Posted by: blackfootsmj1 | May 10, 2011

43 Evidences for the Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon

Has anyone ever asked you, “Is there any proof or evidence for the Book of Mormon?” To answer that question i’ve spent some time compiling a list of evidence for the divinity of The Book of Mormon.

The Gold Plates

A depiction of the golden plates Joseph Smith used for the translation of The Book of Mormon

In 1909 B.H. Roberts quoted Rev. John Watson, “Were a parchment discovered in an Egyptian mound, six inches square, containing fifty words which were certainly spoken by Jesus, this utterance would count more than all the books which have been published since the first century.”

If this statement is true, he urged, then the fifty pages of the “Fifth Gospel” (his description of 3 Nephi in the Book of Mormon) are a “Christian treasure.”

What is the difference between the Book of Mormon and the Bible

The Bible took place in Jerusalem. The Book of Mormon has a setting in Central America.

Elder Roberts also said: “The power of the Holy Ghost … must ever be the chief source of evidence for the Book of Mormon. All other evidence is secondary. … No arrangement of evidence, however skillfully ordered; no argument, however adroitly made, can ever take its place.”

Austin Farrar, (once quoted by Elder Jeffery R. Holland), commented on the relationship between rational argument (evidence) and belief:

“Though argument does not create conviction, lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.”

The purpose of my post today is to highlight some of the rational arguments to support the Book of Mormon, in order to provide the “climate in which belief may flourish.” I’ve pulled my thoughts from several Ensign articles. One from Truman G. Madsen on B.H. Roberts (which can be viewed here), another from Daniel C. Peterson (on here), and finally a talk by Elder Bruce R. McConkie, entitled, “What Think Ye of the Book of Mormon

As a missionary I’ve often heard a person say “Oh, I could believe in the Church and its teachings if only it wasn’t for the story of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith being a prophet.” Jesus Christ himself articulated the reason for the “marvelous work and wonder”, or the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, in the latter-days . In Matthew 7: 15-20, the Savior explains we can know a true prophet from a false one by their fruits. As you read these evidences ponder “what greater fruit could be given than a divine witness of the Book of Mormon?”

15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

The first group of evidences deal with the plates, the translation, and the witnesses of the Book of Mormon.

1. Joseph Smith was between the age 23 and 24 years old at the beginning of the translation process. There is no evidence at all that Joseph Smith did any scholarly research, or even that he read very much, before the Book of Mormon appeared. In fact, he may not even have owned a Bible at the time of translation.

2. Joseph Smith had spent the bulk of his time as a youth cutting trees, burning brush, clearing rocks, and plowing. He had received at most a few months of formal schooling. His mother later recalled that, even into his late teens, “he seemed much less inclined to the perusal of books than any of the rest of our children.” 1

3. His wife Emma reports that, in the late 1820s, Joseph “could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well worded letter, let alone dictate a book like the Book of Mormon. … The larger part of this labor [of translation] was done [in] my presence and where I could see and know what was being done. … During no part of it did Joseph Smith have any [manuscripts] or book of any kind from which to read or dictate except the metalic [sic] plates which I knew he had.” “If,” she said, “he had had anything of the kind he could not have concealed it from me.” And, she added, writing to her son: “I am satisfied that no man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired; for, when acting as his scribe, your father would dictate to me hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he would at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him. This was a usual thing for him to do. It would have been improbable that a learned man could do this; and, for one so ignorant and unlearned as he was, it was simply impossible.”2

5. “The title page of the Book of Mormon declares that it was to come forth ‘by the gift and power of God.” Recent evidence and scholarship indicates that this is exactly what would have had to happen. In addition, the evidence indicates that the translation and dictation of the book were accomplished in roughly 63 working days—a torrid pace that, with neither rewrites nor corrections, produced nearly 8.5 pages (of our current English edition) daily.”3

