Joseph Smith claimed that in 1823 an angel appeared to him and
stated that gold plates were buried in a hill near his home. The
angel explained that the plates contained "an account of the former
inhabitants of this continent, and that they also contained "the
fullness of the everlasting Gospel." Four years later Smith received
the plates, and began "translating" them "by the power of God."
The translation was published in 1830 under the title of The
Book of Mormon. After translating the Book of Mormon, Joseph
Smith founded the Mormon Church--a church that now has over eight
Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt declared:
The Book of Mormon claims to be a divinely inspired record....
If false, it is one of the most cunning, wicked, bold, deep-laid
impositions ever palmed upon the world, calculated to deceive
and ruin millions... if true, no one can possibly be saved and
reject it: if false, no one can possibly be saved and receive
If, after a rigid examination, it be found an imposition, it
should be extensively published to the world as such; the evidences
and arguments on which the imposture was detected, should be clearly
and logically stated... if investigation should prove the Book
of Mormon true... the American and English nations... should utterly
reject both the Popish and Protestant ministry, together with
all the churches which have been built up by them or that have
sprung from them, as being entirely destitute of authority...
Orson Pratt's Works, "Divine Authenticity of the Book of
Mormon," Liverpool, 1851, pp. 1-2
Olemme tutkineet Mormonin kirjaa yli kolmen vuosikymmenen ajan,
ja se on vienyt meidät siihen johtopäätökseen, että se ei
ole muinainen tai jumalallisesti innoitettu aikakirja vaan 1800-luvun
tuotetta. Mormon apologists, of course, have resisted the evidence
set forth in our books, Mormonism: Shadow or Reality? and
Covering Up the Black Hole in the Book of Mormon. Although
the church itself has been completely silent concerning our work,
L. Ara Norwood, Matthew Roper, John A. Tvedtnes, and a few other
Mormon apologists have recently assailed our work. We have been
preparing a response to these critics that will be available soon.
In the book, Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, vol.
4, 1992, Matthew Roper maintains that some of the nineteenth-century
sources we suggested as possible sources for the Book of Mormon
are rather weak (see pages 176-192). For many years we have maintained
that at the time Joseph Smith "translated" the Book of Mormon there
were a number of books that claimed the Indians were the descendants
of the ancient Israelites--an idea that is strongly set forth in
the Book of Mormon. Mr. Roper acknowledged that
The Tanners correctly point out that the Book of Mormon appeared
at a time when many people believed that the Indians were descendants
of the lost ten tribes. Books by James Adair, Elias Boudinot,
Ethan Smith, and others are fairly representative of the early
nineteenth-century literature which supported such an idea. The
Tanners suggest that the Book of Mormon was just one of many such
books (pp. 81-84). While it is true that general similarities
or parallels can be drawn between these works and the Book of
Mormon, I believe that the differences are far more significant.
(Ibid., page 186)
A Striking Parallell
The reader will notice that in the quotation above Mr. Roper mentioned
a book written by James Adair. This book, A History of the American
Indians, was originally published in 1775. We have seen quotations
from it in other books written in the nineteenth century, but never
took the time to examine the book until we encountered a reprint
published by Promontory Press. While we noticed that Adair's book
presented "Observations, and arguments, in proof of the American
Indians being descended from the Jews," and a great deal concerning
their customs and history, at first we did not see anything that
was too impressive. Toward the end of the book, however, we made
the startling discovery that it had a portion so similar to the
Joseph Smith's work that we could not escape the conclusion that
Joseph Smith either had the book in his hand or a quotation from
it when he was writing the Book of Mormon. On pages 377-378, James
Adair wrote the following about the Indians:
Through the whole continent, and in the remotest woods, are traces
of their ancient warlike disposition. We frequently met with great
mounds of earth, either of a circular, or oblong form, having
a strong breast-work at a distance around them, made of the clay
which had been dug up in forming the ditch on the inner side of
the inclosed ground, and these were their forts of security against
an enemy... About 12 miles from the upper northern parts of the
Choktah country, there stand... two oblong mounds of earth...
in an equal direction with each other... A broad deep ditch
inclosed those two fortresses, and there they raised an high breast-work,
to secure their houses from the invading enemy.
