Debunking MormonThink’s “Early American Influences on the Book of Mormon” (Part 3)

Please read Part 1 and Part 2 of my series debunking Thomas E. Donofrio’s MormonThink article “Early American Influences on the Book of Mormon” article if you have not already done so. To review briefly, Donofrio attempts to prove that the Book of Mormon is a 19th century work of fiction by identifying key words and phrases that are found in popular literature of Joseph’s day and the Book of Mormon, but are not found in the Bible. His argument is that if the Book of Mormon were an authentic translation of an ancient document, then it would not share so many similarities with early American history and literature.

As shown in Part 1 and Part 2 of my answer to their article, most of the similarities identified by Donofrio are also found in the works of Flavius Josephus, an ancient Jewish historian whose works were written between 78 and 100 A.D. and translated into English in 1737. The purpose of Part 3 of this series is to point out that there are many key words and phrases that are shared by Josephus and the Book of Mormon that are not found in the list of parallels provided by Donofrio or the Bible. Since the English translation of Josephus accounts for most of the parallels listed in the MormonThink article, and since there are many more phrases shared by Josephus and the Book of Mormon that are not listed, we cannot assume that the appearance of 19th century language in the Book of Mormon proves that it is not an authentic translation. If we were to use Donofrio’s criteria in evaluating the authenticity of the works of Josephus, we would have to conclude that Josephus and his accounts are works of fiction borrowing ideas from 18th century literature.

Below are just some of the similarities I have found between Josephus and the Book of Mormon that are not found in the Bible or Donofrio’s list of parallels:

  1. Office of the High Priesthood
    • “from whom that family was derived, had both the office of the high priesthood and the dignity of a king for a long time” (Life of Flavius Josephus, 1)
    • “But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God” (Alma 13:18)
  2. Points of the Law
    • “in order to know my opinion about the accurate understanding of points of the law” (Life of Flavius Josephus, 2)
    • “there were a part of the people who desired that a few particular points of the law should be altered” (Alma 51:2)
  3. Learning of the Greeks/Jews
    • “who were men very skilled in the learning of the Greeks” (Life, 65)
    • “which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians” (1 Nephi 1:2)
  4. Hope of Deliverance
    • “when he heard that he was coming to meet him with such a number of men, was greatly afraid: however, he committed his hope of deliverance to God” (Antiquities, Book I, Chapter XX)
    • “and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him” (Alma 58:11)
  5. Lazy
    • “The Egyptians grew delicate and lazy” (Antiquities, Book II, Chapter IX)
    • “Now they were a lazy and an idolatrous people” (Mosiah 9:12)
  6. Supreme Being
    • “the Supreme Being is able to do whatsoever he pleases” (Antiquities, Book II, Chapter IX)
    • “all these will I give thee if thou wilt deny the existence of a Supreme Being” (Alma 11:22)
  7. Contrary to the command of God
    • “how the Egyptians were destroyed when they attempted to detain them, contrary to the command of God” (Antiquities, Book III, 1:4)
    • “for it was strictly contrary to the commands of God that there should be a law which should bring men on to unequal grounds” (Alma 30:7)
  8. Way of Deliverance
    • “he request God for some succor for the people, and some way of deliverance from the want they were in” (Antiquities, Book III, 1:5)
    • “And because of the way of deliverance of our God, the Holy One of Israel” (2 Nephi 9:11)
  9. Proceedings of the people
    • “These proceedings of the people of those countries occasioned perplexity and trouble to Moses” (Antiquities, Book III, 2:2)
    • “And now there are many records kept of the proceedings of this people, by many of this people” (Helaman 3:13)
  10. Governor and Protector
    • “yet were they exceeding sorry upon the supposal that they were deprived of a governor and a protector” (Antiquities, Book III, 5:7)
    • “my brother Nephi, unto whom ye look as a king or a protector” (2 Nephi 6:2)
  11. Firmness of mind
    • “she went to her death with an unshaken firmness of mind” (Antiquities, Book XV, 7:5)
    • “Look unto God with firmness of mind” (Jacob 3:1)
  12. Settle the Affairs
    • Ventidius called for Silo and Herod to come to the war against the Parthians, but ordered them first to settle the affairs of Judea” (Wars, Book I, 16:4)
    • “and it was at the same time that they had begun to settle the affairs of their contentions concerning the chief judge” (Alma 51:12)
  13. Deliver themselves up
    • “he had proclamation made, that they should come and deliver themselves up to him” (Wars, Book I, 16:4)
    • “And Alma and his brethren went forth and delivered themselves up into their hands” (Mosiah 23:29)
  14. Stand in need
    • “and petition their emperors, in great multitudes, for what they stand in need of” (Antiquities, Book XIX, 1:4)
    • “And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor” (Mosiah 4:16)
  15. On account of their fear
    • “it was not on account of their fear of dangers, nor on account of their laziness, that they made this request to him” (Antiquities, Book IV, 7:3)
    • “and this we do for our brethren, on account of their fear to take up arms against their brethren” (Alma 27:23)
  16. Tortured in a cruel manner
    • Cherea tortured this woman after a cruel manner” (Antiquities, Book XIX, 1:5)
    • “they did murder them in a most cruel mannertorturing their bodies even unto death” (Moroni 9:10)
  17. Destruction hangs over them
    • “the destruction which hangs over all men, by the means of Caius” (Antiquities, Book XIX, 1:9)
    • “and the sword of destruction did hang over them” (3 Nephi 2:19)
  18. By way of exhortation
    • “And I seal up these records, after I have spoken a few words by way of exhortation unto you” (Moroni 10:2)
    • “but at length perceived that it was by way of exhortation” (Antiquities, Book XIX, 1:10)
  19. State of ignorance
    • “it is because of the traditions of their fathers that caused them to remain in their state of ignorance” (Alma 9:16)
    • “informed them of the death of Caius, and by this means put an end to that state of ignorance that men had been in” (Antiquities, Book XIX, 1:18)
  20. Preserve our liberty
    • “which course of virtue it is alone can preserve our liberty” (Antiquities, Book XIX, 2:2)
    • “Yea, let us preserve our liberty as a remnant of Joseph” (Alma 46:24)
  21. Laws of their country
    • “have striven one with another to overthrow the ancient laws of their country” (Antiquities, Book XIX, 2:2)
    • “whoredoms and all manner of wickedness, contrary to the laws of their country” (Helaman 6:23)
  22. Skill in war
    • “one of the highest fame, both for his skill in war, his strength of body” (Wars, Book VI, 1:8)
    • “exceed the Lamanites in their strength and in their skill of war” (Alma 51:31)
  23. Born of good parents
    • “virgins that are free, and born of good parents” (Josephus, Antiquities, Book IV, 8:23)
    • “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents” (1 Nephi 1:1)
  24. Change in affairs
    • “But these sons were not able to bear this change in their affairs” (Wars, Book I, 23:2)