6. “The Book of Mormon claims to have been written in “reformed Egyptian” (Morm. 9:32). Most who have studied the subject conclude that this signifies writing the Hebrew language in modified Egyptian characters. In recent years, we have learned that several ancient documents were written in precisely that fashion.” 4

7. “Although the Prophet’s critics found his claim of angelic visits and gold plates ridiculous, we now know that the writing of religious texts on metal plates (sometimes on gold), was an authentic ancient practice. Indeed, the ancient practice now is known to have occurred at precisely the era and place from which Book of Mormon peoples came.” 5

8. “With the Copper Scroll and other materials from the Dead Sea, we have an almost exact parallel: like the ancient Nephite plates, these materials were sealed up in a hillside just prior to military disaster, to preserve them for a future time.” 6

9. Three Witnesses testified the voice of God declared that the record is true and that it was their responsibility to declare their solemn witness to what they had seen and heard (see testimony of the witnesses)

10. These three honest, credible, witnesses testified to the whole world, until their death, that an angel from heaven appeared to them and showed them not only the ancient record from what it was translated, but also many important artifacts from the Book of Mormon they were able to view as well (D&C 17).

11. All three of the witnesses testified of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon until they died. All 3 left the Church, but 2 returned to die in full fellowship with the Church.

12. Eight other witnesses testified to the world that they saw the ancient plates in broad daylight, and they “hefted” or handled them and felt the engravings on the plates.

13. Textual analysis of the book prove there are many writing styles, and hence, proving there must have been more than one author. “Rigorous statistical analysis strongly indicates that neither Joseph Smith nor any of his known associates composed the English text of the Book of Mormon. In fact, research suggests that the book was written by numerous distinct authors.” 7

14. Further, consider a contextual analysis of the book. “Research shows that the book does not seem to fit the culture of early 19th-century America. There is little of the military romanticism of Joseph Smith’s America. Instead, we see grimly realistic portrayals of war’s devastation and suffering. And in the story of the Gadianton robbers we have a detailed, realistic portrayal of a prolonged guerrilla struggle—lacking any trace of fife and drum, uniforms, or parades—published well over a century before the guerrilla theorists of the 20th century put pens to paper.” 8

15. “Richard L. Bushman has shown that the Book of Mormon does not resemble common monarchical beliefs in western New York in the nineteenth century. On the other hand, a number of scholars have shown that the Book of Mormon does reflect specific culture patterns of the Middle East and Mesoamerica. Hugh Nibley has traced hundreds of such patterns for the Middle East context—the world of the Jaredites and Lehi in the desert. The test tightens if we only consider details that could not have been known by anyone in the nineteenth century, let alone by Joseph Smith—for example, that the name Alma was a male name in the pre-Christian Middle East.”9

16. “[The]culture to which the Book of Mormon narrative is most similar is likely the root of the narrative. And enough striking parallels exist between the Book of Mormon and the cultures it claims to represent to rule out coincidence. There are at least 150 cultural patterns in Mesoamerica which anthropologists and archaeologists have found in common with the Book of Mormon since it was published and about which Joseph Smith could not have known. It is hardly a rational explanation to say ‘he just guessed right.’” 10

17. The content of the Book of Mormon may be the most convincing evidence for its claim as a historical record and divine scripture. “The Book of Mormon does fit into what we know of the ancient world. Its early account of Jerusalem just before the Babylonian captivity gains in plausibility as research continues to accumulate. “11

18.”The name of Lehi’s wife, Sariah, previously unknown outside the Book of Mormon, has been found in ancient Jewish documents from Egypt.”12

19. “The non-biblical name Nephi belongs to the very time and place of the first Book of Mormon figure who bears it.” 13

20. “Nephi’s slaying of Laban and the justification given to him by the Lord for doing so can now be seen as instruction that focused on the culture of Nephi’s era.”14

21. “The imagery in Nephi’s vision is deeply rooted in ancient Near Eastern symbolism with which Joseph Smith could not have been familiar.”15

22. “Moreover, its predictions (prophecies) are strikingly accurate. Consider 1 Nephi 13:12, a passage generally applied to Christopher Columbus: ‘And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.’

