An Argument in Favor of the Divinity of the Book of Mormon Translation (Part I)

The following is an examination of the hypothesis that Joseph Smith was able to produce the Book of Mormon by dictating it to his scribes by either making it up as he went along, or by using an outline (which all witnesses say Joseph never had). It is hypothesized that if he were able to use a story outline to produce the Book of Mormon (while hiding it from his translators), then the production of the Book of Mormon would be a plausible undertaking. In this post and in subsequent posts, I will attempt to prove this hypothesis false, and in turn giving greater support for the veracity of the Book of Mormon as a divine translation of an ancient record. For Part 1 of this examination, I will look at how the complex meta-narrative makes it unlikely that Joseph dictated the Book of Mormon from his memory, beginning his dictation with the Book of Mosiah after having lost the 116 original first pages of the manuscript (http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705384845/Scholars-Corner-The-stolen-chapters-of-Mosiah.html?pg=all). In future posts, I will add upon this first post by suggesting that additional outlines needed for individual books and chapters of the Book of Mormon suggest a level of complexity that is not characteristic of a fraudulent record dictated to scribes without the use of manuscripts.

1. The use of a meta-outline: After Joseph Smith and Martin Harris had the first 116 pages of the original manuscript stolen from them, it is believed by both members of the LDS faith and most critics alike that Joseph Smith resumed his translation from the Book of Mosiah, rather than going back and translating the story from the beginning with 1 Nephi (http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705384845/Scholars-Corner-The-stolen-chapters-of-Mosiah.html?pg=all). No doubt it would have been easier for Joseph to go back and rewrite the story from the beginning, especially since the events of the Book of Lehi would have been fresh in his mind. However, it seems that if Joseph did invent the Book of Mormon, then he performed the translation in the most difficult fashion possible by writing the rest of the Book of Mormon from the Book of Mosiah and back-referencing specific events that happened earlier in the narrative. Here are several examples of references from the latter half of the Book of Mormon (Mosiah-Moroni), referencing events in the first half of the Book of Mormon (1st Nephi-Words of Mormon) that had not yet been written. The number and detail of the references suggest that Joseph did not use his memory from what he translated of the 116 pages to reference in the latter half of the Book of Mormon, and providing detailed enough outlines would have been difficult to both produce and hide from his scribes.

a) THE VISION OF LEHI AND ALMA: Since Alma 36 was written by Joseph and Oliver before 1 Nephi 1, it would be unusual to have Joseph have Alma reference an exact quote from the prophet Lehi found in 1 Nephi 1 had Joseph Smith dictated the Book of Mormon. Alma, however, in telling the story of his repentance, makes a specific reference to 1 Nephi 1.

Alma states: “Yea, methought I saw, even as our father Lehi saw, God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God; yea, and my soul to long to be there” (Alma 36:22).

Nephi, in abridging the account of his father Lehi, states: “And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God” (1 Nephi 1:8).

These two quotes are found nearly 234 pages apart if compared chronologically to the times they were translated.

b) THE PROPHECY OF THE BRASS PLATES: The content of the brass plates, as well as the prophecies surrounding their purpose are consistently found throughout the Book of Mormon. The prophet Alma references the prophecies made surrounding the purpose and the preservation of the brass plates found in material that was not translated by Joseph until after he had already referenced it:

Nephi states: “And it came to pass that my father, Lehi, also found upon the plates of brass a genealogy of his fathers” (1 Nephi 5:14)

And these plates of brass, which contain these engravings, which have the records of the holy scriptures upon them, which have the genealogy of our forefathers, even from the beginning” (Alma 37:3).

