Much has been written about who really wrote the Book of Mormon. Faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that it was written by ancient American prophets, while others suggest it was written by Joseph Smith or any combination of his contemporaries. Some of these questions have been examined using wordprint analyses to determine who authored the Book of Mormon (see https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Book_of_Mormon/Wordprint_studies for a summary of findings). While arguing the validity of wordprint studies is out of my expertise, there are many idioms found in the writings of several Book of Mormon that may support the belief that it is unlikely that Joseph Smith paid so much amount to detail as to create individual writing styles for each of the characters in the Book of Mormon. The following are some examples of phrases that are unique to individual Book of Mormon prophets:
In the midst of thy congregations = Unique to the prophet Zenos
The prophet Zenos is quoted on at least three occasions in the Book of Mormon and his writing style seems to be significantly different from the writings of other Book of Mormon prophets. In this situation, the prophet Zenos uses the following phrase:
- “Yea, O God, thou hast been merciful unto me, and heard my cries in the midst of thy congregations” (Alma 33:9)
The word “congregation” is only found in one other instance in the Book of Mormon in the “Isaiah Chapters” (2 Nephi 24:13/Isaiah 14) and is only found in the New Testament once (Acts 13:43). The word shows up 333 times in the Old Testament, and the same phrase “midst of the congregation” is found several times (Numbers 16:47/Psalm 22:22/Proverbs 5:14). It is interesting that this phrase is only found in the Book of Mormon in the writings of the prophet Zenos, who is believed to have lived many years before Lehi and his family left Jerusalem, which language is consistent with Old Testament vernacular.
2. Turn their hearts aside = Unique to the prophet Zenos
This is an interesting expression because similar renditions are sparsely found in the Old Testament (see 1 Samuel 12:20-21) but none are found in the New Testament or among any other Book of Mormon prophets. Adding to the uniqueness of this phrase is that it fits well with the Book of Mormon timeline which puts Zenos’ writings before 600 B.C. and possibly before the writings of Isaiah. The Book of Mormon prophets typically use the phrase “harden their hearts” instead.
- “they crucify the God of Israel, and turn their hearts aside, rejecting signs and wonders” (1 Nephi 19:13)
- “And because they turn their hearts aside, saith the prophet, and have despised the Holy One of Israel” (1 Nephi 19:14)
- “no more turn their hearts against the Holy One of Israel” (1 Nephi 19:15)
3. Great Creator = Unique to the prophet Jacob
The word “Creator” is used 10 times in the Book of Mormon, and only twice in the New Testament and three times in the Old Testament. Only the prophet Jacob puts the qualifier “great” before stating “creator.” While this by itself is not particularly miraculous, it is worth noting that it appears in Jacob’s writings in 2 Nephi 9 and thirty pages later in Jacob 2. Not only is it unique to Jacob, but it is unique across time in his writings and in Joseph Smith’s translation process.
- “for it behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh” (2 Nephi 9:5)
- “to fulfill the merciful plan of the great Creator” (2 Nephi 9:6)
- “how much better are you than they, in the sight of your great Creator?” (Jacob 3:7)
4. The Lord Omnipotent = Unique to King Benjamin
When King Benjamin asks his people to make a covenant to take upon them the name of Christ, both he and his people refer to Christ as the “Lord Omnipotent.” The word “omnipotent” occurs 6 times in the Book of Mormon, all of them contained in the discourse of King Benjamin, and only once in all other scriptures (Revelation 19:6, “the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth”).
- “with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity” (Mosiah 3:5)
- “only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent” (Mosiah 3:17)
- “through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent” (Mosiah 3:18)
- “only through repentance and faith on the name of the Lord God Omnipotent” (Mosiah 3:21)
- “because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent” (Mosiah 5:2)
- “that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his” (Mosiah 5:15)
5. The Great God = Unique to King Anti-Nephi-Lehi
There are many occasions in the Old and New Testaments where the phrase “great God” is used (Psalm 95:3/Titus 2:13), but it is only used in the Book of Mormon by King Anti-Nephi-Lehi in an address to his people asking them to make a covenant to bury their weapons of war. There are only two other similar iterations of this phrase in the Book of Mormon (Helaman 12:8: “great and everlasting God”/Helaman 13:18 “great and true God”), but interestingly one of them is also spoken by a Lamanite, and the other by Mormon, who was about to write about Samuel the Lamanite one chapter later. It is my opinion that King Anti-Nephi-Lehi refers to “the great God” because of the Lamanite belief in the existence of a “Great Spirit,” which they learn is the “great God” when Ammon preaches to King Lamoni (Alma 18:24-29).
- “I thank my God, my beloved people, that our great God has in goodness sent these our brethren” (Alma 24:7)
- “And behold, I thank my great God that he has given us a portion of his Spirit” (Alma 24:8)
- “And I also thank my God, yea, my great God” (Alma 24:10)
- “through the blood of the Son of our great God” (Alma 24:13)
- “And the great God has had mercy on us, and made these things known unto us” (Alma 24:14)
6. After this manner of language = Unique to the prophet Nephi
The phrase “after this manner of language” is unique to the words written by Nephi in the first Book of Nephi. This phrase is used many times while Nephi is narrating but not while Mormon is narrating, suggesting that Nephi’s style of narration is different from that of Mormon’s.