Many have seen Columbus as an adventurer. But with the recent publication of Columbus’s Book of Prophecies, we see how accurate the Book of Mormon’s description is. He said he was guided by the Holy Spirit, and he was eager not only to spread Christianity but to fulfill biblical prophecies. Among his favorite passages were John 10:16, with its reference to ‘other sheep,’ and the passages of Isaiah concerning the people on the ‘islands of the sea.’ These are the very passages the Book of Mormon applies to itself.”16

23. “In his 1952 essay ‘Lehi in the Desert,’ Hugh Nibley illuminated Lehi’s land journey from Jerusalem by placing it along the coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Since that time, Latter-day Saint scholars and explorers have refined our understanding of that route through actual visits and systematic surveys of the area, enabling us to identify likely Book of Mormon locations in Arabia. The Book of Mormon account of Lehi’s sojourn accurately describes numerous Arabic geographic conditions, but no scholar in the 19th century, let alone Joseph Smith, could have known of it.” 17

25. Also consider the striking similarities between 1 Nephi Ch. 1 and Moses’ experience with the burning bush and even Joseph Smith’s account of the “first vision”. All proof that God is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.

26. “Lehi’s epic journey from Jerusalem to the New World endured in the memory of his descendants, who saw it as evidence of God’s miraculous power much like the Israelites’ earlier deliverance from Egyptian bondage. In fact, careful modern readings show that the very terms in which Lehi’s journey was described and remembered derive from the biblical account of the Exodus. The literary crafting of the story is both very sophisticated and authentically Near Eastern.”18 All of these, once again, pointing to evidence that the young, uneducated, Joseph Smith, could not have produced such a book. Unless, he had the power and authority of God to translate such a book.

28. “In its smallest details, the Book of Mormon reveals its roots in the ancient Near East. For example, the system of exchange described in Alma 11:3–19 recalls ancient Babylonian economic legislation.”19

29. Additionally, “after Zemnarihah’s execution (see 3 Ne. 4:28), the tree upon which he had been hanged was ritually chopped down, just as ancient Jewish law required.” 20

30. “The oath of allegiance (the Title of Liberty) taken by Nephite soldiers in Alma 46:21–22 is almost identical in form to military oaths among ancient Israelite and Hittite warriors.”21

31. In Alma 46:40 there is a verse referring to many who were sick with fevers, but did not die because of the “excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases, to which men were subject by the nature of the climate.” A practice virtually unknown to those living in upstate New York. The practice of using roots and plants for medicine didn’t occur until the late 1860s, the use of things like asprin.

32. The curse of speechlessness placed upon Korihor in Alma 30:49 finds striking ancient parallels.22

33. “King Benjamin’s classic address in Mosiah 2–5 occupies about 12 pages in the current English edition, which means that Joseph Smith may have dictated this doctrinally rich text of nearly 5,000 English words in a little more than one day. Recent research shows that the sermon is intimately linked with the ancient Israelite Feast of Tabernacles and the Day of Atonement, as well as with ancient treaty and covenant formulas and early Near Eastern coronation festivals. Even the physical setting of the speech—delivered while the king stood upon a tower (see Mosiah 2:7)—is ritually appropriate to the occasion. But the Prophet Joseph Smith could not have learned this from the Bible or any other book available to him.”23

34. “Likewise, [Joseph Smith] could not have known that the ancient Hebrew term moshia’ signifies a champion of justice against oppression, appointed by God, whose mission it is to liberate a chosen people from oppression, especially by nonviolent means. The term does not occur in the English edition of the King James Bible. But such nonviolent deliverance is a major theme of the book of Mosiah.”24

