Comparing Book of Mormon Warfare to Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”

Warfare strategies in the Book of Mormon have been studied extensively (see John Kammeyer’s “The Nephite Art of War”…although I have not read it). However, I recently read Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” (translated by Lionel Giles, edited by Dallas Galvin, 2003) and based on my personal study I have decided to list some similarities in tactics described in this book and The Book of Mormon. This comparison should help to shed light on the realism of the strategies used in Book of Mormon warfare.

  1. USE DECEPTION

Sun Tzu:

  • All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him...Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected (I:18-20, 24)
  • “Thus one who is skillful at keeping the enemy on the move maintains deceitful appearances, according to which the enemy will act. He sacrifices something, that the enemy may snatch at it. By holding out baits, he keeps him on the march; then with a body of picked men he lies in wait for him” (V:19-20)

The Book of Mormon describes several instances where the outnumbered Nephites use decoys and feign weakness to lure the Lamanites out of their strongholds and into an ambush:

  • “And in the commencement of the twenty and eighth year, Moroni and Teancum and many of the chief captains held a council of war—what they should do to cause the Lamanites to come out against them to battle …therefore, [Moroni] resolved upon a plan that he might decoy the Lamanites out of their strongholds. Therefore he caused that Teancum should take a small number of men and march down near the seashore…And it came to pass that the armies of the Lamanites did march forth against Teancum, supposing by their numbers to overpower Teancum… Now the Lamanites did not know that Moroni had been in their rear with his army; and all they feared was Lehi and his men” (Alma 52:19,21-23, 29)
  • “when they saw that we were not strong, according to our numbers…and also supposing that they could easily destroy us…they began to make preparations to come out against us to battle…behold, I caused that Gid, with a small number of men, should secrete himself in the wilderness…And it came to pass that when the Lamanites had passed by…Gid and Teomner did rise up from their secret places, and did cut off the spies of the Lamanites…And it came to pass that when they had cut them off, they ran to the city and fell upon the guards” (Alma 58:15, 16, 20)

Joshua uses similar strategies in the Old Testament:

  • “Behold, ye shall lie in wait against the city…And I, and all the people that are with me, will approach unto the city: and it shall come to pass, when they come out against us, as at the first, that we will flee before them, (For they will come out after us) till we have drawn them from the city…Then ye shall rise up from the ambush, and seize upon the city” (Joshua 8:4-7)

 

  1. SEEK TO CONQUER WITHOUT FIGHTING

Sun Tzu:

  • “In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy’s country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to capture an enemy entire than to destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire than to destroy them” (III:1)
  • “Therefore the skillful leader subdues the enemy’s troops without any fighting; he captures their cities without laying siege to them; he overthrows their kingdom without lengthy operations in the field. With his forces intact he will dispute the mastery of the Empire, and thus, without losing a man, his triumph will be complete. This is the method of attacking by stratagem” (III:6-7)
  • “He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared” (III:17(4))

There are many ways the Nephites use stratagem to capture armies and cities without fighting. One example is when the Lamanites become drunk in their stronghold and Moroni sneaks weapons to the Nephite prisoners inside. Instead of killing the drunken Lamanites, he surrounds them and they surrender upon awakening.

  • “And Moroni had prepared his men with weapons of war; and he went to the city of Gid, while the Lamanites were in a deep sleep and drunken, and cast in weapons of war unto the prisoners, insomuch that they were all armed…had they awakened the Lamanites, behold they were drunken and the Nephites could have slain them. But behold, this was not the desire of Moroni; he did not delight in murder or bloodshed…when the Lamanites awoke in the morning they beheld that they were surrounded by the Nephites without, and that their prisoners were armed within. And thus they saw that the Nephites had power over them; and in these circumstances they found that it was not expedient that they should fight with the Nephites; therefore their chief captains demanded their weapons of war, and they brought them forth and cast them at the feet of the Nephties, pleading for mercy” (Alma 55:16, 18-19, 22-23)

A second example is where Helaman divides his forces and lures the Lamanites out of their stronghold. One part of his forces lies in wait and conquers the stronghold while Helaman is being pursued. Helaman then has his troops march in the night to return to the city before the Lamanites.

  • “And behold, it was night and they did pitch their tents, for the chief captains of the Lamanites had supposed that the Nephites were weary because of their march…Now it came to pass that when it was night, I caused that my men should not sleep, but that they should march forward by another way towards the land of Manti. And because of this our march in the night-time, behold, on the morrow we were beyond the Lamanites, insomuch that we did arrive before them at the city of Manti. And thus it came to pass, that by this stratagem we did take possession of the city of Manti without the shedding of blood…[the Lamanites] were astonished exceedingly and struck with great fear, insomuch that they did flee into the wilderness” (Alma 58:27)

 

  1. AVOID LAYING SIEGE TO CITIES

Sun Tzu:

  • “If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength” (II:2)
  • the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities. The rule is, not to besiege walled cities if it can possibly be avoided. The preparation of mantlets, movable shelters, and various implements of war, will take up three whole months; and the piling up of mounds over against the walls will take three months more” (III:3-4)
  • The general, unable to control his irritation, will launch his men to assault like swarming ants, with the result that one-third of his men are slain, while the town still remains untaken. Such are the disastrous effects of a siege” (III:5)

Siege warfare is commonly described in the Bible (Isaiah 29:3/Ezekiel 4:2) and the Apocrypha (I Maccabees 6:48-57/10:75-76/13:42-47). The Nephites rarely besiege a city by attempting to break down or climb over walls, but they will camp around a city to cut off its supplies and starve the occupants.

  • “with a part of our strong force, we did surround, by night, the city Cumeni, a little before they were to receive a supply of provisions…and it came to pass that not many days had passed away before the Lamanites began to lose all hopes of succor; therefore they yielded up the city unto our hands” (Alma 57:8, 12)

The Nephites usually avoided attacking strongholds directly:

  • “And it came to pass that [Ammoron] did command that his people should maintain those cities, which they had taken by the shedding of blood; for they had not taken any cities save they had lost much blood. And now, Teancum saw that the Lamanites were determined to maintain those cities which they had taken…and also seeing the enormity of their number, Teancum thought it was not expedient that he should attempt to attack them in their forts” (Alma 52:4-5)
  • “And it came to pass that Teancum made preparations to make an attack upon the city of Mulek, and march forth with his army against the Lamanites; but he saw that it was impossible that he could overpower them while they were in their fortifications; therefore he abandoned his designs” (Alma 52:17)

When the Lamanites attempt to overwhelm the Nephite strongholds with their superior numbers, the results are disastrous for the Lamanites:

  • “they feared Lehi exceedingly; nevertheless their chief captains had sworn with an oath to attack the city; therefore, they brought up their armies…And it came to pass that the captains of the Lamanites brought up their armies before the place of entrance, and began to contend with the Nephites, to get into their place of security; but behold, they were driven back from time to time, insomuch that they were slain with an immense slaughter…and more than a thousand of the Lamanites were slain; while, on the other hand, there was not a single soul of the Nephites which was slain” (Alma 49:17, 21, 23)

The Nephites are also able to outlast a siege by the Gadianton robbers by centralizing all their people and storing sufficient supplies so that the robbers cannot starve them out. Sun Tzu: “If the enemy is taking his ease, he can harass him; if well supplied with food, he can starve him out; if quietly encamped, he can force him to move. Appear at points which the enemy must hasten to defend; march swiftly to places where you are not expected” (VI:4-5)

  • “But behold, this was an advantage to the Nephites; for it was impossible for the robbers to lay siege sufficiently long to have any effect upon the Nephites, because of their much provision which they had laid up in store…And the Nephites were continually marching out by day and by night, and falling upon their armies, and cutting them off by thousands…And it came to pass that Zemnariha did give command unto his people that they should withdraw themselves from the siege, and march into the furthermost parts of the land northward. And now, Gidgiddoni being aware of their design, and knowing of their weakness because of the want of food…therefore he did send out his armies in the night-time, and did cut off the way of their retreat” (3 Nephi 4:18, 21, 23-24)

 

  1. UNITE YOUR ARMY WITH A SINGLE MORAL PURPOSE

Sun Tzu:

  • “He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks” (III:17(3))
  • “The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger…The consummate leader cultivates the moral law, and strictly adheres to method and discipline; thus it is in his power to control success” (I:5-6)/(IV:16)
  • “Therefore, on dispersive ground, I would inspire my men with unity of purpose” (XI:46)

Both the Lamanites and the Nephites seek to inspire their soldiers to fight for their ideals. The Lamanites were inspired by hatred and a desire to rule over the Nephites, while the Nephites sought to preserve their freedom. The Book of Mormon states that the ideals unifying the Nephites were superior to those of the Lamanites:

  • “Now in this case the Lamanites did fight exceedingly…And they were inspired by the Zoramites and the Amalekites…and thus the Lamanites did smite in their fierce anger” (Alma 43:43-44)
  • “Nevertheless, the Nephites were inspired by a better cause, for they were not fighting for monarchy nor power but they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children…And they were doing that which they felt was the duty which they owed to their God” (Alma 43:45-46)
  • “when the men of Moroni saw the fierceness and the anger of the Lamanites, they were about to shrink and flee from them. And Moroni, perceiving their intent, sent forth and inspired their hearts with these thoughts—year, the thoughts of their lands, their liberty, yea, their freedom from bondage” (Alma 43:48)
  • “And when Moroni had said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent part of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had written upon the rent part, and crying with a loud voice, saying: Behold, whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them” (Alma 46:18-19)
  • “And it came to pass that I did speak unto my people, and did urge them with great energy, that they would stand boldly before the Lamanites and fight for their wives, and their children, and their houses, and their homes. And my words did arouse them somewhat to vigor, insomuch that they…did stand with boldness against them” (Mormon 2:23-24)

It is difficult to succeed when your people are not unified in purpose.

  • “And it came to pass that when Amalickiah saw that the people of Moroni were more numerous than the Amalickiahites—and he also saw that his people were doubtful concerning the justice of the cause in which they had undertaken—therefore, fearing that he should not gain the point, he took those of his people who would and departed into the land of Nephi” (Alma 46:29)
  • “And it came to pass that when the proclamation had gone forth among them they were exceedingly afraid; yea, they feared to displease the king, and they also feared to go to battle against the Nephites lest they should lose their lives. And it came to pass that they would not, or the more part of them would not, obey the commandments of the king” (Alma 47:2)

 

  1. SOLDIERS IN DANGER WILL FIGHT HARDER FOR THEIR LIVES

Sun Tzu:

  • “Throw your soldiers into positions whence there is no escape, and they will prefer death to flight. If they will face death, there is nothing they may not achieve. Officers and men alike will put forth their uttermost strength. Soldiers when in desperate straits lose the sense of fear. If there is no place of refuge, they will stand firm. If they are in the heart of a hostile country, they will show a stubborn front. If there is no help for it, they will fight hard” (XI:23-24)

When the Lamanites are in a desperate situation and there is no hope for escape, they fight harder and slay many Nephites:

  • “Now in this case the Lamanites did fight exceedingly; yea, never had the Lamanites been known to fight with such exceedingly great strength and courage…and they did pierce many of their breastplates, and they did smite off many of their arms; and thus the Lamanites did smite in their fierce anger” (Alma 43:43-44)

 

  1. USE PRISONERS TO AUGMENT YOUR OWN STRENGTH

Sun Tzu:

  • “Our own flags should be substituted for those of the enemy, and the chariots mingled and used in conjunction with ours. The captured soldiers should be kindly treated and kept. This is called, using the conquered foe to augment one’s own strength” (II:17-18)

The Nephites used their prisoners to build their fortifications and thus augment their own strength:

  • “And it came to pass that they did set guards over the prisoners of the Lamanites, and did compel them to go forth and bury their dead…And it came to pass that after the Lamanites had finished burying their dead and also the dead of the Nephites, they were marched back into the land Bountiful; and Teancum, by the orders of Moroni, caused that they should commence laboring in digging a ditch round about the land” (Alma 53:1, 3)
  • “And it came to pass that he did cause the Lamanites, whom he had taken prisoners, that they should commence a labor in strengthening the fortifications round about the city of Gid” (Alma 55:25)

 

  1. PREVENT THE ENEMY FROM GATHERING THEIR FORCES TOGETHER

Sun Tzu:

  • “Thus the highest form of generalship is to baulk the enemy’s plans the next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy’s forces” (III:3)

Two examples of this in the Book of Mormon are Moroni trying to prevent Amalickiah and his people from joining the Lamanites, and Moroni preventing Morianton from gaining greater forces in the land northward.

