof,” albeit a spiritual account, of Moses’ one-time and continued existence is Joseph Smith’s description of the visitation of Moses to bestow priesthood keys for the gathering of Israel (D&C 110). Let’s extend the possibility of such a means of proof, making the argument that such experiences can be counted as valid descriptions of an actual experience (as claimed), and then include all individuals who have described spiritual encounters with beings identified in the Book of Mormon (Alma, Nephi, Moroni, etc.). I have numbered dozens of them by garden-variety Latter-day Saints around the world, who straightforwardly report such spiritual encounters with angels, spiritual beings, or however you want to identify them, who are identified in the Book of Mormon. I would suggest this provides additional evidence affirming Joseph Smith’s explanation of the origin of the Book of Mormon. I am sure that individuals who do not accept the validity or possibility of such supernatural proofs would have another explanation for the existence of such reports.

    Just a thought.

  9. Thank you Benjamin for a well thought through analysis of the textual-analysis method linking the Late War with the Book of Mormon. While I lean towards with your conclusions, is it possible that experiments in textual analysis, such as the one being discussed here, serve a purpose in challenging common assumptions about the process of translating the plates? The perceived correlation between the Late War and the Book of Mormon is problematic for some in part because of the assumption that Joseph Smith was GIVEN the exact words, one word at a time, word for word. If this were the case, the chances of repeated textual similarities with other published works would be extremely low, notwithstanding the points you make in your article. But if Joseph was indeed given each unique word, one word at a time, one could ask why he needed a scribe, for he was simply transcribing the exact text given to him via the Urim and Thummin. He could have simply scribed the words himself, for he wasn’t actually translating, he was just repeating what the Urim and Thummin gave him. Perhaps textual analysis such as that being discussed help us to recognise that the translation process may have been a little different than commonly assumed. Perhaps it was as much revelation as it was translation. If Joseph Smith wasn’t actually GIVEN the exact words – like some 19th century version of Google Translate – but needed to construct language to reflect what was revealed to him, it is not unreasonable to assume that some of the words and phrases Joseph used reflected language he was familiar with, be it consciously or sub-consciously.

  10. Ben,
    Thanks for your thorough, scholarly, unbiased evaluation. I will have to read it several times to understand it more fully but I desperately needed something like this to help my son who is in a tailspin from the Johnson’s half baked poor science – it has the same look and feel of other anti-mormon opinions, namely underlying the pseudo science is a hidden agenda. Anyway, thanks for keeping it strictly scientific. Just what I needed.

  11. This was a wonderful analysis of the Johnson research!! As a mathematician I appreciate someone examining their data and conclusions. It seems many proponents of anti-Mormonism will try to claim that their experiments were unbiased. In Chris Johnson’s own words, “falsehood shrinks into the shadows, hoping never to be tested, with excuses aplenty.”

    I too had a red flag pop up with the mention of Pride and Prejudice, a favorite of mine. There are many additional large sources of error which they admitted on the outset. But the greatest error is the logistical issue of literary influence. There is no accounting for the limitations of publishing and distributing during the time period. How can a rare and unknown text influence such well published, world renowned works and not be known? Is it possible that Jane Austin actually got a hold of a copy of An Officer’s Daughter? Did a limited edition of Late War actually leave the bustling city of New York where it failed to sell and travel to a distant rural community and into the hands of poor farmers? The Book of Mormon had its struggles for proliferation yet met greater success than these rarities.

    I am curious about the correlation of the Koran to the Book of Mormon. Better yet, what about a correlation of the Koran to Late War? Would they conclude that the 1822 translation of the Koran was influenced by Late War? Both were published on different continents with the first steamship crossing in 1819. Geographically speaking, was there even a copy of the 1822 Koran in North America? Joseph Smith would have only a few years to get a hold of it before publishing the Book of Mormon. It is also curios that the Koran is a well known religious text, but they failed to explore the correlation.

    Finally, the text of Late War is a compilation itself. Where did Hunt find the sources for his “history” book? He didn’t attend every battle or make all those journeys. They were related to him. By book? Orally? Oral accounts of history is #6 on the researchers list of error sources.If by book, which books? Where are they? Another fault of their research is the lack of actual books from that time period.

    Thank you for the diligent critique, Ben!

  12. Good article. Now, the next thing that needs to be done is for the entire Late War to be reorganized and analyzed for Hebraic structure to see how easily it can be laid out as such, much like Parry (IIRC) did with the Book of Mormon. It will not prove much because The Late War was intentionally written and set using the so-called “oriental vernacular.” But, it would be interesting to see how much of the book really could be fit to such a mold and how many of the parallelistic structures can be substantiated by further, closer analysis with accurate versions of the text.

    Jumping all over alleged parallels between the two texts is like trying to compare the Book of Mormon with Lord of the Rings and showing that a literary genius certainly could come up with the Book of Mormon that is knife-edged in precision so far as details are concerned in most of the book. That might hold up if one does not consider that Lord of the Rings was written over a long period after more than 30 years of research and study of languages to boot, by a scholar trained in translation and biblical studies. Compare that to the Book of Mormon and its putative author, Joseph Smith, and to the length of time the Book of Mormon was written and what little time there was available for research beforehand.

    I read the Late War and just did not see as many comparisons as people claim are there. Even the feel is different, and I am not talking about spiritual feelings when I write that. There are a number of potential parallels there but further analysis still needs to be done over and above what has been done.

  13. Hmmmm…. As a faithful member for 35 years who served as Bishop, gospel doctrine teacher, etc., I keep learning about things I taught that I feel that I shouldn’t have.

    For example, the church disavowing the theories advanced by leaders in the past about blacks and the priesthood…. I really wince at some things we taught that have been disavowed.

    And now reading The Last War, I’m recalling so many things we learned in Institute and by visiting speakers, about what made the Book of Mormon so unique, how you could tell it came from a Semitic language, etc. And so I taught those things in gospel doctrine and high priests, but there many of them are in The Last War, The First Book of Napoleon, and The Koran, just as the big data mining suggested.

    I really wish I’d known about these books before I taught those lessons. I really thought I had done my homework, but this isn’t something I recall ever hearing about.

    • Chris, since you mentioned the new article on blacks and the priesthood, you might want to remember that the theories many members taught each other came from sources other than the first Presidency. When it was declared that the Priesthood was for all worthy members, those folk explanations were disavowed at that time. I have heard such disavowal multiple times prior to the recent article.

      As for the Book of Mormon, we continue to learn new things about it and there is much that is stronger evidence than ever before. What we are also learning is that the imitation of King James language was pretty common in Joseph’s day, and expected for religious texts. The lesson of The Last War is nothing more than the commonality of that kind of language. As for the question of the Book of Mormon’s Semitic origins, we are learning more about that as well. I would encourage you to continue to do your homework and make sure that you are keeping up with the best available scholarship. Fortunately, you have found Interpreter and much of it can be found here (such as the article on which you have commented).

      • As I understand it, Brigham Young, Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie advanced those theories about blacks and the priesthood. I agree that these theories have been disavowed now, but I think it incorrect to suggest that they were all conjured up by members, and not advanced by church leaders.

        • I think that Brant was, at least in part, addressing such folk “doctrines” as the so-called “premortal fence-sitters” theory. I do not recall anything like that coming from any First Presidency. Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie were clear that there were no neutrals in the war in heaven. Nonetheless, it is true that not everything that members were teaching each other came from the First Presidency.

      • Brandt, you stated:
        “you might want to remember that the theories many members taught each other came from sources other than the first Presidency.”

        Actually, the teaching came from the First Presidency, NOT other sources:

        First Presidency statement
        August 17, 1949

        The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time. The prophets of the Lord have made several statements as to the operation of the principle. President Brigham Young said: “Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the holy priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to.”

        President Wilford Woodruff made the following statement: “The day will come when all that race will be redeemed and possess all the blessings which we now have.”

        The position of the Church regarding the Negro may be understood when another doctrine of the Church is kept in mind, namely, that the conduct of spirits in the premortal existence has some determining effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which these spirits take on mortality and that while the details of this principle have not been made known, the mortality is a privilege that is given to those who maintain their first estate; and that the worth of the privilege is so great that spirits are willing to come to earth and take on bodies no matter what the handicap may be as to the kind of bodies they are to secure; and that among the handicaps, failure of the right to enjoy in mortality the blessings of the priesthood is a handicap which spirits are willing to assume in order that they might come to earth. Under this principle there is no injustice whatsoever involved in this deprivation as to the holding of the priesthood by the Negroes.

