Does the Book of Mormon Plagiarize the Bible?

Critics argue that the large number of similarities between the Book of Mormon and the Bible suggest that Joseph Smith is guilty of plagiarism. While the characters in the Book of Mormon often give credit to the Biblical authors they are quoting (see 1 Nephi 20-21/2 Nephi 7-8/Mosiah 14/3 Nephi 12-14, 22, 24-25), there are other instances where it seems significant sections of the Bible are borrowed by Book of Mormon characters without citing the original authors (see Moroni 10:8-23/Ether 12/Moroni 7:44-46/Alma 13:14-20). There are many explanations justifying the existence of Biblical passages in the Book of Mormon (click here for my take). The most common arguments are that the Holy Spirit and ministering angels are capable of revealing the same doctrines to people separated across time and location (2 Nephi 29:7-8/Alma 39:17-19), or that the Book of Mormon and the Bible are both citing from earlier source material that has been lost over time (1 Nephi 13:23-27/Jacob 5).

Regardless of how authors in the Book of Mormon were able to write passages similar to passages in the Bible, it should be acknowledged that citing another author’s work without giving credit to the original author (plagiarism) is common in the Bible. It is therefore unjustified to fault the Book of Mormon for borrowed concepts without also condemning the Biblical prophets for the same actions.

Here are just a few examples in the Old and New Testaments of prophets plagiarizing each other’s writings:

  1. Armor of righteousness = (Isaiah 59:17)/(Ephesians 6:13-17)/(II Corinthians 6:7)
  2. As sheep having no shepherd = (Matthew 9:36)/(Numbers 27:17)
  3. Babylon is fallen = (Revelation 14:8)/(Isaiah 21:9)
  4. Blot out their iniquities = (Psalm 51:9)/(Isaiah 43:25)
  5. Blot out their name in the book of life = (Psalms 69:28)/(Revelation 3:5)
  6. Both soul and body = (Isaiah 10:18)/(Matthew 10:28)
  7. Days are as a flowers of grass in the field = (Psalm 103:15-16)/(James 1:10)/(1 Peter 1:24)
  8. Day of vengeance = (Luke 21:22)/(Jeremiah 46:10)/(Isaiah 61:2)
  9. Eat, drink, be merry; tomorrow we die = (I Corinthians 15:32)/(Isaiah 22:13)
  10. Fear not what man can do = (Hebrews 13:6)/(Psalms 118:6)
  11. Feet on the mountains who publish peace = (Nahum 1:15)/(Isaiah 52:7)
  12. Feet like brass = (Revelation 1:15)/(Ezekiel 1:7)
  13. Fountain of living waters = (Revelation 7:17)/(Jeremiah 2:13)/(Psalm 36:9)
  14. Give his life a ransom = (Mark 10:45)/(1 Timothy 2:6)/(Isaiah 35:10)/(Jeremiah 31:11)/(Hosea 13:14)
  15. God is a consuming fire = (Hebrews 12:29)/(Deuteronomy 4:24)
  16. God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob = (Acts 3:13)/(Exodus 3:15)
  17. Heaven, earth, and all that in them is = (Acts 4:24)/(Exodus 20:11)
  18. Heaven is the Lord’s throne, and the earth is his footstool = (Matthew 5:34-35)/(Isaiah 66:1)
  19. Heaven rolled together as a scroll = (Isaiah 34:4)/(Revelation 6:14)
  20. Lamb to the slaughter = (Jeremiah 11:19)/(Psalms 44:22)/(Isaiah 53:7)
  21. Light to the Gentiles = (Isaiah 49:6)/(Acts 13:47)
  22. Make intercession = (Jeremiah 27:18)/(Isaiah 53:12)/(Hebrews 7:25)
  23. Mark the righteous on their foreheads = (Ezekiel 9:4)/(Revelation 7:3)
  24. Marvelous are thy works = (Psalms 139:14)/(Revelation 15:3)
  25. Meek will inherit the earth = (Matthew 5:5)/(Psalm 37:11)
  26. Mercy endureth forever = (Jeremiah 33:11)/(Psalms 106:1)
  27. Mountains, fall on us = (Hosea 10:8)/(Luke 23:30)
  28. New name = (Isaiah 62:2)/(Revelation 2:17)
  29. New heaven and new earth = (Isaiah 65:17/66:22)/(Revelation 21:1)/(2 Peter 3:13)
  30. No respect of persons = (1 Peter 1:17)/(2 Chronicles 19:7)
  31. One heart = (Jeremiah 32:39)/(Ezekiel 11:19)/(Acts 4:32)
  32. Perverse and crooked generation/nation = (Deut 32:5)/(Phil 2:15)
  33. Rock of his salvation = (Deuteronomy 32:15)/(Psalm 95:1)
  34. Rod of iron = (Psalms 2:9)/(Revelation 2:27)
  35. Seeing they see not, hearing they hear not = (Jeremiah 5:21)/(Matthew 13:13)/(Ezekiel 12:2)
  36. Signs and wonders = (Deuteronomy 28:46)/(Hebrews 2:4)
  37. Sing a new song = (Revelation 14:3)/(Psalms 144:9)
  38. Sow among thorns = (Matthew 13:7)/(Jeremiah 4:3)
  39. Sun and moon refuse to shine = (Isaiah 13:10)/(Matthew 24:29)
  40. Table of thy heart = (Proverbs 7:3)/(2 Corinthians 3:3)
  41. Tree of life = (Revelation 2:7)/(Proverbs 3:18)
  42. Triest the hearts and reins = (Psalm 7:9)/(Jeremiah 11:20/20:12)/(Revelation 2:23)
  43. Uncircumcised of heart = (Jeremiah 9:26)/(Ezekiel 44:7)/(Acts 7:51)
  44. Imagination of the heart = (Romans 1:21)/(Jeremiah 13:10)
  45. Wax old like a garment = (Psalms 102:26)/(Isaiah 50:9)/(Hebrews 1:11)
  46. Voice sounded like great waters = (Ezekiel 1:24)/(Revelation 1:15)

