Historicity

Some feel the Old Testament is largely fiction. Whales, arks, towers to heaven, Satan singling out Job, and more. Some feel the resurrection isn’t possible. Not historic. Same with other scriptures and miraculous events.

Chora's "Anastasis"
“Hê Anastasis” (“The Resurrection:)
A fresco painting in Istanbul’s medieval Chora Church depicts Christ standing upon the smashed doors of the Underworld, retrieving Adam and Eve from their long bondage there.
(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)

Dan Peterson shares his thoughts: Historicity: Does it matter?

Removing some of the often-present confusion on this topic of historicity, Ben Spackman articulates the Bible has multiple genres.

In Ben’s own words: “Often times when reading scripture, the assumption is made that the text is either literal or figurative, but these two categories are insufficient to describe the different genres of scriptures.

It would be more helpful to approach the Bible as if it were a library that contained books of many different genre instead of being all the same type of writing. No Christian would presume to label all scripture as parable. Likewise all scripture should not be labeled as history. The Bible contains books of satire, law codes, poetry, parables, myth, conquest narratives, and prophetic revelation among other things…”

A special focus on Book of Mormon historicity below:

Brant Gardners 2004 FAIR conference lecture, A Case for Historicity: Discerning The Book of Mormon Production Culture.

Swords, Elephants, and Nephite Ore in the Baja

We’re continuing our conversation with David Rosenvall. He’s the guy who came up with who came up with the idea that the Book of Mormon lands may have occurred in the Baja Peninsula. We’ll also discuss some other issues with the Book of Mormon. Are there two Hill Cumorahs? What about steel swords? We’ll talk about that in this conversation….

In this episode we’re going to talk about the thorniest of all topics when it comes to the Book of Mormon: DNA.

King of the Jungle: The Mayan Empire of Archaeologist Richard Hansen

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This fellow, Richard Hansen, has done much to uncover long-lost Mayan civilizations. Read the article here.  

As a grad student, Hansen made a significant contribution:

“The gigantic El Mirador complex had first been discovered in 1926, and it was assumed that owing to its sheer size and elaborate layout, it represented yet another classic-period city like Tikal, only in worse condition.

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But while excavating a chamber in the bottom level of a structure at El Mirador known as the Jaguar Paw Temple (the jungle cat had totemic significance for the Maya), the 26-year-old Hansen came across fragments of polished-red pottery, undisturbed for centuries, that could only be preclassic in origin. “That ceramic was only produced in the Mirador Basin, and I was the first one who identified that,” he says.

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It was a startling moment of revisionism: It meant that the entire El Mirador agglomeration dated at least five centuries earlier than anyone had thought, to a period that began before the time of Christ, and that the preclassic Maya, rather than being primitive forerunners of a more elaborate classic civilization, had built far bigger and produced an even more complex and powerful political and social organization than their medieval successors—until they, like their successors, precipitously abandoned their massive settlements during the middle of the second century. “

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Hansen’s freedom from the strictures of academia also helped him become one of the very first archaeologists to exploit a brand-new technology that has been to Mayanists of the second decade of the 21st century what carbon-dating was to the Mayanists of the 1950s: light detection and ranging, or LiDAR. The technology—using airborne lasers to “map” the topography of a given area digitally, revealing the natural peaks and valleys, as well as manmade structures, beneath the dense jungle canopies that otherwise mask them—had been used for decades by NASA to create digital maps of planet surfaces.

A few videos, highlighting previously unappreciated pre-classic (1200 years ago) developments in Guatemala:

Read the entire article above.  It shares the history of LDS-supported projects in the area.

LDS Magazine wrote the following article in February 2018 when the National Geographic story was published:    How an Incredible New Archeological Discovery Corroborates the Book of Mormon


Orson Scott Card and Book of Mormon historicity

Elder Oaks referenced world-famous LDS author, Orson Scott Card (OSC) in his own talk about Book of Mormon historicity.

Elder Oaks and OSC both spoke on this topic in 1993.

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OSC wrote this essay on the topic of BoM historicity:  “The Book of Mormon – Artifact or Artifice?”

This essay was adapted from a February, 1993 speech given at the BYU Symposium on Life, the Universe, and Everything.

The final paragraph of OSC’s essay:

“Joseph Smith didn’t write the Book of Mormon, though he did translate it, so that his voice is present when we read, including the flaws in his language and understanding.

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Those who wrote the original were also fallible human beings who will reveal their culture and their assumptions just as surely as the writers of I Love Lucy did.

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But unlike the writers of that TV show, the prophets wrote and translated under the direction of the Lord, out of love for us.

It’s well worth finding out who these men were, the culture from which they wrote, how it’s different from ours, and how it’s also very much the same.”

Horses and the Book of Mormon

Hot off the presses!

Radiocarbon dating put horse bones in the Americas around 500 BC, in Nephite times.

Read more about this recent development here. 

This is encouraging, though provisional .

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The current consensus is that horses died off in the Americas around 10,000 years ago.  Horses, scholars believe, were only reintroduced by Columbus to the Carribbean in 1493, and by Cortez to the continent over two decades later in 1819.

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In other words, critics claim that the Book of Mormon is a fraud, since horses — mentioned in the Book of Mormon — couldn’t have lived here at the time of the Nephites.

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However, don’t forget that many critical claims against the Book of Mormon have disappeared as new evidence is uncovered.  For example, early critics (around 1830) scoffed at the idea of metal plates and stone boxes.  Since that time many examples of metal plates and stone boxes have arisen.

So, it’s prudent to exercise patience and restraint when questions arise.

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Back to horses.    This was reported recently in the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Horse remnants we’re dated to 50 years before the Spanish arrived in Southern California.

“The finds are significant because native North American horses were thought to have been extinct more than 10,000 years ago, and the remains are older than the recorded conquests by the Spanish, who reintroduced horses to the New World.”

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http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sdut-centuries-old-bones-of-horses-unearthed-in-2005jul17-story.html

 

A few videos about horses in Pre-Columbian America:

Michael Ash, among other things, shares that at least 2 non-LDS scholars believe that smaller horses weren’t extinct in the Americas before Columbus.

Couple thoughts about translation:

Did Joseph mean horse when he dictated “horse” to Oliver?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Joseph likely had never heard of tapirs, llamas, or other large animals — known to exist in the Americas — when translating the Book of Mormon.

Horse may have been the only related word Joseph knew.  Joseph, after all, only used words with which he was familiar.

When the Greeks first saw a hippopotamus in the Nile they called  the animal a “river” horse.  They had no name for such an animal.  Would you consider a hippo a horse that’s in the river?  Not really, but the Greeks just grabbed the best name they could think of.

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A Baird’s tapir, currently the largest land animal in Mesoamerica, is called a “jungle” horse by indigenous people.  Mayan people called the Spanish horses by the same name they previously applied to tapirs.

Further, showing how names are sometimes inexact, the Baird’s tapir is called an ante-burro by people in the Oaxaca-Vera Cruz area.

Further, horses were discovered in North America (by the French and other explorers) in modern-day Texas, Missouri, and elsewhere in the 1680s.

The Kiowa and Pawnee Native American tribes had horses before 1600.  A report about horses arises in 1567 from the Sonora Valley.  Before the Spanish arrived to those areas, and therefore their horses could have spread.

More videos on the topic:

Daniel Johnson talks about wheeled vehicles, horses, and other related issues:

Horses with riders are found on petroglyphs in Southern Utah.

From Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newspaper_Rock_State_Historic_Monument

The first carvings at the Newspaper Rock site were made around 2,000 years ago, left by people from the Archaic, Anasazi, Fremont, Navajo, Anglo, and Pueblo cultures.[3]

In Navajo, the rock is called “Tse’ Hone'” which translates to a rock that tells a story.[3]

The petroglyphs were carved by Native Americans during both the prehistoric and historic periods. There are over 650 rock art designs.

The drawings on the rock are of different animals, human figures, and symbols. These carvings include pictures of deer, buffalo, and pronghorn antelope.

Some glyphs depict riders on horses, while other images depict past events like in a newspaper. While precisely dating the rock carvings has been difficult, repatination of surface minerals reveals their relative ages.

The reason for the large concentration of the petroglyphs is unclear.”

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BYU Geology professor Wade Miller’s comments at the 2009 FAIR MORMON conference about the petroglyphs (photo above):
 
“I took this photograph last year of Petroglyphs at Newspaper Rock in southeastern Utah. I thought it was interesting to see all the animals depicted – including sheep and goats. Certainly they were here at the same time as man.
 
In talking to Bureau of Land Management archaeologists about these Petroglyphs, they said while it wasn’t possible to date them, they nevertheless were made over many centuries. You can see that there is a man on a horse as one of the figures.
 
They (BLM personnel) would say that this shows it was after the time of Columbus since horses weren’t here before this time. But this leads to a circular reasoning.
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Some of the petroglyphs are very faint, and it’s assumed that these are much older ones. This picture also shows some of the kinds of animals that the people of the time were familiar with. They include sheep and goats, possible both domesticated and wild types.”
 
Not proof. But another data point…
 
https://www.fairmormon.org/conference/august-2009/science-and-the-book-of-mormon

Prove or Disprove? Science and the LDS Church

LDS critics often claim “all reputable” scientists or scholars say this or that in relation to the LDS Church.  Broad, sweeping claims.  Often lots of bravado and bluster.

Absolutely no evidence for this. Absolutely no evidence for that.

Is it true?  Science checkmated the LDS Church?

How could it be true when more and more faithful Latter-day Saints are doing Science.  The very Science the critics claim disproves the LDS Church.

Science is simply a method to understand truth.  Mormons are good geologists, statisticians, chemists, and are distinguished in every field of Science.  How Mormons interpret data for their personal lives is unique.  So is the way in which life-long agnostics interpret non-scientific data.

Experiments on bacterial genetics, plant growth, and other topics won’t prove or disprove God.  Won’t prove or disprove the Book of Abraham.  Nor the Book of Mormon.  Or a long list of issues.

Science answers how.  Faith answers why.

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To repeat, has Science check mated the LDS Church?

Quick summary:  Nope.

Longer summary:  evaluate each specific critical claim in context.  When all relevant data is on the table “all scientists” don’t tend to agree and/or the argument is often itself flawed with biases.

Let’s first consider what “all scientists” believe.  Scientists, like most academics, tend to be very secular.

Many, many non-believers. Do non-believers believe in the Book of Mormon?

Nope.

 

Moreover, the individual critic frequently herself lacks a fundamental understanding of Science and how exactly Science would perform an experiment to unequivocally illuminate the question under discussion.

To unequivocally prove the LDS Church, the Book of Mormon, or other topic is obviously false — contrary to many critics’ belief system — turns out to be quite challenging. In fact, it’s impossible.

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For example, a critic might say that no self-respecting scientist believes major battles with steel swords and wheeled, horse-driven chariots took place in Palmyra, NY around 400 AD.  And further, no archaeologists have found lots of steel blades, metal armor, and wheels in the ground.

Book of Mormon defeated in a single swipe?  Nope!

This is an example of a straw man.  I and every LDS scientist would agree.  Yet, there’s more nuance to this situation than you may initially appreciate.

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1) Joseph never called the hill near his home the Hill Cumorah.   That belief — that the hill where Joseph got the plates was the same site as the final Nephite battle — sprung up long after Joseph Smith passed away, as folks hypothesized where the Book of Mormon took place.  It didn’t help that well-meaning Church leaders latched onto the idea.

The final Nephite and Jaredite battles likely happened in Mesoamerica — near where the entire narrative occurred.  Moroni wandered northward for decades.  36 years total.  A trek from Mesoamerica to NY can be accomplished by a fit person in around a year.

2) Nephi mentioned the fine steel of his bow and the Sword of Laban.  Both of these could have been made with technology of the time.  The Book of Mormon text doesn’t otherwise mention steel swords.

Dr. Wade Miller discusses iron, steel, swords, the Bible, and the Book of Mormon.

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3) The Book of Mormon mentions chariots, but doesn’t indicate horses led those chariots.  These “chariots” could have just have easily been smaller animals or people pulling a litter on which rested a leader.

Lots on horses and the Book of Mormon here.

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4) No archaeologists have excavated the Hill Cumorah.  Farmers have plowed the field, but no organized excavations have been undertaken.

I’d be suprised if anything were found, but the point still remains that nobody has done the research to rule out presence of metal Nephite objects.

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So, when aspecific example is given by critics — and not simply exaggerated generalizations — the Book of Mormon typically stands on reliable evidence.  Sure, questions still exist, but critics’ sweeping claims are nearly always uninformed and imprecise.

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The same thing applies with claims toward the Lehites and DNA.  When one looks at all the evidence — and not simply listens to critics’ absolute  and usually unsupported statements — the picture becomes clearer.

Watch Ugo Perego and Michael Whiting dispel common misconceptions.  These two scientists are leaders in the field of genetics, and see no conflict between their science and the Book of Mormon narrative.

Another scientist, Dr. Keith A. Crandall, converted to the LDS Church.  He discusses DNA and the Book of Mormon below:

 

A larger point should be emphasized:  how does one prove the Book of Mormon?  How does one disprove the Book of Mormon?  I’ll argue one can do neither.

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To say there’s not a shred of evidence for the Book of Mormon historicity is a mischaracterization.   Haven’t we — that is, LDS and non-LDS scholars — found things in Mesoamerica and elsewhere that are in sync with the narrative of the Book of Mormon?  Yep!

Critics used to say say steel wasn’t known till 100s of years after Lehi.  And they mocked Joseph and the Book of Mormon for that.  That’s clearly no longer believed.  We could list item after Book of Mormon item (silk, swine, iron, etc) that is no longer a mismatch or an anachromism.

See trends below:

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I like the trend:

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Surely, not everything matches and much work remains.  But to say there’s no evidence is untrue. To prove or disprove is not possible.  To find supporting evidence is possible and is under way.  A complete fraud wouldn’t be expected to get so many matches.

LDS scientists are the ones (no surprise!) who are interested in finding support for the Book of Mormon.  Other scientists typically don’t care or are perhaps mildly opposed to such ventures and findings.  Again, no surprise.

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Do atheist, Catholic, evangelical, or other scholars, who find wheat (or other disputed item in the Book of Mormon) in Guatemala, refuse to admit wheat was in the area?  No. 

They’re scholars doing scholarly work. They publish their findings, regardless of implication. 

Does finding wheat in Mexico change non-Mormon opinion of the LDS Church? The Book of Mormon?  Probably not in the least.

Does wheat in Guatemala (if found) absolutely prove the Book of Mormon?  No.  Evidence for?  Absolutely.

So, let’s allow scientists — Mormon and non-Mormon — to do their jobs:  Science.  And publish all findings.