  • “[Amalickiah] took those of his people who would and departed into the land of Nephi. Now Moroni thought it was not expedient that the Lamanites should have any more strength; therefore he thought to cut off the people of Amalickiah…and it came to pass that he took his army and marched out with his tents into the wilderness, to cut off the course of Amalickiah in the wilderness” (Alma 46:29, 31)
  • “Therefore, Morianton put it into their hearts that they should flee to the land which was northward…Now behold, the people who were in the land Bountiful, or rather Moroni, feared that they would hearken to the words of Morianton and unite with his people, and thus he would obtain possession of those parts of the land…Therefore Moroni sent an army, with their camp, to head the people of Morianton, to stop their flight into the land northward” (Alma 50:29, 32-33)

 

  1. ARMIES ON A HILL HAVE THE ADVANTAGE

Sun Tzu:

  • It is a military axiom not to advance uphill against the enemy, nor to oppose him when he comes downhill” (VII:33)
  • “Camp in high places, facing the sun. Do not climb heights in order to fight. So much for mountain warfare” (IX:2)
  • “In dry, level country, take up an easily accessible position with rising ground to your right and on your rear, so that the danger may be in front, and safety lie behind…All armies prefer high ground to low, and sunny places to dark…When you come to a hill or a bank, occupy the sunny side, with the slope on your right rear” (IX:9, 11, 13)

Armies in the Book of Mormon frequently camp on hills. The Nephites are warned against attacking the Gadianton robbers in their mountain strongholds:

  • “he went forward to the place which was called Onidah, for thither had all the Lamanites fled…And it came to pass that they had gathered themselves together upon the top of the mount which was called Antipas, in preparation to battle. Now it was not Amalickiah’s intention to give them battle…And behold, it came to pass that he caused his army to pitch their tents in the valley which was near the mount Antipas” (Alma 47:5, 7-9)
  • “Now the people said unto Gidgiddoni: Pray unto the Lord, and let us go up upon the mountains and into the wilderness, that we may fall upon the robbers and destroy them in their own lands. But Gidgiddoni saith unto them: The Lord forbid; for if we should go up against them the Lord would deliver us into their hands; therefore we will prepare ourselves in the center of our lands, and we will gather all our armies together, and we will not go against them, but we will wait till they shall come against us” (3 Nephi 3:20-21)
  • “And I, Mormon, wrote an epistle unto the king of the Lamanites, and desired of him that he would grant unto us that we might gather together our people…by a hill which was called Cumorah, and there we could give them battle…and we did pitch our tents around about the hill Cumorah…and here we had hope to gain advantage over the Lamanites” (Mormon 6:2, 4)
  • “And they pitched their tents in the valley of Corihor…wherefore, Coriantumr did gather his armies together upon the hill Comnor, and did sound a trumpet unto the armies of Shiz to invite them forth to battle. And it came to pass that they came forth, but were driven again; and they came the second time, and they were driven again the second time. And it came to pass that they came again the third time” (Ether 14:28-29, 31).

 

  1. TRUCES REQUIRE SWORN COVENANTS

Sun Tzu:

  • “Peace proposals unaccompanied by a sworn covenant indicate a plot” (IX:26)

In the Book of Mormon, Zerahemnah agrees to give up his weapons but will not swear an oath to leave the Nephites alone. Moroni does not accept his conditions:

  • “Behold, here are our weapons of war; we will deliver them up unto you, but we will not suffer ourselves to take an oath unto you, which we know that we shall break…And now when Zerahemnah had made an end of speaking these words, Moroni returned the sword and the weapons of war, which he had received, unto Zerahemnah, saying: Behold, we will end the conflict…therefore as the Lord liveth, ye shall not depart except ye depart with an oath that ye will not return again against us to war” (Alma 44:8, 10-11)

 

  1. TREAT YOUR SOLDIERS AS YOUR OWN CHILDREN

Sun Tzu:

  • “Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death” (X:25)

Helaman frequently refers to his band of young Ammonite soldiers as “his sons” and they refer to him as their “father”:

  • “And I did join my two thousand sons, (for they are worthy to be called sons) to the army of Antipus, in which strength Antipus did rejoice exceedingly” (Alma 56:10)
  • “Therefore what say ye, my sons, will ye go against them to battle?…For as I had ever called them my sons (for they were all of them very young) even so they said unto me: Father, behold our God is with us, and he will not suffer that we should fall…Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death” (Alma 56:44, 46-47)

 

  1. VARY YOUR STRATEGY

Sun Tzu:

  • Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances…He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-born captain” (VI:28, 33)

The Book of Mormon chronicles the progression of Nephite and Lamanite warfare over the centuries. One of the first advances in warfare was the Nephites making armor for themselves to take advantage of the Lamanite’s nakedness. The Lamanites then make their own armor to match the Nephites. In response, the Nephites build forts to once again give them the advantage. Once the Lamanites begin obtaining their own fortifications, the Nephites decoy the Lamanites out of their strongholds. The Lamanites become increasingly more difficult to deceive, so the Nephites wait until the Lamanites are drunk and they arm the Nephite prisoners within and surround the Lamanites. These are just a few examples of the Nephites and Lamanites varying their tactics:

  • “We do not believe that it is God that has delivered us into your hands; but we believe that it is your cunning that has preserved you from our swords. Behold, it is your breastplates and your shields that have preserved you…behold, their naked skins and their bare heads were exposed to the sharp swords of the Nephites” (Alma 44:9, 18)
  • “His chief captains durst not attack the Nephites at the city of Ammonihah, for Moroni had altered the management of affairs among the Nephites, insomuch that the Lamanites were disappointed in their places of retreat and they could not come upon them” (Alma 49:11)
  • “Many times did the Lamanites attempt to encircle them about by night, but in these attempts they did lose many prisoners. And many times did they attempt to administer of their wine to the Nephites, that they might destroy them with poison or with drunkenness. But behold, the Nephites were not slow to remember the Lord their God…They could not be taken in their snares” (Alma 55:29-30)
  • “there was no way that we could lead them out of the city by our small bands. For behold, they remembered that which we had hitherto done; therefore we could not decoy them away from their strongholds” (Alma 58:1)

 

  1. USE SPIES TO DISCOVER ENEMY MOVEMENTS

Sun Tzu:

  • “Thus, what enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is foreknowledge…Surviving spies, finally, are those who bring back news from the enemy’s camp…Spies are a most important element in war, because on them depends an army’s ability to move” (XIII:4, 13, 27)

The Nephites frequently use spies to predict the enemy’s position and respond accordingly:

  • “But I had sent my spies out round about the land of Shemlon, that I might discover their preparations, that I might guard against them” (Mosiah 10:7)
  • “And Alma sent spies to follow the remnant of the Amlicites, that he might know of their plans and their plots” (Alma 2:21)
  • “the Lamanites were marching round about in the wilderness, that they might come over into the land of Manti, that they might commence an attack upon the weaker part of the people” (Alma 43:24)
  • “we kept spies out round about, to watch the movements of the Lamanites, that they might not pass us by night nor by day to make an attack upon our other cities” (Alma 56:22)
  • “And Moroni placed spies round about, that he might know when the camp of the Lamanites should come…therefore, he found by his spies which course the Lamanites were to take” (Alma 43:28, 30)

 

  1. ENEMIES WANTING A TRUCE WILL SPEAK WITH FLATTERY

Sun Tzu:

  • “When envoys are sent with compliments in their mouths, it is a sign that the enemy wishes for a truce” (IX:38)

Giddianhi asks Lachoneus to surrender his forces while complimenting him for his bravery and determination:

  • “I write this epistle unto you, and do give unto you exceedingly great praise because of your firmness, and also the firmness of your people…yea, ye do stand well…yield yourselves up unto us, and unite with us and become acquainted with our secret works” (3 Nephi 3:2, 3, 7)

 

  1. PREPARE FOR WAR AND DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE YOUR ENEMY

Sun Tzu:

  • The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable” (VIII:12)
  • “He who exercises no forethought but makes light of his opponents is sure to be captured by them” (IX:41)

The Nephites succeed when they are prepared for war:

  • “And it came to pass that we again began to establish the kingdom and we again began to possess the land in peace. And I caused that there should be weapons of war made of every kind, that thereby I might have weapons for my people against the time the Lamanites should come up again to war against my people” (Mosiah 10:1)
  • “while Amalickiah had thus been obtaining power by fraud and deceit, Moroni, on the other hand…had been strengthening the armies of the Nephites, and erecting small forts, or places of resort” (Alma 48:7-8)

The Nephites fail when they do not prepare their armies and underestimate their enemies:

  • “And now behold, the forces of the king were small, having been reduced, and there began to be a division among the remainder of the people…And the king commanded the people that they should flee before the Lamanites, and he himself did go before them…And it came to pass that the Lamanites did pursue them, and did overtake them, and began to slay them” (Mosiah 19:2, 9-10).
  • “the Lamanites had come in upon the wilderness side, into the borders of the land, even into the city of Ammonihah…And now it came to pass, before the Nephites could raise a sufficient army to drive them out of the land, they had destroyed the people who were in the city of Ammonihah…yea, every living soul of the Ammonihahites was destroyed, and also their great city, which they said God could not destroy, because of its greatness” (Alma 16:2-3, 9)
  • they had not kept sufficient guards in the land of Zarahemla; for they had supposed that the Lamanites durst not come into the heart of their lands to attack that great city Zarahemla. But it came to pass that Coriantumr did march forth…with such exceedingly great speed that there was no time for the Nephites to gather together their armies” (Helaman 1:18-19)
  • “And now, because of this great victory they were lifted up in the pride of their hearts; they did boast in their own strength, saying that their fifty could stand against thousands of the Lamanites… And it came to pass that the Lamanites did pursue them, and did overtake them, and began to slay them” (Mosiah 11:19/Mosiah 19:10)
  • “And now, because of this great thing which my people, the Nephites, had done, they began to boast in their own strength, and began to swear before the heavens that they would avenge themselves of the blood of their brethren…And it was because the armies of the Nephites went up unto the Lamanites that they began to be smitten; for were it not for that, the Lamanites could have had no power over them” (Mormon 3:9/Mormon 4:4)

 

  1. SECURE NARROW PASSAGES

Sun Tzu:

  • “With regard to narrow passes, if you can occupy them first, let them be strongly garrisoned and await the advent of the enemy” (X:8)

The Nephites are constantly trying to secure the narrow pass that leads to the land northward so that they are never surrounded by the Lamanites:

  • “And he also sent orders unto him that he should fortify the land Bountiful, and secure the narrow pass which led into the land northward, lest the Lamanites should obtain that point and should have power to harass them on every side” (Alma 52:9)
  • “thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward. And it came to pass that the Nephites had inhabited the land Bountiful, even from the east unto the west sea, and thus the Nephites in their wisdom, with their guards and their armies, had hemmed in the Lamanites on the south, that thereby they should have no more possession on the north” (Alma 22:32-33)

 

16. LEADERS SHOULD BE EXAMPLES OF WISDOM AND VIRTUE

Sun Tzu:

  • “The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage and strictness” (I:9)

Moroni is described as an ideal commander because he personifies similar virtues. This is in contrast to the fraud and deceit of Amalickiah:

  • “while Amalickiah had thus been obtaining power by fraud and deceit, Moroni, on the other hand, had been preparing the minds of the people to be faithful unto the Lord their God…And Moroni was a strong and a mighty man; he was a man of a perfect understanding; yea, a man that did not delight in bloodshed; a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country…a man who did labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of is people…and he had sworn with an oath to defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion, even to the loss of his blood” (Alma 48:7, 11-13)

Comparing the First Book of Napoleon and the Book of Mormon

Some critics argue that Joseph Smith received inspiration for the Book of Mormon from several books that were written to mimic the language of the KJV Bible. One of these books is “The First Book of Napoleon, the Tyrant of the Earth” (1809) written by Michael Linning under the name “Eliakim.” The First Book of Napoleon tells the story of the rise of Napoleon and the author warns its readers to beware of tyrants and wickedness. The differences between the Book of Mormon and the First Book of Napoleon, however, are so vast that any of the small number of similarities that exist can be linked to the fact that they both try to imitate King James English in the Bible. In short, there is nothing unique in the First Book of Napoleon to suggest it served as source material for the Book of Mormon. A digital version of the First Book of Napoleon can be found online here.