        The First Presidency

        • I think Brant was addressing the various theories out there that did not come from any official statement of the First Presidency, such as that the spirits of Blacks were fence-sitters or were neutral during the war in heaven. That was a theory and we know that is incorrect. We could have known far before that time had we paid heed to those who stated that there were no neutrals in the war in heaven.

          Instead, many members bandied about the various theories (more than one) about why it was that certain African Blacks had the restrictions on Priesthood that were there. All that was spoken on the basis of opinions and theories and not by any hard facts and official doctrinal statements of the First Presidency that were based on revelation.

          See my paper, Blacks and the Priesthood, if you can still find a version of it somewhere on the web. We do not and did not know the full reasons for the restrictions, only that similar restrictions have occurred in the distant past. But, we still did not know and each and every single one of the hypotheses and theories upon which many members justified the ban were just that, theories.

          Many of these theories and so forth originated from members other than the First Presidency. Some General Authorities felt that some of these sounded reasonable enough but it is a pity that revelation wasn’t sought. All that we really know is that the ban continued because of revelation and ended also thereby. John Taylor was asked about changing the policy in his time. He could not make a full decision based on the available evidence in his time, so he took it to prayer. The ban continued. The same occurred in the times of David O. McKay and Joseph Fielding Smith, each time with the ban continuing but with certain exceptions made based upon patriarchal blessings. Each time prayer and consideration of previous evidence led to a continuation of the ban until Spencer W. Kimball.

          Also unfortunate, however, are other claims made in recent years that the priesthood ban originated because of influence of various books justifying slavery from 1829 onward. I have read as many of such books as I could possibly find and found that such claims are also unjustified, in my informed opinion.

          The very first claims that even close to the LDS position on priesthood in relation to the Blacks did not come until 1852. It is more a pity that some members of the Church now want to create additional theories and claim that it all was just a cosmic accident or honest mistake, or even just a racist position on the part of one of more leaders of the Church was the motive.

  14. I enjoyed your essay on another attempt at connecting a rare book to the publishing of the Book of Mormon.

    Aside from Johnson’s dubious claims, are there other connections in the book to the Book of Mormon like: chiasmus, Hebrew-isms, genuine Egyptian names, and other things that the Book of Mormon scholars use for evidence of ancient provenance?

    I know that the book was attempting to copy biblical style so the author could have included these connections IF the author knew about them.

    I also wonder which edition Johnson used for comparison of the two books.
    Did he use the current official edition which had many Hebrew-isms edited out to make for easier reading? Did he use the first edition, which had thousands of typeos in it? Did he use the printer’s copy in which Oliver Cowdery made on average two mistakes per page in copying from the original copy?

    What he should have done is use Skousen’s edition, which is probably the closest in accuracy that we’ll ever get to what was on the original plates.

    Being an amateur without the time or scholarship tools to answer any of these questions, I’d like to see the answers on the Mormon Interpreter
    website in the future.
    Robert B. Hawes

  15. As we read the Book of Mormon carefully, it seems pretty clear that the text was not referring to a geography/culture landscape that Joseph was familiar with – placement of rivers, mountains, valleys, absence of cold/snow, a culture that was literate with large cities, etc, as mentioned in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon simply doesn’t fit into any kind of historical North American context with which Joseph might be familiar. (Many BOM scholars point out that there are an exceedingly high number of correlations between the Mayan/Epi Olmec cultures and the Nephite culture.)

    This surely would be at least a small problem to the theory proposed by Johnson/RT et al. If Joseph were to be so heavily influenced by a historical narrative of his time (The Late War), why would he go into so much detail about a geographical/cultural landscape with which was very foreign to his surroundings?

    Or is my logic misplaced?

    • Most authors who set out to write a story with a geographic area in mind or a certain setting in mind, cannot help but keep blatantly drawing attention to their descriptions of the set-pieces.

      Like the sci-fi writer who goes into a big long explanation how an automatic robotic door opens – though nobody who actually lived in such a futuristic setting would even notice the door opening. The author can’t help geeking out about his own creation and fanboying about it. Especially if that writer is inexperienced.

      Joseph Smith writes his entire book without doing any of that. If he was indeed the sole author, it was quite a masterful piece of writing.

      • Seth,

        You bring up a valid point. I apologize for digressing a bit off topic from the featured article, but one of my favorite series of books right now is the Wheel of Time, which is an uber-epic fantasy world created by Robert Jordan and (to a very minor extent) LDS Brandon Sanderson. Throughout the exhaustive series of books, Jordan, a highly educated person that was well seasoned in world travels before he started writing professionally, does exactly what you describe – often getting into the gee-wiz parts of his mythical world that the average everyday person who would actually live in that context would never think twice about, and would probably never bother to explain to an audience when articulating the history of his people.

        If the Book of Mormon were a fabrication, this should be a mistake that Joseph would have made, and is thereby a subtle but very strong mark to its authenticity. I appreciate your insight very much.

        • The description of the Liahona certainly has a some set peice description to it. According to Don Bradley’s research, the 116 pages likely included a story recounting how the Nephites found the Urim and Thummim that can be found in an interview with JS Sr. that occurred during the early translation process (if I’m remembering this correctly). In the account, a Nephite finds the interpreters via the Liahona and then takes them into a tabernacle where the Lord instructs him how to use them. This instruction has some more set piece description including wearing the breastplate, looking through the stones, and covering his head with animal skins. It’s notable that both the Liahona and the interpreters are revelatory instruments, something Joseph Smith geeked out about in real life (remember Joseph Knights recollection that JS was more excited about the Urim and Thummim than the plates). Not only that, but the description of the interpreters includes covering the head with animal skins, a clear parallel to JS’s blocking out the light via his hat when using a seer stone or one of the Urim and Thummim stones.

  16. My good friend David Lynn Johnson, has found evidence of complex Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon. It seems to me the existence or absence of such forms could be a way to evaluate claims of parallelism.

  17. I feel completely free to resign any test based on computer algorithms that does not come accompanied by credible historical data as a mere odd point of interest, and nothing more.

    And this is all the word-print analyses of the Book of Mormon have ever been. Something kind of neat, but signifying nothing – like seeing the Virgin Mary’s face in your morning flapjacks.

    Come up with some historical narrative that doesn’t read like claims that George W. Bush ordered the destruction of the World Trade Center personally, or that Shakespear and Milton were actually women, or that Winston Churchill was gay and I might take notice.

    Until then – I consign thee to the realm of performing hippos, UFO reports, and bigfoot. Keep crunching those numbers – fun to be had for all.

    • Seth,

      Of all of the arguments laid out so far, yours is the most coherent and relevant. Thank you! Now, about bigfoot …

    • You do understand that when someone claims, “There are Hebraisms in the BoM, therefore it is of ancient origin,” it is just as valid as saying “There are Hebraisms in The Late War, therefore it is of ancient origin,” right? I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it when it shuts down several of the age-old apologetic arguments in the BoM’s favor.

  18. Earlier, RT made this comment (I missed it earlier, and I apologize for responding so late):

    “I have used criteria well established in the field of literary and historical criticism for determining textual influence, including density, sequencing, and distinctiveness.”

    Actually, I didn’t see any evidence of this at all in your blog post. Consider your first example –

    “A battle at a fort where righteous white protagonists are attacked by an army made up of dark-skinned natives driven by a white military leader. The white protagonists are prepared for battle and slaughter their opponents to such an extent that they fill the trenches surrounding the fort with dead bodies. The surviving elements flee into the wilderness/forest (pp. 102-4, 29:1-23) Alma 49:10-25”

    There is no further explanation. This parallel is all about the description, and not about the texts. Neither of the passages listed here uses this language – “righteous,” “white,” “dark,” or “native” (some of these words do occur in other contexts). Why is this an issue? Hunt uses the word “dark” six times: “dark forest” (twice), “to hide in utter darkness,” “the dark and solemn hour of the night,” “a night dark and gloomy,” and “the night which was dark and rainy.” He never uses the term “dark” to describe the Indians. And Hunt never describes the Americans as white either. He uses the word “white” five times. And while some of them refer to people, in both instances it refers to the British – “white sails” (twice), “the white men of Britain,” “whose surname was White,” and “Woodbine, the white savage, came in the rear …” This last one deserves a bit of an explanation – particularly since Hunt attaches a footnote to it: “The celebrated Capt. Woodbine of the British Navy.” This refers to George Woodbine, who as a British naval officer, traveled to Florida to recruit, and he succeeded in collecting 500 Indians and 100 black men for the war effort – which is perhaps why they refer to him as a savage. So not only does Hunt never refer to the Indians as “dark”, he also never refers to the American troops as “white”. So while we have a potentially white military leader of the attacking forces (potential because Hunt doesn’t describe him in this way, and because of course, that leader isn’t actually present at the battle in the Book of Mormon), and the protagonists aren’t described by Hunt as being white.

