Was the Book of Mormon inspired by “The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain”?

Some suggest that “The Late War between the United States and Great Britain” written by Gilbert J. Hunt (1816) serves as source material for the Book of Mormon (http://wordtree.org/thelatewar/). FAIR Mormon has already done a pretty thorough job of answering this argument, but I would like to expand upon some their responses. The purpose of this post is to show that the themes that are similar between the Late War and the Book of Mormon are found in other ancient sources, and that these similarities to the Late War do not provide a compelling case that it served as source material for the Book of Mormon.

BATTLES AT FORTS

The authors suggest the Late War (29:20-23) serves as inspiration for battles in the Book of Mormon involving forts and ditches (Alma 48:7-8, 49:20-25). The authors state “some may argue that this structure is a scène a faire—that this is a basic structure common to many battles; however, there are distinctive elements to these descriptions that raise the question, how could two battles separated by nearly 2,000 years be described by two different people in so similar a manner?” The records of the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus suggest that this is indeed a scène a faire. He provides many examples of siege warfare which includes building walls, building towers, casting up banks, and digging trenches around the walls. The sieging forces try to fill up the ditches so they can use their engines of war to pull down the walls of the fort:

  • “At this Pompey was very angry, and put Aristobulus into prison, and came himself to the city, which was strong on every side, excepting the north, which was not so well fortified, for there was a broad and deep ditch, that encompassed the city, and included within it the temple, which was itself encompassed about with a very strong stone wall” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XIV, Chapter 4:1)
  • “Alexander was afraid of him, when he was marching against the Arabians; so he cut a deep trench between Antipatris, which was near the mountains, and the shores of Joppa; he also erected a high wall before the trench, and built wooden towers in order to hinder any sudden approaches; but still he was not able to exclude Antiochus, for he burnt the towers, and filled up the trenches, and marched on with his army” (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book I, Chapter 4:7)
  • “the outward circumference hath the resemblance of a wall, and is adorned with towers at equal distances…The camp, and all that is in it, is encompassed with a wall all round about, and that sooner than one would imagine, and this by the multitude and the skill of the laborers; and, if occasion require, a trench is drawn round the whole, whose depth is four cubits, and its breadth equal” (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book III, Chapter 5:1-2)
  • “and when he was come to the city he looked about where he might make his attack; for he saw the walls were so firm that it would be hard to overcome them, and that the valley before the walls was terrible; and that the temple, which was within that valley, was itself encompassed with a very strong wall…But Pompey himself filled up the ditch that was on the north side of the temple, and the entire valley also, the army itself being obliged to carry the materials for that purpose. And indeed it was a hard thing to fill up that valley, by reason of its immense depth, especially as the Jews used all the means possible to repel them from their superior station” (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book I, Chapter 7:1, 3… On a side note, it is interesting to me how an ancient war strategy was to fill up an enemy’s ditch surrounding their fort, and the Book of Mormon states, in what I think is an example of dark humor, “and instead of filling up their ditches by pulling down the banks of earth, they were filled up in a measure with their dead and wounded bodies” (Alma 49:22))
  • “As this city was naturally hard to be taken, so had Josephus, by building a wall about it, made it still stronger, as also by ditches and mines underground…And as the legions, according to their usual custom, were fortifying their camp upon that mountain, he began to cast up banks at the bottom, at the part towards the east, where the highest tower of the whole city was, and where the fifteenth legion pitched their camp; while the fifth legion did duty over against the midst of the city, and whilst the tenth legion filled up the ditches and the valleys” (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book IV, Chapter 1:2-3)
  • “As for those that were within it, no one had the courage to sally out, because those that assaulted them were so numerous; but they distributed themselves into breastworks and turrets, and shot at the besiegers, whereby many of the robbers fell under the walls” (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book II, 17:7)

The first Book of Maccabees in the Apocrypha extensively describes siege warfare similar to that found in the Book of Mormon:

  • “Then builded they the city of David with a great and strong wall, and with mighty towers, and made it a strong hold for them. And they put therein a sinful nation, wicked men, and fortified themselves therein” (I Maccabees 1:33-34)
  • “he consulted with them about building strong holds in Judea, and making the walls of Jerusalem higher, and raising a great mount between the tower and the city…Upon this they came together to build up the city, forasmuch as part of the wall toward the brook on the east side was fallen down, and they repaired that which was called Caphenatha” (I Maccabees 12:35-37)
  • “Then Simon built up the strong holds in Judea, and fenced them about with high towers, and great walls, and gates, and bars, and laid up victuals therein” (I Maccabees 13:33)
  • “and gave commandment to pull down the wall round about” (I Maccabees 6:62)

The Bible also describes the building and besieging of strongholds:

  • “Also he strengthened himself, and built up all the wall that was broken, and raised it up to the towers, and another wall without, and repaired Millo in the city of David, and made darts and shields in abundance” (2 Chronicles 32:5)
  • “Hew ye down trees, and cast a mount against Jerusalem” (Jeremiah 6:6)
  • “(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)” (2 Corinthians 10:4)

BATTLES AT RIVERS

The authors claim that battles near rivers in the Book of Mormon (Alma 2:34) were inspired by battles in the Late War (47:2-5). Below is an example in the records of Josephus of a battle at a river that sounds much closer to the Book of Mormon account than what is found in the Late War:

  • “and he slew all that he overtook, as far as Jordan; and when he had driven the whole multitude to the river side, where they were stopped by the current, (for it had been augmented lately by rains, and was not fordable,) he put his soldiers in array over against them; so the necessity the others were in provoked them to hazard a battle, because there was no place whither they could flee. They then extended themselves a very great way along the banks of the river, and sustained the darts that were thrown at them as well as the attacks of the horsemen, who beat many of them, and pushed them into the current. At which fight, hand to hand, fifteen thousand of them were slain, while the number of those that were unwillingly forced to leap into Jordan was prodigious…Now this destruction that fell upon the Jews, as it was not inferior to any of the rest in itself, so did it still appear greater than it really was; and this, because not only the whole of the country through which they had fled was filled with slaughter, and Jordan could not be passed over, by reason of the dead bodies that were in it, but because the lake Asphaltitis was also full of dead bodies, that were carried down into it by the river” (Wars of the Jews, Book IV, Chapter 7:5-6…On a side note, it is interesting how the Nephites also run into the problem of not being able to cross a river because they are blocked by too many slain Lamanites. They cast the bodies of the slain Lamanites into the river so they can cross (Alma 2:34))

The first book of Maccabees and the book of Judith also contains battles near rivers:

  • “Now when Bacchides heard hereof, he came on the Sabbath day unto the banks of Jordan with a great power. Then Jonathan said to his company, Let us go up now and fight for our lives, for it standeth not with us today, as in time past: For, behold, the battle is before us and behind us, and the water of Jordan on this side and that side, the marsh likewise and wood, neither is there place for us to turn aside. Wherefore cry ye now unto heaven…With that they joined the battle, and Jonathan stretched forth his hand to smite Bacchides, but he turned back from him. Then Jonathan and they that were with him leapt into Jordan, and swam over unto the farther bank: howbeit the other passed not over Jordan unto them. So there were slain of Bacchides’ side that day about a thousand men” (I Maccabees 9:43-49)
  • “And thou shalt declare unto them, that they prepare for me earth and water: for I will go forth in my wrath against them and will cover the whole face of the earth with the feet of mine army, and I will give them for a spoil unto them: So that their slain shall fill their valleys and brooks and the river shall be filled with their dead, till it overflow” (Judith 2:7-8)

BATTLE CASUALTIES

The authors suggest that reporting the number of soldiers slain after a battle is somehow unique to the Late War (8:18-19/49:18-20/54:24) and the Book of Mormon (Mosiah 9:18-19/Alma 57:25-26/Alma 62:26). They also argue that the fact that smaller righteous armies defeat larger wicked armies is a parallel between the two works. One contributor on the site states “The righteous protagonists triumph over the more numerous foe, and the enemy army consistently outnumbers the righteous protagonists. — Ryan Thomas, Direct Literary Dependence?” These themes are so common in all literature that I don’t know why they included it in their analysis:

  • “And the Lord said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place” (Judges 7:7)
  • “And when he came near to the going up of Beth-horon, Judas went forth to meet him with a small company: who, when they saw the host coming to meet them, said unto Judas, How shall we be able, being so few, to fight against so great a multitude and so strong…Unto whom Judas answered, It is no hard matter for many to be shut up in the hands of a few; and with the God of heaven it is all one, to deliver with a great multitude, or a small company” (I Maccabees 3:16-18)
  • “bringing with him an army that had received no harm, and a great deal of prey” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book IV, Chapter 7:1)

Sun Tzu in “The Art of War” (translated by Lionel Giles) states:

  • “Though according to my estimate the soldiers of Yueh exceed our own in number, that shall advantage them nothing in the matter of victory. I say then that victory can be achieved. Though the enemy be stronger in numbers, we may prevent him from fighting. Scheme so as to discover his plans and the likelihood of their success” (VI:21-23)

Battle casualties are listed in the Apocrypha and the Old Testament:

  • “so that there were slain of them upon a three thousand men” (I Maccabees 4:15)
  • “So they joined battle; and there were slain of the host of Lysias about five thousand men, even before them were they slain” (I Maccabees 4:34)
  • “and there were slain of the heathen about three thousand men, whose spoils he took” (I Maccabees 5:22)
  • “so that there were killed of them that day about eight thousand men” (I Maccabees 5:34)
  • “and there were slain that day of the people of Israel about two thousand men” (I Maccabees 5:60)
  • “and slew of the army in the field about four thousand men” (I Samuel 4:2)
  • “And in Shushan the palace the Jews slew and destroyed five hundred men” (Esther 9:6)
  • “for there fell an hundred and twenty thousand men that drew sword” (Judges 8:10)

BAND OF ROBBERS

The authors claim that the description of a “band of sea-robbers” in the Late War (1:18/49:37-38) served as inspiration for the “band of robbers” in the Book of Mormon (Helaman 6:37/11:28, 30), although the authors admit that “robbers” are found in other sources. Unlike the Late War, Josephus and the Bible describe robbers who more closely match the description of those found in the Book of Mormon:

  • “he presently met with an opportunity of signalising his courage; for, finding there was one Hezekias, a captain of a band of robbers, who overran the neighboring ports of Syria with a great troop of them, he seized him and slew him, as well as a great number of the other robbers that were with him; for which action he was greatly beloved by the Syrians; for when they were very desirous to have their country freed from this nest of robbers, he purged it of them: so they sung songs in his commendation in their villages and cities, as having procured them peace and the secure enjoyment of their possessions” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XIV, Chapter 9:2)
  • “that there might be no want of a supply for the soldiers for the time to come. Antigonus was sensible of this, and sent presently over the country such as might restrain and lie in ambush for those that went out for provisions. So these men obeyed the orders of Antigonus, and got together a great number of armed men about Jericho, and sat upon the mountains, and watched those that brought the provisions…He also went thence and resolved to destroy those robbers that dwelt in the caves, and did much mischief in the country…These caves were in mountains that were exceedingly abrupt, and in their middle were no other than precipices, with certain entrances into the caves, and those caves were encompassed with sharp rocks, and in these did the robbers lie concealed, with all their families about them” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XIV, Chapter 15:3-5).
  • “And the men of Shechem set liers in wait for him in the top of the mountains, and they robbed all that came along that way by them: and it was told Abimelech” (Judges 9:25)
  • “And as troops of robbers wait for a man, so the company of priests murder in the way by consent: for they commit lewdness” (Hosea 6:9)
  • “When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered, and the wickedness of Samaria: for they commit falsehood; and the thief cometh in, and the troop of robbers spoileth without” (Hosea 7:1)

Gangs of robbers are also described cross-culturally. In the commentary on the Art of War, Chang Yu describes how a gang of robbers which hid in the mountains was defeated:

  • “Wu-tu Ch’iang was a robber captain in the time of the Later Han, and Ma Yuan was sent to exterminate his gang. Ch’iang having found refuge in the hills, Ma Yuan made no attempt to force a battle, but seized all the favorable positions commanding supplies of water and forage. Ch’iang was soon in such a desperate plight for want of provisions that he was forced to make a total surrender.” (Chang Yu’s commentary in Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” IX:1, p. 137)

PITCHED TENTS ON THE BORDERS

The authors argue that pitching tents on the borders near water is a similarity between the two works (Late War 11:17/Alma 51:32). The Bible and the Apocrypha describe armies pitching their tents in the borders and also near water:

  • “Then they went along through the wilderness, and compassed the land of Edom, and the land of Moab, and came by the east side of the land of Moab, and pitched on the other side of Arnon, but came not within the border of Moab: for Arnon was the border of Moab” (Judges 11:18)
  • “And when all these kings were met together, they came and pitched together at the waters of Merom, to fight against Israel” (Joshua 11:5)
  • “and pitched their tents by the water of the pool Asphar” (I Maccabees 9:33)

BURNED MARTYRS

The authors claim that there is a parallel between the Late War and the Book of Mormon with regard to martyrs being burned. The Late War describes a battle in the snow where Native Americans commissioned by the British kill all the wounded colonizers with a blow to the head from a Tomahawk. The wounded and sick who hide in houses to escape the cold are burned alive in their homes by the natives. The Late War states that this deed will be recorded in heaven until judgment day (14:39-41). In the Book of Mormon, the wicked people of Ammonihah find out who believe the words of Alma and Amulek, and cast the believing men out of the city. The believing women and children are then burned alive in a pit along with their scriptures (Alma 14:10-11). Burning believers and having innocent blood testify against sinners is common in the Bible:

  • “And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace…if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:6, 15)
  • “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:9-10)
  • “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of Judgment, than for that city” (Mark 6:11)
  • “And he said, What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10)

MOURNING THE DEAD

The authors claim that there is a similarity between the Late War and the Book of Mormon in mourning the dead. The Late War laments the many fathers who are killed who leave behind wives and children. The children want to see their fathers come home, but they will never return (19:57-60). The Book of Mormon, on the other hand, quotes Mormon who asks in pain how his people could have rejected Jesus, and how they have all been exterminated by the Lamanites (Mormon 6:16-20). The Prophet Jeremiah laments the fall of Jerusalem using similar language:

  • “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (Jeremiah 9:1)
  • “And I will fan them with a fan in the gates of the land; I will bereave them of children, I will destroy my people, since they return not from their ways. Their widows are increased to me above the sand of the seas” (Jeremiah 15:7-8)
  • “The word of the Lord came also unto me, saying, Thou shalt not take thee a wife, neither shalt thou have sons or daughters in this place. For thus saith the Lord concerning the sons and concerning the daughters that are born in this place, and concerning their mothers that bare them, and concerning their fathers that begat them in this land; They shall die of grievous deaths; they shall not be lamented; neither shall they be buried; but they shall be as dung upon the face of the earth: and they shall be consumed by the sword, and by famine” (Jeremiah 16:4)
  • “For these things I weep; mine eye, mine eye runneth down with water, because the comforter that should relieve my soul is far from me: my children are desolate, because the enemy prevailed” (Lamentations 1:16)
  • “Mine eyes do fail with tears, my bowels are troubled, my liver is poured upon the earth, for the destruction of the daughter of my people; because the children and the sucklings swoon in the streets of the city” (Lamentations 2:11)
  • “The young and the old lie on the ground in the streets: my virgins and my young men are fallen by the sword; thou hast slain them in the day of thine anger; thou hast killed, and not pitied” (Lamentations 2:21)
  • “Mine eye runneth down with rivers of water for the destruction of the daughter of my people” (Lamentations 3:48)
  • “Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk, they were more ruddy in body than rubies, their polishing was of sapphire” (Lamentations 4:7)
  • They hunt our steps, that we cannot go in our streets: our end is near, our days are fulfilled; for our end is come” (Lamentations 4:18)
  • “We are orphans and fatherless, our mothers are as widows” (Lamentations 5:3)
  • “he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more. He shall return no more to his house, neither shall his place know him any more. Therefore I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul” (Job 7:9-11)