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)

Further Arguments Against View of the Hebrews as Source Material for the Book of Mormon

Most of what is used as evidence in “View of the Hebrews” (VOTH) is not new material. Ethan Smith bases almost all of his assertions off of previously published materials. A list of cited authors can be found just after the table of contents on page 6. There are at least 48 authors who are cited thoughout VOTH, and many more not included in the table of contents. The point of listing all of these outside sources cited by Ethan Smith is to show that it is extremely difficult to suggest that Joseph Smith used VOTH as a source of inspiration for writing the Book of Mormon (BOM). If VOTH never existed, it could still be argued that Joseph Smith borrowed ideas from any of the other 40+ sources cited in VOTH. Once multiple source materials show that the same ideas and information have been circulated for decades, then the argument that any one document served as inspiration for another work of literature falls apart. I will be referring to the VOTH found in http://www.thechristianidentityforum.net/downloads/View-America.pdf

Below is a list of authors cited in VOTH. This list is found after the table of contents. Many of these authors argue that the Native Americans are the lost ten tribes of Israel, and many of these authors provide evidence of Hebrew origins found in Native American traditions:

“Adair, 80,84,88,89,92,95,98.

Archaelogia Americana, page

Bartram, 113,123-125.

Beatty, 96,98,116,119.

Boudinot, 87,91,93,96,98,100.

Buttrick , 130.

Carver, 123,154.

Casas, 176.

Chapman, 123,157.

Charlevoix, 85,174.

Clavigero, 116.

Colden, 94,109.

Columbus, 132.

Commissioners, 137.

Cushman, 105,174.

Dodge & Blight, 104. 174, 175.

Don Alonzo de Erici lla, 158.

Edwards, 86,89,162.

Esdras, 74.

Frey , 118.

Giddings, 88,102.

Gook in, 107.

Hebard, 101. 154.

Heckewelder, 107. Some of his

arguments, 147-

Herman, 140. 112,116,121,123.

Humboldt, 177.

Hunter, 162 188.

Hutchinson, 93,174.

Immanuel de M oraez, 97.

Jarvis, 79,116,120,123-125,133,134.

Lewis & Clark, 106,124.

Long, 141,160.

M’ Kenzie, 97,114,115, 138.

Mather, 127.

Melverda & Acasta, 162.

Morse, 91,126,142.

Occum, 106.

Pedro de Cicca, 88.

Penn, 107,174.

Pixley, 111,113,130.

