From Book of Mormon Central: Hebrew evidence in the BoM

This is one of my favorite videos from Book of Mormon Central.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

11 thoughts on “From Book of Mormon Central: Hebrew evidence in the BoM

  1. This video is really triggering. I need to go to my safe space. The way the video doubter-shames literary critics and engages in cultural appropriation of middle eastern culture is deeply problematic. Book of Mormon Central needs to go to get more sensitivity training. In fact, better yet, Book of Mormon Central just needs to shut up and step up and donate all of its resources to a doubters shelter.

  2. Over the years, I’ve looked for reasons to dismiss the BoM. It’s pretty obvious, to me at least, that Joseph Smith didn’t create the BoM on his own.

    That leads to the question: Who concocted it? Or who helped JS write it, if JS even had any part in the authorship?

    The origin story of the BoM essentially started in 1820 with the first vision. So, technically, the creation of the BoM, if it was a fraud, could have happened over the nine year period 1820 to 1829. There were connections (not really provable, but technically possible) between JS and Sidney, and JS and Oliver.

    I’ve tried to make a list of who “had to have been a co-conspirator” if JS was a fraud. Oliver, Martin, Emma, David Whitmer at the least. The other group of eight witnesses, most likely.

    If it was all a fraud, who else made _knowing_ “objective” lies? Mother Whitmer has to be on the list, as well as Sidney Rigdon. The Eight touched, inspected and hefted the plates in a non-miraculous (no angels) mundane setting. At least the plates would have had to have been constructed/created for that.

    But _none_ of those people, or anyone else in a position to know, ever “came clean” or copped to the conspiracy, _even after_ they had a falling out with JS. NONE of them said “We made it all up” or “We went along with Joseph’s scam.”

    Another point in favor of Joseph, is that the early core members or inner group, BY, PPP, Sidney, HCK, WW, John Taylor were preached to/converted by people _other than_ Joseph. Joseph could not have used any “mind tricks” on them for them to get a “subjective” testimony. Most, or all, of the people who “converted” (ie, initially preached to) that inner circle were relative nobodies in the overall scheme of things. Many claimed that reading the BoM converted them, not argumentation at all.

    Joseph did not have the time nor the education to acquire, read, study/learn, and copy the various purported sources: View of the Hebrews, the Golden Pot, Manuscript Found, etc.

    If the BoM is not of divine origin, it had to have been created/assembled prior to Joseph “dictating” it to Oliver. If a fraud, Oliver _had_ to have been in on it in order to go along with the “dictation” story.

    Jeff Lindsay, at, has a list of purported source books that he calls “Joseph’s Vast Frontier Library” that would have been necessary, if Joseph or anyone else had concocted the BoM on their own or as a group project. IE, the books which critics claim contain source material from which the BoM was derived, or at least the ideas that Joseph, or whoever, used.

    Anytime someone comes up with another bit of then-extant source material with parallels to the BoM, alleging Joseph (or someone else) borrowed from it, they are merely increasing the necessary complexity of a supposed conspiracy. It all would be pretty fancy work for a bunch of frontier bumpkins.

    And NONE of them ever “came clean.” That Cowdery, Harris, David Whitmer, David’s mother, Emma Smith, Lucy Smith and Sidney Rigdon attested to the reality of it all to their dieing day is amazing. As another commenter said on another post, the so-called conspiracy lasted well past Joseph Smith’s death.

    The Bible is a great and miraculous book. It kept forms of Christianity alive for centuries. But for _our day_, I have concluded that the Book of Mormon is presently the most important and most miraculous book on Earth.

    The Book of Mormon was created miraculously over centuries. It was preserved miraculously over centuries. It came forth miraculously. It has been and continues to be promulgated miraculously. It brings miracles of revelation and other miraculous blessings to those who study it and attempt to live it. It is indeed our tangible/hold-it-in-your-hand marvelous work and a wonder. It is currently sweeping the earth and gathering out the elect, just as ancient and modern prophets have said it would.

  3. To Mark Twain’s claim that the Book of Mormon would be pamphlet-sized if “it came to pass” was left out, the Dutch version of the book I used on my mission had done precisely that. After the first occurrence of the phrase in 1 Nephi, all the subsequent occurrences are replaced with an asterisk. The book is still 467 pages long (with most of that discrepancy being accounted for by the lesser amount of footnotes and shorter chapter headers compared to the English version).

  4. The only complaint I’d have (great video) is that as proof of Joseph authorship or Nephi, etc. It only shows that the pattern of biblical or Hebrew speech was internalized by its writers, not taught in Hebrew holy writing 101. So the Hebrew writers and their Nephite descendants would have had to internalize it just like Joseph did, though literary osmosis.

    It certainly bolsters the claim though, that the Book of Mormon is worthy of study.