    • thus he had changed the affairs of the kingdom” (Mosiah 11:4)
  25. Clear conscience
    • “but I tell you these things that ye may know that I can answer a clear conscience before God this day” (Mosiah 2:15)
    • “He was enabled to justify himself, not only by a clear conscience, which he carried with him” (Wars, Book I, 23:3)
  26. Magic arts
    • “the thieves, and the robbers, and the murderers, and the magic art, and the witchcraft which was in the land” (Mormon 2:10)
    • “what I do is so much superior to what these do by magic arts and tricks” (Antiquities, Book II, 13:3)
  27. Overthrow their liberty
    • “And now I am persuaded that every one of you here comes satisfied before I speak, that these overthrowers of our liberties deserve to be destroyed” (Wars, Book IV, 3:10)
    • “which would lay a foundation for serious consequences among the people of Nephi, yea, which consequences would lead to the overthrow of their liberty” (Alma 50:32)
  28. Maintain their liberty
    • “everybody caught up their arms, in order to maintain the liberty of their metropolis” (Wars, Book IV, 4:2)
    • “gathered together all the people who were desirous to maintain their liberty, to stand against Amalickiah and those who had dissented” (Alma 46:28)
  29. Trampled the Laws
    • “And that they had altered and trampled under their feet the laws of Mosiah” (Helaman 4:22)
    • “tyrants that have infringed the rules of our regular tribunals, that have trampled upon our laws,and made their swords the arbitrators of right and wrong” (Wars, Book IV, 4:3)
  30. Gain some advantage
    • “nevertheless, the people of Nephi did gain some advantage of the robbers” (3 Nephi 2:17)
    • “that he should undertake to accuse other men before the Roman governor, and endeavor to gain some advantages to himself” (Wars, Book I, 10:2)
  31. Able to bear arms
    • “Now the number of the rest of the Israelites was nine hundred thousand men, who were able to bear arms and go to war” (Antiquities, Book VII, 13:1)
    • “and I also caused that all my old men that could bear arms, and also all my young men that were able to bear arms, should gather themselves together” (Mosiah 10:9)
  32. Change their disposition
    • “which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2)
    • “and being displeased at their conduct, persuaded them to change their dispositions and their acts for the better” (Josephus, Antiquities, Book I, 3:1)
  33. Murderous disposition
    • “greatly affected by every terrible accident, and on that account of a very murderous disposition where he durst show it” (Josephus, Antiquities, Book XIX, 2:5)
    • “the Amalekites were of a more wicked and murderous disposition than the Lamanites were” (Alma 43:6)
  34. Strength and Courage
    • “And indeedthis man deserves to be admired for his courage and strength” (Antiquities, Book V, 8:12)
    • “never had the Lamanites been known to fight with such exceedingly great strength and courage” (Alma 43:43)
  35. Liberty of worshiping God
    • “And he also declared unto them that they might have the liberty of worshiping the Lord their God according to their desires” (Alma 21:22)
    • “it proves to be much more desirable, by its affording us the liberty of worshiping God” (Antiquities, Book XII, 7:3)
  36. Happy and blessed
    • “I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God” (Mosiah 2:41)
    • “you must either recover that liberty, and so regain a happy and blessed way of living, which is that according to our laws” (Antiquities, Book XII, 7:3)
  37. Fight Desperately
    • “But behold, my little band of two thousand and sixty fought most desperately” (Alma 57:19)
    • “making the Jews despair of escaping, excited them to act more boldly; for nothing makes men fight so desperately in war as necessity” (Wars, Book III, 7:4)
  38. The affairs of the people
    • “Moroni received an epistle from Helaman, stating the affairs of the people in that quarter of the land” (Alma 56:1)
    • “This was the state of the affairs of the people of Jerusalem at this time” (Antiquities, Book XI, 8:7)
  39. No time to gather
    • “their march was with such exceedingly great speed that there was no time for the Nephites to gather together their armies” (Helaman 1:19)
    • “Now when Judas was deserted by his soldiers, and the enemy pressed upon him, and gave him not time to gather, he was disposed to fight with Bacchides’s army” (Antiquities, Book XII, 11:1)
  40. Trouble of mind
    • “he fell into despair and trouble of mind, as confounded at the unexpected ill success of this siege” (Antiquities, Book XIII, 1:5)
    • “for I have been somewhat troubled in mind because of the generosity and the greatness of the words of thy brother Ammon” (Alma 22:3)
  41. Body and Mind
    • “But I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind” (Mosiah 2:11)
    • “and indeedthat city had in it men that were very stout both in body and mind” (Antiquities, Book VI, 14:8)
  42. Fresh Men
    • “But the Jews grew weary with defending themselves continually, and had not enough to come in their places, and succor them; while, on the side of the Romans, fresh men still succeeded those that were tired” (Wars, Book III, 7:27)
    • “for they were wearied because of their march, and the men of Lehi were fresh” (Alma 52:28)
  43. Firm Determination
    • “However, he still made no firm determination in his case; but when he had dismissed those assessors that had been with him that day, he deliberated by himself about the allegations” (Wars, Book II, 2:7)
    • “they marched forward to the land of Noah with a firm determination” (Alma 49:13)
  44. Obtain a Passage
