Bible passages in the Book of Mormon


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Does the Book of Mormon plagiarize the King James Bible?

The Book of Mormon emulates the language and style of the King James Bible because that is the scriptural style Joseph Smith, translator of the Book of Mormon, was familiar with

The Book of Mormon and the Bible testify of each other, reinforcing a single message of good news to the world.

Critics of the Book of Mormon write that major portions of it are copied, without attribution, from the Bible. They argue that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon by plagiarizing the Authorized ("King James") Version of the Bible.

Hugh Nibley: "As to the 'passages lifted bodily from the King James Version,' we first ask, 'How else does one quote scripture if not bodily:'"

In 1961, LDS scholar Hugh Nibley wrote:

[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. 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. quote another writer of Christianity Today [magazine],[1] "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.

How can scripture be cited except 'bodily':

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:

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.

Prophets usually use the version of scripture with which their audience is familiar

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.

"Faith, hope, and charity" from the New Testament:

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.

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.

Why KJV English:

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:"

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.

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."[2]

Even professional translators will lapse into the scriptural language that they know

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.

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."[3] 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![4]

Quotations from the Bible in the Book of Mormon are sometimes uncited quotes from Old Testament prophets on the brass plates, similar to the many unattributed Old Testament quotes in the New Testament; others may be similar phrasing emulated by Joseph Smith during his translation.

Oddly enough, this does not mean that Joseph Smith simply plagiarized from the KJV. Using the Original and Printer's Manuscripts of the Book of Mormon, Latter-day Saint scholar Royal Skousen has identified that none of the King James language contained in the Book of Mormon could have been copied directly from the Bible. He deduces this from the fact that when quoting, echoing, or alluding to the passages, Oliver (Joseph's amanuensis for the dictation of the Book of Mormon) consistently misspells certain words from the text that he wouldn't have misspelled if he was looking at the then-current edition of the KJV.[5]

Even if all the biblical passages were removed from the Book of Mormon, there would be a great deal of text remaining. Joseph was able to produce long, intricate religious texts without using the bible; if he was trying to deceive people, why did he "plagiarize" from the one book—the Bible—which his readership was sure to recognize: The Book of Mormon itself declares that it came forth in part to support the Bible (2 Nephi 9). Perhaps the inclusion of KJV text can show it engaging the Bible rather than just cribbing from it. If we didn't get some KJV text, we might think that the Nephites were trying to communicate an entirely different message.

A Proposed Scenario

Skousen proposes that, rather than looking at a Bible (the absence of a Bible now near-definitively confirmed by the manuscript evidence and the unequivocal statements of witnesses to the translation to the Book of Mormon), Joseph was provided a page of text via his gift of seership. This page of text contained, in this view, the King James Bible text. Joseph was then free to alter the text for his audience. Thus:

  • As Joseph was translating the text of the Book of Mormon, he encounter something that was being roughly similar to texts from the Bible. This would occur most prominently when Nephi quotes from Isaiah.
  • Instead of translating Nephi's quotations of Isaiah word-for-word, the Lord gave the passages from Isaiah as contained in the KJV. Reasons for which this may have been done are discussed earlier in this article.
  • Consequently, the Isaiah chapters on Nephi's plates would have looked slightly different from the Isaiah chapters that we have now in the Book of Mormon. Nephi's version of Isaiah 8꞉52 would have been the primitive, early version written by 1st Isaiah. The version of Isaiah 8꞉52 that we have now in the Book of Mormon would not then be taken directly from Nephi's plates, but rather adapted from the KJV Bible as described.
Learn more about biblical allusions or citation in the Book of Mormon
FAIR links
  • Ben McGuire, "Nephi and Goliath: A Reappraisal of the Use of the Old Testament in First Nephi," Proceedings of the 2001 FAIR Conference (August 2001). link
  • Sara Riley, "“Even as Moses’ Did”: The Use of the Exodus Narrative in Mosiah 11-18," Proceedings of the 2018 FAIR Conference (August 2018). link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "Literary Problems in the Book of Mormon involving 1 Corinthians 12, 13, and Other New Testament Books," off-site.
  • Learn More About Parts 5 and 6 of Volume 3 of the Critical Text Project of the Book of Mormon off-site.
  • Royal Skousen, "The History of the Book of Mormon Text: Parts 5 and 6 of Volume 3 of the Critical Text" off-site.
  • Standford Carmack, "Bad Grammar in the Book of Mormon Found in Early English Bibles" off-site.
  • Stan Spencer, "Missing Words: King James Bible Italics, the Translation of the Book of Mormon, and Joseph Smith as an Unlearned Reader" off-site.


See also:The New Testament and the Book of Mormon

General questions


Did Joseph Smith use characters from the Bible as templates for the characters in the Book of Mormon:

Critic Fawn Brodie claimed:

Many stories [Joseph Smith] borrowed from the Bible [for the creation of the Book of Mormon]. The daughter of Jared, like Salome, danced before a king and a decapitation followed. Aminadi, like Daniel, deciphered handwriting on a wall, and Alma was converted after the exact fashion of St. Paul. The daughters of the Lamanites were abducted like the dancing daughters of Shiloh; and Ammon, like the American counterpart of David, for want of a Goliath slew six sheep-rustlers with his sling.[6]

When deciding whether Joseph used characters from the bible as templates we should remember a few things.

Problems with parallels

Similarities do not necessarily imply causal influence. Literary scholars have long considered the question of how to tell if two texts have influenced each other.[7]

It was once popular to list elements found in both texts in table form and 'compare' the similarities or parallels. This is now discouraged as it tends to what is called 'parallelomania.' Ben McGuire quoted Everett Ferguson on this technique's use on Christianity:

another image from geometry that has been used to describe the relation of Christianity to its context is “parallels,” and these have caused various concerns to modern readers. This volume will call attention to a number of similarities between Christianity and various aspects of its environment. Many more could have been included, and probably many more than are currently recognized will become known as a result of further study and future discoveries. What is to be made of these parallels? Do they explain away Christianity as a natural product of its environment? Must they be explained away in order to defend the truth or validity of Christianity? Neither position is necessary. . . . The kind and significance of the parallels may be further clarified by commenting on the cultural parallels. That Christians observed the same customs and used words in the same way as their contemporaries is hardly noteworthy in itself. Those things belonged to the place and time when Christianity began. The situation could not have been otherwise for Christianity to have been a real historical phenomenon, open now to historical study. To expect the situation to have been otherwise would require Christianity to be something other than it is, a historical religion. Indeed, if Christianity did not have these linguistic and cultural contacts with the first-century Mediterranean world the presumption would be that it was a fiction originating in another time and place.[8]

If this is true of Christianity in general, it is even more so for the restored Church of Jesus Christ whose origins are recent, and for whom supposed parallels will be even easier to find, but no less misleading.

As McGuire explains:

Simply stated, on some level we can find a parallel to any source. An author may not recognize another’s text in his writings at all—even if parallels may be found. This isn’t to say that there isn’t literary plagiarism. But, the concern here is with mistakenly finding it when it may not actually have occurred. ...[9]:29

He goes on to quote W.H. Bennett, who provides two warnings applicable to our question. The first cautions:

(Many alleged parallels are entirely irrelevant, and are only such as must naturally exist between works in the same language, by authors of the same race, acquainted with the history and literature, customs and traditions which were earlier than both of them. . . .[10]

This is of major importance in trying to determine whether biblical characters are the source of Book of Mormon ones. Why? Because the Book of Mormon claims to share a culture, religious outlook, and textual tradition with the bible.

It would therefore be unsurprising that a similar environment created similar themes, characters, and situations.