The truth will take care of itself. I expect more and more evidence will be uncovered to support the Book of Mormon.

(KJV) Isaiah in the Book of Mormon

Image result for LDS Brass Plates Some wonder what Isaiah is doing in the Book of Mormon.  After reading and watching lots of videos I have confidence that Isaiah was written by 1 person.  Isaiah.  Many recent scholars think the multiple-Isaiah theory is an embarrassment to scholarship. Steven Smoot and the 3 Mormons give a good introduction: Jeff at Latter-day Saints Q & A shares his perspectives: Another young Latter-day Saint provides answers: Brandon Ly and a few others discuss Deutero-Isaiah: Kwaku shares good evidence, among other things, of the match between the Dead Sea Scrolls Isaiah scroll and the Book of Mormon sections of Isaiah:
Episode 8: What is Isaiah Doing in the Book of Mormon? – Joseph Spencer
Helpful reading on the subject: The King James Bible and the Book of Mormon by Daniel L. BelnapDoesn’t the Book of Mormon Blatantly Plagiarize the King James Bible” by Michael R. Ash The Original Language of the Book of Mormon: Upstate New York Dialect, King James English, or Hebrew? –  by Royal Skousen Was Joseph Smith Guilty of Plagiarism? –  by John A. Tvedtnes Old Testament prophets frequently quoted each other.  And often with variation (quoted texts not identical).  New Testament prophets, and even Jesus himself, cited the Old Testament, according to the prevalent translation. “In the Book of Mormon, briefer extracts from the Bible are usually not credited to the original author,11 but they would have been readily recognized by informed readers as having come from a specific source. This was a common practice in ancient times. Thus we find the New Testament frequently quoting from the Old Testament, sometimes without citing the source.12 Applying the same standard to the Bible that the critics apply to the Book of Mormon, one could conclude that some New Testament writers—and even Christ himself—are also guilty of “plagiarism.”13” A Faithful Reply to the CES Letter from a Former CES Employee.   by Jim Bennett.

Jim’s first response — on page 16 of his very long PDF — was to Jeremy’s question about KJV quotes and “errors” in the Book of Mormon.

About Hugh Nibley [off the record] | Hugh Nibley [off the record] LDS scholar Hugh Nibley wrote the following in response to a letter sent to the editor of the Church News section of the Deseret News. His response was printed in the Church News in 1961:[11]  These arguments still hold. “[One of the] most devastating argument[s] against the Book of Mormon was that it actually quoted the Bible. The early critics were simply staggered by the incredible stupidity of including large sections of the Bible in a book which they insisted was specifically designed to fool the Bible-reading public. JOSEPH SMITH: The Prophet, The Man, The Legend, The Myth, The ... They screamed blasphemy and plagiarism at the top of their lungs, but today any biblical scholar knows that it would be extremely suspicious if a book purporting to be the product of a society of pious emigrants from Jerusalem in ancient times did not quote the Bible. No lengthy religious writing of the Hebrews could conceivably be genuine if it was not full of scriptural quotations. …to quote another writer of Christianity Today [magazine],[12] “passages lifted bodily from the King James Version,” and that it quotes, not only from the Old Testament, but also the New Testament as well. As to the “passages lifted bodily from the King James Version,” we first ask, “How else does one quote scripture if not bodily?” And why should anyone quoting the Bible to American readers of 1830 not follow the only version of the Bible known to them? The Angel Gabriel - Angels and Demons - See U in History - YouTube Actually the Bible passages quoted in the Book of Mormon often differ from the King James Version, but where the latter is correct there is every reason why it should be followed. When Jesus and the Apostles and, for that matter, the Angel Gabriel quote the scriptures in the New Testament, do they recite from some mysterious Urtext? Do they quote the prophets of old in the ultimate original? Do they give their own inspired translations? No, they do not. They quote the Septuagint, a Greek version of the Old Testament prepared in the third century B.C. Why so? Because that happened to be the received standard version of the Bible accepted by the readers of the Greek New Testament. When “holy men of God” quote the scriptures it is always in the received standard version of the people they are addressing. PPT - I The Septuagint (LXX) PowerPoint Presentation, free ... We do not claim the King James Version of the Septuagint to be the original scriptures—in fact, nobody on earth today knows where the original scriptures are or what they say. Inspired men have in every age have been content to accept the received version of the people among whom they labored, with the Spirit giving correction where correction was necessary. Since the Book of Mormon is a translation, “with all its faults,” into English for English-speaking people whose fathers for generations had known no other scriptures but the standard English Bible, it would be both pointless and confusing to present the scriptures to them in any other form, so far as their teachings were correct.
What is thought to be a very serious charge against the Book of Mormon today is that it, a book written down long before New Testament times and on the other side of the world, actually quotes the New Testament! True, it is the same Savior speaking in both, and the same Holy Ghost, and so we can expect the same doctrines in the same language.
But what about the “Faith, Hope and Charity” passage in Moroni 7:45? Its resemblance to 1 Corinthians 13:] is undeniable. This particular passage, recently singled out for attack in Christianity Today, is actually one of those things that turn out to be a striking vindication of the Book of Mormon. For the whole passage, which scholars have labeled “the Hymn to Charity,” was shown early in this century by a number of first-rate investigators working independently (A. Harnack, J. Weiss, R. Reizenstein) to have originated not with Paul at all, but to go back to some older but unknown source: Paul is merely quoting from the record. Apostle Paul Prof. Johnson-Religion Now it so happens that other Book of Mormon writers were also peculiarly fond of quoting from the record. Captain Moroni, for example, reminds his people of an old tradition about the two garments of Joseph, telling them a detailed story which I have found only in [th’ Alabi of Persia,] a thousand-year-old commentary on the Old Testament, a work still untranslated and quite unknown to the world of Joseph Smith. So I find it not a refutation but a confirmation of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon when Paul and Moroni both quote from a once well-known but now lost Hebrew writing. Now as to [the] question, “Why did Joseph Smith, a nineteenth century American farm boy, translate the Book of Mormon into seventeenth century King James English instead of into contemporary language?” CoPhilosophy: Ralph Waldo Emerson-Final Report-Jimmie Harrison ... The first thing to note is that the “contemporary language” of the country-people of New England 130 years ago was not so far from King James English. Even the New England writers of later generations, like Webster, Melville, and Emerson, lapse into its stately periods and “thees and thous” in their loftier passages. ∗ ∗ ∗ Furthermore, the Book of Mormon is full of scripture, and for the world of Joseph Smith’s day, the King James Version was the Scripture, as we have noted; large sections of the Book of Mormon, therefore, had to be in the language of the King James Version—and what of the rest of it? That is scripture, too.
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One can think of lots of arguments for using King James English in the Book of Mormon, but the clearest comes out of very recent experience. In the past decade, as you know, certain ancient nonbiblical texts, discovered near the Dead Sea, have been translated by modern, up-to-date American readers. I open at random a contemporary Protestant scholar’s modern translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and what do I read? “For thine is the battle, and by the strength of thy hand their corpses were scattered without burial. Goliath the Hittite, a mighty man of valor, thou didst deliver into the hand of thy servant David.”[13] Obviously the man who wrote this knew the Bible, and we must not forget that ancient scribes were consciously archaic in their writing, so that most of the scriptures were probably in old-fashioned language the day they were written down. To efface that solemn antique style by the latest up-to-date usage is to translate falsely.
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At any rate, Professor Burrows, in 1955 (not 1835!), falls naturally and without apology into the language of the King James Bible. Or take a modern Jewish scholar who purposely avoids archaisms in his translation of the Scrolls for modern American readers: “All things are inscribed before Thee in a recording script, for every moment of time, for the infinite cycles of years, in their several appointed times. No single thing is hidden, naught missing from Thy presence.”[14] Professor Gaster, too, falls under the spell of our religious idiom. [A more recent example of the same phenomenon in the twenty-first century is discussed here.] By frankly using that idiom, the Book of Mormon avoids the necessity of having to be redone into “modern English” every thirty or forty years. If the plates were being translated for the first time today, it would still be King James English!” Whew!  Nibley still has valuable insights after all these years.
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From FAIR Mormon on the topic of the use of the KJV by other scholars in their translations of the Dead Sea Scrolls: “Even academic translators sometimes copy a previous translation if it serves the purpose of their translation. For example, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) provided previously unknown texts for many Biblical writings. However, in some translations of the DSS, approximately 90% is simply copied from the KJV. Surely we are not expected to believe that the DSS translators dropped back into King James idiom and just happened to come up with a nearly identical text! They, in fact, unabashedly copied the KJV, except where the DSS texts were substantially different from already known Hebrew manuscripts.
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Why was this done? Because, the purpose of the DSS translation is to highlight the differences between the newly discovered manuscripts and those to which scholars already had access. Thus, in areas where the DSS manuscripts agree with the Biblical texts that were already known, the KJV translation is used to indicate this. This is not to argue that there may not be a better way to render the text than the KJV—but, it would be counterproductive for the DSS committee spent a lot of time improving on the KJV translation. A reader without access to the original manuscripts could then never be sure if a difference between the DSS translation and the King James (or any other) translation represented a true difference in the DSS text, or simply the choice of the DSS translators to improve existing translations.
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The situation with the Book of Mormon is likely analogous. For example, it is possible that most of the text to which the Nephites had access would not have differed significantly from the Hebrew texts used in later Bible translations. The differences in wording between the KJV and the Book of Mormon highlight the areas in which there were theologically significant differences between the Nephite versions and the Masoretic text, from which the Bible was translated. Other areas can be assumed to be essentially the same. If one wants an improved or clearer translation of a passage that is identical in the Book of Mormon and the KJV, one has only to go to the original manuscripts available to all scholars. Basing the text on the KJV focuses the reader on the important clarifications, as opposed to doing a new translation from scratch, and distracting the reader with many differences that might be due simply to translator preference. Since there is no such thing as a “perfect” translation, this allows the reader to easily identify genuine differences between the Isaiah texts of the Old World and the Nephites.”
THE ISAIAH PASSAGES IN THE BOOK OF MORMON A NON ALIGNED TEXT The above title (and link) refers to a 2001 Master’s thesis. This thesis reviews the Isaiah variants found in these four texts: the Masoretic Text (MT), the Septuagint (LXX), the Qumran (Q) or Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), and the Book of Mormon MT, LXX, Q, and BoM Isaiah. Nearly 80 pages of tables demonstrate the differences in Isaiah verses between the four versions. Watch Skousen's lecture series on the Book of Mormon Critical Text ... Watch the last few minutes of this video from Royal Skousen.  Nobody understands the Book of Mormon text better than Dr. Skousen. Evidence for an inspired use of Isaiah (and not copied into the Book of Mormon by Joseph and Oliver from a nearby KJV Bible):
  • witnesses never reported Joseph used a Bible from a nearby shelf
  • no evidence Joseph had access to the Bible, though the printer did
  • Joseph spelled out the proper names when encountered for the first time in the Book of Mormon
  • biblical names were often misspelled in the Book of Mormon manuscripts; these biblical names wouldn’t have been misspelled if Joseph and Oliver had checked the nearby King James version of the Bible
Original Manuscript Royal Skousen presented on the topic of Isaiah and the KJV in January of 2020.  See video below. Part V in Dr. Skousen’s Volume III covers the topic of KJV quotations in the Book of Mormon.  Part VI reviews spelling in the manuscripts and in the editions. The section relating to the KJV quotations in the Book of Mormon is found from 19:40 to around 56:15 .  Royal mentions KJV quotes earlier in his presentations, but they become his focus after the 19th-minute mark. Around 28:30, Royal asks if these are all changes to the KJV?  Royal explains that the King James was a revision of the Bishop’s Bible, which was a revision of the Geneva Bible. Why Are There So Many Bible Translations? | Thoughts of a Pastor ... At 29:10, Royal compares Isaiah 2:15 in several OT translations to 2 Nephi 12:15.  See screenshot below:

2 Nephi 12: 15  And upon every ahigh tower, and upon every fenced wall;

No photo description available. The Book of Mormon Isaiah text matches with the KJV and Bishops’ Bibles, but not with the rest of the English translations. Most interesting is Royal’s review of the next verse — Isaiah 2:16 — with 2 Nephi 12:16 around 30:00.  It’s worth looking at the slide at the 30:00 mark.  In this instance, the Book of Mormon uses text from earlier Greek translations (not available to Joseph) with later Hebrew translations.

2 Nephi 12: 16 And upon all the ships of the asea, and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures.

No photo description available. 2 Nephi 12:16, part 1:  “upon all ships of the sea” is found in the earlier bibles, from the  Coverdale Bible to the Great Bible (translated from Greek manuscripts) 2 Nephi 12:16, part 2:  “upon all the ships of Tarshish” is found in the later bibles, from the Geneva Bible through KJV (translated from Hebrew manuscripts) How did Joseph get these two translations into a single verse?  Where did he get access to the earlier translations from which come the words “upon all ships of the sea?” Around the 36:00 mark, Dr. Skousen creates this thought experiment: Did Joseph mark up his bible with a few changes, then pass the bible over to Oliver to copy?  Evidence against copying the KJV by Joseph and Oliver is this:  Oliver’s misspellings.  Oliver isn’t influenced by the spelling he would have seen in the King James Version Bible in their Harmony, PA home. Image may contain: text
In other words, Oliver wouldn’t have misspelled many or perhaps any words if Oliver was simply copying from the bible.  Instead, Joseph dictated to Oliver.  And Oliver — though a better speller than Hyrum and the rest of the scribes (Royals discussed that in more detail later) — made consistent spelling errors.
Oliver consistently misspelled host (Oliver wrote hoast), declare, lest, molten, very, etc.  See image above.  Copying the bible directly — as many critics suggest — would not have resulted in these consistent misspellings.
The one time when Joseph may have told his scribe to copy was when Sidney Rigdon was helping Joseph with the JST in 1830.  Remember, the Book of Mormon was translated in 1829.
Since Joseph had already translated the Book of Mormon — and that Isaiah chapter (50) was in the Book of Mormon — Joseph appears to have told Sidney to use the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 7) as a guide for JST Isaiah 50.
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So, no suprise! JST Isaiah 50 looks just like 2 Nephi 7. Misspellings and all!  JST Isaiah 50 is not identical to KJV Isaiah 50. That’s further evidence. Oliver didn’t copy from the KJV Isaiah 50 during their translation of the Book of Mormon of 2 Nephi 7.
Royal discusses italics around the 41:20 mark.  Only 22.9% of all changes (163 of 712 total).  So, it’s true that italicized words are changed (almost 23% of the time), but not as much as other words. No photo description available. And, when you look at all the italicized words (425 total), only 38.4% of the time (163/425) are they changed.  So, the changes were not predictable or systematic. Errors can be found in the KJV.  Latter-day Saints don’t believe the process was perfect. Neither do traditional Christian scholars.  After all, the texts the KJV drew from — previous translations and manuscripts — had errors themselves. But don’t forget.  The “errors” claimed by Jeremy Runnells were only italicized words.  Italicized words in the KJV were mostly maintained in Joseph’s translation of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon.  Those italicized words were absolutely needed to aid in getting from Greek or Hebrew into English. If we step back for a minute, all the KJV text (not only italicized words) was chosen by King James’ selected committee members.  The entire bible was in their own English words.  The italicized words were simply additional words needed to allow the English rendering to be coherent.