    • “they began to dig down their banks of earth that they might obtain a pass to their armies” (Alma 49:22)
    • “Herod had prevented them, and was come to Pelusium, where he could not obtain a passage from those that lay with the fleet” (Wars, Book I, 14:2)
  45. Overrun the land
    • “for as he set a part of his army round about Gaza itself, so with the rest he overran their land, and spoiled it, and burnt what was in it” (Antiquities, Book XIII, 5:5)
    • “for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance” (2 Nephi 1:8)
  46. True Friendship
    • “It does not give leave to conceal any thing from our friends, because that is not true friendship which will not commit all things to their fidelity” (Against Apion, Book II, 28)
    • “and I know that thou art a true friend unto my son, Nephi, forever” (2 Nephi 1:30)
  47. Wicked Practices
    • “they are taxed to death, and in what ways of luxury and wicked practices that wealth is spent which was gotten by bloodshed” (Wars, Book I, 26:2)
    • “began to grow hard in their hearts, and indulge themselves somewhat in wicked practices, such as like unto David of old” (Jacob 1:15)
  48. Fought Valiantly
    • “and when the battle was joined, they fought valiantly, and put the enemy to flight” (Antiquities, Book VIII, 14:4)
    • “they were depressed in body as well as in spirit, for they had fought valiantly by day and toiled by night to maintain their cities” (Alma 56:16)
  49. Great Warrior
    • “But behold he met with a disappointment by being repulsed by Teancum and his men, for they were great warriors” (Alma 51:31)
    • “He had been a man of valor and a great warrior, and mindful of the commands of their father Matrathins” (Antiquities, Book XII, 11:2)
  50. Fatigue
    • “sleep had overpowered them because of their much fatigue, which was caused by the labors and heat of the day” (Alma 51:33)
    • Sohe fell upon the Jews unexpectedly, when they were fatigued, and thought they had already vanquished the enemy, and made a great slaughter of them” (Antiquities, Book XV, 5:1)
  51. Much Bloodshed
    • “he foresaw that this could not be done without much bloodshed, both of the senators, and of those of the equestrian order that were present” (Antiquities, Book XIX, 1:14)
    • “there was also a contention among the people, insomuch that there was much bloodshed” (Helaman 4:1)
  52. Give them Battle
    • “who did not think it safe to go up to the mountain, and give them battle, because many of the enemy were on the higher part of the ground” (Wars, Book III, 7:32)
    • “Now it was not Amalickiah’s intention to give them battle according to the commandments of the king” (Alma 47:8)
  53. Bear with Patience
    • “and earnestly exhorted them to bear with patience whatever they suffered” (Antiquities, Book II, 6:4)
    • “and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give you success” (Alma 26:27)
  54. Perform with Exactness
    • “Yea, and they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness” (Alma 57:21)
    • “their daily sacrifices and purifications, and every branch of their religious worship, was still performed to God with the utmost exactness” (Wars, Book I, 7:4)
  55. Placed his Army
    • So the king of Syria took his army with him, and came to Samaria, and placed his army round about the city, and besieged it” (Antiquities, Book VIII, 14:1)
    • “And thus having placed his army according to his desire, he was prepared to meet them” (Alma 43:33)
  56. Admonitions from God
    • “But the Israelites, though they were in heaviness at these admonitions from God, yet were they still very unwilling to go to war” (Antiquities, Book V, 2:7)
    • “Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael were angry with me because of the admonitions of the Lord” (2 Nephi 4:13)
  57. Enjoy our Possessions
    • “without regarding their former insolence, do enjoy their own possessions in safety” (Wars, Book IV, 2:2)
    • “we have suffered in the wilderness, which time we might have enjoyed our possessions and the land of our inheritance” (1 Nephi 17:21)
  58. Sorrow and Lamentation
    • So there was sorrow and lamentation among the women and children, who had nothing but destruction before their eyes” (Antiquities, Book II, 15:4)
    • “And they did grow in their iniquities in the sixty and eighth year also, to the great sorrow and lamentation of the righteous” (Helaman 6:33)
  59. Filled with Robbers
    • “for the country was again filled with robbers and impostors, who deluded the multitude” (Antiquities, Book XX, 8:5)
    • “But behold, the land was filled with robbers and with Lamanites” (Mormon 2:8)
  60. Gain Possession
    • “But Adonijah, who, while his father was living, attempted to gain possession of the government” (Antiquities, Book VIII, 1:2)
    • “had given them power to gain possession of those parts which were within the walls” (Alma 55:20)
  61. Preservation of the People
    • “And when Moses had recapitulated whatsoever he had done for the preservation of the people, both in their wars and in peace” (Antiquities, Book IV, 8:46)
    • “All his brethren also fell down before him, weeping and delivering
      themselves up to destruction for the preservation of the life of Benjamin” (Antiquities, Book II, 6:9)
    • “for I have seen much of his mysteries and his marvelous power; yea, even in the preservation of the lives of this people” (Alma 10:5)
  62. Much Disturbed
    • “However, the fear he was in much disturbed the greatness of his soul” (Wars, Book I, 21:12)
    • “and they were much disturbed, for Satan did stir them up to do iniquity continually” (Helaman 16:22)

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


I will now examine specific similarities that are cited most often by critics. The first supposed similarity is the fact that both View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon reference Jerusalem being destroyed. This is described in the first chapter of VOTH and Lehi is warned of Jerusalem’s destruction in the first chapter of 1 Nephi. As I will show, however, the only similarity between the two works is that they both say that at one point in time Jerusalem has been destroyed. This is not a significant similarity because the destructions referenced in the two works refer to two completely different events. I will be comparing the 1825 Edition of View of the Hebrews (Ethan Smith, and the 1981 Edition of the Book of Mormon (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

  1. The destruction of Jerusalem referenced in VOTH is the destruction that occurred in 70 A.D. by the Romans.
  2. In VOTH, Ethan Smith states the reason that Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. “Here were the city and the temple to be destroyed, for the infidelity, malice, hypocrisy, and persecution of the Lord of glory” (pg. 8).
  3. VOTH goes into explicit detail of Jerusalem being destroyed by Romans in 70 A.D. This is to illustrate that the predictions of Jesus about the future of Jerusalem came true, proving that he was the Son of God. See the first page of the chapter, which states “And the Messiah uttered against them, in consequence of their rejecting him, a new edition of these fatal denunciations, which we find in Matt. 24, Luke 19:41-44, chapter 21, and 23:27-30.” (pg. 7)
  4. The only reference in VOTH to the Babylonian destruction is a single sentence that states “that it [Jerusalem] should be consumed on the same month, on the same day of the month, on which the Babylonians had before destroyed it by fire.”
  5. In the BOM, however, Lehi’s family escaped the Babylonian attack on Jerusalem in 600 B.C. The Book of Mormon never mentions the destruction of Jerusalem by Romans, nor the prophecies of Jesus concerning its destruction in 70 A.D.
  6. This is not a significant parallel because the destruction referred to in both sources is hundreds of years apart, caused by different invaders, and serves a different purpose in the narrative of the BOM and VOTH.


Similarity #2: The Scattering of Israel/The lost ten tribes

This parallel is based on the fact that both the BOM and VOTH argue that Israelites were led to the Americas. However, many differences exist between the two works. The Book of Mormon does not claim that the Native Americans are descendants of the lost tribes of Israel, whereas View of the Hebrews states explicitly that the Native Americans are the ten lost tribes of Israel who were preserved by the Lord in an outcast and a savage state.


  1. The Native Americans are the lost ten tribes of Israel. “The ten tribes of Israel must now have, somewhere on earth, a distinct existence in an outcast state.” (pg. 30)
  2. They were expelled from Canaan in 725 B.C., living  in “an outcast state for thousands of years” (pg. 20) after they were carried out by Shalmanezer of Assyria.
  3. Expelled and outcast from the promised land because of their iniquity and idolatry (Amos 8:11,12)
  4. They became a savage people as vindictive Providence punished them for their idolatry in 725 B.C. (pg. 70)


  1. This is not a record of the lost ten tribes of Israel. Lehi was a descendant of Joseph and Manasseh. (Alma 10:3)
  2. Two families (Lehi and Ishmael) were led out of Jerusalem in 600 B.C. to avoid destruction from the Babylonians as well as the Jews for preaching heresy. Mulek, a son of Zedekiah, was also led out of Jerusalem during its destruction. (1 Nephi 2:1-2/Helaman 8:21)
  3. Lehi’s family was led from Jerusalem because of their righteousness and to avoid death. “And it came to pass that the Lord commanded my father, even in a dream, that he should take his family and depart into the wilderness.” (1 Nephi 2:2)
  4. Three separate peoples come to the Americas by way of boats (Jaredites, Mulekites, Nephites)
  5. BOM prophets acknowledge that they do not know where the lost ten tribes of Israel are. “But now I go unto the Father, and also to show myself unto the lost tribes of Israel, for they are not lost unto the Father, for he knoweth whither he hath taken them.” (3 Nephi 17:4)
  6. Lehi’s family was led out of Jerusalem to be preserved as a righteous branch, according to the prophecies of Joseph and Jacob: “Wherefore, Joseph truly saw our day. And he obtained a promise of the Lord, that out of the fruit of his loins the Lord God would raise up a righteous branch unto the house of Israel; not the Messiah, but a branch which was to be broken off, nevertheless, to be remembered in the covenants of the Lord that the Messiah should be made manifest unto them in the latter days, in the spirit of power, unto the bringing of them out of darkness unto light—yea, out of hidden darkness and out of captivity unto freedom” (2 Nephi 3:5).
  7. “The words of Jacob, before his death, for behold, he saw that a part of the remnant of the coat of Joseph was preserved and had not decayed. And he said—Even as this remnant of garment of my son hath been preserved, so shall a remnant of the seed of my son be preserved by the hand of God, and be taken unto himself, while the remainder of the seed of Joseph shall perish, even as the remnant of his garment.” (Alma 46:23)

VOTH: 1. The lost tribes of Israel will be outcast and will travel in a north-east direction, and will cross the frozen ocean to the Americas. They will not have the word of God among them. “There is a prophecy is Amos viii. 11, 12, relative to the ten tribes of Israel while in their state of banishment from the promised land, which appears exactly to accord with the account by Esdras…As an event to be accomplished in their outcast state, the prophet gives this striking descriptive prediction. Verse 11, 12; ‘Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, (or upon the tribes of Israel,) not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water; but of hearing the words of the Lord. And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.’…The prediction implies that Israel in their exilement should know that they had been blessed with the word of God, but had wickedly lost it; as a man in a famine knows he has had bread, but now has it not. They shall feel something what they have lost, and shall wander…shall wander in a north-east direction as far as they can wander, from sea to sea…from the northern frozen ocean, to the southern ocean at Cape Horn.” (Ethan Smith, pg. 33)

2. The lost tribes were outcast because of their idolatry: “Amos was a prophet to the ten tribes of Israel…The symbol is thus explained; ‘Then said the Lord unto me, The end is come upon my people of Israel; I will not pass by them anymore.’ The prophet in this chapter announces that ‘they that swear by the sins of Samaria, and say, Thy God, O Dan, liveth; and, The manner of Beersheba liveth; even they shall fall.’ Here is a description of the idolatry of the ten tribes, and their utter banishment then just about to take place; from which they have never been recovered to this day.” (Ethan Smith, p. 33)

VOTH and the BOM refer to separate people’s in separate centuries, being led by different paths to a distant land for different purposes. Critics of the BOM try to overgeneralize this similarity by saying that ‘both works say the Israelites come to Americas for religious reasons,’ and ignore all other details/differences.