  5. I’m not coming down either way on whether the Book of Mormon is authentic, but it’s not so hard to imagine Joseph Smith writing it on his own if he had been exposed to concepts in various other extant books and if he was trying to model his words to sound like the Bible. The video here even admits that many of the same Hebraic structures are also found in the Bible. The video never gets into why he couldn’t have just picked up the same writing style by imitating the Bible text. In fact, the parallels between 1 Nephi and Exodus or David and Goliath make the Book of Mormon seem more like a Bible imitation than an independent Hebrew text, don’t they? It seems strange that they even included this counter-evidence in the video as if it supported their position.

    Hebraisms are not as solid evidence as the video makes them seem. Accepting Hebraisms as evidence of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon requires you to take on the view that the words of the book were revealed to Joseph in the hat, line-by-line, word-for-word. This can be referred to as a “tight” translation. If it was a “loose” translation, meaning God gave Joseph general ideas or concepts to write down in his own words, the Hebraisms have to be conceded as coincidences.

    So if you accept Hebraisms as evidence, you also have to explain the other problems with the Book of Mormon that come up when you’re using the “tight” translation theory. Some of these problems include:
    (1) the 19th century phrases and words in the original Book of Mormon (e.g., he was “a-going” somewhere),
    (2) the anachronistic words in the text that would have been unknown to Nephi, Mormon, and others in ancient America (e.g., sheep, pigs, cows, horses, steel, elephants, etc.), yet there are “cureloms,” “deseret,” and other words that don’t have an English version given,
    (3) Deutero-Isaiah text (i.e., the phrases in BoM Isaiah chapters that didn’t yet exist in BoM times),
    (4) the inclusion of King James Version errors in the BoM versions of Bible text (which obviously didn’t exist in BoM times), and
    (5) the non-minor changes to the text of the BoM after the first edition (i.e., the ones that change the doctrines taught in the BoM).

    Hebraisms tend to make the writer sound more like a Hebrew writer, but in light of all of the other inconsistencies with using a “tight” translation, we should be careful not to afford Hebraisms the amount of weight presented in the video.

  6. Rick,
    The longer chiasms just can’t be accidental, or non-deliberate under the “Joseph picked up biblical style by osmosis” theory. They are too complicated to do off the top of one’s head. It had to be deliberate, and done with pen and paper to keep track. Either the ancient authors, or the modern composers/fraudsters, went to a lot of trouble to illustrate that they took a lot of time and thought and planning into the composition. Chiasms and other Hebraic techniques show that the BoM was _crafted_, not just thrown together, or jotted down.

    Also, they were hidden, or at least untrumpeted until, what, the 1960’s or 70’s? If the BoM is a fraud, the conspiractors failed to point out a selling point.

    As JS dictated (or pretended to dictate from the doubter’s POV) to Oliver, he was about to turn 24. Oliver had just turned 23. They were NOT scholars. Oliver was a grade school teacher. They were too young, not educated enough, and mostly unread (JS much more than Oliver) and literally did not have the time to put together the BoM, even if you assume the project started in 1823, when Joseph first started talking about Moroni. No one noticed them spending endless hours reading/researching and writng over those years.

    If a fraud, _someone other than Joseph and Oliver_, had to have been the main composer of the BoM.

    I’ve read speculation that Sidney Rigdon was involved. He was much more familar with the Bible and Christian doctrine. But, that was pretty sneaky of him to let JS be top banana, if Sidney had actually written the BoM. But then, to HIS dieing day, he still affirmed Joseph’s and his original story, even going back to Utah to rejoin the main body.

    JS, or JS+OC, as author(s), just doesn’t hold water as a theory. If the BoM is not of divine origin, there HAD to have been someone else, smarter, more educated, more well-read, a literary genius even to compose something of such complexity and internal consistency, to follow the patterns of mostly unknown Hebraic styles, etc., …. who basically…. turned everything over to a couple of 23 year olds.

    Have any critics of the church made a sound case for who that person or committee was?

  7. I agree that it is unlikely the chiasmus is the result of osmosis. There is not, and probably will not ever be, conclusive unmistakable evidence of the exact origin of the Book of Mormon text. However, the parallels between the BoM writing and other 19th century texts, including The Late War, are too great to be accidental or “osmosis” as well (e.g., see here: Note that The Late War also uses detailed and complicated chiasmus, including at least one that is 21 levels deep. Therefore, the complexity of the chiasmus in the BoM should not, by itself, be evidence that it could not be a 19th century text any more than it should be used to prove The Late War is from ancient America.

    All this leads me back to the point that Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon shouldn’t be given as much weight as BoM defenders give it.

    As to your point about doubting the abilities of JS and OC (and maybe SR) to write Hebraic sounding text, consider that they all were immersed in the text of the Bible, JS had shared the idea of the Gold Bible for years before the translation period (e.g. the years of visiting Moroni at Comoran annually, in which time he or others could have composed something), and The Late War was marketed “for the use of schools throughout the United States” under the title The Historical Reader between 1817 and 1819, when at least JS and OC would have been aged 12-17ish.

    Sure, we don’t know now who exactly wrote what when, but it feels like self-deception for me to base an “intellectual” testimony of the BoM on Hebraisms when there are other plausible explanations.

  8. Rick,
    I agree that the Hebraisms don’t absolutlely prove/demand an ancient origin. But my point is that they were still too complicated, and the BoM too much as a whole, for JS and/or OC to compose it on their own, even starting as early as 17 year olds in 1823. And especially so if starting at age 17. IOW, if the BoM is of modern origin, JS and OC were just incapable of starting such a project at any point in their lives prior to 1829.

    Being “immersed in the text of the Bible” still doesn’t mean having scholarly knowledge and understanding of it, or knowing the underlying literary techniques. Those kinds of things would have taken college level study. JS barely had a high school education.

    to me, what the Hebraic lit techniques show, at the minimum, is that JS and OC could not have written it _as kids_, or mere frontier high school graduates. The conspiracy would have had to start no later than 1823, with someone who already had a college level Bible understanding conspiring with a 17 year old, or younger (since he started “telling tales” in 1820), JS.

    So, in my view, even though I’ll grant the point that these Hebraic lit techniques don’t _prove_ (beyond a doubt) ancient origin of the BoM, they do pretty much (99.99%) prove JS(+OC) didn’t concoct it on their own.

    Here and now, today, it’s up to the critics to show even a plausible modern source for the BoM. They, the critics, need to name names and show connections to JS and OC going back to at least 1823.

    Because the mere existence of the modern literature parallels is not enough to slam-dunk _dis_prove ancient origin. In fact, each new alleged piece of source matter added to the pile demands a higher sophistication and education of the supposed modern composer of the BoM. JS and OC were no where near enough educated or sophisticated to assimilate and process all that in their youth.

    All the critics have done is “help along” the idea that JS and OC didn’t do it on their own. There is still no smoking gun of a conspiracy.

    There never will be absolute proof of ancient origin. THe critics always seem to falsely accuse apologists of crowing about proof. That’s not what apologists do. Apologists just show that faithful claims are still _plausible_, and also usually point out that critics haven’t _disproven_ the BoM, either. IE, a good defense merely “makes room” for faith, as the famous saying goes.

    So I say to the critics, “Go ahead, find as many modern sources with parallels to the BoM as you want. Each new source you put on the list just makes it more UNlikely that two ‘kids’ like Joseph and Oliver cooked it up all on their own.”

    As far as finding parallels between peices of literature, have you read Jeff Lindsay’s ( list of parallels between the BoM and Whitman’s Leaves of Grass? Would you accuse Whitman of plagiarizing the BoM? Or did JS have an advance copy of LoG to copy from?

  9. Hey bookslinger, I’m sorry if I offended you—I can’t tell how serious you are. The Jeff Lindsay apologetic as not very useful or convincing. Notwithstanding the humorous presentation, which is a nice relief from people who actually try to over-state their proof, it’s disinegnouous to compare LoG with The Late War, A View of the Hebrews, or others that have very real and clear connections to the BoM. Recent research on those texts have shown correlations between those texts and the Book of Mormon that show their similarities are more than mere coincidences that you would find in any old text of the time. I take it you didn’t go through the research in the link I sent you. In terms of unique common phrases, TLW is more similar to the BoM than 99.999% of all other pre-1830 books known at the time. The only Book with more in common is the Bible. TLW is VASTLY more similar than a random book like Pride and Prejudice or even the writings of Solomon Spaulding. How peculiar then that TLW is also thick with Hebraisms used to prove the BoM origins. I’ve not seen any Hebraisms that must be considered so intentional and unique that they “prove” the origins of the BoM to the extent you’re suggesting.

    How do you “make room” for the other anachronistic elements listed in my first comment that strongly cut against the traditional origin story of the BoM?

    My point in all this is that Hebraisms are overblown as evidence- if on one hand you have evidence suggesting the BoM is ancient (which I admit Hebraisms falls into), but on the other hand you have evidence that the BoM basically CAN’T be ancient aside from magic, you have to actively inflate the importance of Hebraisms to make them a serious consideration in the final analysis, especially if the Hebraisms can possibly be explained without resorting to magic.

  10. Wait, JS/OC had a copy of The Late War and used it to imitate the KJ language found in the Bible to peoduce the BoM? Or did TLW author and BoM author(s) have a copy of the Bible and tried to imitate its language? Which theory is more plausible?

    In addition, is there any plausible evidence that OC/JS possessed a copy of either book during the production of the BoM? Or are some just assuming this is the case?

    And after all this is answered, how does this explain the power two of these books have on the faithful now spaning three centuries while the other, if not for the BoM, would’ve been relegated to the 19th century only?

    How the Book of Mormon came to be is still a mystery over all these years, and the ‘conspiracy’ regarding it keeps getting more and more fantastic with time.

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