Discussion about the Multiple-Isaiah Hypothesis

L. LaMar Adams writes the following in BYU Religious Studies:   A Scientific Analysis of Isaiah Authorship.   Summary and Conclusions: The statistical results in this study do not support the divisionists’ claim that little or no evidence exists for unity of the book of Isaiah. To the contrary, the results strongly support single authorship of the book. The divisions of the book most often claimed to have been written by different authors were found to be more similar to each other in authorship style than to any of the control group of eleven other Old Testament books. The book of Isaiah also exhibited greater internal consistency than any of the other books when authorship style was analyzed. Image result for isaiah multiple authors These results do not exclude the possibility that minor changes in the text have been made by scribes and editors since the time of its origin. However, the evidence indicates that in spite of such possible changes, an overall style has been retained as measured by the literary variables examined. The results of this research bear witness that the book of Isaiah has a literary unity characteristic of a single author. These results, therefore, confirm the claims made in the Book of Mormon and the New Testament by later prophets and by the Savior that Isaiah was the author of the book bearing his name. Image result for isaiah prophets future Another major problem found by this author:  those who insist on multiple authors do this because they don’t believe in prophets.  That is, they don’t believe prophets can forecast the future, and therefore, someone after Isaiah’s death must have written parts Isaiah himself couldn’t have known would occur.  Hmmmmmmmm. More from Adams about past research concluding 2+ authors were involved:
Previous Attempts at Statistical Analysis
Previous attempts at computerized statistical analysis of the book of Isaiah were made by two different researchers, Yehuda Radday24 and Asa Kasher. [25] Both of these researchers independently concluded that the book of Isaiah was written by multiple authors. Radday’s work was based on an inappropriate assumption: he assumed that a difference in the usage of one type of word (such as war terminology) from one section or prophecy to another was an indication of a difference in authorship. To demonstrate the invalidity of his method, we applied Radday’s procedures to a text known to have been written by Thomas Carlisle. The result was a false conclusion that part of Carlisle’s text was written by another author. [26] Image result for Thomas Carlisle Kasher’s approach was likewise analyzed and found to be based on inappropriate assumptions. I have corresponded extensively with these two Israeli researchers, and they are aware of the problems in their research. A very comprehensive answer:  from FAIR Mormon volunteer Michael Hickenbotham. The premier non-LDS commentary on “Second” Isaiah  (The Anchor Bible, Volume 20) says there is insufficient evidence from word-print analysis that Isaiah was written by anything other than a single author. Image result for apocalyptic commentary of the book of isaiah We also have a new model, proposed by Avraham Gileadi, which shows that Isaiah contains a far more profound and sophisticated literary paradigm, if we accept that it is a unitary work. No wonder this new unitary theory, which just happens to get around a traditional objection to the Book of Mormon, is gaining ground. Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible says Isaiah 48-55 is based on liturgy that predated Lehi, even if it was written after he allegedly left Jerusalem. The Book of Mormon has 47-55. Hang tight before you throw your arms up in despair. For those who aren’t familiar with the ECB: “Written by world-class Bible scholars, the ECB encapsulates in nontechnical language the best of modern scholarship on the sixty-six biblical books plus the Apocrypha. The only one-volume Bible commentary to cover all the texts (even including 1 Enoch) regarded by one or more Christian churches as canonical, the ECB provides reader-friendly treatments and succinct summaries of each section of the text that will be valuable to scholars, students and general readers alike.” From non-LDS scholars, “Bind up the Testimony: “One of the major flashpoints in academic biblical studies in the past 125 years has centered on the authorship and dating of the book of Isaiah. Beginning in the late 1800s, some scholars suggested that this book may have been written by multiple people over a period of centuries, a view that contrasts with the traditional one that the entire book of Isaiah was written in the eighth century BC by the Judean prophet Isaiah ben Amoz. Because for many conservative scholars the latter position is the only one that respects the divine inspiration of the text, and because they also believe that this position is endorsed by Jesus in the New Testament, the differing conclusions of mainstream and conservative scholars regarding the authorship and dating of the book of Isaiah have long served to divide these groups. Bind Up the Testimony—a collection of essays from a colloquium held at Wheaton College in 2013—brings together a variety of evangelical responses to this issue. Although a few of the essays arrive at conservative conclusions regarding the authorship and dating of the book of Isaiah, most of them attempt to chart new, more nuanced directions for thinking on this subject, and suggest that careful attention to the (complicated) compositional history of the book of Isaiah need not be a hindrance—and can, in fact, be a help—to Christians who understand the book of Isaiah as divinely inspired Scripture that has spoken to God’s people throughout the ages and that continues to speak to them today. Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith?: A Critical Appraisal of Modern and Postmodern Approaches to Scripture by [Hoffmeier, James K., Magary, Dennis R.] Christian scholars defend the Book of Isaiah in “Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith?” Is historical accuracy an indispensable part of the Bible’s storyline, or is Scripture only concerned with theological truths? As progressive evangelicals threaten to reduce the Bible’s jurisdiction by undermining its historical claims, every Christian who cares about the integrity of Scripture must be prepared to answer this question. Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? offers a firm defense of Scripture’s legitimacy and the theological implications of modern and postmodern approaches that teach otherwise. In this timely and timeless collection of essays, scholars from diverse areas of expertise lend strong arguments in support of the doctrine of inerrancy. Contributors explore how the specific challenges of history, authenticity, and authority are answered in the text of the Old and New Testaments as well as how the Bible is corroborated by philosophy and archaeology. Another good book to start with.  By Joseph Spencer:  The Vision of All:  Twenty-five Lectures on Isaiah in Nephi’s Record. Image result for the vision of all twenty-five lectures “In The Vision of All, Joseph Spencer draws on the best of biblical and Latter-day Saint scholarship to make sense of the so-called -Isaiah chapters- in the first two books of the Book of Mormon. Arguing that Isaiah lies at the very heart of Nephi’s project, Spencer insists on demystifying the writings of Isaiah while nonetheless refusing to pretend that Isaiah is in any way easy to grasp. Presented as a series of down-to-earth lectures, The Vision of All outlines a comprehensive answer to the question of why Nephi was interested in Isaiah in the first place. Along the way, the book presents both a general approach to reading Isaiah in the Book of Mormon and a set of specific tactics for making sense of Isaiah’s writings. For anyone interested in understanding what Isaiah is doing in the Book of Mormon, this is the place to start.” Image result for byu religious studies L. LaMar Adams contributed to this subject  in 1984 at BYU’s Religious Studies Center.  A Scientific Analysis of Isaiah Authorship. Key paragraph:
“The results of this research bear witness that the book of Isaiah has a literary unity characteristic of a single author. These results, therefore, confirm the claims made in the Book of Mormon and the New Testament by later prophets and by the Savior that Isaiah was the author of the book bearing his name.”
Image result for paul fields LDS isaiah In addition, Paul Fields shared his insight at a recent conference on this topic:  Stylometry and the Book of Isaiah. “There have been a few stylometric studies over the years starting with the earliest that I am aware of in 1970.  To interpret the results, it is important to realize that none of the studies can establish that there was more than one writer of the text.  Although there is evidence of more than one writing style in the text, factors other than the identity of the author must be considered. “More than one style does not necessarily indicate multiple ‘hands hold the pen.’  The same author can express himself or herself differently when writing at different times, to different audiences, on different topics, or for different purposes.  So, the presence of multiple writing styles cannot be asserted as indicating multiple people as authors of a text. Image result for isaiah “Also, unlike the Book of Mormon which had one translator (Joseph Smith) who had one scribe (Oliver Cowdery), the Bible has gone through innumerable hands over the last 2000 years.  It has been translated and retranslated by translators after translators, and written and rewritten by scribes after scribes.  While we can show that the modest changes to the text of the Book of Mormon have not made a meaningful difference in the writing styles in the Book of Mormon, we cannot show that to be the case for the Bible.  In fact, it should actually be surprising if only one writing style was found in a Biblical text. “There have been studies showing that the original author’s ‘wordprint’ comes through the translation process to a certain extent, the original author’s style as evident in the translated text is still affected by the translator’s style.  Further, we have shown that the “scribe effect” — the extent to which a scribe’s wordprint can be detected in a dictated text — can range from a trivial amount (10-15%) to a large amount (70-80%).  Consequently, the accumulated effect of a sequence of translators and a sequence of multiple scribes (copyists) will result in substantial changes to the writing styles in a text, even if the translator effect and the scribe effect are small for each step in the sequence. Multiple Isaiah Theory and Stylometry – Search Isaiah “Finally, stylometric studies must be conducted in the context of established historical facts that set the framework for the analyses and their interpretation.  The results of stylometric studies can provide evidence for our against a research conjecture that is founded on historical and biographical information external to the stylometric analyses.  Proceeding in the opposite direction by just ‘fishing around’ for different writing styles in a text and then trying to assert historicity or identity based on the results is an excellent way to arrive at nonsense conclusions or at least non-scientific conclusions. stylometry Archives | Why the LDS Church is True “In sum, whatever someone wants to assert about the number of people who were ‘Isaiah,’ that assertion must be based on evidence other than stylometric evidence.” Darryl Alder reports on the presentation by Fields and Roper, “Multiple Isaiah Theory and Stylometry.” Referring to La Mar Adams’ research: “As long ago as 1984, L. La Mar Adams in “A Scientific Analysis of Isaiah Authorship” which was one of the first scientific approaches to the multiple Isaiah theory wrote, “The disputed authorship of Isaiah is one of the most popular textual biblical issues and appears to be the father of all Old Testament authorship problems of the same nature.” “The majority of biblical scholars divide the book of Isaiah into multiple authorship. The problem of identifying authorship for the book and parts of the book is known as the “Isaiah problem,”or what we are calling the “Multiple Isaiah Theory Problem.” Changing BYU's Honor Code? It's been done before—here are some of ... Adams explained, “A few years ago, our group of thirty-five specialists in Semitic languages, statistics, and computer science at Brigham Young University devised a literary style analysis to test the claims of these biblical scholars. This study, which spanned several years, in the end used more than 300 computer programs, analyzed several hundred stylistic variables, and obtained more than 4800 statistical comparisons. “…The results of the study were conclusive: there is a unique authorship style throughout the various sections of Isaiah. The rates of usage for the elements of this particular style are more consistent within the book of Isaiah, regardless of the section, than in any other book in the study. This statistical evidence led us to a single conclusion: based on style alone, the book of Isaiah definitely appears to be the work of one man. The two parts of Isaiah most often claimed to have been written by different authors, chapters 1–39 and 40–66, were found to be more similar to each other in style than to any of the other eleven Old Testament books examined.”4 Image result for fair mormon Summary from FAIR Mormon. From BYU’s Religious Studies Center by John A. Tvedtnes:  Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon. Another more recent article by John Tvedtnes with a focus on the italicized words in the KJV:  ISAIAH IN THE BIBLE AND THE BOOK OF MORMON. Key paragraphs by Tvedtnes below. His first paragraph:
Of the 478 verses in the Book of Mormon quoted from the book of Isaiah, 201 agree with the King James reading while 207 show variations. Some 58 are paraphrased and 11 others are variants and/or paraphrases. It is to the variants that we will give our attention here…
Tvedtnes compares many verses between the Book of Mormon and Isaiah.  I’ll only share this (many others are found in the link above) one:  Isaiah 2:16 compared with 2 Nephi 12:16:
KJV: “And upon all the ships of Tarshish” BM: “And upon all the ships of the sea, and upon all the ships of Tarshish” Image result for septuagint LXX Here, BM adds a line not found in KJV. Interestingly, LXX reads “And upon every ship of the sea, and upon all views of pleasant ships,” with the last part paralleling KJV/BM “and upon all pleasant pictures.” The Greek talassa, “sea,” resembles the word Tarshish. But both the Targum and the Vulgate have “sea” with LXX instead of Tarshish. The matter is a very complex one, for which a complete discussion cannot be included here. BM appears to have included the versions of both MT and LXX/T/V. MT could have dropped the nearly identical second line by haplography…
His conclusion: Image result for linguistics
“It has long been my contention that the best scientific evidence for the Book of Mormon is not archaeological or historical in nature, as important as these may be, but rather linguistic. This is because we have before us a printed text which can be subjected to linguistic analysis and comparison with the language spoken in the kingdom of Judah at the time of Lehi. One of the more remarkable linguistic evidences for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon as a translation from an ancient text lies in the Isaiah variants found in it. The examples given here, though sketchy, are presented to offer some of that evidence to all those who seriously inquire after the origins of the Book of Mormon.”
This guy, Terry Sheets, (the Backyard Professor) starts to discuss the KJV around 6:49.  Till then, he comments on the power of reasoning and study.  Terry  first explains the KJV relies more on the Bishops’ Bible (translated in 1568) much than on a direct translation from the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. Image result for bishops bible The KJV translators were instructed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to modify the wording of the Bishops’s Bible only when its meaning varied from the meaning of the Greek NT and Hebrew OT texts.  The Bishops’ Bible was itself a revision of the Great Bible (1539). A few versions of the Bible rest between the Great Bible and the William Tyndale’s first English Bible.  Tyndale translated this version from 1526-1531 directly from Greek and Hebrew texts.  Tyndale retained some of John Wycliffe’s wording from the late 14th Century. The KJV style set the standard from scriptural language of Joseph’s day.  Others, not just Joseph, followed this practice of using King James type language. Image result for The apocrypha and pseudepigrapha of the old Testament in English Why did Joseph use Early Modern English to translate the Book of Mormon? And why so many chapters that closely resemble KJV Isaiah? Nobody knows for sure, but we have a few examples that did the same: Below are two examples of translations that conveniently used the KJV Bible or similar language as a basis for their translations: 1. Nearly 100 years after the Book of Mormon was translated, Robert H Charles, the translator of biblical texts, “The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament”, made it a point to imitate the language and style of the KJV of the Bible in his magnum opus. He did so for several reasons, including this obvious one: The KJV was the most common version read in the English-speaking world. 2. Jewish scholar, Theodore Gaster, intermixed KJV and modern English in his translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSSs).  The scrolls were originally written in ancient Hebrew.  Gaster could have exclusively used modern English.  That might have been easiest.  Yet, Gaster translated this ancient language with a blend of KJ English.  Just like Joseph did. Shon Hopkin discusses Abinadi in the Book of Mormon, including the KJV variants (variants discussed around 34:00 mark):
Episode 76: Abinadi – Shon Hopkin
From Book of Mormon Central: From Sydney Sperry:  The “Isaiah Problem” in the Book of Mormon. Abstract from the above paper: “Doubts as to the literary unity of the book of Isaiah are fairly recent. The late nineteenth century saw a division of Isaiah into three parts by critics, who categorized only 262 of the 1292 verses as the genuine product of Isaiah. These critics deny the prediction element of prophecy and highlight different literary forms and theological ideas. The Book of Mormon attributes two of these three sections to Isaiah by quotation; ancient scriptures as well give no hint of a division. Christ and the apostles themselves attribute the book to Isaiah. Internal evidences of the unity of the book include imagery, repetition, expressions peculiar to Isaiah, and song. Changes in style can be attributed to mood. The differences between the Book of Mormon and the King James Version support the authenticity and literary unity of Isaiah.” Great scholarship from the Interpreter: Their Imperfect Best:  Isaianic Authorship from an LDS Perspective Conclusions: The Latter-day Saint response to the theory of multiple authorship of Isaiah that prevails in critical scholarly circles should not be to engage critical scholars in their old arguments over multiple authorship vs. unity, or to provide yet another voice in smaller scholarly disputes over authorship at the level of chapter and verse. The differences in assumptions that Latter-day Saints bring to questions of production of scripture — including our experiences in observing and analyzing the production of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants — effectively constitute a barrier to entry for a Latter-day Saint response to the critical position on critical terms. This is not, however, a “surrender” to the critical position. On the contrary, it is an opportunity and invitation to develop a uniquely Latter-day Saint theory of authorship for Isaiah (and other books) using a toolset of very different assumptions:
  • The statement in our Articles of Faith that “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly” is an expression of how the Bible can serve as the word of God in influencing the life of the believer, and not an assertion that the Bible was authored or even compiled by God. The discussion of the transmission of the Biblical text in 1 Nephi 13:23–29 asserts a great deal of human error in the transmission of the Bible, resulting in the loss of “plain and precious things.” The Book of Mormon can serve not only as a corrective to extreme assumptions of textual infallibility, but also as a corrective to the excesses of modern critical scholarly perspectives on the formation and transmission of the Biblical text.
  • Prophets can and do develop significant changes in perspective over time, even on very consequential matters.
  • A prophet’s tone, phraseology, and topical emphasis are likely to change to significant degrees depending upon the prophet’s audience, specific life experiences, observations of social or geopolitical trends, or even the prophet’s own stage of life.
  • Prophetic writings influence the work of later prophets, who respond to previous prophetic writings by incorporating, [Page 24]restating, alluding to, or sometimes even reversing the teachings of their predecessors.
  • Prophets can predict future events before they come to pass.
  • In questions of dating of scripture, the repeated presence of textual “borrowing” across authors carries far more evidential weight than anachronisms or other textual features that are possible results of redaction or simple misplacement of passages in the process of compiling a prophet’s writings.
With these assumptions in mind, it is possible to trace the enormous influence of Isaiah on other Old Testament and nonbiblical figures over time (as well as document the influence of previous books on Isaiah’s own thinking), and the picture that emerges is not of a marginal prophetic figure whose writings became a catch-all repository for a vast amount of pseudonymous material. On the contrary, what we see is a highly prophetic, influential, and evolving figure, whose writings were assembled, modified and edited over time, formed the basis for much of Lehite theology and self-perception, filled the caves at Qumran more than any other prophet, and served as the primary catalyst for Lehite and early Christian understanding of the mission of Jesus Christ. Image result for Van Hales LDS Van Hale at Mormon Miscellaneous shares this perspective in Van’s 194th episode:  King James Version in the Book of Mormon. Issues covered:
  • JS’s 1832 History
  • 12-15 years old JS extensive study of the KJV
  • KJV numerous phrases in JS’s writings & dictation
  • JS supplied KJV phrases for the BM
Another discussion on Mormon Miscellaneous about the Book of Mormon translation, including these topics:
  • Hebrew, Greek, and Hierglyphics
  • King James Version compared with the Book of Mormon
    •  2 Nephi 22:2 vs KJV Isaiah 12:2 vs Hebrew
  • JS statements “translated by the gift and power of God”
  • KJV Isaiah 7:14 contrasted with Hebrew & LXX (Septuagint) & Book of Mormon
More insights from the Backyard Professor: Many differences exist between the KJV of Isaiah and Joseph’s translation.  In some cases, Joseph’s translation is closer to the earlier manuscripts.  That is, the Book of Mormon Isaiah verses are closer to the Greek OT Septuagint (from 3rd Century BC) and the Hebrew Masoretic texts. Scholarly speculation, based on the changes in the language within the later chapters of Isaiah, gave rise to the multiple-author theory. Cyrus lived 200 years after Lehi and was mentioned in Isaiah.  This name and other Isaiah issues may just as well be later substitutions.  All we have are probabilities and possibilities.  This was not uncommon. The Backyard Professor has a total of 6 videos on this topic. Joseph’s translation process of the Book of Mormon was miraculous, including the Isaiah chapters.  Nearly 1/2 of the verses differ from the JST.