Fair Mormon has a small section devoted to the First Book of Napoleon, which can be found here. The purpose of my article is to go into greater detail on the similarities and differences between the Book of Mormon and the First Book of Napoleon.

The Story

The story in the First Book of Napoleon has little in common with the Book of Mormon. The First Book of Napoleon is a historical narrative about the rise of Napoleon and a prophetic warning against those who would be his allies. The table of contents on pages iii – viii provide a summary of each of the book’s chapters and shows that the overall narrative is nothing like the Book of Mormon. An evil spirit influences the people of the Gauls who worship a wicked idol. Napoleon takes over their armies, becomes their new idol, and begins expanding his empire. The people of Albanus and king Albion fight against Napoleon’s expanding empire. Eliakim sees visions and tells the readers to live righteously and resist the tyrant Napoleon. There is a parable of the Bear and the Monkey (p. 100), an oak tree symbolically claims it is superior to all the other trees of the land (p. 72), the people worship a horned idol with the words “Sedition, Privy Conspiracy, and Rebellion” written on its horns (p. 12), the author suggests that royals and noblemen are superior to their subjects (pp. 11-12), and the State is likened to a ship tossed upon the storms of wickedness (p. 90).

The Book of Mormon describes a family who flees Jerusalem in 600 B.C. with a sacred religious text, who build a ship to travel to the American continent. The book describes the organization of their government, their wars, their prophecies of Christ, a visit by the resurrected Jesus Christ, and the destruction of their civilization. While both the Book of Mormon and the First Book of Napoleon deal with themes of evil tyrants, righteous kings, and wicked peoples, these themes are also found extensively throughout the Bible and presumably thousands of other books. There is no reason to believe that the First Book of Napoleon provided any unique story beats for the Book of Mormon.

Debunking the Supposed Similarities

There are several similarities between the two works, but a closer examination shows that most of these similarities can be traced back to the Bible.

Similarity #1: Using Trees in Allegories

The first similarity is that both the Book of Mormon (Jacob 5) and the First Book of Napoleon (Chapter 2) use trees in allegories. This is where the similarity ends. The fifth chapter in the Book of Jacob recounts a 77-verse allegory of how the House of Israel is like a decaying olive tree. The Lord of the vineyard tries to preserve the natural olives by transplanting some of its branches into other parts of the vineyard, while at the same time grafting branches from wild olive trees into the original tree. The Lord’s several attempts to preserve the tree are described. The purpose of the allegory is to show the history of the scattering of Israel and how Israel will be gathered together again in the last days. This allegory utilizes language similar to Luke 13:6-9, Romans 11:16-24, and Isaiah 5:1-7. An in-depth look at the similarities in the language of Jacob 5 and the Bible can be found here.

The First Book of Napoleon, on the other hand, provides a 9 verse allegory comparing laws or state constitutions to trees in that they should “be trained and pruned by the wary hand of age and time” (p. 16) instead of being built like a human structure (Napoleon 2:7-15, p. 15-18). The “constitution of the state” (p. 16) grows in good soil and decays in bad soil.  The tree is nourished by the “dew of heaven, and the sun-beams thereof…and the blood of the warriors” (p. 16). The tree that the Gauls plant after they overthrew their rulers brings forth “bad and forbidden fruit” (p. 17). The branches decay and those who eat its fruit die bloody deaths “because the sap which was in the tree, was poison” (p. 17). While this allegory and the Book of Mormon share some similarities in using words to describe the tree such as “decayed,” “pruned,” “corruption,” “good soils” and “bad soil,” there is no mention of olive trees, grafting, digging, dunging, the Lord of the Vineyard or his servant, the House of Israel, and wild and natural trees, which are featured in prominent sections of the Bible. Since the Bible already provides material that is more consistent with the language and message of the Book of Mormon, there is no reason to believe that Joseph was influenced by the First Book of Napoleon to write Jacob 5.

Similarity #2: Vision of the Angel

Lehi and Nephi have visions in which they are lifted up by an angel and prophesy. Eliakim also describes a vision in which he is guided by an angel. Eliakim has a vision in which an “angel lifted [him] up between the earth and the heavens…and put me on an high place” (Napoleon 17:3; similar language is found in Ezekiel 8:3). He sees Napoleon sitting on a throne, surrounded by his armies, and he becomes a dragon who wreaks havoc on the earth. He then sees a beautiful island where a shepherd watches his herds (symbolic of the Albions). There is a mighty bull that protects the island from the dragon.

In the Book of Mormon, Lehi (1 Nephi 8) and Nephi (1 Nephi 11-14) are also taken away by angels unto “an exceedingly high mountain” (1 Nephi 11:1). Lehi sees a vision of the tree of life and a rod of iron leading to it. Nephi sees the same vision, and sees the coming of the Savior, the destruction of his people, and the end of the days. A cursory reading of the visions in the First Book of Napoleon and the Book of Mormon show they have very different content. What is most important, however, is that heavenly visions where a prophet is guided by an angel are found in many instances in the Bible, such as Revelation 21:10, Jeremiah 1 and 24, and Ezekiel 3 and 8. An analysis of some of the common motifs found in the Book of Mormon and the Bible in Lehi’s and Nephi’s visions can be found here. This analysis, in conjunction with a reading of Eliakim’s visions, shows that the Book of Mormon visions have much more in common with Biblical visions than they do with the First Book of Napoleon. There is therefore no basis for believing that the First Book of Napoleon significantly contributed to this part of the Book of Mormon’s content.

Similarity #3: Language

The Book of Mormon and the First Book of Napoleon share many similar phrases. Most of these phrases, however, are found in the Bible. Since both books use the Bible for inspiration (the Nephites had the five books of Moses and the teachings of Jesus, and Linning wrote his book specifically to imitate the KJV Bible), it is expected that there would be similarities between the two (click this link for a list of Biblical phrases and motifs found in the Book of Mormon).

Here is a sample of some of the phrases found in all three works:

  • “The latter days” = (Napoleon 1:1)/(Jeremiah 48:47)/(2 Nephi 3:5)
  • “The fear of the Lord” = (Napoleon 1:3)/(Proverbs 2:5)/(Mosiah 4:1)
  • “Imaginations of their hearts” = (Napoleon 1:3)/(Jeremiah 3:17)/(1 Nephi 2:11)
  • “Evil spirit” = (Napoleon 1:6)/(Luke 8:2)/(Mosiah 2:32)
  • “Kings and rulers” = (Napoleon 1:7)/(1 Nephi 16:38)/(Mark 13:9)
  • “True and living God” = (Napoleon 1:10)/(Jeremiah 10:10)/(Alma 11:27)
  • “Great and marvelous” = (Napoleon 3:2)/(Revelation 15:3)/(1 Nephi 1:14)
  • “Blotted [out their names]” = (Napoleon 11:2)/(Deuteronomy 9:14)/(Mosiah 5:11)
  • “Deliver into your hands” = (Napoleon 8:6)/(1 Chronicles 14:10)/(1 Nephi 3:29)
  • “Fight like/Bold as lions” = (Napoleon 7:6)/(1 Chronicles 12:8)/(Psalm 17:12)/(Mosiah 20:10)
  • “Gall and/of bitterness” = (Napoleon 6:13)/(Acts 8:23)/(Moroni 8:14)
  • Disappear as the dew [vapor] before the sun = (Napoleon 10:15)/(Hosea 6:4)/(Mormon 4:18)
  • “Chaff before the wind” = (Napoleon 10:14)/(Psalms 1:4)/(Mormon 5:16)
  • “Great and terrible” = (Napoleon 19:12)/(Deuteronomy 1:19)/(1 Nephi 12:18)
  • “He dreamed a dream” = (Napoleon 16:14)/(Daniel 2:3) (1 Nephi 8:2)
  • “Rod of iron” = (Napoleon 20:9)/(Revelation 2:26-27)/(1 Nephi 8:19)
  • Wearing modest, non-expensive clothing = (Napoleon 22:11)/(1 Timothy 2:9)/(Alma 1:27)
  • “Gray hairs with sorrow to the grave” = (Napoleon 20:27)/(Genesis 42:38)/(1 Nephi 18:18)

Since a majority of the phrases found in the First Book of Napoleon and the Book of Mormon are also found in the Bible, there is no reason to believe that the First Book of Napoleon was a significant influence.

Exceptions: Phrases found in the Book of Napoleon and the Book of Mormon, but not the Bible

While most of the phrases shared by the Book of Mormon and the First Book of Napoleon can be traced directly to the Bible, there are a few minor exceptions, where phrases are found in the First Book of Napoleon and the Book of Mormon, but not in the Bible. The Bible has similar versions of most of these examples, but they do not have the exact same wording. These exceptions are few and far between, and it is most likely that these phrases that Joseph Smith used were common in his day and not unique to the First Book of Napoleon.