Josephus also describes the mournings of the Jewish people:

  • “In every house also, and among all to whom any of the slain were allied, there was a lamentation for them; but the mourning for the commander was a public one; and some mourned for those that had lived with them, others for their kindred, others for their friends, and others for their brethren, but all mourned for Josephus” (Wars, Book III, 9:5)

ANTI-NEPHI-LEHIS

The authors suggest that the Late War’s description of a group of Native Americans who do not murder their prisoners or mutilate their dead (26:22-28) are reminiscent of the Anti-Nephi-Lehis in the Book of Mormon (Alma 24:6, 17, 19). A more compelling parallel can be found in the Apocrypha:

  • “But they said, We will not come forth, neither will we do the king’s commandment, to profane the Sabbath day. So then they gave them the battle with all speed. Howbeit they answered them not, neither cast they a stone at them, nor stopped the places where they lay hid; But said, Let us die in our innocency: heaven and earth shall testify for us, that ye put us to death wrongfully. So they rose up against them in battle on the Sabbath, and they slew them, with their wives and children, and their cattle, to the number of a thousand people. Now when Mattathias and his friends understood hereof, they mourned for them right sore” (I Maccabees 2:34-39)

CATACLYSMS

The Late War describes a massive explosion that occurs when black powder kegs catch fire in a fort (19:37-44). The authors argue that the description is similar to the great earthquakes, fires, and storms that destroy many Nephite cities after Christ’s death (Helaman 14:7/3 Nephi 8:6). All of the Book of Mormon descriptions of the “cataclysmic event” have Biblical roots that are much more similar to the Book of Mormon than are the Late War’s descriptions:

  • “The people were all affrighted; and the ground that was about their tents sunk down at the great noise, with a terrible sound, and carried whatsoever was dear to the seditious, into itself, who so entirely perished, that there was not the least appearance that any man had ever been seen there, the earth that had opened itself about them closing again, and becoming entire as it was before, insomuch that such as saw it afterward did not perceive that any such accident had happened to it. Thus did these men perish, and become a demonstration of the power of God” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book IV, 3:3)
  • “God disturbed their enemies with an earthquake, and moved the ground under them to such a degree, that he caused it to tremble, and made them to shake, insomuch that by its trembling, he made some unable to keep their feet, and made them fall down, and, by opening its chasms, he caused that others should be hurried down into them; after which he caused such a noise of thunder to come among them, and made fiery lightning shine so terribly round about them, that it was ready to burn their faces” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book VI, Chapter 2:2)
  • “Thou shalt be visited of the Lord of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire” (Isaiah 29:6)
  • “The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan, and covered the company of Abiram” (Psalm 106:17)
  • “And what he did unto Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, the son of Reuben: how the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their households, and their tents, and all the substance that was in their possession, in the midst of all Israel” (Deuteronomy 11:6)
  • “And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt. And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days” (Exodus 10:22-23)
  • “And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to Beth-horon, that the Lord cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azeka, and they died: they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword” (Joshua 10:11)
  • “Pharaoh’s chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea. The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone” (Exodus 15:4-5)
  • “And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire” (1 Kings 19:11-12)
  • “Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea” (Psalm 46:2)

 

LIBERTY AND FREEDOM

The Book of Mormon and the Late War both describe fighting for liberty from kings (Late War p. 184, 2nd edition/24:15/54:13 and Mosiah 23:36/Alma 51:17/46:12, 36). While religious freedom and freedom from tyranny are aspects of American history, the KJV Apocrypha and Flavius Josephus are just some of the ancient sources where these same themes are also found:

  • “Then Darius the king stood up, and kissed him, and wrote letters for him unto all the treasurers and lieutenants and captains and governors, that they should safely convey on their way both him, and all those that go up with him to build Jerusalem. He wrote letters also unto the lieutenants that were in Celosyria and Phenice, and unto them in Libanus, that they should bring cedar wood from Libanus unto Jerusalem, and that they should build the city with him. Moreover he wrote for all the Jews that went out of his realm up into Jewry, concerning their freedom, that no office, no ruler, no lieutenant, nor treasurer, should forcibly enter into their doors; And that all the country which they hold should be free without tribute; and that the Edomites should give over the villages of the Jews which then they held…And other ten talents yearly, to maintain the burnt offerings upon the altar every day…And that all they that went from Babylon to build the city should have free liberty. As well they as their posterity, and all the priests that went away” (I Esdras 4:47-50, 52-53)
  • “And they praised the God of their fathers, because he had given them freedom and liberty to go up, and to build Jerusalem, and the temple which is called by his name: and they feasted with instruments and music and gladness seven days” (I Esdras 4:62-63)
  • “It maketh the mind of the king and of the fatherless child to be all one; of the bondman and of the freeman, of the poor man and of the rich” (I Esdras 3:19)
  • Let Jerusalem also be holy and free, with the borders thereof, both from tenths and tributes…Moreover I freely set at liberty every one of the Jews, that were carried captives out of the land of Judea into any part of my kingdom, and I will that all my officers remit the tributes even of their cattle. Furthermore I will that all the feasts, and the Sabbaths…shall be all days of immunity and freedom for all the Jews in my realm. Also no man shall have authority to meddle with them, or to molest any of them in any matter” (I Maccabees 10:31, 33-35)
  • “Whereof when the people heard, they said, What thanks shall we give to Simon and his sons? For he and his brethren and the house of his father have established Israel, and chased away in fight their enemies from them, and confirmed their liberty” (I Maccabees 14:25-26)
  • “Then Mattathias answered and spake with a loud voice, Though all the nations that are under the king’s dominion obey him, and fall away every one from the religion of their fathers, and give consent to his commandments: Yet will I and my sons and my brethren walk in the covenant of our fathers. God forbid that we should forsake the law and the ordinances. We will not hearken to the king’s words, to go from our religion, either on the right hand, or the left” (I Maccabees 2:21-22)
  • “So they recovered the law out of the hand of the Gentiles, and out of the hand of kings, neither suffered they the sinner to triumph” (I Maccabees 2:48)
  • “and there it was that he heard the causes of the Jews, and of their governors Hyrcanus and Aristobulus, who were at difference one with another, as also of the nation against them both, which did not desire to be under kingly government, because the form of government they received from their forefathers was that of subjection to the priests of that God whom they worshipped; and [they complained,] that though these two were the posterity of priests, yet did they seek to change the government of their nation to another form, in order to enslave them” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XIV, Chapter 3:2)
  • “Now the occasions of this misery which came upon Jerusalem were Hyrcanus and Aristobulus, by raising a sedition one against the other; for now we lost our liberty, and became subject to the Romans, and were deprived of that country which we had gained by our arms from the Syrians, and were compelled to restore it to the Syrians” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XIV, Chapter 4:5)
  • “and when he had ordained five councils, he distributed the nation into the same number of parts: so these councils governed the people; the first was at Jerusalem, the second at Gadara, the third at Amathus, the fourth at Jericho, and the fifth at Sepphoris, in Galilee. So the Jews were now freed from monarchic authority, and were governed by an aristocracy” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XIV, Chapter 5:4)

Both the Late War (54:13) and the Book of Mormon (Mosiah 23:36) refer to “lives and liberties”. The Apocrypha describes the Jews fighting for “our lives and our laws.”