Book of Mormon Historicity: Evidence from Archaeology, Flora, Fauna, and other Sources

The Historicity of the Book of Mormon

Elder Oaks presented this above-linked paper in 1993 at a FARMs conference and had it published again in 2001.

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Opening key points:

The issue of the historicity of the Book of Mormon highlights the difference between those who rely solely on scholarship and those who rely on revelation, faith, and scholarship.

Those who rely solely on scholarship reject revelation and focus on a limited number of issues. But they can neither prove nor disprove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon through their secular evidence and methods.

On the other hand, those who rely on a combination of revelation, faith, and scholarship can see and understand all of the complex issues of the Book of Mormon record, and it is only through that combination that the question of the historicity of the Book of Mormon can be answered.

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Closing summary:

In this message I have offered some thoughts on matters relating to the historicity of the Book of Mormon.

1. On this subject, as on so many others involving our faith and theology, it is important to rely on faith and revelation as well as scholarship.

2. I am convinced that secular evidence can neither prove nor disprove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

3. Those who deny the historicity of the Book of Mormon have the difficult task of trying to prove a negative. They also have the awkward duty of explaining how they can dismiss the Book of Mormon as a fable while still praising some of its contents.

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4. We know from the Bible that Jesus taught His apostles that in the important matter of His own identity and mission they were “blessed” for relying on the witness of revelation (“the things that be of God”), and it is offensive to Him for them to act upon worldly values and reasoning (“the things . . . that be of men”) (Matt. 16:23).

5. Those scholars who rely on faith and revelation as well as scholarship, and who assume the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, must endure ridicule from those who disdain these things of God.

6. I have also illustrated that not all scholars disdain the value of religious belief and the legitimacy of the supernatural when applied to theological truth. Some even criticize the “intellectual provincialism” of those who apply the methods of historical criticism to the Book of Mormon.

I testify of Jesus Christ, whom we serve, whose Church this is. I invoke his blessings upon you, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Good overview:

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Elder Oaks references this essay by world-famous LDS author Orson Scott Card:  The Book of Mormon – Artifact or Artifice?