Pratz, 87,175.

Robertson, 153.

Sauard, 92.

Schoolcraft, 145.

Smith, (C ol.) 117,126,134,136.

Ulloa, 83.

Williams, (Roger) 107

Williams, 88,101,110,114”

To gain a better understanding of just how heavily Ethan Smith relies on previously published works, here are just a few examples of how he cites other works in VOTH:

“Manasses Ben Israel, in a work entitled “The Hope of Israel,” has written to show that the American Indians are the ten tribes of Israel.” (p. 33) [p. 81]

“The main pillar of his evidence is James Adair, Esq. Mr. Adair was a man of established character, as appears from good authority. He lived a trader among the Indians, in the south of North America, for forty years. He left them and returned to England in 1774, and there published his “History of the American Indians;” and his reason for being persuaded that they are the ten tribes of Israel.” (p. 33)

“Mr. Adair gives his opinion that the ten tribes, soon after their banishment from the land of Israel, left Media, and reached this continent from the north-west, probably before the carrying away of the Jews of Babylon.” (p. 33) [p. 81]

“In the “Star in the West,” published by the Hon. Elias Boudinot, LL. D. upon this subject, that venerable man says; “The writer of these sheets has made a free use of Mr. Adair’s history of the Indians; which renders it necessary that something further should be said of him. Sometime about the year 1774, Mr. Adair came to Elizabethtown, (where the writer lived,) with his manuscript…” (P. 34) [p. 84]

“Mr. Adair expresses the same opinion; and the Indians have their tradition, that in the nation from which they originally came, all were one colour” (p. 36) [p. 88]

“Du Pratz says, in his history of Louisiania [sic], “The nations of North America derived their origin from the same country, since at bottom they all have the same manners and usages, and the same manner of speaking and thinking.” (p. 36) [p. 88]

“In the course of their remarks they add; ‘To the testimonies here adduced by Doctor Jarvis, (i.e. that the Indians are the ten tribes of Israel,) might have been added several of our New England historians, from the first settlement of the country.’ Some they proceed to mention; and then add, that the Rev. Messrs. Samuel Sewall, fellow of Harvard College, and Samuel Willard, vice president of the same, were of opinion, that “the Indians are the descendants of Israel.” Doct. Jarvis notes this as an hypothesis, which has been a favorite topic with European writers; and as a subject, to which it is hoped the Americans may be said to be waking up at last.” (p. 32) [p. 80-81]

“Doctor Williams, in his history of Vermont says; ‘In whatever manner this part of the earth was peopled, the Indians appear to have been the most ancient, or the original men of America. They had spread over the whole continent, from the fiftieth degree of north latitude, to the southern extremity of Cape Horn. And these men every w here appeared to be the same race or kind of people. In every part of the continent, the Indians marked with a similarity of colour, features, and every circumstance of external appearance. Pedro de Cicca de Leon, one of the conquerors of Peru, and who had travelled [sic] through many provinces of America, says of the Indians; ‘The people, men and women, although there are such a multitude of tribes or nations, in such diversities of climates, appear nevertheless like the children of one father and mother.’” (p. 36) [p. 88-89]

“Their language appears clearly to be Hebrew. In this, Doctor Edwards, Mr. Adair, and others were agreed. Doctor Edwards, after having a good acquaintance with their language, gave his reasons for believing it to have been originally Hebrew. Both, he remarks, are found without prepositions, and are formed with prefixes and suffixes; a thing probably known to no other language” (p. 36) [p. 89]

“Mr. Faber remarks; “They (the Indians) call the lightning and thunder, Eloha; and its rumbling, Rowah, which may not improperly be deduced from the Hebrew word Ruach, a name of the third person of the Holy Trinity, originally signifying, the air in motion , or a rushing wind.” Who can doubt but their name of thunder, Eloha, is derived from a Hebrew name of God, Elohim?” (p. 38) [p. 93]

“Bartram informs; ‘We arrived at the Apalachnela town, in the Creek nation. This is esteemed the mother town sacred to peace. No captives are put to death, nor human blood spilt here.’” (p. 46) [p. 113]

“In the Archaeologia Americana, containing Transaction s and Collections of the American Antiquarian Society,’ published at Worcester, Mass. in 1820; are found antiquities of the people who formerly inhabited the western part of the United States.’ Of some of these I shall give a concise view, as additional arguments in favour of my theory…” (p. 76) [p. 188-189]