  • “And one of them said to another, If we all do as our brethren have done, and fight not for our lives and laws against the heathen, they will now quickly root us out of the earth” (I Maccabees 2:40)
  • “They come against us in much pride and iniquity to destroy us, and our wives and children, and to spoil us: But we fight for our lives and our laws” (I Maccabees 3:20-21)

THE CAUSE OF LIBERTY

Both the Late War (24:15) and the Book of Mormon (Alma 51:17) refer to the “cause of liberty.” Josephus also uses this phrase:

  • “For we had arms, and walls, and fortresses so prepared as not to be easily taken, and courage not to be moved by any dangers in the cause of liberty” (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book VII, 8:7)

Both the Late War (54:13) and the Book of Mormon (Mosiah 23:36) use variations of the phrase “life and liberty.” This phrase is also used in Richard Crawley’s translation of Thucydides’ “The History of the Peloponnesian War” written in 431 B.C.:

  • “even if you escape without personal loss of liberty or life, your bondage will be on harsher terms than before, and you will also hinder the liberation of the rest of the Hellenes” (Thucydides, Book V, Chapter XV)

SYMBOL OF LIBERTY

Both the Late War and the Book of Mormon refer to armies flocking to “banners” or “standards” (Late War 6:14/p. 184 2nd edition and Alma 61:6/62:5/46:12, 36). The American flag is essentially the equivalent to the Title of Liberty found in the Book of Mormon. Setting up flags in war, however, is commonly referenced in the Bible:

  • “In the first place went the standard of the camp of the children of Judah according to their armies: and over his host was Nahshon the son of Amminadab” (Numbers 10:14)
  • Set up the standard upon the walls of Babylon, make the watch strong, set up the watchmen, prepare the ambushes” (Jeremiah 51:12)
  • “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him” (Isaiah 59:19)
  • “Declare ye among the nations, and publish, and set up a standard; publish, and conceal not: say, Babylon is taken” (Jeremiah 50:2)

Sun Tzu in “The Art of War” states that banners and flags are used for communication and unite the army into a single body. Sun Tzu also says that an army must be united in a single moral purpose to prevail. The Title of Liberty accomplishes both of these functions:

  • “On the field of battle, the spoken word does not carry far enough: hence the institution of gongs and drums. Nor can ordinary objects be seen clearly enough: hence the institution of banners and flags. Gongs and drums, banners and flags, are means whereby the ears and eyes of the host may be focused on one particular point. The host thus forming a single united body, is it impossible either for the brace to advance alone, or for the cowardly to retreat alone. This is the art of handling large masses of men” (VII:23-25)
  • “He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks” (III:17)
  • “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)

REIGN OF THE JUDGES

See the section on “Liberty and Freedom” and “Freemen vs. Kingmen” since there is much overlap with this section. In the Apocrypha, the Jews fight for freedom from kings and there are factions of Jews who decide to support the heathen kings. The “reign of the judges” bears more similarity with the Bible than the Late War. The Bible and Josephus describe the reign of judges over their districts and Samuel’s disdain for a government ruled by kings:

  • “Make use of the method I suggest to you, as to human affairs; and take a review of the army, and appoint chosen rulers over tens of thousands, and then over thousands; then divide them into five hundreds, and again into hundreds, and into fifties; and set rulers over each of them, who may distinguish them into thirties, and keep them in order; and at last number them by twenties and by tens: and let there be one commander over each number, to be denominated from the number of those over whom they are rulers, but such as the whole multitude have tried, and do approve of, as being good and righteous men; and let those rulers decide the controversies they have one with another. But if any great cause arise, let them bring the cognisance of it before the rulers of a higher dignity; but if any great difficulty arise that is too hard for even their determination, let them send it to thee” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book III, 4:1)
  • “Let there be seven men to judge in every city, and these such as have been before most zealous in the exercise of virtue and righteousness…But if these judges be unable to give a just sentence about the causes that come before them, (which case is not unfrequent in human affairs,) let them send the causes undetermined to the holy city, and there let the high priest, the prophet, and the sanhedrim, determine as it shall seem good to them” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 8:14)
  • he committed the government and the care of the multitude to his sons, –the elder of whom was called Joel, and the name of the younger was Abiah. He also enjoined them to reside and judge the people, the one at the city of Bethel, and the other at Beersheba, and divided the people into districts that should be under the jurisdiction of each of them” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book VI, 3:2)
  • “But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord. And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people…howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them…And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself…And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries…and he will take your fields…And he will take a tenth of your seed” (1 Samuel 8:6-7, 9, 11, 13, 14-15)

COUNTING THE YEARS OF FREEDOM FROM KINGS

The authors argue that there is a parallel between the Late War reckoning their dates from when they declared independence from Britain (1:1/21:8) and the Nephites reckoning their time from the reign of the judges (Alma 1:1). This is not compelling for three reasons. First, a system of judges was used in the Bible (I Samuel 1:1) and is not used in the Late War. Second, the Nephites change the reckoning of their time in several instances. For example, they start by counting how many years have passed since they left Jerusalem (Enos 1:25), then from the beginning of the reign of the judges (Alma 1:1), and then from when the sign of Christ’s birth was given (3 Nephi 2:8). Third, the Bible also calculates time based on when the Israelites were made free from kings:

  • “And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the Lord” (I Kings 6:1)

BRASS PLATES

The authors argue that Joseph Smith got the idea of engraving in metal plates (1 Nephi 19:1) from the Late war (31:33/36:26). The Apocrypha describes writing in brass:

  • So then they wrote it in tables of brass, which they set upon pillars in mount Sion…So they commanded that this writing should be put in tables of brass, and that they should be set up within the compass of the sanctuary in a conspicuous place” (I Maccabees 14:27)

FALSE PROPHETS

The authors argue that a false prophet being “smitten in the mouth, and slain” (35:29) is a parallel to Korihor being struck dumb and trampled to death (Alma 30:50, 59). A much stronger parallel is found in the Apocrypha:

  • “Moreover in the hundred fifty and third year, in the second month, Alcimus commanded that the wall of the inner court of the sanctuary should be pulled down; he pulled down also the works of the prophets. And as he began to pull down, even at that time was Alcimus plagued, and his enterprises hindered: for his mouth was stopped, and he was taken with a palsy, so that he could no more speak any thing, nor give order concerning his house. So alcimus died at that time with great torment” (I Maccabees 9:54-55)

Others are struck dumb or stricken on the mouth in the Bible:

  • “And I will make thy tongue cleave to the roof of thy mouth, that thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be to them a reprove: for they are a rebellious house” (Ezekiel 3:26)
  • “And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season” (Luke 1:20)

FREEMEN VS. KINGMEN

The authors claim that colonizers who supported the king of Britain (3:15-18/38:18) are similar to the king-men who want to be ruled by kings (Alma 51:5, 17). They also point out that Nephites (Alma 51:6/60:25) and the colonizers (51:7/38:26-27/48:12) were referred to as “freemen.” In the Apocrypha, the Jews also had their own version of “king-men,” or those wicked people who decided to make covenants with the Greek king and forsake their religion. The word “freeman” is also used in the Apocrypha and Josephus, and the Israelites ask to be ruled by a king multiple times:

  • “So both Hyrcanus and Phasaelus went on the embassage; but Pacorus left with Herod two hundred horsemen, and ten men, who were called the freemen” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XIV, 13:5)
  • “In those days went there out of Israel wicked men, who persuaded many, saying “Let us go and make a covenant with the heathen that are round about us: for since we departed from them we have had much sorrow. So this device pleased them well. Then certain of the people were so forward herein, that they went to the king, who gave them license to do after the ordinances of the heathen” (I Maccabees 1:11-13)
  • “It maketh the mind of the king and of the fatherless child to be all one; of the bondman and of the freeman, of the poor man and of the rich” (I Esdras 3:19)
  • “But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord. And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people…howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them…And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself…And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries…and he will take your fields…And he will take a tenth of your seed” (1 Samuel 8:6-7, 9, 11, 13, 14-15)

TENDER WOMEN

Both the Late War (21:4, 40-43/35:28) and the Book of Mormon (Mosiah 19:13/Jacob 2:7) refer to women as “tender” and “fair.” Women in the Bible are also described as “fair” and “tender.” In addition, the Book of Mormon uses the phrase “tender and chaste and delicate” which is more similar to Isaiah 47:1, where the women are called “tender and delicate” than it is to the Late War:

  • “Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate” (Isaiah 47:1)
  • “And in all the land were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job” (Job 42:15)
  • “he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon: Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee” (Genesis 12:11-14)

 

 

Does the Book of Mormon Copy Themes of Liberty and Warfare from American History?