This becomes even more likely when we realize that a major part of ancient Hebrew writing was the type scene.

What is a "type scene"?

Book of Mormon Central, KnoWhy #414: How Does the Book of Mormon Use an Ancient Storytelling Technique: (Video)

Book of Mormon Central has produced an excellent article that may explain this type of "plagiarism" in the Book of Mormon. That article is reproduced in full (including citations for easy reference) below:

In Genesis 4, Abraham sent his servant to a foreign land to find a wife for Isaac. When he got there, he met a girl named Rebekah at a well, she drew water for him, she ran off to tell her family about it, and later she and Isaac were betrothed. Something similar happened to Jacob. He went to a foreign land to find a wife, he met Rachael by a well, he drew water for her, she ran to tell her family, and Jacob and Rachael were betrothed (see Genesis 9). As with all true stories, the author could have told these stories in many different ways.[11] However, the reason these two stories are so similar is because they are both based on the same pattern, called a type-scene.[12]
A type-scene is an ancient storytelling technique where certain kinds of stories are told in certain ways.[13] The ancient audience expected that when a main character got engaged, for example, he would journey to a foreign land, encounter a woman at a well, and draw water from the well.[14] Then the woman would rush home to tell the family, and the man and the woman would be betrothed.[14]:62 However, each time the storyteller applied this type-scene to a new character, they would change the story slightly. This allowed the type-scene to fit each character’s historical circumstances, but also gave insights into the personalities of each character in the story.[15]
For instance, biblical scholar Robert Alter noted that "it is only in [Isaac's] betrothal scene that the girl, not the stranger, draws water from the well."[14]:64 This fits well with what we see Rebekah doing later, when she took "the initiative at a crucial moment in the story in order to obtain the paternal blessing for her favored son, Jacob."[14]:64 Ultimately, "Rebekah is to become the shrewdest and the most potent of the matriarchs, and so it is entirely appropriate that she should dominate her betrothal scene."[16] The more these stories differ from the basic type-scene, the more one can expect that the characters in the scene will turn out differently than expected.[17]
Alan Goff has pointed out a radically different, but still recognizable, version of this type scene in Alma 7.[18] Just as in the classic type-scene, Ammon went to a foreign land, but in this case, he went to preach the gospel (Alma 17꞉12).[18]:105 Although Ammon did not meet a woman there, the king offered Ammon his daughter in marriage, but he declined (v. 24).[19] Shortly thereafter, Ammon went to the waters of Sebus, rather than a well, to water the flocks (v. 26).[20] Finally, instead of the woman returning to tell the family about the presence of a potential suitor, the servants returned to the king with the arms of the would-be sheep rustlers (v. 39).[21]
The differences between the basic type-scene and the Ammon story teach us much about Ammon and how we can be like him. Instead of going to a foreign land to find a wife, Ammon went to a foreign land to preach the gospel. When he got there and was offered the hand of the princess, he declined, stating that he wished to work for the king of the Lamanites instead. In addition to simply drawing water for the flocks, he saved them at the peril of his own life. Finally, those present at the watering of the flocks returned to tell the king not about Ammon as a potential suitor, but about the power of God that was with him.
The Ammon story takes the type-scene, in which the hero is simply trying to find a wife, and turns it on its head. Everything Ammon does in the story is done for selfless reasons. The last part of the type-scene, in which the hero becomes betrothed, is conspicuous by its absence. Ammon does not become betrothed at the end of the story because that was not his purpose in traveling to the land of the Lamanites. He went to the Lamanites to preach the gospel and remained focused on that goal the entire time he was in Lamanite lands.
It is easy for us to become so focused on ourselves and our own needs that we rarely think about those around us. Mormon’s masterful reworking of this type-scene reminds us all of the importance of putting others first. If we will all replace selfishness with selflessness, like Ammon did, we can be a true force for good in the lives of those around us and have the power of God with us in our lives, like Ammon did.

Book of Mormon Central has also produced this video on the subject:

A second caution

We will return to the idea of "type scenes" when we consider specific examples. But first we will consider the second of W.H. Bennett's cautions about finding supposed sources for parallel accounts:

In considering two similar passages, A and B, there are at least three possible explanations of their resemblance. A may be dependent on B, or B on A, or both A and B may be dependent on something prior to both of them. A critic with a theory—and everybody starts with a prepossession in favour of some theory —is tempted to take for granted that the relation of the parallel passages is in accordance with his theory. If he holds that B is older than A, it seems to him that A is so obviously dependent on B, that this dependence proves the early date of B. But, as a rule, it is very difficult to determine which of two similar passages is dependent on the other. Often the question can only be settled by our knowledge that one passage is taken from an earlier work than the other; and where we do not possess such knowledge the priority is quite uncertain, and a comparison of the passages yields little or no evidence as to the date of the documents in which they occur. . . ..[22]

Bennett insists that we cannot approach a text without a theory—and critics of the Book of Mormon have a theory that it is a forgery. Thus, they conclude that the Book of Mormon (A) is dependent on the King James Bible characters(B), since the KJV was certainly published before the Book of Mormon.

Once they conclude that these are "so obviously dependent" on the Bible, it becomes a simple matters to convince oneself that these parallels prove plagiarism or influence. But it is equally possible for such characters to both be type-scene characters (as discussed in the previous section). In that case, both the Bible and the Book of Mormon are dependent upon something else that predates them—the type scene.

Or, as we saw with the example with the "duplicate" kings of England, many themes and stories and personalities recur in history. If an ancient author is looking for type-scenes, then they will emphasize the similarities even further, misleading the zealous critic into thinking they have found a smoking gun.

Specific Book of Mormon type-scenes

We will now consider some specific examples of type scenes, examining both the similarities and the differences between them and the biblical 'parallels'.

The Daughter of Jared and Salome

BYU Professor Nicholas J. Frederick addressed this very question in the book Illuminating the Jaredite Records published by the Book of Mormon Academy.[23]:236–51

Frederick points out that similarities do exist. Both stories involve:

  1. An unnamed daughter
  2. A female performing a dance before a powerful male figure
  3. Demands for decapitation—one realized, the other foiled
  4. Revenge against a perceived injustice
  5. Swearing of oaths with unfortunate consequences (the beheading of John the Baptist and the destruction of the Jaredites).

But Frederick also points out important dissimilarities—we might call these the unparallels:

  1. Who is the instigator? "[I]n Ether 8 the daughters of Jared is the primary actor; it is she who puts the evil ideas into her father's head and dances before Akish. In Mark's account Salome acts at her mother's behest and presumably does not know that her dance will result in John's death until her mother instructs her after the dance to ask for John's head (see 6꞉24). She is as much of a pawn in her mother's game as Herod is. Because of this, the daughter of Jared seems to occupy the position or role of both Herodias and Salome , as if both figures were collapsed into one Jaredite female."[23]:239
  2. The audience of the dance: "Salome dances for her father and his friends, while the daughter of Jared dances for a potential husband. The presence of Herod's guests presumably ensures that Salome's request will not be dismissed, an action that would likely have caused Herod to lose face. The daughters of Jared, in the same fashion, has exactly the audience she requires."[23]:239
  3. The nature of the request: "Herod is clearly uncomfortable offering up John's head, but he has little choice—his promise must be kept. Akish appears completely comfortable with the request to carry out the murderous plot, as are, one assumes, both Jared and his daughter."[23]:239
  4. The nature of the dance itself: "The daughter of Jared's dance is prefaced by Moroni's statement that Jared's daughter was "exceedingly fair," suggesting a likely sensual element to her dance, on that is expected to appeal to Akish and that will lead to his matrimonial request. While there is nothing in the text to suggest a salaciousness to the dance itself, it does appear designed to highlight the woman's physical attractiveness. In contrast, Salome is described simply as a 'damsel' (Mark 6꞉22), and no mention is made of her physical appearance. Nor is there any suggestion that her dance was in any way seductive or erotic, only that it 'pleased Herod' (v. 22). Again, to suggest without textual evidence that Salome's dance contained a lascivious element or that it was, in the words of one scholar, 'hardly more than a striptease' is to surely go beyond the mark."[23]:239