“The celebrated William Penn gives accounts of the natives of Pennsylvania, which go to corroborate the same point. Mr. Penn saw the Indians of Pennsylvania, before they had been affected with the rude treatment of the white people. And in a letter to a friend in England he thus writes of those natives; ‘I found them with like countenances with the Hebrew race; and their children of so lively a resemblance to them, that a man would think himself in Duke’s place, or Barry street in London, when he sees them.’” (p. 44) [p. 108]

There are many more authors and citations that I could list, but a brief perusal of VOTH by the reader would provide evidence enough that VOTH is hardly the first nor the last publication to provide information that is vaguely similar to the BOM. This is important information for believers of the Book of Mormon because it shows that broad parallels can be drawn between many different works of literature, and yet two works with somewhat similar (and contradictory) assertions can exist together coincidentally.

Biblical Support for LDS doctrine of “Deification”

I have often heard from critics that the doctrine of “deification,” or the idea that faithful followers of Christ will become like God, is blasphemous and the invention of prideful zealots. For many Christians, this is one of the biggest points of contention with the LDS faith. I would like to appeal to the Bible to argue that this doctrine is not unbelievable or blasphemous. The following argument is not meant to provide irrefutable proof of LDS doctrine, but to show that the Bible is often unclear about humankind’s potential, and that the LDS doctrine of deification is not an impossible interpretation of the Bible. Critics and members of the LDS faith have very different understandings of deification. Critics tend to interpret the doctrine of deification as blasphemy against God (because there is only one God, the greatest of all) and that it shows that prideful members of the LDS faith lust for God-like power in the afterlife. LDS members, however, believe than an all-loving God wants us to become like Him, bless us with all that He has, and allow us to experience the joy He experiences. While I agree that the Bible does not clearly or explicitly state that mortal men and women can achieve god-like status (otherwise there would be no debate), I would like to present the following argument based on New Testament scriptures from the KJV Bible to support this LDS doctrine. I will not argue that the Bible says that “we will become gods,” (an oversimplified phrase often used by critics), but that the Bible suggests that we can be like God if we follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.

  1. We must obey all of the commandments of God the Father and Jesus Christ

a) “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” –               Matthew 5:19

b) “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” –John 14:15

2.  Jesus commanded that we must be perfect

a) “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” –Matthew 5:48

3.   We can be made perfect through Jesus Christ

a) “Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ        Jesus.” –Colossians 1:28

b) “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” -1 John 3:3

4.   Those who are perfect will be like the master

a) “The disciple is not above his master; but every one that is perfect shall be as his master” –Luke 6:40

b) “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” -1 John 3:2-3

We must obey the commandments. One of these commandments is to be perfect like God. All can be made perfect through Christ. Those who are perfect shall be as God.

Therefore, we can be like God.

Exaggerated Similarities between View of the Hebrews and The Book of Mormon (Part I)

The View of the Hebrews is a rather thin volume written by the minister Ethan Smith, and was first published in 1823, with a subsequent re-release in 1825 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/View_of_the_Hebrews). It is written in an essay format and sets out to prove that the Native Americans are descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. He attempts to prove this by making a case for the Ten Tribe’s literal outcast state and subsequent restoration by appealing to the Bible. In addition, the book is comprised of the experiences of several individuals and institutions who had close contact with Native Americans and argue that their traditions are remarkably similar to Hebrew traditions. There are those who claim that because of the extensive similarities between the Book of Mormon and View of the Hebrews, that Joseph Smith must have used View of the Hebrews as inspiration for inventing the story of the Book of Mormon. I will set out to prove that the similarities between the two works are exaggerated and details are often contradictory. For the meantime, I will assume that the reader has a basic understanding of what is contained in both The View of the Hebrews (VOTH) and the Book of Mormon (BOM). For Part I of my study of the similarities between the BOM and VOTH, I would like to provide a summary of several differences between the two works. A more in-depth analysis of each of the supposed similarities between the two works will follow in future posts.