And now when my father saw all these things, he was filled with the Spirit, and began to prophesy concerning his seed-That these plates of brass should go forth unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people who were of his seed”  (1 Nephi 5:17-18)

Behold, it has been prophesied by our fathers, that they should be kept and handed down from one generation to another, and be kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord until they should go forth unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, that they shall know of the mysteries contained thereon” (Alma 37:4)

Wherefore, he said that these plates of brass should never perish; neither should they be dimmed any more by time” (1 Nephi 5:19)

And now behold, if they are kept they must retain their brightness; yea, and also shall all the plates which do contain that which is holy writ” (Alma 37:35)

c) THE LIAHONA: Here is sacred object that was used by Lehi and his family to navigate the more fertile parts of the wilderness while they traveled from Jerusalem to the promised land. It is also interesting to note that the term “Liahona” is never used to name the “ball, or director” until Alma 37:38. The passage suggests that the word Liahona means compass. The language by this time may have been significantly altered by the Nephites, so Alma needs to clarify that the word “compass” was different to Lehi (between 600 B.C. and 580 B.C.) than it was to the people during Alma’s time (73 B.C.)

And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 16:10)

And behold, there cannot any man work after the manner of so curious a workmanship. And behold, it was prepared to show unto our fathers the course which they should travel in the wilderness” (Alma 37:39)

And now, my son, I have somewhat to say concerning the thing which our fathers call a ball, or director-or our fathers called it Liahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass; and the Lord prepared it” (Alma 37:38)

And it came to pass that after they had bound me insomuch that I could not move, the compass, which had been prepared of the Lord, did cease to work” (1 Nephi 18:12)

And the ball or director, which led our fathers through the wilderness, which was prepared by he hand of the Lord that thereby they might be led, every one according to the heed and diligence which they gave unto him” (Mosiah 1:16)

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them” (1 Nephi 16:28)

d) CORIANTUMR AND THE BOOK OF ETHER:

The following are references to characters, events and prophecies found in the first half of the Book of Mormon (The Book of Omni) that were mentioned in the latter-half of the Book of Mormon (the Book of Ether).

And it came to pass in the days of Mosiah, there was a large stone brought unto him with engravings on it; and he did interpret the engravings by the gift and power of God. And they gave an account of one Coriantumr, and the slain of his people. And Coriantumr was discovered by the people of Zarahemla; and he dwelt with them for the space of nine moons. It also spake a few words concerning his fathers. And his first parents came out from the tower, at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people; and the severity of the Lord fell upon them according to his judgments, which are just; and their bones lay scattered in the land northward” (Omni 1:20-22)

Otherwise they should be destroyed, and all his household save it were himself. And he should only live to see the fulfilling of the prophecies which had been spoken concerning another people receiving the land for their inheritance; and Coriantumr should receive a burial by them; and every soul should be destroyed save it were Coriantumr” (Ether 13:21)

e) ZORAM (AND ZORAMITES, JACOBITES, JOSEPHITES): References to the origin of Zoram as well as the use of the name “Zoramites,” “Josephites”, etc.

I am Ammoron, and a descendant of Zoram, whom your fathers pressed and brought out of Jerusalem” (Alma 54:23)

And it came to pass that Zoram did take courage at the words which I spake. Now Zoram was the name of the servant; and he promised that he would go down into the wilderness unto our father. Yea, and he also made an oath unto us that he would tarry with us from that time forth” (1 Nephi 4:35)

Therefore the true believers in Christ, and the true worshipers of Christ, (among whom were the three disciples of Jesus who should tarry) were called Nephites, and Jacobites, and Josephites, and Zoramites” (4 Nephi 1:37)

And it came to pass that they who rejected the gospel were called Lamanites, and Lemuelites, and Ishmaelites…” (4 Nephi 1:39)

Now the people which were not Lamanites were Nephites; nevertheless, they were called Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites, and Ishmaelites” (Jacob 1:13)

f) THE SWORD OF LAMAN: Another object that is mentioned briefly in the latter half of the Book of Mormon, but then has its origin revealed in the first half, which was translated last.

And I, Nephi, did take the sword of Laban, and after the manner of it did make many swords, lest by any means the people who were now called Lamanites should come upon us and destroy us” (2 Nephi 5:14)

and also the plates of Nephi: and also, the sword of Laban, and the ball or director…” (Mosiah 1:16)

g) ZARAHEMLA AND THE MULEKITES: There is a lot of significant material found in the following passages. First, the people of Mosiah, upon fleeing from the land of Nephi, find the people of Zarahemla, who were descendants of Mulek, a son of King Zedekiah. These people lived northward of the original landing of Lehi. There is remarkable consistency found throughout the Book of Mormon of the identity of the people of Zarahemla, the identity of Mulek, and the location of which they landed.

and they were led by the power of his arm, through the wilderness until they came down into the land which is called the land of Zarahemla. And they discovered a people, who were called the people of Zarahemla…Behold, it came to pass that Mosiah discovered that the people of Zarahemla came out from Jerusalem at the time that Zedekiah, king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon” (Omni 1:13-15)

My son, I would that ye should make a proclamation throughout all this land among all this people, or the people of Zarahemla, and the people of Mosiah who dwell in the land, that thereby they may be gathered together…” (Mosiah 1:10)

Now there were not so many of the children of Nephi, or so many of those that were descendants of Nephi, as there were of the people of Zarahemla, who was a descendant of Mulek, and those who came with him into the wilderness” (Mosiah 25:2)

And it bordered upon the land which they called Desolation, it being so far northward that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed, of who bones we have spoken, which was discovered by the people of Zarahemla, it being the place of their first landing” (Alma 22:30)

Now the land south was called Lehi, and the land north was callled Mulek, which was after the son of Zedekiah, for the Lord did bring Mulek into the land north, and Lehi into the land south” (Helaman 6:10)

And now will you dispute that Jerusalem was destroyed? Will ye say that the sons of Zedekiah were not slain, all except it were Mulek? Yea, and do ye not behold that the seed of Zedekiah are with us, and they were driven out of the land of Jerusalem?” (Helaman 8:21)

h) GEOGRAPHY: It is remarkable that the geography of the Book of Mormon is so well-established, especially since the initial translation of the latter half of the Book of Mormon (Book of Mosiah) begins after the Nephites have already left the land of Nephi and merged with those of the land of Zarahemla, which was northward. In Mosiah 7 the people decide to travel back to the land of Nephi to see what happened to those who traveled there under the command of Zeniff.

Land of Nephi:

And my people would that we should call the name of the place Nephi; wherefore, we did call it Nephi” (2 Nephi 5:8, after separating from the Lamanites)

“Mosiah, who was made king over the land of Zarahemla; for behold, he being warned of the Lord that he should flee out of the land of Nephi, and as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord…“(Omni 1:12)

And Ammon took three of his brethren, and their names were Amaleki, Helem, and Hem, and they went down into the land of Nephi” (Mosiah 7:6)

Land of Zarahemla/Land Northward:

And they were led by the power of his arm, through the wilderness until they came down into the land which is called the land of Zarahemla” (Omni 1:14)

And the severity of the Lord fell upon them according to his judgments, which are just; and their bones lay scattered in the land northward” (Omni 1:22)

And it bordered upon the land which they called Desolation, it being so far northward that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed, of whose bones we have spoken, which was discovered by the people of Zarahemla, it being the place of their first landing” (Alma 22:30)

Now the land south was called Lehi, and the land north was called Mulek, which was after the son of Zedekiah; for the Lord did bring Mulek into the land north, and Lehi into the land south” (Helaman 6:10) This may also suggest that the original place of landing by the Nephites was called the Land of Lehi, then after the death of Lehi and the separation of the Nephites and the Lamanites, the people named the land Nephi, after Nephi, their current leader (see Alma 8:7)

i) SEED OF JOSEPH: 

Behold, we are a remnant of the seed of Jacob, yea, we are a remnant of the seed of Joseph, whose coat was rent by his brethren into many pieces” (Alma 46:23)

And it came to pass that my father, Lehi, also found upon the plates of brass a genealogy of his fathers; wherefore he knew that he was a descendant of Joseph; yea, even that Joseph who was the son of Jacob, who was sold into Egypt…” (1 Nephi 5:14)

These are just a few examples of the narrative consistency between the latter portion of the Book of Mormon (Mosiah-Moroni) and the first portion (1 Nephi-Words of Mormon). These suggest a detailed and well-thought narrative was made in order to write the Book of Mormon half-way into the narrative and then back-reference events and quotes that had not yet been written. Of course, I believe that this provides evidence that the Book of Mormon was a divine translation of an ancient record.

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