In the book of Alma, which is found in the Book of Mormon, we find
some extremely important parallels to the writings of Adair in chapters
48, 49, 50, and 53:
Yea, he had been strengthening the armies of the Nephites, and
erecting small forts, or places of resort; throwing up
banks of earth round about to enclose his armies...
the Nephites were taught... never to raise the sword except it
were against an enemy... they had cast up dirt round
to shield them from the arrows... the chief captains of the Lamanites
were astonished exceedingly, because of the wisdom of the Nephites
in preparing their places of security.... they knew
not that Moroni had fortified, or had built forts of security
in all the land round about... the Lamanites could not
get into their forts of security.... because of the highness
of the bank which had been thrown up, and the depth of the
ditch which had been dug round about... they [the Lamanites]
began to dig down their banks of earth... that they might
have an equal chance to fight... instead of filling up
their ditches by pulling down the banks of earth,
they were filled up in a measure with their dead... And [Moroni]
caused them to erect fortifications that they might secure
their armies... Teancum... caused that they should commence
laboring in digging a ditch round about the land... And
he caused that they should build a breastwork of timbers
upon the inner bank of the ditch; and they did cast
up dirt out of the ditch against the breastwork
Book of Mormon, Alma, 48:8, 14; 49:2, 5, 13, 18, 22; 50:10; 53:3-4
The thing that first struck us about the quotation from Adair's
book was the four words, "their forts of security." These
identical words are found in the book of Alma! It is interesting
to note that these words are used only once in the Book of Mormon,
Alma 49:18, and never appear in the Bible. The three words "forts
of security" are found in 49:13, but are never found in any
other place in the Book of Mormon or the Bible. The last two words
("of security") are never found together in the Bible and
appear only seven times in the Book of Mormon. Except for one instance
(3 Nephi 4:15), all of these are in the book of Alma. It would appear,
then, that Joseph Smith latched on to some wording he did not usually
use, and the evidence seems to indicate that the source was Adair's
The word "breastwork" (written as "breast-work" in Adair's
work) appears twice in each of the references cited above. The Bible
never uses this word, and it appears only three times in the entire
Book of Mormon. The other occurrence is in Mosiah 11:11 and has
nothing to do with military matters. It was used concerning a pulpit.
The words "which had been dug" are found in both extracts.
This word combination is never found in the Bible or in any other
place in the Book of Mormon.
Both the Book of Mormon and Adair's book contain the words "the
ditch." Joseph Smith used this word "ditch" three times
in the section concerning the Nephite fortifications but never used
them again in the rest of the Book of Mormon. Both quotations use
the words "the inner." These two words were used again in
Alma 62:21, but do not appear in any other part of the Book of Mormon.
We find the words "secure their" in both works. This combination
is never found in the Bible and appears only this one time in the
Book of Mormon. The words "an equal" are found in both extracts.
While they are found in one other place in the Book of Mormon (Mosiah
29:38), they never appear in the Bible.
The three words "against an enemy" appear in both books.
Joseph Smith only used them once in the Book of Mormon (Alma 14:14),
and this combination never appears in the Bible. Adair uses the
expression "mounds of earth." While Joseph Smith never used
these exact words, he did refer to "banks of earth."
We find it extremely hard to believe that all of these similar
word patterns could happen by chance. In addition to the material
cited above, there are other similarities between the writings of
James Adair and Joseph Smith. For example, the Book of Mormon claims
that the ancient jews who came to the New World were all "white,
and exceedingly fair and delightsome..." (2 Nephi 5:21) Those who
rebelled, however, were cursed with "a sore cursing... the Lord
God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them." Adair's
book, likewise, talks of a change in skin color: "The Indian tradition
says, that their forefathers in very remote ages came from a far
distant country, where all the people were of one colour..."