A summary of major differences:

  1. VOTH claims that the Native Americans are the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel, whereas the Book of Mormon claims they are descendants of Joseph living in Jerusalem after the scattering of the ten tribes. (see http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1082&index=10&keyword=view%20of%20the%20hebrews)
  2. VOTH claims that the Ten Tribes were taken out of the Land of Canaan by the Assyrians in 725 B.C. and these Ten Tribes are the ancestors of the Native Americans. The BOM claims that those who came to the Americas came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C. to avoid the destruction caused by the Babylonians. In addition, the Book of Mormon argues that a separate group of people came to the Americas shortly after the confounding of languages at the Tower of Babel.
  3. VOTH claims that the Ten Tribes came to the Americas by way of the Bering Strait, whereas the BOM asserts that they came by boat through the Arabian Sea.
  4. VOTH claims that the Ten Tribes of Israel were led to the Americas for their wickedness, while the BOM says that those who are led to the Americas are led for their righteousness.
  5. VOTH claims that those who came to the Americas traveled in a north-east direction from Canaan. The BOM states that Lehi’s family traveled in a south-east direction from Jerusalem.
  6. VOTH claims that Ten Tribes traveled from a frozen land. The BOM claims that Lehi’s family left from “Bountiful,” a land of wild honey and fruit.
  7. VOTH claims that the legend of Quetzalquatl is based on the Ten Tribes’ early traditions and experiences of Moses as their lawgiver, over 900 years before being taken from Canaan. The BOM claims that Jesus Christ came to the Americas in 34 A.D.
  8. VOTH claims that the tradition of the Urim and Thummim can be found in Native American breastplates made of conch shells, elk beads and straps of otter skin. The BOM never once mentions the name “Urim and Thummim” nor does it describe a breast plate.
  9. VOTH claims that Native Americans kept sacred items in bags or boxes like the Ark of the Covenant. The BOM never mentions the Ark of the Covenant or its likeness.
  10. VOTH claims that the Natives would bring this “ark of the covenant” with them every time they went to war. The peoples in the BOM never do anything like this.
  11. VOTH speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by the Romans to show Christ’s prophecies being fulfilled about Jerusalem’s destruction. The BOM speaks of Lehi escaping the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians just after 600 B.C.
  12. VOTH claims that the Native Americans lost the word of God according to the prophecy of Amos 7:11,12. The BOM asserts that Nephites had the Bible and preached the Law of Moses and Christianity.
  13. VOTH claims that there may be evidence of Phylacteries like those used in Jerusalem in the Americas, and they were written in Hebrew. The BOM argues that the Brass Plates and the Golden Plates contained the fullness of the Gospel and were written in “reformed Egyptian.”
  14. VOTH claims that the Native Americans became savage and wicked because Providence was punishing them for the idolatry of the Ten Tribes of Israel. The BOM claims that the savage Native Americans (Lamanites) rebelled against God and were jealous that their younger brother Nephi was a ruler over them. They would serve as a way to stir up the Nephites to remembrance of the Lord.
  15. VOTH claims that the Americas were uninhabited since the great flood. The BOM argues that the Americas were inhabited by the Jaredites after the confounding of languages at the Tower of Babel.
  16. VOTH describes animals known to Native Americans, such as the buffalo, deer, porcupine, rattlesnake, bear, otter, beaver, elk, etc. The BOM, instead, references animals such as horses, cattle, sheep, goats, cureloms, cumoms, and elephants.
  17. VOTH claims that the ancient Israelites could have built the pyramids found in the Americas today. The BOM never mentions pyramids.
  18. VOTH claims that the Native Americans commonly use the word “Hallelujah,” a Hebrew word. The BOM uses the word “Hosanna” instead, on three occasions.
  19. VOTH claims that when grieving the Native Americans will touch their hands to their mouths, then their mouths to the ground. “It is well known that laying the hand on the mouth, and the mouth in the dust, is a distinguished Hebraism.” The BOM never mentions this Hebraism.
  20. VOTH asserts that the Native Americans abstain from matrimonial intercourse three days prior to going to war. The BOM never mentions this Hebraism.
  21. VOTH asserts that several Indian words are similar to Hebrew words, and the comparisons are presented in table format. The BOM never mentions these words or their likeness.
  22. VOTH asserts that like the Hebrews, the Native Americans have cities of refuge where blood cannot be spilt. The BOM never mentions cities of refuge or their likeness.
  23. VOTH asserts that Native Americans hold certain tribes in reverence like the Tribe of Levi. This is not found in the BOM and Levi is only mentioned in 3 Nephi 24:3 when Jesus quotes Malachi 3.
  24. VOTH asserts that the Native Americans believe the name of God is “Yohewah, Aleh, or Yah.” The BOM never mentions these words.
  25. VOTH says that the Native Americans must appear three times annually at the temples. The BOM never mentions this.
  26. VOTH says the Native Americans purified themselves with bitter vegetables. The BOM never mentions this.
  27. VOTH says that the Native Americans separated their women. The BOM never mentions this Hebraism.
  28. VOTH says that an old Jewish Phylactery was written on dark yellow “leaves” of parchment, preserved much like ancient Arabian parchment. The BOM argues that parchment must decay, so they wrote on plates (or leaves, described by Joseph Smith) of gold and brass.
  29. VOTH asserts that the Natives believe they had a book of “the old divine speech” (which was Hebrew). The BOM asserts that the Brass Plates, a sacred book like the Bible, was written in reformed Egyptian and not the “divine speech.”