  1. “Their glorious spirits shall shine as bright stars in the firmament of fame!” = (Napoleon 10:6). The Bible makes several references to bright lights in the firmament and the stars being among those lights (Genesis 1:14-16). For example, in the Book of Daniel it states “they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 12:3). The exact phrase “stars in the firmament,” however, is not in the Bible but is in the Book of Mormon when Lehi is describing his vision of the 12 Apostles (1 Nephi 1:10). A quick internet search reveals that this phrase is not unique to the First Book of Napoleon (see New Scientist)
  2. “And behold it came to pass” = (Napoleon 1:1). While “and it came to pass” and its variants are found throughout the Bible, the specific words “and behold, it came to pass” is not found in the Bible but is found in the Book of Mormon (Alma 47:9).
  3. “Tribunal in heaven [of God]” = (Napoleon 21:19). The KJV Bible never uses the word “tribunal” to refer to God’s judgment, but in one instance the Book of Mormon refers to the “tribunal of God” while the First Book of Napoleon refers to the “tribunal in heaven” (Alma 5:18). A quick internet search reveals that this phrase is not unique to the First Book of Napoleon (see The Divine Mercy and Reform Judaism)
  4. “Cruel and ignominious death” = (Napoleon 2:14). The KJV Bible never says “ignominious death,” but the Book of Mormon uses this phrase once in Alma 1:15 to describe the execution of Nehor. A quick internet search reveals that this phrase is not unique to the First Book of Napoleon (see Pastor David Simpson and Pastor Bill Parker)

There are more Differences than Similarities

Even though the First Book of Napoleon and the Book of Mormon both try to mimic KJV language, there are in fact vast differences in style and vocabulary between the two books. The following is a list of verses that show just how far Linning’s style deviates from the Book of Mormon:

  • “So the bear allowed the monkey from time to time to play and frisk around him; but it came to pass, that the monkey having scratched the bear, he thereupon raised his bristles, and threatened to hug the monkey to death” (Napoleon 16:9)
  • “A tyrant’s fiat had excluded him from the sweet society of men, and from the cheering light of the sun, and had doomed him to become a prey to corruption, and the reptiles of the earth!” (Napoleon 18:22)
  • “Frozen seas and rivers, and plains covered with eternal frost, are unto him as dwelling places; and the storm which chilleth other beasts, even unto death, beateth upon him as upon a rock, which is covered with furs and with skins.” (Napoleon 16:4)
  • “And out of the head of the beast there arose three horns, and upon each of the horns there were written these words, Sedition, Privy, Conspiracy, and Rebellion; and on the forehead of the beast, and under the horns, there were written, in letters of blood, the words Treasons and Crimes” (Napoleon 1:12)
  • “His nightly path is lighted by fiery spectres, that sport and dance along the polar sky, and play amidst the wintry star” (Napoleon 16:5)
  • “And lo! the tillers of the ground, and the labourers thereof, together with mechanics, artificers, and all manner of handicraftmen, left their sundry and peaceful occupations, and became lawmakers and lawgivers, and sought to rule over their superiors” (Napoleon 2:6)
  • “But, alas! In this glorious, but direful battle, there fell many valiant men, and in the midst of them, covered with glory, and crowned with victory, their brave and skillful chief, whose name now stands high in the temple of Fame” (Napoleon 9:29)
  • “As the dew of heaven, and the sun-beams thereof, water and cherish the earthly tree, so also, do the spirits of the departed patriots of a land, and the blood of the warriors thereof, foster and support the political tree, or constitution of the state” (Napoleon 2:9)
  • “And from each of these four great branches, there issue others, and the fruit which is produced by the tree is emblematical of religion, nobleness of birth and deed, freedom, obedience to the laws, security, wealth, and happiness” (Napoleon 5:25)
  • “That the radiant and resplendent brilliancy of their great souls, may serve as a light or beacon, to direct the counsels and actions of those, who now, or in time coming, may be placed at the helm of the state” (Napoleon 10:8)
  • “May not the eternal solidity of the inconceivable empire of Almighty god, and the unchangeable harmony and obedience which pervade all his wondrous works, derive as much strength from the universal adoration in which his unerring truth, his immaculate purity and holiness, and his inflexible justice are held, by created existence, as from the immensity and grandeur of his unmeasurable power?” (Napoleon 12:17)
  • “The sun, who came forth in the morning like a bridegroom from his eastern chamber, arrayed in all his dazzling glories, to cheer and enlighten a benighted world, to dissipate the dreary darkness of the night, and awaken drowsy nature to joy and gladness; found this generation of bats and of owls, male and female, reveling in all manner of riot and licentiousness” (Napoleon 13:7)
  • “What, O man, O guilty man, who thus insultest the orderly appointments of heaven, what would not thy consternation be, were the sun to loiter on his eastern couch, and the return of morning to be withheld but for a little while beyond its appointed time, and thus to leave the world to utter darkness and dismay?” (Napoleon 13:13)
  • “Lo! many of the nations thou now seest suffering under the dragon, were worshippers of the first idol, which is called Licentiousness; and until they shall by repentance and amendment of life, have expiated the crimes which they thereby committed, the sun of liberty which thou observedst to be nearly darkened in blood, shall not rise upon them, nor until then, shall their bonds be broken asunder” (Napoleon 18:26)

Similarity #4: Condemn me not for my imperfections

Critics point out that both the Book of Mormon and the First Book of Napoleon contain prefaces that ask their readers to not condemn them for their poor writing. In Eliakim’s “Address to His Readers,” he gives a short message to several types of readers, such as the “Charitable and Gentle Reader,” “the Pious and Religious Reader,” “Readers in General,” “Napoleon,” and the “King of the Albions.” In his address to the “Pious and Religious Reader” he tells his readers “let not thy feelings be offended, and withhold thy censure, until thou shalt find in these pages a single sentiment inconsistent with the spirit and principles of that holy religion which thou professest; and condemn not the feebly imitative manner of writing therein occasionally employed, until thou canst point out a language more impressive, or more appropriate, than that in imitation whereof these chapters are framed” (p. i). In other words, he asks those who are familiar with the Bible to not criticize him too harshly in his attempts to mimic the KJV Bible.

The title page of the Book of Mormon has a similar disclaimer in which Mormon states “And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ” (p. iii). Moroni provides a similar disclaimer in Ether 12:23-27. It may seem like a shocking coincidence that both books, imitating KJV English and published only 20 years apart, would contain such similar pleas from the authors in the preface of their books. The problem with this argument is that such disclaimers are in fact very common in literature before Joseph’s day and well afterwards.

For example, Victor Hugo in his preface to “Cromwell” (1827) criticizes certain poetic styles and points out that it is not the style they used that should be condemned, but the limitations of the authors in employing them: “They were mistaken. If in fact the false is predominant in the style as well as in the action of certain French tragedies, it is not the verses that should be held responsible therefore, but the versifiers. It was needful to condemn, not the form employed, but those who employed it: the workmen, not the tool.

Another example is John Dryden’s preface to “Fables, Ancient and Modern” (1700), where he asks the reader not to condemn him for adding his own inferior fables to the volume, but instead blame his poor judgment on his old age: “I resolv’d to join them in my present work; to which I have added some original papers of my own; which, whether they are equal or inferior to my other poems, an author is the most improper judge, and therefore I leave them wholly to the mercy of the reader. I will hope the best, that they will not be condem’d; but if they should, I have the excuse of an old gentleman, who mounting on horseback before some ladies, when I was present, got up somewhat heavily, but desir’d of the fair spectators that they would count fourscore and eight before they judg’d him.

Asking readers to attribute any errors in their work to their own human limitations is so common in academic writing that philosophers have argued over what D. C. Makinson called “The Paradox of the Preface” (Analysis, Vol. 25, No. 6, 1965, pp. 205-207), where he states “It is customary for authors of academic books to include in their prefaces statements such as this: ‘I am indebted to…for their invaluable help; however, any errors which remain are my sole responsibility.’ Occasionally an author will go further. Rather than say that if there are any mistakes then he is responsible for them, he will say that there will inevitably be some mistakes and he is responsible for them. For example, in the preface to his ‘Introduction to the Foundations of Mathematics’ (1952) R. L. Wilder writes ‘To those of my colleagues and students who have given me encouragement and stimulation, I wish to express sincere thanks. I am especially grateful to…for suggestions and criticism; but the errors and shortcomings to be found herein are not their fault, and are present only in spite of their wise counsel” (p. 205)

It is unreasonable to argue that all of these authors first needed to read the First Book of Napoleon before they could write such prefaces, and the same standard should be applied to Joseph Smith. All of the arguments I have made suggest that there is little to no evidence in favor of the argument that the First Book of Napoleon served as inspiration for the Book of Mormon.

An Updated List of Biblical Motifs found in 2 Nephi 9

The following is a list of Biblical motifs, expressions, and doctrines found in 2 Nephi 9. The purpose of this list is to provide further evidence of the Book of Mormon’s complexity, and the extreme mental effort, knowledge, and skill it would have required to dictate without the use of notes and with only minor revisions after the Book of Mormon’s publication.

  1. By the mouth of his holy prophets
    • “Spoken unto the Jews, by the mouth of his holy prophets” (2)
    • “which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets” (Acts 3:21)
  2. From the beginning
    • “even from the beginning down,” (2)
    • “hath it not been told you from the beginning?” (Isaiah 40:21)
  3. From generation to generation
    • “from generation to generation” (2)
    • “neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation” (Isaiah 13:20)
  4. Fold of God
    • “restored to the true church and fold of God” (2)
    • “and will bring them again to their folds” (Jeremiah 23:3)
  5. Lands of their inheritance
    • “when they shall be gathered home to the lands of their inheritance” (2)
    • “this is the land that shall fall unto you for an inheritance” (Numbers 34:2)
  6. Land of promise
    • “established in all their lands of promise” (2)
    • “By faith he sojourned in the land of promise” (Hebrews 11:9)
  7. Lift up your heads
    • “rejoice, and lift up your heads forever” (3)
    • “Lift up your heads, O ye gates” (Psalm 24:7)
  8. Searched diligently for salvation to come
    • “ye have searched much, many of you, to know of things to come” (4)
    • “Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you” (1 Peter 1:10)
  9. In our flesh we shall see God
    • “ye know that our flesh must waste away and die; nevertheless, in our bodies we shall see God” (4)
    • “And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:26)
  10. Subject unto Christ
    • “die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him” (5)
    • “For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him” (Hebrews 2:8)
  11. Power of the resurrection
    • “there must needs be a power of resurrection” (6, 12)
    • “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:10)
  12. Cut off from the presence of the Lord
    • “because man became fallen they were cut off from the presence of the Lord” (6)
    • “that soul shall be cut off from my presence” (Leviticus 22:3)
  13. Corruption put on incorruption
    • “save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption” (7)
    • “For this corruptible must put on incorruption” (1 Corinthians 15:53)
  14. Rise no more
    • “to rot and to crumble to its mother earth, to rise no more” (7, 8)
    • “Drink ye, and be drunken, and spue, and fall, and rise no more” (Jeremiah 25:27)
  15. Wisdom of God
    • “O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace!” (8)
    • “for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment” (1 Kings 3:28)
  16. Angel fell from heaven
    • “our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell” (8)
    • “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!” (Isaiah 14:12)
  17. Eternal God
    • “before the presence of the Eternal God” (8)
    • “The eternal God is thy refuge” (Deuteronomy 33:27)
  18. Father of lies
    • “to remain with the father of lies” (9)
    • “for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44)
  19. Beguiled Adam and Eve
    • “that being who beguiled our first parents” (9)
    • “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat” (Genesis 3:13)
  20. Satan can transform into an angel of light
    • “who transformeth himself nigh unto an angel of light” (9)
    • “for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14)
  21. Children of men
    • “and stirreth up the children of men” (9)
    • “and their seed from among the children of men” (Psalm 21:10)
  22. Works of darkness
    • “murder and all manner of secret works of darkness” (9)
    • “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” (Ephesians 5:11)
  23. How great is the goodness of God
    • “O how great the goodness of our God” (10)
    • “Oh how great is thy goodness” (Psalm 31:19)
  24. Prepareth a way to escape
    • “who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster” (10)
    • “but will with the temptation also make a way to escape” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
  25. Death and Hell
    • “that monster, death and hell” (10)
    • “and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him” (Revelation 6:8)
  26. The Holy One of Israel
    • “our God, the Holy One of Israel” (11, 12)
    • “but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 31:1)
  27. Death and Hell will deliver up their dead
    • “death and hell must deliver up their dead” (12)
    • “and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them” (Revelation 20:13)
  28. Paradise of God
    • “the paradise of God must deliver up the spirits of the righteous” (13)
    • “the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7)
  29. Living souls
    • “men become incorruptible, and immortal, and they are living souls” (13)
    • “and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7)
  30. Perfect knowledge
    • “having a perfect knowledge like unto us in the flesh” (13)
    • “the wondrous works of him which is perfect in knowledge” (Job 37:16)
  31. Nakedness
    • “all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness” (14)
    • “all that honoured her despise her, because they have seen her nakedness” (Lamentations 1:8)
  32. Robe of righteousness
    • “being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness” (14)
    • “he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10)
  33. Judgment seat of Christ
    • “they must appear before the judgment-seat of the Holy One of Israel” (15)
    • “for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (Romans 14:10)
  34. As the Lord liveth
    • “And assuredly, as the Lord liveth” (16)
    • “As the Lord liveth, that made us this soul” (Jeremiah 38:16)
  35. For the Lord hath spoken it
    • “for the Lord God hath spoken it” (16)
    • “for the Lord hath spoken” (Isaiah 1:2)
  36. God’s word cannot pass away
    • “it is his eternal word, which cannot pass away” (16)
    • “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away” (Mark 13:31)
  37. Righteous will be righteous still; filthy will be filthy still
    • “they who are righteous shall be righteous still, and they who are filthy shall be filthy still”
    • “he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still” (Revelation 22:11)
  38. Everlasting fire for the devil and his angels
    • “the devil and his angels; and they shall go away into everlasting fire, prepared for them” (16)
    • “everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41)
  39. Lake of fire and brimstone
    • “and their torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone” (16)
    • “These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone” (Revelation 19:20)
  40. Flame/smoke ascends forever
    • “whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever and has no end” (16)
    • “And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever” (Revelation 14:11)
  41. Word has gone forth out of God’s mouth
    • “For he executeth all his words, and they have gone forth out of his mouth” (17)
    • “the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness” (Isaiah 45:23)
  42. God’s law will be fulfilled
    • “and his law must be fulfilled” (17)
    • “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17)
  43. Endure the cross and despise the shame of it
    • “they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it” (18)
    • “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2)
  44. Inherit the kingdom of God prepared from foundation of the world
    • “they shall inherit the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world” (18)
    • “come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34)
  45. Joy may be full
    • “and their joy shall be full forever” (18)
    • “And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:4)
  46. God knows all things
    • “For he knoweth all things and there is not anything save he knows it” (20)
    • “God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things” (1 John 3:20)
  47. All men might be saved
    • “And he cometh into the world that he may save all men” (21)
    • “God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:3-4)
  48. Hearken to the voice of the Lord
    • “if they hearken unto his voice” (21)
    • “When thou shalt hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God” (Deuteronomy 13:18)
  49. Endure to the end
    • “be baptized in his name, and endure to the end” (24)
    • “he that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 10:22)
  50. No law; no sin
    • “he has given a law; and where there is no law given there is no punishment” (25)
    • “for where no law is, there is no transgression” (Romans 4:15)
  51. Power to deliver
    • “for they are delivered by the power of him” (25)
    • “have I no power to deliver?” (Isaiah 50:2)
  52. Counsel of God
    • “they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God” (28)
    • “But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves” (Luke 7:30)
  53. Despise the poor
    • “For because they are rich they despise the poor” (30)
    • “But ye have despised the poor” (James 2:6)
  54. Set their hearts upon riches
    • “their hearts are upon their treasures” (30)
    • “if riches increase, set not your heart upon them” (Psalm 62:10)
  55. Uncircumcised of heart
    • “Wo unto the uncircumcised of heart” (33)
    • “all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart” (Jeremiah 9:26)
  56. Thrust down to hell
    • “Wo unto the liar, for he shall be thrust down to hell” (34)
    • “And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell” (Luke 10:15)
  57. Die in their sins
    • “wo unto all those who die in their sins” (38)
    • “for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24)
  58. Holy God
    • “remember the awfulness in transgressing against that Holy God” (39)
    • “Ye cannot serve the Lord: for he is an holy God” (Joshua 24:19)
  59. Carnally minded is death
    • “Remember, to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life eternal” (39)
    • “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:6)
  60. Speak hard things
    • “Do not say that I have spoken hard things against you” (40)
    • “How long shall they utter and speak hard things?” (Psalm 94:4)
  61. Your Maker
    • “for I have spoken the words of your Maker” (40)
    • “Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker” (Proverbs 17:5)
  62. The words of truth
    • “I know that the words of truth are hard against all uncleanness” (40)
    • “a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15)
  63. Path of righteousness
    • “Remember that his paths are righteous” (41)
    • “he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3)
  64. Narrow and straight path
    • “the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him” (41)
    • “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way” (Matthew 7:14)
    • “make thy way straight before my face” (Psalm 5:8)
  65. The Lord’s gate
    • “and there is no other way save it be by the gate” (41)
    • “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving” (Psalm 100:4)
  66. The Lord is his name
    • “he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name” (41)
    • “Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion…The Lord is his name” (Amos 5:8)
  67. Knock and it shall be opened unto you
    • “And whoso knocketh, to him will he open” (42)
    • “knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7)
  68. Puffed up
    • “they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning” (42)
    • “that no one of you be puffed up for one against another” (1 Corinthians 4:6)
  69. Fools before God
    • “consider themselves fools before God” (42)
    • “let him become a fool, that he may be wise” (1 Corinthians 3:18)
  70. Wise and the prudent
    • “But the things of the wise and the prudent shall be hid from them forever” (43)
    • “For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent’ (1 Corinthians 1:19)
  71. Shake off your sins from my garments
    • “Behold, I take off my garments, and I shake them before you…witness that I shook your iniquities from my soul” (44)
    • “he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean” (Acts 18:6)
  72. God of my salvation
    • “I pray the God of my salvation” (44)
    • “Because thou has forgotten the God of thy salvation” (Isaiah 17:10)
  73. Eye of the Lord
    • “that he view me with his all-searching eye” (44)
    • “Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him” (Psalm 33:18)
  74. God of Israel
    • “all men shall be judged of their works, that the God of Israel did witness” (44)
    • “O Lord of hosts, God of Israel” (Isaiah 37:16)
  75. Judged according to their works
    • “when all men shall be judged of their works” (44)
    • “and they were judged every man according to their works” (Revelation 20:13)
  76. Brightness
    • “and that I stand with brightness before him” (44)
    • “they shall defile thy brightness” (Ezekiel 28:7)
  77. Turn away from your sins
    • “O, my beloved brethren, turn away from your sins” (45)
    • “bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities” (Acts 3:26)
  78. Chains of hell
    • “shake off the chains of him that would bind you fast” (45)
    • “he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness” (Jude 1:6)
  79. Rock of my salvation
    • “come unto that God who is the rock of your salvation” (45)
    • “He only is my rock and my salvation” (Psalm 62:2)
  80. Lord God Almighty
    • “Holy, holy are thy judgments, O Lord God Almighty” (46)
    • “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come” (Revelation 4:8)
  81. Freed from sin
    • “Would I be plain unto you according to the plainness of the truth if ye were freed from sin?” (47)
    • “Being then made free from sin” (Romans 6:18)
  82. Praise the name of the Lord
    • “I will praise the holy name of my God” (49)
    • “and will sing praise to the name of the Lord most high” (Psalm 7:17)
  83. Every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters
    • “Come, my brethren, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come buy and eat” (50-51)
    • “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat” (Isaiah 55:1-2)
  84. The Holy One cannot be corrupted
    • “come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted” (51)
    • “neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Psalm 16:10)
  85. Covenants of the Lord
    • “And behold how great the covenants of the Lord” (53)
    • “That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the Lord thy God” (Deuteronomy 29:12)
  86. Grace and mercy
    • “and because of his greatness, and his grace and mercy” (53)
    • “To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father” (2 Timothy 1:2)
  87. Utterly destroyed
    • “he has promised unto us that our seed shall not utterly be destroyed” (53)
    • “he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter” (Isaiah 34:2)
  88. According to the flesh
    • “shall not utterly be destroyed, according to the flesh” (53)
    • “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh” (Ephesians 6:5)
  89. A righteous branch
    • “in future generations they shall become a righteous branch unto the house of Israel” (53)
    • “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch” (Jeremiah 23:5)

Why the Translation Process is the Best Evidence in Favor of the Book of Mormon

Many critics argue that the translation of the Book of Mormon as described by many witnesses is evidence that Joseph Smith was a fraud. A good summary of eye-witness testimony of the translation process can be found here. It is generally accepted by critics and apologists that Joseph Smith placed his own seer stone or the Nephite interpreters into a hat, looked inside, and dictated to his scribes what was revealed to him. It is my argument, however, that if it can be proved that Joseph Smith did in fact dictate the entire Book of Mormon in the way described by witnesses, that this is in fact the best evidence of Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling. Below is a list of some of the reasons why I believe this:

  1. The Number of Biblical References

There are hundreds of references to the Bible found in the Book of Mormon (I have counted well over 800 so far). These references include direct quotes, modified quotes, themes, doctrines, symbols, and names. Many of these references are seamlessly interwoven into the narrative with such subtlety as to go unnoticed by most. Joseph Smith would have needed to be familiar with the entire Bible and have memorized a lexicon of hundreds of Biblical phrases to repeat off the top of his head, and possibly review chapters of the Bible the night before translating so that he could memorize a few more to be used the next day. Some examples of Biblical references in the Book of Mormon can be found in my examination of 2 Nephi 9, Jacob 5, and Alma 5. Consistently using such a large number of Biblical references would make the dictation process extremely difficult and it is remarkable that the use of so many references was maintained for over 500 pages.

  1. The Genealogy of Ether

Moroni provides the genealogy of the prophet Ether, which is comprised of 30 names (Ether 1:6-32). This genealogy includes names from the Bible (i.e., Seth, Levi, Ether, Omer) and names modified from the Bible (i.e., Riplakish, Lib, Hearthom). Joseph Smith would have needed to memorize this list of 30 names or at least list them off the top of his head and then be committed to use them for the rest of his narrative in the Book of Ether. He then repeats this genealogy in reverse order over the 30+ pages of the Book of Ether, including the names and storylines of characters not found in the original genealogy. This would have been an arduous process for Joseph to have to repeatedly review the genealogy and dictate the stories of each of these individuals over the course of several days. Click here for a more in-depth analysis of the genealogy of Ether.

  1. Chiasmus

While I do not believe that the existence of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon is definitive proof of its authenticity (critics point out that other contemporary sources have used chiasmus), I do believe that within the context of the translation process it does provide strong evidence for Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling. Alma 36 is the prime example of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, and a break-down of its structure can be found here. If Joseph had been dictating with his head buried in an empty hat while only stopping every 30 or so words for the scribe to repeat back what he had written, he would have had to memorize at least 15 themes to be repeated in reverse order over 30 verses when Alma is describing his conversion. It is unlikely that the chiasmus in Alma 36 appeared accidentally, and dictating it intentionally without notes would be an incredible feat.

  1. Unique Language of the Book of Mormon Authors

I do not know much about the science behind identifying an author’s written works based on analyzing the frequency of phrases unique to that author. Regardless, there are many phrases that are found exclusively in the writings of specific Book of Mormon authors that are not found in other authors’ writings. For example, the prophet Zenos uses phrases like “turn their hearts aside” and “in the midst of thy congregations,” which are phrases found in the Old Testament but not anywhere else in the Book of Mormon (click here for more examples). Not only are some of these phrases unique to certain prophets, but they are also found across several books (i.e., Jacob using unique phrases in 2 Nephi 9, and then using these phrases again in the Book of Jacob) suggesting Joseph Smith would have been cognizant that people would analyze whether his Book of Mormon characters had unique writing styles and would have intentionally varied their writing style to make sure it would stand up to scrutiny. This is a level of attention to detail that seems unlikely.

