No one can know too much about the Book of Mormon
"Introduction to an Unknown Book," CWHN 6:3* * * * * * * *
The Book of Mormon is tough. It thrives on investigation.
You may kick it around like a football, as many have done; and I promise you it
will wear you out long before you ever make a dent in it.
"A Twilight World," CWHN 5:153
THE ACHIEVEMENT OF THE BOOK OF MORMON* * * * * * * *
century and a quarter ago, a young man shocked and angered the world by
bringing out a large book that he set up beside the Bible, not as a commentary
or a key to the scriptures, but as original scripture—the revealed word
of God to men of old—and as genuine history.
book itself declares that it is an authentic product of the Near East. It gives
a full and circumstantial account of its own origin. It declares that it is but
one of many, many such books that have been produced in the course of history
and may be hidden in sundry places at this day. It places itself in about the
middle of a long list of sacred writings, beginning with the patriarchs and
continuing down to the end of human history. It cites now-lost prophetic
writings of prime importance, giving the names of their authors. It traces its
own cultural roots in all directions, emphasizing the immense breadth and
complexity of such connections in the world. It belongs to the same class of
literature as the Bible, but, along with a sharper and clearer statement of
biblical teachings, contains a formidable mass of historical material unknown
to biblical writers but well within the range of modern comparative study since
it insists on deriving its whole cultural tradition, even in details, directly
from a specific time and place in the Old World.
Book of Mormon is God's challenge to the world. It was given to the world not
as a sign to convert it but as a testimony to convict it. In every dispensation
the world must be left without excuse. It is given without reservation or
qualification as a true history and the word of God.
"Historicity of the Bible," CWHN 1:15-16* * * * * * * *
Where else [but in the Book of Mormon] will one find such
inexhaustible invention combined with such unerring accuracy and consistency?
To put it facetiously but not unfairly, the artist must not only balance a bowl
of goldfish and three lighted candles on the end of a broomstick while fighting
off a swarm of gadflies, but he must at the same time be carving an immortal
piece of statuary from a lump of solid diorite.
an undertaking like this, merely to avoid total confusion and complete disaster
would be a superhuman achievement. But that is not the assignment; that is only
a coincidental detail to the main business at hand, which is, with all this
consummately skillful handling of mere technical detail, to have something
significant to say; not merely significant, but profound and moving, and so
relevant to the peculiar conditions of our own day as to speak to our ears with
a voice of thunder.
"Strange Things Strangely Told," CWHN
7:141* * * * * * * *
There is nothing extraneous or afterthought about the
religious element in the Book of Mormon, to remove the religious parts of which
would be equivalent to removing the rice from a rice pudding. There is really
nothing else to it.
"Censoring the Joseph Smith Story,"
CWHN 11:65* * * * * * * *
It is a surprisingly big book, supplying quite enough rope
for a charlatan to hang himself a hundred times. As the work of an imposter it
must unavoidably bear all the marks of fraud. It should be poorly organized,
shallow, artificial, patchy, and unoriginal. It should display a pretentious
vocabulary (the Book of Mormon uses only 3,000 words), overdrawn stock
characters, melodramatic situations, gaudy and overdone descriptions, and
bombastic diction . . ..
one believes its story or not, the severest critic of the Book of Mormon, if he
reads it with care at all, must admit that it is the exact opposite. . . . It
is carefully organized, specific, sober, factual, and perfectly consistent.
"Good People and Bad People," CWHN
THE BOOK OF MORMON AND OTHER HOLY WRITINGS* * * * * * * *
first and foremost objection to the Book of Mormon was summed up in the first
word of Alexander Campbell's opening blast against it: "Blasphemy!"
The first thing that would hit any Christian on opening to the title page was
the claim of this book to be nothing less than the word of God—right
beside the Bible! . . .
the Book of Mormon has the last word. Rare indeed is the Christian scholar
today who would maintain that every word declared canonical in the past by
committees claiming no inspiration whatever is the absolute word of God or that
all the writing given noncanonical status by the same learned conclaves are,
when they claim the status of scripture, to be condemned out of hand as
fraudulent. That won't do any more. Today religious journals are full of
perplexed and controversial articles on "What is Scripture?"
"Howlers in the Book of Mormon," CWHN 8:253* * * * * * * *
The world today has forgotten that the most shocking and
offensive thing about the Book of Mormon was what? For years and years, nobody
could find any objectionable teachings in it. So what were they so upset about?
It was this: It presented a completely unfamiliar set of scripture and revelation—a
completely new idea of scripture. Nobody ever thought of the scriptures being
open like that. They said, "Now look, we have the Bible, and this Bible
was a concrete monolithic block written by the hand of God and there is nothing
else." Then came the Book of Mormon, not only butting into the picture,
but giving a whole new conception of what scripture was, how it had been
composed, and how it had been made, how things were built up; it tells us a lot
about writing, about recording, about handing down traditions, about how the
people thought of the book.
"Rediscovery of the Apocrypha," CWHN
12:212* * * * * * * *
In three ways the Book of Mormon by implication rejected the
conventional ideas of what the Bible is supposed to be: (1) by its mere
existence it refuted the idea of a "once-for-all" word of God; (2) by
allowing for the mistakes of men in the pages of scripture it rejected the idea
of an infallible book; (3) and by its free and flexible quotations from the
Bible it rejected the idea of a fixed, immutable, letter-perfect text.
"A New Age of Discovery," CWHN 7:20* * * * * * * *
The idea of the holy book that is taken away from the earth
and restored from time to time, or is handed down secretly from father to son
for generations, or hidden up in the earth, preserved by ingenious methods of
storage with precious imperishable materials to be brought forth in a later and
more righteous generation, is becoming increasingly familiar with the discovery
and publication of ever more ancient apocryphal works, Jewish, Christian, and
others. But nowhere does the idea find clearer or completer expression than in
the pages of the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price.
"Genesis of the Written Word," CWHN
12:467-68* * * * * * * *
Mark Twain accuses Joseph Smith of having . . . "smouched
from the New Testament, and no credit given." But since the Book of Mormon
was written to be read by people who knew and believed the Bible—indeed,
one cannot possibly believe the Book of Mormon without believing the
Bible—it is hard to see why a deceiver would strew the broadest clues to
his pilfering all through a record he claimed was his own.
of course what Mark Twain did not know was that ancient writing is formulaic and that no writer was expected to
cite chapter and verse for the word-for-word quotations and set expressions
which made up his composition. For one thing, there would be no point to citing
one's immediate source for an idea or expression since that writer in turn was
merely borrowing it from another. That was no more pilfering to the ancient
mind than taking words out of the dictionary or thesaurus would be for a modern
author. This should be obvious to anyone who has read much of ancient authors
in the original—translation, of course, completely effaces the original
expressions and makes this kind of investigation clumsy and dubious if not
"The Bible in the Book of Mormon," CWHN 7:111-12* * * * * * * *
What about "passages lifted bodily from the King James
Version" about which the critics are clamoring? They are simply following the accepted ancient procedure, in
which "holy men of God," when they quote earlier scriptures, favor
not the original language or their own translation, but whatever version of the
scriptures is most familiar to the people they are addressing. The Book of Mormon was addressed to a
society which knew only the King James Version.
"Howlers in the Book of Mormon," CWHN 8:254* * * * * * * *
Just as the New Testament clarified the long misunderstood
message of the Old, so the Book of Mormon is held to reiterate the messages of
both testaments in a way that restores their full meaning.
"The Mormon View of the Book of Mormon,"
CWHN 8:259-60* * * * * * * *
It is as if we were completing a jigsaw puzzle. There is a
peculiarly shaped blank which calls for a missing piece designated as the stick
of Judah. The Old Testament fits easily into the gap. Then there remains an adjacent
blank space to be filled by a missing "stick of Joseph." Naturally
the first thing we do is to try to slip the New Testament into it. But turn it
and push it and force it as we will, the New Testament simply does not belong
there, for it is not the story of "Joseph and his associates" in
contradistinction to that of "Judah and his associates," which makes
up the Bible. If anything it belongs to the latter class, to the stick of
the missing piece refuses to be found, the skillful jigsaw artist simply goes
ahead and completes the rest of the picture; and then if the missing piece is
still lost, he can infer from the shape of the last empty space and from the
design and color of the surrounding areas almost exactly what the missing piece
should be. This is what we are attempting here. When the Bible commentators
failed to supply the missing piece or to agree on what it should look like, we
simply continued to work out the puzzle, putting into position every piece we
could find that had to do with sticks and covenants. As a result we are now in
a position to make some pretty near guesses as to the shape, size, and color of
the missing piece to our puzzle—the baffling "stick of Joseph."
of Judah," CWHN 8:33* * * * * * * *
Ezekiel . . . is talking sense when he speaks of the two
sticks that become one. Not merely did the ancients have such sticks, but that
they used them specifically in the situation described by Ezekiel for a
summoning and gathering of the nation and for the establishment of identity and
the renewing of contracts. The scattered tribes of Israel are described as
apparently lost for good, smashed, dispersed, forgotten, nay, dead—dry
bones. This all looks to a far future time, for the dry bones
show us not a sick nation, not a dying one, nor even one now dead, but one that
has been dead for a long, long time. That the nations are depicted as scattered
far and wide, having lost their identity and disappeared from history, is noted
by the commentators—hence the need for a miracle of resurrection, hence
the need for a sure means of identification, symbolized by the identification
"extinct" nations are summoned to the great assembly by the Lord's
herald, who takes their marked rods and places them side by side. They fit
together perfectly to become one stick as the herald performs the
joining before the eyes of all the people (Numbers 17:9).
and Joseph are thereby recognized beyond a doubt as parties to the original
covenant long after separation and the original unity of the covenant people is
thereby restored. The united scepter is then returned to the hand of the king
(Ezekiel 37:19, 22-44), where it is to remain forever, all outstanding debts,
the price of sin and transgression, having at last been paid off and all old
"Stick of Judah," CWHN 8:21-22* * * * * * * *
We can say without hesitation that the first chapter of the
Book of Mormon, the Testament of Lehi, has the authenticity of a truly ancient
pseudepigraphic writing stamped all over it. It is a well-nigh perfect example
of the genre.
"To Open the Last Dispensation," 4* * * * * * * *
The Book of Mormon is, as it often reminds us, a selective
history. It deals with small groups of pious believers, intensely conservative
by nature and tradition, consciously identifying themselves with their
ancestors, Israel in the wilderness of long ago. It was this characteristic tendency
of the sectaries to identify themselves with earlier trials and tribulations of
Israel that at first made the Dead Sea Scrolls so hard to date. The same
situations seem to obtain again and again through history, so that the Kittim
of the Scrolls might be the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, or
carrying on in the New World, the Book of Mormon people preserve their ancient
culture for centuries, which should not surprise us. Do not the present
inhabitants of America speak the English, Spanish, and Portuguese and preserve
the customs of the Old World after four hundred years? With this strong
cultural carry-over, the Nephites are aware of being special and apart—as
the sectaries always are—"a lonesome and solemn people" is the
moving expression of Nephi's brother. And strangely enough, they are peculiarly
bound to the written word as are the people of Qumran. One of the most
important discoveries of the Book of Mormon was the process and techniques of
recording, transmitting, concealing, editing, translating, and duplicating
ancient writings. Here is something the world refused to see in the Bible, the
most sealed of books, but it has been thoroughly vindicated in the Dead Sea
"Churches in the Wilderness," CWHN
TEST AND EVIDENCES* * * * * * * *
young man once long ago claimed he had found a large diamond in his field as he
was ploughing. He put the stone on display to the public free of charge, and
everyone took sides. A psychologist showed, by citing some famous case studies,
that the young man was suffering from a well-known form of delusion. An
historian showed that other men have also claimed to have found diamonds in
fields and been deceived. A geologist proved that there were no diamonds in the
area but only quartz. The young man had been fooled by a quartz. When asked to
inspect the stone itself, the geologist declined with a weary, tolerant smile
and kindly shake of the head. An English professor showed that the young man in
describing his stone used the very same language that others had used in
describing uncut diamonds. He was, therefore, simply speaking the common
language of his time. A sociologist showed that only three out of 177 florists'
assistants in four major cities believed the stone was genuine. A clergyman
wrote a book to show that it was not the young man but someone else who had
found the stone.
an indigent jeweler named Snite pointed out that since the stone was still
available for examination the answer to the question of whether it was a
diamond or not had absolutely nothing to do with who found it, or whether the
finder was honest or sane, or who believed him, or whether he would know a
diamond from a brick, or whether diamonds had ever been found in fields, or
whether people had ever been fooled by quartz or glass, but was to be answered
simply and solely by putting the stone to certain well-known tests for
on diamonds were called in. Some of them declared it genuine. The others made
nervous jokes about it and declared that they could not very well jeopardize
their dignity and reputations by appearing to take the thing too seriously. To
hide the bad impression thus made, someone came out with the theory that the
stone was really a synthetic diamond, very skillfully made, but a fake just the
same. The objection to this is that the production of a good synthetic diamond
120 years ago would have been an even more remarkable feat than the finding of
a real one.
"Lehi the Winner," CWHN 5:121-22* * * * * * * *
A revealed text in English is infinitely to be preferred to
an original in a language that no one on earth could claim as his own. It frees
the members and leaders of the Church as it frees the investigating world from
the necessity of becoming philologists or, worse still, of having to rely on
the judgment of philologists, as a prerequisite to understanding this great
book. At he same time, it puts upon the modern world an obligation to study and
learn, from which that world could easily plead immunity were the book in an
ancient language or couched in the labored and pretentious idiom that learned
men adopt when they try to decipher ancient texts.
"New Approaches to Book of Mormon Study,"
CWHN 8:97* * * * * * * *
It is our conviction that proof of the Book of Mormon does lie in Central America, but until the
people who study that area can come to some agreement among themselves as to
what they have found, the rest of us cannot very well start drawing
conclusions. . . . The documents may be already reposing unread in our
libraries and archives, awaiting the student with sufficient industry to learn
how to use them.
"The Archaeological Problem," CWHN 6:442
INTERNAL EVIDENCE* * * * * * * *
It is rarely necessary to go any further than the document itself to find enough clues to condemn it, and if the text is a long one, and an historical document in the bargain, the absolute certainty of inner contradictions is enough to assure adequate testing. This makes the Book of Mormon preeminently testable, and we may list the following points on which ceretainty is obtainable.1. The
mere existence of the book is a powerful argument in favor of its authenticity.
giving us a long book, the author forces us to concede that he is not playing
writer never falls back on the accepted immunities of double meaning and
religious interpretations in the manner of the Swedenborgians or the schoolmen.
This refusal to claim any special privileges is an evidence of good faith.
may be diligent enough, in their way, but the object of their trickery is to
avoid hard work, and this is not the sort of laborious task they give
close examination all the many apparent contradictions in the Book of Mormon
disappear. It passes the sure test of authenticity with flying colors.
style is not that of anyone trying to write well. . . . Here is a
book with all the elements of an intensely romantic adventure tale of far-away
and long-ago, and the author turns down innumerable chances to please his public!
are few plays on words, few rhetorical subtleties, no reveling in abstract
terms, no excess of esoteric language or doctrine to require the trained
wrote the book must have been a very intelligent and experienced person; yet
such people in 1830 did not produce books with rudimentary vocabularies. This
cannot be the work of any simple clown, but neither can it be that of an able
and educated contemporary.
extremely limited vocabulary suggests another piece of internal evidence to the
reader. The Book of Mormon never makes any attempt to be clever.
it claims to be translated by divine power, the Book of Mormon also claims all
the authority—and responsibility—of the original text. The author
leaves himself no philological loopholes, though the book, stemming from a
number of nations and languages, offers opportunity for many of them.
"New Approaches to Book of Mormon Study," CWHN 8:65-69; ellipses omitted
EXTERNAL EVIDENCE* * * * * * * *
Whatever external evidence [a researcher] finds must fulfill three conditions: 1. The
Book of Mormon must make clear and specific statements about certain concrete,
sources, ancient and modern, must make equally clear and objective statements
about the same things, agreeing substantially with what the Book of Mormon says
must be clear proof that there has been no collusion between the two reports,
i.e., that Joseph Smith could not possibly have knowledge of the source by
which his account is being "controlled" or of any other source that
could give him the information contained in the Book of Mormon.
"New Approaches to Book of Mormon Study," CWHN 8:69-70
CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE* * * * * * * *
apart from the contents of the Book of Mormon and the external evidences that
might support it, there are certain circumstances attending its production
which cannot be explained on grounds other than those given by Joseph Smith.
These may be listed briefly:
is the testimony of the witnesses.
youth and inexperience of Joseph Smith at the time when he took full
responsibility for the publication of the book—proof (a) that he could
not have produced it himself and (b) that he was not acting for someone else,
for his behavior at all times displayed independence.
absence of notes and sources.
short time of production.
fact that there was only one version of the book ever published (with minor
changes in each printing). This is most significant. It is now known that the
Koran, the only book claiming an equal amount of divine inspiration and
accuracy, was completely re-edited at least three times during the lifetime of
brings up the unhesitating and unchanging position of Joseph Smith regarding
his revelations. . . . From the day the Book of Mormon came from the press,
Joseph Smith never ceased to spread it abroad, and he never changed his
attitude towards it. What creative writer would not blush for the production of
such youth and inexperience twenty years after? What imposter would not lie
awake nights worrying about the slips and errors of this massive and
pretentious product of his youthful indiscretion and roguery? Yet, since the
Prophet was having revelations all along, nothing would have been easier, had
he the slightest shadow of a misgiving, than to issue a new, revised, and
improved edition, or to recall the book altogether, limit its circulation,
claim it consisted of mysteries to be grasped by the . . . initiated alone, say
it was to be interpreted only in a "religious" sense, or supersede it
by something else. The Saints who believed the Prophet were the only ones who
took the book seriously anyway.
has never been any air of mystery about the Book of Mormon. There is no secrecy
connected with it at the time of publication or today.
though the success of the book is not proof of its divinity, the type of people
it has appealed to—sincere, simple, direct, highly unhysterical, and
nonmystical—is circumstantial evidence for its honesty. It has very solid
supporters. . . .
one considers that any one of the above arguments makes it very hard to explain
the Book of Mormon as a fraud, one wonders if a corresponding list of arguments
against the book might not be produced. For such a list one waits with interest
but in vain. At present the higher critics are scolding the Book of Mormon for
not talking like the dean of a divinity school. We might as well admit it, the
Victorian platitudes are simply not there.
"New Approaches to Book of Mormon Study," CWHN 8:71-72* * * * * * * *
The great boldness and originality of writings attributed to
Joseph Smith are displayed in their full scope and splendor in the account,
contained in what is called 3 Nephi in the Book of Mormon, of how the Lord
Jesus Christ after his resurrection visited some of his "other sheep"
in the New World and set up his church among them. It would be hard to imagine
a project more dangerous to life and limb or perilous to the soul than that of
authoring, and recommending to the Christian world as holy scripture, writings
purporting to contain an accurate account of the deeds of the Lord among men
after his resurrection, including lengthy transcripts of the very words he
spoke. Nothing short of absolute integrity could stand up to the consequences
of such daring in nineteenth-century America. We know exactly how his neighbors
reacted to the claims of Joseph Smith, and it was not (as it had become
customary to insist) with the complacent or sympathetic tolerance of backwoods "Yorkers,"
to whom such things were supposedly everyday experience: nothing could equal
the indignation and rage excited among them by the name and message of Joseph
"Christ among the Ruins," CWHN 8:407* * * * * * * *
The Liahona was (1) a gift of God, the manner of its
delivery causing great astonishment. (2) It was neither mechanical nor
self-operating, but worked solely by the power of God. (3) It functioned only
in response to the faith, diligence, and heed of those who followed it. (4) And
yet there was something ordinary and familiar about it. The thing itself was
the "small means" through which God worked; it was not a mysterious
or untouchable object but strictly a "temporal thing." It was so
ordinary that the constant tendency of Lehi's people was to take it for
granted—in fact, they spent most of their time ignoring it; hence,
according to Alma, their needless, years-long wandering in the desert. (5) The
working parts of the device were two spindles or pointers. (6) On these a
special writing would appear from time to time, clarifying and amplifying the
message of the pointers. (7) The specific purpose of the traversing indicators
was "to point the way they should go." (8) The two pointers were
mounted in a brass sphere whose marvelous workmanship excited great wonder and
admiration. Special instructions sometimes appeared on this ball. (9) The
device was referred to descriptively as a ball, functionally as a director, and
in both senses as a "compass," or Liahona. (10) On occasion, it saved
Lehi's people from perishing by land and sea—"if they would look
they might live" (Alma 37:46). (11) It was preserved "for a wise
purpose" (Alma 37:2, 14, 18) long after it had ceased to function, having
been prepared specifically to guide Lehi's party to the promised land. It was a
"type and shadow" of man's relationship to God during his earthly
"Some Fairly Foolproof Tests," CWHN
RELATIONSHIP TO OTHER RECORDS* * * * * * * *
idea that the Book of Mormon was simply a product of its time may be a
necessary fiction to explain it but it is fiction nonetheless. If they may be
trusted in nothing else, the voluminous writings of the anti-Mormons stand as
monumental evidence for one fact: that Mormonism and the Book of Mormon were in
no way a product of the society in which they arose.
"Just Another Book?" CWHN 8:165-66* * * * * * * *
In trespassing on scientific grounds or rather, in timidly
peeping over the fence, we are only seeking enlightenment. We have heard so
often that "science" has disproved, nay "disemboweled," the
Book of Mormon, that we are naturally curious to have a look at some of the
more spectacular havoc. Where is it?
have tiptoed into the archaeology museum and there found nothing that could not
be interpreted many ways. We have entered the house of the anthropologists, and
there found all in confusion—and the confusion is growing. We have
consulted with the more exact or authentic scientists and found them
surprisingly hesitant to commit themselves on the Book of Mormon. A definitive
refutation must rest on definite conclusions, and of such conclusions
scientists are becoming increasingly wary.
"Forever Tentative . . . ," CWHN
7:226-27* * * * * * * *
Today the literary condemn the Book of Mormon as not being
up to the standards of English literature that appeal to them, social scientists condemn it because it
fails to display an evolutionary pattern of history, and the exponents of pure thought are disgusted with it because
it entirely ignores the heritage of medieval scholasticism and fails to display the Victorian meliorism
which should be the mark of any nineteenth-century history of humanity.
"Introduction to an Unknown Book,"
CWHN 6:7-8* * * * * * * *
The writer of 1 Nephi was confronted by a hundred delicately
interrelated problems of extreme difficulty. The probability of coming up with a plausible statement by
mere guesswork once or twice is dim enough, but the chances of repeating the performance a hundred times in
rapid succession are infinitely remote. The world through which Lehi wandered was to the westerner of 1830 a quaking
bog without a visible inch of footing, lost in impenetrable fog; the best Bible students were hopelessly
misinformed even about Palestine.
"Lehi the Winner," CWHN 5:117* * * * * * * *
First Nephi cannot possibly be explained on the grounds of
mere coincidence. To illustrate this, let the reader make a simple test. Let him sit down to write a
history of life, let us say, in Tibet in the middle of the eleventh century A.D. Let him construct his story wholly on
the basis of what he happens to know right now about Tibet in the eleventh
century—that will fairly represent what was known about ancient Arabia in
1830, i.e., that there was such a place and that it was very mysterious and
composing your Tibetan fantasy you will enjoy one great advantage: since the
canvas is an absolute blank, you are free to fill it with anything that strikes
your fancy. . . .
. . . we must insist that you scrupulously observe a number of annoying
must never make any absurd, impossible, or contradictory statements.
you are finished, you must make no changes in the text—the first edition
must stand forever.
must give out that your "smooth narrative" is not fiction but true,
nay sacred history.
must invite the ablest orientalists to examine the text with care and strive
diligently to see that your book gets into the hands of all those most eager
and most competent to expose every flaw in it.
The "author" of the Book of Mormon observes all
these terrifying rules most scrupulously.
"Lehi the Winner," CWHN 5:119* * * * * * * *
From what oriental romance, then, was the book of 1 Nephi
stolen? Compare it with any attempts to seize the letter and the spirit of the
glamorous East, from Voltaire to Grillparzer, nay, with the soberest oriental
histories of the time, and it will immediately become apparent how unreal,
extravagant, overdone, and stereotyped they all are, and how scrupulously Nephi
has avoided all the pitfalls into which even the best scholars were sure to
fall. There is no point at all to the question: Who wrote the Book of Mormon?
It would have been quite as impossible for the most learned man alive in 1830
to have written the book as it was for Joseph Smith.
"Lehi the Winner," CWHN 5:123* * * * * * * *
Few people realize that in Joseph Smith's day no really ancient manuscripts were known.
Egyptian and Babylonian could not be read; the Greek and Latin classics were
the oldest literature available, preserved almost entirely in bad medieval
copies no older than the Byzantine and Carolingian periods.
"Genesis of the Written Word," CWHN 12:453* * * * * * * *
There is only one direction from which any ancient writing
may be profitably approached. It must be considered in its original ancient setting
and in no other. Only there, if it is a forgery, will its weakness be
revealed, and only there, if it is true, can its claims be vindicated.
"Introduction to an Unknown Book," CWHN 6:8* * * * * * * *
To the trained eye, every document of considerable length is
bound to betray the real setting in which it was produced. This can be
illustrated by something Martin Luther wrote two days before his death: "No
man can understand the Bucolics and Georgics of Virgil who has not been a
herdsman or farmer for at least five years. And no one can understand Cicero's
letters, I maintain, who has not been concerned with significant affairs of
state for twenty years. And no one can get an adequate feeling for the
Scriptures who has not guided religious communities by the prophets for a
is the world of experiences and ideas that one finds behind the Book of Mormon?
What is the real Sitz im Leben [milieu]? We can start with actual
experiences, not merely ideas, but things of a strictly objective and therefore
testable nature. For example, the book describes in considerable detail what is
supposed to be a great earthquake somewhere in Central America, and another
time it sets forth the particulars of ancient olive culture. Here are things we
can check up on; but to do so we must go to sources made available by scholars
long since the days of Joseph Smith. Where he could have learned
all about major Central American earthquakes or the fine points of
Mediterranean olive culture remains a question.
"Some Fairly Foolproof Tests," CWHN 7:231* * * * * * * *
If [the Jaredite story] is fiction, it is fiction by one
thoroughly familiar with a field of history that nobody in the world knew
anything about in 1830. No one's going to produce a skillful forgery of Roman
history, for example, unless he actually knows a good deal of genuine Roman
history. So if Ether is a forgery, where did its author get the solid knowledge
necessary to do a job that could stand up to five minutes of investigation? I
have merely skimmed the surface, . . . but if my skates are clumsy, the ice is
never thin. Every page is loaded with matter for serious
discussion—discussion that would fizzle out promptly in the face of any
"A Permanent Heritage," CWHN 5:259* * * * * * * *
The idea of stones shining in the darkness of the ark was
not invented by Joseph Smith or anybody else in the nineteenth century, but can
be found in very ancient sources that were for the most part completely
inaccessible to Joseph Smith and unknown to his contemporaries. The few sources
that might have been available to the prophet were obscure and garbled accounts
in texts that not half a dozen men in the world could read, eked out by
classical sources that were entirely meaningless until the discovery of the key—the great Gilgamesh Epic—long
after the appearance of the Book of Mormon. That key ties the
Pyrophilus stone, the Alexander Cycle, the Syrian rites, the Babylonian Flood
stories and the Urim and Thummim together in a common tradition of immense
antiquity and makes the story of the Jaredite stones not only plausible but
"Strange Ships and Shining Stones," 149-50* * * * * * * *
The first rule of historical criticism in dealing with the
Book of Mormon or any other ancient text is, never oversimplify. For all its
simple and straightforward narrative style, this history is packed as few
others are with a staggering wealth of detail that completely escapes the
casual reader. The whole Book of Mormon is a condensation, and a masterly one.
It will take years simply to unravel the thousands of cunning inferences and
implications that are wound around its most matter-of-fact statements. Only
laziness and vanity lead the student to the early conviction that he has the
final answers on what the Book of Mormon contains.
"They Take Up the Sword," CWHN 5:237* * * * * * * *
It is not enough to show, even if [critics] could, that
there are mistakes in the Book of Mormon, for all humans make mistakes. What
they must explain is how the "author" of the book happened to get so
many things right.
"Lehi the Winner," CWHN 5:122
LACHISH LETTERS* * * * * * * *
are the chances of the many parallels between the Lachish Letters and the
opening chapter of the Book of Mormon being the product of mere coincidence?
consider the fact that only one piece of evidence could possibly bring us into
the Lehi picture, and that one piece of evidence happens to be the
only first-hand writing surviving from the entire scope of Old
Testament history. Lehi's story covers less than ten years in the thousand-year
history of the Book of Mormon, and the Lachish Letters cover the same tiny band
of a vast spectrum—and they both happen to be the same
only in time but in place do they fit neatly into the same narrow slot, and the
people with which they deal also belong to the same classes of society and are
confronted by the same peculiar problems.
the Book of Mormon account being as detailed and specific as it is, it is quite
a piece of luck that there is nothing in the Lachish Letters that in any way
contradicts its story—that in itself should be given serious
consideration. Is it just luck?
documents account for their existence by indicating specifically the techniques
and usages of writing and recording in their day, telling of the same means of
transmitting, editing, and storing records.
proximity of Egypt and its influence on writing has a paramount place in both
stories confront us with dynastic confusion during a transition of kingship.
abound in proper names in which the -yahu ending is prominent in a
number of forms.
both, the religious significance of those names gives indication of a pious
reformist movement among the people.
peculiar name of Jaush (Josh), since it is not found in the Bible, is
remarkable as the name borne by a high-ranking field officer in both the
Lachish Letters and the Book of Mormon.
both reports, prophets of gloom operating in and around Jerusalem are sought by
the government as criminals for spreading defeatism.
Rekhabite background is strongly suggested in both accounts, with inspired
leaders and their followers fleeing to the hills and caves.
partisanship and internal connections cause division, recriminations, and
heartbreak in the best of families.
conflicting ideologies—practical vs. religious, materialist vs.
spiritual—emerge in two views of the religious leader or prophet as a
piqqeah, "a visionary man," a term either of praise or of
contempt—an impractical dreamer.
some unexplained reason, the anti-king parties both flee not towards Babylon
but towards Egypt, "the broken reed."
offices and doings of Laban and Jaush present a complex parallel, indicative of
a special military type and calling not found in the Bible.
casual references to certain doings by night create the same atmosphere of
tension and danger in both stories.
17 Little Nedabyahu fits almost too well into the slot occupied by the Book of Mormon
Mulek, "the little king," who never came to rule but escaped with a
party of refugees to the New World.
whole business of keeping, transmitting, and storing records follows the same
procedure in both books.
"The Lachish Letters," CWHN 8:400-401
CONTEMPORARY RELEVANCE* * * * * * * *
intend to take Moroni as my guide to the present world situation. Why him?
Moroni and his father are the principal definitive editors of the Book of
Mormon. They not only compiled and edited; they went through and picked out
things they felt would be important for us; then they evaluated that and
applied it to us and explained everything to us. . . . And both Moroni and his
father were concerned with . . . the questions . . . of prosperity and security—the
great inseparably related issues of wealth and war.
"Gifts," CWHN 9:88-89* * * * * * * *
In my youth I thought the Book of Mormon was much too
preoccupied with extreme situations, situations that had little bearing on the
real world of everyday life and ordinary human affairs. What on earth could the
total extermination of nations have to do with life in the enlightened modern
no comment on that is necessary. Moroni gives it to us straight: This is the
way it was before, and this is the way it is going to be again, unless there is
a great repentance.
"Prophetic Book of Mormon," CWHN
8:468* * * * * * * *
Readers of the Book of Mormon often express disgust or at
least weariness and impatience at having to wade through 170 pages of wars and
alarms in a religious book. This writer must confess to having suffered from
the same prejudice. After surviving three years of military intelligence at
every level from company to army group, with frequent visits to Supreme
Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF) on the one hand and a
muddy foxhole on the other, and after reading and writing thousands of reports
on enemy dispositions and tactics from company sector to army front, I have
always been inclined to rush through the military parts of the Book of Mormon
as painful reminders of an unpleasant past. In twenty years of writing about
the Book of Mormon we have studiously ignored the war stories. But that is
where we were wrong.
whole point of Alma's (or rather Mormon's) studies in "the work of death"
as he calls it, is that they are supposed to be revolting—they are meant
to be painful.
"A Rigorous Test: Military History,"
CWHN 7:291* * * * * * * *
In the Book of Mormon, the very questions that now oppress
the liberal and fundamentalist alike, to the imminent overthrow of their
fondest beliefs, are fully and clearly treated. No other book gives such a
perfect and exhaustive explanation of the eschatological problem. Here we learn
how the Christian and Jewish traditions fit into the world picture, and how God's
voice has been from the very beginning to all men everywhere. Here alone one
may find a full setting forth of the exact nature of scripture and of the vast
range and variety of revelation. Here you will find anticipated and answered
every logical objection that the intelligence or vanity of men even in this
sophisticated age has been able to devise against the preaching of the world.
And here one may find a description of our own age so vivid and so accurate
that none can fail to recognize it.
"Historicity of the Bible," CWHN 1:18* * * * * * * *
The Book of Mormon is the history of a polarized world in
which two irreconcilable ideologies confronted each other. [It] is addressed
explicitly to our own age, faced by the same predicament and the same impending
threat of destruction. It is a call to faith and repentance couched in the
language of history and prophecy; but above all it is a witness of God's
concern for all his children and to the intimate proximity of Jesus Christ to
all who will receive him.
"The Mormon View of the Book of Mormon,"
CWHN 8:262* * * * * * * *
When a person suffering from diabetes consults a doctor, the
doctor does not prescribe a treatment for cancer, even though cancer is today
considered by far the more dangerous disease. What we read
about in the Book of Mormon is the Nephite disease—and we have it!
should be glad that we do not have the much worse diseases that infect some
other societies and that there is greater hope for us. But diabetes if
neglected can kill one just as dead as cancer—after all, the Nephites
were terminated. We can be most grateful, therefore, regardless of how sick
others may be, that God in the Book of Mormon has diagnosed our sickness for
our special benefit and prescribed a cure for us.
is into our hands that the Book of Mormon has been placed: after more than a
century, many people still do not know of its existence. Plainly it is meant
for us, as it reminds us many times; it is the story of what happened to the
Nephites—and we are the Nephites: "It must needs be that the riches
of the earth are mine to give; but beware of pride, lest ye become as the
Nephites of old" (D&C 38:39). There it is in a nutshell. It is the
fate of the Nephites, not of the Lamanites, Greeks, or Chinese, that concerns
us; and [their] doom was brought on them by pride which in turn was engendered
by the riches of the earth.
are four portentous danger signals in the Book of Mormon, three internal and
one external. . . . The external threat is of course the Lamanites; the
internal danger signals are (1) the accumulation of wealth, (2) the appearance
on the scene of ambitious men, and (3) the presence in the society of "secret
combinations to get power and gain."
"Good People and Bad People," CWHN 7:354-55* * * * * * * *
Since the first step in the Nephite disease is exposure to
wealth, the only sure cure or prevention would seem to be strict avoidance of
wealth. One can avoid almost any disease by giving up eating altogether, but
there must be a better way.
of Satan's favorite tricks is to send ailing souls after the wrong cure,
leading them by his false diagnosis to "strain at a gnat and swallow a
camel." In this he is ably abetted by those physicians who would force us
to choose between their own violent, extreme, and sometimes fantastic remedies
and a sure and agonizing death. Either accept the Wackleberry Cure, they say,
or resign yourselves to a frightful and certain end—no other alternative
is conceivable. And so by instilling fear with one hand and offering an only
hope with the other such practitioners gain a following.
the Book of Mormon is against violent remedies. It prescribes the gentlest of
treatments—charity, accompanied by strong and steady doses of preaching
of the gospel. The final analysis of Mormon and Moroni was that the fatal
weakness of the Nephites was lack of charity. And whenever the worst epidemics
of Nephite disease were brought under control and even stamped out, it was
always through a marvelous display of charity and forbearance by such great
souls as Alma, Ammon, Moroni, or Nephi or his father Helaman, and specifically
through the preaching of the word, which Alma knew was more effective than any
"Prophecy in the Book of Mormon,"
CWHN 7:392-93* * * * * * * *
The wickedness and folly of Israel do not consist of
indolence, sloppy dressing, long hair, nonconformity (even the reading of
books), radical and liberal unrealistic ideas and programs, irreverence toward
custom and property, contempt for established idols, and so on.
wickedest people in the Book of Mormon are the Zoramites, a very proud,
independent, courageous, industrious, enterprising, patriotic, prosperous
people who attended strictly to their weekly religious duties with the proper
observance of dress standards. Thanking God for all he had given them, they
bore testimony to his goodness. They were sustained in all their doings by a
perfectly beautiful self-image.
what is wrong with any of that? . . . The Jews observed with strictest
regularity all the rules that Moses gave them—"and yet they cry unto
thee." And yet—they are really thinking of
something else. "Behold, O my God, their costly apparel, . . . all their
precious things . . .; their hearts are set upon them, and yet
they cry unto thee and say—We thank thee, O God, for we are chosen
people" (Alma 31:27).
"Great Are the Words of Isaiah," CWHN 1:221-22* * * * * * * *
I have always thought in reading the Book of Mormon, "Woe
to the generation that understands this book!" To our fathers, once the
great persecutions ceased, the story of the Nephites and the Lamanites was
something rather strange, unreal, and faraway—even to the point of being
romantic. The last generation did not make much of the Book of Mormon. But now
with every passing year this great and portentous story becomes more and more
familiar and more frighteningly like our own.
"The Book of Mormon as a Witness,"
CWHN 3:214* * * * * * * *
God was their "DEW-line," their radar, and warning
system, and that saved them the need of constant and costly vigilance on all
fronts, to say nothing of expensive and wasteful war-plans and war-games. This
was Moroni's policy of preparedness. . . . The keystone of all defense was
unity at home.
"A Rigorous Test: Military History,"
CWHN 7:307* * * * * * * *
Why do you think the Book of Mormon was given to us? Angels
do not come on trivial errands, to deliver books for occasional light reading
to people whom they do not really concern. The matter in the Book of Mormon was
selected, as we are often reminded, with scrupulous care and with particular
readers in mind. For some reason there has been chosen for our attention a
story of how and why two previous civilizations on this continent were utterly
the modern reader of this sad and disturbing tale from the dust choose to pass
lightly over those fearful passages that come too close to home, the main theme
is repeated again and again so that almost any Latter-day Saint child can tell
you what it is. The people were good so God made them prosperous, and when they
were bad, they got wiped out. What few people can tell you are the steps by
which the fatal declension took place, without which the story is jejune and
"Freemen and King-men," CWHN 8:365-66* * * * * * * *
An extremely important lesson [is] driven home repeatedly in
the Book of Mormon, that righteousness does not consist of being identified
with this or that nation, party, church, or group. When you find a particularly
wicked society in the story, look back a few pages and you will probably find
that not many years before those same people were counted righteous. Or, when
you find a particular godless and ferocious lot of Lamanites, if you look a few
pages ahead you may find them among the most blessed and favored of God's
"Freemen and King-men," CWHN 8:337* * * * * * * *
Repeated echoes from the remote past keep reminding us that
the office and calling of the bee was to bring about the stirrings of life,
reviving the biological cycle in a world that had been totally ravaged by
cosmic forces of destruction. Is, then, Deseret waiting in the wings, held in
reserve against the day, soon to come, when its salutary services will be
the first, the symbol of the bee captivated the imagination of the Latter-day
Saints in their migrations and their settlements. The emblematic hive became
the seal of the territory and state and adorned every important edifice within
the vast expanse of "our lovely Deseret." Finally, by what strange
coincidence does the History of the Church end with the sign of the
bee? After the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, "the bodies . . . were
removed . . . at Emma's request, to near the Mansion house, and buried side by
side, and the bee house was then moved and placed over their graves."
Abraham in Egypt, 244-45
BELIEVING THE BOOK OF MORMON* * * * * * * *
could anyone put up a halfway decent defense of the Book of Mormon without
being prejudiced in its favor? There is nothing wrong with having and admitting
two sides in a controversy. By definition every theory is controversial, and
the better the theory the more highly controversial. There can be no more
constructive approach to a controversial issue like this one than to have each
side present the evidence which it finds most convincing, always bearing in
mind that authority is not evidence and that name-dropping is as futile as
name-calling. Sweeping statements and general impressions are sometimes useful
in the process of getting one's bearings and taking up a position, but they
cannot serve as evidence because they are expressions of personal impressions
which are nontransferable. . . .
evidence that will prove or disprove the Book of Mormon does not exist. When,
indeed, is a thing proven? Only when an individual has accumulated in his own
consciousness enough observations, impressions, reasonings, and feelings to
satisfy him personally that it is so. The same evidence which convinces one
expert may leave another completely unsatisfied; the impressions that build up
the definite proof are themselves nontransferable.
Preface to Since Cumorah, CWHN 7:xiii-xiv* * * * * * * *
The Book of Mormon, like the Bible, is an organic whole. We
are asking the literary experts to produce just one modern work which resembles
it as such. There are, we believe, plenty of ancient parallels, but if the Book of Mormon is
a fraud, a cheat, a copy, a theft, and so on, as people have said it is, we
have every right to ask for a sampling of the abundant and obvious sources from
which it was taken. Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews is no more
like the Book of Mormon than a telephone directory. All attempts to find
contemporary works which the Book of Mormon even remotely resembles have been
it has been necessary to explain the book as a work of pure and absolute
fiction, a nonreligious, money-making romance. But one need only read a page of
the book at random to see that it is a religious book through and through, and
one need only read the title page of the first edition to see that it is given
to the world as holy scripture, no less. Here we come to the crux of the whole
whole force and meaning of the Book of Mormon rests on one proposition: that it
is true. It was written and published to be believed.
who believe the Book of Mormon (and this writer is one of them) think it is the
most wonderful document in the world. But if it were not true, the writer could
not imagine a more dismal performance.
is nothing paradoxical in this. As Aristotle noted, the better a thing is, the
more depraved is a spurious imitation of it. An imitation nursery rhyme may be
almost as good as an original, but a knowingly faked mathematical equation
would be the abomination of desolation. Curves and equations derive all their
value not from the hard work they represent or the neatness with which they are
presented on paper, but from one fact alone—the fact that they speak the
truth and communicate valid knowledge. Without that they are less than nothing.
To those who understand and believe Einstein
equation that E=mc2 [Energy equals mass times the speed of light squared], that statement
is a revelation of power. To those who do not understand or believe it (and
there are many!) it is nothing short of an insolent and blasphemous fraud. So
it is with the Book of Mormon, which if believed is a revelation of power but
otherwise is a nonsensical jumble. . . .
will be said that this merely proves that the greatness of the Book of Mormon
lies entirely in the mind of the reader. Not entirely! There are people who
loathe Bach and can't stand Beethoven. It was once as popular among clever and
educated people to disdain Homer and Shakespeare as barbaric as it is now
proper to rhapsodize about them in Great Books clubs. Different readers react
differently to these things—but they must have something valid to work
are not laying down rules for taste or saying that the Book of Mormon is good
because some people like it or bad because others do not. What we are saying is
that the Book of Mormon, whatever one may think of it, is one of the great
realities of our time, and that what makes it so is that certain people believe
it. Its literary or artistic qualities do not enter into the discussion. It was
written to be believed. Its one and only merit is truth. Without that merit, it
is all that nonbelievers say it is. With that merit, it is all that believers
say it is.
"New Approaches to Book of Mormon Study," CWHN 8:84-86* * * * * * * *
Our prophets spare us the usual clichés about higher
spiritual values, the brotherhood of man, and how our problems would be solved
if everybody only did this or that. The way out is not to be found in the
self-consoling merry-go-round of philosophy, the heroic self-dramatization of
literature and art, or the self-reassuring posturings of science and
scholarship. Men have tried everything for a long time and the idea that their condition
has improved rests entirely on an imaginary reconstruction of the past devised
to prove that very proposition. Not that the theory may not be right, but at
present we just don't know; and for a world in as dire a predicament as ours
that can guarantee no long centuries of quiet research ahead and seems to need
some quick and definite assistance if it is to survive at all, it might pay to
consider what Mormon and Moroni have to offer.
mankind is to get any real help it must come from outside, and it does. First
of all, angels, yes, angels, must come to explain and
"Momentary Conclusion," CWHN 7:402-3* * * * * * * *
An angel is a messenger; when he visits he not only talks
with people, he converses with them—that is the word used both in the
Book of Mormon and in the Bible. The angels circulated among men, women, and
especially the children and chatted with them. That is how they carry out their
mission or ministry. Why don't we see angels? The people raise that question in
the Book of Mormon, and the answer there is very clear. Angels do not pose
ornamental fixtures; they come only to deliver important messages and at
moments of crisis. Throughout the Book of Mormon, when things reach a hopeless
condition, it is the visit of an angel which moves things off dead center and
invariably inaugurates a new turn of things. They appear only to specially
qualified persons—men, women, and children—not high officials. But
if angels do not come, we are left on our own resources in a perilous
condition. How fortunate that the whole Book of Mormon story begins with
Moroni, the clinically specific and detailed account of an angel's visit to
"The Book of Mormon: Forty Years After,"
CWHN 8:549* * * * * * * *
This is not a handing down of testimony, for each of these
messengers calls upon the others to seek testimony for themselves by faith and
prayer; there are no second or third-hand testimonies. . . .
there anything to this? You will never find out, say our prophets, if you begin
denying everything. . . . All that Mormon and Moroni ask of the reader is, don't
fight it, don't block it, give it a chance! If it does not work, then you can
forget it; but it is not asking too much that men invest a little of their time
and effort in an enterprise in which they stand to win everything and lose
nothing—especially now, when so many know that as things are they stand to win
nothing. Let the hesitant consider that the way of faith is the way of science,
too: "Ye receive no witness until after the trial of your
faith," says Moroni (Ether 12:6). First we "make the experiment"
(Alma 32:27) in which it is fair game to hope for results, since without hope
nobody would go through with the thing at all (Moroni 10:22), and then we get
our answers. That is the way it is done in the laboratory; what could be
"Momentary Conclusion," CWHN 7:403-4* * * * * * * *
Learning is of immense value, and careful study of the Book
of Mormon is of eternal value. Rather than wasting valuable time
reading so much empty drivel, we should be studying things of the eternities.
"F.A.R.M.S. Letter," 1