Critics of the Book of Mormon often point to similarities between the Nephites’ struggle for freedom from tyranny and the American Revolution as evidence of it being 19th century American fiction. The purpose of this article is to show that similar themes exist in other ancient records such as the Apocrypha and from Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, and that similarities between the Book of Mormon and American history are not sufficient evidence for claiming the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction.

LIBERTY AND FREEDOM

The Nephites in the Book of Mormon are constantly fighting to maintain their liberty to practice their religion and be free from kings (Mosiah 23:36/Alma 46:12. 36/Alma 51:17). While religious and political freedom are both integral to the Book of Mormon and to the founding of the United States, fighting for freedom is a universal and ancient struggle. The King James Version of the Apocrypha is just one ancient source which describes the Jews’ struggle for freedom from kings. In 1 Esdras, the Jews are granted liberty by king Darius to return to Jerusalem and to practice their religion:

  • “Then Darius the king…wrote letters also unto the lieutenants that were in Celosyria and Phenice, and unto them in Libanus, that they should bring cedar wood from Libanus unto Jerusalem, and that they should build the city with him. Moreover he wrote for all the Jews that went out of his realm up into Jewry, concerning their freedom, that no office, no ruler, no lieutenant, nor treasurer, should forcibly enter into their doors; And that all the country which they hold should be free without tribute; and that the Edomites should give over the villages of the Jews which then they held…And other ten talents yearly, to maintain the burnt offerings upon the altar every day…And that all they that went from Babylon to build the city should have free liberty. As well they as their posterity, and all the priests that went away” (I Esdras 4:47-50, 52-53)

 

  • “And they praised the God of their fathers, because he had given them freedom and liberty to go up, and to build Jerusalem, and the temple which is called by his name: and they feasted with instruments and music and gladness seven days” (I Esdras 4:62-63)

In 1 Maccabees, the Jews fight for freedom from Greek kings and the imposition of the Greek religion:

  • “Whereof when the people heard, they said, What thanks shall we give to Simon and his sons? For he and his brethren and the house of his father have established Israel, and chased away in fight their enemies from them, and confirmed their liberty” (I Maccabees 14:25-26)

 

  • “Then Mattathias answered and spake with  a loud voice, Though all the nations that are under the king’s dominion obey him, and fall away every one from the religion of their fathers, and give consent to his commandments: Yet will I and my sons and my brethren walk in the covenant of our fathers. God forbid that we should forsake the law and the ordinances. We will not hearken to the king’s words, to go from our religion, either on the right hand, or the left” (I Maccabees 2:21-22)

 

  • “So they recovered the law out of the hand of the Gentiles, and out of the hand of kings, neither suffered they the sinner to triumph” (I Maccabees 2:48)

 

  • Let Jerusalem also be holy and free, with the borders thereof, both from tenths and tributes…Moreover I freely set at liberty every one of the Jews, that were carried captives out of the land of Judea into any part of my kingdom, and I will that all my officers remit the tributes even of their cattle. Furthermore I will that all the feasts, and the Sabbaths…shall be all days of immunity and freedom for all the Jews in my realm. Also no man shall have authority to meddle with them, or to molest any of them in any matter” (I Maccabees 10:31, 33-35)

Some of the wicked people decide to forsake their religion and join with the heathen kings:

  • “In those days went there out of Israel wicked men, who persuaded many, saying “Let us go and make a covenant with the heathen that are round about us: for since we departed from them we have had much sorrow. So this device pleased them well. Then certain of the people were so forward herein, that they went to the king, who gave them license to do after the ordinances of the heathen” (I Maccabees 1:11-13)

The Old Testament also warns the Israelites of the dangers of having kings as their rulers:

  • “Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: The Lord shall rule over you” (Judges 8:22-23)

 

  • “But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord. And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people…howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them…And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself…And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries…and he will take your fields…And he will take a tenth of your seed” (1 Samuel 8:6-7, 9, 11, 13, 14-15)

Josephus speaks about the liberty and freedom of the Jews frequently:

  • “Let there be seven men to judge in every city, and these such as have been before most zealous in the exercise of virtue and righteousness…But if these judges be unable to give a just sentence about the causes that come before them, (which case is not unfrequent in human affairs,) let them send the causes undetermined to the holy city, and there let the high priest, the prophet, and the sanhedrim, determine as it shall seem good to them” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 4, 8:14)

 

  • he committed the government and the care of the multitude to his sons, –the elder of whom was called Joel, and the name of the younger was Abiah. He also enjoined them to reside and judge the people, the one at the city of Bethel, and the other at Beersheba, and divided the people into districts that should be under the jurisdiction of each of them” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 6, 3:2)

 

  • “and there it was that he heard the causes of the Jews, and of their governors Hyrcanus and Aristobulus, who were at difference one with another, as also of the nation against them both, which did not desire to be under kingly government, because the form of government they received from their forefathers was that of subjection to the priests of that God whom they worshipped; and [they complained,] that though these two were the posterity of priests, yet did they seek to change the government of their nation to another form, in order to enslave them” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 14, 3:2)

 

  • “Accordingly, the Jews have places assigned them in Egypt, wherein they inhabit, besides what is peculiarly allotted to this nation at Alexandria, which is a large part of that city. There is also an ethnarch allowed them, who governs the nation, and distributes justice to them, and takes care of their contracts, and of the laws to them belonging, as if he were the ruler of a free republic” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 14, 7:2)

 

  • “For we had arms, and walls, and fortresses so prepared as not to be easily taken, and courage not to be moved by any dangers in the cause of liberty, which encouraged us all to revolt from the Romans” (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book VII, 8:7)

BATTLES AT FORTS

Readers of history may notice that some battle tactics in the Book of Mormon are reminiscent of warfare used in the War of 1812; specifically, building forts with mounds of earth and digging ditches around them (Alma 48:8/49:2, 4, 18). The records of Flavius Josephus are just one source which suggest that this form of warfare is ancient. He provides many examples of siege warfare which includes building walls, building towers, casting up banks of dirt, and digging trenches around the walls. The besieging forces try to fill up the ditches so they can use their engines of war to pull down the walls of the fort:

  • “Alexander was afraid of him, when he was marching against the Arabians; so he cut a deep trench between Antipatris, which was near the mountains, and the shores of Joppa; he also erected a high wall before the trench, and built wooden towers in order to hinder any sudden approaches; but still he was not able to exclude Antiochus, for he burnt the towers, and filled up the trenches, and marched on with his army” (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 1, Chapter 4, v. 7….On a side note, it is interesting to me how an ancient war strategy was to fill up an enemy’s ditch surrounding their fort, and the Book of Mormon states, in what I think is an example of dark humor, “and instead of filling up their ditches by pulling down the banks of earth, they were filled up in a measure with their dead and wounded bodies” – Alma 49:22)

 

  • “the outward circumference hath the resemblance of a wall, and is adorned with towers at equal distances…The camp, and all that is in it, is encompassed with a wall all round about, and that sooner than one would imagine, and this by the multitude and the skill of the laborers; and, if occasion require, a trench is drawn round the whole, whose depth is four cubits, and its breadth equal” (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book III, Chapter 5, v. 1-2)

 