- “And after this manner was the language of my father” (1 Nephi 1:15)
- “And it came to pass that after this manner of language did I persuade my brethren” (1 Nephi 3:21)
- “And after this manner of language had my mother complained against my father” (1 Nephi 5:3)
- “And after this manner of language did my father, Lehi, comfort my mother” (1 Nephi 5:6)
- “And after this manner of language did she speak” (1 Nephi 5:8)
- “And after this manner of language did my brethren murmur” (1 Nephi 17:22)
7. The Lord of Hosts = The Lord warning his people of destruction
The phrase “Lord of Hosts” never appears in the New Testament but is found frequently in the Old Testament. In the Book of Mormon, the phrase “Lord of Hosts” appears when it is quoting sections of the Old Testament or in the following cases of statements from the Lord found in Helaman, Jacob, and briefly in 2 Nephi. It is not found in any of the Book of Mormon prophet’s writings unless they are quoting God.
2 Nephi = Prophecies of the death of Christ
- “the depths of the earth shall swallow them up, saith the Lord of Hosts” (2 Nephi 26:5)
- “the day that cometh shall consume them, saith the Lord of Hosts” (2 Nephi 26:6)
- “if the inhabitants of the earth shall repent of their wickedness and abominations they shall not be destroyed, saith the Lord of Host” (2 Nephi 28:17)
Helaman 13:8-21 = Samuel the Lamanite calling the Nephites to repentance
- “And behold, a curse shall come upon the land, saith the Lord of Hosts, because of the people’s sake who are upon the land” (Helaman 13:17)
- “And it shall come to pass, saith the Lord of Hosts, yea, our great and true God” (Helaman 13:18)
- “and then shall ye weep and howl in that day, saith the Lord of Hosts” (Helaman 13:32)
Jacob 2:23-33 = Jacob calling the Nephites to repentance
- “And whoredoms are an abomination before me; saith the Lord of Hosts” (Jacob 2:28)
- “Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes” (Jacob 2:29)
- “For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people” (Jacob 2:30)
- “And I will not suffer, saith the Lord of Hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people, which I have led out of the land of Jerusalem, shall come up unto me against the men of my people, saith the Lord of Hosts” (Jacob 2:32)
- “even unto destruction; for they shall not commit whoredomes, like unto them of old, saith the Lord of Hosts” (Jacob 2:33)
8. Fruit of my loins = Unique to Joseph, son of Jacob/Israel
Book of Mormon prophets, especially Lehi and Nephi, refer to their progenitors as their “seed,” such as in the following examples:
- “they shall have no power over thy seed…they shall be a scourge unto thy seed” (1 Nephi 2:23-24)
- “Inasmuch as thy seed shall keep my commandments, they shall prosper” (1 Nephi 4:14)
- “and began to prophesy concerning his seed…all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people who were of his seed…And he prophesied many things concerning his seed” (1 Nephi 5:17-19)
- “Look, and behold thy seed, and also the seed of thy brethren” (1 Nephi 12:9)
This word is used consistently throughout the Book of Mormon, but its use is significantly more frequent in the first two books of Nephi. In 2 Nephi 3, however, Lehi quotes from a prophecy found in the brass plates given by the Lord to Joseph, who was sold into Egypt. Joseph predicted that a righteous branch would be separated from the house of Israel, and Lehi states that this prophecy is fulfilled in his seed. Joseph, when speaking of his progenitors, prefers to use the phrase “fruit of my loins” rather than “seed.” Joseph uses the phrase “fruit of my loins” repeatedly in this one chapter and the phrase does not occur again until the book of Jacob when Jacob refers to Joseph’s prophecy. The phrase “fruit of my loins” is used 19 times in 2 Nephi 3. Two other times in this chapter the phrase “seed of thy loins” and “spokesman of thy loins” is used.
Some examples of this phrase include:
- “A choice seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and he shall be esteemed highly among the fruit of thy loins. And unto him will I give commandment that he shall do a work for the fruit of thy loins…” (7)
- “Wherefore, the fruit of thy loins shall write; and the fruit of the loins of Judah shall write; and that which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah, shall grow together, unto the confounding of false doctrines and laying down of contentions, and establishing peace among the fruit of thy loins…” (12)
This phrase does not occur again until Jacob 2:25 when Jacob quotes the Lord saying “that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.”
The word “seed” is used consistently up until the prophecy of Joseph (see 2 Nephi 1:5, 31, 32 / 2 Nephi 3:2,3) when “fruit of thy loins” is used instead (starting with 2 Nephi 3:4 when Lehi begins speaking of Joseph’s prophecy). The Book of Mormon writers immediately revert back to using “seed” exclusively (2 Nephi 4:2, 7, 9, 11). This suggests that Joseph’s use of the phrase must be symbolic or an antiquated expression not commonly used in Lehi’s day.
9. Protector: Unique to the prophet Jacob
Jacob is the only prophet in the Book of Mormon or the Bible to use the word “protector” when referring to his brother Nephi. He uses it on two occasions, once in 2 Nephi 6 and once in Jacob 1. This provides evidence that Jacob was a real author who’s words are consistent and unique across time.
- “having been consecrated by my brother Nephi, unto whom ye look as a king or a protector, and on whom ye depend for safety” (2 Nephi 2:6)
- “Now Nephi began to be old, and he saw that he must soon die; wherefore, he anointed a man to be a king and a ruler over his people…The people having loved Nephi exceedingly, he having been a great protector for them” (Jacob 1:9-10)
The word “protector” is used several times in the works of the ancient Jewish historian Flavius Josephus. He mostly uses it when referring to God, but in one instance he uses it to refer to Moses in the same context as Jacob does, by referring to him as “a governor and a protector”:
- “nor was there any thing else so sad, and that so much troubled them, as this supposal that Moses was perished…they therefore were quiet, and expected the event: yet were they exceeding sorry upon the supposal that they were deprived of a governor and a protector, such a one indeed as they could never recover again” (Antiquities of the Jews, Book III, 5:7)