The Book of Mormon states that before the ancient Nephites left
Jerusalem, they had been instructed by the "Lord" to bring with
them some "plates of brass" which had the sacred Jewish scriptures
engraved upon them. (1 Nephi 3:3) The plates were carefully protected
by the ancient religious leaders and were apparently buried in "the
hill Cumorah" along with many other plates. (Mormon 6:6) This idea
of brass plates being buried could have come from James Adair's
book. On pages 178-179, we find this information:
In the Tuccabatches... are two brazen tables, and five of copper.
They esteem them so sacred as to keep them constantly in their
holy of holies... Old Bracket, an Indian... gave the following
description of them:... The shape of the two brass plates... [was]
about a foot and a half in diameter.
He said--he was told by his forefathers that those plates were
given to them by the man we call God; that there had been many
more of other shapes... and some had writing upon them which were
buried with particular men; and that they had instructions given
with them, viz. they must only be handled by particular people...
He only remembered three more, which were buried with three of
On page 122 of Adair's book, we find the words, "for the space
of three days and nights..." This is very close to Alma 36:10,
"for the space of three days and three nights..."
It is also noteworthy that while Joseph Smith uses the words "month"
or "months" sixteen times in the Book of Mormon, in one instance
he uses the term "moons": "...for the space of nine moons."
(Omni 1:21) On page 125 of Adair's History of the American Indians
we find the following "...for the space of four moons..."
We are convinced that Joseph Smith read a number of books and articles
about the Indians--especially books equating them with the ancient
Israelites. His own mother, Lucy Smith, tells that Joseph had a
fervent interest in the ancient Indians before he received the plates
from which he "translated" the Book of Mormon:
During our evening conversations, Joseph would occasionally give
us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He
would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their
dress, mode of travelling, and the animals upon which they rode;
their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode
of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do
with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life
Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and his
Progenitors for Many Generations, 1853, p. 85
Cloud Of Darkness
Robert Williams, of North Wales, discovered an important parallel
between the Book of Mormon and the Preface of the King James Bible.
The Preface, of course, was written by the translators and was dedicated
to "The Most High And Mighty Prince James... King Of Great Britain,
France, And Ireland, Defender Of The Faith, &c." While the translators
used words and combinations of words in the Preface which are found
in the text of the King James Version, they also used language which
is not in the biblical text.
If it could be demonstrated that the Book of Mormon contains word
combinations peculiar to the Preface, which was not published before
1611, it would cast serious doubt upon the claim that it was written
in ancient times by the Nephites. Mr. Williams found other parallels
to the Preface and asked us to use our computer to make a more complete
search. After completing the research, we felt that there was a
strong possibility that Joseph Smith borrowed from it. In the Preface
we find the following:
...clouds of darkness would so have overshadowed this Land, that
men should have been in doubt which way they were to walk... the
appearance of Your Majesty, as of the Sun in his strength,
instantly dispelled those supposed and surmised mists...
The Holy Bible, Preface; as printed by the Mormon Church
In the Book of Mormon we find two very strong parallels
to this part of the Preface:
...the cloud of darkness, which had overshadowed them, did not
disperse... Helaman 5:31
...the cloud of darkness having been dispelled... Alma 19:6
The reader will notice that there are some startling similarities:
- The expression "clouds of darkness" or "cloud of darkness" is
not found in the text of the Bible.
- The word "overshadowed" does not appear in the Old Testament,
and the New Testament cannot be appealed to as the source because
the ancient Nephites did not have access to it. Joseph Smith,
of course, did have the New Testament in his Bible.
- The word "dispelled" is not found in the Bible and Joseph Smith
never used it again in the Book of Mormon.
Another interesting parallel is that the statement in the Preface
indicates that the appearance of King James, like "the Sun
in his strength, instantly dispelled" the dark mists. The
verse in Alma 19:6 was also written concerning a king whose
name was Lamoni. It speaks of "the light which did light
up his mind... yea, this light had infused such joy into
his soul, the cloud of darkness having been dispelled..."