    Why is this important? The language that RT emphasizes here is meant to make us think of the Book of Mormon (particularly controversial issues within it), but this reflects a modern readership and not someone reading in the 1820s. This also comes out in the term “native” (a word Hunt uses once in Chapter 44: “now this weed is a native of the land of Columbia.”) This is of interest in some ways because of the current practice of calling Hunt’s “savages” using the term “native American.” This is a recent change in the language (coming in the 20th century). In 1850s, for example, it was used to describe those Protestant individuals born in the United States in comparison with the new wave of mostly Catholic immigrants coming from Europe. It was not used to describe the Indians.

    So to describe the proposed parallel here, RT uses language aimed at getting people to recognize the Book of Mormon text (it would be useless in describing Hunt’s text, since the language doesn’t occur there). And these aspects of the parallel are fabricated in my opinion. But it doesn’t stop there. These “white protagonists are attacked by an army made up of dark-skinned natives driven by a white military leader.” But this doesn’t actually happen. The “white military leader” is (at least as far as the Book of Mormon is concerned) King Amalikiah (who we are told in Alma 49:25 “was a Nephite by birth”). But King Amalikiah wasn’t present. We learn this in Alma 49:10: “Now, if king Amalickiah had come down out of the land of Nephi, at the head of his army, perhaps he would have caused the Lamanites to have attacked the Nephites at the city of Ammonihah; for behold, he did care not for the blood of his people.”

    So, perhaps, had this white military leader actually been present for the rest of the narrative, he might have driven his troops to attack. But he wasn’t. So he didn’t. And the Lamanite armies take a peek at several different Nephite cities before finally picking one to attack. Compare this to the supposedly relevant part of Hunt’s text (from p. 103): “furthermore, if ye refuse then shall the wild savages be let loose upon you.” This is a threat of extinction by the savages. These savages were not being “driven” by the British (rather it has the sense that only the British can keep them from attacking). Hunt describes the attacking force in this way (p. 102): “a thousand savages, and about five hundred men of war of Britain; and Proctor was the commander thereof.” This isn’t at all like the Lamanite army with an absentee Nephite king.

    So what do we really have? A battle, with trenches used as fortifications, in which the attackers are killed in great number to the point that the trenches are piled with dead bodies. And the survivors of the failed assault flee (RT tells us “into the wilderness/forest”). Of course, even these issues aren’t without problems in the description.

    Hunt: “But the men of Croghan were prepared for them; and they let loose their weapons of war upon them, and set their destroying engine to work, and smote the men of Britain, hip and thigh, with great slaughter. And the deep ditch that surrounded the fort was strewed with their slain and their wounded. So the host of Britain was dismayed and overthrown, and fled in confusion from the fort into the forest; from whence, in the dead of the night, they went into their vessels, and departed from the place.”

    The filling of the ditch with bodies plays a different role in each narrative. Here is a bit from the Book of Mormon: “Now when they found that they could not obtain power over the Nephites by the pass, they began to dig down their banks of earth that they might obtain a pass to their armies, that they might have an equal chance to fight; but behold, in these attempts they were swept off by the stones and arrows which were thrown at them; and instead of filling up their ditches by pulling down the banks of earth, they were filled up in a measure with their dead and wounded bodies.”

    Hunt really doesn’t deal with the actual fight other than to report the outcome. In the Book of Mormon, we have the defenses described in much greater detail, along with Lamanite strategies to overcome those defenses. In this particular scene, the goal of the Lamanites was to fill in the ditch by piling in dirt. And because they are exposed, they ended up being more successful in filling the ditch with dead bodies. The forest doesn’t match up well to the “wilderness” of the Book of Mormon. The wilderness is a no-man’s land of sorts – a buffer between the Nephites and the Lamanites. And a necessary route back to the Lamanite homeland and their king. The forest is a temporary hiding place, where they could wait until dark and escape the scene of the battle. The wilderness in that chapter of Alma is used previously in verse 12. “Therefore they retreated into the wilderness, and took their camp and marched towards the land of Noah,” – they went from one city to the next, through this wilderness, looking for the best place to invade. The forest doesn’t fill this sort of role in Hunt’s text. So these comparisons seem more superficial than helpful. Is waiting in the forest to avoid being seen or shot at an unusual meme that comes to the Book of Mormon from Hunt?

    On top of this we have some really interesting issues in Hunt’s text that aren’t reflected in the Book of Mormon. In the bit above, we have them being smote “hip and thigh”. This comes from the story of Samson right? Judges 15:8? “And he smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter.” Even more visible though is the comparison of the entire battle to the victory of David over Goliath. This is explicitly made in Hunt on page 103:

    “Lo! David, of old, with a sling and a stone, slew the mighty Goliath: and shall the people of Columbia be afraid, and bow before the tyrants of Europe?”

    Consequently, Croghan, the leader of the American forces is described as a “young man” (he is the David). His rejection of the terms offered by proctor is supposed to be seen as a rejection of Goliath’s overture. And the victory as a whole is to be seen in these terms (the tiny force against the huge one). Now the Book of Mormon author is certainly potentially aware of the David and Goliath narrative (in fact I have argued in one of the Maxwell Institute publications that it is used in a literary allusion in the Book of Mormon). So if Alma 49 is based in some way on pages 102-104 of Hunt’s volume, why don’t we see these and the other biblical references also appearing in both?

    In the long run, this parallel – forced through the description – doesn’t work well. It isn’t strong. Much of the potential parallel isn’t there on closer inspection. More to the point, the comparison tends to rewrite the stories in terms that are not displaying the main arguments brought out by either author. We reduce the two narratives to these secondary details of minor importance – the filler. The stories aren’t about the dead bodies in the ditches. They aren’t about a white military leading driving his dark skinned native forces to attack. The description is a flawed recasting of these narratives, not an accurate retelling. Gone one the one hand is sense of David killing Goliath. Gone on the other hand is the sense of preparations – not limited just to the ditches but to every aspect of the war – forcing the Lamanites to try location after location looking for one that might be poorly prepared and defended.

    Additionally, the parallels are presented very much from the perspective of a reader today, and not from a reader in the 1820’s. This creates part of the problem with the presentation – which in turn doesn’t really interact with the rhetoric of the text (really, of either text).

    Can we find lots of similarities between descriptions of battles? Yes. Look here for example:

    And what is most visibly absent, given your remarks, RT, is what you claim to be your criteria: “density, sequencing, and distinctiveness.” This is replaced by sleight-of-hand in your description of the parallel, and not in any parallel from the text itself. So no, I don’t believe that you use well established criteria. If you had, I suspect your list would be far different from what I read.

  19. Hi Benjamin,

    It’s Chris Johnson here, one of the researchers conducting this study. Thank you for the critique, it is welcomed and encouraged. I am definitely not married to our results, so if we’re wrong then we’re wrong, but so far it does seem at least plausible to me that Joseph was influenced by “The late war”, prophet or not. The language is statistically similar, with relatively rare phrases shared between the two books. It is also in the right place (New York) and time (1816-1819) to have a possible influence on the language of any New York writers during that period. If it is true that Joseph never read the Bible through before 1829, then perhaps more attention should be paid to this book to trace the origins of the style used in The Book of Mormon.

    Benjamin, I applaud your research efforts, and appreciate the insights you’ve given us to further the analysis. In response to your article, I offer some ideas, critique and suggestions:

    “When I compared these two texts in a non-weighted comparison, it resulted in 1,934 common four-word phrases (conservative, due to the OCR errors in The Officer’s Daughter). Having then backed out the parallels from the KJV we end up with 1,677 shared phrases. This results in a ratio in Pride and Prejudice of 1.4%. This result is more than five times the overlap between the Book of Mormon and The Late War. Of the 6,323 words used in Pride, 3,996 of them are also found in The Officer’s Daughter (63%).”