An Examination of the Textual Changes in the Book of Mormon

The purpose of this post is to show that even though there seems to be a high number of textual changes to the Book of Mormon since its first publication in 1830, most of the changes are minor and do not suggest a sort of conspiracy by the leadership of the church to clean up gross errors in Joseph Smith’s invention of the Book of Mormon. I also will show how the changes to the Book of Mormon can help in strengthening the faith of those who believe the Book of Mormon to be an ancient record translated by Joseph Smith.

First, it is no secret that the original 1830 version of the Book of Mormon is structurally different than the version used today. The 1830 version reads in paragraph form and is not broken up into verses. The chapters are also numbered differently than in today’s version. The version I will be comparing the 1830 version (Palmyra, New York 1830, replica versionto is the 1981 edition of the Book of Mormon published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Intellectual Reserve, Inc). This is not a complete examination of all of the changes in the Book of Mormon, but they are some of the most common changes. There is a difference between changes in spelling and textual changes. I will not be examining changes in the spelling of individual words, because spelling errors do not challenge the veracity of the Book of Mormon. I will be focusing on textual changes, in which an entire word has been changed. In the end, I am attempting to show that most of the textual changes are grammatical in nature and do not affect the veracity of the Book of Mormon.

Here is a summary of many of the changes found throughout the Book of Mormon:

1. Changing “Saith” to “Said”= Many times the Book of Mormon, when referring to someone speaking in the past tense, says “saith” in the present tense. This is found throughout the Book of Mormon. An example of this is found in Jacob 5, the Parable of the Olive Tree, where the word “saith” has been changed to “said” twenty eight times. The 1830 version, for instance, says “And the Lord of the vineyard saith unto the servant”, while verse 57 in today’s version changes it to “said”.

2. Changing “which” to “who” and “whom”= The 1830 version of the Book of Mormon seems to prefer using “which” rather than using “who” and “whom” to refer to individual or groups of people. Examples of this can be found in 1 Nephi 14:12, with sentences such as “the whore which sat upon the waters” and “which were the saints of God” and “the great whore which I saw.” They have since been changed to “the whore who sat” and “who were the saints” and “whore whom I saw.”

3. Removing “that”= Throughout the 1830 version that are many instances where “that” is used superfluously, at least in modern day english. It usually occurs following the word “after” in phrases such as “For behold, after that they”…Some examples of this include 1 Nephi 4:20 which states “and after that I had done this,” while the 1981 edition removes “that”.

It is also found in verse five “And after that they had hidden themselves,” and “they should do after that I was gone” (1 Nephi 19:4),”And since that they had been led away” (1 Nephi 22:5), and “for after that I had made an abridgment” (Words of Mormon 3).