  • “and when he was come to the city he looked about where he might make his attack; for he saw the walls were so firm that it would be hard to overcome them, and that the valley before the walls was terrible; and that the temple, which was within that valley, was itself encompassed with a very strong wall…But Pompey himself filled up the ditch that was on the north side of the temple, and the entire valley also, the army itself being obliged to carry the materials for that purpose. And indeed it was a hard thing to fill up that valley, by reason of its immense depth, especially as the Jews used all the means possible to repel them from their superior station” (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 1, Chapter 7, v. 1 and 3)

 

  • “As this city was naturally hard to be taken, so had Josephus, by building a wall about it, made it still stronger, as also by ditches and mines underground…And as the legions, according to their usual custom, were fortifying their camp upon that mountain, he began to cast up banks at the bottom, at the part towards the east, where the highest tower of the whole city was, and where the fifteenth legion pitched their camp; while the fifth legion did duty over against the midst of the city, and whilst the tenth legion filled up the ditches and the valleys” (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 4, Chapter 1, v. 2-3)

 

  • “As for those that were within it, no one had the courage to sally out, because those that assaulted them were so numerous; but they distributed themselves into breastworks and turrets, and shot at the besiegers, whereby many of the robbers fell under the walls” (Book 2, 17:7)

Sun Tzu mentions fortifications of walls and ditches in “The Art of War” (Translated by Lionel Giles):

  • “If we wish to fight, the enemy can be forced to an engagement even though he be sheltered behind a high rampart and a deep ditch” (VI:11)

The first Book of Maccabees in the Apocrypha extensively describes siege warfare similar to that found in the Book of Mormon:

  • “Then builded they the city of David with a great and strong wall, and with mighty towers, and made it a strong hold for them. And they put therein a sinful nation, wicked men, and fortified themselves therein” (I Maccabees 1:33-34)

 

  • “he consulted with them about building strong holds in Judea, and making the walls of Jerusalem higher, and raising a great mount between the tower and the city…Upon this they came together to build up the city, forasmuch as part of the wall toward the brook on the east side was fallen down, and they repaired that which was called Caphenatha” (I Maccabees 12:35-37)

 

  • “Then Simon built up the strong holds in Judea, and fenced them about with high towers, and great walls, and gates, and bars, and laid up victuals therein” (I Maccabees 13:33)

 

  • “and gave commandment to pull down the wall round about” (I Maccabees 6:62)

The Bible also describes the besieging of strongholds:

  • “Also he strengthened himself, and built up all the wall that was broken, and raised it up to the towers, and another wall without, and repaired Millo in the city of David, and made darts and shields in abundance” (2 Chronicles 32:5)

 

  • “Hew ye down trees, and cast a mount against Jerusalem” (Jeremiah 6:6)

 

  • “(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)” (2 Corinthians 10:4)

Was the Book of Mormon inspired by “The First Book of Napoleon?”

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.

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.

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)

Should Members of the LDS Church Prosecute Criminals?

The LDS church has recently been the subject of many lawsuits claiming that some church leaders have taken part in the cover up of serious crimes committed by members of their congregations by dealing with serious legal matters exclusively within the church. Some of these lawsuits argue that church leaders and ward members actively discourage victims to prosecute serious crimes “lest they run afoul of church teachings regarding forgiveness” (http://www.journal-news.net/news/local-news/2017/06/lawsuit-against-lds-church-permitted-to-move-forward/). It is my opinion that matters involving crimes committed by members of the church against other members of the church should not be resolved exclusively within church disciplinary councils, but that such persons should be tried in a secular court of law.

Some may believe that pressing charges against another member of the church who has committed a crime may be a sin itself because they assume that legal prosecution and Christ’s teachings of forgiveness are mutually exclusive. This belief is based on scriptures where God commands his followers to forgive all people no matter what they have done (Mosiah 26:31; Matthew 6:14-15; Alma 34:40). These misguided assumptions about forgiveness and the legal system, unfortunately, place the victims of crimes in situations where they are re-victimized in at least four ways (assuming the worst circumstances as outlined in these lawsuits). First, they suffer the pain from the crime itself. Second, they suffer the pain of being taught that it is a sin to have negative feelings against the perpetrator or for desiring justice against the perpetrator. Third, they must sit back and watch while the perpetrator is free to re-victimize, receiving no lasting consequences for their actions. Fourth, victims suffer from the confusion and anger associated with the mixed messages of church leaders being sent to them and to the criminal. They see church leaders preach messages of hope to the criminal, assuring them that they can be forgiven for whatever crimes they commit. The victims, on the other hand, are lectured about how they must forgive the criminal because they can’t be forgiven for their own sins if they do not forgive others first. While these circumstances are rare, the fact that they have occurred even once is unacceptable.

It is my opinion that delivering a criminal to be judged according to the laws of the land is not mutually exclusive to the principles of forgiveness outlined in Christ’s teachings. This is because legal prosecution of crimes is not carried out solely for the victim; it is carried out by government officials based on laws and punishments agreed upon by society. The government, not the victim, is the party who is administering justice and enforcing the laws of the land that have been established.

The government prosecutes crimes and punishes offenders so that society can benefit from deterring future crimes and preventing criminals from committing more crimes. Members of the church who prosecute criminals, therefore, are not seeking personal vengeance and thus negating their capacity to forgive, but are instead fulfilling their responsibility as law-abiding citizens to report crimes to the state so that its citizens can enjoy a more harmonious society. This is separate from principles of forgiveness; a person can see justice administered and yet not forgive the perpetrator, while another person can see the guilty party get away with their crimes and yet forgive them for their actions, recognizing that the justice system is fallible.

If a victim desires, they can also make settlements outside of the law if it is most beneficial for the victim. For example, a victim of theft may find it beneficial to not see the thief thrown into prison if that would mean not receiving restitution payments in a timely manner. I would argue that decisions to prosecute certain crimes are a personal issue for the victim and they have every right to decide whether to press charges. It is my opinion that settlements made outside a court of law, however, should not be based on a false belief that it is contrary to Christ’s teachings to prosecute criminals.

Below are some examples in the Book of Mormon to support these points of view I have described:

  1. Righteous judges and kings in the Book of Mormon were given authority from the people to punish those who broke the laws given to them by God:

“…there should be no wars or contentions, no stealing, nor plundering, nor murdering, nor any manner of iniquity. And whosoever has committed iniquity, him have I [King Mosiah] punished according to the crime which he has committed, according to the law which has been given to us by our fathers” (Mosiah 29:14-15)

“…choose you by the voice of this people, judges, that ye may be judged according to the laws which have been given you by our fathers, which are correct, and which were given them by the hand of the Lord” (Mosiah 29:25)

“And he selected a wise man who was among the elders of the church, and gave him power according to the voice of the people, that he might have power to enact laws according to the laws which had been given, and to put them in force according to the wickedness and the crimes of the people.” (Alma 4:16)

Now if a man owed another, and he would not pay that which he did owe, he was complained of to the judge; and the judge executed authority, and sent forth officers that the man should be brought before him; and he judged the man according to the law and the evidences which were brought against him, and thus the man was compelled to pay that which he owed, or be stripped, or be cast out from among the people as a thief and a robber” (Helaman 11:2)

  1. The law must be enforced because it serves as a deterrent to crime. If there were no punishment for crimes, then people would commit more crimes and society would descend into wickedness. Enforcing the laws creates peace:

“Nevertheless, they durst not lie, if it were known, for fear of the law, for liars were punished; therefore they pretended to preach according to their belief; and now the law could have no power on any man for his belief. And they durst not steal, for fear of the law, for such were punished; neither durst they rob, nor murder, for he that murdered was punished unto death” (Alma 1:17-18; see also Romans 7:7)

“Now, if there was no law given—if a man murdered he should die—would he be afraid he would die if he should murder? And also, if there was no law given against sin men would not be afraid to sin. And if there was no law given, if men sinned what could justice do, or mercy either, for they would have no claim upon the creature” (Alma 42:19-21)