The Preface speaks of both King James and Queen Elizabeth. Although
Joseph Smith used the words king or kings 228 times
in the book of Mosiah (the book that precedes Alma), he never mentioned
a queen until the chapter in question, Alma 19, and while
it appears a number of times in the book of Alma, it is not used
in any of the other books found in the Book of Mormon. The word
"queens" is used in the Book of Mormon, but it is obviously taken
from a prophecy in the Bible, Isaiah 49:23, and is not related to
any queens living during the period covered by the Book of Mormon.
In our book, Covering Up the Black Hole in the Book of Mormon,
we demonstrated that Joseph Smith had a tendency to plagiarize
different expressions from the Bible and then use them over and
over again. For example, the phrase "the lamb of God" appears only
in the New Testament, John 1:29 and 36. The Mormon prophet latched
onto these words and then used them twenty-eight times in the book
of I Nephi alone! He soon grew weary of them, however, and they
only appear six more times in the rest of the Book of Mormon. Smith's
inclination to grab onto expressions and then repeat them is also
evident in his use of "cloud of darkness." He began using this term
in Alma 19:6, and then repeated it over and over in Helaman 5:28,
31, 34, 36, 40-43:
And it came to pass that they were overshadowed with a
cloud of darkness... behold the cloud of darkness,
which had overshadowed them, did not disperse... the Lamanites
could not flee because of the cloud of darkness which did
overshadow them... he saw through the cloud of darkness...
the Lamanites said unto him: What shall we do, that this cloud
of darkness may be removed from overshadowing us? And
Aminadab said... You must repent.. and when you shall do this,
the cloud of darkness shall be removed from overshadowing
you.... the cloud of darkness was dispersed. And it came
to pass that when they cast their eyes about, and saw that the
cloud of darkness was dispersed from overshadowing
them, behold, they saw that they were encircled about... by a
pillar of fire.
After this repetitious section of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith
never used the words "cloud of darkness" again; instead he used
the words "mist of darkness" or "mists of darkness." It is interesting
to note that the word "mists" (plural) is not found in the text
of the Bible, but it does appear in the Preface of the King James
Bible. It is, in fact, in the very paragraph which mentions "clouds
In addition to the parallels mentioned above, in our computer examination
of the Preface we found forty-five word parallels (ranging from
two to four words in a row) which are not found in the text of the
King James Version. While many of them could have come from Joseph
Smith reading other books or conversations he had with different
people, since the Preface is only two pages long, we think that
this many parallels could prove to be significant.
The following are just ten examples:
- "rule and reign over"
- "sacred word"
- "because the fruit thereof"
- "eternal happiness"
- "it, nay"
- "the immediate"
- "itself abroad in the"
- "great hopes"
- "most sacred"
- "did never."
Most of the forty-five word combinations are found in the books
Alma and Helaman--the very books which contain the parallel concerning
the "cloud of darkness."
New Computer Study
On Oct. 7, 1979, the Provo Herald reported that some Mormon
researchers at Brigham Young University had turned to a computer
in an attempt to prove that the Book of Mormon is genuine:
Wordprint comparisons between the Book of Mormon and the known
19th century writings of Joseph Smith and Mr. Spalding show conclusively
that neither of these persons, authored the book, the scientists
say.... their research indicates that the book was authored by
at least 24 different writers, and possibly more, whose styles
bear no resemblance to that of Joseph Smith... or other 19th century
writers whom they examined...
One of the tests went so far as to indicate that 'odds against
a single author exceeded 100 billion to one,' the statisticians
noted in the report.
In the Salt Lake City Messenger for Dec.1979 we observed
that the list of "24 Major Book of Mormon Authors Used in the Study,"
seems to be somewhat padded (see The New Era, Nov. 1979,
p.11). For instance, we find Isaiah listed as one of the authors.