  1. The Structure of Jacob 5

Jacob 5 is a chapter in the Book of Mormon that is layered with complexity that suggests it was meticulously planned and not the product of a man who had a general idea of what he wanted to say and then dictated using his natural ability to speak off the top of his head. First, the length of the allegory of the olive tree is an impressive 77 verses. Second, it uses a variety of references to other Biblical doctrines and phrases and some are modified to fit specifically with the imagery of olive trees. Third, the phrasing of the chapter is structured so that over 20 phrases are repeated over the course of the 77 verses, suggesting Joseph would have needed to memorize these phrases to be repeated systematically and then incorporate them to reflect Biblical doctrines using the unique symbol of an olive tree.

  1. Names in the Book of Mormon

There are a few hundred names of people and places in the Book of Mormon. Many of these names are not found in the Bible. Many of these names, however, seem to be modified from certain root words in the Bible. Click here for a list of many of the names found in the Book of Mormon and their Biblical correlates. Joseph would have needed to identify names scattered across the Bible and then come up with creative ways of modifying and combining them (i.e., “Zarahemla” is a composite of “Zarah” and “Imla”). This would have been a complicated process which he would have needed to do while steeped in the translation. In addition, he would have to be familiar with the meaning of some Hebrew names such as “Ram” and “Zif” in order to use them correctly in the Book of Mormon (see references to “Ziff” and “Rameumptom” in the previously mentioned list of Book of Mormon names).

  1. Consistency in Geography

Whoever wrote the Book of Mormon had a clear picture of the locations where the events of the Book of Mormon took place. For instance, Nephi always describes traveling to Jerusalem as “going up to” Jerusalem, suggesting the author knew Jerusalem was on a hill (this is also consistent with the Bible). Another example is that the Nephites live in the land northward, but they always say they “go up” to the land southward, suggesting that author knew visually that the land southward was a higher physical elevation than the land northward. Click here for a closer look at some of the geographical consistencies in the Book of Mormon. Joseph would have needed to memorize the names and locations of Book of Mormon cities as well as the events that occurred in the narrative or at least be able to regularly reference a map while dictating in order to produce the consistency found in the Book of Mormon.

  1. Translating beginning with Mosiah

After Joseph and Martin Harris lost the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon, there is strong evidence that they picked up the translation process from where they left off in the Book of Mosiah. They continued through the end of the Book of Moroni, and then returned and translated 1 Nephi through Words of Mormon. This would have been difficult because Joseph makes many references to events that happened to characters in the lost portion of the Book of Mormon that are referenced after the Book of Mosiah. The most cited example is Alma quoting Lehi in Alma 36:22 before Lehi’s quote had been written. Joseph would have needed to remember that he had quoted Lehi and then remember to review the manuscript when he dictated 1 Nephi 1:8 so he could create the exact original quote that Alma was citing. Again, this would have been a remarkable example of Joseph’s attention to detail.

Repeated Phrases in Jacob 5

The following is a list of repeated phrases found in Jacob 5. The frequency of these phrases provide more evidence that Jacob 5 is a chapter in the Book of Mormon that is highly structured and meticulously thought-out (most likely requiring multiple drafts), and not the product of a stream of consciousness writing style.

  1. Come, let us go down into the vineyard
  • “And it came to pass that a long time passed away, and the Lord of the vineyard said unto his servant: Come, let us go down into the vineyard, that we may labor in the vineyard” (v. 15)
  • “And it came to pass that a long time had passed away, and the Lord of the vineyard said unto his servant: Come, let us go down into the vineyard, that we may labor again in the vineyard” (v. 29)

2. It grieveth me that I should lose this tree

  • “It grieveth me that I should lose this tree” (v. 7)
  • “It grieveth me that I should lose this tree” (v. 11)
  • “for it grieveth me that I should lose this tree and the fruit thereof (v. 13)
  • “and now it grieveth me that I should lose this tree” (v. 32)
  • “and it grieveth me that I should lose them” (v. 46)
  • “for it grieveth me that I should lose the trees of my vineyard” (v. 51)
  • “For it grieveth me that I should lose the trees of my vineyard (v. 66)

3. Prune it, dig about it, dung it, and nourish it

  • “I will prune it, and dig about it, and nourish it” (v. 4)
  • “And it came to pass that he pruned it, and digged about it, and nourished it” (v. 5)
  • “it should be digged about, and pruned, and nourished” (v. 11)
  • “Let us prune it, and dig about it, and nourish it a little longer” (v. 27)
  • “Nay, I have nourished it, and I have digged about it, and I have pruned it, and I have dunged it” (v. 47)
  • “Wherefore, dig about them, and prune them, and dung them once more” (v. 64)
  • “for the last time have I nourished my vineyard, and pruned it, and dug about it, and dunged it” (v. 76)

4. And a long time passed away…Come, let us go down into the vineyard

  • “And it came to pass that a long time passed away, and the Lord of the vineyard said unto his servant: Come, let us go down into the vineyard, that we may labor in the vineyard” (v. 15)
  • “And it came to pass that a long time had passed away, and the Lord of the vineyard said unto his servant: Come, let us go down into the vineyard, that we may labor again in the vineyard” (v. 29)

5. Lay up fruit against the season unto mine own self

  • “that I may lay up fruit thereof against the season, unto myself” (v. 13)
  • “and the fruit thereof I shall lay up against the season unto mine own self” (v. 18)
  • “that I may lay up the fruit thereof against the season, unto mine own self” (v. 19)
  • “Take of the fruit thereof, and lay it up against the season, that I may preserve it unto mine own self” (v. 20)
  • “lay it up against the season, that I may preserve it unto mine own self” (v. 23)
  • “wherefore, I must lay up fruit against the season, unto mine own self” (v. 29)
  • “and I have laid up unto myself against the season much fruit” (v. 31)
  • “to have laid up fruit thereof against the season, unto mine own self” (v. 46)
  • “for a long time will I lay up of the fruit of my vineyard unto mine own self against the season” (v. 76)

6. Have joy in the fruit of my vineyard

  • “and that I may have joy again in the fruit of my vineyard” (v. 60)
  • “ye shall have joy in the fruit which I shall lay up” (v. 71)
  • “behold ye shall have joy with me because of the fruit of my vineyard” (v. 75)

7. What could I have done more for my vineyard?

  • “What could I have done more for my vineyard?” (v. 41)
  • “But what could I have done more in my vineyard?” (v. 47)
  • “What could I have done more for my vineyard?” (v. 49)

8. Wild branches have overcome the roots

  • “the wild branches have grown and have overrun the roots thereof; and because that the wild branches have overcome the roots thereof” (v. 37)
  • “have not the branches thereof overcome the roots which are good? And because the branches have overcome the roots thereof” (v. 48)

9. Preserve the roots

  • “that perhaps I might preserve the roots thereof that they perish not” (v. 11)
  • “I know that the roots are good, and for mine own purpose I have preserved them” (v. 36)
  • “I may preserve unto myself the roots thereof for mine own purpose” (v. 53)
  • “wherefore, that I may preserve them also for mine own purpose” (v. 54)
  • “and have preserved the roots of their mother tree” (v. 60)

10. Cast into the fire that they not cumber the ground

  • “these which I have plucked off I will cast into the fire and burn them, that they may not cumber the ground of my vineyard” (v. 9)
  • “Let us go to and hew down the trees of the vineyard and cast them into the fire, that they shall not cumber the ground of my vineyard” (v. 49)
  • “and the bad be hewn down and cast into the fire, that they cumber not the ground of my vineyard” (v. 66)

11. Cast into the fire that they may be burned

  • “and we will cast them into the fire that they may be burned” (v. 7)
  • “and cast them into the fire that they should be burned” (v. 47)

12. Lord and servant went down into the vineyard

  • “And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard, and also the servant, went down into the vineyard to labor” (v. 16)
  • “And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard and the servant went down into the vineyard” (v. 30)

13. This long time have I nourished it and it hath brought forth fruit

  • “this long time have I nourished it, and it hath brought forth much fruit” (v. 20)
  • “I have nourished it this long time, and thou beholdest that it hath brought forth much fruit” (v. 22)
  • “I have nourished it this long time, and it hath brought forth much fruit” (v. 23)
  • “behold that I have nourished it also, and it hath brought forth fruit” (v. 24)
  • “I have nourished it this long time, and only a part of the tree hath brought forth tame fruit” (v. 25)
  • “Behold, this long time have we nourished this tree, and I have laid up unto myself against the season much fruit” (v. 31)

14. Young and tender branches

  • “shoot forth young and tender branches” (v. 4)
  • “it began to put forth somewhat a little, young and tender branches” (v. 6)
  • “I take away many of these young and tender branches” (v. 8)

15. Natural fruit which is most precious

  • “which natural fruit is good and the most precious above all other fruit” (v. 61)
  • “preserved unto himself the natural fruit, which was most precious unto him from the beginning” (v. 74)

16. Prepare the way

  • “that we may prepare the way, that I may bring forth again the natural fruit” (v. 61)
  • “bring forth the natural fruit, then shall ye prepare the way for them, that they may grow” (v. 64)

17. Roots and tops be equal

  • “that the root and the top may be equal in strength” (v. 66)
  • “and they did keep the root and the top thereof equal, according to the strength thereof” (v. 73)

18. This last time we will nourish the vineyard

  • “that all may be nourished once again for the last time” (v. 63)
  • “For behold, this is the last time that I shall nourish my vineyard” (v. 71)
  • “Behold, for this last time have we nourished my vineyard” (v. 75)
  • “and for the last time have I nourished my vineyard” (v. 76)

19. Nethermost part of the vineyard

  • “And these will I place in the nethermost part of my vineyard” (v. 13)
  • “hid the natural branches of the tame olive tree in the nethermost parts of the vineyard” (v. 14)
  • “Come, let us go to the nethermost part of the vineyard” (v. 19)
  • “Let us go down into the nethermost parts of the vineyard” (v. 38)
  • “they wet down into the nethermost parts of the vineyard” (v. 39)
  • “which I have planted in the nethermost parts of my vineyard” (v. 52)

20. Graft them whithersoever I will

  • “and I will graft them whithersoever I will” (v. 8)
  • “And these will I place in the nethermost part of my vineyard whithersoever I will” (v. 13)
  • “the natural branches of the tree which I planted whithersoever I would are yet alive” (v. 54)

21. Hewn down and cast into the fire

  • “the trees of my vineyard are good for nothing save it be to be hewn down and cast into the fire” (v. 42)
  • “and they are of no worth but to be hewn down and cast into the fire” (v. 46)
  • “And it grieveth me that i should hew down all the trees of my vineyard, and cast them into the fire that they should be burned” (v. 47)
  • “Let us go to and hew down the trees of the vineyard and cast them into the fire” (v. 49)
  • “and the bad be hewn down and cast into the fire” (v. 66)

22. Roots have much strength

  • “that the root thereof hath brought forth much strength” (v. 18)
  • “and because of their much strength they have hitherto brought forth, from the wild branches, good fruit” (v. 36)

23. Go to and labor with your might

  • “Wherefore, go to, and call servants, that we may labor diligently with our might in the vineyard” (v. 61)
  • “Wherefore, let us go to and labor with our might this last time” (v. 62)
  • “Go to, and labor in the vineyard, with your might” (v. 71)
  • “And it came to pass that the servants did go and labor with their mights” (v. 72)

An Answer to the Vernal Holley Map Theory

Vernal Holley made the argument that the geography described in the Book of Mormon is strikingly similar to geography and place names of the Great Lakes region of the United States. He therefore concludes that the Book of Mormon is a 19th century work based on the author’s personal experience. For reference, the Holley map can be found here. This argument has since been regurgitated by Jeremy Runnells, who compiled his somewhat well-known “Letter to a CES Director” where he concludes the argument by saying “Why are there so many names similar to Book of Mormon names in the region where Joseph Smith lived? This is all just a coincidence?” (It should be noted that Runnells has removed many names from Holley’s original list such as “St. Agathe/Ogath,” “Conner/Comnor,” and “St. Ephrem/Hill Ephraim” because there is demonstrable proof that they were founded well after the Book of Mormon was published).