“persecuting, lying, thieving, robbing, committing whoredoms, and murdering, and all manner of wickedness; nevertheless, the law was put in force upon all those who did transgress it, inasmuch as it was possible. And it came to pass that by thus exercising the law upon them, every man suffering according to that which he had done, they became more still, and durst not commit any wickedness if it were known; therefore, there was much peace among the people of Nephi until the fifth year of the reign of the judges” (Alma 1:32-33)

  1. It is wicked to try and prevent justice from being administered to those who are guilty. If criminals are not punished for their crimes, then the sufferings of the righteous will cry out for vengeance against the criminals and those who refused to enforce the law. This principle is described when Alma prosecutes Nehor for slaying Gideon while practicing priestcraft:

“And thou hast shed the blood of a righteous man, yea, a man who has done much good among this people; and were we to spare thee his blood would come upon us for vengeance. Therefore thou art condemned to die, according to the law, which has been given us by Mosiah, our last king; and it has been acknowledged by this people; therefore this people must abide by the law” (Alma 1:13-14)

“[the wicked] having usurped the power and authority of the land; laying aside the commandments of God, and not in the least aright before him; doing no justice unto the children of men; condemning the righteous because of their righteousness; letting the guilty and the wicked go unpunished because of their money” (Helaman 7:4-5)

  1. The law, justice, and punishment are all part of God’s plan for us here on earth. If there were no consequences for our actions, then there would be no purpose for our creation and God would not exist:

“Now, repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be, affixed opposite to the plan of happiness, which was as eternal also as the life of the soul. Now, how could a man repent except he should sin? How could he sin if there was no law? How could there be a law save there was a punishment? Now, there was a punishment affixed, and a just law given…” (Alma 42:16-17)

“And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.” (2 Nephi 2:13)

“We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law” (Articles of Faith #12)

Jacob 5: Phrases, Doctrines, and Metaphors beyond Isaiah 5 and Romans 11

Some dismiss chapter 5 of Jacob as simply a plagiarism of Isaiah 5 and Romans 11. The following is a list of Biblical references in Jacob 5 that are not found in Isaiah 5 or Romans 11. The purpose of this list is to illustrate the complexity of the allegory of the olive tree and how it has a deep foundation in Biblical imagery and doctrine not accounted for in Isaiah 5 or Romans 11, possibly providing evidence of its Semitic roots.

1. Planting trees in a vineyard = Some argue that it makes no sense that the allegory refers to an olive tree in a vineyard, with some attributing the supposed “error” to the mindless plagiarism of Isaiah 5 and Romans 11, and others arguing that this error is due to writer’s fatigue. Planting trees in vineyards, however, has its basis in other Biblical passages.

  • Jacob 5:3 = “a tame olive tree, which a man took and nourished in his vineyard”
  • Luke 13:8 = “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard…”

2. Prune it, dig about it, nourish it, dung it = Had Jacob 5 been a simple plagiarism of Isaiah 5, then it would have only mentioned “pruning” and “digging.” Jacob 5 includes “dunging” and “nourishing,” which are not mentioned in Isaiah 5.

  • Jacob 5:4, 64 = “I will prune it, and dig about it, and nourish it…dig about them, and prune them, and dung them once more…”
  • Isaiah 5:6 = “it shall not be pruned, nor digged…”
  • Luke 13:8 = “till I shall dig about it, and dung it”

3. Shoot forth branches = It is unknown whether or not “shoot forth branches” was part of the vernacular of 19th century farmers, but regardless the phrase is found in various Old and New Testament scriptures.

  • Jacob 5:4 = “that perhaps it may shoot forth young and tender branches”
  • Ezekiel 17:7 = “and shot forth her branches toward him…”
  • Ezekiel 36:8 = “But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel; for they are at hand to come”
  • Luke 21:30 = “when they now shoot forth, ye see and know…”

4. Those who abide in the vine/tree bring much fruit = The Lord of the Vineyard is Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament. Members of the LDS faith believe that Jesus Christ is Jehovah, making the verse in Jacob 5 a direct reference to the words of the Savior in the New Testament.

  • Jacob 5:20 = “this long time have I nourished it, and it hath brought forth much fruit.”
  • John 15:5 = “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit…”

5. Young and tender branches = Once again, it is unknown whether the phrase “young and tender” was part of the vernacular of 19th century farmers, but the phrase is found in its exact form in the Old Testament.

  • Jacob 5:4 = “shoot forth young and tender branches”
  • Matthew 24:32 = “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh”
  • Ezekiel 17:22 = “crop off from the top of his young twigs a tender one…”
  • 1 Chronicles 22:5 = “Solomon my son is young and tender…”

6. Cast withered branches into the fire that they are burned = The wording between these two passages is very similar, including the unusual phrase “into the fire that they may be burned.” Most English writers would simply say “cast into the fire” and omit “that they may be burned” because it would be redundant. This may lend support to the Semitic origins of the Book of Mormon

  • Jacob 5:7 = “branches which are beginning to wither away, and we will cast them into the fire that they may be burned.”
  • John 15:6 = “he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.”

7. The main top begins to perish and will be destroyed= The perishing of the olive tree is a direct reference to prophecies about the scattering of Israel. There is no reference to the perishing of an olive tree in Isaiah 5 or Romans 11.

  • Jacob 5:6-7 = “it began to put forth somewhat a little, young and tender branches; but behold, the main top thereof began to perish…we will pluck off those main branches which are beginning to wither away, and we will cast them into the fire that they may be burned”
  • Jeremiah 2:21 = “Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?”
  • Jeremiah 19:15/20:4 = “I will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words…and I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall carry them captive into Babylon, and shall slay them with the sword”

8. Lord of the vineyard =

  • Jacob 5:8 = “And behold, saith the Lord of the vineyard…”
  • Luke 20:13 = “Then said the Lord of the vineyard…”

9. Lay up against the season = It is unknown if this was common vernacular during the time of Joseph Smith. Regardless, the language is consistent with that of the Bible.

  • Jacob 5:13 = “that I may lay up fruit thereof against the season, unto myself…”
  • 1 Timothy 6:19 = “Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”

10. Good spot of ground/soil =

  • Jacob 5:25 = “Behold, this have I planted in a good spot of ground…”
  • Ezekiel 17:8 = “It was planted in a good soil by great waters, that it might bring forth branches, and that it might bear fruit, that it might be a goodly vine.”

11. Planting tender branches into a new spot of ground =

  • Jacob 5: 24 = “Look hither, and behold another branch also, which I have planted…”
  • Ezekiel 17:22-23 = “I will crop off from the top of his young twigs a tender one, and will plant it upon an high mountain and eminent…and it shall bring forth boughs, and bear fruit…”

12. Spare the tree a little longer =

  • Jacob 5:27, 50 = “Let us prune it, and dig about it, and nourish it a little longer…But behold, the servant said unto the Lord of the vineyard: Spare it a little longer.”
  • Luke 13:8-9 = “Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: and if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.”

13. None of the fruit is good =

  • Jacob 5:32 = “this time it hath brought forth much fruit, and there is none of it which is good.”
  • Psalms 14:3 = “They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”

14. Corrupt trees bring evil fruit =

  • Jacob 5:38-39 = “Let us go down into the nethermost parts of the vineyard, and behold if the natural branches have also brought forth evil fruit… the fruit of the natural branches had become corrupt also; yea, the first and the second and also the last; and they had all become corrupt.”
  • Matthew 7:17, 19 = “Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit…Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire”

15. Trees are hewn down and cast into the fire =

  • Jacob 5:42 = “now all the trees of my vineyard are good for nothing save it be to be hewn down and cast into the fire.”
  • Matthew 3:10 = “every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.”

16. Cut down that which cumbers the ground =

  • Jacob 5:44 = “I also cut down that which cumbered this spot of ground, that I might plant this tree in the stead thereof.”
  • Luke 13:7 = “Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?”

17. Stretched forth my hand all the day long =

  • Jacob 5:47 = “Have I slackened mine hand, that I have not nourished it? Nay, I have nourished it, and I have digged about it, and I have pruned it, and I have dunged it; and I have stretched forth mine hand almost all the day long, and the end draweth nigh.”
  • Isaiah 65:2 = “I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts.”
  • Romans 10:20-21 = “But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me. But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people”

18. Loftiness of the vineyard = Loftiness in the Bible is associated with pride. Isaiah 5 and Romans 11 mention nothing of the height of the tree nor that the loftiness of the tree overpowers the roots.

  • Jacob 5:48 = “Is it not the loftiness of thy vineyard—have not the branches thereof overcome the roots which are good?”
  • Isaiah 2:12, 17 = “For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty…and the loftiness of man shall be bowed down…”
  • Ezekiel 31:10-11 = (Note: This is a prophecy referring to the fall of Egypt. However, the metaphor is similar to that in Jacob 5) “Because thou hast lifted up thyself in height, and he hath shot up his top among the thick boughs, and his heart is lifted up in his height; I have therefore delivered him into the hand of the mighty one of the heathen; he shall surely deal with him: I have driven him out for his wickedness”

19. Labor with our might =

  • Jacob 5:61 = “that we may labor diligently with our might in the vineyard…”
  • Ecclesiastes 9:9-10 = “and in thy labor which thou takest under the sun. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might…”

20. Prepare the way = This is a clever use the phrase “prepare the way.” In preparing the way for the good fruit to grow, the writer also refers to prophecies of Isaiah.

  • Jacob 5:61, 64 = “labor diligently with our might in the vineyard, that we may prepare the way, that I may bring forth again the natural fruit…prepare the way for them, that they may grow”
  • Isaiah 40:3 = “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God”
  • Matthew 3:3 = “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”

21. First shall be last; last shall be first =

  • Jacob 5:63 = “Graft in the branches; begin at the last that they may be first, and that the first may be last…”
  • Matthew 19:30 = “But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.”

22. Let good and bad grow together = This similarity is particularly interesting because it shows two parables referring to different dilemmas (olive trees producing evil fruits vs. a wheat field being infested with tares) and yet teach the same doctrine about good and evil in the last days.

  • Jacob 5:65 = “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 thereof all at once, lest the roots thereof should be too strong for the graft…”
  • Matthew 13:28-30 = “The servants said unto him; Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? 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…”

23. They shall be one =

  • Jacob 5:68 = “That they shall bring forth the natural fruit, and they shall be one.”
  • John 17:11 = “that they may be one, as we are.”

24. The laborers are few =

  • Jacob 5:70 = “And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard sent his servant; and the servant went and did as the Lord had commanded him, and brought other servants; and they were few.”
  • Matthew 9:37 = “Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his vineyard”

25. They will be one body =

  • Jacob 5:74 = “the trees had become again the natural fruit; and they became like unto one body…”
  • I Corinthians 12:13 = “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles…”

26. The fruits were equal =

  • Jacob 5:74 = “and they became like unto one body; and the fruits were equal…”
  • Matthew 20:12 = “These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us…”

27. Satan will be bound but will return for a short time =

  • Jacob 5:76-77 = “For behold, for a long time will I lay up of the fruit of my vineyard unto mine own self against the season, which speedily cometh…And when the time cometh that evil fruit shall again come into my vineyard, then will I cause the good and the bad to be gathered…and my vineyard will I cause to be burned with fire.”
  • Revelation 20:2-3 = “And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled; and after that he must be loosed a little season”

28. Good and evil will be separated in the last days =

  • Jacob 5:77 = “then will I cause the good and the bad to be gathered; and the good will I preserve unto myself, and the bad will I cast away into its own place. And then cometh the season and the end”
  • Matthew 25:32 = “And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats”

29. The evil are cast away to their own place =

  • Jacob 5:77 = “and the good will I preserve unto myself, and the bad will I cast away into its own place.”
  • Acts 1:25 = “from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.”

Comparing Isaiah and the Book of Mormon (Part 2)

The following is a list of differences between chapters of Isaiah found in the Herald Heritage Reprint (1973) of the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon (BOM) and the King James version (KJV) of the Bible. The list will include comparisons between”Second Book of Nephi: Chapter 5″ (2 Nephi 6:16-18/7-8) and Isaiah 49:24-26/50-51/52:1-2.

Text that is found in the BOM but not in the KJVwill be bolded, underlined and italicized. Text that was excluded from the BOM that was found in the KJV will have a line through it.

“Second Book of Nephi: Chapter 5” (2 Nephi 6:16-18) and Isaiah 49:24-26

24 (Isaiah). “For shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered?”

25. “But thus saith the Lord: Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for the Mighty God shall deliver his covenant people. For thus saith the Lord: I will contend with them him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children.

“Second Book of Nephi: Chapter 5” (2 Nephi 7) and Isaiah 50

1. Yea, for thus saith the Lord: Have I put thee away, or have I cast thee off forever? For thus saith the Lord: Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement? To whom have I put thee away, or to which of my creditors is it to whom I have have I sold you? Yea, to whom have I sold you?…”

2. “wherefore, when I come came, there was was there no man?; when I called, yea, there was was there none to answer?

3. “O House of Israel, is my hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem, or have I no power to deliver? Behold, at my rebuke, I dry up the sea, I make their rivers a wilderness and their fish to stink stinketh, because the waters are dried up there is no water; and they die because of for thirst.”

4. “The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season unto thee, O House of Israel. When ye are to him that is weary, he waketh morning by morning…”

5. “The Lord God hath appointed opened (it is changed back to “opened” in later editions) mine ear, and I was not rebellious…”

8. “And the Lord He is near, and he that justifieth me. Who will contend with me? Let us stand together. Who is mine adversary? Let him come near to me, and I will smite him with the strength of my mouth…”

9. “For Behold, the Lord God will help me. And all they which who is he that shall condemn me?, behold lo, all they they all shall wax old as a garment, and the moth shall eat them up.”

10. “Who is among you that feareth the Lord; that obeyeth the voice of his servent; that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.

11. “…walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks which that ye have kindled…”

“Second Book of Nephi: Chapter 5” (2 Nephi 78) and Isaiah 51-52:1-2

1. “Hearken unto me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord: Look unto the rock from whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit from whence ye are digged.”

2. “Look unto Abraham, your father; and unto Sarah, she that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.

4. “…and I will make my judgment to rest for a light thing (deleted in later editions) of the people.”

7. “Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart I have written is my law…”

8. “Awake, awake, put on strength O arm of the Lord: awake as in the ancient days, in the generations of old…”

11. “…and come singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy and holiness shall be upon their heads; and they shall obtain gladness and joy: and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.”

12. “I am he; yea, I even I am he that comforteth you: Behold, who art thou, that thou shouldst be afraid of a man which that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made like unto as grass;”

15. “But I am the Lord thy God, that divided the sea, whose waves roared: the Lord of Hosts is my his name.”

16. “And I have put my words in thy mouth, and I have hath covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Behold, thou art my people.”

17. “…thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling, and wrung them out;”

18. “and There is none to guide her among all the sons whom she hath brought forth; neither is there any that taketh her by the hand, of all the sons that she hath brought up.”

19. “These two sons things are come unto thee; who shall be sorry for thee? thy desolation and destruction, and the famine and the sword: And by whom shall I comfort thee?”

20. “Thy sons have fainted, save these two: they lie at the head of all the streets…”

21. “Therefore hear now this, thou afflicted, and drunken, and but not with wine…”

22. “Thus saith thy Lord, the Lord and thy God that pleadeth the cause of his people, Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of my fury…”

23. “But I will put it into the hand of them that afflict thee; which I have said to thy soul, Bow down, that we may go over…”

Isaiah 52: 2 “Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem…”