How the Story of the Lost 116 Pages is Faith Promoting

Many critics of the LDS faith identify Joseph Smith’s loss of the 116 pages of the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon (BOM) as proof of his fraud. Martin Harris, Joseph’s scribe, had the first 116 pages of the BOM manuscript stolen from him while keeping them hidden at home. Critics claim that this was a test of Joseph’s prophetic ability, and when he could not re-dictate the same lost 116 pages, he failed that test. Joseph, in the preface of the first edition of the BOM, stated that the Lord told him not to re-translate the 116 pages that were stolen under Martin Harris’ possession because there would be those who would alter the original manuscript in order to provide false evidence of his fraud, but this explanation seldom satisfies those who do not believe in Joseph’s prophetic calling.

There are several problems with this criticism which will be discussed shortly. Upon deeper examination, it may be that the story of the lost 116 pages of the BOM manuscript can in fact give greater credibility to Joseph’s claims of having divine power giving him the ability to translate an ancient record. The story of the 116 pages can be faith promoting for the following reasons:

1.Joseph Smith did not have a manuscript from which he was dictating. Recognizing the brilliance of the BOM and Joseph’s supposed ignorant nature, many theorize that Joseph stole a manuscript from a much smarter person such as Solomon Spaulding (see for a detailed history of the theory), Sydney Rigdon, or wrote pages himself and then pretended to be dictating from an ancient record while hidden from his scribes. If Joseph was using a manuscript from any other source, he would have been all too willing to reproduce the 116 pages to prove his prophetic calling.

2. Had Joseph reproduced the 116 pages, critics would not have been silenced. Reproducing the 116 pages so easily would have given further ammunition to theories that someone else wrote the BOM for Joseph. When viewed from this perspective, those who claim that Joseph could not have written the BOM because of his limited academic abilities have a difficult time explaining why Joseph dictated such a manuscript to a scribe and then refused to reproduce it a second time.

3. Joseph did not receive help from his scribes in creating the BOM. After the loss of the 116 pages Joseph switched from having Martin Harris serve as his scribe to Oliver Cowdery. The easy ability to switch scribes suggests that the scribes had no part in the creative process of fabricating the BOM, and in turn supports the claims by Joseph and multiple witnesses that he dictated the BOM himself without the help of others. Both Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris were ex-communicated some time later, which would have been a perfect opportunity to reveal the true nature of the fraudulent translation process. They did not, suggesting that what they claim to have witnessed during the translation process, that Joseph dictated hour after hour and day after day without the help of manuscripts, did in fact happen.

4. Joseph was uneducated and relied on scribes to write for him. In order for critics of the LDS faith to win the argument that the BOM was a produce of Joseph’s imagination, they must also concede that he was a brilliant creative mind, capable of memorizing vast portions of scripture, and was a consumer of an extremely large list of literary works that they suggest he must have read before creating the BOM. Remarkable as his intellectual abilities must have been, he did not have a sufficient ability to write the book on his own. It would make more sense that if Joseph had planned all of his life to write a fraudulent work to get money, that he would have learned how to write and avoid the risky nature of hiring gullible followers and fake the translation process. It is interesting that a man as supposedly brilliant as Joseph (and apparently with so much free time on his hands for reading) had to rely on scribes to produce his creative works. After one scribe failed him by losing 116 pages of the original manuscript, instead of deciding to carry on the fraud himself to avoid further mishaps, he decided to recruit another scribe and open a whole new set of risky complications.

5. Joseph continued translating from the Book of Mosiah as if he had a transcript from which he was reading. There is great evidence to support the fact that Joseph continued to dictate from where the 116 pages left off in the Book of Mosiah until the end of the BOM, and then returned to the chronological beginning of the book to produce 1 Nephi through Words of Mormon (see This means that if Joseph was making it up, he did not have the ability to go back and review the details of his story in order to reference story details later on. Anybody writing a book who lost their manuscript would find it easier to start their writing process over from the beginning rather than continue where they left off and then write the beginning after the book was completed, but this is not what Joseph did. It is even more interesting considering that several scriptures from Mosiah through the end of the BOM directly quote phrases that happened during the events contained in the lost 116 pages (compare Alma 36:22 and 1 Nephi 1:8. Alma 36 was dictated long before Joseph returned to the account of Lehi and his family in 1 Nephi, and yet he directly quotes Lehi in Alma 36). This happened either because Joseph was dictating words from a source other than his own mind, or because Joseph knew beforehand that it would be more convincing if he quoted scripture found in 1 Nephi in Alma and then remember to come back and write the quote when he started the translation of 1 Nephi. However, Joseph probably did not have a manuscript since he did not reproduce the 116 pages. This gives support to his account of the divine translation of an ancient record.