FairMormon, Daniel Peterson, and Wheat & Tares have all provided thorough rebuttals  to this theory. Peterson rightly concludes that the theory “has been exploded, detonated so many times that it’s exasperating to see it keep coming back.” FairMormon does a very good job debunking this theory by pointing out that many of the locations identified by Holley do not match what is described in the Book of Mormon. For example, Holley places the Nephite city of “Morianton” (which is supposed to be similar to “Moravian Town”) on the west side of the map, when it is described as being near the eastern seashore (Alma 51:26). In addition, Holley places the Nephite city “Jacobugath” (which is supposed to be similar to “Jacobsburg”) in the land south when the Book of Mormon clearly places it in the land northward (3 Nephi 7:12).

From what I can tell, however, none of the apologists answer the question “Why are there so many similar names between the Great Lakes region and the Book of Mormon?” This is an easy question to answer. First, it is important to know that many of the names mentioned on Holley’s list are names found in the Bible. The Book of Mormon tells the story of Hebrew people coming to the Americas and basing their society on Biblical writings. It should not surprise anyone that a 500-600 mile region of the eastern United States founded by Protestants would share some Biblical place names. For example, the fact that Jordan, Jerusalem, Noah, Midian, and Boaz are the names of locations in both the Book of Mormon and the eastern United States is not miraculous.

In addition, just because names sound similar doesn’t mean that they are similar, especially since most of the Book of Mormon names on the list have roots in the Bible. I have made a list refuting some of the supposedly similar place names identified by Holley by providing an explanation of their possible Biblical origins.

  1. Moravian Town = Morianton (Alma 51:26)
  • These names look sort of similar (even though Holley placed it in the wrong location). The name “Morianton,” however, clearly has its roots in names in the Bible such as “Moriah” (2 Chronicles 3:1) and names with the ending “-ton” such as “Eshton” (1 Chronicles 4:12), which is a much stronger correlation than “Moravian Town.” In addition, there are Book of Mormon names similar to Morianton such as “Corianton” (Alma 39) and “Gadianton” (4 Nephi 1:42). I seriously doubt Joseph Smith based these names on cities named “Coravian Town” and “Gadavian Town.”

2. Shiloh = Shilom (Mosiah 10:8)

  • First off, Shiloh is a name found frequently in the Bible (Judges 21:12). In addition, the Bible has many derivations of the name Shiloh such as “Shelomith” (1 Chronicles 26:28), “Shallum” (Ezra 7:2), “Shiloni” (Nehemiah 11:5), “Shelemiah” (Nehemiah 3:30), and “Shillem” (Numbers 26:49). “Shilom” looks like a perfectly suitable derivation of a Biblical name.

3. Jacobsburg = Jacobugath (3 Nephi 9:9)

  • Other than the fact that “Jacobsburg” on Holley’s map isn’t anywhere near where the Book of Mormon describes “Jacobugath,” these names do sound similar. However, the name Jacobugath has more in common with the Bible than it does with the name Jacobsburg. It is likely a combination of the Biblical names “Jacob” (Genesis 29:1)–who founded the city–and “Gath” (2 Chronicles 11:8); not a creative derivation of Jacobsburg.

4. Sherbrooke = Shurr (Ether 14:28)

  • Like so many of the names on Holley’s list, “Shur” is a name found in the Bible (1 Samuel 15:7) and is much more similar to “Shurr” than Sherbrooke. I seriously doubt Joseph Smith or Solomon Spaulding saw the name Sherbrooke and decided to derive the name “Shurr” instead of simply using the Bible as its source.

5. Hellam = Helam (Mosiah 23:19)

  • Once again, “Helam” (2 Samuel 10:16) is a name found in the Bible and the Book of Mormon contains its original spelling. There would be no reason to use the town of “Hellam” as a source for the location.

6. Rama = Ramah (Ether 15:11) 

  • “Ramah” (1 Kings 15:17) is found many times in the Bible, and the Book of Mormon contains the correct spelling.

7. Ripple Lake = Waters of Ripliancum (Ether 15:8)

  • This might be a compelling similarity if “Ripliancum” didn’t have roots in the Bible and other Book of Mormon names. For example, the name “Riplah” (Alma 43:31) is a name found in the Book of Mormon, which contains the suspect letters “Ripl” which sounds like “Ripple.” Was this name also based on “Ripple Lake?” No, because it is a variation on the Biblical name “Riblah” (Numbers 34:11). Another name in the Book of Mormon is “Riplakish” (Ether 10:4), which is a combination of “Riplah” and “Kish” (1 Samuel 14:51) or “Riphath” (1 Chronicles 1:6) and “Lachish” (Joshua 10:3). Ripliancum makes more sense as a derivation of “Riblah” and the Book of Mormon names “Moriancumer” (Ether 2:13) or “Teancum” (Alma 52:1) rather than a mindless variation on “Ripple Lake.”

8. Minoa = Minon (Alma 2:24)

  • This is an obscure comparison considering the land of “Minon” is only named once in the Book of Mormon. “Minon” is likely a derivation of “Pinon” (1 Chronicles 1:52), or “Minnith” (Ezekiel 26:17) and any other of the hundreds of Biblical names that end in “-on” such as “Maon” (1 Chronicles 2:45). “Manoah” (Judges 13:2) is also a Biblical name which sounds more similar to “Minoa” than does “Minon.”

9. Monroe = Moroni (Moroni 1:1)

  • This similarity Holley identifies is quite a stretch. To me, it makes much more sense to see how the name “Moroni” has its roots in Biblical names such as “Moriah” (2 Chronicles 3:1) or “Beth-horon” (Joshua 16:3), and names like “Hachmoni” (1 Chronicles 27:32), “Shiloni” (Nehemiah 11:5), and “Gideoni” (Numbers 10:24).

10. Lehigh = Lehi (1 Nephi 1:5)

  • They do look similar. Do you know what else is similar? The actual name “Lehi” found in the Bible (Judges 15:14).

11. Tecumseh/Tenecum = Teancum (Alma 52:1)

  • In my opinion, Teancum is one of the more difficult names in the Book of Mormon for which to identify a Biblical correlate, only second to the name “Gimgimno” (3 Nephi 9:8). It seems, however, that Teancum is likely a combination of the Biblical name “Teman” (Genesis 36:11) and any of the other Book of Mormon names with the letters “c-u-m” such as “Ripliancum,” “Moriancumer,” “Cumorah,” or “Cumeni” [which seems to be a derivation of names like “Cush” (1 Chronicles 1:8) and “Temeni” (1 Chronicles 4:6)].

12. Antioch = Ani-Anti (Alma 21:11)   

  • “Antioch” is a name found frequently in the New Testament (Acts 11:19). To suggest that “Ani-Anti” was based off of a location named “Antioch” in the Great Lakes region falls apart when considering the root “Anti” is used in other Biblical names (see “Antipas” in Revelation 2:13) and many times in the Book of Mormon for locations such as “Antionum” (Alma 31:3), city of Antiparah” (Alma 57:1), “mount Antipas” (Alma 47:7), the “city of Manti” (Alma 58:1), and for character names such as “Antionah” (Alma 12:20), “Anti-Nephi-Lehi” (Alma 27:2) and “Antipus” (Alma 56:9). An “antion” (Alma 11:19) is also a Nephite monetary measurement. The “Mantua = Manti” connection is also explained with this line of reasoning.

13. Morin = Moron (Ether 7:5)

  • Both of these names are similar to Biblical names such as “Beth-horon” (Joshua 16:3) “Merom” (Joshua 11:5), and “Shimron-meron” (Joshua 12:20). There is nothing special about these two names being similar that can’t be explained by appealing to the Bible.

14. Sodom = Sidom (Alma 15:1)

  • Both “Sodom” (Genesis 19:1/2 Nephi 23:19) and “Sidon” (Genesis 10:15/Alma 43:22) are found in the Bible and Book of Mormon. The fact that there is a place in the Book of Mormon called “Sidom,” which looks like a combination of both of these names, should not be surprising to anyone.

15. Kishkiminetas = Kishkumen (Helaman 2:3)

  • “Kish” is a name found many times in the Bible (1 Samuel 9:1). “Kishkumen” is most likely a combination of the name “Kish” and Book of Mormon names such as “Kumen,” “Kumenonhi,” (3 Nephi 19:4), or “Cumeni” (Alma 57:7) [a derivation of names like “Cush” (1 Chronicles 1:8) and “Temeni” (1 Chronicles 4:6)].

16. St. Agathe = Ogath (Ether 15:10)

  • Even though “St. Agathe” wasn’t founded until after the Book of Mormon was published, I thought I would go ahead and talk about it anyway. The name “Ogath” is most likely a combination of the name “Gath” (2 Chronicles 11:8) and similar sounding names like “Oboth” (Numbers 33:43).

17. Oneida = Onidah (Alma 47:5)

  • The name “Onidah” has its “oni” roots in names like “Hachmoni” (1 Chronicles 27:32), “Shiloni” (Nehemiah 11:5), and “Gideoni” (Numbers 10:24), while it has its “dah” roots in names like “Adah” (Genesis 36:2). The Book of Mormon also contains the city “Onihah” (3 Nephi 9:7).

18. Antrim = Antum (Mormon 1:3)

  • “Antum” is derived from Book of Mormon names like “Coriantumr” (Ether 14:3), “Irreantum” (1 Nephi 17:5), “Seantum” (Helaman 9:26), and “Moriantum” (Moroni 9:9). It is not very plausible that Joseph Smith heard the name “Antrim,” changed it to “Antum,” and then used it as a root word for other location/character names as well. See the commentary on “Antioch = Ani-Anti” as well.

19. Comoros = Cumorah (Mormon 6:2)

  • While not on Vernal Holley’s list, Runnells argues that it is an impossible coincidence that there is an island nation off the coast of Mozambique called “Comoros” “Comore,” “Comorra,” or “Camora” (depending on who you ask) and had a settlement called “Moroni” or “Meroni” which today is its capital city. Cumorah, however, has its roots in the Bible, sounding similar to “Gomorrah” (Genesis 14:2) or “Deborah” (Judges 4:4) with the inserted letters “cu” much like other Book of Mormon names such as “Ripliancum,” “Teancum,” and “Cumeni.” The potential origin of the name Moroni has already been discussed.

Conclusion

After seeing these comparisons, what we are left with is a map of the eastern United States that has some names that sound a little similar to very obscure Book of Mormon locations (that are in the wrong place) that share more in common with the Bible than the eastern U.S. It is not difficult to find similarities in names if one looks hard enough. If Joseph Smith lived in southern California, critics would argue that “Riverside” sounds like the “River Sidon,” that “Tonner Canyon” sounds like “Teomner,” that “Monrovia” sounds like “Moronihah,” that “Moreno Street” look like “Moroni,” and that “Corona” sounds like “Cumorah” (not to mention I drove in my Toyota “Tacoma” which sounds like “Teancum”).

A Closer Look at Some Biblical References Found in the Book of Mormon

The following are some Biblical references found in the Book of Mormon that illustrate the complexity of the Book of Mormon and how subtle Biblical references are masterfully woven into the narrative beyond direct quotes.

  1. Captain of fifty = (Isaiah 3:3)/(1 Nephi 3:31)

This quote from 1 Nephi seems to be a reference to a passage in Isaiah, and yet it is significantly modified to become a subtle part of the Book of Mormon narrative.

  • “How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, even he can slay fifty; then why not us?” (1 Nephi 3:31)
  • The mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient, the captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counselor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator” (Isaiah 3:3)

 

  1. Let good and bad grow together = (Jacob 5:65)/(Matt 13:29-30)

The allegory of the olive tree refers to doctrine found in Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares by stating that the Lord’s servants should let both good and bad olives to grow together until the last day. Jesus says that they should let the wheat and tares grow together to prevent ripping out the wheat. Jacob 5 says to let wild and tame fruit grow together so that the roots of the olive tree do not overpower the branches and kill the tame fruit.

  • “But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn” (Matthew 13:29-30)
  • “And as they begin to grow ye shall clear away the branches which bring forth bitter fruit, according to the strength of the good and the size thereof; and ye shall not clear away the bad all at once, lest the roots thereof should be too strong for the graft, and the graft thereof shall perish, and I lose the trees of my vineyard” (Jacob 5:65)

 

  1. Jacob/the Nephites have I loved; Esau/the Lamanites have I hated = (Romans 9:13)/(Helaman 15:3-4)/(Malachi 1:2-3)

The author of the Book of Mormon uses the Biblical reference of the Lord hating Esau and loving Jacob but changes the subjects to the Nephites and Lamanites.

  • “They have been a chosen people of the Lord; yea, the people of Nephi hath he loved, and also hath he chastened them…But behold my brethren, the Lamanites hath he hated because their deeds have been evil continually” (Helaman 15:3-4)
  • “yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste” (Malachi 1:2-3)
  • “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Romans 9:13)

 

  1. Make it after the pattern shown thee in the mount = (1 Nephi 17:7-8)/(Exodus 25:40)/(Hebrews 8:5)

The Lord tells Nephi to get into the mountain and construct a ship after the manner which was shown to him. This is a reference to Moses who constructed the tabernacle after being shown its construction in the mount.

  • “Arise, and get thee into the mountain…Thou shalt construct a ship, after the manner which I shall show thee” (1 Nephi 17:7-8)
  • “And look that thou make them after the pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount” (Exodus 25:40)
  • “Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount” (Hebrews 8:5)

 

  1. Man/Nations are nothing; less than nothing/dust (Helaman 12:7)/(Isaiah 40:15-17)

The language has been changed significantly but the reference is nonetheless explicit. This is another example where a doctrine is preached that has been significantly modified by the author of the Book of Mormon but is nonetheless a reference to ancient scripture

  • “O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth” (Helaman 12:7)
  • “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance…All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity” (Isaiah 40:15-17)

 

  1. Setting a mark on their foreheads = (Alma 3:13, 18)/(Ezekiel 9:4)

This is another modified reference where the Lord gives a mark to the righteous on their foreheads, but the wicked Amlicites mark themselves on their foreheads to separate themselves from the righteous.

  • “they set the mark upon themselves, yea, even a mark of red upon their foreheads…Now the Amlicites knew not that they were fulfilling the words of God when they began to mark themselves in their foreheads”
  • “Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof” (Ezekiel 9:4)

 

  1. Not be afraid of tens of thousands = (1 Nephi 4:1)/(Psalm 3:5-6)

David in this Psalm declares that the Lord will protect him and that he will not be afraid of tens of thousands of his enemies. When Laman and Lemuel are fearful because Laban can command fifty men, Nephi subtily references this Psalm by saying that the Lord will protect them from fifty men, and even tens of thousands of men, therefore they should not be afraid.

  • “let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold he is mightier than all the earth, then why not mightier than Laban, and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands” (1 Nephi 4:1)
  • “I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about” (Psalm 3:5-6)

 

  1. Oath and a curse = (Nehemiah 5:13/10:29)/(Alma 46:22)

Various examples of prophets making a symbolic oath which will result in death if they do not fulfill it are found throughout the Bible. The people who choose to follow Captain Moroni into battle make a unique oath and curse by ripping their cloaks and casting them at the feet of Moroni

  • “Also I shook my lap, and said, So God shake out every man from his house, and from his labour, that performeth not his promise, even thus be he shaken out, and emptied. And all the congregation said, Amen, and praised the Lord. And the people did according to this promise” (Nehemiah 5:13)
  • “They clave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God’s law” (Nehemiah 10:29)
  • “Now this was the covenant which they made, and they cast their garments at the feet of Moroni, saying: We covenant with our God, that we shall be destroyed, even as our brethren in the land northward, if we shall fall into transgression; yea, he may cast us at the feet of our enemies, even as we have cast our garments at thy feet to be trodden under foot, if we shall fall into transgression” (Alma 46:22)

 

  1. Curse God and die = (Job 2:9)/(Mormon 2:14)

Job’s wife tells him that he has been cursed by God, so that he might as well curse God and die. Mormon uses similar language to describe the state of his soldiers who cursed God and wished to die but would still fight for their lives.

  • “And they did not come unto Jesus with broken hearts and contrite spirits, but they did curse God, and wish to die. Nevertheless they would struggle with the sword and their lives” (Mormon 2:14)
  • “Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Curse God, and die” (Job 2:9)

 

  1. Dwelt in tents = (Judges 8:11)/(Jeremiah 35:7)/(1 Nephi 2:15)

A very clear distinction is given to people in the Bible who dwell in tents. Nephi also makes this clear distinction, possibly to show that they were strangers in their own lands and they did not cease being strangers until they arrived to the promised land.

  • “And Gideon went up by the way of them that dwelt in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and smote the host” (Judges 8:11)
  • “Neither shall ye build house, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyard, nor have any: but all your days ye shall dwell in tents; that ye may live many days in the land where ye be strangers” (Jeremiah 35:7)
  • “And my father dwelt in a tent” (1 Nephi 2:15)

 

  1. God speaks once, twice, yet men do not perceive it = (Job 33:14)/(3 Nephi 11:3, 6)

This connection may be a bit of a stretch, but it is interesting how Elihu, the friend of Job, tells him that God speaks once or twice and people do not perceive it. The people of Nephi, when Christ first appears to them after his resurrection, twice hear a voice and do not understand it. Only on the third time the voice appears do they understand the words being spoken to them.

  • “For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not” (Job 33:14)
  • “they heard a voice as if it came out of haven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard…And it came to pass that again they heard the voice, and they understood it not….And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard” (3 Nephi 11:3, 6)

 

  1. Great and marvelous are they works = (1 Nephi 1:14)/(Revelation 15:3)

Upon receiving a revelation from the Lord regarding the destruction of Jerusalem, Lehi praises God in a phrase that is similar to Revelation 15:3, which is possibly a reference the “song of Moses” or “song of the Lamb.”

  • “And it came to pass that when my father had read and seen many great and marvelous things, he did exclaim many things unto the Lord; such as: Great and marvelous are they works, O Lord God Almighty!” (1 Nephi 1:14)
  • “And they sing the song of Moses the servant of god, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty” (Revelation 15:3)

 

  1. Great gulf dividing the righteous and the wicked = (1 Nephi 12:18)/(Luke 16:26)

Nephi and Lehi’s visions of the tree of life are full of symbolism found within the Bible. One such example is the great gulf dividing the righteous and the wicked.

  • “And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence” (Luke 16:26)
  • “And the large and spacious building, which my father saw, is vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men. And a great and terrible gulf divideth them; yea, even the word of the justice of the Eternal God” (1 Nephi 12:18)

 

  1. Loftiness of man = (Isaiah 2:17)/(Jacob 5:48)

On several occasions the prophets in the Bible refer to those who are proud as being “lofty” and that they must be brought down in humility. Zenos’ allegory of the Olive Tree notes that the fruit in the vineyard is becoming corrupted because the branches are too lofty and must be cut down.

  • “And it came to pass that the servant said unto his master: Is it not the loftiness of thy vineyard—have not the branches therefore overcome the roots which are good? And because the branches have overcome the roots thereof, behold they grew faster than the strength of the roots, taking strength unto themselves” (Jacob 5:48)
  • “And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day” (Isaiah 2:17)

 

  1. A righteous branch = (Jeremiah 23:5)/(Genesis 49:22)/(2 Nephi 3:5/9:53)

Prophets have referred to Jesus Christ as a righteous branch coming forth from the family line of King David. Joseph, the son of Jacob/Israel, gives a prophecy cited in the brass plates in the Book of Mormon, stating that a righteous branch will be raised among his own seed, which is not Jesus Christ, but instead the Nephites on the American continent. In Genesis, Joseph is referred to as a fruitful bough.

  • “Wherefore, Joseph truly saw our day. And he obtained a promise of the Lord, that out of the fruit of his loins the Lord God would raise up a righteous branch unto the house of Israel; not the Messiah, but a branch which was to be broken off, nevertheless, to be remembered in the covenants of the Lord…” (2 Nephi 3:5)
  • “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper” (Jeremiah 23:5)
  • Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall” (Genesis 49:22)

 

  1. Rod of Iron = (1 Nephi 11:25)/(Revelation 7:17/19:13, 15)

Nephi sees a vision of a rod of iron leading to the tree of life. He is told that the rod of iron represents the word of God. The Apostle John sees a vision of the Lamb of God leading his followers to the tree of life. The symbolism is very accurate since Jesus is also referred to by John as “the Word of God.”

  • “And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life, which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God” (1 Nephi 11:25)
  • For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters…” (Revelation 7:17)
  • “and his name is called The Word of God…and he shall rule them with a rod of iron” (Revelation 19:13, 15)

 

  1. They have become like a rock/flint = (2 Nephi 5:21)/(Jeremiah 5:3)/(Ezekiel 3:9)

The Bible refers to people becoming hardened or having their faces becoming hard like a rock or flint. In the Book of Mormon, this symbolism in the Bible is expanded to include the color of flint, serving as an outward curse against the Lamanites to symbolize how they hardened their hearts against the Lord.

  • “And he had caused the cursing to come upon them…they had become like unto a flint…the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them” (2 Nephi 5:21)
  • “As an adamant harder than flint have I made my forehead” (Ezekiel 3:9)
  • “they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return” (Jeremiah 5:3)

 

  1. A tree/well springing up unto everlasting life  = (John 4:14)/(Alma 32:41)/(1 Nephi 11:25)

Nephi uses the “fountain of living waters” and the “tree of life” interchangeably. Surprisingly, this synonymous relationship is subtly referenced when Alma teaches that gaining a testimony is like planting and nourishing a seed until it becomes a tree “springing up unto everlasting life.” Alma words are similar to those of Jesus when he spoke with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, referring to himself as a well of living waters.

  • “And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life, which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God” (1 Nephi 11:25)
  • “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up unto everlasting life” (John 4:14)
  • “But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patients, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life” (Alma 32:41)

 

  1. Describing women as tender and delicate = (Isaiah 47:1)/(Jacob 2:7)

The author of the Book of Mormon makes sure to use obscure adjectives found in Isaiah, describing women as “tender and delicate” in Jacob’s discourse to his people.

  • “O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate” (Isaiah 47:1)
  • “your wives and your children, many of whose feelings are exceedingly tender and chaste and delicate before God, which thing is pleasing unto God” (Jacob 2:7)

 

  1. Using “Wisdom” as a feminine noun = (Luke 7:35)/(Mosiah 8:20)

This one is pretty self-explanatory. The Book of Mormon refers to gendered nouns on a few occasions (Alma 42:24) but it is interesting to me that wisdom is consistently a feminine noun in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon

  • “for they will not seek wisdom, neither do they desire that she should rule over them!” (Mosiah 8:20)
  • “But wisdom is justified of all her children” (Luke 7:35)