Frederick proposes a few possible scenarios to answer the question of how we got a story this similar to Salome in the Book of Mormon:

  1. Salome is a direct analogue for the daughter of Jared. This idea, as observed by Frederick, simply does not work.
  2. The daughter of Jared as a blend of both Herodias and Salome, a move that combines these two women into one remarkable figure. Yet even then the daughter of Jared is more Herodias than Salome. The dance itself is the only contribution of Salome to the daughter of Jared's story.
  3. Joseph Smith drawing on the Salome story in the nineteenth century with its oversexualized portrayal of Salome. Yet even this does not do the daughter or Jared justice. The daughter of Jared is depicted as calm, shrewd, devoted, knowledgeable, and self-sacrificing. She may be beautiful, but her beauty is one of her features; it does not define her.

Hugh Nibley writes that the account of the daughter of Jared is more similar to ancient accounts that use the same motifs of the dancing princess, old king, and challenger to the throne of the king. That is, this could be a case in which both the bible and the Book of Mormon account are drawing on a third, even older, source—the type-scene.

This is indeed a strange and terrible tradition of throne succession, yet there is no better attested tradition in the early world than the ritual of the dancing princess (represented by the salme priestess of the Babylonians, hence the name Salome) who wins the heart of a stranger and induces him to marry her, behead the whole king, and mount the throne. I once collected a huge dossier on this awful woman and even read a paper on her at an annual meeting of the American Historical Association.[24] You find out all about the sordid triangle of the old king, the challenger, and the dancing beauty from Frazer, Jane Harrison, Altheim, B. Chweitzer, Franell, and any number of folklorists.[25] The thing to note especially is that there actually seems to have been a succession rite of great antiquity that followed this pattern. It is the story behind the rites at Olympia and Ara Sacra and the wanton and shocking dances of the ritual hierodules throughout the ancient world.[26] Though it is not without actual historical parallels, as when in A.D. 998 the sister of the khalif obtained as a gift the head of the ruler of Syria,[27] the episode of the a dancing princess is at all times essentially a ritual, and the name of Salome is perhaps no accident, for her story is anything but unique. Certainly the book of Ether is on the soundest possible ground in attributing the behavior of the daughter of Jared to the inspiration of ritual texts – secret directories on the art of deposing an aging king. The Jaredite version, incidentally, is quite different from the Salome story of the Bible, but is identical with many earlier accounts that have come down to us in the oldest records of civilization.[28]

Aminadi and Daniel

The single 'parallel'—that both men interpreted the writings of God on a wall—is tenuous. Parallel aspects do not equal dependency, unless we assume what we set out to prove.

Brant A. Gardner observes:

The story of Aminadi [in Alma 10꞉2-3] clearly parallels Daniel 5꞉5-17 with a prophet interpreting Yahweh's writing on a wall, although there is no language dependency. There can be no textual dependency because Daniel describes events during the Babylonian captivity that postdates Lehi's departure from Jerusalem. Just as Alma's conversion experience was similar to, but different from, Paul's (see commentary accompanying Mosiah 27꞉10-11), it is probable that, if we had a fuller version of Aminadi's story, we would see both similarities and differences.[29]

Ammon and David

The only similarity between these two stories is that both men killed another individual or group with a sling. How many stories can we find authored before the Book of Mormon was translated where a protagonist defeats an antagonist with a sling? Hundreds. The comparison is flimsy at best, and probably included simply to increase the number of "hits" in order to create the impression of even more numerous problems.

(This is part of a fallacious debating technique known as the Gish Gallop.)

The daughters of the Lamanites and the dancing daughters of Shiloh

French illuminated manuscript (1244-1254) of the Benjaminite arriving with his concubine in Gibeah. This is a benign beginning to a horrific account. From "The Morgan Bible."

Latter-day Saint philosopher Alan Goff wrote a short chapter on this parallel back in 1991:

A minor story in the Book of Mormon provides an example of how complex the task of reading the book can be. It also illustrates how much richer our understand­ing can be when we remember that the Book of Mormon is an ancient record with connections to other ancient records, par­ticularly the Old Testament. In the book of Mosiah, a band of wicked priests hid in the wilderness and kidnapped some young women to be their wives (see Mosiah 20꞉1-5). This story can be read as an adventure tale. If looked at carefully, however, it shows the kind of connections between the Book of Mormon and the Old Testament that demonstrate that the Book of Mormon is an ancient book.

The story of kidnapping by the wicked priests is a minor part of the record of the people of Zeniff. When King Noah, ruler over the Zeniffites, rejected the prophet Abinadi's message and had him killed, the priest Alma and his followers separated from the rest of the people. Soon thereafter, the Lamanites at­tacked the people of Zeniff. As they fled from the Lamanites, King Noah commanded them to abandon their families. Instead, they executed Noah and attempted to kill his priests (see Mosiah 19꞉19-21). These priests escaped into the wilderness, led by Amulon, one of their number, and later kidnapped some daughter sof the Lamanites to be their wives. Angered by the kidnapping and assuming the Zeniffites were guilty, the Lamanites attacked them. Peace was restored when the Lamanites learned who the real kidnappers were (see Mosiah 20꞉26).

To allow the tribe of Benjamin to survive after they had vowed not to marry their daughters to them, the Israelites arranged a "bride theft" event to get around the vow. (Illustration from :Gustav Doré, "Abduction of the girls at Shiloh," La Grande Bible de Tours (1866).)

A Biblical Parallel

This story of the abduction of young Lamanite women is similar to a story in the Bible in which men from the tribe of Benjamin kidnap daughters of Israel at Shiloh. The end of the book of Judges contains three stories about the tribe of Benjamin. In the first, Benjaminites abused and murdered a Levite con­cubine (see Judges 20). In the second, the other eleven tribes gathered to punish the offenders, and a civil war resulted (see Judges 19). The third story tells of the kidnapping (see Judges 1).

After destroying most of the tribe of Benjamin, the Israelites realized that this tribe was in danger of extinction. To preserve the tribe, the Benjaminites needed wives. But the Israelites had vowed not to allow their daughters to marry the Benjaminites. To get around their vow, they instructed the Benjaminites to kidnap the daughters of the Israelites who lived at Shiloh while the young women danced in the vineyards. As the daughters of Shiloh gathered, the Benjaminites lay hidden. The girls danced, and the Benjaminites stole them to be their wives.

The Stealing of the Daughters of the Lamanites

The similarities between the stories in Mosiah and Judges are complex and carefully stated:

Then they said, Behold, there is a feast of the Lord in Shiloh yearly in a place which is on the north side of Beth­el, on the east side of the high­way that goeth up from Beth­el to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah. Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards; and see, and behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin (Judges 21꞉19-21). Now there was a place in Shemlon where the daughters of the Lamanites did gather themselves together to sing, and to dance, and to make themselves merry. And it came to pass that there was one day a small number of them gathered together to sing and to dance (Mosiah 20꞉1-2).

The Bible clearly mentions the incident as a yearly ritual. The Book of Mormon mentions it as a regular occurrence, not telling us how often ("one day"). In both stories the kidnapped virgins became the wives of the abductors. The record says that the priests of Noah, "being ashamed to return to the city of Nephi, yea, and also fearing that the people would slay them, therefore they durst not return to their wives and their children" (Mosiah 20꞉3), so they watched the dancers and kidnapped sub­stitute wives. When the narrative returned to the story of Amulon and his fellow priests, the daughters of the Lamanites were then called "their wives" (Mosiah 23꞉33).

In both stories, the abductors, like peeping toms, waited and watched the spectacle. The Benjaminites lay in wait in the vine­yards watching the dancing. The wicked priests also found the place where the girls danced, then "they laid and watched them" (Mosiah 20꞉4). We know that the priests hid because in the next verse they "came forth out of their secret places" and abducted twenty-four of the dancing maidens. Not only is the watching stressed in both stories, but also the lying in wait. These were not crimes of passion, but ones of premeditation.

The Meaning of Parallels

Some Book of Mormon critics have seen the parallels between the two stories and concluded that Joseph Smith merely copied the story from Judges, they conclude that any similarities in stories indicate plagiarism. Biblical scholars take a more sophis­ticated approach than do these critics to texts that may appear to borrow from other texts. Scholars often see similarities be­tween stories as evidence of the writer's sophistication and of the richness of the text.

For example, the first of the stories about the Benjaminites, telling of the rape and death of a concubine, is similar to an earlier Bible story of Lot and his two visitors at Sodom. The story in Judges tells of a Levite and his concubine who were returning home from a visit to her father's house in Bethlehem. At a late hour they arrived at Gibeah, a Benjaminite city. Only one old man was willing to take the travelers in. As the host entertained, the men of the city gathered outside and demanded that the host bring the Levite outside so they could rape him. The host protested this violation of the law of hospitality and offered his own virgin daughter and the Levite's concubine as substitutes. The Levite instead pushed his concubine out to the mob, who "abused her all the night until the morning" (Judges 19:25). In the morning she was dead.

This story is obviously similar to the story of Lot's visitors in Genesis 19. In both stories the guests were taken in, the inhabitants of the cities threatened a homosexual rape, and the host offered two women as substitutes to spare the men. Ob­viously readers are meant to see a relationship between the two stories. Biblical scholars see this as an example of conscious borrowing intended both to enhance the meaning of the second story and to emphasize how wicked Gibeah had become. The story in Genesis 19 can easily be read and understood with no awareness of the story in Judges 19, but to understand Judges 19 in any complete way the reader must see the connection to Sodom. The Levite was portrayed unfavorably compared to Lot's divine visitors. The visitors to Sodom effected a divine rescue, while the Levite threw out his own concubine to save himself.[30]

I believe that, in a similar way, the story of the abduction in Mosiah means more when we see it light of the story in Judges. I feel that the author of the story in Mosiah borrowed consciously from the story in Judges, which he knew from the plates of brass, to help make his point.

The story of the abduction of the daughters of Shiloh is the final story in Judges. One of the main purposes of Judges was to justify the establishment of a king. Judges described the evil the Israelites did in the Lord's sight (see Judges 3꞉7 4꞉1), ex­plaining that they did evil because there was no king over the people (see Judges 17꞉6; 18꞉1). Judges ends with three stories about the tribe of Benjamin that illustrate this evil. The stories are preceded by a statement about the lack of a king over the land: "And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel. . . " (Judges 19꞉1). The third story ends with a similar statement: "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21꞉25). The topsy-turvy world described in Judges 17-Judges 21 dem­onstrates that doing what is right in one's own eyes is often the same thing as doing what is evil in the Lord's eyes.[31]

By emphasizing parallels to the kidnapping story in Judges, the author of the story in Mosiah seems to me to have strength­ened the moral point. The wicked priests led by Amulon were also evil, doing what was right in their own eyes rather than following the Lord.

Other Parallels

Understandably, the text shows disapproval of all that Amu­lon and his fellow priests did. The parallel case from Judges of doing what is right in man's eyes is only one way the text shows this disapproval. There are other parallels that further discredit Amulon and his companions.

After the Lamanites captured Amulon and his people, the record states that "Amulon did gain favor in the eyes of the king of the Lamanites" (Mosiah 24꞉1). In gaining the favor of the Lamanites, these priests clearly lost favor with God. There is a note of disapproval in the narrator's words when he says that the people of Amulon not only found favor in the eyes of the Lamanite king, but also that the king appointed these men to be teachers over all his people (see Mosiah 24꞉1). As teachers, these priests taught the Lamanites the language of the Nephites (see Mosiah 24꞉4), "nevertheless they knew not God; neither did the brethren of Amulon teach them anything concerning the Lord their God, neither the law of Moses; nor did they teach them the words of Abinadi" (Mosiah 24꞉5).

On the other hand, Alma taught his people how God de­livered both the followers of Limhi and Alma out of bondage (see Mosiah 25꞉10,16). He also taught them "repentance and faith on the Lord" (Mosiah 25:15) as he organized them into congregations. The author emphasizes how different from Alma the priests of Noah were. He says directly that the priests of Noah didn't teach the Lamanites Abinadi's words. He also spe­cifically mentions that Alma "went about privately among the people, and began to teach the words of Abinadi" (Mosiah 18꞉1). Both Alma and Amulon entered the narrative as priests of Noah. Upon hearing the words of Abinadi, Alma repented, but Amulon refused to repent. Alma taught the prophet's words in secret, while Amulon and his priests utterly refused to teach them to the Lamanites.

The reader is led to see the contrasting lives, not just of Alma and Amulon, but of the people of Limhi and Alma and the people of Amulon. Both Alma and Amulon led colonies into the wil­derness: Alma and his people, when Noah's soldiers discovered their "movement," "took their tents and their families and de­parted into the wilderness" (Mosiah 18꞉32,34). Amulon and his followers also fled into the wilderness, but at Noah's command they left their families behind (see Mosiah 19꞉11-23).

The wicked priests abandoned their wives when King Noah "commanded them that all the men should leave their wives and their children, and flee before the Lamanites" (Mosiah 19꞉11), then they went about trying to find substitute wives. The other Zeniffites would rather have perished than leave their wives and children behind (see Mosiah 19:12). Thus those who remained behind "caused that their fair daughters should stand forth and plead with the Lamanites that they would not slay them" (Mosiah 19:13). The daughters inspired "compassion" among the Lamanites, for they "were charmed with the beauty of their women" (Mosiah 19:14). Later, Amulon would do the same thing, sending out the Lamanite daughters he and the other priests had kidnapped to plead for mercy (see Mosiah 23꞉33-34).

The text has set up parallel examples for the reader to com­pare. The Zeniffites sent men out to find those who had fled their children and wives, "all save the king and his priests" (Mosiah 19꞉18), and had vowed that they would return to their wives and children or die seeking revenge if the Lamanites had killed them (Mosiah 19꞉19). The parallel stories of sending the two sets of daughters to beg for mercy from the Lamanites teach the reader that what appear to be the same actions actually differ when performed by the good-hearted on the one hand or the evil-hearted on the other.

When we compare the people as the text invites us to do, we contrast the care the men of Limhi showed for their wives and children with the abandonment by the priests of Noah. All of these events define the lack of moral character of the priests. The fact that the Lamanite king was willing to permit the stealing of the Lamanite daughters by welcoming Amulon and the priests into his kingdom speaks badly of this king, just as the Israelites' encouragement of the Benjaminites to kidnap their own daugh­ters speaks badly of all Israel. The people of Limhi, on the other hand, "fought for their lives, and for their wives, and for their children" (Mosiah 20꞉11). These differences reveal not only the character of the priests of Noah, who abandoned their families rather than fall into Lamanite hands, but also of the Nephites, who decided to face death with their families rather than aban­don them.

The text is clearly unsympathetic to the people of Amulon. The connection between the two stories of abduction is a hint from the author that their actions were reminiscent of a time, reported in Judges, when the Israelites didn't follow God's law but did what was right in their own eyes. The priests are por­trayed as indifferent to God, in spite of their position, which should have made them more anxious to follow God.

The Book of Mormon story of the stealing of the Lamanite daughters cannot be accounted for by the simplistic claim that it was just copied from the Bible. The Book of Mormon makes sophisticated use of the story to make its own point. Critics of the Book of Mormon believe that the author of the text used the earlier story from Judges, and I agree. But unlike them, I believe that the parallel enhances the book and reveals it to be an ancient document rather than a modern imitation.[32]

Goff has more recently treated this episode in more detail, with a thorough discussion of type-scenes and judging the value of readings that assume parallels by plagiarism.[33]

Alma and Paul

This parallel has received the largest amount of attention from critics, apologists, and other scholars.

Paul's dramatic experience on the road to Damascus turned him into a Christian and perhaps the faith's most influential missionary. Despite the artist's dramatic use of horses, there's no evidence that Paul was riding as he travelled on his mission to persecute Christians. (Image: Luca Giordano, "The Conversion of St. Paul," (1690).)

The Book of Mormon records the conversion and ministry of a young man named Alma. Alma goes about trying to lead people away from God's church. An angel appears, causing Alma and his companions to fall and tremble because of fear. Because of this experience, Alma was converted to the gospel and spent his life teaching it thereafter.

In 2002, critic Grant H. Palmer asserted that this conversion narrative and much of the rest of Alma’s story "seems to draw" on Paul’s story of conversion and ministry in the New Testament as a narrative structure.[34]

In particular, critics assert that the following parallels exist:

  1. Both men were wicked before their dramatic conversion (Mosiah 27꞉8; 1 Tim. 1꞉12-13).
  2. Both traveled about persecuting and seeking to destroy the church of God (14#p6, 14 Alma 36꞉6, 14; 1 Cor. 15꞉9; Acts 22꞉4)
  3. Both were persecuting the church when they saw a heavenly vision (Mosiah 27꞉10-11; Acts 26꞉11-13).
  4. Their companions fell to the earth and were unable to understand the voice that spoke (Mosiah 27꞉12; Acts 22꞉9; 26꞉14).
  5. Both were asked in vision why they persecuted the Lord (Mosiah 27꞉13; Acts 9꞉4; 22꞉7).
  6. Both were struck dumb/blind, became helpless, and were assisted by their companions. They went without food before converting (Mosiah 27꞉19, 23-24; Acts 9꞉8).
  7. Both preached the gospel and both performed the same miracle (Mosiah 27꞉32; Alma 15꞉11; Acts 9꞉20; 14꞉10).
  8. While preaching, they supported themselves by their own labors (Alma 30꞉32; 1 Cor 4꞉12)
  9. They were put in prison. After they prayed, an earthquake resulted in their bands being loosed (26-28#p22, 26-28 Alma 14꞉22, 26-28; 25-26#p23, 25-26 Acts 16꞉23, 25-26).
  10. Both used the same phrases in their preaching.[35]

This article will seek to examine this criticism and address it in a way that makes sense given orthodox Latter-day Saint theological commitments.

A translator can see parallels too

A well-informed translator would also see the parallels, and so the translation could emphasize the Pauline parallels. If we insist that Joseph was not well-informed enough to see the parallels, he can hardly have been well-informed enough to create the parallels either.

Are roughly parallel stories surprising?

Are we really to believe that there can't be two narratives of men persecuting a church organization, being visited by a heavenly messenger exhorting them to repent, having them converted to preaching repentance, supporting themselves by their own labor while they preach, and being freed from bands and prison without one narrative being literately dependent on the other?

Scholars John Welch and John F. Hall created a chart noting similarities and differences between Alma's and Paul's conversion.[36] They explain:

The conversions of Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus and of Alma the Younger in the land of Zarahemla are similar in certain fundamental respects, as one would expect since the source of their spiritual reversals was one and the same. Interestingly, in each case we have three accounts of their conversions: Paul’s conversion is reported in Acts 9, 22, and 26. Alma’s conversion is given in Mosiah 7, Alma 6, and 38. No two of these accounts are exactly the same. The columns on the far right and left sides of chart 15-17 show the verses of these six accounts in which each element either appears or is absent. Down the middle are found the elements shared by both Paul and Alma, and off center are words or experiences unique to either Paul or Alma. In sum, the personalized differences significantly offset and highlight the individual experiences in the two conversions.

The chart they created can be seen here.

Reviewing Each Alleged Parallel

The parallels are examined below. Each narrative has important similarities and dissimilarities that need to be considered in isolation in order to understand how combining them too hastily can lead to misunderstanding.

1. Both men were wicked before their dramatic conversion (Mosiah 27꞉8; 1 Tim. 1꞉12-13)

A fairly innocuous parallel when taken by itself and one that we could establish with many other books. This parallel can only be seen as convincing when taken with other parallels. This parallel and the next are probably better combined with parallels three and four as one parallel. Both are so naturally tied into 3/4 that they function better as one parallel. The critics may be trying to list a greater number of parallels because it makes the criticism look more persuasive than it actually is. (This is another example of the Gish Gallop.)

2. Both traveled about persecuting and seeking to destroy the church of God (Alma 36꞉6, 14; 1 Cor. 15꞉9; Acts 22꞉4)

  1. The account of Alma stresses that they were corrupting people and getting them to not keep the commandments (Mosiah 27꞉8-10). Paul's emphasizes, by contrast, that he was arresting and persecuting the Saints. Paul imprisoned followers of Christ (Acts 9꞉1-2) whereas Alma had no such power.
  2. In Alma's case, his actions were illegal. In Paul's, they were legal and sanctioned by the Jewish authorities.
  3. Paul is a part of the majority religion persecuting the minority religion, while Alma is the opposite.

The parallels are superficial, and ignore the differences.

3. Both were persecuting the church when they saw a heavenly vision (Mosiah 27꞉10-11; Acts 26꞉11-13); 4. Their companions fell to the earth and were unable to understand the voice that spoke (Mosiah 27꞉12; Acts 22꞉9; 26꞉14)

Paul is on the road to Damascus when he has his vision. The Book of Mormon doesn't give us any details as to the location of Alma and his companions.

We know that Alma was with four other people at the time of the heavenly appearance. We are not told how many companions Saul had with him while on the road to Damascus, though it was clearly more than one since he speaks of them in the plural (Acts 22꞉9).

"The next slight difference comes in the angel's appearance to them. To Alma the angel comes in a cloud and to Saul with a bright light from heaven (Acts 9꞉3)."[37]

"The next difference is the description of the voice. No description accompanies the voice in Paul's account, but in Alma's it is 'a voice of thunder' that shakes the earth. Both Saul and Alma fall to the ground—Saul/Paul because he appears to recognize majesty, and with Alma, as a result of the earth's shaking."[37]:4:450

In both accounts, all fall to the ground and all hear the voice of the angel. "The difference is that, in the Book of Mormon account, all fall and all see the messenger (v. 18)…In the Old World example, the companions heard a voice, but the record does not allow us to infer either that they understood it or assumed it to be divine."[37]:4:451

Once more we see differences that the "parallels" approach gloss over.

In Alma's case, it is an angel—not a divine being. In Paul's case, it is Jesus Christ.

5. Both were asked in vision why they persecuted the Lord (Mosiah 27꞉13; Acts 9꞉4; 22꞉7)

"The similarity to Paul's experience is that 'persecution' is part of the divine message in both cases. In Saul's case, however, it is Christ who is persecuted and in Alma's it is the church. The fact of persecution exists in both cases; but in the New World, Alma's persecution precedes Jesus's coming in the flesh. Thus, in one sense, there was no person with which the church might be directly identified and against whom one might persecute as in the New Testament example. Alma's version of apostasy was almost certainly like that of Noah and his priests in which he accepted much of the competing religion but also held some beliefs of the Mosaic law. In this case, Alma and the sons of Mosiah could not have accepted a declaration like that given to Saul because they would not have believed that they were persecuting Yahweh himself, only those who believed in the future Atoning Messiah. Nevertheless, the messenger declares that the church was equated with Yahweh. Alma and the sons of Mosiah were not persecuting people who believed in a nonexistent being, but they were directly persecuting their own God."[37]:4:451–52

6. Both were struck dumb/blind, became helpless, and were assisted by their companions. They went without food before converting (Mosiah 27꞉19, 27꞉23-24; Acts 9꞉9)

  1. Being made dumb is entirely different from being made blind.
  2. Brant Gardner wrote that "Contary to Saul ... Alma is completely debilitated. His companions are functional, able to carry him to assistance. Saul was only blind, but Alma was dumb and so weak that he was 'carried helpless.'"[37]:4:454
  3. Paul was incapacitated for three days and Alma for "two days and two nights"[37]:4:457
  4. Paul went without food before converting. That is specified clearly in the account of his conversion. In Alma's conversion, it is the priests who intentionally fast before Alma receives his strength again.

Again, the parallels are superficial with many details that do not match.

7. Both preached the gospel and both performed the same miracle (Mosiah 27꞉32; Alma 15꞉11; Acts 9꞉20; 14:10)

Both indeed preached the Gospel. Alma ascended to political power after his conversion and then relinquished it before entering ministry whereas Paul had political power in the Jewish world, relinquished it, and did not ascend to it again after conversion and before entering ministry.

Paul and Alma did not perform the same miracle. In Alma's passages, he implores the Lord to heal Zeezrom from a serious fever. Zeezrom asks to be healed, and walks to show that he is better, not because he had been physically lame.

By contrast, in Paul's passages, he merely commands the man lame from birth to walk without being asked

Once more, a superficial list of parallels ignores many differences.

8. While preaching, they supported themselves by their own labors (Alma 30꞉32; 1 Cor 4꞉12)

This is true, though hardly a significant point. Those who sincerely preach would not need to be paid to do so, and preaching an unpopular faith is not likely to be financially rewarding anyway. It is hard to see how Alma and Paul's stories—if true—could have been different on this point.

(We could equally argue that they both preached to large groups in the open air—but that is a meaningless parallel since what they are doing virtually requires that they do so.)

9. They were put in prison. After they prayed, an earthquake resulted in their bands being loosed (Alma 14꞉22,26-28; Acts 16꞉23,25-26 )

Paul and Silas were placed in prison after being stripped and whipped. Alma and Amulek were also confined to prison after being stripped of clothes but were smitten, spit upon, and had people gnash their teeth at them. Paul was imprisoned three times throughout his ministry and Alma once.

Palmer is entirely wrong that an earthquake resulted in Alma's bands being loosed. Alma's bands are loosed by God and then the prison walls shake and tumble. With Paul, it's the foundations of the prison that shake first, doors open, and then the bands are loosed. The walls of the prison in Paul's narrative do not tumble down.

This is a good example of how parallels can blind us to differences—our minds see things that are similar, and gloss over the differences. The critics' emphasis on parallels while ignoring unparallels makes them even more vulnerable to this cognitive error.

10. Same Phrases in Teaching

Palmer suggests that both authors used the same phrases in teaching. Yet, the Book of Mormon is replete with phrasing similar to the New Testament—which is unsurprising since similar ideas are being taught in similar language to people familiar with the KJV New Testament.

The use of such language is not unique to Alma and his conversion narratives and thus it can't be used as a peculiarity to establish Joseph Smith's dependence on Paul's conversion narratives for Alma.

To learn more:The New Testament and the Book of Mormon

Paul and Alma—Conclusion

Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, "Alma’s Prophetic Commissioning Type Scene"

Alan Goff,  Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, (April 29, 2022)
The story often referred to as Alma’s conversion narrative is too often interpreted as a simplistic plagiarism of Paul’s conversion-to-Christianity story in the book of Acts. Both the New and Old Testaments appropriate an ancient narrative genre called the prophetic commissioning story. Paul’s and Alma’s commissioning narratives hearken back to this literary genre, and to refer to either as pilfered is to misunderstand not just these individual narratives but the larger approach Hebraic writers used in composing biblical and Book of Mormon narrative. To the modern mind the similarity in stories triggers explanations involving plagiarism and theft from earlier stories and denies the historicity of the narratives; ancient writers — especially of Hebraic narrative — had a quite different view of such concerns. To deny the historical nature of the stories because they appeal to particular narrative conventions is to impose a mistaken modern conceptual framework on the texts involved. A better and more complex grasp of Hebraic narrative is a necessary first step to understanding these two (and many more) Book of Mormon and biblical stories.

Click here to view the complete article

Edward A. Freeman pointed out how cautious we must be in concluding that similarities mean plagiarism or any kind of litereary dependence. He wrote of the kings of England:

I have often thought how easily two important reigns in our own history might be dealt with in the way that I have spoken of, how easily the later reign might be judged to be a mere repetition of the former, if we knew no more of them than we know of some other parts of history. Let us suppose that the reigns of Henry the First and Henry the Second were known to us only in the same meagre way that we know the reigns of some of the ancient potentates of the East. In short and dry annals they might easily be told so as to look like the same story. Each king bears the same name; each reigns the same number of years; each comes to the crown in a way other than succession from father to son; each restores order after a time of confusion; each improves his political position by his marriage; each is hailed as a restorer of the old native kingship; each loses his eldest son; each gives his daughter Matilda to a Henry in Germany; each has a controversy with his archbishop; each wages war with France; each dies in his continental dominions; each, if our supposed meagre annals can be supposed to tell us of such points, shows himself a great lawgiver and administrator, and each, to some extent, displays the same personal qualities, good and bad. Now when we come really to study [Page 35]the two reigns, we see that the details of all these supposed points of likeness are utterly different; but I am supposing very meagre annals, such as very often are all that we can get, and, in such annals, the two tales would very likely be so told that a master of higher criticism might cast aside Henry the Second and his acts as a mere double of his grandfather and his acts. We know how very far wrong such a judgment would be; and this should make us be cautious in applying a rule which, though often very useful, is always dangerous in cases where we may get utterly wrong without knowing it.[38]

Further details on this topic are available in a paper by Alan Goff—who once more reminds us that Paul and Alma are simply examples of a much broader literary pattern: a type-scene.[39]

Old Testament

How can 1 Nephi 22:15 in the Book of Mormon quote Malachi 4:1 hundreds of years before Malachi was written:

Book of Mormon Central, KnoWhy #218: Why Did Jesus Give The Nephites Malachi's Prophecies: (Video)

The translation language may resemble Malachi, but the work is not attributed to Malachi

Only if we presume that the Book of Mormon is a fraud at the outset is this convincing. If we assume that it is a translation, then the use of bible language tells us merely that Joseph used biblical language.

The Book of Mormon claims to be a "translation." Joseph could choose to render similar (or identical) material using KJV language if that adequately represented the text's intent.

Joseph used entire chapters (e.g., 3 Nephi 12-14 based on biblical texts that he did not claim were quotations from original texts (even Malachi is treated this way by Jesus in 3 Nephi 24-25). This was simply how Joseph translated.

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources

New Testament

Did Joseph Smith riff off of Hebrews 7 to produce the material discussing Melchizedek in Alma 2 and 13:

Critic David P. Wright argues that

Alma chapters 12-13, traditionally dated to about 82 B.C.E., depends in part on the New Testament epistle to the Hebrews, dated by critical scholars to the last third of the first century C.E. The dependence of Alma 2꞉13 on Hebrews thus constitutes an anachronism and indicates that the chapters are a composition of Joseph Smith.[40]

Replied John Tvedtnes:

Wright contends that Alma 13꞉17-19 is a reworking of Hebrews 7꞉1-4, noting six elements shared by the two texts and appearing in the same order in both. [Ref] To his list of six, Wright adds a seventh that is pure guesswork, saying that the words 'there were many before him, and also there were many afterwards' (Alma 13꞉19) derive from the notion of no beginning of days or end of life in Hebrews 7꞉3. This is much too far-fetched.[41]

This argument is long, detailed, and hard to summarize easily. We include some highlights, with links to more detailed treatments.

John A. Tvedtnes’ review of Wright’s chapter

John Tvedtnes was one of the first to respond to Wright’s contentions in the Review of Books on the Book of Mormon back in 1994. Tvedtnes argues that the parallels do not come from Joseph Smith reading Hebrews 7 but instead that both Hebrews 7 and Alma 3 share in thought from an earlier source discussing Melchizedek. Readers can find a link to his paper at the citation below.[42]

John W. Welch 1990 Book Chapter on the Melchizedek Material in Alma 3

Three years before Wright published on this topic, John W. Welch wrote a paper on the Melchizedek material in Alma 2꞉13. While not being a direct reponse to Wright, Welch provides insightful comparisons between Alma 3, Hebrews 7, Genesis 2, and extrabiblical lore about Melchizedek to elucidate how Alma interprets Genesis and frames concepts of priesthood and thus how it differs from Hebrews 7. Readers are strongly encouraged to read Welch’s paper.[43]

Book of Mormon Central KnoWhy on Alma and Melchizedek

Book of Mormon Central, KnoWhy #120: Why Did Alma Talk about Melchizedek: (Video)

Book of Mormon Central has written an accessible distillation and analysis of the Melchizedek material in Alma 3 that readers are encouraged to visit.

Brant A. Gardner Commentary in Second Witness

Gardner has written a commentary on Alma 2 and 13 with Wright’s argument and Tvedtnes' response in mind and offers a subtle response to both. In that commentary, "[he takes] the position that the construction of Alma’s text follows a different logic and theme than that of Hebrews. [He develops] this argument in the commentary on the individual verses [of Alma 3]."[44]

Does Helaman 12:25-26 quote John 5:29?

We must remember that the speaker in this case is Mormon, who was writing more than three centuries after Jesus Christ, and who had access to a large variety of Nephite records

Some claim that Helaman 12꞉25-26 quotes John 5꞉29 [45]:

And I would that all men might be saved. But we read that in the great and last day there are some who shall be cast out, yea, who shall be cast off from the presence of the Lord. [26] Yea, who shall be consigned to a state of endless misery, fulfilling the words which say: They that have done good shall have everlasting life; and they that have done evil shall have everlasting damnation. And thus it is. Amen. (Helaman 12꞉25-26)

It is claimed that the "reading" referred to is from John:

And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.(John 5:29:{{{4}}})

The problem is that Helaman 12꞉26 doesn't quote John, but at best paraphrases. The issue is over the word "read" that is used to force the connection. We must remember that the speaker in this case is Mormon, who was writing more than three centuries after Jesus Christ, and who had access to a large variety of Nephite records.

For example, the following Book of Mormon verses are potential sources for these ideas:

3 Nephi 26꞉5

If they be good, to the resurrection of everlasting life; and if they be evil, to the resurrection of damnation....

Mormon had access to this text, and it approximates that used in Helaman quite closely. (Remember that many who criticize the Book of Mormon on this point claim that Helman is speaking pre-Jesus Christ, rather than the editor Mormon, who is post-Jesus and thus post-3 Nephi.)

Other options include those listed below.

1 Nephi 14꞉7

For the time cometh, saith the Lamb of God, that I will work a great and a marvelous work among the children of men; a work which shall be everlasting, either on the one hand or on the other—either to the convincing of them unto peace and life eternal, or unto the deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds unto their being brought down into captivity, and also into destruction, both temporally and spiritually, according to the captivity of the devil, of which I have spoken.

2 Nephi 10꞉23

Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.

Alma 22꞉6

"And also, what is this that Ammon said—If ye will repent ye shall be saved, and if ye will not repent, ye shall be cast off at the last day:"

While Mormon in Helaman doesn't use the "resurrection of life" and "resurrection of damnation" that is found in John, it does use the "shall be cast off" and "the last day". Now it isn't exact either, and its quite likely that it isn't a direct quote of this passage.

2 Nephi 2꞉26

Another source of this teaching in the Book of Mormon comes in 2 Nephi 2, in particular in verse 26:

"And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given." (2 Nephi 2꞉26)

Mormon also uses this passage when he writes in Words of Mormon 1꞉11:

"And they were handed down from king Benjamin, from generation to generation until they have fallen into my hands. And I, Mormon, pray to God that they may be preserved from this time henceforth. And I know that they will be preserved; for there are great things written upon them, out of which my people and their brethren shall be judged at the great and last day, according to the word of God which is written."

Other teaching from Christ's era:

Given that Mormon is writing well after Jesus' visit to the Nephites, it is also possible that he is citing another Christian text from that period—it would be logical for Jesus to teach something similar to John 5꞉29 among the Nephites, though as we have seen there were ample other pre-crucifixion texts available to the Nephites as well.


Since we have this idea present in Alma 22꞉6 (the missionary Aaron quoting Alma the Younger), it seems likely that this was an idea that was taught commonly among the Nephites. This is confirmed by the other passages cited. We can see how the passage in Helaman reflects a Nephite theology and need not be a New Testament theology introduced anachronistically.

Ultimately, the idea is not a particularly complex one, and could easily have had multiple sources or approximations. Mormon need not be even citing a particular text, but merely indicating that one can "read" this idea in a variety of Nephite texts, as demonstrated above.

Thus, the claim of plagiarism seems forced, since there are Nephite texts which more closely approximate the citation than does the gospel of John, and a precise citation is not present in any case.

See also:Bible passages in the Book of Mormon
Summary: What does the inclusion of KJV text in the Book of Mormon tell us?
Alleged KJV translation errors in the Book of Mormon
Why do portions of Book of Mormon and KJV match so closely?
Summary: Are the King James passages in the Book of Mormon evidence of plagiarism?
KJV italicized text in the Book of Mormon
Summary: Many changes in the Book of Mormon occur in the KJV italicized text. What is that text for? Did Joseph focus on it during the translation?
Isaiah and the Book of MormonNew Testament text
Quoting MalachiGreek words: alpha and omega?

Learn more about biblical allusions or citation in the Book of Mormon
FAIR links
  • Ben McGuire, "Nephi and Goliath: A Reappraisal of the Use of the Old Testament in First Nephi," Proceedings of the 2001 FAIR Conference (August 2001). link
  • Sara Riley, "“Even as Moses’ Did”: The Use of the Exodus Narrative in Mosiah 11-18," Proceedings of the 2018 FAIR Conference (August 2018). link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "Literary Problems in the Book of Mormon involving 1 Corinthians 12, 13, and Other New Testament Books," off-site.
  • Learn More About Parts 5 and 6 of Volume 3 of the Critical Text Project of the Book of Mormon off-site.
  • Royal Skousen, "The History of the Book of Mormon Text: Parts 5 and 6 of Volume 3 of the Critical Text" off-site.
  • Standford Carmack, "Bad Grammar in the Book of Mormon Found in Early English Bibles" off-site.
  • Stan Spencer, "Missing Words: King James Bible Italics, the Translation of the Book of Mormon, and Joseph Smith as an Unlearned Reader" off-site.


Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources


  1. Nibley is responding to Wesley P. Walters, "Mormonism," Christianity Today 5/6 (19 December 1960): 8–10.
  2. Nibley is quoting Millar Burrows, The Dead Sea Scrolls (Michigan: Baker, 1955; reprinted 1978), 1:397.
  3. Nibley is quoting Theodore H. Gaster, The Dead Sea Scriptures (New York: Doubleday, 1964), 136.
  4. Church News, 29 July 1961: 10, 15. Reprinted in Hugh W. Nibley, The Prophetic Book of Mormon (Vol. 8 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1989), 214–18. ISBN 0875791794. Wiki editors have added subheadings to this section to aid in readability and navigation. [Nibley's first edition of Since Cumorah cites such sources as R. Reitzenstein, in Nachrichter v. d. kgl. Ges. d. Wiss. zu Gottingen (1916): 362, 416, and 1917 Heft 1, pp. 130-151, and Historische Zeitschrift 116 (DATE:), pp. 189-202. A von Harnack, in Journal of Biblical Literature 50 (1931), pp. 266ff; cf. Alf. Resch, "Der Paulinismus u. die Logia Jesu," in Texte u. Untersuchungen. N. F. 13 (1904).]
  5. Interpreter Foundation, "The History of the Text of the Book of Mormon," <> (25 January 2020).
  6. Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: the Life of Joseph Smith, 2nd ed. (New York: Vintage, 1995), 62–63.
  7. For a detailed and thorough review of the literature on this topic, see: Benjamin L. McGuire, "Finding Parallels: Some Cautions and Criticisms, Part One," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 5/1 (17 May 2013). [1–60] link and Benjamin L. McGuire, "Finding Parallels: Some Cautions and Criticisms, Part Two," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 5/2 (24 May 2013). [61–104] link
  8. Benjamin L. McGuire, "Finding Parallels: Some Cautions and Criticisms, Part One," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 5/1 (17 May 2013): 8-9. [1–60] link; citing Everett Ferguson, “Introduction: Perspectives on Parallels,” in Backgrounds of Early Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003), 1-2
  9. Benjamin L. McGuire, "Finding Parallels: Some Cautions and Criticisms, Part One," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 5/1 (17 May 2013). [1–60] link
  10. W. H.Bennett and Walter F. Adeney, A Biblical Introduction (New York: Thomas Whittaker, 1899), 39; cited in {{Interpreter:McGuire:Finding Parallels Some Cautions And Criticisms Part One:2013:Short|pages=36}
  11. For a concrete example of this in the Book of Mormon, see Book of Mormon Central, "Why Are there Multiple Accounts of Joseph Smith's and Alma's Visions: ([ Alma 36꞉6-7)]," KnoWhy 264 (January 20, 2017).
  12. For an introduction to type-scenes, see Michael Austin, "How the Book of Mormon Reads the Bible: A Theory of Types," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 26, (2017): 51-53. For one perspective on how type-scenes are a subtle witness for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, see Alan Goff, "Uncritical Theory and Thin Description: The Resistance to History," Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 7, no. 1 (1995): 187-190.
  13. For a few examples other examples of type-scenes in the Book of Mormon, see Richard Dilworth Rust, "Recurrence in Book of Mormon Narratives," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 3/1 (1994): 42-43. [39–52] link.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative, 2nd ed. (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2011), 62.
  15. Ibid., 63.
  16. Ibid.
  17. For one example of this, see Ibid., 70.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Alan Goff, "Reduction and Enlargement: Harold Bloom's Mormons (Review of The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post-Christian Nation by Harold Bloom)," Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 5/1 (1993): 105. [96–108] link
  19. Ibid.
  20. Ibid.
  21. For more context on this story, see Brant A. Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 6 Vols. (Salt Lake City, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2007), 4:275-276.
  22. Bennett, 39; cited in Benjamin L. McGuire, Interpreter (17 May 2013): 36-37.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 Nicholas J. Frederick, "Whence the Daughter of Jared:" in Illuminating the Jaredite Records, ed. Daniel L. Belnap (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2020)
  24. At the Pacific Coast meeting in 1940, ARAHA (1940): 90.
  25. Hugh W. Nibley, "Sparsiones," Classical Journal 40 (1945): 541–43.
  26. Ibid., for a preliminary treatment.
  27. E.A. Wallis Budge, Chronology of Bar Hebraeus, (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2010), 1:182, "The sister of the Khalifah had a certain scribe, and Egyptian, in Syiria, and he sent and complained to her about Abu Tahir [the ruler of Syria]. . . . And because her brother always paid very great attention to her, she went and wept before him. And she received [from him] the command, and she sent [it] and killed Abu Tahir, and his head was carried to Egypt."
  28. Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, The World of the Jaredites, There Were Jaredites (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1988), 213.
  29. Brant A. Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 6 Vols. (Salt Lake City, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2007).
  30. Stuart Lasine, "Guest and Host in Judges 19: Lot's Hospitality in an Inverted World," Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 29 (June 1984): 40.
  31. Lasine, "Gust and Host," 55.
  32. Alan Goff, "The Stealing of the Daughters of the Lamanites," in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, ed. John L. Sorenson (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1992), 67–74.
  33. Alan Goff, "The Plagiary of the Daughters of the Lamanites," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 61/1 (2024). [57–96] link
  34. Grant H. Palmer, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002) 50-51. ( Index of claims ) . Similar arguments are presented in Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 62-63. ( Index of claims ) and G. T. Harrison, That Mormon Book: Mormonism’s Keystone Exposed or The Hoax Book (n.p.: n.p., 1981).
  35. Palmer cites 16 examples in which Alma and Paul used similar phrases in their teaching.
  36. John W. Welch, John F. Hall and J. Gregory Welch, Charting the New Testament: Visual Aids for Personal Study and Teaching (Provo, Utah: FARMS and Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Texts, 2002), chart(s) 15-17. ISBN 0934893640. off-site(Permission in digital version granted for non-profit reproduction and distribution if copyright notice intact and material unaltered.)
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 37.3 37.4 37.5 Brant A. Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 6 vols. (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2007).
  38. Edward A. Freeman, The Methods of Historical Study (London: Macmillan, 1886), 138–39; cited in Benjamin L. McGuire, Interpreter (17 May 2013): 34-35.
  39. Alan Goff, "Alma's Prophetic Commissioning Type Scene," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 51/5 (29 April 2022). [115–164] link
  40. David P. Wright, "’In Plain Terms That We Might Understand’: Joseph Smith’s Transformation of Hebrews in Alma 2꞉13" in New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology, ed. Brent Lee Metcalfe (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1993), 165–229 (166).
  41. John A. Tvedtnes, "Review of New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology by Brent Lee Metcalfe," Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 6/1 (1994). [8–50] link
  42. John A. Tvedtnes (1994): 19-23.
  43. John W. Welch, "The Melchizedek Material in Alma 13-19," in By Study and Also by Faith: Essays in Honor of Hugh W. Nibley on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday, 27 March 1990, ed. John M. Lundquist and Stephen D. Ricks (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book/Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1990), 2:248.
  44. Brant A. Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 6 Vols. (Salt Lake City, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2007), 4:213n2.
  45. Making Life Count Ministries, Inc., "Proof the Book of Mormon Isn't True," (PDF on-line, no date), 1.