    1. You compared 2 books (Pride and Prejudice/Officer’s Daughter) with 2 books (The late war/Book of Mormon) and removed the Book of Mormon’s heaviest influence (The KJV), but didn’t remove Pride and Prejudice’s biggest influence, but instead removed the KJV assuming that you were comparing apples to apples. You were not, because this was a different comparison that was unrelated to the KJV. You could subtract the top influencers of each book in the comparison, or leave the KJV out of both, either way would give you more accurate results. This may affect your conclusion: “This result is more than five times the overlap between the Book of Mormon and The Late War.”
    2. You went to great lengths to explain how much rarity matters when making a comparison, but in the above Pride and Prejudice comparison you didn’t even score the phrases by rarity. In other words “and so they were” would have been given equal weight to a rare phrase like “enraged Gondor’s righteous heart”, which means you ignored everything you were trying to say about rarity and significance, and doesn’t help find influence at all. This may also affect your conclusion: “This result is more than five times the overlap between the Book of Mormon and The Late War.”
    3. You also used books of different lengths and did not take into consideration how the length affects the comparison, and by that I mean with mere random chance a longer book like Pride and Prejudice will have more matches in a comparison. Why? Because the longer the book, the more unique phrases show up by chance, and the more unique phrases, the higher the chance of overlap. This is not properly accounted for since the unique n-grams don’t indicate length. This needs to be included in the calculation.
    4. When you tried to disprove the rarity of the parallels between The late war and The Book of Mormon, based on our “small” 5000 book sample, you took 10 shared 4-grams (at random?) and went to Google Books and found that in a much larger sample the scores were still showing up extremely rare, for example the phrase “wickedness which had been” showed up once, along with many others, but even the ones which were above 10 hits can still be considered quite rare given the size of Google’s dataset. However, I find it surprising that you then focused on the 4-grams that were less rare, and mention it as if this is a problem in our analysis. We are also improving the clarity in our forthcoming analysis, and is this sort of detail should be expected when looking for parallels on larger samples of books. However, more significantly, the extreme rarity of those 4-grams (as indicated by Google Books) combined with the large number of rare 4-grams strengthens the case that there is some sort of influence between the two books. The results are made even more valid when compared to baseline data which is necessary for understanding the relative significance of the results. But we have gone much further than what you have reviewed here in this article, and the results can be seen at the askreality site. So far, the more detailed the analysis gets, the more striking the evidence.

    I think there are much bigger flaws in our analysis than you went into. For example what’s the false positive rate? What’s the success/failure rate at tracing influence? We will know in time, we just have to conduct enough experiments.

    Also what if our algorithm is only picking up texts that were written in similar style, but the content is different? How can we objectively compare content?

    Some of the “genre” and “style” concerns have been addressed with the new ISS algorithm, which can detect distinct influences relative to the baseline of other books, rather than similarity. However, we are not stopping there, because we think there is a lot more clarity that can be brought to the table with better tools, faster CPUs, and better algorithms.

    Duane and I believe that creativity is basically a remix of influences. In this case The Book of Mormon was written by a man who had very little education, so his literary influences are easier to trace than a well educated person who has read hundreds of books. I believe that’s why our ISS algorithm is showing only a very small handful of books read by the author of The Book of Mormon.

    Authors are influenced by their culture, and technology is progressing to the point where we can all have access to the tools we need, to see with our eyes and know for ourselves where the most likely influences are coming from.

    • Chris, I am glad that you recognize some of the issues that remain to be addressed. I want to make a couple of comments in response to what you have written.

      1: Your baseline data is of little value. The date range and the lack of controls on the texts creates problems. A random selection might make a good control set if it represents accurately the larger body of data. In this case, 5,000 is simply too small a sample set – particularly when your weighting system gives such a huge boost to those phrases that coincidentally meet specific requirements. This could be managed by adjusting the scale perhaps (to something more linear). But, the point of your random selection for the baseline seems more intended at creating an impression of objectivity than it does at trying to be accurate. Further, the baseline data isn’t connected to the texts actually being tested. Yes, we have a problem of potential books influenced by the Book of Mormon. More on this in a moment. Without improvements to the baseline data – through modifying the weighting, through a better selection of texts, and so on, the weighting system you use isn’t worth much. Further, we have the problem that relative rarity has little value in electronic searches without a corresponding intelligent check (which does not occur within your algorithm).

      2: You asked me: “Also what if our algorithm is only picking up texts that were written in similar style, but the content is different? How can we objectively compare content?”

      I wrote about this issue earlier this year in my review of Grunder’s Bibliography here on the Interpreter’s web site. I present my formal methods for doing exactly this. I really recommend you read through it, because it deals with a number of the kinds of concerns that get raised. By the way, this same sort of issue was brought up in 1929, by E. H. C. Oliphant in his essay titled “How Not to Play the Game of Parallels”:

      “It is time to take critical stock of what has been accomplished, to expose the absurdity of much that is being done in this field of scholarship, and to endeavor to estimate the value of the work that really counts. … First let it be remarked that passages are not to be considered parallels because they duplicate thought without any duplication of language. Ideas may be common to many writers, and nothing is to be inferred from such similarity. Verbal parallels that do not duplicate ideas may also be ignored. The parallelism in such cases may be regarded as merely accidental. The only true parallel is one that duplicates both thought and the expression of thought. If we accept that interpretation, we shall knock out about seventy percent of what are presented as parallels.

      Regarding everything that is offered to us as a parallel, we have to inquire not only whether or not it fulfils this condition, but also, if it does, whether it possesses any significance. It is possible to have a duplication of both language and thought, and yet for the thought to be so trite as to make it ridiculous to attach any importance to its repetition. And, even if the suggested parallel passes that test, we have yet to ask ourselves whether or not it cannot be paralleled in the work of some other writer than the one to whom it is desired to attribute both passages.”

      This process of valuing parallels actually begins before the writing of the Book of Mormon. And when we get to your modeling here, what I find isn’t building on past understanding and awareness, it goes back and starts from the beginning, making all of the same mistakes that have already been made in terms of the assumptions you bring to the table. The only difference is that you don’t have to go through the tediousness of doing all the comparisons by hand.

      3: “Duane and I believe that creativity is basically a remix of influences.”

      This argument has been made many times – is anything we write, or say, or even think, truly original? Can you say things that are original? Or is everything you produce merely a remix of influences? Are you programmed by your environment as to what you can say, or think? This is not a trivial question – and despite where you have gone with it, I do recommend that you take some time and become a bit familiar with the literary theory and the philosophical perspectives behind it. I don’t agree with your opinion here. I do not believe that this represents creativity. And I do believe that people can have original thoughts (even if they come to the same place through them as others have done). You will find references to this discussion in my review of Grunder’s Bibliography as well.

      4: You wrote: “Authors are influenced by their culture, and technology is progressing to the point where we can all have access to the tools we need, to see with our eyes and know for ourselves where the most likely influences are coming from.”

      Authors are influenced by their culture. But this is really only a small part of it. Author’s aren’t just affected by their culture – they are a part of it. Their culture is also remade by them. You have a really rather black and white sense of these issues that doesn’t reflect the nature of texts or authors as I understand either. And this sort of approach that seems so logical to you doesn’t come across as particularly useful or helpful to me. Part of this may reflect a difference in our starting places. You seem to argue that technology can do all of these things for us – as if the technology could in fact, after analyzing literature, provide us with the perfect novel. Perhaps it can happen in the future. But it cannot happen now. Yes computers can imitate very well. But, can a computer really be creative simply by remixing influences? Is this even something we can call “creativity”? Would most novelists agree with you that their work isn’t so much a work of originality or creativity, but rather a re-mixing of sources? Of course, this discussion is itself not very new either. On December 16th, 1829, there was a recorded conversation between Eckermann and Goethe:

      “Something similar,” said I [Eckermann], “often happens in the literary world, when people, for instance, doubt the originality of this or that celebrated man, and seek to trace out the sources from whence he obtained his cultivation.”
      “That is ridiculous,” said Goethe, “we might as well question a strong man about the oxen, sheep, and swine, which he has eaten, and which have given him strength.”

      You have some assumptions in your work that are far from accepted in any universal sense. They seem to form the foundation of your work and your assumptions about Joseph Smith, who, as “a man who had very little education,” must have had a lot of easily to traceable “literary influences.” This is a really odd sort of assumption to make when your influences for Joseph Smith are not common works. How does an uneducated man become so intimately familiar with an 1822 edition of the Koran as your results indicate? What level of exposure could Joseph Smith have had to a failed attempt by Hunt to sell his book as a history textbook? There are problems here – not just with your statistical model, but also with your fundamental assumptions on the nature of language and influence in texts. And while the statistical problems are the easiest to point out, the philosophical stances you take are just as problematic. It is harder to deal with those issues because you don’t express any recognition of these problems. What seems novel to you isn’t novel at all within the framework of literary theory.

      • Long posts about Forests, while I’m looking at lots of trees.
        Academia, yet again destroying a good discussion on how all these books have such an amazingly consistent feel about them.
        Too much ego left and right

    • “…but so far it does seem at least plausible to me that Joseph was influenced by ‘The late war’…”

      Plausibility is not the same as actuality.

      Plausibility isn’t even correlation.

      Plausibile is the word you use when you can’t actually establish a real connection.

      In other words, ‘plausible’ means ‘there’s no evidence for this, but I can craft a believable sounding statement.’ And ‘then I can creatively manufacture evidence that supports my made-up thesis.”

      That’s what ‘plausible’ means.

      It kind of sounds like “probable,” but it’s about 100 miles from it in meaning and implication.

      Truth be told, the best untruths are often the most ‘plausible.’

  20. I received the following reaction from a Canadian friend who prefers to remain unidentified:

    “The irony of the whole Late History incident (‘hidden in plain sight’) is that you have all missed the obvious conclusion, eh. The skip has just curled his stone into the centre of your house and left you laying zero. Duane and Chris Johnson are Canadians (and very likely Vancouver Canucks fans. too). The War of 1812, the war highlighted in the Johnsons’ ‘discovery,’ is the ONLY WAR IN HISTORY in which Canada has won a battle over its neighbour to the south (you can google the famous Battle of Beaver Dams, which the Canadians won after being warned that the ‘Americans are coming’ by their own FEMALE Paul Revere, Laura Secord). The galling part for Canadians like the Johnsons is that most Americans assume they won the war, the battle, everything. The thought makes a loyal Canadian’s maple syrup boil as she sits on her chesterfield watching CFL on CBC. Hence the Johnsons want to promote the “Late War” as the first sinister strike by an ignored but proud race against Americans on MDB. This is the opening volley of a new COLD war, so to speak. Yes, the Blue Jays won the World Series twice, but not even that can soothe centuries of resentment by MacIntosh-toffey loving militant Canadians like Duane and Chris Johnson, and probably Greg Smith too. Don’t be had, eh. See this for what it is.”

    I thought it might lighten the mood a bit.

  21. “It isn’t a particularly difficult feat to reconstruct the Book of Mormon using phrases found from many different sources. In the 1960s, Julia Kristeva coined the term intertextuality to describe this feature of all texts. They were, as she described them, a ‘mosaic of quotations’ all coming from other sources.”

    If the claims of the origins of the Book of Mormon are to be believed (written between 600 BC to 400 AD [excluding Ether] in an otherwise unknown language [Reformed Egyptian], then translated to English), then it seems unlikely that such an enigmatic and unique work (in that there is no other book known to us that was created in a similar manner) would fit so nicely into the “‘mosaic of quotations’ coming from other sources”. Rather, being enigmatic and unique it might be expected that it hold an equally enigmatic and unique spot. Yet, both the Johnsons’ work as well as this well-reasoned critique of it reinforce that the Book of Mormon is just a product of its time.

    • Aaron,

      You wrote:

      “If the claims of the origins of the Book of Mormon are to be believed (written between 600 BC to 400 AD [excluding Ether] in an otherwise unknown language [Reformed Egyptian], then translated to English), then it seems unlikely that such an enigmatic and unique work (in that there is no other book known to us that was created in a similar manner) would fit so nicely into the ‘mosaic of quotations coming from other sources’. Rather, being enigmatic and unique it might be expected that it hold an equally enigmatic and unique spot.”

      That’s an interesting assumption; but I think it fails upon examination.

      Every English word in the Book of Mormon can be located in pre- 1830 dictionaries. But the vocabulary of a language doesn’t consist only in words, but also in phrases, all of which are conventional ways of saying things. The Book of Mormon is unique not in how it says things, but in what it says. Its vocabulary of English words and phrases properly belongs in the time and place it was translated, as with any translated work.

      The notion that some four-word phrases can be used to prove “literary dependence,” not only of a choice of words but of actual content, is ultimately rather silly. It represents only a slightly more sophisticated form of the notorious “adieu” argument.

      • Russell,

        “Every English word in the Book of Mormon can be located in pre- 1830 dictionaries.”

        Of course, this omits “cumoms and cureloms” as well as the some of the monetary designations of the Nephites. But your point stands.

        “The Book of Mormon is unique not in how it says things, but in what it says.”

        I’m not sure what you are getting at here? Do you mean to say the Book of Mormon is unique in that it puts forth doctrines that were not considered or known prior to its publication (if so, is there evidence for this)? I don’t think there are doctrines that are truly unique to the Book of Mormon. In many ways it clarifies teachings of the Bible, for example, infant baptism. However, opposition to infant baptism preceded the Book of Mormon so this could not be considered unique. I would think the only thing truly unique would be Christ’s ministry to the people of the America’s, but even then Christ mentioned “other sheep” in the New Testament.

        On the other hand, if you are suggesting the Book of Mormon is unique because it claims among others the existence of the anachronisms of steel, chariots, and pre-Columbian horses, etc. then I would have to agree that it is unique indeed.

          • Fernando,

            Thank you for the links. I read them all and it was a good review as I’ve researched this online in the past. Overall, I was disappointed by the weak logic used in the arguments. But what really bothers me is the lack of academic integrity. These authors do not seem interested in finding out what is most likely the truth, but rather in constructing arguments that will support their belief of a historical Book of Mormon no matter how tenuous and poorly supported. Many times they make statements based on conjecture that something might have happened. It seems their only goal is to come up with an argument – any argument.

            The details to support my statements I’ve made are too numerous and beyond the scope of the discussion we are having here, but I will show just one example:

            In the first linked article, Steel in the Book of Mormon, Hamblin suggests that the word “steel” in 1829 might not mean what 20th and now 21st century folks imagine it to be. He says:

            “Likewise steel did not necessarily mean an iron-making process in Joseph Smith’s day; its base meaning is hard or strong. Among the meanings of “steel” in Webster’s 1828 dictionary is “extreme hardness.”

            While its true that “among” the meanings of “steel” in the 1828 dictionary the definition he chose is listed, it is the final entry, which is often one of the least common understandings or usages of a word. If you take the view that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon into language commonly used in his time, then it seems the most correct understanding of the word “steel” would be the first-listed definition in the dictionary; that is:

            “1. Iron combined with a small portion of carbon; iron refined and hardened, used in making instruments, and particularly useful as the material of edged tools. It is called in chemistry, carburet of iron; but this is more usually the denomination of plumbago.”

            And also the second definition:

            “2. Figuratively, weapons; particularly, offensive weapons, swords, spears and the like.”


            Further, the definition Hamblin chose to use is more of a symbolic usage (“hearts of steel” is the example used Webster’s), yet Nephi is clearly speaking in concrete terms when he mentions Laban’s sword of fine steel. His terms are so concrete that Nephi then goes on to decapitate Laban with the “steel”. I think a symbolic or metaphoric usage of the word “steel” is obviously not what is meant in the Book of Mormon as it is impossible to chop off a man’s head with a metaphor. For Hamblin to suggest this as a solution to this anachronism is academically dishonest, and rather embarrassing if I may add my own opinion.

            A quick second example (I know I promised only one): in the article on Chariots it says:

            “‘Conduct him’ does not necessarily mean that Lamoni was conducted in the horse/chariot. Indeed, verse 9 mentions horses and chariots, but only the king is ‘conducted.’ It is possible that we are dealing with several ritual objects rather than a conveyance.”

            Again, the 1828 Webster’s dictionary in the entry for “chariot” sheds light on what Joseph Smith likely meant by the phrase “conduct him”:

            1. A half coach; a carriage with four wheels and one seat behind, used for convenience and pleasure.
            2. A car or vehicle used formerly in war, drawn by two or more horses, and conveying two men each. These vehicles were sometimes armed with hooks or sythes.
            CHARIOT, v.t. To convey in a chariot.

            In 1828 a chariot was obviously a vehicle and likely had wheels as is mentioned in the definition. the verb use is also illustrative in that it is very clear that to one is conveyed in a chariot and it is less likely it was meant in a ritualistic sense. This is based solely on the Webster’s dictionary, however.

            The overall problem with the Book of Mormon is that when all of the anachronisms, the doctrinal themes, the historical suppositions (native american origins), and are taken together it is easy to see that the Book of Mormon just could not have been created by the ancient people as it claims. There are too many inaccuracies coupled with too little archeological evidence to support its story. Further, the doctrines are all those which were common to Christianity of Joseph Smith’s time. The book did not come to us from antiquity via the power of God. It came from a 19th century author. If you can put aside your beliefs for a moment and evaluate the evidence we actually have, and then honestly ask yourself what is the most likely and simplest conclusion we can make, then I guarantee it won’t involve angels or magical seer stones as there is absolutely no evidence at all of either. Invoking either into an explanation of the Book of Mormon only then gives you the responsibility of providing evidence for angels and magic rocks to support your claim. I would be happy to learn that both angels and magic rocks exist, but as Marcello Truzzi said, “An extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof”. Unfortunately, the Book of Mormon is dripping with the former, but barren when it comes to the latter.

          • This is in response to Aaron Young, not Fernando, but for some reason it won’t let me reply to Aaron directly.

            Aaron thinks “steel” in the Book of Mormon is an anachronism. Well, I believe there is still a legitimate discussion surrounding whether metallurgy in the New World and the Book of Mormon is an anachronism. However, Nephi’s mention of steel is not an anachronism.

            This comes from Philip J. King and Lawerence E. Stager:

            “Wrought iron heated in contact with charcoal (carbon) at high temperature produces carbonized iron or steel, which is more malleable than cast iron. Steel can be hardened by quenching (practiced as early as the tenth century B.C.E.), that is, cooling off the red-hot steel by sudden immersion into a vat of cold liquid. . . . At Har Adir in Upper Galilee, a remarkably well-preserved “steel pick” with an oak handle within the socket was found in an eleventh-century B.C.E. fortress. It was made of carburized iron (steel) that had been quenched and then tempered. This extraordinary artifact, one of the earliest known examples of steel tools, is a tribute to the skill (or luck) of the artisans of ancient Palestine.”

            Life in Biblical Israel (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 169.

            I would also strongly object to Aaron’s dogmatic insistence that there is no evidence for the Book of Mormon’s antiquity, and that any dope with half a brain could see how the Book of Mormon is obviously a product of the 19th century, etc. Frankly, his comments are little more than the same brand of dogmatism of ideologues like Sterling “you just don’t get books from angels, period” McMurrin, and must ignore a substantial body of scholarly work.

            If Aaron disagrees with this scholarship, then fine. But he hasn’t even shown any real familiarity with it. For example, he insists that the religious teachings of the Book of Mormon are just typical, run-of-the-mill 19th century Christian teachings, but neglects to account for the work of non-Mormon scholar Margaret Barker, who is convinced that 1 Nephi contains authentic pre-exilic Israelite concepts of the tree of life and Messiah, etc.

            But I digress. I really just wanted to point out that Aaron is wrong to think “steel” in 1 Nephi is an anachronism.

  22. Thanks for your contribution to the discussion Ben. Your thoughts here express some of the same concerns that I have felt about the Johnson’s methodology and I fully concur with you that “within the massive electronic search model, illusory parallels are inevitable and must be treated with caution.”

    However, even if their specific claim for word for word influence turns out to be mistaken or at least based on many false positives, however it happened, I think they have identified a text that had a strong organic influence on the narrative of the Book of Mormon. Because my training is in literary study and not statistical analysis, I examined the Late War and the BoM for parallels in language and content and concluded that the author of the BoM must have read and been familiar with the Late War and that a significant amount of the former’s narrative was reliant upon the latter. Only that the dependence did not occur directly at the time the BoM was composed.

    • RT,

      I have read through your blog entry. I have just a couple of observations. The first is this – when I came to the Johnsons presentation, the first I noticed was a revolutionary claim that had absolutely nothing to do with the Book of Mormon. It was the conclusion that the text that had most influenced Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was a previously unnoticed novel titled The Officer’s Daughter. This would have been a major accomplishment. To discover what the last century and a half of literary scholarship into Austen’s work (who is a candidate for the most significant novelist of the 19th century) could not discover using this novel technique. Rather, it should have been the first clue that something was very wrong with the process. The small but important detail remained hidden because they likely had little (if any) exposure to 19th century literature.

      There was another recent publication that deals with some of this. It is Eran Shalev’s American Zion: The Old Testament as a Political Text from the Revolution to the Civil War. Shalev details a number of features of this body of literature that he dubs pseudobiblicsm. A couple of them are really quite important to this discussion:
      “P. 95

      “According to the genre’s [pseudoblicism] conventions, throughout the history’s volumes Snoweden used relatively short and numbered verses. As in the other texts belonging to this tradition, the versed staccato was hardly the entire antique array. (p. 95)”

      “The fact that the language of the King James Bible was applied abundantly and consistently in texts narrating American accounts and histories, a genre which I have dubbed pseudobiblicism, further demonstrates not merely the extent o which American culture was biblically oriented, but that the biblicism was profoundly focused on the Old Testament. This strong predilection for the Old rather than the New Testament is evident when one surveys extant pseudobiblical texts, a sizable corpus written during more than a century (circa 1740-1850); while each of those texts echoes and resonates with Old Testament narratives and protagonists, it is hard to find even a single reference to Christ, not to mention other New Testament characters or episodes. (101)”

      We have this challenge in that when you present parallels they tend to describe a Book of Mormon that isn’t really the Book of Mormon that we read. We have this suggestion that the versification of Hunt is important (until we realize that the Book of Mormon had no verses – those were added to make it conform to this body of literature later). We look for the Old Testament, and we find some, but we also see that the Book of Mormon is concerned with many themes that have no parallels within this literature – and it is those parts that people tend to remember – discussions on creation, the fall of man, sin an atonement. This is a different Book of Mormon than we find in your parallels.

      Seeing your pattern of parallel entrees, I recommend you read my review of Grunder’s Bibliography at:
      And then if you are willing to put something up that explains how your comparison is something other than what I describe, I would be happy to engage you in discussion over the issue. My experience though is that this isn’t a terribly significant overlap. And we can see this by comparing many books to each other. The fact that we only seem to want to do so when engaging in polemical debates hides from us an underlying reality that language and genre and theme create similarities on much larger scales than we simply assume could ever be coincidence.

      • “We have this challenge in that when you present parallels they tend to describe a Book of Mormon that isn’t really the Book of Mormon that we read.”

        Not really sure what you mean by this. Narrative elements can be identified and isolated totally independent of theology or other ideological elements.

        And I attach no importance to the versification in the LW at all. I focus on context and the clustering of elements in the same narrative context and the broader text.

        • One point of concern that I had is that a very large portion of your parallels are from propagandist descriptions of pre-industrialized warfare. Was any effort made to compare both to accounts of the French-Indian Wars (or something similar)?

    • “Because my training is in literary study and not statistical analysis, I examined the Late War and the BoM for parallels in language and content and concluded that the author of the BoM must have read and been familiar with the Late War and that a significant amount of the former’s narrative was reliant upon the latter.”

      Oh? Based upon what, exactly? It would be pretty easy to find someone else with “literary training” who examined the two books and concluded that the author of Book of Mormon was not aware of the former book.
      This is why appeals to personal authority are suspect (especially in the humanities). One must make an argument based upon reason and data.

    • “I examined the Late War and the BoM for parallels in language and content and concluded that the author of the BoM must have read and been familiar with the Late War and that a significant amount of the former’s narrative was reliant upon the latter.”

      Leaving aside the pesky fact that there is no historical evidence to support your argument that “the author of the BoM must have read and been familiar with the Late War,” which is begging the question, I have to commend you, RT, for your clever argument. The similarities between the BoM and the LW are due to Joseph Smith pilfering from the LW, “perhaps even semi-consciously.” However, any dissimilarities between the two books that could potentially call into question this argument are there simply because Joseph Smith “adapted” these “elements” when “circumstances necessitated.”

      Heads, I win; tales, you lose.

