Episode 245: The First Four Verses in the Book of Mormon

13 comments on “Episode 245: The First Four Verses in the Book of Mormon”

  1. James Reply

    A comment about those lost 116 pages: Martin Harris was the scribe for most of them. That’s important because it wouldn’t be possible for people to convincingly alter the manuscript without forging Harris’s handwriting or without Harris himself helping them. Joseph Smith clearly thought that Harris was colluding with somebody to set up Joseph. In D&C section 10, speaking in the voice of the Lord, Joseph calls Harris a wicked man and says that he sought to destroy Joseph. It’s possible that Harris pretended to lose the pages in order to test Joseph. Harris had a history of trying to test Joseph on other occasions. That’s why he showed the “caractors” to Charles Anthon.

  2. James Reply

    Another comment about the colophon mentioned by Lindsay. An author referring to himself by name, such as “I Nephi” or “I Mormon,” etc., is regarded as a sign of pseudepigrapha by (nonMormon) scholars of ancient scripture. And in response to Lindsay’s question about how Joseph Smith could have come up with the name “Nephi,” the name was present as a place name in the King James version of the Bible available to Joseph Smith, which contained some apocryphal biblical books.

  3. icebreaker Reply

    GOD : “Scriptures are so important that I will command you to kill Laban so that your small family can have them and read them in the wilderness – as a side note, you did not have them in Jerusalem, but that was ok.”

    GOD : “Now Nephi, you write things that will become scripture – except write them in a language no one can read.”

    • blake Reply

      You mean the genealogy of the Jewish people contained in the plates of brass? Do you consider your family history as scripture? No? Is it still important? Yes?
      So would it be something you might consider valuable and not want to leave behind?

      Also, Jesus and his apostles hadn’t quite been killed off at this time. Constantine hadn’t formed a counsel for the basis of Christianity.
      if the dead sea scrolls could be so easily lost and found important later, why not the plates of brass?

  4. JT Reply

    With regard to Lindsay’s discussion of Mormon feminism in the news, consider the following short excerpt from the Q&A session at the end of a talk Jeffrey Holland gave at Harvard.

    Holland was asked about the status of
    women in the LDS church, and does he ever deliver.

    The excerpt begins at 10:46 minutes


    “Where are you honey? Stand. Stand!” [Laughter in the background]

  5. kevin krisher Reply

    Great podcast!
    I especially liked learning about Elder Uchtdorf’s reference to Frederick the Great. The story of how Frederick snatched victory from the jaws of seemingly certain defeat in 1762 was a favorite theme of — um — one of Uchtdorf’s fellow countrymen who experienced some unpleasantness in his Berlin bunker during 1945. In fact, this fellow’s most prized possession was a portrait of Frederick that he hung in the bunker.
    As for the Maxwell Institute’s discussion of the origins of the word “Nephi,” there’s a much simpler explanation. It’s in the Bible. Specifically, in the Second Book of Maccabees, at the very end of chapter 1. It’s a place name rather than a personal name, but it was included among the Apocrypha in the King James Bible that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery purchased together. It’s also in the Douay-Rheims translation of the Catholic Bible, though modern translations have it as the word “naphtha” rather than as a proper name.
    Still, if you want to make the missionaries’ eyes bug out, show them the mention of Nephi in a Catholic Bible!

  6. Roark Reply

    An awareness of all things Egyptian in the west began with the Napoloenic conquest of Egypt and his subsequent defeat by Admiral Nelson in 1798. This awareness can be seen in Egyptian revival architecture that started in the US in 1824 with the Mikveh Isreal synagog in Philadelphia and continued on through the 19th century. I think that the Egyptian reference in the Book of Mormon is a reflection of contemporary culture at the time of its first publication.

  7. Duane Johnson Reply

    Hi John, here is a link to the Comparison of the Book of Mormon and The Late War that Lindsay mentioned: http://wordtreefoundation.github.io/thelatewar/ I’m one of the authors of the comparison and algorithm. We do provide a null case, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (see “How rare are the 4grams?” subsection). Pride and Prejudice was a contemporary book of similar length, but had only 1 “rare phrase per thousand words” matching the Book of Mormon, while The Late War had over 100 (all of which are not found in the bible).

    What we’ve learned for certain is that The Book of Mormon is not unique in its use of “ancient sounding” language during that period, and what we hypothesize is that the connection between these two books goes even deeper: that one influenced the author of the other. One way in which we’re working to prove this hypothesis is to provide a comparison of books within this “pseudo-biblical genre” and see what the baseline mutation rate is for phrases that are “biblical sounding” showing up independently in one book vs. another unrelated book. We’ve done a lot of manual work to digitize books in this genre (see https://github.com/wordtreefoundation/books) so that we can analyze them algorithmically. There’s still more to go. But that’s the direction we’re taking things.

    • John Reply


      Ever come across the “if … and” construct in 19th century literature? This is one of the things identified as a Hebraism by apologists. It replaces the usual “if … then” construct. I could swear I heard “if … and” on an episode of “Deadwood” once.

      • Duane Johnson Reply

        No, I haven’t, and it doesn’t appear to be in The Late War, either.

        That said, the following Hebraisms that were once thought to be evidence of an ancient origin for the Book of Mormon are also found in The Late War:

        (1) high density of “and it came to pass” (2) construct state, e.g. “rod of iron”, “path of righteousness” (3) the parenthetical insert (“now…and”) (4) cognate accusative, e.g. “rejoiced with exceeding great joy” (5) negative questions, e.g. “shall we not rather with our might endeavor to help him?” (6) compound prepositions, e.g. “lighted up by the hand of heaven”, “flee from before the city”, and (7) adverbials, e.g. “with reverence”, “with joy”, “with great violence”.

        See http://www.cometozarahemla.org/hebraisms/hebraisms.html and http://wordtreefoundation.github.io/thelatewar/#hebraisms

  8. Noell Hyman Reply

    You mentioned the counter-culture of BYU in the 60’s and 70’s in the earlier part of the show. I don’t know anything about the history of that, except for my father’s role in it. He directed a singing group called, Sounds of Freedom, which was anti-anti-war, or anti-hippy. They took their music to the Ed Sullivan show and I grew up singing the songs from the record they made.

    I found a wonderful little blog post on a site called, “The World’s Worst Records” and they show the album cover that shows the original band + choir with my dad standing in the very center of the group. The blog post has this funny explanation of the band and album (which I copied below and edited it make it shorter) and you can listen to 3 of the tracks (which are adorable for what they are).


    From the blog…

    “Well, yesterday a package arrived at my office from America containing three albums, one of which was the utterly fantastic Sounds of Freedom – Brigham Young University Singers.

    The whitest of white-bread versions of the already pretty white Up With People, The Sounds of Freedom were formed in 1966 [and] toured the States, appeared on TV (including the Ed Sullivan Show) and, naturally, were persuaded to record an album – all the time touting their message of peace and sounding to all the world like the soundtrack to a future episode of South Park.

    It’s a wonderful record, a mish-mash of peace-protest standards, Christian hymnals and songs from film soundtracks, including Born Free and How the West was Won. The young men and women of the choir sound at once impossibly out of time and out of place. It’s brilliantly ‘straight’. “

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