Some “textual errors” in the Book of Mormon also found in the Bible

The Book of Mormon is often criticized as being full of grammatical errors that have been changed over the years. What is rarely acknowledged, however, is that many of the “errors” are also found in the King James version of the Bible. The following compares changes made from the first edition of the Book of Mormon to the 1981 edition.

  1. An extra “for” which was deleted in later editions of the Book of Mormon

a. “and their precious things, for to perish in the wilderness” (1 Nephi 2:11)

b. “the daughters of the Lamanites did gather themselves together for to sing” (Mosiah 20:1)

c. “And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come” (Matthew 11:14)

d. “he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read” (Luke 4:16)

e. “Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him” (Luke 15:1)

f. “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31) (See also Acts 8:27/11:2/12:25/15:6/16:4/17:15/20:1/22:5/Romans 13:6/II Corinthians 2:9/Psalm 75:1)

2.  A superfluous “a” which was deleted 

a. “As I was a journeying to see a very near kindred” (Alma 10:7)

b. “and there he found Muloki a preaching the word unto them” (Alma 21:11)

c. “For he had only one daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying” (Luke 8:42)

d. “thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee” (Psalm 73:27)

e. “in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing” (I Peter 3:20)

3. A superfluous “that” which was deleted

a. “wherefore, after that I have abridged the record of my father” (1 Nephi 1:17)

b. “because that he was a visionary man” (1 Nephi 2:11)

c. “And after that the angel had spoken unto us, he departed.” (1 Nephi 3:31)

d. “Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments” (Acts 1:2)

e. “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you” (Acts 1:8)

f. “And Paul, after that the governor had beckoned unto him to speak” (Acts 24:10)

4. Changing “exceeding” to “exceedingly”

a. “I, Nephi, being exceeding young” (1 Nephi 2:16)

b. “when Laban saw our property, and that it was exceeding great” (1 Nephi 3:25)

c. “and the workmanship thereof was exceeding fine” (1 Nephi 4:9)

d. “Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth” (Matthew 2:16)

e. “And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow” (Mark 9:3)

f. “My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death” (Mark 14:34)

5. Switching past tense with present tense

a. “And I saith unto them: If God had commanded me to do all things” (1 Nephi 17:50)

b. “he was also wroth; and he saith: Who is Abinadi” (Mosiah 11:27)

c. “And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream” (Matthew 2:13)

d. “Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city” (Matthew 4:5)

e. “When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them” (Mark 2:17)

6. Changing “which” to “who” and “whom”

a. “pointing their fingers towards those which had come at and were partaking of the fruit” (1 Nephi 8:27)

b. “Behold the twelve disciples of the Lamb, which are chosen to minister unto thy seed” (1 Nephi 12:8)

c. “show unto them that fight against my word and against my people, which are of the house of Israel” (2 Nephi 29:14)

d. “even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48)

e. “Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question” (Matthew 22:35)

e. “there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death” (Mark 9:1)

A Sampling of Motifs from the Bible in the Book of Mormon (Part I)

The following is a list of random motifs found in both the Book of Mormon and the Bible. This is meant to further help the reader grasp the complexity and magnitude of the Book of Mormon in its use of Biblical motifs.

  1. Mist of darkness (1 Nephi 8:22)/(II Peter 2:17)/(Revelation 9:2)
  2. caught away…into an exceedingly high mountain (1 Nephi 11:1)/(Revelation 21:10)
  3. I looked…and I saw him not (1 Nephi 11:12)/(Revelation 1:12)
  4. a tree, whose fruit was desirable (1 Nephi 8:10/11:22)/(Revelation 2:7)
  5. abominable church; and I saw the devil that he was the founder of it (1 Nephi 13:6)/(Revelation 2:9/3:9)
  6. a rod of iron (1 Nephi 8:19/11:24-25)/(Revelation 2:26-27/19:3)/(Psalm 23:4)
  7. holding fast to the rod of iron (1 Nephi 8:30)/(Revelation 3:3)
  8. the fall thereof was exceedingly great (1 Nephi 11:36)/(Matthew 7:27)
  9. waters which run continually (1 Nephi 2:9)/(Psalm 58:7)
  10. eye of the Lord (2 Nephi 9:44)/(Psalm 33:18)
  11. great lights in heaven (Helaman 14:3)/(Psalm 136:7)
  12. not be afraid of ten thousands of people (1 Nephi 4:1)/(Psalm 3:6)
  13. What seest thou? (Jeremiah 1:11-13)/(1 Nephi 11:2,10,14)/(Jeremiah 24:3)
  14. Never hath man dwelt (Jeremiah 2:6)/(Ether 2:5)
  15. Fountain of living waters (Jeremiah 2:13)/(1 Nephi 11:25)
  16. Imagination of the heart (Jeremiah 3:17/7:24/9:14)/(1 Nephi 2:11)
  17. captain of fifty (Isaiah 3:3)/(1 Nephi 3:31)
  18. Cursed who trust in the arm of flesh (Jeremiah 17:5)/(2 Nephi 3:34)
  19. Tree planted by water (Jeremiah 17:8)/(1 Nephi 8:20)
  20. east wind (Jeremiah 18:17)/(Mosiah 7:31)
  21. Tree planted by river of water (1 Nephi 8:13/Psalm 1:3/Jeremiah 17:8)
  22. Tree of life (1 Nephi 15:22/Revelation 2:7/Proverbs 3:13-18)
  23. Church of Satan (1 Nephi 13:6/Revelation 2:9/3:9)
  24. Fountain of Living Waters (1 Nephi 11:25/Revelation 7:17/Psalm 36:9/Jeremiah 2:13/17:13)
  25. Pit of Hell (1 Nephi 14:3/Revelation 9:2/Psalm 7:15-16)
  26. Whore of the earth (1 Nephi 14:10-11/Revelation 17:1)
  27. Drown in waters (1 Nephi 8:32/1 Timothy 6:9/Psalm 124:3-5)
  28. Dreamed a dream (1 Nephi 8:2/Daniel 2:3)
  29. Multitude of tender mercies (1 Nephi 8:8/Psalm 51:1)
  30. Love of God shed abroad in our hearts (1 Nephi 11:22/Romans 5:5)
  31. Yoke of iron (1 Nephi 13:5/Jeremiah 28:14)
  32. A marvelous work (1 Nephi 14:7/Isaiah 29:14)
  33. A great gulf diving wicked and righteous (1 Nephi 12:18/Luke 16:26)
  34. By the mouth of his holy prophets (2 Nephi 9:2/Acts 3:21)
  35. From generation to generation (2 Nephi 9:2/Isaiah 13:20)
  36. Fold of God (2 Nephi 9:2/Jeremiah 23:3)
  37. Lift up your heads (2 Nephi 9:3/Psalm 24:7)
  38. Searched diligently for salvation to come (2 Nephi 9:4/1 Peter 1:10)
  39. In our flesh we will see God (2 Nephi 9:4/Job 19:26)
  40. We are subject unto Christ (2 Nephi 9:5/Hebrews 2:8)
  41. Corruption must put on incorruption (2 Nephi 9:7/1 Corinthians 15:53)
  42. An angel fell from heaven (2 Nephi 9:8/Isaiah 14:12)
  43. Satan can transform into angel of light (2 Nephi 9:9/II Corinthians 11:14)
  44. How great is the goodness of God (2 Nephi 9:10/Psalm 31:19)
  45. Death and Hell (2 Nephi 9:10/Revelation 6:8)
  46. Robe of righteousness (2 Nephi 9:14/Isaiah 61:10)
  47. Judgment seat of Christ (2 Nephi 9:15/Romans 14:10)
  48. God’s word will not pass away (2 Nephi 9:16/Mark 13:31)
  49. Righteous will be righteous still; filthy will be filthy still (2 Nephi 9:16/Revelation 22:11)
  50. Lake of fire and brimstone (2 Nephi 9:16/Revelation 19:20)
  51. Flame/smoke ascends forever (2 Nephi 9:16/Revelation 14:11)
  52. Endure the cross and despise the shame of it (2 Nephi 9:18/Hebrews 12:2)
  53. Inherit the kingdom of God prepared from the foundation of the world (2 Nephi 9:18/Matthew 25:34)
  54. Joy may be full (2 Nephi 9:18/John 1:4)
  55. Uncircumcised of heart (2 Nephi 9:33/Jeremiah 9:26)
  56. Carnally minded is death (2 Nephi 9:39/Romans 8:6)
  57. Speak hard things (2 Nephi 9:40/Psalm 60:3)
  58. Path of righteousness (2 Nephi 9:41/Psalm 23:3)
  59. Fools before God (2 Nephi 9:42/1 Corinthians 3:18)
  60. The wise and the prudent (2 Nephi 9:43/1 Corinthians 1:19)
  61. Shake my garments to rid myself of you blood (2 Nephi 9:44/Acts 18:6)
  62. Stand with brightness (2 Nephi 9:44/Ezekiel 28:7,17)
  63. Rock of my salvation (2 Nephi 9:45/Psalm 62:2)
  64. Chains of hell (2 Nephi 9:45/2 Peter 2:4/Jude 1:6)
  65. Plainness of speech (2 Nephi 9:47/II Corinthians 3:12)
  66. Stone which builders rejected (Jacob 4:15-16/Psalm 118:22/Matthew 21:42)
  67. Vineyard of the Lord (Jacob 5:3/Isaiah 5:7/Matt 20:1)
  68. The house of Israel is an olive tree (Jacob 5:3/Romans 11:24/Jeremiah 11:16-17)
  69. Pruning, digging, nourishing (Jacob 5:4,64/Luke 13:8/Isaiah 5:6)
  70. Young and tender (Jacob 5:4,6/Ezekiel 17:22/1 Chronicles 22:1)
  71. Wild olive tree (Jacob 5:7,9/Romans 11:17,24)
  72. Not cumber the ground (Jacob 5:9/Luke 13:7)
  73. Corrupt trees bring evil fruit (Jacob 5:38-39/Matt 7:17,19)
  74. Let good and bad grow together (Jacob 5:65/Matt 13:30)
  75. Moses’ prophecy of Christ’s coming (1 Nephi 22:20/Acts 3:22-23)
  76. Cut to the heart (Mosiah 113:7/Acts 5:33)
  77. Scales fell from his eyes (2 Nephi 30:6/Acts 9:18)
  78. Now I know of a surety (1 Nephi 5:8/Acts 13:11)
  79. Who shall declare his generation? (Mosiah 14:7-8/Isaiah 53/Acts 8:32-33)
  80. The Lord’s wings (2 Nephi 4:25/Psalm 17:8)
  81. Run a race, win the prize (Mosiah 4:27/1 Corinthians 9:24)
  82. Bands of death (Alma 4:14/Psalm 73:4)
  83. The provocation (Alma 12:36/Hebrews 3:8/Psalm 78:40)
  84. Grind to powder (2 Nephi 26:5/Matthew 21:44)
  85. Trample under foot (1 Nephi 19:7/Matthew 7:6)
  86. Mysteries of God (Matthew 13:11/1 Nephi 1:1)
  87. Finger of God (2 Nephi 3:17/Luke 11:20)
  88. They would have repented if they saw your miracles (2 Nephi 10:3/Matthew 11:21)
  89. Two or three witnesses (2 Nephi 11:3/Matthew 18:16)
  90. Cleanse the inward vessel (Alma 60:23-24/Matthew 23:26-27/Luke 11:39)
  91. The heavens opened (1 Nephi 11:14,27,30/ Mark 1:10)
  92. Give half of my kingdom (Alma 20:23/Mark 6:23)
  93. Pondered in my heart (1 Nephi 11:1/Luke 2:19)
  94. If ye are brought up in the gospel ye will not depart from it (2 Nephi 4:5/Proverbs 22:6)
  95. Seal you his (Mosiah 5:15/II Corinthians 1:22)
  96. O wretched man that I am (2 Nephi 4:17/Romans 4:15)
  97. Vengeance is mine; I will repay (Mormon 3:15/Romans 12:19)
  98. Let things be done in order (Mosiah 4:27/1 Corinthians 14:40)
  99. Be steadfast and immovable (1 Nephi 2:10/1 Corinthians 15:58)
  100. The true vine (1 Nephi 15:15/John 15:1)
  101. Death swallowed in victory (Mosiah 16:8/Isaiah 25:8)
  102. Armor of righteousness (2 Nephi 1:23/Isaiah 59:17/Ephesians 6:14)
  103. The serpent beguiled (2 Nephi 9:9/Genesis 3:13)
  104. Blood cries from the ground (2 Nephi 28:10/Genesis 4:10)
  105. Greater than I can bear (1 Nephi 16:1/Genesis 4:13/1 Corinthians 3:2)
  106. Nimrod the mighty hunter (Ether 2:1/Genesis 10:8-9)
  107. Enter into his rest (Jacob 1:7/Hebrews 3:11)
  108. Hedge up the way (Mosiah 7:29/Hosea 2:6)
  109. Fiery indignation (Alma 40:14/Hebrews 10:27)
  110. Dregs of a bitter cup (Alma 40:26/Psalm 75:8)
  111. Great and terrible (1 Nephi 12:18/Deuteronomy 1:19)
  112. Who can stand before his armies? (Ether 14:18/Deuteronomy 9:2)
  113. Turn aside out of the way (1 Nephi 19:13-15/Deuteronomy 9:12)
  114. They seek my life, to take it away (1 Nephi 1:20/1 Kings 19:10)
  115. Break the rocks into pieces (Helaman 14:21/1 Kings 19:11)