Since Isaiah is a book in the Bible and since the Book of Mormon
itself acknowledges that it is quoting from Isaiah, we do not feel
that it should be included in this study. If the researchers are
going to include Bible authors as part of the list of 'Book of Mormon
Authors,' they might as well add Moses, Matthew and Malachi (see
Book of Mormon, Mosiah 13; 3 Nephi 12-14; and 3 Nephi 24-25).
The BYU researchers stretched the matter even further by including
the "Lord" as "quoted by Isaiah" as part of the "24 Major Book of
Mormon Authors." Also included in this list is the "Lord," "Jesus"
and the "Father." It would appear, then, that the researchers created
four "Book of Mormon Authors" out of the Father and the Son! On
page 11 of their study in The New Era, the researchers admit:
"Since the term Lord can refer either to the Father or the Son,
we separated the words attributed to the Lord from those attributed
to the Father or to Christ." This list of "24 Major Book of Mormon
Authors," therefore, appears to be overstated.
In the same newsletter we noted that we were in favor of computer
studies with regard to the Book of Mormon and would especially like
to see a study showing the parallels between the King James Version
and the Book of Mormon. We indicated that a good computer study
would probably reveal more than 24 different authors in the
book. In fact, we felt that it would probably find words written
by Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Job, David, Solomon, Ezekiel, Daniel,
Jonah, Micah, Malachi, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter,
When we later did our computer research for the book, Covering
Up the Black Hole in the Book of Mormon, we demonstrated that
there were many quotations from New Testament writers that had been
plagiarized by the author of the Book of Mormon. These extracts
were found in portions of the Book of Mormon that were supposed
to have been written before the time of Christ. For example, we
found a good deal of material lifted from the biblical books of
Matthew, Revelation, John, Romans, Luke, Acts, 1 Corinthians, 2
Corinthians, Hebrews, Mark and other New Testament books.
In Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, vol. 3, page 170,
Matthew Roper stated: "In their recent book, Covering Up the
Black Hole in the Book of Mormon, Jerald and Sandra Tanner have
presented perhaps the most extensive list of alleged plagiarism
ever assembled by hostile critics of the Book of Mormon."
Our computer research with regard to the Book of Mormon does not
agree with that done by the BYU researchers. While it is clear that
there has been extensive plagiarism in the Book of Mormon, we believe
the evidence shows that one style of writing pervades the entire
book, and it is the same style found in Joseph Smith's other scriptural
Even some Mormon scholars have questioned the work of the BYU apologists.
John A. Tvedtnes, a Hebrew scholar, who has taught at Brigham Young
University, the University of Utah and the Brigham Young University
Center for Near Eastern Studies, has publicly proclaimed that he
does not accept the research. In a response to our work on the Book
of Mormon, Tvedtnes spoke of "the stylistic computer studies of
the scriptures done at Brigham Young University and in Berkeley,
California." He then frankly stated: "I have my own reasons for
rejecting those studies, however, and hope to express them
elsewhere." (Ibid., page 229)
Recently another computer study of the Book of Mormon has come
to our attention. It is entitled, "A Multivariate Technique for
Authorship Attribution and its Application to the Analysis of Mormon
Scripture and Related Texts." The research was done by David I.
Holmes, a Senior Lecturer in Statistics at Bristol Polytechnic,
and was published by Oxford University Press for the Association
for History and Computing. In this article David Holmes explained
that he used fourteen large blocks of text from the Book of Mormon
(amounting to over 120,000 words), documents written or dictated
by Joseph Smith between 1828 and 1833, three samples of approximately
10,000 words from the early revelations printed in the Doctrine
and Covenants, text from the book of Isaiah and Joseph Smith's
Book of Abraham. After Holmes finished his study, he was convinced
that the claim of multiple authorship in the Book of Mormon was
The most impressive statistical analysis carried out on the Book
of Mormon is that undertaken by Larsen, Rencher and Layton....
The authors conclude that their results all strongly support multiple
authorship of the Book of Mormon yet their whole case rests on
the assumption that the frequency of occurrence of non-contextual
function words is a stylistic discriminator. The article claims
that there is no resemblance between the authors of the Book of
Mormon and the nineteenth century authors sampled, but the case
rests on usage of words such as 'unto, behold, yea, forth, verily,
lest and nay' which would all naturally be prominent in an archaic
biblical-type style, but could hardly be expected to occur with
the same frequency elsewhere, even in the early nineteenth century.
Against this background, the aim of my research is to complement
historical and scientific studies into the authenticity of the
Book of Mormon by subjecting it and related Mormon scripture to
stylometric analysis. In this paper it is understood that a particularly
effective measure for purposes of discrimination between writers
is the vocabulary richness of a text....
We may summarize by noting that the analyses have shown that
the Joseph Smith and Isaiah samples form distinct and separate
clusters, whereas all other samples tend to cluster together....
The formation of the clustering observed here, provides evidence
of the utility of the multivariate technique advocated by this
An important discovery is the fact that the samples of writings
from the various prophets who purportedly wrote the Book of Mormon
do not form prophet-by-prophet clusters. The dendrogram
in Figure 2 shows that only the two samples from Alma display
internal homogeneity... There appears to be no real difference
between Alma's vocabulary richness and Mormon's vocabulary richness
within the Book of Alma, a conclusion in direct contradiction
to the findings of Larsen and the Brigham Young University team.
This study has not found, therefore, any evidence of multiple
authorship within the Book of Mormon itself. Variation within
samples from the same prophet is generally as great as any variation
between the prophets themselves.
Two of the three 'revelations' samples are also indistinguishable
from the Book of Mormon prophets.... The dendrograms and principal
components plots place the Book of Abraham text (AB) firmly in
the main 'prophet' cluster, its nearest neighbour being sample
R1 from Moroni. In terms of vocabulary richness, clearly the
Book of Abraham is indistinguishable from the Book of Mormon prophets
and from samples D2 and D3 of Joseph Smith's revelations....
It is my conclusion, from the results of this research and the
supporting historical evidence, that the Book of Mormon sprang
from the 'prophetic voice' of Joseph Smith himself, as
did his revelations and the text of the Book of Abraham. We have
seen that the style of his 'prophetic voice' as evidenced by the
main cluster of the textual samples studied, differs from the
style of his personal writings or dictations of a personal nature.
History and Computing, Vol. 3, No. 1, 1991, pp. 14, 20-21
David I. Holmes' statement that Joseph Smith's "prophetic voice"
differs from that found in private writings is of course to be expected.
In his scriptural writings he was trying to make the wording sound
ancient. Wesley P. Walters observed:
In addition to borrowing biblical names and events, the Elizabethan
style of the English King James Bible was adopted. Phrases from
both the Old and New Testament were frequently borrowed by Joseph
Smith. Wording such as 'go the way of all the earth,' (Mos. 1:9
/ Josh. 23:14), 'sackcloth and ashes' (Mos. 11:25 / Dan. 9:3),
and 'applied your hearts to understanding' (Mos. 12:27 / Pr. 2:2)
are found throughout the book. Furthermore, even the material
not derived from the Bible was cast into the King James style.
Consequently there is a continual use of 'thee', 'thou' and 'ye',
as well as the archaic verb endings 'est' (second person singular)
and 'eth' (third person singular). Since the Elizabethan style
was not Joseph's natural idiom, he continually slipped out of
this King James pattern and repeatedly confused the forms as well.
Thus he lapsed from 'ye' (subject) to 'you' (object) as the subject
of sentences (e.g. Mos. 2:19; 3:34; 4:24), jumped from plural
('ye') to singular ('thou') in the same sentence (Mos. 4:22) and
moved from verbs without endings to ones with endings (e.g. 'yields...
The Use of the Old Testament in the Book of Mormon, by
Wesley P. Walters, 1990, p. 30
Our own computer study of the Book of Mormon has certainly not
been as sophisticated as that of David I. Holmes, but we have reached
similar conclusions. We approached the problem from a different
angle. After noticing that the same phrases of two or more words
appear time after time throughout Joseph Smith's scriptures, we
used the computer to identify hundreds of these groups of words
and feel that they provide powerful evidence that the Book of
Mormon, the Inspired Version of the Bible the Doctrine
and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price were all the
product of one mind.
B. H. Roberts' Doubts
As unbelievable as it may seem to many members of the Mormon Church,
the noted Mormon historian B. H. Roberts also came to believe that
there was a strong possibility that Joseph Smith borrowed from books
that were available to him at the time he wrote the Book of Mormon.
Roberts, of course, was one of the greatest scholars the church
has ever known. He not only prepared the "Introduction And Notes"
for Joseph Smith's History of the Church (Seven volumes),
but he also wrote the six-volume work, A Comprehensive History
of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is also
noted for his many works defending the Book of Mormon.
After studying Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews, published
in 1825, Roberts listed eighteen parallels between it and the Book
of Mormon. He wrote two very significant manuscripts which were
suppressed for many years because of the fear that the contents
would prove harmful to the Mormon Church. Fortunately, we obtained
copies of both manuscripts and printed photographs from them in
1979. In 1980 we photographically reproduced both manuscripts under
the title Roberts' Secret Manuscripts Revealed. The manuscripts
were later printed by the University of Illinois Press in a hard-back
book entitled Studies of the Book of Mormon.
In his secret manuscripts B. H. Roberts acknowledged that Joseph
Smith himself could have written the Book of Mormon from the information
that was available to him at the time. The deeper B. H. Roberts
delved into the relationship between the Book of Mormon and books
by Ethan Smith and Josiah Priest, the more his faith in the divine
authenticity of the Book of Mormon began to erode. In his second
manuscript, "A Book of Mormon Study," B. H. Roberts really began
to openly express his own personal doubts about the divine authenticity
of the Book of Mormon. In the extracts which follow the reader will
see that B. H. Roberts was seriously disturbed by many things he
found in the Book of Mormon:
One other subject remains to be considered in this division...
viz.--was Joseph Smith possessed of a sufficiently vivid and creative
imagination as to produce such a work as the Book of Mormon from
such materials as have been indicated in the preceding chapters...
That such power of imagination would have to be of a high order
is conceded; that Joseph Smith possessed such a gift of mind there
can be no question....
In the light of this evidence, there can be no doubt as to the
possession of a vividly strong, creative imagination by Joseph
Smith, the Prophet, an imagination, it could with reason be urged,
which, given the suggestions that are found in the 'common knowledge'
of accepted American antiquities of the times, supplemented by
such a work as Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews, would
make it possible for him to create a book such as the Book of
Studies of the Book of Mormon, pp. 243, 250
If from all that has gone before in Part 1, the view be taken
that the Book of Mormon is merely of human origin... if it be
assumed that he is the author of it, then it could be said there
is much internal evidence in the book itself to sustain such a
In the first place there is a certain lack of perspective in
the things the book relates as history that points quite clearly
to an undeveloped mind as their origin. The narrative proceeds
in characteristic disregard of conditions necessary to its reasonableness,
as if it were a tale told by a child, with utter disregard for
Ibid., p. 251
There were other Anti-Christs among the Nephites, but they were
more military leaders than religious innovators... they are all
of one breed and brand; so nearly alike that one mind is the author
of them, and that a young and undeveloped, but piously inclined
mind. The evidence I sorrowfully submit, points to Joseph Smith
as their creator. It is difficult to believe that they are the
product of history, that they come upon the scene separated by
long periods of time, and among a race which was the ancestral
race of the red man of America. Ibid., p. 271
These words did not come from the lips of an uninformed and biased
"anti-Mormon" writer, but rather they are the carefully worded pronouncements
of the Mormon historian B. H. Roberts--believed by many to have
been the greatest apologist the church has ever produced. While
Professor Truman Madsen, of the church's Brigham Young University,
has asserted that Roberts was merely using "the 'Devil's Advocate'
approach to stimulate thought," a careful reading of the material
leads one to the inescapable conclusion that he was in the process
of losing faith in the historical claims of the Book of Mormon.
Why else would B. H. Roberts have made the comment concerning
Book of Mormon stories which we cited above?: "The evidence I
sorrowfully submit, points to Joseph Smith as their creator. It
is difficult to believe that they are the product of history..."
In his earlier faith-promoting work, A New Witness for God,
a three-volume work published in 1909, B. H. Roberts insisted
that Joseph Smith did not have access to books from which he could
create a "ground plan" for the Book of Mormon. In his secret writings,
however, Roberts acknowledged that in A New Witness for God he
did not take sufficiently into account the work of Josiah Priest...
Priest himself, indeed, published a book... The Wonders of
Nature and Providence, copyrighted by him June 2nd, 1824,
and printed soon afterwards in Rochester, New York, only some
twenty miles distant from Palmyra... this book preceded the publication
of the Book of Mormon by about six years. At the time I made for
my New Witness the survey of the literature on American
antiquities, traditions, origins, etc., available to Joseph Smith
and his associates, this work of Priest's was unknown to me; as
was also the work of Ethan Smith, View of the Hebrews except
by report of it, and as being in my hands but a few minutes....
it is altogether probable that these two books... were either
possessed by Joseph Smith or certainly known by him....
Moreover, on subjects widely discussed, and that deal in matters
of widespread public interest, there is built up in the course
of years, a community of knowledge of such subjects, usually referred
to as 'matters of common knowledge'... Such 'common knowledge'
existed throughout New England and New York in relation to American
Indian origins and cultures: and the prevailing ideas respecting
the American Indians throughout the regions named were favorable
to the notion that they were of Hebrew origin... And with the
existence of such a body of knowledge, or that which was accepted
as 'knowledge,' and a person of vivid and constructive imaginative
power in contact with it, there is little room for doubt that
it might be possible for Joseph Smith to construct a theory of
origin for his Book of Mormon in harmony with these prevailing
notions; and more especially since this 'common knowledge'
is set forth in almost handbook form in the little work of Ethan
Smith... It will appear in what is to follow that such 'common
knowledge' did exist in New England, that Joseph Smith was in
contact with it; that one book, at least, with which he was most
likely acquainted, could well have furnished structural outlines
for the Book of Mormon; and that Joseph Smith was possessed
of such creative imaginative powers as would make it quite within
the lines of possibility that the Book of Mormon could have been
produced in that way.
Studies of the Book of Mormon, pp. 152-54
On page 192 of the same book, B. H. Roberts asked this question:
Could an investigator of the Book of Mormon be much blamed if
he were to decide that Ethan Smith's book with its suggestion
as to the division of his Israelites into two peoples; with its
suggestion of 'tremendous wars between them'; and of the savages
overcoming the civilized division led to the fashioning of chiefly
these same things in the Book of Mormon?
Roberts felt that "the likelihood of Joseph Smith coming in contact
with Ethan Smith's book is not only very great, but amounts to
a very close certainty." (page 235) Further on in the same chapter,
B. H. Roberts made these observations:
But now to return... to the main theme of this writing--viz.,
did Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews furnish structural
material for Joseph Smith's Book of Mormon? It has been pointed
out in these pages that there are many things in the former
book that might well have suggested many major things in the other.
Not a few things merely, one or two, or a half dozen, but many;
and it is this fact of many things of similarity and the cumulative
force of them that makes them so serious a menace to Joseph Smith's
story of the Book of Mormon origin....
The material in Ethan Smith's book is of a character and quantity
to make a ground plan for the Book of Mormon...
Can such numerous and startling points of resemblance and suggestive
contact be merely coincidence?
pp. 240, 242
Kaikkien Mormonin kirjan todellisesta luonteesta kiinnostuneiden
pitäisi lukea B. H. Robertsin teos Studies
of the Book of Mormon.