4. Changing “hath” and “doth” to “has,” “have,” and “do”= The Book of Mormon tries and mimic the English of the King James version of the Bible, but often does so unsuccessfully. This supports the idea that Joseph Smith had his own influence in the translation process, rather than simply receiving the translation from reformed Egyptian directly to English from the Spirit. The 1830 version prefers words like “hath” and “doth”, and these have been changed in the 1981 version to make it more grammatically correct. Some examples of the 1830 version include: “For I, Nephi, hath seen it” (2 Nephi 26:7), “forever and ever and hath no end” (2 Nephi 9:16) to “For I, Nephi, have seen it” and “forever and ever and has no end”

5. Changing “had ought” to just “ought”= (Alma 1:1)

6. Adding “the Son of God”= This is often used by critics of the Book of Mormon to claim that Joseph Smith originally believed that God and Jesus were the same being, just as do traditional Christians, but then he changed his doctrine after the founding of the church. In 1 Nephi 11:18,21,32, the phrase “Son of the” has been added to the original text. In verse 18 it states “the mother of the Son of God,” whereas the 1830 version just says “the mother of God.” In verse 21 it states “the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!” whereas the 1830 version says “even the Eternal Father.” In verse 32 it states “yea, the Son of the everlasting God was judged.” The phrase has also been added in 1 Nephi 13:40, which reads “the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father.” However, neither the original reading nor the changed reading have any effect on the doctrine of the church. The phrase “son of” was added for clarification, not because the doctrine in these passages is inconsistent. There are many instances in the 1830 version of the Book of Mormon where “the Son of God” is used, such as 1 Nephi 10:17 which says “which power he received by faith on the Son of God–and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come.” Another example is 2 Nephi 25:19 which says “according to the words of the prophets, and also according to the word of the angel of God, his name shall be Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

The main problem is that the doctrine of the Godhead is confusing even for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Book of Mormon identifying Jesus as God is consistent with many Biblical passages, showing that the language of the Book of Mormon describing the Godhead is consistent with the Bible. We believe that the Godhead are three separate beings, but both the Bible and the Book of Mormon use the terms “Eternal Father,” “God,” and “Creator” interchangeably for “Jesus Christ” and “God the Father.” In Mosiah 15:3,4 it argues that Jesus Christ the Messiah is “The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son–And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and earth.” If the leadership of the church had left 1 Nephi 11:18,21,32 unchanged, it would still be consistent with this account in Mosiah. It is only possibly to conclude, then, that the leadership added “Son of” to the passages in 1 Nephi 11,13 in order to clarify the LDS doctrine, and not to change it.

7. Changing “Benjamin” to “Mosiah”= In Mosiah 21:28 it says “And now Limhi was again filled with joy on learning from the mouth of Ammon that king Mosiah had a gift from God.” The 1830 version, however, says “Benjamin” had a gift from God. This is a possible problem because Benjamin would have been dead by the time Ammon had met Limhi. The Book of Mormon was changed, then, in order to make the timeline consistent, having Mosiah as the king. This does not prove that the Book of Mormon is not true, though. According to Mosiah 6 and 7, King Benjamin gave up the throne to his son Mosiah. Benjamin then died three years later. The Book of Mormon then says that Mosiah “had continual peace for the space of three years” (Mosiah 7:1). According to the timeline in the Book of Mormon, these three years were during the time that Benjamin was alive. Benjamin died in “about 121 B.C.” and Mosiah sent “strong men” (v. 2) to go and find the land of “Lehi-Nephi” (v.1). It is possible, therefore, that Ammon and the other strong men had left to find the land of Lehi-Nephi before Benjamin had died. So when Ammon said that Benjamin had the power to translate, it is possible that he was not aware of Benjamin’s passing away. And even if there was some blatant inconsistency with the timeline, the Book of Mormon was written by men, and there may be faults within the record. It is possible that either Joseph Smith or Moroni or Mormon could have accidentally put the name “Benjamin” when they intended to write “Mosiah” (see Mormon 8:17)

8. Changing “is” to “are” and “were” to “was”= In many instances in the Book of Mormon identifying the singular and plural are correctly done. However, sometimes a phrase like “thy seed, which is among thy brethren” is changed to “which are among thy brethren” (1 Nephi 13:30), “mercies of the Lord is over” to “mercies of the Lord are over” (1 Nephi 1:20), and “we are a descendant of Joseph” to “we are descendants of Joseph.” It also has phrases like “all mankind was in a lost” are changed to “all mankind were in a lost”

There are many more changes made to the Book of Mormon. Because of the nature of the grammatical errors, it is possible that these changes may support the argument that Joseph Smith, a relatively uneducated man, had a direct influence on the translation of the Book of Mormon and did not receive the exact, perfect translation word for word. It can also help prove that Joseph Smith to some extent or another was responsible for producing the Book of Mormon, and that it was not first written by someone else like Solomon Spaulding or Sydney Rigdon.

Here is an example of a single chapter in the Book of Mormon, with its total number of changes that are not spelling errors, but actual word changes. There are 33 word changes in this chapter, which sounds like a lot, but they have no real change on the doctrine or meaning of the passages. This is the general pattern found throughout the Book of Mormon. The following is a comparison of the 1830 version to the 1981 version of 2 Nephi 9.

Changing (v. 1) “That he hath covenanted with all…”  to  “That he has covenanted with all”

Changing (v. 2) “That he hath spoken to the Jews” to “That he has spoken unto the Jews” and “until the time cometh” to “until the time comes

Changing (v. 4) “For I know that thou hast searched much” to “For I know that ye have searched much”

Changing (v. 5) “show himself unto them at Jerusalem” to “show himself unto those at Jerusalem”

Changing (v. 8) “subject to that angel which fell” to “subject to that angel who fell”

Changing (v. 12) “death and hell must deliver up its dead” to “death and hell must deliver up their dead”

Changing (v. 16) “they which are righteous” to “they who are righteous”/”they which are filthy” to “they who are filthy”/”torment is a lake of fire” to “torment is as a lake of fire”/”whose flames ascendeth” to “whose flame ascendeth”/”and hath no end” to “and has no end”

Changing (v. 18) “they which have believed” to “they who have believed”/”they which have endured” to “they who have endured”

Changing (v. 20) “save he knoweth it” to “save he knows it”

Changing (v. 24) “hath spoken it” to “has spoken it”

Changing (v. 25) “Wherefore, he hath given a law” to “Wherefore, he has given a law”/”hath claim upon them” to “have claim upon them”

Changing (v. 27) “that hath the law given” to “that has the law given”/”that hath all the commandments” to “that has all the commandments”

Changing (v. 28) “They shall perish” to “And they shall perish”

Changing (v. 29) “is good if that they” to “is good if they”

Changing (v. 30) “which are rich as to” to “who are rich as to”/”For because that they” to “For because they”

Changing (v. 37) “wo unto them that worship” to “wo unto those that worship”

Changing (v. 38) “wo unto all they which die” to “wo unto all those who die”

Changing (v. 40) “righteous fear they not” to “righteous fear them not”

Changing (v. 41) “his paths are righteousness” to “his paths are righteous

Changing (v. 42) “which are puffed up” to “who are puffed up”

Changing (v. 45) “that God which is the rock” to “that God who is the rock”

Changing (v. 53) “he hath promised unto us” to “he has promised unto us”

Rather than harming faith, I believe seeing and understanding these changes can help to increase one’s faith in the Book of Mormon. Many theories exist as to how the Book of Mormon was written. In the early days of the church, few people believed that Joseph Smith could write this book all by himself, so some argued that Joseph had gotten hold of a manuscript written by Solomon Spaulding which follows the exact story in the Book of Mormon. This manuscript has never been found, and the Spaulding manuscript that has been found is a completely different story that does not account for explaining the existence of the Book of Mormon. Others proposed that a more educated man like Sydney Rigdon or even Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, and Hyrum Smith were involved in writing the Book of Mormon. These grammatical errors suggest to me that Joseph Smith was responsible for the translation of the plates, and no one else. Educated men like Spaulding or Rigdon would not have confused the singular and plural, such as confusing “they was” to “they were” or “they is” to “they are.” Had a more educated man written the Book of Mormon, the first edition would have been a much more polished work grammatically. Many of the grammatical errors point to either an error in the original writing of the Book of Mormon (maybe Nephi or Mormon made grammatical mistakes) or an error in the translation of the Book of Mormon (Joseph Smith translated from an ancient language to the best of his abilities by the power of God). If it is possible that it is a translational error, then it is most likely that the story told by Joseph Smith and the many witnesses about him dictating the Book of Mormon without manuscripts to his scribes is true, and no one else wrote the Book of Mormon for him. Therefore, all that is left to decide is whether or not you believe that Joseph Smith made it all up from his head while dictating to scribes, or that he had the power of God to translate a real ancient record.