35. “The appearance of two men named Alma in the Book of Mormon has occasioned much comment. Critics observe that Alma is a woman’s name and Latin rather than Hebrew. They are correct. If Joseph Smith knew the name Alma at all in the early 19th century, he would have known it as a woman’s name. Recent documentary finds demonstrate, however, that Alma also occurs as a Semitic masculine personal name in the ancient Near East—just as it does in the Book of Mormon.”25

37. “Alma 7:10 predicts that Jesus ‘shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers.’ Is this a mistake? We know Jesus was born in Bethlehem. But it is now plain from modern discoveries that Bethlehem could be, and indeed was, regarded anciently as a town in the ‘land of Jerusalem.’ A recently released text from the Dead Sea Scrolls, for example—a text claiming origin in Jeremiah’s days (and therefore in Lehi’s)—says the Jews of that period were ‘taken captive from the land of Jerusalem.’ Joseph Smith could not have learned this from the Bible, though, for no such language appears in it.”26

38. “Another powerful indicator of the record’s antiquity is the recent discovery in the Book of Mormon of its characteristically ancient literary structure or technique known as chiasmus—a rhetorical device that uses parallel phrases and that was overlooked by biblical scholarship until decades after Joseph Smith’s death. The same literary structure has now been identified in pre-Columbian America. Some examples of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon work better in Hebrew than in English, which is an important and remarkable clue to the original language of the Book of Mormon.”27

“Moreover, recent studies show that central sections, including historical narrative, are in the 1-2-3, 3-2-1 chiastic literary pattern characteristic of many Old Testament poet-prophets. (The American Heritage Dictionary defines chiasmus as ‘a rhetorical inversion of the second of two parallel structures, as He went to the theater, but home went she.’) Not only are there passages of the book that are chiasms (see Alma 36), but Noel Reynolds has recently shown that the entire substructures of 1 and 2 Nephi are chiastic.”28

39. “Another intriguing example of chiasmus occurs in Helaman 6:10. Here, the chiastic turning point rests on an equivalence between the word Lord and the royal name Zedekiah. But those words are only equivalent for readers who are aware that the term Lord probably stands (as it does in the King James Bible) for the divine name Jehovah or Yahweh, and that the -iah element in Zedekiah is the first portion of that same divine name. Also this chiasm works better in Hebrew than in English, which is an important and remarkable clue to the original language of the Book of Mormon29

40. “Confronted with these and a host of similar studies, some biblical students have begun saying that Joseph Smith was apparently adept not only in Hebrew but in Hebrew styles. That won’t do. Joseph Smith’s first exposure to the Hebrew alphabet occurred more than five years after the publication of the Book of Mormon. Furthermore, the existence of chiastic structures in the Book of Mormon was recognized only recently.”30

41. “Many such clues appear among the book’s place names. Jershon, for instance, designates a place that was given to the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi as a ‘land … for an inheritance’ (Alma 27:22). In Hebrew, Jershon means ‘a place of inheritance.’ Joseph Smith simply would not have known this in the late 1820s.”31

42. “The allegory of the olive tree in Jacob 5 shows a clear knowledge of olive cultivation far beyond what Joseph Smith, growing up in the American Northeast, could have possessed. But it is entirely consistent, in impressive detail, with what we learn from ancient manuals on olive cultivation.”32

43. “Likewise, the account of the great destruction given in 3 Nephi 8 finds remarkable parallels with what modern seismology and vulcanology show about cataclysmic geological events and with historical reports of such catastrophes. Yet Joseph Smith never saw a volcano and never experienced a significant earthquake, nor is it likely he had read any substantial literature on the subject.”33


1-8, 11-27, 29, 31-33: Daniel C. Peterson, “Mounting Evidence for the Book of Mormon”, Ensign Jan. 2000

9-10, 28, 30:  Truman G. Madsen, “B.H. Roberts after Fifty Years: Still Witnessing for the Book of Mormon”, Ensign Dec. 1983

34: Bruce R. McConkie, “What Think Ye of the Book of Mormon”, Ensign. November 1983


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