OSC’s final paragraph:

“Joseph Smith didn’t write the Book of Mormon, though he did translate it, so that his voice is present when we read, including the flaws in his language and understanding.

Those who wrote the original were also fallible human beings who will reveal their culture and their assumptions just as surely as the writers of I Love Lucy did.

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But unlike the writers of that TV show, the prophets wrote and translated under the direction of the Lord, out of love for us. It’s well worth finding out who these men were, the culture from which they wrote, how it’s different from ours, and how it’s also very much the same.”

Kwaku shares good evidence:

A broad discussion on historicity:

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By William Hamblin:  Basic Methodological Problems with the Anti-Mormon
Approach to the Geography and Archaeology of the Book of Mormon.

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Before getting into the specific evidences, please consider Brant Gardner presentation as it discusses Mormon as editor of the Book of Mormon.  He didn’t simply abridge or chop the volume down from lots to less.  Mormon was active, intentional, and selective in his process.  He was completing his duty as a national scribe.

Brant shares evidence of Mormon having an outline of his work in advance, before he completed the abridging process at age 57 near the Hill Shim.  He got the full collection of plates around the 367th year at age 56.   He chronicled for 22 years on the large plates of Nephi.

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For 13 years Mormon read and digested the collection of plates, preparing an outline or draft.  He wrote the Book by at least 379 (58 years old) and completed writing in 385.  He died between AD  385 and 391, by which time Moroni is writing.

Chapter Head notes:  synoptic headnotes for Helaman and 3 Nephi.  Mormon wrote them prior to their chapters.

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Most head notes are in the beginning of named books.  1 Nephi, 2 Nephi, and Jacob had head notes.  Appear at every book Mormon edited, but Mosiah.  The lost 116 pages included at least the first chapter of Mosiah, which book now lacks a head note.  Mormon didn’t edit Mormon, Ether, or Moroni — 3 books which lack headnotes.

Mormon had a clear plan in advance and wrote a summary in advance.  He wrote his own text (Mormon), as he progressed and approached his death.

Brant also points out that books change names, only as changes occur in political lines.  That is, when Mormon sees a newly seeded ruler.

Please also consider this presentation on Book of Mormon “hits.”

Historicity is defined as the historical actuality of persons and events, meaning the quality of being part of history as opposed to being a historical myth, legend, or fiction.

Critics have long cried out that this or that animal and plant — mentioned in the Book of Mormon — was never in the Americas.  Critics claim Joseph’s creative mind made it all up .  We disagree and will describe the evidence in support of Book of Mormon historicity.

Or that a certain plant or animal was introduced after Columbus, but not before.  Over time, more and more evidence has accumulated in favor of the Book of Mormon account.

If Joseph had created the book out of thin air, how did he possibly get more than a few things right?

As an uneducated farm boy how did he even create a coherent narrative with 100s of internally consistent correspondences that actually match much — not just 1-2 things — in Mesoamerica?

Martin Tanner at KSL in Salt Lake City is a good place to start.  Martin discusses the archaeological challenges  associated with the Bible and the Book of Mormon.  He spends most of this podcast discussing Mesoamerica and Book of Mormon evidences.

Matt Roper discusses previous claims — once considered “howlers” or slam dunks against the Book of Mormon.  Current scholarship has rejected many previous, critical claims and greatly strengthened the claims in support of the Book of Mormon.

Robert Boylan’s insight about authentic names in the Book of Mormon:

FAIR Mormon reports on Geology, Archaeology, and Mesoamerican history.

Jeff Lindsay responds here to controversy surrounding previous Book of Mormon historicity statements by the Smithsonian.

More from Jeff Lindsay on criticisms related to wheat, barley, figs, grapes, bees, chicken, turkeys, swine, oxen, horses, elephants and more.

An LDS critic interviewed famed Mesoamericanist, Dr. Michael Coe, about Book of Mormon evidence. There was more than 1 issue with that interview.

Dr. John Sorensen responded here to the Dr. Coe interview. 

Perhaps the newest evidence supporting the Book of Mormon relates to language:

Linguist Brian Stubbs discusses some of his findings of both Hebrew and Egyptian — the two languages mentioned in The Book of Mormon — in the languages of the Native Indians in his 2006 FAIR Conference address.

Another conference with Brian Stubbs in 4/2016:

Brian Stubbs and the linguistic connection at the 2016 FAIR conference:

The Nephites could have set up their first established city in the Guatamalan Highlands.

Brant Gardner, John Sorenson, and others share insight into the use of metals in the Book of Mormon:

Alternate hypothesis that fits with history in Mesoamerica.

Watch the rest of these related Book of Mormon videos here.

Jeff at Latter-day Saint Q & A shares his insights:

Wade Miller spent his career at BYU as a professor of Paleontology and Geology.   He discusses more specific (and in the past controversial) topics below:

I just ordered Dr. Miller’s book (see below):

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Nephi stated that Laban’s sword was of the “most precious steel”. That makes no sense in a 19th century context, but perfect sense in the Bronze Age.

Daggers, axes and jewelry made from rare iron during the Bronze Age are literally out of this world, according to new research finding that ancient artisans crafted these metal artifacts with iron from outer space carried to Earth by meteorites.

Horses in Pre-Columbian America:

More on horses:

Daniel Johnson in his 2010 Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum:

Coins weren’t used.  Instead, weights were.

Dr. Clark discusses the topic for the first 35 minutes of this video:

Progress from 1842 to 2005. Screenshots from Dr. Clark’s presentation above:

Matthew Roper is currently a Research Scholar at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at Brigham Young University. He received a B.A. in History and a M.A. in Sociology from Brigham Young University.

Joseph Smith gave a wide variety of opinions about the location of the Book of Mormon peoples.   You can read about his many views  here.

In 1842, for the first time, Joseph considered Mesoamerica after reading  a very popular book by John L. Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan.  

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1 OCT. 1842: ZARAHEMLA “STOOD UPON THIS LAND” OF CENTRAL AMERICA

NOTE: Page 942 of this issue of the Times and Seasons states: “The Times and Seasons, Is edited, printed and published about the first fifteenth of every month, on the corner of Water and Bain Streets, Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois, by JOSEPH SMITH.”

[W]e have found another important fact relating to the truth of the Book of Mormon. Central America, or Guatimala [Guatemala], is situated north of the Isthmus of Darien and once embraced several hundred miles of territory from north to south.-The city of Zarahemla, burnt at the crucifixion of the Savior, and rebuilt afterwards, stood upon this land as will be seen from the following words in the book of Alma…

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It is certainly a good thing for the excellency and veracity, of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon, that the ruins of Zarahemla have been found where the Nephites left them: and that a large stone with engravings upon it as Mosiah said; and a ‘large round stone, with the sides sculptured in hieroglyphics,’ as Mr. Stephens has published, is also among the left remembrances of the, (to him,) lost and unknown.

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We are not going to declare positively that the ruins of Quirigua are those of Zarahemla, but when the land and the stones, and the books tell the story so plain, we are of opinion, that it would require more proof than the Jews could bring to prove the disciples stole the body of Jesus from the tomb, to prove that the ruins of the city in question, are not one of those referred to in the Book of Mormon…

It will not be a bad plan to compare Mr. Stephens’ ruined cities with those in the Book of Mormon: light cleaves to light, and facts are supported by facts.(emphasis added)

LDS Truth Claims relative to the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica: