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 https://www.lds.org/topics/spaulding-manuscript?lang=eng 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 http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705384845/Scholars-Corner-The-stolen-chapters-of-Mosiah.html?pg=all). 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.

A Sample of Biblical Motifs in the Book of Mormon (Part III)

See parts I and II for additional Biblical motifs, references, and themes found in the Book of Mormon.

  1. Remnant of Jacob (Micah 5:7)/(Mormon 7:10)
  2. Remnant of Joseph (Amos 5:15)/(Alma 46:24)
  3. Woe to you who are at ease in Zion (Amos 6:1)/(2 Nephi 28:24)
  4. That great city (Jonah 1:2)/(1 Nephi 2:13)
  5. Curse/destroy even with a sore curse/destruction (Micah 2:10)/(1 Nephi 2:23)
  6. Gather sheaves (Micah 4:11)/(2 Nephi 20:18)/(Alma 26:5)
  7. Gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity (Moroni 8:14)/(Acts 8:23)
  8. Dash in pieces (Nahum 2:1)/(Ether 2:23)
  9. Young lion will tear the gentiles to piece (3 Nephi 20:16)/(Micah 5:8)
  10. Bars and gates (Nahum 3:13)/(Job 38:10)/(2 Nephi 33:11)
  11. Truth and righteousness (Zechariah 8:8)/(Alma 38:9)
  12. Healing in his wings (Malachi 4:2)/(2 Nephi 25:13)
  13. As calves in the stall (Malachi 4:2)/(1 Nephi 22:24)
  14. Curse God and die (Job 2:9)/(Mormon 2:14)
  15. Rooted out (Job 18:14)/(Mormon 2:14)
  16. Who is God? (Alma 9:6)/(Exodus 5:2)
  17. Brought low (Job 24:24)/(1 Nephi 22:23)
  18. The Spirit constraineth me (Job 32:18)/(Alma 14:11)
  19. God speaks once, twice, yet men don’t perceive it (Job 33:14)/(3 Nephi 11:3-5)
  20. Be a man (1 Samuel 4:9)/(Job 38:3)/(2 Nephi 1:21)
  21. Where no man dwells (Job 38:26)/(Ether 2:5)
  22. Fight for your children, wives and homes (Mormon 2:23)/(Nehemiah 4:14)
  23. Take an oath and a curse (Nehemiah 5:13/10:29)/(Alma 46:22)
  24. Reading sacred records to the people (Nehemiah 9)/(Mosiah 25)
  25. The great God (Nehemiah 8:6)/(Alma 24:8)
  26. Walk blameless (Alma 7:22)/(Luke 1:6)
  27. Gnash with teeth (Job 16:9)/(Alma 14:21)
  28. Smitten upon the cheek (Job 16:10/(Alma 14:15)
  29. Book of Life (Alma 5:58)/(Revelation 20:15)
  30. Cleave unto God (Deuteronomy 10:20)/(Jacob 6:5)
  31. Mercy and truth (Proverbs 16:6)/(Alma 5:48)
  32. I have not found so great faith in Israel (Matthew 8:10)/(3 Nephi 19:35)
  33. Light of thy countenance (Psalm 4:6)/(3 Nephi 19:25)
  34. Arose and ministered to them (Matthew 8:15)/(Alma 22:23)
  35. Read upon the house tops (Matthew 10:27)/(Mormon 5:8)
  36. Eye be single (Matthew 6:22)/(Mormon 8:15)
  37. Devil and his angels and everlasting pit prepared for them (2 Nephi 9:16)/(Matthew 26:41)
  38. He maketh intercession (Isaiah 53:12)/(2 Nephi 2:9)
  39. Unquenchable fire (Luke 3:17)/(Mormon 9:5)
  40. Wisdom [feminine] (Luke 7:35)/(Mosiah 8:20)
  41. Unprofitable servants (Luke 17:10)/(Mosiah 2:21)
  42. Pray and not faint (Luke 18:1)/(2 Nephi 32:9)
  43. Take no thought what you should eat (Alma 31:37)/(Matthew 6:25)
  44. Why will ye die? (Jacob 6:6)/(Jeremiah 27:13)
  45. We will not have him to rule over us (1 Nephi 18:10)/(Luke 19:14)
  46. Mighty in word and deed (Helaman 10:5)/(Luke 24:19)
  47. Better that one man should perish than a whole nation (John 12:50)/(1 Nephi 4:13)
  48. Spirit of truth (John 16:3)/(Alma 30:46)
  49. Down to the dust (Isaiah 25:12/(Alma 42:30)
  50. Pass away like a dream (Isaiah 29:7)/(Jacob 7:26)
  51. Smite with a rod (Isaiah 30:31)/(1 Nephi 3:28)
  52. Tender and delicate [women] (Isaiah 47:1)/(Jacob 2:7)
  53. Make bare his arm in eyes of the nations (Isaiah 52:10)/(1 Nephi 22:10)
  54. Turn to the right hand or to the left (Genesis 24:49)/(Alma 24:23)
  55. Gershom/Jershon [similar name and meaning] (Exodus 2:22)/(Alma 27:22)
  56. Hermon/Hermounts [similar name] (Psalm 133:3)/(Alma 2:37)
  57. Lord hidden in a cloud (Ether 2:4)/(Exodus 16:10)
  58. Whoever touches me will wither (1 Kings 13:4)/(1 Nephi 17:48)
  59. Power and authority (Luke 4:36)/(Mosiah 18:26)
  60. Go up to Jerusalem [never “go down” to Jerusalem] (Ezra 1:3)/(1 Nephi 3:9)
  61. The King’s countenance was changed (Alma 18:12)/(Daniel 5:6)
  62. Seal up the vision (Daniel 9:24)/(Revelation 22:10)/(1 Nephi 14:26)
  63. Visions drain the physical body (1 Nephi 1:7/17:47)/(Daniel 10:8)
  64. Obtain political power through flattery (Daniel 11:21, 32)/(Alma 46:7)
  65. Brightness as the stars (Daniel 12:3)/(1 Nephi 1:10)
  66. God can make the sun stand still (Joshua 10:12-13)/(Helaman 12:14-15)