      Of course, your argument would be more persuasive if you could actually give any historical evidence that Joseph Smith was even familiar with the LW, let alone read and synthesized it into the narratives in the BoM. Otherwise, you’re left with a circular argument: The similarities between the LW and the BoM are there because Joseph Smith read the LW and adapted parts of it to the narrative of the BoM; and we know he read the LW and adapted parts of it to the narrative of the BoM because of the similarities between the two books.

      (BTW, I find it amazing, really, how many obscure books or manuscripts floating around 19th century upstate New York the unlearned Joseph Smith, who, according to Emma, “could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter, let alone dictating a book like the Book of Mormon,” is supposed to have had intimate knowledge of as he wrote the text of the Book of Mormon.)

      • “Leaving aside the pesky fact that there is no historical evidence to support your argument that ‘the author of the BoM must have read and been familiar with the Late War,'”

        That’s quite a statement when I’ve compiled a list of dozens of substantive parallels that suggest organic reliance of some kind. You’re speaking in hyperbole rather than trying to advance the discussion by actually dealing with the arguments.

        And by the way, I never used the word “pilfer” and think that would be an inaccurate and unnecessarily pejorative way of describing the nature of this literary dependence.

        “However, any dissimilarities between the two books that could potentially call into question this argument”

        I think dissimilarities are important to recognize; the LW and the BoM are totally different texts with different agendas and created through different processes. But the clustering of parallels (some of them very significant) that I cite need to be explained, and as I see it, some kind of literary dependence is the most reasonable and probable theory.

        BTW, please don’t try to conflate me or my argument with others who have argued for JS having read a vast library of manuscripts. My argument is a literary analysis alone of the considerable evidence that whoever wrote the BoM had read and been influenced by the LW.

        • “That’s quite a statement when I’ve compiled a list of dozens of substantive parallels that suggest organic reliance of some kind.”

          This idea of “substantive parallels” is too subjective to inspired confidence. Sorry, but I see nothing “substantive” in the fact that, for example, both books use the word “stripling,” a common English word right out of Webster’s 1828 dictionary, as well as the KJV, for example. (To your credit, at least you didn’t claim the LW talks about “2000 stripling warriors” like other people have claimed.)

          The rest of your alleged “substantive parallels” are likewise not all equally impressive. Many of them, for example, one could easily chalk up to shared language, something nobody has denied, since the language of both are derived from the KJV.

          Frankly, the word “parallelomania” comes to mind.

          “And by the way, I never used the word “pilfer” and think that would be an inaccurate and unnecessarily pejorative way of describing the nature of this literary dependence.”

          Maybe “pilfer” was too strong of a word, but that’s essentially what you’re arguing. You’re essentially arguing that Joseph Smith, whom I would assume you consider the author of a non-historical BoM, first read the LW at some point in his life (you can’t say when exactly because there’s no evidence he ever did) and then took narrative elements from it, mulled it over a bit, then spliced a re-vamped version of them into his fictional “myth of Indian origins” that he wrote sometime later. Conclusion: instead of being an original composition, the “narrative elements of the BoM are probably descended, at least in part, from Gilbert Hunt’s pseudo-biblical account of the War of 1812.”

          “BTW, please don’t try to conflate me or my argument with others who have argued for JS having read a vast library of manuscripts.”

          I wasn’t. It was just an aside I threw in at the end because I see this all the time. (“Joseph Smith must have X, Y, or Z book or manuscript. Look at all the parallels!”) I see the list of books Joseph Smith is supposed to have read growing bigger every year.

          • “I wasn’t. It was just an aside I threw in at the end because I see this all the time. (“Joseph Smith must have X, Y, or Z book or manuscript. Look at all the parallels!”) I see the list of books Joseph Smith is supposed to have read growing bigger every year.”

            This observation doesn’t really help the discussion. It’s an appeal to ridicule that is itself fallacious, since each theory only needs to account for its own claims, not the claims of other theories.

          • I’m sorry, Steven, but its your hasty and flippant dismissal of a complex and fairly comprehensive argument for BoM dependence on LW that doesn’t inspire confidence. I have used criteria well established in the field of literary and historical criticism for determining textual influence, including density, sequencing, and distinctiveness. To point to one rather weak example such as “stripling” and then to simply claim the other parallels are “unimpressive” does a disservice to the amount of work I did. I went through the LW very carefully (multiple times) and evaluated parallels for their strength, trying to be open to the possibility of alternative ways of explaining the similarities to the BoM. Ultimately, I came to the reasoned and cautious conclusion that the author of the BoM was likely dependent on the LW for narrative content.

            Your comments to me and casual treatment of a dense ten page study suggest that you are not interested in opening yourself up to the possibility that the BoM is dependent on thematic material that was available in Joseph Smith’s time period. Which is another way of saying, you are blinded by your own ideology.

            “Maybe “pilfer” was too strong of a word, but that’s essentially what you’re arguing.”

            No, it’s not. Try reading to understand before you assume that one argument is just the same stuff that you think you’ve always encountered before. I believe the BoM IS an original composition, a unique piece of imaginative religious literature with significant value. All authors borrow from other texts, discourse, and ideas; that cannot really be avoided. The more creative authors, however, combine and synthesize those discourses and ideas in unique and memorable ways.

        • Given:

          “When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”(1)

          And, given:

          “…you don’t get books from angels and translate them by miracles; it is just that simple.”(2)

          It follows: any explanation of the origins and authorship of the Book of Mormon is more factual than the one provided by Joseph Smith, so long as it excludes the divine.

          Nothing can be mustered in Joseph’s favor. No testimony of any number of eyewitnesses, no confirmed hebraisms, no altar inscribed “NHM”, no parallel with an ancient source unknown to Joseph, indeed no archaelogical, linguistic, theological, historical, psychological, nor any other evidence, can tip the scale in his favor by even one degree. Given these 2 premises, Joseph’s account is doomed.

          Conversely, any other explanation of the existence of the Book of Mormon is more probable than the documented historical accounts, which notably fail to exclude the divine. Thus, Dr. Quinn’s argument that Joseph Smith composed the Book of Mormon from rare, expensive, unavailable manuscripts, stored in Europe and written in languages he did not read, is more probable than that reported by “The Testimony of the Three Witnesses”, “The Testimony of the Eight Witnesses”, or even a hypothetical “The Testimony of the 6.022×10^23 Witnesses” (or The Testimony of the Mole, for short).

          Given the 2 assumptions, the hypothesis this article engages (hereafter referred to as the Johnson-RT hypothesis) must be closer to fact than Joseph’s claims, no matter how much better his are documented.

          That said, the Johnson-RT hypothesis is a distinct improvement over Dr. Quinn’s theory, the silly Solomon Spaulding story, the “automatic writing” tautology, or the “Book of Mormon delivered to Joseph Smith from a Reptilian-piloted UFO from the Planet Zzzdrglvad, via Walters the Magician as an Intermediary, Theory” (also known as the “Tin-Foil Hat Reinforced with a Double-Layered, 2 Acre-Square Faraday Cage Theory”), though — given our assumptions — all of these are more likely than what Joseph Smith said he saw and did.

          You might suspect this would leave the diligent historian (or statistician, or well-trained literary theorist, etc.) in a bit of a quandary. You would be wrong. Any hypothesis, regardless of evidence for or against, can stand in until something better is found. Thus, Spaulding yesterday, Quinn today, perhaps Johnson-RT tomorrow. They can even be mutually exclusive. As long as the divine is safely excluded, we stand on firm ground.

          Personally, I reject assumption #2. This allows me to believe Joseph Smith’s account. “For those who believe, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.”(3)

          1-“The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes” (1927), p. 1011.

          2- “An Interview with Sterling McMurrin.

          3- Franz Werfel. As quoted in “Philippine Studies” (1953) by Ateneo de Manila, p. 269; also in “Everest : The Mountaineering History” (2000) by Walt Unsworth, p. 100

      • “(BTW, I find it amazing, really, how many obscure books or manuscripts floating around 19th century upstate New York the unlearned Joseph Smith, who, according to Emma, “could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter, let alone dictating a book like the Book of Mormon,” is supposed to have had intimate knowledge of as he wrote the text of the Book of Mormon.)”

        I’m not taking a side in this debate. I agree that the Johnsons’ analysis has a number of weaknesses. But I just want to say that we have clear evidence that Joseph was intimately acquainted with the Bible and therefore that he did spend a significant amount of time reading. Despite this, his writing ability was still weak. Just because someone reads a lot doesn’t automatically mean they will be a good writer.

        I also think most of us agree that Joseph, while not having had much formal education, was still a very intelligent and talented man. I think it can’t be reasonably argued that Joseph couldn’t possibly have been influenced by other written works based on his writing ability. One can be a very skilled author and orator without having the ability to write, and Joseph had scribes.

        • “But I just want to say that we have clear evidence that Joseph was intimately acquainted with the Bible and therefore that he did spend a significant amount of time reading.”

          I don’t know if I’d say “intimately” acquainted (if we’re to believe Emma, then Joseph missed all those references to Jerusalem having walls, for example) but I agree that Joseph and his family, as part of their culture, would’ve known the Bible, or at least have been influenced by its language.

          But being familiar with the Bible, Carl, is not the same as also being familiar with Ethan Smith, and Solomon Spaulding, and Josiah Priest, and Alexander von Humboldt, and Shakespeare, and now the author of the “Late War,” etc., etc. The list just keeps growing.

          Also, keep in mind that Emma insisted that Joseph could neither “writer” nor “dictate” a coherent letter, “let alone dictating a book like the Book of Mormon.” Since Emma was one of Joseph’s scribes, albeit briefly, during the translation of the BoM, I think her comments are important. (Of course, she could have just been lying through her teeth, as the good folks at MormonThink claim.)

          • I still can’t dictate a letter even though I feel like I can write decently. But I agree that Emma’s testimony about the dictation of the BoM describes a very singular process. If deception was taking place, I don’t see how it could have been done without JS reading from some prepared manuscript, because to dictate that from memory would have been superhuman, regardless of his writing ability.

            About the “growing list,” keep in mind that referring the list in the aggregate is, of course, fallacious. The alternative theories do not require JS to have had access to EVERY work referenced by every other theory, just the work that is relevant to their own theory. Each theory does not need to answer the claims of other theories. So your reference to the “growing list” as if it is becoming increasingly ridiculous is itself ridiculous.

          • The person who contends that Joseph wrote the Book of Mormon, based upon whatever reason, influence of some other work for example, takes on the burden of showing how Joseph got the scores of mesoamericanisms in the Book right, the scores of Near East reference points in the Book right, even the Greek Septuagint in the Book right. That takes a pretty impressive library, one that has more than the Last War in it, to get the geography and language and culture down right in this Book he allegedly authored. Similarly, the proponent of such a theory also has the burden to show why the book he thinks Joseph used to write the Book of Mormon is THE book and not the other clamor in for the same title. They can’t all be right.

          • “About the “growing list,” keep in mind that referring the list in the aggregate is, of course, fallacious.”

            Well, except many people, realizing that their list of parallels for each work can ultimately only account for a small percentage of the actual Book of Mormon, have adopted the stance that each played a part. MormonThink, for instance, has a piece comparing several of “sources” with the Book of Mormon, and seems to be proposing a genetic relationship (i.e., Joseph Smith directly borrowed from said source).

            Certainly this is not the claim being made by the Johnson’s or RT, so far as I can tell, are making such claims. But it is made, and there is no doubt folks on message boards who, as we speak, are not discarding the other sources, but simply adding the “Late War” to the list, so to speak.

          • “Certainly this is not the claim being made by the Johnson’s or RT, so far as I can tell, are making such claims. But it is made, and there is no doubt folks on message boards who, as we speak, are not discarding the other sources, but simply adding the ‘Late War’ to the list, so to speak.”

            Neal, the fact that some people who oppose orthodox theories employ fallacious arguments to do so does not justify the defenders of orthodoxy in employing their own fallacious arguments. Therefore, your comment does nothing to counteract the fallaciousness of Stephen’s “growing list” dismissal.

          • “Neal, the fact that some people who oppose orthodox theories employ fallacious arguments to do so does not justify the defenders of orthodoxy in employing their own fallacious arguments. Therefore, your comment does nothing to counteract the fallaciousness of Stephen’s “growing list” dismissal.”

            I’m sorry, but I fail to see how it is fallacious to speak of a “growing list” when, in fact, some critics are in fact employing a “growing list.” Is it now fallacious to respond or critically allude to fallacious arguments (which are actually being made)? I must not have gotten that memo.

          • Daniel, I’m mostly basing this from Joseph’s sermons, in which he would frequently use the language of Paul and other gospels from memory.

          • “I’m mostly basing this from Joseph’s sermons, in which he would frequently use the language of Paul and other gospels from memory.”

            So, Carl, you are using evidence that primarily comes from decades later, correct? Dan asked for evidence that Joseph Smith in 1828-1829 was intimately familiar with the bible.

            Evidence from many years later is the same as saying I was well acquainted with LDS apologetics in 2006-08 (while on my mission) because I am demonstrably so now. The fact is I wasn’t, and no amount of evidence from 2010 (when I started blogging on the subject) til now can change that fact.

          • Carl, Joseph began sermonizing after the Book of Mormon was published and the Church was founded (1830). There is, of course, good evidence he studied the Bible after dictating the Book of Mormon, but much less evidence of study prior to that.

          • From Wikipedia: Between 1817 and 1825 there were several camp meetings and revivals in the Palmyra area.[8] Although the Smith family disagreed about religion, they were caught up in this excitement.[9] Smith became interested in religion at about the age of twelve, and he participated in church classes, read the Bible, and reportedly showed an interest in Methodism.[10]

            Here is the citation: 10. Vogel (2004, pp. 26–7) (that around 1817 Smith was beginning to feel his own religious stirrings); D. Michael Quinn (December 20, 2006). “Joseph Smith’s Experience of a Methodist “Camp-Meeting” in 1820″. Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. p. 3. (arguing that a Methodist camp meeting in June 1818 provided a local context for the statement from Smith’s “earliest autobiography” and that revivals and camp meetings occurred in and around Palmyra during 1819–20).

            Seems like plenty of time to get acquainted with the bible between 1817 and 1830 before the publication of the Book of Mormon.

          • Neal and Thad, we can’t be absolutely certain how acquainted with the Bible JS was during the time the BoM was being worked on, but we do have the evidence from his sermons that he had many biblical passages memorized. All that can be said is that these passages had become a part of his long-term memory some time inbetween his birth and the time he gave the sermons. We also have the evidence that Aaron Young has posted here. I think the evidence is not sufficient to take a definitive stance on the position of whether or not JS was intimately acquainted with the Bible during the time he worked on the BoM. I think either stance is a reasonable one.

    • Which author of the Book of Mormon was influenced by reading this book? Mormon? Nephi? Moroni? Facetious for me to ask, I know, but you are aware of the research which argues that there are multiple authors of the Book of Mormon, yes? I can’t tell from your blog post. You can only hope to make sense with your argument if one assumes that Joseph Smith read this book and years later was so moved by it that it overshadowed all else in authoring the Book of Mormon. This strikes me as incredulous in its own right. In any event as more of these arguments arise relating to Joseph being the Book of Mormon’s author, one has to be ever more impressed with the breadth and depth of the Palmyra City library.

    • The characterisation of some of those parallels seems frankly deficient. To take the very first example:

      “A battle at a fort where righteous white protagonists are attacked by an army made up of dark-skinned natives driven by a white military leader. The white protagonists are prepared for battle and slaughter their opponents to such an extent that they fill the trenches surrounding the fort with dead bodies. The surviving elements flee into the wilderness/forest (pp. 102-4, 29:1-23) Alma 49:10-25”

      Somehow seems to miss the key points of the narratives in both Late War and in Alma 49. The description of ‘righteous white protagonists’ and ‘dark-skinned natives’ has to be added (it plays little part in Alma 49 itself, which in any case would not see one side as more native than the other). Amalickiah is in fact specified as not being on the scene, his place taken by assorted captains, a good chunk of the Late War narrative is devoted to messages between the commanders, while Alma simply has the captains make an oath (have failed in the earlier part of the narrative at Ammonihah), and spends most of the description on the Nephite preparations, which do not match the description in Late War save in one detail, the ditch. The parallel is thin and pale, as do the others I’ve looked at (to claim that there is ‘little doubt’ that the narrative on p.70 is connected to the Nephite destruction definitely overstates the argument, when one is left with little but black smoke).

      In contrast, the Biblical connections are often so deep and prolonged, and so unexplored, that these sorts of superficial connections seem such an utter distraction.

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