Criticism of Mormonism/Books/An Insider's View of Mormon Origins/Chapter 1

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Response to claims made in "Chapter 1: Joseph Smith as Translator/Revelator"



A FAIR Analysis of: An Insider's View of Mormon Origins, a work by author: Grant Palmer
Chart.insiders.view.chapter 1 translator.png

Response to claims made in An Insider's View of Mormon Origins, "Chapter 1: Joseph Smith as Translator/Revelator"


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Response to claim: 1 - Illustrations show Joseph Smith translating the plates directly

The author(s) of An Insider's View of Mormon Origins make(s) the following claim:

Illustrations show Joseph Smith translating the plates directly.

Author's sources:
  1. Ensign, Dec. 1983, inside cover, 25; Jan. 1988, 4, 9; Nov. 1988, 35, 46; July 1993, 62; Jan. 1997, 38; Aug. 1997, 11; July 1999, 41.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

The illustrations don't even show the Nephite interpreters.


Question: Is the Church trying to hide something through its use of artwork?

The manner of the translation is described repeatedly in Church publications, despite the inaccurate artwork

The implication is that the Church's artistic department and/or artists are merely tools in a propaganda campaign meant to subtly and quietly obscure Church history. The suggestion is that the Church trying to "hide" how Joseph really translated the plates.

On the contrary, the manner of the translation is described repeatedly, for example, in the Church's official magazine for English-speaking adults, the Ensign. Richard Lloyd Anderson discussed the "stone in the hat" matter in 1977,[1] and Elder Russell M. Nelson quoted David Whitmer's account to new mission presidents in 1992.[2]

The details of the translation are not certain, and the witnesses do not all agree in every particular. However, Joseph's seer stone in the hat was also discussed by, among others: B.H. Roberts in his New Witnesses for God (1895)[3] and returns somewhat to the matter in Comprehensive History of the Church (1912).[4] Other Church sources to discuss this include The Improvement Era (1939),[5] BYU Studies (1984, 1990)[6] the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies (1993),[7] and the FARMS Review (1994).[8] LDS authors Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig J. Ostler also mentioned the matter in 2000.[9]

Neal A. Maxwell: "To neglect substance while focusing on process is another form of unsubmissively looking beyond the mark"

Elder Neal A. Maxwell went so far as to use Joseph's hat as a parable; this is hardly the act of someone trying to "hide the truth":

Jacob censured the "stiffnecked" Jews for "looking beyond the mark" (Jacob 4:14). We are looking beyond the mark today, for example, if we are more interested in the physical dimensions of the cross than in what Jesus achieved thereon; or when we neglect Alma's words on faith because we are too fascinated by the light-shielding hat reportedly used by Joseph Smith during some of the translating of the Book of Mormon. To neglect substance while focusing on process is another form of unsubmissively looking beyond the mark.[10]

Those who criticize the Church based on its artwork should perhaps take Elder Maxwell's caution to heart.

Artists have been approached by the Church in the past to paint a more accurate scene, yet denied the request for artistic vision.

From Anthony Sweat’s essay “The Gift and Power of Art”:

When I asked Walter Rane about creating an image of the translation with Joseph looking into a hat, he surprised me by telling me that the Church had actually talked to him a few times in the past about producing an image like that but that the projects fell by the wayside as other matters became more pressing. Note how Walter refers to the language of art as to why he never created the image:
At least twice I have been approached by the Church to do that scene [Joseph translating using the hat]. I get into it. When I do the draw- ings I think, “This is going to look really strange to people.” Culturally from our vantage point 200 years later it just looks odd. It probably won’t communicate what the Church wants to communicate. Instead of a person being inspired to translate ancient records it will just be, “What’s going on there?” It will divert people’s attention. In both of those cases I remember being interested and intrigued when the commission was changed (often they [the Church] will just throw out ideas that disappear, not deliberately) but I thought just maybe I should still do it [the image of Joseph translating using the hat]. But some things just don’t work visually. It’s true of a lot of stories in the scriptures. That’s why we see some of the same things being done over and over and not others; some just don’t work visually.[11]

Anthony Sweat explains more about the history of artistic depictions of the Book of Mormon translation in this presentation given at the 2020 FAIR Conference


Question: Why doesn't the art match details which have been repeatedly spelled out in Church publications?

The simplest answer is that artists simply don't always get such matters right

Why, then, does the art not match details which have been repeatedly spelled out in LDS publications?

The simplest answer may be that artists simply don't always get such matters right. The critics' caricature to the contrary, not every aspect of such things is "correlated." Robert J. Matthews of BYU was interviewed by the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, and described the difficulties in getting art "right":

JBMS: Do you think there are things that artists could do in portraying the Book of Mormon?

RJM: Possibly. To me it would be particularly helpful if they could illustrate what scholars have done. When I was on the Correlation Committee [of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints], there were groups producing scripture films. They would send to us for approval the text of the words that were to be spoken. We would read the text and decide whether we liked it or not. They would never send us the artwork for clearance. But when you see the artwork, that makes all the difference in the world. It was always too late then. I decided at that point that it is so difficult to create a motion picture, or any illustration, and not convey more than should be conveyed. If you paint a man or woman, they have to have clothes on. And the minute you paint that clothing, you have said something either right or wrong. It would be a marvelous help if there were artists who could illustrate things that researchers and archaeologists had discovered…

I think people get the main thrust. But sometimes there are things that shouldn't be in pictures because we don't know how to accurately depict them…I think that unwittingly we might make mistakes if we illustrate children's materials based only on the text of the Book of Mormon.[12]

Modern audiences—especially those looking to find fault—have, in a sense, been spoiled by photography. We are accustomed to having images describe how things "really" were. We would be outraged if someone doctored a photo to change its content. This largely unconscious tendency may lead us to expect too much of artists, whose gifts and talents may lie in areas unrelated to textual criticism and the fine details of Church history.

Even this does not tell the whole story. "Every artist," said Henry Ward Beecher, "dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures."[13] This is perhaps nowhere more true than in religious art, where the goal is not so much to convey facts or historical detail, as it is to convey a religious message and sentiment. A picture often is worth a thousand words, and artists often seek to have their audience identify personally with the subject. The goal of religious art is not to alienate the viewer, but to draw him or her in.


Response to claim: 2 - Joseph Smith used a seer stone that he placed in his hat

The author(s) of An Insider's View of Mormon Origins make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith used a seer stone that he placed in his hat.

Author's sources:
  1. Van Wagoner and Walker, "Joseph Smith: 'The Gift of Seeing,'" Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 15 (Summer 1982): 50-53.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

This is correct, and is attested to in Church sources.


Question: How did Joseph Smith use his seer stones as a youth?

Joseph as the village seer: the use of the seer stone prior to the Restoration

Brant Gardner clarifies the role that Joseph and his stone played within the community of Palmyra,

Young Joseph Smith was a member of a specialized sub-community with ties to these very old and very respected practices, though by the early 1800s they were respected only by a marginalized segment of society. He exhibited a talent parallel to others in similar communities. Even in Palmyra he was not unique. In D. Michael Quinn's words: "Until the Book of Mormon thrust young Smith into prominence, Palmyra's most notable seer was Sally Chase, who used a greenish-colored stone. William Stafford also had a seer stone, and Joshua Stafford had a 'peepstone which looked like white marble and had a hole through the center.'" Richard Bushman adds Chauncy Hart, and an unnamed man in Susquehanna County, both of whom had stones with which they found lost objects. [14]

During his tenure as a "village seer," Joseph acquired several seer stones. Joseph first used a neighbor's seer stone (probably that belonging to Palmyra seer Sally Chase, on the balance of historical evidence, though there are other possibilities) to discover the location of a brown, baby's foot-shaped stone. The vision of this stone likely occurred in about 1819–1820, and he obtained his first seer stone in about 1821–1822.[15]

The second seer stone was reportedly found while digging a well on the property of William Chase in 1822

Joseph then used this first stone to find a second stone (a white one). The second seer stone was reportedly found on the property of William Chase in 1822 as Chase described it:

In the year 1822, I was engaged in digging a well. I employed Alvin and Joseph Smith to assist me.... After digging about twenty feet below the surface of the earth, we discovered a singularly appearing stone, which excited my curiosity. I brought it to the top of the well, and as we were examining it, Joseph put it into his hat, and then his face into the top of his hat.... The next morning he came to me, and wished to obtain the stone, alleging that he could see in it; but I told him I did not wish to part with it on account of its being a curiosity, but I would lend it.[16]

Joseph Smith locates a seer stone while digging a well. Image copyright (c) 2016 by Anthony Sweat.


Gardner: "Joseph Smith, long before golden plates complicated his position as a local seer, appears to have functioned just as Sally Chase did"

Brant Gardner:

Joseph Smith, long before golden plates complicated his position as a local seer, appears to have functioned just as Sally Chase did. Quinn reports that: “E. W. Vanderhoof [writing in 1905] remembered that his Dutch grandfather once paid Smith seventy-five cents to look into his ‘whitish, glossy, and opaque’ stone to locate a stolen mare. The grandfather soon ‘recovered his beast, which Joe said was somewhere on the lake shore and [was] about to be run over to Canada.’ Vanderhoof groused that ‘anybody could have told him that, as it was invariably the way a horse thief would take to dispose of a stolen animal in those days.'”13 While Vanderhoof reported a positive result of the consultation, it is interesting that his statement includes a qualifier that has the same intent as those added by the Saunders’ brothers. By the end of the century, one wouldn’t want to actually credit a village seer when describing their activities. Nevertheless, it isn’t the effectiveness that is important—it is the nature of the consultation. Sally Chase’s clients consulted her to find things which were lost, and Joseph Smith had at least one client who did the same.[17] —(Click here to continue)


Question: Did Joseph Smith place his seer stone in his hat while looking for lost objects?

Martin Harris recounted that Joseph could find lost objects with one of his seer stones

Martin Harris recounted that Joseph could find lost objects with the second, white stone:

I was at the house of his father in Manchester, two miles south of Palmyra village, and was picking my teeth with a pin while sitting on the bars. The pin caught in my teeth and dropped from my fingers into shavings and straw. I jumped from the bars and looked for it. Joseph and Northrop Sweet also did the same. We could not find it. I then took Joseph on surprise, and said to him--I said, "Take your stone." I had never seen it, and did not know that he had it with him. He had it in his pocket. He took it and placed it in his hat--the old white hat--and placed his face in his hat. I watched him closely to see that he did not look to one side; he reached out his hand beyond me on the right, and moved a little stick and there I saw the pin, which he picked up and gave to me. I know he did not look out of the hat until after he had picked up the pin.[18]

Joseph's mother also indicated that Joseph was sought out by some, including Josiah Stoal, to use the stone to find hidden valuables. He

came for Joseph on account of having heard that he possessed certain keys by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye.[19]

Joseph referred to this incident in JS-H 1:55-56.

Stoal eventually joined the Church; some of his family, however, charged Joseph in court for events related to this treasure seeking. Stoal testified in Joseph's defense.

Joseph Knight also said that, at the command of the angel Moroni, Joseph looked into his seer stone to learn who he should marry. He "looked in his glass and found it was Emma Hale."[20]

For a detailed response, see: Joseph's 1826 glasslooking trial


Response to claim: 2-3 - The plates were often not nearby while Joseph translated them

The author(s) of An Insider's View of Mormon Origins make(s) the following claim:

The plates were often not nearby while Joseph translated them.

Author's sources:
  • Joseph Smith III, "Last Testimony of Sister Emma," Saints' Herald, 1 Oct. 1879, 290; Howe, "Affidavit of Isaac Hale", Mormonism Unvailed, 265;
  • Martin Harris, interview by John A. Clark, 1828, in The Episcopal Recorder (Philadelphia), 5 Sept. 1840, 94; quoted in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 2:266;
  • Joseph Smith Sr., interview by Fayette Lapham quoted in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 1:464.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

This is correct. The plates did not need to be in front of Joseph while he translated.


Question: Why were the gold plates needed at all if they weren't used directly during the translation process?

Joseph did not need the plates physically present to translate, since the translation was done by revelation

Much is made of the fact that Joseph used a seer stone, which he placed in a hat, to dictate the text of the Book of Mormon without viewing the plates directly. [21]

Joseph Smith translates using the seer stone placed within his hat while the plates are wrapped in a cloth on the table while his wife Emma acts as scribe. Image Copyright (c) 2014 Anthony Sweat. This image appears in the Church publication From Darkness Unto Light: Joseph Smith's Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon, by Michael Hubbard Mackay and Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, Religious Studies Center, BYU, Deseret Book Company (May 11, 2015)

Some witness accounts suggest that Joseph was able to translate while the plates were covered, or when they were not even in the same room with him. [22] Therefore, if the plates themselves were not being used during the translation process, why was it necessary to have plates at all?

Joseph did not need the plates physically present to translate, since the translation was done by revelation. The existence of the plates was vital, however, to demonstrate that the story he was translating was literally true.

The existence of the physical plates attested to the reality of the Nephite record

If there had been no plates, and Joseph had simply received the entire Book of Mormon through revelation, there would have been no Anthon visit, nor would there have been any witnesses. The very fact that plates existed served a greater purpose, even if they were not directly viewed during all of the translation process.

The plates served a variety of purposes.

  1. They were viewed by witnesses as solid evidence that Joseph did indeed have an ancient record.
  2. Joseph's efforts to obtain them over a four year period taught him and matured him in preparation for performing the translation,
  3. Joseph's efforts to protect and preserve them helped build his character. If Joseph were perpetrating a fraud, it would have been much simpler to claim direct revelation from God and forgo the physical plates.
  4. Joseph copied characters off the plates to give to Martin Harris, which he subsequently showed to Charles Anthon. This was enough to convince Martin to assist with the production of the Book of Mormon.

The plates' existence as material artifacts eliminated the possibility that Joseph was simply honestly mistaken. Either Joseph was knowingly perpetuating a fraud, or he was a genuine prophet.

The existence of actual plates eliminates the idea that the Book of Mormon was "spiritually true," but fictional

Furthermore, the existence of actual plates eliminates the idea that the Book of Mormon was "spiritually true," but fictional. There is a great difference between an allegorical or moral fiction about Nephites, and real, literal Nephites who saw a literal Christ who was literally resurrected.


Response to claim: 6 - It is claimed that Oliver attempted to translate using a divining rod

The author(s) of An Insider's View of Mormon Origins make(s) the following claim:

It is claimed that Oliver attempted to translate using a divining rod.

Author's sources:
  1. DC 8:6-8; Book of Commandments 7:3.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

This may be true, as confirmed by Church sources.


Revelations in Context on history.lds.org: "Cowdery was among those who believed in and used a divining rod"

Revelations in Context on history.lds.org:

Oliver Cowdery lived in a culture steeped in biblical ideas, language and practices. The revelation’s reference to Moses likely resonated with him. The Old Testament account of Moses and his brother Aaron recounted several instances of using rods to manifest God’s will (see Ex. 7:9-12; Num. 17:8). Many Christians in Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery's day similarly believed in divining rods as an instrument for revelation. Cowdery was among those who believed in and used a divining rod.[23]


Question: What if the "rod of nature" was indeed a physical object such as a divining rod?

God allowed Oliver to use the rod as a tool to receive spiritual guidance

If we presume that the Book of Commandments revelation of 1829 did refer to a physical rod, it is useful to consider just what Oliver was told:

Oliver Cowdery's first revelation commanded him to lay aside the world and build the restored kingdom: "Seek not for riches but for wisdom, and behold, the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you, and then shall you be made rich. Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich" (D&C 6:7). Whatever prior use Oliver made of his "gift of working with the rod," this revelation directed him to heavenly treasure. Indeed, this first commandment names but one special power: "Thy gift" is "sacred and cometh from above." It is defined as the ability to "inquire" and "know mysteries which are great and marvelous." Thus Oliver is commanded to "exercise thy gift, that thou mayest find out mysteries, that thou mayest bring many to the knowledge of the truth, yea, convince them of the error of their ways." Thus his gift of knowledge of salvation will lead to the "greatest of all gifts," the "gift of salvation" (D&C 6:10-13).

Oliver's initial revelation closes with the command to seek heavenly "treasures" by assisting "in bringing to light, with your gift, those parts of my scriptures which have been hidden because of iniquity" (D&C 6:27). The revelation on the gift of the rod probably followed within a week. It continued the theme of learning ancient truth through translating: "Remember, this is your gift" (D&C 8:5). And it could be exercised by believing "you shall receive a knowledge concerning the engravings of old records" (D&C 8:1). Then a second promise was made:

Now this is not all, for you have another gift, which is the gift of working with the rod. Behold, it has told you things. Behold, there is no other power save God that can cause this rod of nature to work in your hands, for it is the work of God. And therefore whatsoever you shall ask me to tell you by that means, will I grant unto you, that you shall know.

But there were strict limits to this promise: "Trifle not with these things. Do not ask for that which you ought not. Ask that you may know the mysteries of God, and that you may translate all those ancient records."

So the "rod of nature" in Cowdery's "hands" would be a means of gaining revelation on doctrine. [24]

Thus, the alteration which describes the "rod" as "the gift of Aaron" clarifies the Lord's intent, and explains how Oliver and Joseph understood the matter. Aaron's rod was an instrument of power, but only insofar as God revealed and commanded its use. Such a perspective is a far cry from the "occult" links which the critics attempt to create:

D&C 8 approves a rod only for sacred information. It also suggests the rod that displayed God's power in the Egyptian plagues, in striking the rock for life-giving water or in calling down strength on Israel's warriors. That rod was a straight shaft, the shepherd's staff possessed by Moses at his call (Ex. 4:2-4). Used by both Moses and Aaron, it was foremost the "rod of God," also Moses' rod, but formally called the "rod of Aaron." It functioned as a visible sign of authority, just as Judah's "scepter" was a sign of divine kingship in Jacob's blessing or Elijah's staff held by the servant who went in his name. Thus the rod of Aaron was a staff of delegated agency, and the 1835 revision to "The gift of Aaron" suggests Oliver's spiritual power to assist Joseph Smith as Aaron assisted Moses. [25]


Dallin H. Oaks (1987): "It should be recognized that such tools as the Urim and Thummim, the Liahona, seerstones, and other articles have been used appropriately in biblical, Book of Mormon, and modern times"

Dallin H. Oaks:

It should be recognized that such tools as the Urim and Thummim, the Liahona, seerstones, and other articles have been used appropriately in biblical, Book of Mormon, and modern times by those who have the gift and authority to obtain revelation from God in connection with their use. At the same time, scriptural accounts and personal experience show that unauthorized though perhaps well-meaning persons have made inappropriate use of tangible objects while seeking or claiming to receive spiritual guidance. Those who define folk magic to include any use of tangible objects to aid in obtaining spiritual guidance confound the real with the counterfeit. They mislead themselves and their readers. [26]


Gospel Topics: "the Bible mentions other physical instruments used to access God’s power: the rod of Aaron, a brass serpent, holy anointing oils, the Ark of the Covenant, and even dirt from the ground mixed with saliva"

Gospel Topics on LDS.org:

Some people have balked at this claim of physical instruments used in the divine translation process, but such aids to facilitate the communication of God’s power and inspiration are consistent with accounts in scripture. In addition to the Urim and Thummim, the Bible mentions other physical instruments used to access God’s power: the rod of Aaron, a brass serpent, holy anointing oils, the Ark of the Covenant, and even dirt from the ground mixed with saliva to heal the eyes of a blind man.[27]


Response to claim: 6 - Oliver would ask questions of his divining rod in faith and it would move

The author(s) of An Insider's View of Mormon Origins make(s) the following claim:

Oliver would ask questions of his divining rod in faith and it would move.

Author's sources:
  1. "Barnes Frisbie account" quoted in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 1:603-05, 619-20.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

This may be correct, as confirmed by Church sources.


Revelations in Context on history.lds.org: "Cowdery was among those who believed in and used a divining rod"

Revelations in Context on history.lds.org:

Oliver Cowdery lived in a culture steeped in biblical ideas, language and practices. The revelation’s reference to Moses likely resonated with him. The Old Testament account of Moses and his brother Aaron recounted several instances of using rods to manifest God’s will (see Ex. 7:9-12; Num. 17:8). Many Christians in Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery's day similarly believed in divining rods as an instrument for revelation. Cowdery was among those who believed in and used a divining rod.[28]


Response to claim: 7 - Alterations in a different handwriting on the 116 pages would have been readily apparent

The author(s) of An Insider's View of Mormon Origins make(s) the following claim:

Alterations in a different handwriting on the 116 pages would have been readily apparent.

Author's sources:
  1. No source provided.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

It is assumed that the only way that someone could alter the text would be to attempt to alter the handwriting. All they really had to do was publish their version of the text. It is likely that Lucy Harris burned the manuscript before anyone had a chance to do that.


Question: Would alterations in a different handwriting to the stolen 116 pages of Book of Mormon manuscript have been readily apparent?

This perspective ignores the fact that it would have been a simple matter to publish Joseph's purported translation with alterations

One critical website has claimed that the story is "nonsensical" because any changes made to the transcript would be noticeable.[29] This perspective ignores the fact that it would have been a simple matter to publish Joseph's purported translation with alterations, and then either "lose" or conveniently destroy the original manuscript.

A local paper was happy to plagiarize the Book of Mormon text before it was even published and print excerpts in the newspaper. The Smiths had to use the threat of legal action to get him to stop.[30] This demonstrates that finding a publisher to broadcast at least some altered text--enough to discredit Joseph--would not have been difficult.

Something somewhat similar actually happened with the Spalding manuscript: the manuscript was found, but was hidden by those wishing to discredit Joseph

Something somewhat similar actually happened with the Spalding manuscript--the manuscript was found, but was hidden by those wishing to discredit Joseph. His critics simply requested affidavits from people who claimed to have read the manuscript, and who testified that it matched the Book of Mormon. This was the dominant critical theory for explaining the Book of Mormon until the Spalding manuscript was found, disproving the theory. How much better to have people (like Lucy Harris) who could publish what they claimed and would swear were Joseph's actual words from the original translation?

If this story is so "nonsensical," then why did none of Joseph's friends, allies, or family find it suspicious at the time? Like many critics' theories, this one requires everyone involved except Joseph to be complete dunces. They obviously found the possibility plausible, which suggests that if we do not, we are missing something about how they saw things. It is possible that an alteration that would not stand up to 21st century forensics might be far more persuasive to many in a rural 19th century audience, crippling the Restoration before it began.


Response to claim: 8 - Joseph was brought to court three times for stone gazing

The author(s) of An Insider's View of Mormon Origins make(s) the following claim:

Joseph was brought to court three times for stone gazing.

Author's sources:
  1. Marquardt and Walters, Inventing Mormonism: Tradition and the Historical Record, 70-75, 174-78.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The author fails to note that Joseph was acquitted each and every time, and that these three court appearances were all related to related to the same original incident with Josiah Stowell. Initially, Joseph appeared before a judge in 1826 after having been charged by relatives of Josiah Stowell, who had hired Joseph to help him located a lost mine. Stowell's relatives thought that Joseph was defrauding Josiah, however, Joseph was ultimately released and the matter never went to trial. Four years later, on July 1, 1030, after the Book of Mormon was published, Joseph was again charged and brought before a judge. During this trial, according to one hostile witness, "it was shown that the Book of Mormon was brought to light by the same magic power by which he pretended to tell fortunes, discover hidden treasures." Josiah Stowell was questioned in an attempt to implicate Joseph. However, Joseph was found "not guilty" and released. Joseph was then brought before the court again on a similar charge to that made the original 1826 court appearance the very next day. Joseph was acquitted due to the statute of limitations, since four years had passed. When Joseph stepped out of court, he was served a warrant to appear in court in a different county. This charge was also ultimately dismissed.


Question: What is Joseph Smith's 1826 South Bainbridge "trial" for "glasslooking"?

Joseph Smith appeared at a pre-trial court hearing in 1826 for "glasslooking"

In 1825 Josiah Stowel sought out the young Joseph Smith, who had a reputation for being able to use his seer stone to locate lost objects, to help him to locate an ancient silver mine. After a few weeks of work, Joseph persuaded Stowel to give up the effort. In 1826, some of Stowel's relatives brought Joseph to court and accused him of "glasslooking" and being a "disorderly person." Several witnesses testified at the hearing.

Joseph was released without being fined or otherwise punished - there was no verdict of "guilty" or "not guilty" because this was only a hearing rather than a trial

Joseph was ultimately released without being fined and had no punishment imposed upon him. Years later, a bill from the judge was discovered which billed for court services.

Gordon Madsen summarized:

"The evidence thus far available about the 1826 trial before Justice Neely leads to the inescapable conclusion that Joseph Smith was acquitted." [31]

A review of all the relevant documents demonstrates that:

  1. The court hearing of 1826 was not a trial, it was an examination
  2. The hearing was likely initiated from religious concerns; i.e. people objected to Joseph's religious claims.
  3. There were seven witnesses.
  4. The witnesses' testimonies have not all been transmitted faithfully.
  5. Most witnesses testified that Joseph did possess a gift of sight

The court hearing was likely initiated by Stowel's relatives as a concern that he was having too much influence on Stowel

It was likely that the court hearing was initiated not so much from a concern about Joseph being a money digger, as concern that Joseph was having an influence on Josiah Stowel. Josiah Stowel was one of the first believers in Joseph Smith. His nephew was probably very concerned about that and was anxious to disrupt their relationship if possible. He did not succeed. The court hearing failed in its purpose, and was only resurrected decades later to accuse Joseph Smith of different crimes to a different people and culture.

Understanding the context of the case removes any threat it may have posed to Joseph's prophetic integrity.


Question: What events resulted in Joseph Smith's 1826 court appearance in South Bainbridge?

Josiah Stowell requested Joseph Smith's help in locating an ancient silver mine

In the spring of 1825 Josiah Stowell visited with Joseph Smith "on account of having heard that he possessed certain keys, by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye." [32] Josiah Stowell wanted Joseph to help him in his quest to find treasure in an ancient silver mine. Joseph was reluctant, but Stowell persuaded Joseph to come by offering high wages. According to trial documents, Stowell says Joseph, using a seer stone, "Looked through stone and described Josiah Stowell's house and out houses, while at Palmyra at Sampson Stowell's correctly, that he had told about a painted tree with a man's hand painted upon it by means of said stone." [33]

Joseph ultimately persuaded Stowell to give up looking for the mine

Joseph and his father traveled to southern New York in November of 1825. This was after the crops were harvested and Joseph had finished his visit to the Hill Cumorah that year. They participated with Stowell and the company of workers in digging for the mine for less than a month. Finally Joseph persuaded him to stop. "After laboring for the old gentleman about a month, without success, Joseph prevailed upon him to cease his operations." [34]

Joseph continued to work in the area for Stowell and others. He boarded at the home of Isaac Hale and met Emma Hale, who was one "treasure" he got out of the enterprise.

The following year, Stowell's sons or nephew (depending on which account you follow) brought charges against Joseph and he was taken before Justice Neely

In March of the next year, Stowell's sons or nephew (depending on which account you follow) brought charges against Joseph and he was taken before Justice Neely. The supposed trial record came from Miss Pearsall. "The record of the examination was torn from Neely's docket book by his niece, Emily Persall, and taken to Utah when she went to serve as a missionary under Episcopalian bishop Daniel S. Tuttle." [35] This will be identified as the Pearsall account although Neely possessed it after her death. It is interesting that the first published version of this record didn't appear until after Miss Pearsall had died.

Stowell's relatives felt that Joseph was exercising "unlimited control" over their father or uncle

William D. Purple took notes at the trial and tells us, "In February, 1826, the sons of Mr. Stowell, ...were greatly incensed against Smith, ...saw that the youthful seer had unlimited control over the illusions of their sire... They caused the arrest of Smith as a vagrant, without visible means of livelihood." [36]

Whereas the Pearsall account says: "Warrant issued upon oath of Peter G. Bridgman, [Josiah Stowell's nephew] who informed that one Joseph Smith of Bainbridge was a disorderly person and an imposter...brought before court March 20, 1826" [37]

So, we have what has been called "The 1826 Trial of Joseph Smith", even though the records show that this wasn't actually a trial. For many years LDS scholars Francis Kirkham, Hugh Nibley and others expressed serious doubts that such a trial had even taken place.


Response to claim: 9 - Peter Ingersoll reported that he heard Joseph acknowledge to Isaac Hale that he was never able to see anything in his seer stone

The author(s) of An Insider's View of Mormon Origins make(s) the following claim:

Peter Ingersoll reported that he heard Joseph acknowledge to Isaac Hale that he was never able to see anything in his seer stone.

Author's sources:
  1. "Affidavit of Peter Ingersoll", Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH, 1834). (Affidavits examined)

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

This is a third-hand account from another hostile source. Peter Ingersoll (who was hostile), reported that Emma's father Isaac Hale (who was also hostile to "money digging" and the use of seer stones), is said to have reported that Joseph Smith admitted that he really couldn't see anything using the stone.


Question: What did Peter Ingersoll claim about Joseph Smith in the Hurlbut affidavits?

Peter Ingersoll claimed that the Smiths' "general employment" was money digging

  • Claimed that the Smith family's general employment was "digging for money."
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr. taught him to use a divining rod.
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr. and Alvin Smith used a stone in a hat to see things.
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr., was engaged in "divination."

The Smith farm was improved to the point that it was worth more than 9 out of 10 farms in the region.[38] Given that the Smiths' property was worth more than most of their neighbors, it is difficult to credit the after-the-fact claims by some neighbors in the Hurlbut affidavits that the Smiths were lazy ne'er-do-wells who spent all of their time "money digging."

Ingersoll claimed that Joseph admitted to his father-in-law that he was a fraud

  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Jr. admitted to his father-in-law that he only pretended to be able to see things in the stone.
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Jr. fooled his family into thinking that a frock full of sand was the "Gold Bible."
  • Claimed that Joseph told his family that nobody could see the "Gold Bible" and live.

On the threat that no one could see the "gold bible" and live, see: Viewing gold plates would result in death

Ingersoll claimed that the story of the gold plates was created as a joke

  • Claimed that Joseph made up the story of the gold plates on the spot, after which he is supposed to have said, "I have got the damned fools fixed, and will carry out the fun." However, Ingersoll is discredited on his claim that Joseph made the story of the "gold bible" up on the spot as a way to have "fun" with his family. Joseph was telling various people about his Moroni visits well before recovering the plates (see for example various Knight family recollections). Note also that the name "Moroni" appears in the claim made by Lemon Copley.
  • Claimed that Joseph told him that "he had no such book, and believed there never was any such book."
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr. said that there had been a book found in a hollow tree in Canada that described the "first settlement of this country before it was discovered by Columbus."

It is very difficult to believe that Joseph would have privately confided to Ingersoll that the plates didn't exist, when he told everyone else that they did.

See also:


Response to claim: 9 - After he lost the manuscript, Joseph is claimed to have become more vague regarding the method of translation

The author(s) of An Insider's View of Mormon Origins make(s) the following claim:

After he lost the manuscript, Joseph is claimed to have become more vague regarding the method of translation.

Author's sources:
  1. No source provided.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Joseph only said that the translation was accomplished by the "gift and power of God." He never went into specifics, either before or after the loss of the manuscript.


Question: How exactly did Joseph Smith translate the gold plates?

Joseph Smith only stated that he translated the Book of Mormon by the "gift and power of God"

All that we know for certain is that Joseph translated the record "by the gift and power of God." (D&C 135:3) We are given some insight into the spiritual aspect of the translation process, when the Lord says to Oliver Cowdery:

"But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right." (D&C 9:8)

Beyond this, the Church does not take any sort of official stand on the exact method by which the Book of Mormon translation occurred. Joseph Smith himself never recorded the precise physical details of the method of translation:

"Brother Joseph Smith, Jun., said that it was not intended to tell the world all the particulars of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon; and also said that it was not expedient for him to relate these things"[39]

It is important to remember that what we do know for certain is that the translation of the Book of Mormon was carried out "by the gift and power of God." These are the only words that Joseph Smith himself used to describe the translation process.


Response to claim: 9 - Joseph is claimed to have altered the Book of Mormon to modify the description of God and Jesus to be separate beings

The author(s) of An Insider's View of Mormon Origins make(s) the following claim:

Joseph is claimed to have altered the Book of Mormon to modify the description of God and Jesus to be separate beings.

Author's sources:

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The theory put forth by critics is that Joseph altered the Book of Mormon to match his changing view of the Godhead. However, it is simply illogical to conclude that Joseph Smith changed only the four passages in 1 Nephi to conform to his supposed changing theological beliefs, but somehow forgot to change all the others.


Question: Did Joseph Smith begin his prophetic career with a "trinitarian" idea of God?

Joseph and the early Saints were not trinitarian, and understood God's embodiment and the identity of the Father and Son as separate beings very early on

This doctrine is apparent in the Book of Mormon, and in the earliest friendly and non-friendly accounts of such matters from the Saints.

Such texts demonstrate that the supposed 'evidence' for Joseph altering his story later is only in the eyes of critical beholders. For example, Joseph's 1832 First Vision account focuses on the remission of his sins. However, critics who wish to claim that in 1832 Joseph had only a vaguely "trinitarian" idea of God (and so would see the Father and the Son as only one being) have missed vital evidence which must be considered.[40]

Martin Harris remembered rejecting the ideas of creedal Trinitarianism prior to meeting Joseph

Martin dictated an account of his early spiritual search:

"52 years ago I was Inspired of the Lord & Tought of the Spirit that I should not Join Eny Church although I Was anxiousley Sought for by meny of the Secatirans[.] I Was taught I could not Walk togther unless agreed[.] What can you not be agreed in [is] in the Trinity because I can not find it in my Bible[.] find it for me & I am Ready to Receive it. 3 Persons in one god[.] one Personage I can not concede for this is Antichrist for Where is the Father & Son[?] I have more proof to Prove 9 Persons in the Trinity then you have 3[.]...other sects the Epicopalians also tired me[.] they say 3 Persons in one god Without Body Parts or Passions[.] I Told them such A god I would not be afraid of: I could not Please or offend him[.] [I] Would not be afraid to fight A Duel With such A god.[41]

It would be very strange for Martin to feel so strongly on this point, only to embrace Joseph's teachings if Joseph taught creedal trinitarianism.

1829 - The Book of Mormon

Christ Descends from Heavens

The Book of Mormon also begins (1 Nephi 1:8-10) with Lehi's vision of God on his throne. One [Christ] followed by twelve others descends from God to speak with Lehi--thus, Jesus and the Father are here both separate, and the role of Christ in giving instructions to the prophet while the Father looks on and approves is followed, just as it was in Joseph's First Vision. Here too, Lehi is described as praying to "the Lord," and yet has a vision of both God the Father and Christ.

Resurrection is Permanent Through Christ

Alma 11:45 makes clear that the resurrection is permanent and Mosiah 15:20 (along with several others) makes clear that the resurrection is brought about through Christ.

I and the Father are One to Three Nephites

In 3 Nephi 28:10 the Savior is speaking to the 3 Nephites. After declaring that they would never endure the pains of death he states:

“10 And for this cause ye shall have fullness of joy; and he shall sit down in the kingdom of my Father; yea, your joy shall be full, even as the Father hath given me fullness of joy; and ye shall be even as I am, and I am even as the Father; and the Father and I are one;”

Since the verse is juxtaposed closely with not tasting death and the Savior stating that they would be even as he and the Father are, this verse may be used to argue for an embodied Christ and God (and likely an early conceptualization of deification) in the Book of Mormon. Furthermore, the phrase “fullness of joy” is used in D&C 93:33 (a revelation dated to 1833) to describe element (or man’s tabernacle as v. 35 expresses) and spirit inseparably connected.

1830 - Book of Moses: "And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten"

Between June and October 1830, Joseph had dictated his revision (the "Joseph Smith Translation") to Genesis.[42] The first chapter of Moses was dictated in June 1830 (about a month after the Church's reorganization), and began:

2 And [Moses] saw God face to face, and he talked with him, and the glory of God was upon Moses; therefore Moses could endure his presence.

3 And God spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I am the Lord God Almighty, and Endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end of years; and is not this endless?

4 And, behold, thou art my son; wherefore look, and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands; but not all, for my works are without end, and also my words, for they never cease.

5 Wherefore, no man can behold all my works, except he behold all my glory; and no man can behold all my glory, and afterwards remain in the flesh on the earth.

6 And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth; but there is no God beside me, and all things are present with me, for I know them all (Moses 1:2-6)

Here already, God distinguishes himself from the Only Begotten, Moses sees and speaks with God face to face, and says that Moses was created "in the similitude of mine Only Begotten."

Joseph's rendered Genesis 1:26 as:

And I, God, said unto mine Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and it was so....And I, God, created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them. (Moses 2:26-27.)

There can be no doubt that Joseph understood "in mine own image" to refer to a physical likeness, rather than merely a moral or intellectual one. The JST of Genesis 5:1-2 reads

In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; in the image of his own body, male and female, created he them (Moses 6:8-9, emphasis added)

Thus, by 1830 Joseph was clearly teaching a separation of the Father and Son, and insisting that both had some type of physical form which could be copied in the creation of humanity.

Joseph's mother, Lucy Mack Smith, also noted that other Christian denominations took issue with the new Church because of its teachings about God, noting that in 1830:

the different denominations are very much opposed to us.... The Methodists also come, and they rage, for they worship a God without body or parts, and they know that our faith comes in contact with this principle.[43]

1831 - Joseph "saw the heavens opened, and the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Father"; D&C 50:43

Anti-Mormon writers in 1831 noted that Joseph claimed to have received "a commission from God"; and the Mormons claimed that Joseph "had seen God frequently and personally."[44] That Joseph's enemies knew he claimed to have "seen God," indicates that the doctrine of an embodied God that could be seen was well-known early on.

John Whitmer would also write in 1831 of a vision enjoyed by Joseph in which Joseph saw Christ as separate from the Father, for he "saw the heavens opened, and the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Father making intercession for his brethren, the Saints." (emphasis added) [45] Of this same experience, Levi Hancock wrote:

Joseph Smith then stepped out onto the floor and said, 'I now see God, and Jesus Christ at his right hand, let them kill me, I should not feel death as I am now.' (emphasis added) [46]

Doctrine and Covenants 50, a revelation given to Joseph Smith in May 1831, states in the 43rd verse that:

And the Father and I are one, I am in the Father and the Father in me; and inasmuch as ye have received me, ye are in me and I in you.

"This is interesting as, notwithstanding the verse being one that teaches the 'oneness' of the Father and the Son, it is not that of Modalism [nor the forms of Trinitarianism referred to by critics when making this argument against Joseph Smith]; instead, it is the same as John 17:22-23—one of indwelling unity, not being the same person."[47]

1832 - In the 1832 account of the First Vision, Jesus announces to Joseph that he will come "clothed in the glory of my Father"

One should first note that in the 1832 account of the First Vision, Jesus announces to Joseph that he will come "clothed in the glory of my Father." The Book of Mormon (translated three years earlier in 1829) also contains numerous passages which teach a physical separation and embodiment (even if only in spirit bodies, which are clearly not immaterial, but have shape, position, and form) of the members of the Godhead. (See: 3 Nephi 11:, 1 Nephi 11:1-11, Ether 3:14-18.)

Furthermore, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were to receive a revelation of the three degrees of glory in the same year as Joseph's 1832 account was written; it clearly teaches a physical separation of the Father and Son, bearing witness of seeing both. (See D&C 76:14,20–24.)[48]

1832–1833 - "Joseph answered that this was Jesus, the Son of God, our elder brother"

Two of Joseph's close associates reported their own visions of God in the winter of 1832–1833. Both are decidedly not in the trinitarian mold.

Zebedee Coltrin:

Joseph having given instructions, and while engaged in silent prayer, kneeling...a personage walked through the room from East to west, and Joseph asked if we saw him. I saw him and suppose the others did, and Joseph answered that this was Jesus, the Son of God, our elder brother. Afterward Joseph told us to resume our former position in prayer, which we did. Another person came through; He was surrounded as with a flame of fire. [I] experienced a sensation that it might destroy the tabernacle as it was of consuming fire of great brightness. The Prophet Joseph said this was the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. I saw him....

He was surrounded as with a flame of fire, which was so brilliant that I could not discover anything else but his person. I saw his hands, his legs, his feet, his eyes, nose, mouth, head and body in the shape and form of a perfect man. He sat in a chair as a man would sit in a chair, but This appearance was so grand and overwhelming that it seemed that I should melt down in His presence, and the sensation was so powerful that it thrilled through my whole system and I felt it in the marrow of my bones. The Prophet Joseph said: "Brethren, now you are prepared to be the apostles of Jesus Christ, for you have seen both the Father and the Son and know that They exist and that They are two separate personages.[49]

John Murdock:

During the winter that I boarded with[Bro[ther] Joseph... we had a number of prayer meetings, in the Prophet’s chamber.... In one of those meetings the Prophet told us if we could humble ourselves before God, and exersise [sic] strong faith, we should see the face of the Lord. And about midday the visions of my mind were opened, and the eyes of my understanding were enlightened, and I saw the form of a man, most lovely, the visage of his face was sound and fair as the sun. His hair a bright silver grey, curled in a most majestic form, His eyes a keen penetrating blue, and the skin of his neck a most beautiful white and he was covered from the neck to the feet with a loose garment, pure white, whiter than any garment I had ever before seen. His countenance was the most penetrating, and yet most lovely. And while I was endeavoring to comprehend the whole personage from head to feet it slipped from me, and the vision was closed up. But it left on my mind the impression of love, for months, that I never felt before to that degree.[50]

1834–1835 - Lectures on Faith: "There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing, and supreme power over all things"

In the School of the Prophets, the brethren were taught that

"There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing, and supreme power over all things, by whom all things were created and made, that are created and made. . . . They are the Father and the Son--the Father being a personage of spirit, glory, and power, possessing all perfection and fulness, the Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle. (Lecture 5:1–2)

Here, the separateness of the Father and Son continues to be made clear.

1836 - "They believe that the true God is a material being, composed of body and parts"

A skeptical news article noted:

They believe that the true God is a material being, composed of body and parts; and that when the Creator formed Adam in his own image, he made him about the size and shape of God himself....[51]

Evidence that is absent

In addition to all the non-trinitarian evidence above, as Milton Backman has noted, there is a great deal of evidence that we should find, but don't. For example, no one has "located a publication (such as an article appearing in a church periodical or statement from a missionary pamphlet) written by an active Latter-day Saint prior to the martyrdom of the Prophet that defends the traditional or popular creedal concept of the Trinity. . . ." Moreover, there are no references in critical writings of the 1830s (including statements by apostates) that Joseph Smith introduced in the mid-thirties the doctrine of separateness of the Father and Son.[52]


Response to claim: 10 - It is claimed that scholars have determined that Joseph consulted an open Bible during translation

The author(s) of An Insider's View of Mormon Origins make(s) the following claim:

It is claimed that scholars have determined that Joseph consulted an open Bible during translation.

Author's sources:
  1. No source provided.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Although some Latter-day Saint scholars believe that Joseph consulted a Bible when he came to passages in the Book of Mormon which were essentially the same as those in the King James Bible, the fact that Joseph performed most of the dictation in the open using the stone and the hat seems to contradict this idea. Joseph was never observed consulting any books during the translation, which was observed by many people.


Question: 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

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

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 are simply similar phrasing emulated by Joseph Smith during his translation.

Oddly enough, this actually should not lead one to believe that Joseph Smith simply plagiarized from it. 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.[53]

Critics also fail to mention that even if all the Biblical passages were removed from the Book of Mormon, there would be a great deal of text remaining. Joseph Smith 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 29). Perhaps the inclusion of KJV text can allow us to know those places where it is 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

When considering the the data, Skousen proposes as one scenario that, instead of.Joseph or Oliver looking at a Bible (which is now confirmed by the manuscript evidence and the unequivocal statements of the witnesses to the translation to the Book of Mormon that Joseph employed no notes nor any other reference materials), that God was simply able to provide the page of text from the King James Bible to Joseph's mind and then Joseph was free to alter the text as would be more comprehensible/comfortable to his 19th century, Northeastern, frontier audience. This theology of translation may feel foreign and a bit strange to some Latter-day Saints, but it seems to fit well with the Lord's own words about the nature of revelation to Joseph Smith. Latter-day Saints should take comfort in fact that the Lord accommodates his perfection to our own weakness and uses our imperfect language and nature for the building up of Zion on the earth. It may testify to the fact that God views us not only as creatures but as Gods ourselves--with abilities that can be used effectively to call others to repentance and literally become like Him.

Additional Resources

Learn More About Parts 5 and 6 of Volume 3 of the Critical Text Project of the Book of Mormon

Royal Skousen, "The History of the Book of Mormon Text: Parts 5 and 6 of Volume 3 of the Critical Text"

Standford Carmack, "Bad Grammar in the Book of Mormon Found in Early English Bibles" Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 36 (2020).

Stan Spencer, "Missing Words: King James Bible Italics, the Translation of the Book of Mormon, and Joseph Smith as an Unlearned Reader" Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 38 (2020).


Question: Were the Isaiah passages in the Book of Mormon simply plagiarized from the King James Bible?

Nephi and Jacob generally make it clear when they are quoting from Isaiah

If a Christian is making an accusation of plagiarism, then they are, by the same logic, indicting the Bible which they share with us. Close examination of the Old Testament reveals many passages which are copied nearly word for word including grammatical errors. Micah, who lived hundreds of years after Isaiah, copies word for word in Micah 4:1-3 from Isaiah's prophecy in Isaiah 2:2-4 without once giving him credit.[54] We also find the genealogy from Genesis 5:10-11,36 repeated in 1 Chronicles, much of the history in Samuel and Kings is repeated in Chronicles, and Isaiah 36:2 through Isaiah 38:5 is the same as 2 Kings 18:17 through 2 Kings 20:6.

Although Old Testament scripture was often quoted by Old and New Testament writers without giving credit, Nephi and Jacob generally make it clear when they are quoting from Isaiah. Indeed, much of 2 Nephi may be seen as an Isaiah commentary. Of course, Nephi and Jacob do not specify chapter and verse, because these are modern additions to the text (as Joseph Smith somehow knew). It is ironic that critics of the Book of Mormon find fault with its "plagiarism," even though its authors typically mention their sources, while they do not condemn the Bible's authors when they do not.

Additionally, the Church has made clear in the 1981 and the 2013 editions of the Book of Mormon [55] in footnote "a" for 2 Nephi 12:2 that: "Comparison with the King James Bible in English shows that there are differences in more than half of the 433 verses of Isaiah quoted in the Book of Mormon, while about 200 verses have the same wording as the KJV"[56] Thus it doesn't appear that the Church is afraid of having its members understand the similarities and differences between the King James Version of the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

Finally, it may be that the use of King James language for passages shared by the Bible and the Book of Mormon allows the Book of Mormon to highlight those areas in which the Book of Mormon's original texts were genuinely different from the textual tradition of the Old World's which gave us the Holy Bible of today.

A closer look at these duplicate Isaiah texts actually provides us an additional witness of the Book of Mormon's authenticity

A closer look at these duplicate texts actually provides us an additional witness of the Book of Mormon's authenticity.[57]

The 21 chapters of Isaiah which are quoted (Chapters 2-14, 29, and 48-54) either partially or completely, represent about one-third of the book of Isaiah, but less than two and one-half percent of the total Book of Mormon. We also find that more than half of all verses quoted from Isaiah (234 of 433) differ from the King James version available to Joseph Smith.[58] Perhaps it may be said that the Book of Mormon follows the King James (Masoretic) text when the original meaning is closer to how the King James renders the passages in question.

Additionally, we often find differences in Book of Mormon Isaiah texts where modern renderings of the text disagree.[59] One verse (2 Nephi 12:16), is not only different but adds a completely new phrase: "And upon all the ships of the sea." This non-King James addition agrees with the Greek (Septuagint) version of the Bible, which was first translated into English in 1808 by Charles Thomson. [60] Such a translation was "rare for its time."[61] The textual variants in the two texts have theological import and ancient support. John Tvedtnes has documented many in this study of the Isaiah variants in the Book of Mormon. A critic, David Wright, responded to Tvedtnes and Tvedtnes’ review of that critic’s response can be found here.

Accounting for the Rest of the Book of Mormon

If Joseph or anyone else actually tried to plagiarize the Book of Mormon, critics have failed to show the source of the remaining 93% (when all similar texts are removed). A 100% non-biblical book of scripture wouldn't have been much more difficult to produce.

Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, "Was Joseph Smith Smarter Than the Average Fourth Year Hebrew Student? Finding a Restoration-Significant Hebraism in Book of Mormon Isaiah"

Paul Y. Hoskisson,  Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, (2016)
The brass plates version of Isaiah 2:2, as contained in 2 Nephi 12:2, contains a small difference, not attested in any other pre-1830 Isaiah witness, that not only helps clarify the meaning but also ties the verse to events of the Restoration. The change does so by introducing a Hebraism that would have been impossible for Joseph Smith, the Prophet, to have produced on his own.

Click here to view the complete article


Response to claim: 10 - The book claims that Joseph copied errors from the King James Bible

The author(s) of An Insider's View of Mormon Origins make(s) the following claim:

The book claims that Joseph copied errors from the King James Bible.

Author's sources:
  1. No source provided.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Some of the Book of Mormon Isaiah passages generally match the version of Isaiah found in the Bible of the time, however, not all of them do. Yet, none of the witnesses to the translation process ever saw a Bible consulted. The translation was performed in the open.


Question: If the Book of Mormon is an accurate translation, why would it contain translational errors that exist in the King James Bible?

Introduction to Question

The Book of Mormon contains quotations from the King James Version of the Bible. These quotations contain what are now considered to be translation errors on the part of the translators of the KJV. Thus the Book of Mormon includes some erroneous elements in its translation. Our critics ask “if the Book of Mormon is ‘the most correct book of any on earth,’ why would it contain translational errors that exist in the King James Bible?”[62]

There are actually three separate questions that arise when confronted with the KJV translation errors in the Book of Mormon.

  1. The first question is whether the Book of Mormon's translation errors change the meaning of the text so drastically as to mislead the reader into bad understandings of God. Joseph Smith declared that the Book of Mormon was the most correct book on earth not because it contained no translation errors, but because by following what the Book of Mormon teaches, a person would get closer to God and his nature than by reading any other book. Thus, Latter-day Saints and others interested in the Book of Mormon are concerned with the book's ethical message and whether these translation errors alter the quoted passages' meaning so much as to make that ethical message erroneous.
  2. The second question is whether the translation errors give evidence that Joseph Smith was plagiarizing from the King James Bible in order to create the text of the Book of Mormon
  3. The third and last question is why God would allow the text of the Book of Mormon to contain translation errors.

We'll deal with these questions in order.

Response to Question

1. Do the KJV translation errors give us an erroneous ethical message about God?

Royal Skousen, a Latter-day Saint linguist and scholar of the textual history of the Book of Mormon, has given us a representative list of what can be considered translation errors. Skousen does "not intend to list every possible error. Rather, we simply recognize that the Book of Mormon translation will reflect errors because of its dependence on the King James Bible."[63]:p. 220 In some cases, the translation errors are legitimately errors. While the errors do change the meaning of the passages, they do not necessarily change the intent of them. In some cases, the errors are merely translation variants (rather than errors) where one variant is not necessarily superior to another. In some cases, the intent of the passage is changed, but the changed intent does not necessarily reflect an inaccurate doctrinal understanding. It doesn't give us a wrong view about God, who he is, and what we need to understand about him to become like him. Thus the Book of Mormon can retain its status as the "most correct book". Skousen himself says that "[n]one of these scholarly objections matter much since the Book of Mormon is a creative, cultural translation. In other words, the use of the King James text, warts and all, is not only unsurprising, but it is in fact expected."[63]:p. 214

Below is a table that contains all of them including their location in the Bible and Book of Mormon, the supposed erroneous translation, the passage in question, and commentary on the alleged error. They are organized in the order they appear in the Book of Mormon.

Location in Canon Erroneous Translation Passage Commentary
Alleged KJV Translation Errors in the Book of Mormon
1. Isaiah 2:4 ~ 2 Nephi 12:4 Rebuke "And he shall judge among the nations and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." "The Hebrew verb here lacks the negative sense of rebuke—that is, it means 'to judge' rather than 'to reprove'; note the preceding parallel line: 'and he shall judge among the nations'."[63]:p. 217. Bold added. The act of judging or arbitrating disputes between peoples may mean that God actually will rebuke peoples that come down on the negative side of God's judgements. In any dispute, there will be rebukes that God can send forth for the wrongdoing that parties in a dispute have committed towards each other or that solely one party has inflicted on the other. The Lord tells us that he chastens us and scourges us because he loves us in Proverbs, Hebrews, and Helaman.[64]
2. Isaiah 2:16 ~ 2 Nephi 12:16 Pictures "and upon all the ships of Tarshish and upon all the pleasant pictures" The better translation according to Skousen is "and upon all the pleasant ships".[63]:p. 217. Bold added. Though there are plenty of biblical translations that render this verse similar to how it is rendered in the Book of Mormon. Isaiah intends to use the rhetorical device of accumulatio to communicate and emphasize that everything will be brought down and taken away so as to eliminate pride. Both ships and pleasant pictures can do/be a part of that.
3. Isaiah 3:2 ~ 2 Nephi 13:2 Prudent "The mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient" "In the phrase 'the prudent and the ancient', the adjectival noun prudent is a mistranslation of the Hebrew word for divining. This phrase is translated, for instance, as 'the diviner and the elder' in the English Standard Version."[63]:p. 217 The verse concerns the Assyrians' coming invasion of Israel and carrying them away into captivity. The New Oxford Annotated Bible notes that "[t]he Assyrians were well known for deporting the leading figures and skilled craftspeople of a conquered society in order to exploit their talents elsewhere in the empire and to destabilize the conquered society to prevent further revolt."[65]:984n3.1–12. Thus, the intent of the verse is to use accumulatio to communicate and emphasize that the most talented and wisest of Israelite society were going to be taken away captive by the Assyrians. That can include the prudent.
4. Isaiah 3:3 ~ 2 Nephi 13:3 Orator "The captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counsellor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator." "Here in the Hebrew the sense of orator is 'enchanter'. The English word derives from the Latin verb meaning 'to pray' (see definition 1 under orator in the [Oxford English Dictionary])."[63]:p. 217. Bold added. Same commentary here as made for 2 Nephi 13:2
5. Isaiah 3:22 ~ 2 Nephi 13:22 Wimples "The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles and the wimples, and the crisping pins" "The Hebrew word refers to a wide or flowing cloak. The English word used by the King James translators, wimple, is quite different: 'a garment of linen or silk formerly worn by women, so folded as to envelop the head, chin, sides of the face, and neck; now retained in the dress of nuns' (the first definition under the noun wimple in the Oxford English Dictionary)."[63]:p. 219. Bold added. The verse is using the rhetorical device of accumulatio to communicate and emphasize that everything will be taken from the "daughters of Zion" (v. 17) so that they will be humbled. Whether a cloak or a wimple, it doesn't change the intent of the verse.
6. Isaiah 3:22 ~ 2 Nephi 13:22 Crisping pins "The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins" "The modern-day equivalent of crisping pin would be curling iron. The Hebrew is generally interpreted here as referring to purses or handbags."[63]:p. 216. Bold added. Same commentary as that given for 2 Nephi 13:22.
7. Isaiah 3:24 ~ 2 Nephi 13:24 Rent "And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle, a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty." "There are two Hebrew verbs, both with identical consonants, but with different meanings: one means 'to tear' and the other means 'to go around or to surround'. The noun rent derives from the first verb, but the noun rope or cord (meaning to go around the body) derives from the second. Here the word girdle takes the archaic meaning 'belt'. Modern translators have typically rendered this line in Isaiah 3:24 as 'and instead of a belt, a rope'."[63]:p. 217. Bold added. The intent of Isaiah is to contrast the former dignity and pride of the daughters of Zion with their current shame. Interestingly, in the ancient Near East, uncovering someone's nakedness was a way to make them feel shame (see, for example, Isaiah 47:3 which reflects this attitude) so keeping "rent" (i.e. cut/gap) where perhaps a person's belt line was would uncover someone's buttocks and genitals and is an appropriate way to make the contrast between current dignity and subsequent shame or lower social status. The intent of the passage isn’t changed and is still correct.
8. Isaiah 5:2 ~ 2 Nephi 15:2 Fenced "And he fenced it and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. " "The Hebrew verb for fenced in Isaiah 5:2 is now translated as 'to dig about' or 'to hoe or weed'; in other words, "he dug about it and cleared it of its stones."[63]:p. 216. Bold added. The verse here is a part of verses 1–7 that describe Isaiah's Song of the Vineyard. The New Oxford Annotated Bible notes that it "allegorically portrays the Lord as Isaiah's friend...who worked so hard to ensure a productive vineyard only to be disappointed when it yielded sour grapes. The allegory, which is explained only at the end, draws in the audience, as many in ancient Judah would have had extensive experience in vineyards. Its conclusion makes puns to make its point, viz., the Lord expects justice (Heb "mishpat") but sees only bloodshed (Heb "mispah") and hopes for righteousness (Heb "tsedaqah") only to hear a cry (Heb "tse'aqah)."[65]:p. 986n1–7. Thus, the Lord does all this hard work to get a good vineyard but fails. Fencing can be a part of efforts to get a productive vineyard and those efforts can fail. Again, we have a change in meaning but no change in intent. Some biblical translations retain “fenced” in their rendering of the verse.
9. Isaiah 9:1 ~ 2 Nephi 19:1 Grievously afflict "Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterwards did more grievously afflict by the way of the Red Sea beyond Jordan in Galilee of the nations." The better translation is "but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan".[63]:p. 216 The Book of Mormon actually changes this verse quite a bit from the original one in Isaiah 9:1. Isaiah 9:1 reads: "Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations." 2 Nephi 19:1 reads: "Nevertheless, the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun, and the land of Naphtali, and afterwards did more grievously afflict her by the way of the Red Sea beyond Jordan in Galilee of the nations." Thus, the Book of Mormon makes the verse refer to the Red Sea. Critics have made fun of the Book of Mormon for this and leveled other criticisms. See here and here for commentary on the criticisms that have arisen. There's a question that arises now: could the translation of "grievously afflicting" actually be some sort of modification by Nephi that provides commentary on Nephi? We know that there were modifications done by Nephi to affect the meaning and intent of Isaiah's scripture as a sort of commentary on Nephi's present situation that Nephi calls “likening” (1 Nephi 19:23). Could there be something similar going on here? As a guess, this may have something to do with the difficult journey that Lehi, Nephi, and their family faced by the borders of the Red Sea as they traveled down the Arabian Peninsula. Skousen actually tells us that he believes that "Red Sea" was not an accident by scribes of the Book of Mormon translation. He believes that "Red Sea" was actually on the plates that Joseph Smith translated from. He deduces this from the fact that there is no manuscript evidence that scribes of the Book of Mormon translation text inserted "Red" next to "sea" even in the original manuscript of the translation of the Book of Mormon. Also, there are four uses in the Bible of the phrase "by the way of the Red Sea" (Numbers 14:25; Numbers 21:4; Deuteronomy 1:40; Deuteronomy 2:1). Familiarity with the phrase, Skousen argues, perhaps led Nephi to add the word "Red" to sea in his copying of Isaiah. Either that or "Red" was actually a part of the text and Nephi didn't add anything to it. Furthermore, out of 82 occurrences of the word "sea" in the Book of Mormon, there is no manuscript evidence that scribes added "Red" to the word "sea", even as a mistake that was then corrected.[66] Skousen retained "Red Sea" in his reconstruction of the earliest text of the Book of Mormon: the text as it came from the mouth of Joseph Smith (or at least the best reconstruction of it).[67] Again, Nephi was "likening" Isaiah to his current situation and understanding all throughout the Book of Mormon quotations of Isaiah by changing text (1 Nephi 19:23). It's likely that something similar is going on here. Thus, it's not an error, but (on this theory at least) an intentional emendation by Nephi to creatively liken the scriptures Isaiah wrote to his present situation that was then correctly translated by Joseph Smith from the plates to the English language. Thus, the intent of the verse is changed and does actually lead us into an incorrect understanding of what Isaiah meant to communicate about God’s nature. But it isn’t an error of what Nephi meant to communicate about God with his likening of Isaiah. If Nephi is likening this passage to himself and his then-current situation and understanding, then there is no error. It would again just be Joseph Smith’s translation of Nephi’s “likening” of Isaiah. Thus Isaiah meant to say honor, but Nephi changed it to being about affliction of his family by God while they were traveling near the Red Sea.
10. Isaiah 13:12 ~ 2 Nephi 23:12 Wedge "I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir" The better translation is "more precious. . .than the gold of Ophir".[63]:p. 218 Regardless of the translation, the essence is that a man is being made more precious than piece of gold from Ophir. No significant alteration in meaning.
11. Isaiah 13:21 ~ 2 Nephi 23:21 Satyrs "But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there." "The Hebrew word here in the singular is sa'ir, which in the Hebrew refers to hairy demons or monsters that inhabit the deserts. This word has been incorrectly translated into its phonetically similar Greek word satyr, which refers to a woodland god that is half-human and half-beast."[63]:p. 218 Either way we just have a mythical creature dancing. No significant change in meaning. The vast majority of biblical translations render this as wild goats, goat-demons, or satyrs (mythical half-human, half-goat creatures).
12. Isaiah 14:2 ~ 2 Nephi 24:2 Handmaids "And the people shall take them and bring them to their place; yea, from far unto the ends of the earth; and they shall return to their lands of promise. And the house of Israel shall possess them, and the land of the Lord shall be for servants and handmaids; and they shall take them captives unto whom they were captives; and they shall rule over their oppressors." Skousen says that "In this verse the sense of handmaid is 'a female slave', especially since the paired noun servant means 'a male slave'. In biblical contexts, handmaid usually means 'a female personal servant', but not here."[63]:p. 216 But a handmaid in the 1828 Webster's Dictionary understands a handmaid to be a "maid that waits at hand; a female servant or attendant." Thus it's not certain why Skousen considers this to be an error. A significant number of biblical translations render it as "handmaids".
13. Isaiah 14:4 ~ 2 Nephi 24:4 Golden city "And it shall come to pass in that day, that thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say: How hath the oppressor ceased, the golden city ceased!" The better translation is "how hath the oppressor ceased, the assaulting ceased".[63]:p. 216 This is Isaiah's taunt song against Babylon. Calling Babylon "the golden city" that is laid down and humbled is a great way to taunt Babylon given that Isaiah would then be contrasting their former glory with their current misery. Three other biblical translations render it as "golden city".
14. Isaiah 14:5 ~ 2 Nephi 24:5 Scepter "The Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked, the scepter of the rulers." Skousen proposes that the better translation is "the Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the rod of the rulers".[63]:p. 218 But the vast majority of translations render this verse with "scepter" or "sceptre" instead of rod. Either way, it does not seem that the essential object being referred to nor the ethical message change.
15. Isaiah 14:12 ~ 2 Nephi 24:12 Weaken "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! Art thou cut down to the ground which did weaken the nations!" "There are two meanings for this verb in the Hebrew: one means 'to weaken', the other 'to defeat or to lay prostrate'. In this context, the second of these works better and is the one adopted in modern translations, such as the English Standard Version: 'How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!'"[63]:p. 218 The essential message of bringing the nations down and humbling them is not altered given this variation. Six other biblical translations render this verse as weaken.
16. Isaiah 14:29 ~ 2 Nephi 24:29 Fiery flying serpent "Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken; for out of the serpent’s root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent." "The correct rendition of the Hebrew for Isaiah 14:29 should be 'a flying fiery serpent'. The compound fiery serpent is represented in the Hebrew by a single word saraf, which comes from the verb saraf 'to burn'; here we have a flying serpent whose sting burns (in other words, 'a flying poisonous serpent')."[63]:p. 216 Regardless, we have a mythical serpent creature on the attack. No significant alteration in meaning. Four other biblical translations render it as the Book of Mormon does here.
17. Isaiah 29:21 ~ 2 Nephi 27:32 Reproveth "And they that make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of naught." "The verb reprove is used four times in the Book of Mormon, all in biblical quotes. The King James use of reprove adds a negative sense that is not in the Hebrew original. In all cases, the neutral verb judge would be a more appropriate translation."[63]:p. 217. Bold added. Some translations render this verse similar to how the Book of Mormon and King James Version do. The act of judging or arbitrating disputes between peoples may mean that the judge at the city gates actually will reprove peoples that come down on the negative side of his judgements. In any dispute, there will be reproofs and/or punishments that the judge or arbiter can bring down for the wrongdoing that parties in a dispute have committed towards each other or that solely one party has inflicted on the other. Reproof and punishing are acts that a judge or arbitrator does. The intent of the passage is to point to the judge at the gate and the judge can both arbitrate and reprove.
18. Isaiah 52:15 ~ 3 Nephi 20:45 Sprinkle "So he shall sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him, for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider." The Hebrew verb for sprinkle doesn't make sense in context here. Other translations have made this verse something like "the nations shall marvel upon him". Joseph Smith in his "New Translation" of the Bible replaced sprinkle with gather, showing the difficulty of rendering this verse.[63]:p. 218 Some translations render it as nations gathering to God, standing in wonder of him, or being startled by him. The majority of biblical translations render it as sprinkle. Scholars today are still not certain about the meaning of the Hebrew. If that's the case, then this can't be considered a translation error. At worst, it can only be a translation variant.
19. Micah 5:14 ~ 3 Nephi 21:18 Groves "And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee; so will I destroy thy cities." "Here the noun grove is used to refer to a sacred grove used for cultic rites. However, the original Hebrew in these passages refers to Asherim, that is, wooden images of the Canaanite goddess Asherah."[63]:p. 217. Bold added. Given that 'groves' refers to areas where cultic, idolatrous rites were practiced, the Book of Mormon does not alter the essential message of Isaiah in its essence: that idolatry is wrong (Mosiah 13:12-13) and that God was going to take action to remove idolatrous practices from the Israelites. Three other biblical translations render this verse as "groves".

Skousen also has given us a list of cultural translations "where the original meaning is obscured by providing a translation that speakers from the Early Modern English period would have readily understood."[63]:p. 214 Here is a table of those cultural translations plus commentary on those translations similar to the previous table.

Location in Canon Erroneous Translation Passage Commentary
Alleged KJV Cultural Translation Errors in the Book of Mormon
1. Isaiah 3:18 ~ 2 Nephi 13:18 Cauls "the Lord will take away the bravery of tinkling ornaments and cauls" "The Oxford English Dictionary defines caul as 'a netted cap or head-dress, often richly ornamented'. The Hebrew today is usually translated today as a headband."[63]:p. 214 Isaiah's intent is to communicate that the Lord will take away the most prized possessions of the women of Jerusalem because those possessions cause arrogance. Whether headbands or cauls being taken away, it doesn't change the essential message of Isaiah.
2. Isaiah 3:18 ~ 2 Nephi 13:18 Tires like the moon "and cauls and round tires like the moon" "In the Hebrew, the word tire refers to something round, either a crescent or perhaps a round pendant for the neck. The use of tire here in Isaiah 3:18 originated in the 1560 Geneva Bible: 'in that day shall the Lord take away the ornament of the slipper and the cauls and the round tires', where tire is a shortening from attire and refers to an ornament for a woman's head. The 1568 Bishop's Bible expanded on this by placing an internal note in square brackets after round tires: 'and the cauls and the round tires [after the fashion of the moon]'. This interpretative remark was apparently derived from the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate, where the word used for 'crescent ornament' or 'little crescent' was a diminutive of the word for moon. The 1611 King James translators decided to embed this remark within the text itself by omitting the brackets, thus 'and round tires like the moon'. Since this interpretative prepositional phrase was not in the original Hebrew, it should have been placed in italics in the King James text."[63]:p. 215 This doesn't appear to be translation error. Rather just a variant.
3. Isaiah 3:24 ~ 2 Nephi 13:24 Stomacher "and instead of a stomacher, a girding of sackcloth" "The Hebrew word here, patigil, is otherwise unattested. The Greek Septuagint translated it as 'a tunic of mixed purple', which has led to the general translation of this article of clothing as 'a fine garment' or 'a rich robe'. Miles Coverdale, in his 1535 Bible, translated it more specifically as stomacher, 'an ornamental covering for the chest (often covered with jewels) worn by women under the lacing of the bodice'."[63]:p. 215 As the Hebrew remains uncertain, this can only be seen as a translation variant rather than error. The essential message of Isaiah in contrasting fine, luxurious things with things of lower social status and shame remains unharmed.
4. Isaiah 7:23 ~ 2 Nephi 17:23 Silverlings "where there were a thousand vines at a thousand silverlings" "The Hebrew here literally reads 'a thousand of silver', where the presumed measure of weight is the shekel. The Greek Septuagint translated this phrase as 'a thousand shekels'. The use of silverlings in the English translation originated with Miles Coverdale's 1535 Bible. The English word silvering was chosen because it was morphologically analyzed as a silver + ling, but its value was not the same as a shekel's."[63]:p. 215 The intent of the scripture appears to remain unharmed.
5. Isaiah 7:25 ~ 2 Nephi 17:25 Mattock "and all the hills that shall be digged with the mattock" "This is a tool that in the Hebrew is based on the verb meaning 'to pick' or 'to hoe'. The English mattock refers to a tool that is more specific than simply a pick or a hoe."[63]:p. 215 The intent of the passage seems to remain unchanged.
6. Isaiah 11:15 ~ 2 Nephi 21:15 Dry-shod "he shall. . .make men go over dry-shod" "The past participial phrase dry-shod is equivalent to the adverbial phrase 'with dry shoes'. Here the Hebrew as well as the Greek and the Latin translations simply use the phrase 'in sandals', without any reference to getting one's sandals wet."[63]:p. 215 The adverbial phrase still makes sense in context, however. The whole verse in Isaiah 11:15 reads as follows: "And the Lord shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea; and with his mighty wind shall he shake his hand over the river, and shall smite it in the seven streams, and make men go over dry-shod." Scholars recognize that this is an allusion to the Exodus when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea with dry feet.[65]:997n15
7. Isaiah 13:14 ~ 2 Nephi 23:14 Roe "and it shall be as the chased roe" "In English, a roe is a species of small deer. The word in the Hebrew refers to a gazelle. The word gazelle entered English in the late 1500s and early 1600s and would not have been readily available to the King James translators. All the earlier English translations, dating back to Miles Coverdale's 1535 Bible, had the phrase chased doe rather than chased roe."[63]:p. 215 Both the gazelle and roe work as illustrations of the imagery of fleeing to one's own people and lands. Thus the intent of the passage is not changed.
8. Isaiah 14:29 ~ 2 Nephi 24:29 Cockatrice "for out of the serpent's root shall come forth a cockatrice" "The cockatrice is a mythical serpent with a deadly glance that is hatched by a reptile from a cock's egg. However, the Hebrew word here is based on a verb meaning 'to hiss' and simply refers to a viper or adder."[63]:p. 215 This verse is just giving "imagery explaining that while an oppressor of the Philistines may perish, another, more severe will follow." It's "a metaphor suggesting that Philistia's next oppressor (the cockatrice or deadly viper) will somehow be related to its first (the serpent of snake), perhaps a descendant."[68] Either a cockatrice or viper/adder can accomplish the rhetorical goals of the verse.
9. Matthew 5:15 ~ 3 Nephi 12:15 Candle "do men light a candle and put it under bushel?" "The corresponding Greek means simply 'a lamp', in fact, a small oil lamp."[63]:p. 214. Bold added. The intent of the passage is to use the metaphor of hiding a light when needed to guide towards goodness and truth. Both a candle and lamp can do that.
10. Matthew 5:15 ~ 3 Nephi 12:15 Candlestick "nay, but on a candlestick" "The corresponding Greek word means 'a lamp stand' (that is, a specific stand for placing a lamp)."[63]:p. 214 The intent of the passage is to say that a person shouldn't hide their spiritual light but show it to others. Both a lamp/lampstand and candle/candlestick are effective imagery for communicating that message.
11. Matthew 5:40 ~ 3 Nephi 12:40 Coat "if any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also" "The Greek word for coat is chiton 'tunic', which actually refers to an inner garment worn under the coat, next to the skin, whereas the Greek word for cloak is himation, a more general word used to refer to an outer garment (such as a coat or a cloak)."[63]:p. 214 "Jesus is saying that, if we are sued even for a trifling amount, rather than countersuing and ratcheting up the hostility, we should be willing to give up what is rightfully ours to defuse the situation."[69]
12. Matthew 6:28 ~ 3 Nephi 13:28 Lillies "consider the lilies of the field" "Here the Greek word krinon, modified as being 'in the field', most likely refers to a colorful wild flower."[63]:p. 215. Bold added. The verses are Jesus' words that are meant to suggest that the birds of the air, flowers of the field, and other things do not worry about the span of their lives nor worry about what they're going to eat to survive and yet the Lord provides for them. The intent of the verse is unchanged.

Along with these cultural translations and alleged translation errors, emerging scholarship is demonstrating that the Book of Mormon also holds significant intertextual relationships with the New Testament. That is, the Book of Mormon echoes New Testament language as a means of communicating its message when it probably shouldn't be using the New Testament. Critics have alleged that this demonstrates that Joseph Smith was plagiarizing the King James Bible in order to create the Book of Mormon. However, there are several reasons to reject these criticisms.

One question that remains to be answered about the Book of Mormon's and New Testament's intertextual relationship is if the Book of Mormon perpetuates translation errors from the King James translators rendering of the New Testament within its own text. That will have to be the subject of future, professional investigation from scholars. In the future, when we have the results of that investigation, those challenged by this criticism can utilize similar approaches used in this section of this article to respond to the criticism.

2. Do the translation errors prove that Joseph Smith plagiarized from his contemporary King James Version of Isaiah, Micah, and Matthew in order to create the Book of Mormon?

Now we deal with the accusation of plagiarism. There are several reasons to reject a charge of plagiarism:

  1. Nephi and the Savior generally make it clear when they are quoting from Isaiah. Assuming that a modern person (or group of people) is the author of the text (which they aren’t), they are citing their sources directly which is definitionally not plagiarism. At worst, Joseph Smith (or his supposed conspirators) can only be said to be haphazardly using Isaiah to create the Book of Mormon, not plagiarizing Isaiah. As far as Micah is concerned, the Savior just launches into a word-for-word quotation/reproduction of what God the Father uttered to the prophet Micah in Micah 5:10–14 (3 Nephi 21:14–18). Why can't he just reproduce what his Father uttered? Give the same prophecy to the Nephites? That's not really plagiarism on Joseph's part. That's the Savior citing his source, God the Father, and transmitting the same prophecy given to Micah to the Nephites. As far as the Sermon on the Mount is concerned, it's obvious that the Savior would teach the same message to all people if he has a singular, unified message to teach them. The Savior repeating himself is not plagiarism on the part of Joseph Smith. Why would Joseph or his conspirators plagiarize the one source most familiar to their 19th century, Northeastern, frontier audience? Why would he copy whole chapters haphazardly when that audience was so familiar with his source material?
  2. A closer look at these duplicate texts actually provides us an additional witness of the Book of Mormon's authenticity.[70] One verse (2 Nephi 12:16) is not only different but adds a completely new phrase: "And upon all the ships of the sea." This non-King James addition agrees with the Greek (Septuagint) version of the Bible, which was first translated into English in 1808 by Charles Thomson. It is also contained in the Coverdale 1535 translation of the Bible.[71] Such a translation was "rare for its time."[72] John Tvedtnes has also shown that many of the Book of Mormon's translation variants of Isaiah have ancient support.[73] This throws a huge wrench into any critic's theories that Joseph Smith merely cribbed off of the King James Isaiah. Why would Joseph Smith crib the KJV including all of its translation errors but then go to the trouble of finding the one phrase, "upon all the ships of the sea", from the Greek Septuagint and 1535 Coverdale Bible and make sure that his translation of Isaiah had support from ancient renderings of Isaiah as well? It's obviously possible that he did, but highly unlikely.
  3. Manuscript evidence, as well as several statements from eyewitnesses to the translation, almost definitively rule out that a Bible was consulted during the translation of the Book of Mormon. Using the Original and Printer's Manuscripts of the Book of Mormon, Latter-day Saint scholar Royal Skousen has provided a persuasive argument 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 KJB.[74] Joseph performed most of the translation in the open using the stone and the hat. Thus how do we get the language from the King James version of the Bible? Given this evidence, we could assume that the Biblical passages were revealed to Joseph during the translation process in a format almost identical with similar passages in the King James Bible and then amended them by revelation as he and the Lord felt was necessary. Of course, it's possible that Joseph Smith dictated every portion of the Book of Mormon that quotes Isaiah to Oliver so that Joseph is always looking at the Bible and Oliver isn't; but that's less likely given the consistency with which Oliver misspells the words (wouldn't there be at least one time, throughout all the time that Joseph and Oliver were translating, where Joseph Smith hands Oliver the Bible to more efficiently copy the passages and where Oliver then spells the words correctly?) and the fact that no witnesses to the translation report a Bible in use. When considering the data, Skousen proposes that, instead of Joseph or Oliver looking at a Bible, that God was simply able to provide the page of text from the King James Bible to Joseph's mind and then Joseph was free to alter the text as he pleased. In those cases where the Book of Mormon simply alludes to or echoes KJV language, perhaps the Lord allowed these portions of the text to be revealed in such a way that they would be more comprehensible/comfortable to his 19th century, Northeastern, frontier audience.
  4. Finally, as the Church has made clear in the 1981 and the 2013 editions of the Book of Mormon[75] in footnote "a" for 2 Nephi 12:2: "Comparison with the King James Bible in English shows that there are differences in more than half of the 433 verses of Isaiah quoted in the Book of Mormon, while about 200 verses have the same wording as the KJV".[76] This provides excellent evidence that Joseph Smith is not mindlessly cribbing off of the KJV version of Isaiah. We can actually prove that Nephi is engaging with the text and making changes to Isaiah that “liken” Isaiah’s messages to Nephi’s then-current situation and theological understanding (1 Nephi 19:23). Thus there is meaningful engagement with the text of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon rather than mindless copy and pasting.

Of course, there are other ways that critics have tried to establish that Joseph Smith plagiarized the King James Bible to create the Book of Mormon. For commentary on those criticisms, see the collection of articles at the link below.

3. Why did God allow the KJV errors to exist in the Book of Mormon?

All the tabulated data above supports the conclusion that the Book of Mormon, if indeed a translation of an ancient text, is a cultural and creative translation of that text. But exactly how/why did God allow the translation errors to exist in the Book of Mormon? We do not know the specific mechanism by which the biblical passages were included in the translation, therefore we cannot answer this question definitively based upon current historical information. We have good evidence that a Bible was not consulted during the translation process. That was laid out above. But it isn’t probative. It’s rather what is most likely the case.

The only description of the translation process that Joseph Smith ever gave was that it was performed by the "gift and power of God," and that the translation was performed using the "Urim and Thummim." Joseph Smith stated the following in July 1838:

Question 4th. How, and where did you obtain the book of Mormon? Answer. Moroni, the person who deposited the plates, from whence the book of Mormon was translated, in a hill in Manchester, Ontario County, New York, being dead, and raised again therefrom, appeared unto me, and told me where they were; and gave me directions how to obtain them. I obtained them and the Urim and Thummim with them; by the means of which I translated the plates and thus came the book of Mormon. (Joseph Smith, (July 1838) Elders Journal 1:42-43.)

This theology of translation may feel a bit foreign and a bit strange to some Latter-day Saints, but that may only be because they’ve never studied this question as directly and intensely before: we have some of the Lord's own words about the nature of revelation to Joseph Smith. The Lord speaks to his servants "after the manner of their language that they may come to understanding" (Doctrine and Covenants 1:24). He can sometimes exalt and use error for his own holy, higher purposes. The formal name for this is “accomodation” in the study of theology. God can accommodate erroneous perspectives and even translations for higher, holier purposes and objectives. That should be comforting to us. Latter-day Saints should take comfort in fact that the Lord accommodates his perfection to our own weakness and uses our imperfect language and nature for the building up of Zion on the earth.

Joseph Smith himself quoted from Malachi 4:5–6 in Doctrine and Covenants 128:17–18. You can read the full quote here. Notice what he says at the top of verse 18: "I might have rendered a plainer translation to this, but it is sufficiently plain to suit my purpose as it stands.” Joseph Smith is comfortable with obtaining a translation that is functionally sufficient. It doesn’t need to be 100% perfect in order to be divine and achieve divine purposes. We should be on the Lord’s and Joseph Smith’s page if we’re going to keep our faith in them and know what they want us to know.

Conclusion

If the errors do not lead us into bad understandings of God and do not prove that Joseph Smith was a plagiarist and mountebank, then why does God need to have a perfect translation? There is no need. We shouldn’t hold the Book of Mormon to a standard it (nor God nor Joseph Smith) never claimed for itself.


Response to claim: 11 - The author claims that none of Joseph's changes to the Bible have been supported by manuscript finds

The author(s) of An Insider's View of Mormon Origins make(s) the following claim:

The author claims that none of Joseph's changes to the Bible have been supported by manuscript finds.

Author's sources:
  1. No source provided.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Joseph Smith's Bible "translation" is not intended to be a restoration of original Biblical text.


Question: If the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) is Joseph Smith's 'correction' of Biblical errors, why do these corrections not match known Biblical manuscripts?

The Joseph Smith Translation (JST) is better thought of as an "inspired commentary" rather than a "translation"

The Joseph Smith Translation (JST) is not a translation in the traditional sense. Joseph did not consider himself a "translator" in the academic sense. The JST is better thought of as a kind of "inspired commentary". The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible is not, as some members have presumed, simply a restoration of lost Biblical text or an improvement on the translation of known text. Rather, the JST also involves harmonization of doctrinal concepts, commentary and elaboration on the Biblical text, and explanations to clarify points of importance to the modern reader. As expressed in the Bible Dictionary on lds.org "The JST to some extent assists in restoring the plain and precious things that have been lost from the Bible". Joseph did not claim to be mechanically preserving some hypothetically 'perfect' Biblical text. Rather, Joseph used the extant King James text as a basis for commentary, expansion, and clarification based upon revelation, with particular attention to issues of doctrinal importance for the modern reader. Reading the JST is akin to having the prophet at your elbow as one studies—it allows Joseph to clarify, elaborate, and comment on the Biblical text in the light of modern revelation.

The JST comes from a more prophetically mature and sophisticated Joseph Smith, and provides doctrinal expansion based upon additional revelation, experience, and understanding.

Joseph Smith: "I might have rendered a plainer translation to this, but it is sufficiently plain to suit my purpose as it stands"

It is important to remember that Joseph did not consider one 'translation' of anything to be perfect or 'the final word.' Joseph had indicated that Moroni quoted Malachi to him using different wording than the KJV (See Joseph Smith History 1:36–39). However, when Joseph quoted the same passage years later in a discussion about vicarious baptism for the dead, he said:

I might have rendered a plainer translation to this, but it is sufficiently plain to suit my purpose as it stands. It is sufficient to know, in this case, that the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children, upon some subject or other-and behold what is that subject? It is the baptism. for the dead (DC 128:18). (emphasis added)

Thus, to Joseph, the adequacy of a translation depended upon the uses to which a given text will be employed. For one discussion, the KJV was adequate; for others, not. A key element of LDS theology is that living prophets are the primary instrument through which God continues to give knowledge and understanding to his children. Scriptures are neither inerrant, nor somehow "perfect," but are instead produced by fallible mortals. Despite this, because of current prophets and the revelation granted each individual, the writings of past prophets are sufficient to teach the principles essential for salvation. Additional revelation is sought and received as required.

Modern readers are accustomed to thinking of a 'translation' as only the conversion of text in one language to another. But, Joseph used the term in a broader and more inclusive sense, which included explanation, commentary, and harmonization. The JST is probably best understood in this light.

An Example: The Lord's Prayer

There is a great example of this kind of difference in the Lord's prayer. Compare the following:

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (Book of Mormon).
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (KJV Bible).
And suffer us not to be led into temptation, but deliver us from evil (JST Bible).

The JST changes the statement to passive voice whereas the KJV Bible and the Book of Mormon are in active voice. According to E. W. Bullinger, this particular scripture contains a Hebraism, namely, "active verbs were used by the Hebrews to express not the doing of the thing, but the permission of the thing which the agent is said do." Consequently, Bullinger interprets the passage this way: "Lead us not (i.e., suffer us not to be led) into temptation."[77]

Adam Clarke agrees with Bullinger. He wrote this scripture means "'Bring not in,' or 'lead us not into.' (This is a mere Hebraism. God is said to do a thing which He only permits or suffers to be done)."[78]

In Barnes' Notes on the New Testament we read the same interpretation. "This phrase then must be used in the sense of permitting. Do not suffer us or permit us, to be tempted to sin. In this it is implied that God 'has such control over us and the tempter, as to save us from it if we call on him."[79]

When properly considered, this passage is an example of where the JST reading and the KJV/Book of Mormon are both correct. The KJV and Book of Mormon are literal interpretations while the JST is an interpretive translation that is also correct. Given Joseph's relative inexperience in prophetic interpretation in 1829, he would be far more likely to render a verse literally than engage in interpretation.



Response to claim: 12 - Joseph is said to have evolved his concept of the Father and Son

The author(s) of An Insider's View of Mormon Origins make(s) the following claim:

Joseph is said to have evolved his concept of the Father and Son.

Author's sources:
  1. No source provided.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The theory put forth by critics is that Joseph altered the Book of Mormon to match his changing view of the Godhead. However, it is simply illogical to conclude that Joseph Smith changed only the four passages in 1 Nephi to conform to his supposed changing theological beliefs, but somehow forgot to change all the others.


Question: Did Joseph Smith begin his prophetic career with a "trinitarian" idea of God?

Joseph and the early Saints were not trinitarian, and understood God's embodiment and the identity of the Father and Son as separate beings very early on

This doctrine is apparent in the Book of Mormon, and in the earliest friendly and non-friendly accounts of such matters from the Saints.

Such texts demonstrate that the supposed 'evidence' for Joseph altering his story later is only in the eyes of critical beholders. For example, Joseph's 1832 First Vision account focuses on the remission of his sins. However, critics who wish to claim that in 1832 Joseph had only a vaguely "trinitarian" idea of God (and so would see the Father and the Son as only one being) have missed vital evidence which must be considered.[80]

Martin Harris remembered rejecting the ideas of creedal Trinitarianism prior to meeting Joseph

Martin dictated an account of his early spiritual search:

"52 years ago I was Inspired of the Lord & Tought of the Spirit that I should not Join Eny Church although I Was anxiousley Sought for by meny of the Secatirans[.] I Was taught I could not Walk togther unless agreed[.] What can you not be agreed in [is] in the Trinity because I can not find it in my Bible[.] find it for me & I am Ready to Receive it. 3 Persons in one god[.] one Personage I can not concede for this is Antichrist for Where is the Father & Son[?] I have more proof to Prove 9 Persons in the Trinity then you have 3[.]...other sects the Epicopalians also tired me[.] they say 3 Persons in one god Without Body Parts or Passions[.] I Told them such A god I would not be afraid of: I could not Please or offend him[.] [I] Would not be afraid to fight A Duel With such A god.[81]

It would be very strange for Martin to feel so strongly on this point, only to embrace Joseph's teachings if Joseph taught creedal trinitarianism.

1829 - The Book of Mormon

Christ Descends from Heavens

The Book of Mormon also begins (1 Nephi 1:8-10) with Lehi's vision of God on his throne. One [Christ] followed by twelve others descends from God to speak with Lehi--thus, Jesus and the Father are here both separate, and the role of Christ in giving instructions to the prophet while the Father looks on and approves is followed, just as it was in Joseph's First Vision. Here too, Lehi is described as praying to "the Lord," and yet has a vision of both God the Father and Christ.

Resurrection is Permanent Through Christ

Alma 11:45 makes clear that the resurrection is permanent and Mosiah 15:20 (along with several others) makes clear that the resurrection is brought about through Christ.

I and the Father are One to Three Nephites

In 3 Nephi 28:10 the Savior is speaking to the 3 Nephites. After declaring that they would never endure the pains of death he states:

“10 And for this cause ye shall have fullness of joy; and he shall sit down in the kingdom of my Father; yea, your joy shall be full, even as the Father hath given me fullness of joy; and ye shall be even as I am, and I am even as the Father; and the Father and I are one;”

Since the verse is juxtaposed closely with not tasting death and the Savior stating that they would be even as he and the Father are, this verse may be used to argue for an embodied Christ and God (and likely an early conceptualization of deification) in the Book of Mormon. Furthermore, the phrase “fullness of joy” is used in D&C 93:33 (a revelation dated to 1833) to describe element (or man’s tabernacle as v. 35 expresses) and spirit inseparably connected.

1830 - Book of Moses: "And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten"

Between June and October 1830, Joseph had dictated his revision (the "Joseph Smith Translation") to Genesis.[82] The first chapter of Moses was dictated in June 1830 (about a month after the Church's reorganization), and began:

2 And [Moses] saw God face to face, and he talked with him, and the glory of God was upon Moses; therefore Moses could endure his presence.

3 And God spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I am the Lord God Almighty, and Endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end of years; and is not this endless?

4 And, behold, thou art my son; wherefore look, and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands; but not all, for my works are without end, and also my words, for they never cease.

5 Wherefore, no man can behold all my works, except he behold all my glory; and no man can behold all my glory, and afterwards remain in the flesh on the earth.

6 And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth; but there is no God beside me, and all things are present with me, for I know them all (Moses 1:2-6)

Here already, God distinguishes himself from the Only Begotten, Moses sees and speaks with God face to face, and says that Moses was created "in the similitude of mine Only Begotten."

Joseph's rendered Genesis 1:26 as:

And I, God, said unto mine Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and it was so....And I, God, created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them. (Moses 2:26-27.)

There can be no doubt that Joseph understood "in mine own image" to refer to a physical likeness, rather than merely a moral or intellectual one. The JST of Genesis 5:1-2 reads

In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; in the image of his own body, male and female, created he them (Moses 6:8-9, emphasis added)

Thus, by 1830 Joseph was clearly teaching a separation of the Father and Son, and insisting that both had some type of physical form which could be copied in the creation of humanity.

Joseph's mother, Lucy Mack Smith, also noted that other Christian denominations took issue with the new Church because of its teachings about God, noting that in 1830:

the different denominations are very much opposed to us.... The Methodists also come, and they rage, for they worship a God without body or parts, and they know that our faith comes in contact with this principle.[83]

1831 - Joseph "saw the heavens opened, and the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Father"; D&C 50:43

Anti-Mormon writers in 1831 noted that Joseph claimed to have received "a commission from God"; and the Mormons claimed that Joseph "had seen God frequently and personally."[84] That Joseph's enemies knew he claimed to have "seen God," indicates that the doctrine of an embodied God that could be seen was well-known early on.

John Whitmer would also write in 1831 of a vision enjoyed by Joseph in which Joseph saw Christ as separate from the Father, for he "saw the heavens opened, and the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Father making intercession for his brethren, the Saints." (emphasis added) [85] Of this same experience, Levi Hancock wrote:

Joseph Smith then stepped out onto the floor and said, 'I now see God, and Jesus Christ at his right hand, let them kill me, I should not feel death as I am now.' (emphasis added) [86]

Doctrine and Covenants 50, a revelation given to Joseph Smith in May 1831, states in the 43rd verse that:

And the Father and I are one, I am in the Father and the Father in me; and inasmuch as ye have received me, ye are in me and I in you.

"This is interesting as, notwithstanding the verse being one that teaches the 'oneness' of the Father and the Son, it is not that of Modalism [nor the forms of Trinitarianism referred to by critics when making this argument against Joseph Smith]; instead, it is the same as John 17:22-23—one of indwelling unity, not being the same person."[87]

1832 - In the 1832 account of the First Vision, Jesus announces to Joseph that he will come "clothed in the glory of my Father"

One should first note that in the 1832 account of the First Vision, Jesus announces to Joseph that he will come "clothed in the glory of my Father." The Book of Mormon (translated three years earlier in 1829) also contains numerous passages which teach a physical separation and embodiment (even if only in spirit bodies, which are clearly not immaterial, but have shape, position, and form) of the members of the Godhead. (See: 3 Nephi 11:, 1 Nephi 11:1-11, Ether 3:14-18.)

Furthermore, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were to receive a revelation of the three degrees of glory in the same year as Joseph's 1832 account was written; it clearly teaches a physical separation of the Father and Son, bearing witness of seeing both. (See D&C 76:14,20–24.)[88]

1832–1833 - "Joseph answered that this was Jesus, the Son of God, our elder brother"

Two of Joseph's close associates reported their own visions of God in the winter of 1832–1833. Both are decidedly not in the trinitarian mold.

Zebedee Coltrin:

Joseph having given instructions, and while engaged in silent prayer, kneeling...a personage walked through the room from East to west, and Joseph asked if we saw him. I saw him and suppose the others did, and Joseph answered that this was Jesus, the Son of God, our elder brother. Afterward Joseph told us to resume our former position in prayer, which we did. Another person came through; He was surrounded as with a flame of fire. [I] experienced a sensation that it might destroy the tabernacle as it was of consuming fire of great brightness. The Prophet Joseph said this was the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. I saw him....

He was surrounded as with a flame of fire, which was so brilliant that I could not discover anything else but his person. I saw his hands, his legs, his feet, his eyes, nose, mouth, head and body in the shape and form of a perfect man. He sat in a chair as a man would sit in a chair, but This appearance was so grand and overwhelming that it seemed that I should melt down in His presence, and the sensation was so powerful that it thrilled through my whole system and I felt it in the marrow of my bones. The Prophet Joseph said: "Brethren, now you are prepared to be the apostles of Jesus Christ, for you have seen both the Father and the Son and know that They exist and that They are two separate personages.[89]

John Murdock:

During the winter that I boarded with[Bro[ther] Joseph... we had a number of prayer meetings, in the Prophet’s chamber.... In one of those meetings the Prophet told us if we could humble ourselves before God, and exersise [sic] strong faith, we should see the face of the Lord. And about midday the visions of my mind were opened, and the eyes of my understanding were enlightened, and I saw the form of a man, most lovely, the visage of his face was sound and fair as the sun. His hair a bright silver grey, curled in a most majestic form, His eyes a keen penetrating blue, and the skin of his neck a most beautiful white and he was covered from the neck to the feet with a loose garment, pure white, whiter than any garment I had ever before seen. His countenance was the most penetrating, and yet most lovely. And while I was endeavoring to comprehend the whole personage from head to feet it slipped from me, and the vision was closed up. But it left on my mind the impression of love, for months, that I never felt before to that degree.[90]

1834–1835 - Lectures on Faith: "There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing, and supreme power over all things"

In the School of the Prophets, the brethren were taught that

"There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing, and supreme power over all things, by whom all things were created and made, that are created and made. . . . They are the Father and the Son--the Father being a personage of spirit, glory, and power, possessing all perfection and fulness, the Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle. (Lecture 5:1–2)

Here, the separateness of the Father and Son continues to be made clear.

1836 - "They believe that the true God is a material being, composed of body and parts"

A skeptical news article noted:

They believe that the true God is a material being, composed of body and parts; and that when the Creator formed Adam in his own image, he made him about the size and shape of God himself....[91]

Evidence that is absent

In addition to all the non-trinitarian evidence above, as Milton Backman has noted, there is a great deal of evidence that we should find, but don't. For example, no one has "located a publication (such as an article appearing in a church periodical or statement from a missionary pamphlet) written by an active Latter-day Saint prior to the martyrdom of the Prophet that defends the traditional or popular creedal concept of the Trinity. . . ." Moreover, there are no references in critical writings of the 1830s (including statements by apostates) that Joseph Smith introduced in the mid-thirties the doctrine of separateness of the Father and Son.[92]


Response to claim: 12 - The hieroglyphics next to facsimile 1 state that Hor is the deceased man lying on the altar

The author(s) of An Insider's View of Mormon Origins make(s) the following claim:

The hieroglyphics next to facsimile 1 state that Hor is the deceased man lying on the altar.

Author's sources:

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

It is correct that the scroll refers to Hor, however, the figure on the "lion couch" (not altar) in Facsimile 1 is not "deceased." The fact that the figure is clothed, is wearing anklets and has his arms and legs upraised indicates that he is alive. Lion couch scenes such as this one typically depict a resurrection of the deceased.


Question: What does the lion couch scene in Book of Abraham Facsimile 1 normally represent?

The lion couch vignette usually represents the embalming of the deceased individual in preparation for burial

Photograph of Facsimile 1 from the recovered Joseph Smith Papyri

The papyrus with the illustration represented in Facsimile 1 (view) is the only recovered item that has any connection to the text of the Book of Abraham.

This vignette is called a "lion couch scene" by Egyptologists. It usually represents the embalming of the deceased individual in preparation for burial. However, this particular lion couch scene represents the resurrection of Hor (figure 2), aided by the Egyptian god Anubis (3).[93]

Abraham 1:12 and the notes to Facsimile 1 identify it as representing Abraham being sacrificed by the priest of Elkenah in Ur.


Question: Is Joseph Smith papyri Facsimile 1 common and similar to other such scenes?

Joseph Smith papyri Facsimile 1 has a number of unique features that are not present in other lion couch scenes

Although many similar lion couch scenes exist, this one has quite a few unique features:

  • No other lion couch scene shows the figure on the couch (Osiris) with both hands raised. (There is a dispute regarding whether or not two hands are represented. See below)
  • No other lion couch scenes show the figure lying on the couch clothed in the manner shown in Facsimile 1. In most other lion couch scenes, the reclining figure is either completely nude or fully wrapped like a mummy. There is one known scene in which the figure is wearing a loin cloth. None to date show the type of clothing being worn by the figure in Facsimile 1.
  • No other lion couch scenes to date have shown the reclining figure wearing anklets or foot coverings.
  • No other lion couch scenes show a crocodile beneath the couch.
  • The original of Facsimile 1 shows the couch behind the priest's legs, and the reclining figure's legs are shown in front of the priest's. The figure was transferred on to the woodcut prior to publication in the Times and Seasons. The wood cut attempted to correct this odd perspective by placing the legs of the priest behind the lion couch.
  • No other such scenes have hatched lines such as those designated as "Expanse" or "Firmament" in Facsimile 1.
  • No other such scenes are known to have the twelve gates or pillars of heaven or anything like them.
  • No other such scenes show a lotus and an offering table. These items are common in other Egyptian scenes, but do not appear in the lion couch scene.

Therefore, we do not agree that it is the "same funeral scene." Facsimile 1 actually depicts the resurrection of Osiris. The figure on the couch is alive. The figures to which it is compared all show the preparation of a mummy.

Mummy.fac.1.comparison.jpg
Photograph of "lion couch" carving displayed at the Louvre in Paris. Note that there is only a single bird shown. (click to enlarge)


Response to claim: 12 - Joseph is claimed to have used this papyrus as his source for Abraham 1 through 2:18

The author(s) of An Insider's View of Mormon Origins make(s) the following claim:

Joseph is claimed to have used this papyrus as his source for Abraham 1 through 2:18.

Author's sources:
  1. Klaus Baer, "The Breathing Permit of Hor: A Translation of the Apparent Source of the Book of Abraham," Dialogue 3 (Automn 1968): 109-34.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The author is assuming that Joseph "used this papyrus as his source for Abraham 1 through 2:18," however, the only relationship between the papyri and the Book of Abraham is Facsimile 1. The source of the idea that Joseph used the papyri as source material for the Book of Abraham typical comes from the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, which match some of the characters in the papyri to entire paragraphs of text from the Book of Abraham. However, the KEP appears to have been created after the Book of Abraham was produced as a way to "reverse engineer" the Egyptian language.


Gospel Topics on LDS.org: "Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham"

"Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham," Gospel Topics on LDS.org:

The discovery of the papyrus fragments renewed debate about Joseph Smith’s translation. The fragments included one vignette, or illustration, that appears in the book of Abraham as facsimile 1. Long before the fragments were published by the Church, some Egyptologists had said that Joseph Smith’s explanations of the various elements of these facsimiles did not match their own interpretations of these drawings. Joseph Smith had published the facsimiles as freestanding drawings, cut off from the hieroglyphs or hieratic characters that originally surrounded the vignettes. The discovery of the fragments meant that readers could now see the hieroglyphs and characters immediately surrounding the vignette that became facsimile 1.

None of the characters on the papyrus fragments mentioned Abraham’s name or any of the events recorded in the book of Abraham. Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham, though there is not unanimity, even among non-Mormon scholars, about the proper interpretation of the vignettes on these fragments.[94]—(Click here to continue)


Question: What is the relationship of the Joseph Smith Papyri to the Book of Abraham?

Pearl of Great Price Central, Insight #37: What Egyptian Papyri Did Joseph Smith Posess?

In July 1835, Joseph Smith purchased a portion of a collection of papyri and mummies that had been discovered in Egypt and brought to the United States

Believing that one of the papyrus rolls contained, "the writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt," and "purportedly written by his own hand, upon papyrus,"[95] Joseph commenced a translation. The Book of Abraham was the result of his work.

The translated text and facsimiles of three drawings were published in the early 1840s in serial fashion in the LDS newspaper Times and Seasons. The entire work was published in 1852 in England as part of The Pearl of Great Price, which was later canonized as part of LDS scripture.

Joseph Smith had in his possession three or four long scrolls, plus a hypocephalus (Facsimile 2). Of these original materials, only a handful of fragments were recovered at the Metropolitan Museum. The majority of the papyri remains lost, and has likely been destroyed. Critics who claim that we have all, or a majority, of the papyri possessed by Joseph Smith are simply mistaken.

Other than the vignette represented in Facsimile 1, the material on the papyri does not include the actual text of the Book of Abraham

The Egyptian characters on the recovered documents are a portion of the "Book of Breathings," an Egyptian religious text buried with mummies that instructed the dead on how to successfully reach the afterlife. This particular Book of Breathings was written for a deceased man named Hor, so it it usually called the Hor Book of Breathings.

Other than the vignette represented in Facsimile 1, the material on the papyri received by the Church, at least from a standard Egyptological point of view, does not include the actual text of the Book of Abraham. This was discussed in the Church publication, the New Era in January 1968.


Gospel Topics on LDS.org: "Some evidence suggests that Joseph studied the characters on the Egyptian papyri and attempted to learn the Egyptian language"

"Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham," Gospel Topics on LDS.org

Some evidence suggests that Joseph studied the characters on the Egyptian papyri and attempted to learn the Egyptian language. His history reports that, in July 1835, he was “continually engaged in translating an alphabet to the Book of Abraham, and arranging a grammar of the Egyptian language as practiced by the ancients.” This “grammar,” as it was called, consisted of columns of hieroglyphic characters followed by English translations recorded in a large notebook by Joseph’s scribe, William W. Phelps. Another manuscript, written by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, has Egyptian characters followed by explanations. [96] —(Click here to continue)


Question: What are the Kirtland Egyptian Papers?

Pearl of Great Price Central, Insight #38: The "Kirtland Egyptian Papers" and the Book of Abraham

The Kirtland Egyptian Papers (KEP) are a collection of documents written by various individuals constituting some sort of study documents relating to the Joseph Smith Papyri

The Kirtland Egyptian Papers (KEP) are a collection of documents written by various individuals, mostly dating to the Kirtland period of Church history (early- to mid-1830s), constituting some sort of study documents relating to the Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyri.

The KEP comprise 16 documents encompassing a total of about 120 pages. They are typically divided into two categories:

  • so-called Egyptian alphabet and grammar documents (KEPE), and
  • Book of Abraham manuscript documents (KEPA).

The following table[97] gives a basic description of the KEP:

Number Date Size Handwriting Title and Contents
KEPE 1 1836 (?) 1 volume, 31x20 cm W.W. Phelps & Warren Parrish "Grammar & aphabet [sic] of the Egyptian language"
KEPE 2 1836 (?) 2 leaves, 33x20 cm W.W. Phelps "Egyptian counting"
KEPE 3 1 October 1835 (?) 4 leaves, 32x20 cm W.W. Phelps "Egyptian alphabet"
KEPE 4 1 October 1835 (?) 9 leaves, 32x20 cm Joseph Smith & Oliver Cowdery "Egyptian alphabet"
KEPE 5 1 October 1835 (?) 4 leaves, various sizes Oliver Cowdery [title lost, "Egyptian alphabet" (?)]
KEPE 6 26 Nov. 1835 (?) 1 volume, 20x13 cm Oliver Cowdery "Valuable discovery of hiden [sic] records"
KEPE 7 1837 (?) 1 volume, 20x16 cm Oliver Cowdery "F.G.W." and "William"
KEPE 8 26 Nov. 1835 (?) 1 leaf, 32x40 cm ? [no title]
KEPE 9 26 Nov. 1835 (?) 1 leaf, 39x19 cm ? [no title]
KEPE 10 Mounted Feb. 1836 (?) 1 leaf, 33x20 cm [no title] = Joseph Smith Papyrus (JSP) IX
KEPA 1 1836 (?) 10 leaves, 32x20 cm W.W. Phelps & Warren Parrish [no title] Abraham 1:1–2:18
KEPA 2 1836 (?) 4 leaves, 33x19 cm Frederick G. Williams[98]} [no title] Abraham 1:4–2:6
KEPA 3 1836 (?) 6 leaves, 32x19 cm Warren Parrish [no title] Abraham 1:4–2:2
KEPA 4 Feb. 1842 (?) 18 leaves, 29x20 cm Willard Richards [no title] Abraham 1:1–3:26 (pages containing 2:19 - 3:17 missing)
KEPA 5 March 1842 (?) 4 leaves, various sizes Willard Richards [no title] Facsimile 2
KEPA 6 1842 Broadside 32x19 cm [back has a letter to Clyde Williams & Co., signed by Joseph Smith and W.W. Phelps]

The most extensive of these documents is KEPE 1, which is an intact bound book, containing 34 nonconsecutive pages of writing and 186 blank pages (an average of three written pages being followed by 18 to 20 blank pages).

A more extensive and more detailed summary of the KEP and their relation to the Book of Abraham was done by Pearl of Great Price Central and may be found at the link above.


Response to claim: 13 - Near facsimile 3, Hor's name appears at the top and bottom

The author(s) of An Insider's View of Mormon Origins make(s) the following claim:

Near facsimile 3, Hor's name appears at the top and bottom.

Author's sources:

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

This is correct.


Question: What are the criticisms related to Facsimile 3?

The following are common criticisms associated with Facsimile 3

  • The scene depicted is a known Egyptian vignette which Egyptologists state has nothing to do with Abraham.
  • Joseph indicated that specific characters in the facsimile confirmed the identities that he assigned to specific figures.
  • Joseph identified two obviously female figures as "King Pharaoh" and "Prince of Pharaoh."

The majority of those who bring forth these issues are not experts on Egyptian writing or art, so you must choose which expert you want to believe

Like almost all of us, the majority of those who bring forth these issues are not experts on Egyptian writing or art. So, this presents an interesting problem--if we are going to take an "academic" or "intellectual" approach to the problem, both believers and critics must all decide to trust an expert. The problem that we immediately encounter is that there are multiple "experts," and these experts do not all agree. Therefore, we are left to decide which "expert" we will trust. There are Latter-day Saint experts who believe the Book of Abraham is a genuine artifact and that it testifies to Joseph Smith' status as a prophet. Non-Latter-day Saint experts obviously aren't going to openly agree with that (Though they may do so indirectly, which is what faithful experts cite in their work).

Latter-day Saints, as believers unequipped to deal with Egyptology, are not able to really assess that information for ourselves. We would need 15-20 years of schooling to do it. So, we can either trust our spiritual future to the experts of our choice, or we can rely ultimately upon revelation.

Critics' claim that Facsimile #3 alone is enough to settle the question of whether or not Joseph Smith was a prophet. This is very convenient for them, because it allows one to focus only on one (very complex) issue that only a few people have the tools to understand. It is, in a sense, to put the critic in an "unassailable position." The critics has made his or her choice, and does not want to debate it or be told he or she is wrong, or return to the question.

And, what the critic might consider a "slam dunk" or "vital point," might (from a believer's or some Egyptologist's point of view) really not be so conclusive OR so vital.


Question: What is the correct interpretation of Facsimile 3?

Rhodes: "It represents the judgment of the dead before the throne of Osiris"

According to Michael D. Rhodes in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism,

Facsimile 3 presents a constantly recurring scene in Egyptian literature, best known from the 125th chapter of the Book of the Dead. It represents the judgment of the dead before the throne of Osiris. It is likely that it came at the end of the Book of Breathings text, of which Facsimile 1 formed the beginning, since other examples contain vignettes similar to this. Moreover, the name of Hor, owner of the papyrus, appears in the hieroglyphs at the bottom of this facsimile.

Joseph Smith explained that Facsimile 3 represents Abraham sitting on the pharaoh's throne teaching principles of astronomy to the Egyptian court. Critics have pointed out that the second figure, which Joseph Smith says is the king, is the goddess Hathor (or Isis). There are, however, examples in other papyri, not in the possession of Joseph Smith, in which the pharaoh is portrayed as Hathor. In fact, the whole scene is typical of Egyptian ritual drama in which costumed actors played the parts of various gods and goddesses.

In summary, Facsimile 1 formed the beginning, and Facsimile 3 the end of a document known as the Book of Breathings, an Egyptian religious text dated paleographically to the time of Jesus. Facsimile 2, the hypocephalus, is also a late Egyptian religious text. The association of these facsimiles with the book of Abraham might be explained as Joseph Smith's attempt to find illustrations from the papyri he owned that most closely matched what he had received in revelation when translating the Book of Abraham. Moreover, the Prophet's explanations of each of the facsimiles accord with present understanding of Egyptian religious practices. [99]

Gee and Hauglid: "most Books of Breathings Made by Isis show a man with his hands raised in adoration to a cow"

However, BYU Egyptologist John Gee challenges the notion that Facsimile 3 is associated with Book of the Dead 125,

[B]oth Facsimile 1 and Facsimile 3 are assumed to belong to the Book of Breathings Made by Isis because they accompanied the text in the Joseph Smith Papyri. Yet the contemporary parallel texts of the Book of Breathings Made by Isis belonging to members of the same family have different vignettes associated with them. Instead of a scene like Facsimile 3, most Books of Breathings Made by Isis show a man with his hands raised in adoration to a cow. This indicates that the facsimiles of the Book of Abraham do not belong to the Book of Breathings. [100]


Question: What have been the responses to Joseph's interpretations of Facsimile 3?

The identification of these obvious female figures as male does suggest that Joseph was using the existing image to illustrate a concept

Figure 2, identified by Joseph as "King Pharaoh" and figure 4, identified by Joseph as "Prince of Pharaoh" are obviously drawn as female figures. The fact that they are drawn as females is so obvious, in fact, that critics take this as evidence of Joseph's lack of ability to interpret the facsimiles in any fashion whatsoever. Since the figures would obviously have appeared as females even to Joseph's eye, why then are they interpreted as two of the primary male figures?

Regarding the identification of these figures, John Gee notes,

Facsimile 3 has received the least attention. The principal complaint raised by the critics has been regarding the female attire worn by figures 2 and 4, who are identified as male royalty. It has been documented, however, that on certain occasions, for certain ritual purposes, some Egyptian men dressed up as women. [101]

The identification of these obvious female figures as male does suggest that Joseph was using the existing image to illustrate a concept.

Ritner: "Smith’s hopeless translation also turns the goddess Maat into a male prince"

Robert K. Ritner, Professor of Egyptology at the University of Chicago, states that "Smith’s hopeless translation also turns the goddess Maat into a male prince, the papyrus owner into a waiter, and the black jackal Anubis into a Negro slave."[102]

Larry E. Morris notes the following in response to criticism leveled by Professor Ritner at the Book of Abraham,

Furthermore, Ritner does not inform his readers that certain elements of the Book of Abraham also appear in ancient or medieval texts. Take, for example, Facsimile 3, which depicts, as Ritner puts it, "enthroned Abraham lecturing the male Pharaoh (actually enthroned Osiris with the female Isis)." [103] In what Ritner describes as nonsense, Joseph Smith claimed that Abraham is "sitting upon Pharoah's throne . . . reasoning upon the principles of Astronomy" (Facsimile 3, explanation).

Clearly, Joseph Smith's interpretation did not come from Genesis (where there is no discussion of Abraham doing such a thing). From Ritner's point of view, therefore, this must qualify as one of Joseph's "uninspired fantasies." But going a layer deeper reveals interesting complexities. A number of ancient texts, for example, state that Abraham taught astronomy to the Egyptians. Citing the Jewish writer Artapanus (who lived prior to the first century BC), a fourth-century bishop of Caesarea, Eusebius, states: "They were called Hebrews after Abraham. [Artapanus] says that the latter came to Egypt with all his household to the Egyptian king Pharethothes, and taught him astrology, that he remained there twenty years and then departed again for the regions of Syria."22

As for Abraham sitting on a king's throne—another detail not mentioned in Genesis—note this example from Qisas al-Anbiya' (Stories of the Prophets), an Islamic text compiled in AD 1310: "The chamberlain brought Abraham to the king. The king looked at Abraham; he was good looking and handsome. The king honoured Abraham and seated him at his side."23 [104]

Morris "Ritner may counter that such parallels do not establish the authenticity of the Book of Abraham. That is true, but certainly they deserve some mention"

Morris concludes,

Ritner may counter that such parallels do not establish the authenticity of the Book of Abraham. That is true, but certainly they deserve some mention. At the very least, these parallels show that "all of this nonsense" is not really an appropriate description of Joseph Smith's interpretation. Fairness demands that Ritner, in his dismissal of the content of the Book of Abraham, at least mention similarities between it and other texts about Abraham and point readers to other sources of information. [105]

Facsimile 3
Fig. 1. Abraham sitting upon Pharaoh’s throne, by the politeness of the king, with a crown upon his head, representing the Priesthood, as emblematical of the grand Presidency in Heaven; with the scepter of justice and judgment in his hand.
Fig. 2. King Pharaoh, whose name is given in the characters above his head.
Fig. 3. Signifies Abraham in Egypt as given also in Figure 10 of Facsimile No. 1.
Fig. 4. Prince of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, as written above the hand.
Fig. 5. Shulem, one of the king’s principal waiters, as represented by the characters above his hand.
Fig. 6. Olimlah, a slave belonging to the prince.
Abraham is reasoning upon the principles of Astronomy, in the king’s court.


Question: Are there any known parallels between elements of Joseph's interpretation of Facsimile 3 with other ancient texts?

Abraham sitting upon Pharaoh’s throne (Fig 1)

Pearl of Great Price Central, Insight #35: Abraham and Osiris

See above for ancient traditions discussing this aspect of Abraham. Also, see above under Facsimile 1 for evidences of Semitic adaptation of Osiris to be Abraham.

Hugh Nibley:

But who would sit on Pharaoh’s own throne while he was alive and standing by? “No Pharaoh of Egypt,” cried one of Joseph Smith’s learned critics, “would have resigned his throne, even temporarily, to Abraham or any other person—hence . . . this would be an ‘impossible occurrence.'”[106] But it has since been shown that there was ample precedent in Egypt for just such an event. It goes back to the very ancient title of “Rpʿt on the Throne of Geb,” Geb the earth-god representing the principle of royal patriarchal succession here below. As Helck has unraveled it, we may begin with the Sed festival, marking the end of one reign and the beginning of another in a single rite: The old king is dead on the scene—it is his funeral—but his successor has not yet ascended the throne, which is therefore still his. Because of his condition, however, somebody must act for the late king until the new one takes over, and that one is the Rpʿt, originally the son himself “in his expectation of the throne,” in his role of Horus and therefore “like his father a descendant of Geb.”[107] Following the example of the Sed rites, the prince could represent his father on various missions, bearing the title “for specific assignments as substitute (Stellvertreter) for the king, authorized to give commands” in his name, and called the Son of Geb to proclaim his legitimate station.[108] With the growing business of the empire the king would need more substitutes than one, and at a very early time important court officials not of royal blood were detailed to represent royalty on various missions and given the title in a “truly patriarchal” spirit to show they were acting for the king and as the king.[109] The great Imhotep, a man of genius but for all that a commoner, held the title of Rpʿt on the Throne of Geb in the Third Dynasty;[110] that other wise man, Amenophis son of Hapu, boasts that he played “rpʿt in the drama of the Sed festival,”[111] even as the official Ikhernofret had the honor of being the king’s understudy in playing the role of Horus.[112]

With a crown upon his head, representing the Priesthood, as emblematical of the grand Presidency in Heaven; with the scepter of justice and judgement in his hand. (Fig 1)

See above for ancient traditions discussing Abraham holding the priesthood.

Hugh Nibley:

In most compositions resembling Facsimile 3, the seated majesty wears the same crown as is worn by figure 1. Sometimes the person on the throne and the one being presented to him both wear it.[113] Both the whiteness and the feathers are symbolic of the heavenly light that burst upon the world at the coronation,[114] the “luminous” quality of the one who mounts the throne.[115] The two feathers are both the well-known Maat feathers, “feathers of truth,” and Shu feathers, symbolic of the light that passes between the worlds.[116]Osiris “causes brilliance to stream forth through the two feathers,” says the famous Amon-Mose hymn, “like the Sun’s disk every morning. His White Crown parted the heavens and joined the sisterhood of the stars. He is the leader of the gods . . . who commands the Great Council [in heaven], and whom the Lesser Council loves.”[117] What clearer description could one ask than Joseph Smith’s designation of the crown “as emblematical of the grand Presidency in heaven”? He tells us also that this crown is “representing the priesthood.” The “most conspicuous attribute” of the godhead, according to Jaroslav Černý, was power;[118]the Egyptians, wrote Georges Posener, “did not worship a man” in the Pharaoh, “but ‘the power clothed in human form.'”[119] One shared in the power, Siegfried Morenz explains, by achieving “the maximal approach of the individual to the ‘divine nature,’ symbolized by his wearing an atef crown.”[120]The atef is the crown in our Facsimile 3, and anyone in a state of sanctification could wear it, but it emphasized, according to Morenz, a sacral rather than a kingly capacity, i.e., it “represented the priesthood” of the wearer.[121]


With the crown go the crook and flail, the receiving of which was a necessary part of the transmission of divine authority. Percy E. Newberry, in a special study, concluded that both crook and flail are “connected with the shepherd,” the former “the outward and visible sign of . . . authority,” marking the one who bore it as “chief shepherd”; by it “he rules and guides . . . and defends” his flock.[122] The flail was a contraption shepherds used to gather laudanum, according to Newberry’s explanation (which, however, has met with no enthusiastic acceptance by other scholars). Ancient sources tell us what it signified, as when the official who bears it at the archaic festival of Sokar is described as “drawing the people of Tameri [the Beloved Land, Egypt] to your lord under the flail,” suggesting the cattle driver, as does the prodding and protecting crook of the shepherd.[123] And like the crook, the whip also serves to protect the flocks: “Men and animals and gods praise thy power that created them,” says Anchesneferibre addressing Osiris, “there is made for thee a flail [nkhakha], placed in thy hands as protection.”[124] As symbolic of the power that created, it is held aloft by the prehistoric Min of Coptos, being the whip of light or of power, bestirring all things to life and action.[125]

In their administrative and disciplinary capacities both crook and scourge are indeed symbolic of Pharaoh’s “justice and judgment.” But in the hands of a commoner? Wolfhart Westendorf calls attention to “claims to royal prerogatives” found in the “tombs of the monarchs and dignitaries, who took over the whip, crook, scepter, and other elements of the king’s garb, in order to be completely equipped in death with all the attributes of Osiris.”[126] Gardiner claimed that those who appear in the trappings of our figure 1 were imitating not Osiris but the living king.[127] But it is all the same: The man on the throne holding “the sceptre of justice and judgment in his hand” is not necessarily either the king or Osiris, though he aspires to both priesthood and kingship. A scene from the Temple of Karnak shows Amon on the throne handing his crook and whip to the living king, who kneels before him; but the king already holds his own crook and flail (fig. 76), while Chonsu standing behind the throne in the garb of Osiris also holds the crook and flail.[128] The freedom with which the sacred symbols could be thus handed around shows that Abraham would not have to grasp Pharaoh’s own personal badges of office, but like many another merely be represented with the universal emblems to indicate the king recognized his supreme priesthood, as the Abraham legends recount.[129][130]

King Pharaoh... (Fig 2) Prince of Pharaoh, King of Egypt... (Fig 4)

Pearl of Great Price Central, Insight #36: Isis the Pharaoh (Facsimile 3, Figure 2)

Hugh Nibley:

Anyone wishing to demolish Joseph Smith’s interpretation of Facsimile 3 with the greatest economy of effort need look no further than his designating as “King Pharaoh” and “Prince of Pharaoh” two figures so obviously female that a three-year-old child will not hesitate to identify them as such. Why then have Egyptologists not simply pointed to this ultimate absurdity and dismissed the case? Can it be that there is something peculiarly Egyptian about this strange waywardness that represents human beings as gods and men as women? We have already hinted at such a possibility in the case of Imhotep in which, to carry things further, we see both his wife and mother dressed up as goddesses, the latter as Hathor herself (fig. 70).[131] Even more surprising, Dietrich Wildung notes an instance in which “we can identify Anat [the Canaanites’ version of Hathor] as ʾAnat of Ramses [the king] himself in the shape of a goddess” (fig. 71).[132] There you have it—the Lady Hathor, who is figure 2 in Facsimile 3, may be none other than Pharaoh himself. The two ladies in the Facsimile, figures 2 and 4, will be readily identified by any novice as the goddesses Hathor and Maat. They seem indispensable to scenes having to do with the transmission of power and authority. The spectacle of men, kings, and princes at that, dressed as women, calls for a brief notice on the fundamental issue peculiar to the Egyptians and the Book of Abraham, namely, the tension between the claims of patriarchal vs. matriarchal succession.


[. . .]

Since Hathor installs the king “as guarantor of the world order,” it is not surprising that she is also identified with Maat (our figure 4 in Facsimile 3) at the coronation, hailed as “Hathor the Great, the Lady of Heaven, the Queen of the Gods and Goddesses, Maat herself, the female son [sic] . . . Maat who brings order to the world at the head of the Sun-bark, even ‘Isis the Great,’ the Mother of the Gods."[133] In the prehistoric shrine of Cusae “Maat was like the double [Ka] of Hathor”;[134] the two always operate together at coronations: “Maat is before him and is not far from his majesty. . . . Hathor the Great One is with him in his chapel.”[135]To signify his own wholeness of heart, the king presents the Maat-image to Hathor.[136] Maat (the female son) is the younger of the two—indeed, who is not younger than the primordial mother? While “Isis the divine mother” says at the coronation, “I place my son on the throne,” the younger goddess standing by as Nephthys “the Divine Sister” says, “I protect thy body my brother Osiris.”[137]Here the two ladies as Isis the venerable and Nephthys the maiden appear as mother and daughter,[138] standing in the same relationship to each other as “Pharaoh” and “Prince of Pharaoh,” whom they embody in Facsimile 3 (figures 2 and 4 respectively).

[. . .]

All this switching of sexes is understandable, if unsettling, in a symbolic sense—after all, Job says of the righteous man, “his breasts are full of milk” (Job 21:24). But Facsimile 3 is supposed to be an actual scene in the palace; would the family-night charades go so far? Granted that a bisexual nature was the rule for Egyptian divinities, who could freely change their outward appearance to match special functions,[139] still in a purportedly historical scene in which men are represented as women we need something more specific. To begin with, Hathor and Maat were always known for the masks that represent them, these masks being regularly worn by men. The horned Hathor mask, originally life-sized, was carried hanging around the neck of the officials and was gradually reduced in size for convenience, though even in the later period it is still quite large—plainly meant to be worn originally as a mask (fig. 73).[140] In the Old Kingdom, the son of Cheops wore the Hathor mask in his office of Intendant of the Palace, and other high officials wore it too; in the Middle Kingdom it was still the mark of men serving the king’s most intimate needs as his personal attendants.[141] The Egyptian chief judge, as he mounted the bench to represent the king, would suspend a large Hathor mask from his neck to signify that the court was formally in session, just as lawyers and judges in England submerge their personal identities in wigs and robes.[142] This Hathor mask seems to have been at all times interchangeable with the Maat-symbol, usually a huge greenstone feather that is sometimes shown in ritual scenes taking the place of the Lady’s face and head. The symbols are so freely applied that Budge identified the “cow-headed goddess” in the presentation scene of the Kerasher Papyrus, which is very closely related to our Facsimile 3, as “either Isis-Hathor or Maat” (fig. 74).[143]

The wearing of these two amulets or masks means complete identification: “Maat places herself as an amulet at thy neck [fig. 75A]; . . . thy right eye is Maat, thy left eye is Maat, thy flesh is Maat, . . . and thy members; . . . thy bandelette is Maat, thy garment . . . is Maat.”[144] The reference here is specifically to clothing; plainly the new king, the young one, is all dressed up as Maat—”she embodies him in her person in spite of sex.”[145] So let no one be shocked by figure 4. She is “the female Horus, the youthful, . . . Isis, the great, the mother of God, born in Dendera on the eve of the child in its cradle (the New Year).”[146] That is, she is not Pharaoh, but the “Prince of Pharaoh,” the new king. On the other hand, from a Pyramid Text it is clear that the king wore not only the horned headdress of the royal mother Hathor, but her complete outfit as well—combined with the Maat feathers: “His royal robe is upon him as Hathor, while his feather is a falcon’s feather,”[147] signifying both Horus (the falcon) and Maat as his “double.”[148]

Signifies Abraham in Egypt as given also in Figure 10 of Facsimile No. 1 (Figure 3)

Foreigners in Egypt, like Abraham was, are often represented by a Lotus Flower (sometimes referred to alternatively as a water lily), the figure depicted here, as argued by Dr. Hugh Nibley. Nibley cites Waltraud Guglielmi, a non-LDS Egyptologist, to support his assertion specifically referencing divine and human visitors in Egypt.

The lotus, perhaps the richest of all Egyptian symbols, can stand for the purest abstraction, as when it indicates nothing but a date in one tomb or a place in another.[149] In Facsimile 3 we are told that it points to two things, a man and a country, indicating the special guest-to-host relationship between them. Most of the time the lotus announces a party situation, adding brightness to the occasion; etiquette required guests to a formal party to bring a lotus offering to the host--hence the flower served as a token both of invitation and admission.[150] [E.A. Wallis Budge] observed how in the Kerasher Manuscript, in which the person being presented wears exactly the same peculiar lotus headdress as our Shulem (figure 5), "instead of the bullock-skin dripping with blood, which is generally seen suspended near the throne of the god, masses of lotus flowers are represented, giving a totally different aspect to the scene.[151] Yet, while the lotuses "seem to have figured prominently" in formal occasions, according to Aylward Blackman, we still do not understand the flower offerings, any more than we do the combination of lotus stands and small libation vessels such as our figure 3.[152] It would now seem that these tall and narrow Egyptian ritual stands originated in Canaan.[153]


[. . .]

The lotus is definitely a welcome to Egypt from the king to human and divine visitors; the divinity who received the token reciprocated by responding to the king "I give thee all the lands of thy majesty, the foreign lands to become they slaves. I give thee the birds, symbols of thine enemies."[154] In receiving a lotus, the king in return ritually receives the land itself, while the god in accepting a lotus from the king promises him in return the reverent obedience of his subjects.[155] "The flowers are mostly heraldic plants . . . associated with the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt," for in some the main purpose of the lotus rites is to "uphold the dominion of the King" as nourisher of the land.[156] Moreover, its significance is valid at every level of society, the lotus being a preeminent example of how mythological themes and religious symbolism were familiarly integrated into the everyday life of the Egyptians.[157]

[. . .]

The numerous studies of the Egyptian lotus design are remarkably devoid of conflict, since this is one case in which nobody insists on a single definitive interpretation. The points emphasized are (1) The abstract nature of the symbol, containing meanings that are far from obvious at first glance (2) the lotus as denoting high society, especially royal receptions, at which the presentation of a lotus to the host was obligatory [. . .]; to be remiss in lotus courtesy was an unpardonable blunder, for anyone who refuses the lotus is under a curse, (3) the lotus as the symbol of Lower Egypt, the Delta with all its patriotic and sentimental attachments ; (4) the lotus as Nefertem, the defender of the border; (5) the lotus as the king or rule, defender, and nourisher of the land; (6) the lotus as the support of the throne at the coronation. It is a token of welcome and invitation to the royal court and the land, proffered by the king himself as guardian of the border.[158]

Shulem, one of the king's principal waiters (Fig 5)

Pearl of Great Price Central, Insight #8: Shulem, One of the King’s Principal Waiters

Pearl of Great Price Central:

Figure 5 in Facsimile 3 of the Book of Abraham is identified as “Shulem, one of the king’s principal waiters.” We don’t know anything more about the man Shulem beyond this brief description as he does not appear in the text of the Book of Abraham. Presumably, if we had more of the story, we would know more about how he fit in the overall Abrahamic narrative.

However, there are some things we can say about Shulem and his title “the king’s principal waiter.”


Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, "Shulem, One of the King’s Principal Waiters"

John Gee,  Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, (2016)
Shulem is mentioned once in the Book of Abraham. All we are told about him is his name and title. Using onomastics, the study of names, and the study of titles, we can find out more about Shulem than would at first appear. The form of Shulem’s name is attested only at two times: the time period of Abraham and the time period of the Joseph Smith papyri. (Shulem thus constitutes a Book of Abraham bullseye.) If Joseph Smith had gotten the name from his environment, the name would have been Shillem.

Click here to view the complete article

Hugh Nibley:

But where does Abraham come in? What gives a "family-night" aspect to our Facsimile 3 is figure 5, who commands the center of the stage. Instead of his being Abraham or Pharaoh, as we might expect, he is simply "Shulem, one of the king's principal waiters." To the eye of common sense, all of Joseph Smith's interpretations are enigmatic; to illustrate his story best, the man on the throne should be Pharaoh, of course, and the man standing before him with upraised hand would obviously be Abraham teaching him about the stars, while figure 6 would necessarily be Abraham's servant (Eliezer was, according to tradition, a black man).[159]But if we consult the Egyptian parallels to this scene instead of our own wit and experience, we learn that the person normally standing in the position of 5 is the owner of the stele and is almost always some important servant in the palace, boasting in the biographical inscription of his glorious proximity to the king. Hall's collection of biographical stelae includes a Chief of Bowmen, Singer of Amon, Chief Builder, Scribe of the Temple, Chief Workman of Amon, Fan Bearer, King's Messenger, Guardian of the Treasury, Director of Works, King's Chief Charioteer, Standard Bearer, Pharaoh's Chief Boatman, Intendant of Pharaoh's Boat-crew, Warden of the Harim, the Queen's Chief Cook, Chief of Palace Security, etc.[160] All these men, by no means of royal blood, but familiars of the palace, have the honor of serving the king in intimate family situations and are seen coming before him to pay their respects at family gatherings. Some of them, like the King's Chief Charioteer, have good Syrian and Canaanite names, like our "Shulem"—how naturally he fits into the picture as "one of the King's principal waiters!" The fact that high serving posts that brought one into close personal contact with Pharaoh—the greatest blessing that life had to offer to an Egyptian—were held by men of alien (Canaanite) blood shows that the doors of opportunity at the court were open even to foreigners like Abraham and his descendants. But why "Shulem"? He plays no part in the story. His name never appears elsewhere; he simply pops up and then disappears. And yet he is the center of attention in Facsimile 3! That is just the point: These palace servants would in their biographical stelae glorify the moment of their greatest splendor for the edification of their posterity forever after. This would be one sure means of guaranteeing a preservation of Abraham's story in Egypt. We are told in the book of Jubilees that Joseph in Egypt remembered how his father Jacob used to read the words of Abraham to the family circle.[161]We also know that the Egyptians in their histories made fullest use of all sources available—especially the material on the autobiographical stelae served to enlighten and instruct posterity.[162] Facsimile 3 may well be a copy on papyrus of the funeral stele of one Shulem who memorialized an occasion when he was introduced to an illustrious fellow Canaanite in the palace. A "principal waiter" (wdpw) could be a very high official indeed, something like an Intendant of the Palace. Shulem is the useful transmitter and timely witness who confirms for us the story of Abraham at court.[163]

Abraham reasoning upon the principles of Astronomy, in the king's court (Bottom of explanations)

See above for ancient traditions discussing this. Important to remember is not only his knowledge of astronomy but his passing of the astronomy to the Egyptians and the type of astronomy being taught, tiered firmaments with earth at the center of the universe.


Question: What are the criticisms regarding Joseph's interpretation of specific textual elements of Facsimile 3?

Characters in the facsimile

Critics focus on three specific interpretations which reference an interpretation of characters in the facsimile. Joseph Smith provides the following identifications for three of the figures in the facsimile:

  • Fig. 2. King Pharaoh, whose name is given in the characters above his head.
  • Fig. 4. Prince of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, as written above the hand.
  • Fig. 5. Shulem, one of the king’s principal waiters, as represented by the characters above his hand.

What is notable in these particular identifications is that Joseph isn't simply assigning an identify to each figure, but is indicating that characters located near each figure confirm the assignments. Egyptologists note that the characters have an entirely different meaning.

The name Shulem

We do not know why Joseph assigned the name "Shulem" to figure #5. Hugh Nibley notes,

But where does Abraham come in? What gives a "family-night" aspect to our Facsimile 3 is figure 5, who commands the center of the stage. Instead of his being Abraham or Pharaoh, as we might expect, he is simply "Shulem, one of the king's principal waiters." To the eye of common sense, all of Joseph Smith's interpretations are enigmatic; to illustrate his story best, the man on the throne should be Pharaoh, of course, and the man standing before him with upraised hand would obviously be Abraham teaching him about the stars, while figure 6 would necessarily be Abraham's servant (Eliezer was, according to tradition, a black man).252 But if we consult the Egyptian parallels to this scene instead of our own wit and experience, we learn that the person normally standing in the position of 5 is the owner of the stele and is almost always some important servant in the palace, boasting in the biographical inscription of his glorious proximity to the king. Hall's collection of biographical stelae includes a Chief of Bowmen, Singer of Amon, Chief Builder, Scribe of the Temple, Chief Workman of Amon, Fan Bearer, King's Messenger, Guardian of the Treasury, Director of Works, King's Chief Charioteer, Standard Bearer, Pharaoh's Chief Boatman, Intendant of Pharaoh's Boat-crew, Warden of the Harim, the Queen's Chief Cook, Chief of Palace Security, etc.253 All these men, by no means of royal blood, but familiars of the palace, have the honor of serving the king in intimate family situations and are seen coming before him to pay their respects at family gatherings. Some of them, like the King's Chief Charioteer, have good Syrian and Canaanite names, like our "Shulem"—how naturally he fits into the picture as "one of the King's principal waiters!" The fact that high serving posts that brought one into close personal contact with Pharaoh—the greatest blessing that life had to offer to an Egyptian—were held by men of alien (Canaanite) blood shows that the doors of opportunity at the court were open even to foreigners like Abraham and his descendants.

But why "Shulem"? He plays no part in the story. His name never appears elsewhere; he simply pops up and then disappears. And yet he is the center of attention in Facsimile 3! That is just the point: These palace servants would in their biographical stelae glorify the moment of their greatest splendor for the edification of their posterity forever after. This would be one sure means of guaranteeing a preservation of Abraham's story in Egypt. We are told in the book of Jubilees that Joseph in Egypt remembered how his father Jacob used to read the words of Abraham to the family circle.254 We also know that the Egyptians in their histories made fullest use of all sources available—especially the material on the autobiographical stelae served to enlighten and instruct posterity.255 Facsimile 3 may well be a copy on papyrus of the funeral stele of one Shulem who memorialized an occasion when he was introduced to an illustrious fellow Canaanite in the palace. A "principal waiter" (wdpw) could be a very high official indeed, something like an Intendant of the Palace. Shulem is the useful transmitter and timely witness who confirms for us the story of Abraham at court. [164]


Response to claim: 17 - Joseph is claimed to have expanded Abraham's curse to include denial of priesthood ordination to blacks

The author(s) of An Insider's View of Mormon Origins make(s) the following claim:

Joseph is claimed to have expanded Abraham's curse to include denial of priesthood ordination to blacks.

Author's sources:

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

There is no evidence of this. In fact, Joseph ordained several black men to the priesthood.


Gospel Topics: "During the first two decades of the Church’s existence, a few black men were ordained to the priesthood"

"Race and the Priesthood," Gospel Topics on LDS.org (2013):

During the first two decades of the Church’s existence, a few black men were ordained to the priesthood. One of these men, Elijah Abel, also participated in temple ceremonies in Kirtland, Ohio, and was later baptized as proxy for deceased relatives in Nauvoo, Illinois. There is no evidence that any black men were denied the priesthood during Joseph Smith’s lifetime.

In 1852, President Brigham Young publicly announced that men of black African descent could no longer be ordained to the priesthood, though thereafter blacks continued to join the Church through baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Following the death of Brigham Young, subsequent Church presidents restricted blacks from receiving the temple endowment or being married in the temple. Over time, Church leaders and members advanced many theories to explain the priesthood and temple restrictions. None of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church.[165]


Question: What do we know about the origin of the priesthood ban on Church members of African descent?

The Church has never provided an official reason for the ban

The origin of the priesthood ban is one of the most difficult questions to answer. Its origins are not clear, and this affected both how members and leaders have seen the ban, and the steps necessary to rescind it. The Church has never provided an official reason for the ban, although a number of Church leaders offered theories as to the reason for its existence. The Church currently provides the following background information regarding the initiation of the ban in its Gospel Topics essay "Race and the Priesthood":

In 1852, President Brigham Young publicly announced that men of black African descent could no longer be ordained to the priesthood, though thereafter blacks continued to join the Church through baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Following the death of Brigham Young, subsequent Church presidents restricted blacks from receiving the temple endowment or being married in the temple. Over time, Church leaders and members advanced many theories to explain the priesthood and temple restrictions. None of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church. [166]

Given that none of these theories regarding the reason for the ban is accepted today, Church members have generally taken one of three perspectives:

  • Some members assume that the ban was based on revelation to Joseph Smith, and was continued by his successors until President Kimball. However, Joseph Smith did ordain several men of African descent to the priesthood.
  • Some believe that the ban did not originate with Joseph Smith, but was implemented by Brigham Young. The evidence supports the idea that Brigham Young implemented it, but there is no record of an actual revelation having been received regarding it.
  • Some believe that the ban began as a series of administrative policy decisions, rather than a revealed doctrine, and drew partly upon ideas regarding race common in mid-19th century America. The passage of time gave greater authority to this policy than intended.

The difficulty in deciding between these options arises because:

  • there is no contemporary account of a revelation underlying the ban; but
  • many early members nevertheless believed that there had been such a revelation; and
  • priesthood ordination of African blacks was a rare event, which became even more rare with time.

The history behind the practice in the modern Church of withholding the priesthood based on race is described well by Lester Bush in a 1984 book.[167] A good timeline can be found at FairMormon's BlackLDS site: FairMormon link.

Many leaders have indicated that the Church does not know why the ban was in place

  • Gordon B. Hinckley in an interview:
Q: So in retrospect, was the Church wrong in that [not ordaining blacks]?
A [Pres. Hinckley]: No, I don't think it was wrong. It, things, various things happened in different periods. There's a reason for them.
Q: What was the reason for that?
A: I don't know what the reason was. But I know that we've rectified whatever may have appeared to be wrong at the time.[168]
  • Elder Dallin H. Oaks:
If you read the scriptures with this question in mind, 'Why did the Lord command this or why did he command that,' you find that in less than one in a hundred commands was any reason given. It's not the pattern of the Lord to give reasons. We can put reasons to commandments. When we do, we're on our own. Some people put reasons to [the ban] and they turned out to be spectacularly wrong. There is a lesson in that.... The lesson I've drawn from that, I decided a long time ago that I had faith in the command and I had no faith in the reasons that had been suggested for it.
...I'm referring to reasons given by general authorities and reasons elaborated upon [those reasons] by others. The whole set of reasons seemed to me to be unnecessary risk taking.
...Let's [not] make the mistake that's been made in the past, here and in other areas, trying to put reasons to revelation. The reasons turn out to be man-made to a great extent. The revelations are what we sustain as the will of the Lord and that's where safety lies.[169]
  • Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:
One clear-cut position is that the folklore must never be perpetuated. ... I have to concede to my earlier colleagues. ... They, I'm sure, in their own way, were doing the best they knew to give shape to [the policy], to give context for it, to give even history to it. All I can say is however well intended the explanations were, I think almost all of them were inadequate and/or wrong. ...
It probably would have been advantageous to say nothing, to say we just don't know, and, [as] with many religious matters, whatever was being done was done on the basis of faith at that time. But some explanations were given and had been given for a lot of years. ... At the very least, there should be no effort to perpetuate those efforts to explain why that doctrine existed. I think, to the extent that I know anything about it, as one of the newer and younger ones to come along, ... we simply do not know why that practice, that policy, that doctrine was in place.[170]
  • Elder Alexander B. Morrison:
We do not know.[171]

Is racial prejudice acceptable?

  • President Hinckley in priesthood session of General Conference:
Racial strife still lifts its ugly head. I am advised that even right here among us there is some of this. I cannot understand how it can be. It seemed to me that we all rejoiced in the 1978 revelation given President Kimball. I was there in the temple at the time that that happened. There was no doubt in my mind or in the minds of my associates that what was revealed was the mind and the will of the Lord.
Now I am told that racial slurs and denigrating remarks are sometimes heard among us. I remind you that no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church of Christ. How can any man holding the Melchizedek Priesthood arrogantly assume that he is eligible for the priesthood whereas another who lives a righteous life but whose skin is of a different color is ineligible?
Throughout my service as a member of the First Presidency, I have recognized and spoken a number of times on the diversity we see in our society. It is all about us, and we must make an effort to accommodate that diversity.
Let us all recognize that each of us is a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven, who loves all of His children.
Brethren, there is no basis for racial hatred among the priesthood of this Church. If any within the sound of my voice is inclined to indulge in this, then let him go before the Lord and ask for forgiveness and be no more involved in such.[172]


Question: Did Joseph Smith confer the priesthood on several black men?

Missouri was a slave state, and the locals persecuted the Missouri saints and destroyed their press in part because of W. W. Phelps's editorials supporting abolition

As Mormons settled into Missouri, some of their viewpoints about slavery (D&C 101:79,87:4) did not mesh well with those of the older settlers. The 1831 Nat Turner Rebellion left many southerners nervous as church leaders later recognized: "All who are acquainted with the situation of slave States, know that the life of every white is in constant danger, and to insinuate any thing which could possibly be interpreted by a slave, that it was not just to hold human beings in bondage, would be jeopardizing the life of every white inhabitant in the country."[173] Unfortunately, this recognition came after mobs persecuted the Missouri saints and destroyed their press in part because of W. W. Phelps's editorials supporting abolition.[174]

Early missionaries were instructed to not teach or baptize slaves without their master's consent, but Joseph Smith conferred the priesthood on several free black men

Under these precarious conditions, early missionaries were instructed to not teach or baptize slaves without their master's consent (see D&C 134:12). Late, perhaps unreliable, recollections suggest that Joseph Smith received inspiration that blacks should not be ordained while contemplating the situation in the South.[175] These accounts must be weighed against records of free blacks receiving the priesthood such as Black Pete (1831 OH), Elijah Abel (1835 OH), Joseph T. Ball (1837 MA), Isaac van Meter (<1837 ME), and Walker and Enoch Lewis (Fall 1843-Nov. 1844 MA). Since Ohio had a law discouraging Blacks from migrating there, this put a damper on early proselyting efforts which were largely based on the principle of the gathering.[176] Parley Pratt wrote in 1839 that the Church had less than a dozen Black members.[177] In 1879, John Taylor conducted an investigation and concluded the policy had started under Joseph Smith, rather than Brigham Young, despite receiving mixed information.[178] As part of this investigation Zebedee Coltrin recalled that Joseph Smith said in 1834 that "the Spirit of the Lord saith the Negro had no right nor cannot hold the Priesthood" and stripped Elijah Abel of his priesthood ordination. However, this claim is suspect given Coltrin's errors on the circumstances of Elijah Abel's ordination, participation in Kirtland temple ordinances, and retention in the Seventies quorum all under the supervision of Joseph Smith.[179]

Outsiders do not seem to have regarded members of the Church in the 1830s as sharing typical American ideas about race

Outsiders do not seem to have regarded members of the Church in the 1830s as sharing typical American ideas about race. In 1835, a skeptical account of their doctrines and beliefs noted:

As the promulgators of this extraordinary legend maintain the natural equality of mankind, without excepting the native Indians or the African race, there is little reason to be surprised at the cruel persecution by which they have suffered, and still less at the continued accession of converts among those who sympathize with the wrongs of others or seek an asylum for their own.

The preachers and believers of the following doctrines were not likely to remain, unmolested, in the State of Missouri.

“The Lord God hath commanded that men should not murder; that they should not lie; that they should not steal, &c. He inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness: and he denieth none that come unto him; black and white—bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.” Again: “Behold! the Lamanites, your brethren, whom ye hate, because of their filthiness and the cursings which hath come upon their skins, are more righteous than you; for they have not forgotten the commandment of the Lord, which was given unto our father, &c. Wherefore the Lord God will not destroy them; but will be merciful to them; and one day they shall become [58] a blessed people.” “O my brethren, I fear, that, unless ye shall repent of your sins, that their skins shall be whiter than yours, when ye shall be brought with them before the throne of God*. Wherefore a commandment I give unto you, which is the word of God, that ye revile no more against them because of the darkness of their skins,” &c. “The king saith unto him, yea! if the Lord saith unto us, go! we will go down unto our brethren, and we will be their slaves, until we repair unto them the many murders and sins, which we have committed against them. But Ammon saith unto him, it is against the law of our brethren, which was established by my father, that there should any slaves among them. Therefore let us go down and rely upon the mercies of our brethren.”[180]


Question: Why did Brigham Young initiate the priesthood ban?

Starting Potentially with William McCary

Why Brigham Young started the priesthood ban is difficult to answer with exactitude; but it can be plausibly reconstructed. The following is the best scholars have.[181]

William McCary was a runaway slave, a brilliant musician, very persuasive, very charismatic, knew how to pull in an audience, and he was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and ordained an elder at Council Bluffs, Iowa in February 1846.[182]

McCary went to Winter Quarters, Nebraska in the spring of 1847 and he promptly married a Caucasian girl by the name of Lucy Stanton who was the daughter of a former stake president. This was a great example of playing with fire. William McCary, by being so willing to walk around with his white spouse, was asking for criticism at the very least. In several instances it was not at all uncommon for an African-American man to lose his life over such an indiscretion. McCary also began claiming powers of prophecy and transfiguration. He claimed to have the power to appear as various biblical and Book of Mormon figures.

McCary made a comment upon arriving in the Winter Quarters community and marrying Lucy. He says, of the Latter-day Saints, “Some say 'there go the old n—– [N-word] and his white wife'” with clear disdain. People remembered Joseph Smith and they remembered that he had authorized the ordination of Elijah Ables. Further, they knew that Joseph Smith had a deep and abiding affection for Elijah Ables. This was the type of friendship that endured for generations. They talked about it even long after Elijah’s death – how good of a friend Elijah was to Joseph Smith and vice versa. The Latter-day Saints remembered this and they said, “Well, Joseph Smith was OK. He’s passed on now; but we are really, really uneasy with this situation.”

McCary approached Brigham Young with complaints that racial discrimination was a motive behind other Mormon leaders questioning his strange teachings. President Young satisfied McCary that ideally race should not be the issue. Praising Kwaku Walker Lewis as an example, Young suggested "Its nothing to do with the blood for [from] one blood has God made all flesh" and later added "we don't care about the color." [183] Mid-April, Brigham Young leaves Winter Quarters for the Great Basin leaving William McCary and his white wife to their own devices. McCary immediately began to marry a series of other white women, practicing his own form of interracial polygamy. He succeeded in pushing the discomfort of Latter-day Saints over the edge. He was excommunicated and expelled from Winter Quarters– as one man recalled – “to Missouri on a fast trot." His wife Lucy followed close behind. Shortly after his expulsion, Orson Hyde preached a sermon against McCary and his claims.

Figure 1. Kwaku Walker Lewis. Brigham Young praised Kwaku in March 1847 as one of the best elders of the Church.

It is Parley P. Pratt who gives us at this time in April 1847 the very first evidence of the existence of a priesthood restriction. He gives it to us when Brigham Young is hundreds of miles away in the Great Basin. Latter-day Saints are pressuring Parley P. Pratt and Orson Hyde saying, “How dare you? What business do you have allowing a character like William McCary into our community? He is clearly a sexual predator. He is exactly what we would expect an African-American to be like. Here you are entertaining them. How dare you?” Parley P. Pratt says “Well, of course that’s going to happen: he has the blood of Ham in him and those who are descended from the blood of Ham cannot hold the priesthood.” Notice what he said there: “The blood of Ham.” He didn’t say “the curse of Cain.”[184] This is point upon which Parley P. Pratt and Brigham Young differed quite significantly. Brigham Young was insistent in later years that it was the curse of Cain. Parley P. Pratt believed it was the curse of Ham. Which is it? Already we are seeing that the foundations of the priesthood restriction are, as Sterling McMurrin said, “shot through with ambiguity.”

Brigham Young returned to Winter’s Quarters in December of 1847. At this time he had said, “[this is the place],” in Utah. He’s had the great experience of starting up the Mormon experiment in the West and he is coming to see how matters are in Winter Quarters. One of the first things he hears about is the William McCary incident. When Brigham Young was telling William McCary that he supported McCary’s involvement in the community (in fact he even supported McCary holding the priesthood – which he did – he had been ordained by Orson Hyde himself), he still had a line that he didn't believe McCary should cross. He believed that as much as it was acceptable for McCary to be a member of the community and even as acceptable as it was for him to have a white wife, he didn’t believe that there should ever be interracial offspring. It’s one thing if two people want to get married but once you start having children, then that is something that has an impact on the human family and ultimately eternity, not to mention the priesthood.

Also awaiting Brigham was William Appleby, the president over eastern branches of the Church. He had encountered Kwaku Lewis and his wife and suspected that William Smith (Joseph Smith's brother) had acted improperly by ordaining a black elder. He was also alarmed that Enoch Lewis (Kwaku's son) had married a white wife and had a child. Brigham responded to this news in a manner that is, by modern sensitivities, quite disturbing. He was adamantly against interracial marriages having children (see Brigham Young on race mixing for more context).

From here, December 1847, to February 1849, Church leaders and other Saints are moving to Utah. At this time, the documentary record goes cold. We have no one that is mentioning the priesthood ban and how it might be evolving. Nonetheless, it is strongly believed that during that time, the ban became more comprehensive to include not just McCary, but all blacks believed to have inherited the Curse of Cain through Ham.

The priesthood ban became more comprehensive to include not only slaves and free blacks in the South, but all persons deemed to have inherited the curse of Cain through Ham

The priesthood ban, following the McCary incident, the Lewis discovery, and the passage of Slavery in Utah, then became more comprehensive to include not only slaves and free blacks in the South, but all persons deemed to have inherited the curse of Cain through Ham. The motivation for the latter part, as the Gospel Topics Essay on Race and the Priesthood was brought about by "[s]outherners who had converted to the Church and migrated to Utah with their slaves [who] raised the question of slavery’s legal status in the territory. In two speeches delivered before the Utah territorial legislature in January and February 1852, Brigham Young announced a policy restricting men of black African descent from priesthood ordination."

Brigham Young never presented a specific revelation on priesthood or temple restrictions he imposed

However, Brigham Young did not present a specific revelation on priesthood or temple restrictions he imposed. Governor Young declared in those 1852 addresses that "any man having one drop of the seed of [Cain] ... in him cannot hold the priesthood and if no other Prophet ever spake it before I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ I know it is true and others know it." [185] Like the Missouri period, the Saints were externally pressured to adopt racial policies as a political compromise. At the time, this was deemed to be the best pathway to statehood.

Those who believe the ban had a revelatory basis point to these pivotal events as examples of a prophet learning "line upon line," with revelation being implemented more rigorously. Those who see the influence of cultural factors and institutional practice behind the ban consider this evidence that the ban was based on Brigham's cultural and scriptural assumptions, and point out that such beliefs were common among most Christians in Antebellum America.[186]


Response to claim: 19 - Joseph's interpretations have been shown by Egyptologists as a mis-reading of the papyri

The author(s) of An Insider's View of Mormon Origins make(s) the following claim:

Joseph's interpretations have been shown by Egyptologists as a mis-reading of the papyri.

Author's sources:

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

It has been well-known for years that the extant fragments of the Joseph Smith Papyri do not talk about Abraham. The Church published this in the Improvement Era in 1968.


Question: Was the Church forthright in identifying the rediscovered papyri prior to their examination by non-LDS Egyptologists?

The January 1968 issue of the Improvement Era demonstrates that the Church was very forthright about this issue

The Church announced that the fragments contained a funerary text in the January 1968 Improvement Era (the predecessor to today's Ensign magazine). Of the 11 fragments, one fragment has Facsimile 1, and the other 10 fragments are funerary texts, which the Church claimed from the moment the papyri were rediscovered. There is no evidence that the Church has ever claimed that any of the 10 remaining fragments contain text which is contained in the Book of Abraham.

The critics are telling us nothing new when they dramatically "announce" that the JSP contain Egyptian funerary documents. The Church disseminated this information as widely as possible from the very beginning.

The timeline of events

A review of the time-line of the papyri demonstrates that the Church quickly publicized the nature of the JSP in the official magazine of the time, The Improvement Era.

There were 11 fragments discovered and given to the church. The Church was very quick in releasing this information to the membership and the world.

November 27, 1967
Church receives papyri.
December 10–11, 1967
Deadline to submit material for the January 1968 Improvement Era.
December 26–31, 1967
January 1968 Improvement Era issue mailed to subscribers.[187]
February 1968
Another fragment was discovered in the Church historian's files, and publicized in the February 1968 Improvement Era.[188]
Cover of the January 1968 issue of the Improvement Era, the Church's official magazine of the time. Note the color photograph of the recovered Facsimile 1.


Improvement Era (January 1968): "Often the funerary texts contained passages from the 'Book of the Dead,' a book that was to assist in the safe passage of the dead person into the spirit world"

Jay M. Todd, ,"Egyptian Papyri Rediscovered," The Improvement Era (January 1968):

Perhaps no discovery in recent memory is expected to arouse as much widespread interest in the restored gospel as is the recent discovery of some Egyptian papyri, one of which is known to have been used by the prophet Joseph Smith in producing the Book of Abraham.

The papyri, long thought to have been burned in the Chicago fire of 1871, were presented to the Church on November 27, 1967, in New York City by the metropolitan Museum of Art, more than a year after Dr. Aziz S. Atiya, former director of the University of Utah's Middle East Center, had made his startling discovery while browsing through the New York museum's papyri collection.

Included in the collection of 11 manuscripts is one identified as the original document from which Joseph Smith obtained Facsimile 1, which prefaces the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price. Accompanying the manuscripts was a letter dated May 26, 1856, signed by both Emma Smith Bidamon, widow of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and their son, Joseph Smith, attesting that the papyri had been the property of the Prophet.

Some of the pieces of papyrus apparently include conventional hieroglyphics (sacred inscriptions, resembling picture-drawing) and hieratic (a cursive shorthand version of hieroglyphics) Egyptian funerary texts, which were commonly buried with Egyptian mummies. Often the funerary texts contained passages from the "Book of the Dead," a book that was to assist in the safe passage of the dead person into the spirit world. It is not known at this time whether the ten other pieces of papyri have a direct connection with the Book of Abraham.[189]


Question: What did the Church announce in 1968 when the Joseph Smith papyri fragments were discovered?

The Church noted that the papyri fragments did not contain the Book of Abraham, except for Facsimile 1

The Improvement Era described the papyri, but never claimed they represented the source for the Book of Abraham, except the original of Facsimile 1:

Perhaps no discovery in recent memory is expected to arouse as much widespread interest in the restored gospel as is the recent discovery of some Egyptian papyri, one of which is known to have been used by the prophet Joseph Smith in producing the Book of Abraham.

The papyri, long thought to have been burned in the Chicago fire of 1871, were presented to the Church on November 27, 1967, in New York City by the metropolitan Museum of Art, more than a year after Dr. Aziz S. Atiya, former director of the University of Utah's Middle East Center, had made his startling discovery while browsing through the New York museum's papyri collection.

Included in the collection of 11 manuscripts is one identified as the original document from which Joseph Smith obtained Facsimile 1, which prefaces the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price. Accompanying the manuscripts was a letter dated May 26, 1856, signed by both Emma Smith Bidamon, widow of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and their son, Joseph Smith, attesting that the papyri had been the property of the Prophet.

Some of the pieces of papyrus apparently include conventional hieroglyphics (sacred inscriptions, resembling picture-drawing) and hieratic (a cursive shorthand version of hieroglyphics) Egyptian funerary texts, which were commonly buried with Egyptian mummies. Often the funerary texts contained passages from the "Book of the Dead," a book that was to assist in the safe passage of the dead person into the spirit world. It is not known at this time whether the ten other pieces of papyri have a direct connection with the Book of Abraham.[190]

Egyptian.papyri.rediscovered.funeral.documents.improvement.era.jan.1968.p12.jpg


Question: How long did the Church know about the papyri before they published information about them?

The Church immediately published an article in their official magazine less than two months after the papyri were discovered

When the papyri were rediscovered in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art and donated to the Church on 27 November 1967, the Church immediately published an article in their official magazine less than two months later. A follow-up article on an additional papyrus fragment was published the following month, complete with photos:

  • Jay M. Todd, "Egyptian Papyri Rediscovered," Improvement Era (January 1968), 12–16. off-site
  • Jay M. Todd, "New Light on Joseph Smith's Egyptian Papyri: Additional Fragment Disclosed," Improvement Era (February 1968), 40. off-site
  • Jay M. Todd, "Background of the Church Historian's Fragment," Improvement Era (February 1968), 40A–40I. off-site

LDS scholar Hugh Nibley began a series of articles in the January 1968 edition which ran for months. Nibley was not hesitant in explaining what was on the papyri in the Church's possession. In August 1968, he repeatedly emphasized that much of the text was the Egyptian Book of the Dead:

  • "...the texts of the 'Joseph Smith Papyri' identified as belonging to the Book of the Dead" (p. 55)
  • "...The largest part of the Joseph Smith Papyri in the possession of the Church consists of fragments from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the fragments having been recently translated and discussed by no less a scholar than Professor John A. Wilson." (p. 57)
  • "These points can be illustrated by the most easily recognized section of the Joseph Smith papyri, namely, the fragment with the picture of a swallow, Chapter 86 of the Book of the Dead..."(p. 57)
  • "..we may take the best-known picture from the Book of the Dead, the well-known judgment scene or 'Psychostasy,' a fine example of which is found among the Joseph Smith papyri." (p. 59)

Lest the reader miss this claim in the small print, it was reprinted in large bold type across two pages:

The Church's official magazine did not hide Nibley's conclusion about the papyrus fragments rediscovered in 1968.
  • "The largest parts of the...papyri in possession of the Church consists of fragments from the Egyptian Book of the Dead..." (pp. 56-57) See image (680 KB).


Response to claim: 21 - From 1820 to 1834 Joseph is claimed to have believed in one God

The author(s) of An Insider's View of Mormon Origins make(s) the following claim:

From 1820 to 1834 Joseph is claimed to have believed in one God.

Author's sources:

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

This is incorrect.


Question: Did Joseph Smith begin his prophetic career with a "trinitarian" idea of God?

Joseph and the early Saints were not trinitarian, and understood God's embodiment and the identity of the Father and Son as separate beings very early on

This doctrine is apparent in the Book of Mormon, and in the earliest friendly and non-friendly accounts of such matters from the Saints.

Such texts demonstrate that the supposed 'evidence' for Joseph altering his story later is only in the eyes of critical beholders. For example, Joseph's 1832 First Vision account focuses on the remission of his sins. However, critics who wish to claim that in 1832 Joseph had only a vaguely "trinitarian" idea of God (and so would see the Father and the Son as only one being) have missed vital evidence which must be considered.[191]

Martin Harris remembered rejecting the ideas of creedal Trinitarianism prior to meeting Joseph

Martin dictated an account of his early spiritual search:

"52 years ago I was Inspired of the Lord & Tought of the Spirit that I should not Join Eny Church although I Was anxiousley Sought for by meny of the Secatirans[.] I Was taught I could not Walk togther unless agreed[.] What can you not be agreed in [is] in the Trinity because I can not find it in my Bible[.] find it for me & I am Ready to Receive it. 3 Persons in one god[.] one Personage I can not concede for this is Antichrist for Where is the Father & Son[?] I have more proof to Prove 9 Persons in the Trinity then you have 3[.]...other sects the Epicopalians also tired me[.] they say 3 Persons in one god Without Body Parts or Passions[.] I Told them such A god I would not be afraid of: I could not Please or offend him[.] [I] Would not be afraid to fight A Duel With such A god.[192]

It would be very strange for Martin to feel so strongly on this point, only to embrace Joseph's teachings if Joseph taught creedal trinitarianism.

1829 - The Book of Mormon

Christ Descends from Heavens

The Book of Mormon also begins (1 Nephi 1:8-10) with Lehi's vision of God on his throne. One [Christ] followed by twelve others descends from God to speak with Lehi--thus, Jesus and the Father are here both separate, and the role of Christ in giving instructions to the prophet while the Father looks on and approves is followed, just as it was in Joseph's First Vision. Here too, Lehi is described as praying to "the Lord," and yet has a vision of both God the Father and Christ.

Resurrection is Permanent Through Christ

Alma 11:45 makes clear that the resurrection is permanent and Mosiah 15:20 (along with several others) makes clear that the resurrection is brought about through Christ.

I and the Father are One to Three Nephites

In 3 Nephi 28:10 the Savior is speaking to the 3 Nephites. After declaring that they would never endure the pains of death he states:

“10 And for this cause ye shall have fullness of joy; and he shall sit down in the kingdom of my Father; yea, your joy shall be full, even as the Father hath given me fullness of joy; and ye shall be even as I am, and I am even as the Father; and the Father and I are one;”

Since the verse is juxtaposed closely with not tasting death and the Savior stating that they would be even as he and the Father are, this verse may be used to argue for an embodied Christ and God (and likely an early conceptualization of deification) in the Book of Mormon. Furthermore, the phrase “fullness of joy” is used in D&C 93:33 (a revelation dated to 1833) to describe element (or man’s tabernacle as v. 35 expresses) and spirit inseparably connected.

1830 - Book of Moses: "And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten"

Between June and October 1830, Joseph had dictated his revision (the "Joseph Smith Translation") to Genesis.[193] The first chapter of Moses was dictated in June 1830 (about a month after the Church's reorganization), and began:

2 And [Moses] saw God face to face, and he talked with him, and the glory of God was upon Moses; therefore Moses could endure his presence.

3 And God spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I am the Lord God Almighty, and Endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end of years; and is not this endless?

4 And, behold, thou art my son; wherefore look, and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands; but not all, for my works are without end, and also my words, for they never cease.

5 Wherefore, no man can behold all my works, except he behold all my glory; and no man can behold all my glory, and afterwards remain in the flesh on the earth.

6 And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth; but there is no God beside me, and all things are present with me, for I know them all (Moses 1:2-6)

Here already, God distinguishes himself from the Only Begotten, Moses sees and speaks with God face to face, and says that Moses was created "in the similitude of mine Only Begotten."

Joseph's rendered Genesis 1:26 as:

And I, God, said unto mine Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and it was so....And I, God, created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them. (Moses 2:26-27.)

There can be no doubt that Joseph understood "in mine own image" to refer to a physical likeness, rather than merely a moral or intellectual one. The JST of Genesis 5:1-2 reads

In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; in the image of his own body, male and female, created he them (Moses 6:8-9, emphasis added)

Thus, by 1830 Joseph was clearly teaching a separation of the Father and Son, and insisting that both had some type of physical form which could be copied in the creation of humanity.

Joseph's mother, Lucy Mack Smith, also noted that other Christian denominations took issue with the new Church because of its teachings about God, noting that in 1830:

the different denominations are very much opposed to us.... The Methodists also come, and they rage, for they worship a God without body or parts, and they know that our faith comes in contact with this principle.[194]

1831 - Joseph "saw the heavens opened, and the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Father"; D&C 50:43

Anti-Mormon writers in 1831 noted that Joseph claimed to have received "a commission from God"; and the Mormons claimed that Joseph "had seen God frequently and personally."[195] That Joseph's enemies knew he claimed to have "seen God," indicates that the doctrine of an embodied God that could be seen was well-known early on.

John Whitmer would also write in 1831 of a vision enjoyed by Joseph in which Joseph saw Christ as separate from the Father, for he "saw the heavens opened, and the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Father making intercession for his brethren, the Saints." (emphasis added) [196] Of this same experience, Levi Hancock wrote:

Joseph Smith then stepped out onto the floor and said, 'I now see God, and Jesus Christ at his right hand, let them kill me, I should not feel death as I am now.' (emphasis added) [197]

Doctrine and Covenants 50, a revelation given to Joseph Smith in May 1831, states in the 43rd verse that:

And the Father and I are one, I am in the Father and the Father in me; and inasmuch as ye have received me, ye are in me and I in you.

"This is interesting as, notwithstanding the verse being one that teaches the 'oneness' of the Father and the Son, it is not that of Modalism [nor the forms of Trinitarianism referred to by critics when making this argument against Joseph Smith]; instead, it is the same as John 17:22-23—one of indwelling unity, not being the same person."[198]

1832 - In the 1832 account of the First Vision, Jesus announces to Joseph that he will come "clothed in the glory of my Father"

One should first note that in the 1832 account of the First Vision, Jesus announces to Joseph that he will come "clothed in the glory of my Father." The Book of Mormon (translated three years earlier in 1829) also contains numerous passages which teach a physical separation and embodiment (even if only in spirit bodies, which are clearly not immaterial, but have shape, position, and form) of the members of the Godhead. (See: 3 Nephi 11:, 1 Nephi 11:1-11, Ether 3:14-18.)

Furthermore, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were to receive a revelation of the three degrees of glory in the same year as Joseph's 1832 account was written; it clearly teaches a physical separation of the Father and Son, bearing witness of seeing both. (See D&C 76:14,20–24.)[199]

1832–1833 - "Joseph answered that this was Jesus, the Son of God, our elder brother"

Two of Joseph's close associates reported their own visions of God in the winter of 1832–1833. Both are decidedly not in the trinitarian mold.

Zebedee Coltrin:

Joseph having given instructions, and while engaged in silent prayer, kneeling...a personage walked through the room from East to west, and Joseph asked if we saw him. I saw him and suppose the others did, and Joseph answered that this was Jesus, the Son of God, our elder brother. Afterward Joseph told us to resume our former position in prayer, which we did. Another person came through; He was surrounded as with a flame of fire. [I] experienced a sensation that it might destroy the tabernacle as it was of consuming fire of great brightness. The Prophet Joseph said this was the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. I saw him....

He was surrounded as with a flame of fire, which was so brilliant that I could not discover anything else but his person. I saw his hands, his legs, his feet, his eyes, nose, mouth, head and body in the shape and form of a perfect man. He sat in a chair as a man would sit in a chair, but This appearance was so grand and overwhelming that it seemed that I should melt down in His presence, and the sensation was so powerful that it thrilled through my whole system and I felt it in the marrow of my bones. The Prophet Joseph said: "Brethren, now you are prepared to be the apostles of Jesus Christ, for you have seen both the Father and the Son and know that They exist and that They are two separate personages.[200]

John Murdock:

During the winter that I boarded with[Bro[ther] Joseph... we had a number of prayer meetings, in the Prophet’s chamber.... In one of those meetings the Prophet told us if we could humble ourselves before God, and exersise [sic] strong faith, we should see the face of the Lord. And about midday the visions of my mind were opened, and the eyes of my understanding were enlightened, and I saw the form of a man, most lovely, the visage of his face was sound and fair as the sun. His hair a bright silver grey, curled in a most majestic form, His eyes a keen penetrating blue, and the skin of his neck a most beautiful white and he was covered from the neck to the feet with a loose garment, pure white, whiter than any garment I had ever before seen. His countenance was the most penetrating, and yet most lovely. And while I was endeavoring to comprehend the whole personage from head to feet it slipped from me, and the vision was closed up. But it left on my mind the impression of love, for months, that I never felt before to that degree.[201]

1834–1835 - Lectures on Faith: "There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing, and supreme power over all things"

In the School of the Prophets, the brethren were taught that

"There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing, and supreme power over all things, by whom all things were created and made, that are created and made. . . . They are the Father and the Son--the Father being a personage of spirit, glory, and power, possessing all perfection and fulness, the Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle. (Lecture 5:1–2)

Here, the separateness of the Father and Son continues to be made clear.

1836 - "They believe that the true God is a material being, composed of body and parts"

A skeptical news article noted:

They believe that the true God is a material being, composed of body and parts; and that when the Creator formed Adam in his own image, he made him about the size and shape of God himself....[202]

Evidence that is absent

In addition to all the non-trinitarian evidence above, as Milton Backman has noted, there is a great deal of evidence that we should find, but don't. For example, no one has "located a publication (such as an article appearing in a church periodical or statement from a missionary pamphlet) written by an active Latter-day Saint prior to the martyrdom of the Prophet that defends the traditional or popular creedal concept of the Trinity. . . ." Moreover, there are no references in critical writings of the 1830s (including statements by apostates) that Joseph Smith introduced in the mid-thirties the doctrine of separateness of the Father and Son.[203]



Response to claim: 22-24 - Joseph's theology was said to have been influenced by Thomas Dick's Philosophy of a Future State

The author(s) of An Insider's View of Mormon Origins make(s) the following claim:

Joseph's theology was said to have been influenced by Thomas Dick's Philosophy of a Future State.

Author's sources:

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Joseph owned the book, but there is no evidence that it was used in the dictation of the Book of Abraham. Critics of the Church try to infer a connection without any evidence. There is, in fact, evidence of contrasting views.


Question: Could Joseph Smith's theology as described in the Book of Abraham have been influenced by Thomas Dick's book The Philosophy of a Future State?

Fawn Brodie suggested that Joseph Smith developed the theology described in the Book of Abraham by reading Thomas Dick’s The Philosophy of a Future State

This criticism was advanced by Fawn Brodie, who suggested that Joseph Smith developed the theology described in the Book of Abraham by reading Thomas Dick’s The Philosophy of a Future State. An excerpt from Dick’s work was published by Oliver Cowdery in the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate in December 1836,[204] therefore one could assume that Joseph had access to the book in the 1835-1836 timeframe during which the Book of Abraham was being produced. Dick's book was also in the possession of the Prophet by 1844, at which time he donated his copy to the Nauvoo Library and Literary Institute. [205]

It is also known that two of Dick's books were available in the Manchester Library;[206] although none of the Smith family were actually members of the library and were unlikely to have had access to its resources.[207] Based upon this circumstantial evidence, Brodie not only assumes that the Prophet must have read the book, but that he incorporated Dick’s ideas into the Book of Abraham.

Many of the ideas promoted by Thomas Dick were common Protestant beliefs, however, Joseph Smith rejected or contradicted many of the ideas put forth by Dick

It should first be noted that commentary on Abraham in Philosophy of a Future State does not mention him in any context that is similar to the Book of Abraham. There are references to "The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,"[208] to Abraham living as an intelligent being in another state at the time of Moses at the burning bush,[209] to Abraham "giving up the ghost" and being "gathered to his people,"[210] to Abraham being buried at Machpelah,[211] to the ability to sit with "Abraham , and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,"[212] and to Abraham's "[expectation] of a future city which had foundations, whose builder and maker is God." It is said that "[h]e obtained no such city in the earthly Canaan; and therefore we must necessarily suppose, that his views were directed at the mansions of perpetuity beyond the confines of the present world."[213] With regards to Moses, he is not mentioned in a context similar to that of the Book of Moses. There is reference to Moses being animated by the conviction of a future world and life, [214] reference to Moses "being gathered to his people" as an evidence for the doctrine of afterlife in the Old Testament,[215] a reference to "holy intelligences" singing praises to God with the song of Moses--a reference to Revelations 15:3,[216] another reference to the same verse on page 225, a reference to Moses as a possible messenger to John regarding the "New Jerusalem" mentioned in revelations,[217] and a reference to Moses and others hypothetically forming "something approaching to a paradise on earth."[218] Many of the ideas promoted by Thomas Dick were common Protestant beliefs and were therefore available without having to read Dick’s work. Joseph Smith never made any public or written statements indicating that he was aware of or that he had ever read Dick’s book. The only evidence that even suggests the possibility is circumstantial and is based upon the appearance of several passages from A Philosophy of a Future State in the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. More importantly, Joseph Smith rejected or contradicted many of the ideas put forth by Dick in A Philosophy of a Future State. It is therefore unlikely, contrary to Brodie’s speculation, that Joseph had been “recently reading” Dick’s work and that it made a “lasting impression” upon the Prophet.[219][220]


Response to claim: 31 - Joseph claimed to have translated a portion of the Kinderhook plates

The author(s) of An Insider's View of Mormon Origins make(s) the following claim:

Joseph claimed to have translated a portion of the Kinderhook plates

Author's sources:

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Joseph claimed to have translated a portion of the plates, and he appears to have done so manually, without relying upon revelation.


Question: What are the Kinderhook Plates?

The Kinderhook Plates are a forged set of metal plates that were given to Joseph Smith to translate

Image of front and back of four of the six Kinderhook plates are shown in these facsimiles (rough copies of even earlier published facsimiles), which appeared in 1909 in History of the Church, 5:374–375. Volume 5 link

A set of small plates, engraved with characters of ancient appearance, were purported to have been unearthed in Kinderhook, Illinois, in April 1843. The so-called "Kinderhook plates" have been something of an enigma within the Mormon community since they first appeared. While there are faithful LDS who take a number of different positions on the topic of these artifacts, most have concluded that they were fakes.

Joseph Smith appears to have had the plates in his possession for about five days.

Joseph Smith's personal secretary, William Clayton said,

President Joseph has translated a portion [of the Kinderhook plates], and says they contain the history of the person with whom they were found; and he was a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom through the ruler of heaven and earth.

Chemical analysis performed by the Chicago Historical Society on one of the plates in 1981 showed that the plates were fake.[221] Before the release of the CHS' analysis, criticism of the episode from those outside of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was infrequent.[222] After the release, criticism became much more frequent.[223] All critics have believed that this episode brings into question any claim of "inspiration" that Joseph used to translate the Kinderhook Plates and by extension any other revelations he received.

Joseph Smith "translated" a portion of those plates, not by claiming inspiration, but by comparing characters on the plates to those on his "Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language" (GAEL)

However, Joseph Smith "translated" a portion of those plates, not by claiming inspiration, but by comparing characters on the plates to those on his "Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language" (GAEL). (The GAEL was composed in Kirtland about the time of the translation of the Book of Abraham.) Joseph found one of the most prominent characters on the plates to match a character on the second page of characters in the GAEL. Both were boat shaped. The GAEL interpretation of this boat-shaped character included everything that William Clayton said Joseph said.

Corroborating this is a letter in the New York Herald for May 30th, 1843, from someone who signed pseudonymously as "A Gentile." Research shows "A Gentile" to be a friendly non-Mormon then living in Nauvoo by the name of Sylvester Emmons.[224] He wrote:

The plates are evidently brass, and are covered on both sides with hieroglyphics. They were brought up and shown to Joseph Smith. He compared them, in my presence, with his Egyptian Alphabet…and they are evidently the same characters. He therefore will be able to decipher them.

We know that Joseph was interested in languages. He studied Greek, Hebrew, and German in a secular manner. Therefore, we can easily believe that he attempted to translate the Kinderhook plates without assuming prophetic powers, which powers consequently remain credible.

Additional Reading and Visual Content

  • Don Bradley 2011 FairMormon Conference Presentation
  • Saints Unscripted "Do the Kinderhook Plates Prove Joseph Smith Was a False Prophet?"


Question: Did Joseph Smith attempt to translate the Kinderhook Plates?

Joseph Smith attempted to translate a character on the Kinderhood Plates by matching it to his "Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language (GAEL)"

Don Bradley presented compelling evidence during his 2011 FAIR Conference presentation that Joseph Smith did indeed attempt to translate a character on the Kinderhook Plates.[225] Bradley noted that William Clayton's account is likely representing personal and specific knowledge acquired from Joseph Smith, since evidence indicates that he made his journal entries that day while he was at the Prophet's home. Clayton's account states that

Prest J. has translated a portion and says they contain the history of the person with whom they were found and he was a descendant of Ham through the loins of Pharoah king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the ruler of heaven and earth.

Bradley noted that one of the most prominent characters on the Kinderhook Plates (a symbol shaped like a boat), when broken down into its individual elements matched a symbol found on page 4 (the second page of characters) of the Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language (GAEL), often referred to as the "Egyptian Alphabet. The GAEL provides meanings for the individual symbols, and the meaning assigned to the particular symbol found on the plates supports the translation reported to have been provided by Joseph.

The conclusion is that Clayton's account appears to be accurate, that Joseph did attempt to translate "a portion" of them by non-revelatory means, and the translation provided matches a corresponding symbol and explanation in the GAEL.

  • As William Clayton noted in his journal, Joseph "translated a portion" of the Kinderhook plates. Joseph attempted to translate one of the characters on the plates by matching it to a similar character on the Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language (GAEL), a document that was produced in the same timeframe as the Book of Abraham. It is from the GAEL that he derived the "descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh" meaning.
  • This data was introduced by Don Bradley at the 2011 FAIR Conference. For a detailed explanation, see Don Bradley "‘President Joseph Has Translated a Portion’: Solving the Mystery of the Kinderhook Plates," 2011 FAIR Conference.
Kinderhook.plates.don.bradley.description.jpg


Question: Did Joseph attempt to translate the Kinderhook Plates using the "gift and power of God?"

Joseph apparently did not attempt to translate by the "gift and power of God". Joseph never translated more than the single character

At the time that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he only claimed the ability to translate by the "gift and power of God." Over time, Joseph studied other languages and wished to learn to translate by other means. His attempt to use the Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language (a document that he and others had created) to attempt a translation of the Kinderhook Plates fits in with this desire. Since only a single character "matched," Joseph would have been unable to continue to translate the plates in this manner. This may explain why such a translation was never produced: beyond the single character which happened to match, it would not have even been possible to translate the fraudulent plates either manually or by the "gift and power of God." Therefore, no translation was ever produced.


Question: What does Joseph's attempt to translate the Kinderhook Plates tell us about his "gift of translation?"

Joseph's attempt to translate manually tells us that he didn't attempt to translate the plates using the "gift and power of God"

A critical graphic from "mormoninfographics" states that "Joseph didn't discern the fraud. The LDS Church now concedes it's a hoax. What does this tell us about Joseph Smith's gift of translation?"

Mormoninfographic.kinderhook.josephs.gift.jpg

Simply put, Joseph's attempt to translate the plates manually tells us that he didn't attempt to translate the plates using the "gift and power of God."


Response to claim: 34-35 - Joseph is claimed to have translated a Greek psalter

The author(s) of An Insider's View of Mormon Origins make(s) the following claim:

Joseph is claimed to have translated a Greek psalter.

Author's sources:

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The only source that we have for this is a hostile one, with plenty of inconsistencies, and there was no translation produced.


Question: Did Joseph Smith misidentify a Greek "psalter" as a containing "reformed Egyptian" hieroglyphics?

There is no other evidence of Henry Caswall's claim save his anti-Mormon work

It was claimed by Henry Caswall that an ancient text of Greek psalms (a "psalter") was misidentified by Joseph Smith as a containing "reformed Egyptian" hieroglyphics.

There is no other evidence of Caswall's claim save his anti-Mormon work. That Caswall took no steps in Nauvoo to get Joseph on record is fatally suspicious, since this was the entire reason he claimed to be there. He is also clearly attempting to make Joseph Smith appear uncouth and ignorant, having him say "them plates" and "them characters", when this contrasts markedly with other known examples of Joseph's speaking and writing style at the time. [226] Furthermore, Joseph was familiar enough with Greek to recognize Greek characters, and so is unlikely to have mistaken them for an unknown language—even if we believe Joseph was attempting to deceive Caswall, it seems unlikely he would fail to recognize the characters of a language he had studied.

Those who tell this story rarely provide the source details for the tale, and do not inform their readers about John Taylor's witness regarding Caswall's later dishonesty.

An English clergyman from Missouri named Henry Caswall visited Nauvoo in 1842 and claimed that Joseph identifed a Greek psalter as a "Dictionary of Egyptian Hieroglyphics"

On 19 April 1842, an English clergyman from Missouri named Henry Caswall visited Nauvoo, and would later claim that he had shown Joseph Smith a Greek psalter, which the Prophet claimed to translate:

He [Joseph Smith] has a downcast look, and possesses none of that open and straightforward expression which generally characterizes an honest man. His language is uncouth and ungrammatical, indicating very confused notions respecting syntactical concords. When an ancient Greek manuscript of the Psalms was exhibited to him as a test of his scholarship, he boldly pronounced it to be a "Dictionary of Egyptian Hieroglyphics." Pointing to the capital letters at the commencement of each verse, he said, "Them figures is Egyptian hieroglyphics, and them which follows is the interpretation of the hieroglyphics, written in the reformed Egyptian language. Them characters is like the letters that was engraved on the golden plates." [227]

John Taylor: "Concerning Mr. Caswall, I was at Nauvoo during the time of his visit. He came for the purpose of looking for evil"

Of this claim, John Taylor would later say:

Concerning Mr. Caswall, I was at Nauvoo during the time of his visit. He came for the purpose of looking for evil. He was a wicked man, and associated with reprobates, mobocrats, and murderers. It is, I suppose, true that he was reverend gentleman; but it has been no uncommon thing with us to witness associations of this kind, nor for reverend gentlemen; so called, to be found leading on mobs to deeds of plunder and death. I saw Mr. Caswall in the printing office at Nauvoo; he had with him an old manuscript, and professed to be anxious to know what it was. I looked at it, and told him that I believed it was a Greek manuscript. In his book, he states that it was a Greek Psalter; but that none of the Mormons told him what it was. Herein is a falsehood, for I told him. Yet these are the men and books that we are to have our evidence from. [228]

An earlier, more detailed account from Caswall

That Caswall is not being entirely honest is demonstrated by another version of the same tale which he published the year earlier:

[p. 5] I had laid aside my clerical apparel, and had assumed a dress in which there was little probability of my being recognized as a " minister of the Gentiles." In order to test the scholarship of the prophet, I had further provided myself with an ancient Greek manuscript of the Psalter written upon parchment, and probably about six hundred years old….

[p. 35] On entering the house, chairs were provided for the prophet and myself, while the curious and gaping crowd remained standing. I handed the book to the prophet, and begged him to explain its contents. He asked me if I had any idea of its meaning. I replied, that I believed it to be a Greek Psalter; but that I should like to hear his opinion. "No," he said; "it ain't Greek at all; except, perhaps, a few words. What ain't Greek, is Egyptian ; and what ain't Egyptian, is Greek. This book is very valuable. It is a dictionary of Egyptian Hieroglyphics." Pointing to the capital letters at the commencement of each verse, he said : "Them figures is Egyptian hieroglyphics; and them which follows, is [p. 36] the interpretation of the hieroglyphics, written in the reformed Egyptian. Them characters is like the letters that was engraved on the golden plates." Upon this, the Mormons around began to congratulate me on the information I was receiving. "There," they said ; "we told you so we told you that our prophet would give you satisfaction. None but our prophet can explain these mysteries." The prophet now turned to me, and said, "this book ain't of no use to you, you don't understand it." "Oh yes," I replied; "it is of some use; for if I were in want of money, I could sell it, and obtain, perhaps, enough to live on for a whole year." "But what will you take for it?" said the prophet and his elders. "My price," I replied, "is higher than you would be willing to give." "What price is that?" they eagerly demanded. I replied, "I will not tell you what price I would take; but if you were to offer me this moment nine hundred dollars in gold for it, you should not have it." They then repeated their request that I should lend it to them until the prophet should have time to translate it, and promised me the most ample security; but I declined all their proposals. [229]

The Times and Seasons noted somewhat sardonically that Caswall had returned home and been 'rewarded' with status in his own denomination because of his attacks on the Church

The newspaper gave a version of events which seems to accord much better with the facts than Caswall's claim that Joseph was anxious to translate the psalter but Caswall refused to sell or lend it:

It will be recollected by some, that a Mr. Caswall, professing to be an Episcopal minister, came to this city some twelve or eighteen months ago. He had with him an old manuscript, professing to be ignorant of its contents, and came to Joseph Smith, as he said, for the purpose of having it translated. Mr. Smith had a little conversation with him and treated him with civility, but as the gentleman seemed very much afraid of his document, he [Joseph] declined having any thing to do with it. [230]

There are suspicious differences between Caswall's accounts

In his first version, Caswall claims that he told Joseph and the Mormons what the book was–a copy of the Psalms in Greek. Despite this warning, the bumbling Joseph that Caswall wishes us to see presses blindly on, utterly confident in his ability. The prophet and Mormons are also extraordinarily anxious to purchase the Psalter or borrow it with "the most ample security," but Caswall will not do so. Extraordinary! He has come to Nauvoo, he tells us, with the firm intent of exposing Joseph Smith as a charlatan. In front of a mass of witnesses, Joseph makes claims about the contents of a book that Caswall knows to be Greek, and the prophet offers to translate the document. Caswall, however, refuses to let him continue, refuses to loan it, and tries to discourage the Mormons from even thinking about buying it. Why? If Joseph committed himself publicly, in print, on the document's contents, Caswall would have iron-clad proof that Joseph could not translate.

Joseph walked right into Caswall's trap, and Caswall then goes to great length to spring the prophet from it? His claim does not stand up.

Caswall also claimed at first to have disguised his identity as a minister (the better to fool Joseph and the Mormons) but the Times and Seasons noted that Caswall had claimed to be an Episcopal minister. Caswall's second account likewise says nothing about him hiding his identity.

It is not surprising, then, that critics often cite the later, less-detailed version(s) of Caswall's tale, which omit many of the absurdities in Caswall's claim. Critics make his charge look plausible, when the earliest document demonstrates that it is not, and that Caswall (as John Taylor claimed) was not above hiding or altering the facts to suit his polemical purpose.

Joseph studied Greek and would have recognized Greek letters

Joseph Smith's journal reveals that Joseph actually studied a bit of Greek well before Caldwell's visit.

On 20 November 1835, Oliver Cowdery returned from New York and brought Joseph a Hebrew and Greek lexicon. [231] On 23 December 1835, Joseph wrote that he was "at home studying the greek Language..." [232]

Joseph was probably not a great scholar of Greek. But, Caldwell's claim that he was able to deceive Joseph with a Greek psalter seems pretty implausible when we realize that Joseph had studied a book on Greek. Joseph would not even need to be able to read the psalter to recognize Greek letters—learning such letters is the first task of any Greek student.

This, coupled with the other absurdities in Caswall's tale, and his efforts to make Joseph appear as a simple ignorant yokel make his tale even more unlikely.


Notes

  1. Richard Lloyd Anderson, "By the Gift and Power of God," Ensign 7 (September 1977): 83.
  2. Russell M. Nelson, "A Treasured Testament," Ensign 23 (July 1993): 61.
  3. Brigham H. Roberts, "NAME," in New Witnesses for God, 3 Vols., (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1909[1895, 1903]), 1:131–136.
  4. Brigham H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1965), 1:130–131. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  5. Francis W. Kirkham, "The Manner of Translating The BOOK of MORMON," Improvement Era (1939), ?.
  6. Dean C. Jessee, "New Documents and Mormon Beginnings," BYU Studies 24 no. 4 (Fall 1984): 397–428.; Royal Skousen, "Towards a Critical Edition of the Book of Mormon," BYU Studies 30 no. 1 (Winter 1990): 51–52.;
  7. Stephen D. Ricks, "Translation of the Book of Mormon: Interpreting the Evidence," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2/2 (1993): 201–206. wiki
  8. Matthew Roper, "A Black Hole That's Not So Black (Review of Answering Mormon Scholars: A Response to Criticism of the Book, vol. 1 by Jerald and Sandra Tanner)," FARMS Review of Books 6/2 (1994): 156–203. off-site
  9. Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig J. Ostler, Revelations of the Restoration (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2000), commentary on D&C 9.
  10. Neal A. Maxwell, Not My Will, But Thine (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1988), 26.
  11. Anthony Sweat, “The Gift and Power of Art," in From Darkness Unto Light: Joseph Smith's Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon, eds. Michael Hubbard MacKay and Gerrit J. Dirkmaat (Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2015), 236–37.
  12. Anonymous, "A Conversation with Robert J. Matthews," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12/2 (2003): 88–92. off-site wiki
  13. Henry Ward Beecher, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit, 1887.
  14. Brant A. Gardner, Joseph the Seer—or Why Did He Translate With a Rock in His Hat?, FAIR Conference 2009. Gardner references D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1987), 38. and Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1984), 70.
  15. Mark Ashurst-McGee, "A Pathway to Prophethood: Joseph Smith Junior as Rodsman, Village Seer, and Judeo-Christian Prophet," (Master's Thesis, University of Utah, Logan, Utah, 2000), 200–215.
  16. Eber Dudley Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, Ohio: Telegraph Press, 1834), 241-242; cited in Richard Van Wagoner and Steven Walker, "Joseph Smith: 'The Gift of Seeing," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 15 no. 2 (Summer 1982): 48–68.
  17. Brant A. Gardner, "Joseph the Seer—or Why Did He Translate With a Rock in His Hat?," Proceedings of the 2009 FAIR Conference (August 2009).
  18. Joel Tiffany, Tiffany's Monthly (June 1859): 164;cited in Van Wagoner and Walker, 55.
  19. Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool, S.W. Richards, 1853),91–92.
  20. Dean C. Jessee, "Joseph Knight's Recollection of Early Mormon History," Brigham Young University Studies 17 no. 1 (August 1976).; cited in Mark Ashurst-McGee, "A Pathway to Prophethood: Joseph Smith Junior as Rodsman, Village Seer, and Judeo-Christian Prophet," (Master's Thesis, University of Utah, Logan, Utah, 2000), 281. Buy online
  21. John Dehlin, "Questions and Answers," Mormon Stories Podcast (25 June 2014).
  22. Interview of Emma Smith by her son Joseph Smith III, "Interview with Joseph Smith III, 1879," in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 1:539.
  23. Jeffrey G. Cannon, "Oliver Cowdery's Gift," Revelations in Context on history.lds.org
  24. "Mature Joseph Smith," 235.
  25. "Mature Joseph Smith," 235.
  26. Dallin H. Oaks, "Recent Events Involving Church History and Forged Documents," Ensign (October 1987), 63.
  27. "Book of Mormon Translation," Gospel Topics on LDS.org (2013).
  28. Jeffrey G. Cannon, "Oliver Cowdery's Gift," Revelations in Context on history.lds.org
  29. MormonThink.com website (as of 8 May 2012). Page: http://mormonthink.com/lost116web.htm
  30. "Prior to the publication of the book some pages of the manuscript were published by Abner Cole, an ex-justice of the peace, who published the Palmyra Reflector under the name Obadiah Dogberry. On December 29, 1829, Dogberry published the present Chapter 1 of First Nephi and the first the verses of Chapter 2. The issues of January 13, and 22, 1830, published more the Book of Mormon text, but Smith threatened to take Cole to court for violation of copyright and Cole ran no more of the excerpts." - Leonard J. Arrington, "Mormonism: From Its New York Beginnings," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 13 no. 3, 125.
  31. Gordon A. Madsen, "Joseph Smith's 1826 Trial: The Legal Setting," Brigham Young University Studies 30 no. 2 (1990), 106.
  32. Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool, S.W. Richards, 1853), 103.
  33. Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 4:252–253.
  34. Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool, S.W. Richards, 1853), 103.
  35. H. Michael Marquardt and Wesley P. Walters, Inventing Mormonism: Tradition and the Historical Record (Salt Lake City, Utah: Smith Research Associates [distributed by Signature Books], 1994), 227.
  36. Francis Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ in America: The Book of Mormon, 2 vols., (Salt Lake City: Utah Printing, 1959[1942]), 1:479. ASIN B000HMY138.
  37. Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 4:248–249..
  38. Enders, 220.
  39. History of the Church, 1:220. Volume 1 link
  40. David L. Paulsen, "The Doctrine of Divine Embodiment: Restoration, Judeo-Christian, and Philosophical Perspectives," Brigham Young University Studies 35 no. 4 (1995–96), 6–94. (Key source)
  41. "Testimony of Martin Harris Written by my hand from teh Moth of Martin Harris," dictated to Edward Stevenson 4 September 1870, Edward Stevenson Collection, Miscellaneous Papers, LDS Church Archives; cited by Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:331.
  42. Kent P. Jackson, Robert J. Matthews, and Scott H. Faulring (editors), Joseph Smith's New Translation Of The Bible: Original Manuscripts (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2004), 82.
  43. Lucy Mack Smith, The History of Joseph Smith By His Mother Lucy Mack Smith, ed. Preston Nibley, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1956), 161.
  44. The Reflector (Palmyra, New York) (14 February 1832): 102.
  45. F. Mark McKiernan, An Early Latter-day Saint History: The Book of John Whitmer (Independence, MO.: Herald Publishing House 1980), 67, punctuation corrected; cited in Robert L. Millet, "Joseph Smith and Modern Mormonism: Orthodoxy, Neoorthodoxy, Tension, and Tradition," Brigham Young University Studies 29 no. 3 (Summer 1989), 49–68.
  46. As cited in Millet, "Joseph Smith and Modern Mormonism," footnote 12.
  47. Robert S. Boylan, "D&C 50:43 and the 'Oneness' of the Father, Son, and Believers vs. the claim early Latter-day Saint Theology was a Form of Modalism," <https://scripturalmormonism.blogspot.com/> (7 July 2020).
  48. The current D&C 76 vision was first published in Evening and Morning Star, Independence, Missouri, July 1832.
  49. 3 October 1883, Salt Lake School of the Prophets Minute Book 1883 (Palm Desert, California: ULC Press, 1981), 39; cited in Paulsen, 34.
  50. "An Abridged Record of the Life of John Murdock Taken From His Journal by Himself," (typescript) Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 13; cited in Paulsen, 35.
  51. Truman Coe, “Mormonism,” Cincinnati Journal and Western Luminary (25 August 1836). Reprinted from Ohio Observer, circa August 1836. off-site See Milton V. Backman, Jr., "Truman Coe’s 1836 Description of Mormonism," Brigham Young University Studies 17 no. 3 (Spring 1977), 347-55. See also Vogel, Early Mormon Documents 1:47.
  52. Milton V. Backman, Jr., "Joseph Smith's First Vision: Cornerstone of a Latter-day Faith," in To Be Learned is Good, If ..., ed. Robert L. Millet (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1987).; cited in Millet, "Joseph Smith and Modern Mormonism," 59.
  53. Interpreter Foundation, "The History of the Text of the Book of Mormon," <https://interpreterfoundation.org/the-history-of-the-text-of-the-book-of-mormon/> (25 January 2020).
  54. See A. Melvin McDonald, Day of Defense (Sounds of Zion Inc., 1986; 2004), 49.
  55. These were the only editions consulted for this point. More editions may render the same however the author did not have access to them at this time.
  56. See page 81 of either edition of the Book of Mormon
  57. See Michael Hickenbotham, Answering Challenging Mormon Questions: Replies to 130 Queries by Friends and Critics of the LDS Church (Springville, UT: Cedar Fort Publisher, 2004),193–196. (Key source)
  58. See Book of Mormon note to 2 Nephi 12:2
  59. See also See also Kirk Holland Vestal and Arthur Wallace, The Firm Foundation of Mormonism (Los Angeles, CA: The L. L. Company, 1981), 70–72.
  60. The implications of this change represent a more complicated textual history than previously thought. See discussion in Dana M. Pike and David R. Seely, "'Upon All the Ships of the Sea, and Upon All the Ships of Tarshish': Revisiting 2 Nephi 12:16 and Isaiah 2:16," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/2 (2005): 12–25. off-site wiki For earlier discussions, see Gilbert W. Scharffs, The Truth about ‘The God Makers’ (Salt Lake City, Utah: Publishers Press, 1989; republished by Bookcraft, 1994), 172. Full text FairMormon link ISBN 088494963X.; see also Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon (Kolob Book Company, 1964),100–102.; Hugh W. Nibley, Since Cumorah, 2nd edition, (Vol. 7 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988),129–143. ISBN 0875791395.
  61. Wikipedia, "Thomson's Translation," <http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomson%27s_Translation> (11 February 2015).
  62. Grant H. Palmer, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002) 10, 83. ( Index of claims ); Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults (Revised) (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1997), 205. ( Index of claims ); La Roy Sunderland, “Mormonism,” Zion’s Watchman (New York) 3, no. 7 (17 February 1838) off-site
  63. 63.00 63.01 63.02 63.03 63.04 63.05 63.06 63.07 63.08 63.09 63.10 63.11 63.12 63.13 63.14 63.15 63.16 63.17 63.18 63.19 63.20 63.21 63.22 63.23 63.24 63.25 63.26 63.27 63.28 63.29 63.30 63.31 63.32 63.33 Royal Skousen, The History of the Text of the Book of Mormon, Part Five: King James Quotations in the Book of Mormon (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2019).
  64. Proverbs 3:11-12; Hebrews 12:5-6; Helaman 15:3
  65. 65.0 65.1 65.2 Marvin A. Sweeney, "Isaiah," in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, ed. Michael D. Coogan, 5th ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018).
  66. Royal Skousen, Analysis of Textual Variants in the Book of Mormon, Part 2: 2 Nephi 11 – Mosiah 16 (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2005), 732–33.
  67. Royal Skousen, ed., The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text, 2nd ed. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2022), 119.
  68. Terry B. Ball, "Isaiah chap. review: 2 Nephi 24//Isaiah 14 Background and synopsis," in Book of Mormon Reference Companion, ed. Dennis L. Largey (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2003), 388.
  69. "What the Bible says about Outer Cloak (From Forerunner Commentary)," Bible Tools, accessed September 22, 2022, https://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Topical.show/RTD/cgg/ID/11587/Outer-Cloak.htm.
  70. See Michael Hickenbotham, Answering Challenging Mormon Questions: Replies to 130 Queries by Friends and Critics of the LDS Church (Springville, UT: Cedar Fort Publisher, 2004),193–196. (Key source)
  71. The implications of this change represent a more complicated textual history than previously thought. See discussion in Dana M. Pike and David R. Seely, "'Upon All the Ships of the Sea, and Upon All the Ships of Tarshish': Revisiting 2 Nephi 12:16 and Isaiah 2:16," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/2 (2005): 12–25. off-site wiki For earlier discussions, see Gilbert W. Scharffs, The Truth about ‘The God Makers’ (Salt Lake City, Utah: Publishers Press, 1989; republished by Bookcraft, 1994), 172. Full text FairMormon link ISBN 088494963X.; see also Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon (Kolob Book Company, 1964),100–102.; Hugh W. Nibley, Since Cumorah, 2nd edition, (Vol. 7 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988),129–143. ISBN 0875791395.. See also Royal Skousen, “Textual Variants in the Isaiah Quotations of the Book of Mormon,” in Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, ed. Donald W. Parry and John W. Welch (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1998), 376.
  72. "Thomson's Translation," Wikipedia, accessed August 15, 2022, http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomson%27s_Translation.
  73. John A. Tvedtnes, “Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon,” in Isaiah and the Prophets: Inspired Voices from the Old Testament, ed. Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1984), 165–78. A critic, David Wright, responded to John Tvedtnes' chapter there. Tvedtnes responds to Wright in John A. Tvedtnes, "Isaiah in the Bible and the Book of Mormon," The FARMS Review 16, no. 2 (2004): 161–72.
  74. "The History of the Text of the Book of Mormon," Interpreter Foundation, accessed August 15, 2022, https://interpreterfoundation.org/the-history-of-the-text-of-the-book-of-mormon/.
  75. These were the only editions consulted for this point. More editions may render the same however the author did not have access to them at this time.
  76. See page 81 of either edition of the Book of Mormon
  77. See E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech used In the Bible: Explained and Illustrated (London: Messrs. Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1898), 819-824.
  78. Adam Clark, Commentary an the Bible, abridged by Ralph Earle, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book, 1979), 778.
  79. Barnes' Notes on the New Testament, edited by Ingram Cobbin, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1980), 30.
  80. David L. Paulsen, "The Doctrine of Divine Embodiment: Restoration, Judeo-Christian, and Philosophical Perspectives," Brigham Young University Studies 35 no. 4 (1995–96), 6–94. (Key source)
  81. "Testimony of Martin Harris Written by my hand from teh Moth of Martin Harris," dictated to Edward Stevenson 4 September 1870, Edward Stevenson Collection, Miscellaneous Papers, LDS Church Archives; cited by Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:331.
  82. Kent P. Jackson, Robert J. Matthews, and Scott H. Faulring (editors), Joseph Smith's New Translation Of The Bible: Original Manuscripts (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2004), 82.
  83. Lucy Mack Smith, The History of Joseph Smith By His Mother Lucy Mack Smith, ed. Preston Nibley, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1956), 161.
  84. The Reflector (Palmyra, New York) (14 February 1832): 102.
  85. F. Mark McKiernan, An Early Latter-day Saint History: The Book of John Whitmer (Independence, MO.: Herald Publishing House 1980), 67, punctuation corrected; cited in Robert L. Millet, "Joseph Smith and Modern Mormonism: Orthodoxy, Neoorthodoxy, Tension, and Tradition," Brigham Young University Studies 29 no. 3 (Summer 1989), 49–68.
  86. As cited in Millet, "Joseph Smith and Modern Mormonism," footnote 12.
  87. Robert S. Boylan, "D&C 50:43 and the 'Oneness' of the Father, Son, and Believers vs. the claim early Latter-day Saint Theology was a Form of Modalism," <https://scripturalmormonism.blogspot.com/> (7 July 2020).
  88. The current D&C 76 vision was first published in Evening and Morning Star, Independence, Missouri, July 1832.
  89. 3 October 1883, Salt Lake School of the Prophets Minute Book 1883 (Palm Desert, California: ULC Press, 1981), 39; cited in Paulsen, 34.
  90. "An Abridged Record of the Life of John Murdock Taken From His Journal by Himself," (typescript) Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 13; cited in Paulsen, 35.
  91. Truman Coe, “Mormonism,” Cincinnati Journal and Western Luminary (25 August 1836). Reprinted from Ohio Observer, circa August 1836. off-site See Milton V. Backman, Jr., "Truman Coe’s 1836 Description of Mormonism," Brigham Young University Studies 17 no. 3 (Spring 1977), 347-55. See also Vogel, Early Mormon Documents 1:47.
  92. Milton V. Backman, Jr., "Joseph Smith's First Vision: Cornerstone of a Latter-day Faith," in To Be Learned is Good, If ..., ed. Robert L. Millet (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1987).; cited in Millet, "Joseph Smith and Modern Mormonism," 59.
  93. Michael D. Rhodes, The Hor Book of Breathings: A Translation and Commentary (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), 19 (18–23).
  94. "Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham," Gospel Topics (8 July 2014)
  95. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 2:235, 236, 348–351. 236, 348 Volume 2 link
  96. "Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham," Gospel Topics on LDS.org (8 July 2014)
  97. John Gee, "Eyewitness, Hearsay, and Physical Evidence of the Joseph Smith Papyri," The Disciple As Witness: Essays on Latter-day Saint History and Doctrine in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, eds., Stephen D. Ricks, Donald W. Parry, and Andrew H. Hedges (Provo: FARMS, 2000), 196.
  98. Until recently this was believed to be W.W. Phelps' handwriting.
  99. Michael Rhodes, in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., "Book of Abraham," Encyclopedia of Mormonism off-site
  100. John Gee and Brian M. Hauglid, "Facsimile 3 and Book of the Dead 125," Astronomy, Papyrus and Covenant, Neal A. Maxwell Institute.
  101. John Gee, "The Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham," Neal A. Maxwell Institute. Footnote 17 states: 17. "More information on this will be forthcoming, but one readily available instance is recorded in Apuleius, Metamorphoses 11.8."
  102. Robert K. Ritner, “The Breathing Permit of Hor Among the Joseph Smith Papyri," Journal of Near Eastern Studies, (University of Chicago, 2003), p. 162, note 4. Dr. Ritner is one of Dr. John Gee's former professors at Yale. Ritner's article in the Journal of Near eastern Studies is highly critical of his former student's involvement with any LDS apologetic effort on the part of the Book of Abraham, specifically because he was not included in a peer review.
  103. JNES, p. 162
  104. Larry E. Morris, "The Book of Abraham: Ask the Right Questions and Keep On Looking (Review of: “The ‘Breathing Permit of Hor’ Thirty-four Years Later.” Dialogue 33/4 (2000): 97–119)," FARMS Review 16/2 (2004): 355–380. off-site
  105. Larry E. Morris, "The Book of Abraham: Ask the Right Questions and Keep On Looking (Review of: “The ‘Breathing Permit of Hor’ Thirty-four Years Later.” Dialogue 33/4 (2000): 97–119)," FARMS Review 16/2 (2004): 355–380. off-site
  106. Robert C. Webb, pseud., Joseph Smith as Translator (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1936), 113.
  107. Wolfgang Helck, “Rpʿt auf dem Thron des Gb,” Orientalia 19 (1950): 430—31.
  108. Ibid., 432—33.
  109. Ibid., 418—21; David Lorton, "Review of Recherche sur les messagers (wpwtyw) dans les sources égyptiennes profanes, by Michel Valloggia," Bibliotheca Orientalis 34 (1977): 49.
  110. Helck, “Rpʿt auf dem Thron des Gb,” 416; Lorton, "Review of Recherche sur les messagers (wpwtyw)," 49.
  111. Helck, "Rpʿt auf dem Thron des Gb," 434.
  112. Hugh Nibley, Abraham in Egypt (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company; Provo: UT, FARMS, 1981, 2000), 411–12.
  113. Cf. László Kákosy, “Selige und Verdammte in der spätägyptischen Religion,” ZÄS 97 (1971): 100.
  114. S. Mayassis, Mystères et intiations dans la préhistoire et protohistoire de l’anté-Diluvien à Sumer-Babylone (Athens: BAOA, 1961), 299—304.
  115. Ibid., 301; cf. Pyramid Text 437 (§800); 459 (§865); 513 (§1172).
  116. Theodor Hopfner, Plutarch über Isis und Osiris, 2 vols. (Prague: Orientalisches Institut, 1941), 1:70.
  117. Günther Roeder, Urkunden zur Religion des alten Aegypten (Jena: Diederichs, 1915), 24.
  118. Jaroslav Černy, Ancient Egyptian Religion (New York: Hutchinson’s University Library, 1952), 59.
  119. Posener, Divinité du pharaon, 102.
  120. Morenz, Problem des Werdens, 81.
  121. Ibid.
  122. Percy E. Newberry, “The Shepherd’s Crook and the So-called ‘Flail’ or ‘Scourge’ of Osiris,” JEA 15 (1929): 85—87.
  123. Ricardo A. Caminos, Late-Egyptian Miscellanies (London: Oxford University Press, 1954), 420.
  124. Constantin Sander-Hansen, Die religiösen Texte auf dem Sarg der Anchnesneferibre (Copenhagen: Levin and Munksgaard, 1937), 105—6.
  125. Cf. Eugène Lefébure, “Le Cham et l’Adam Égyptiens,” BE 35 (1912): 7.
  126. Wolfhart Westendorf, Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture of Ancient Egypt (New York: Abrams, 1969), 84.
  127. Alan Gardiner, review of The Golden Bough, by James G. Frazer, JEA 2 (1915): 124.
  128. Georges A. Legrain, Les temples de Karnak (Brussels: Vromant, 1929), 217, fig. 129.
  129. Hugh Nibley, “A New Look at the Pearl of Great Price,” IE 72 (May 1969): 88.
  130. Nibley, Abraham in Egypt, 442–44.
  131. Dietrich Wildung, Egyptian Saints: Deification in Pharaonic Egypt (New York: University Press, 1977), 63.
  132. Ibid. Emphasis added.
  133. Gertrud Thausing, “Der ägyptische Schicksalsbegriff,” Mitteilungen des deutschen archäologischen Instituts zu Kairo 8 (1939): 53; Jan Bergman, Ich bin Isis (Stockholm: Almquist and Wiksell, 1968), 170, 177.
  134. Bernhard Grdseloff, “L’insigne du grand juge égyptien,” ASAE 40 (1940): 197.
  135. Constant de Wit, “Inscriptions dédicatoires du temple d’Edfou,” CdE 36 (1961): 65.
  136. Jacques Vandier, “Iousâas et (Hathor) Nébet-Hétépet,” RdE 16 (1964): 143.
  137. Cf. de Wit, “Inscriptions dédicatoires du temple d’Edfou,” 277.
  138. Ibid., 278.
  139. Bergman, Ich bin Isis, 275—79.
  140. Grdseloff, “L’insigne du grand juge égyptien,” 185—202.
  141. Ibid., 199—200.
  142. Ibid., 194.
  143. E.A. Wallis Budge, Book of the Dead (Papyrus of Hunefer) (London: Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1899), 34.
  144. Alexandre Moret, Rituel du culte divin journalier en Égypte (Paris: Leroux, 1902), 141—42.
  145. Bergman, Ich bin Isis, 216.
  146. Gertrud Thausing, “Der Ägyptische Schicksalsbegriff,” Mitteil-ungen des deutschen archaeologischen Instituts zu Kairo 8 (1939): 60.
  147. Pyramid Text 335 (§546).
  148. Nibley, Abraham in Egypt, 425–35
  149. Kurt H. Sethe, Urkunden des alten Reichs, 4 vols. (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1932), 1:111.
  150. Hugh Nibley, "A New Look at the Pearl of Great Price," Improvement Era 72 (September 1969): 89-93.
  151. E. A. Wallis Budge, The Book of the Dead (Papyrus of Hunefer) (London: Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1899), 34.
  152. Aylward H. Blackman, "A Study of Liturgy Celebrated in the Temple of Aton at El-Amarna," Recuel d'etudes Egyptologiques dediqué a la memoire de Jean Francois Champollion (Paris: Champion, 1922), 517, 521.
  153. Samuel Yeivin, "Canaanite Ritual Vessels in Egyptian Cultic Practices," JEA 62 (1976): 114.
  154. Waltraund Guglielmi, "Zur Symbolik des 'Dargringes des StrauBes der sh.t'," ZAS 103 (1976): 108.
  155. Ibid., 110-11
  156. Ibid., 111-12
  157. Ibid
  158. Hugh Nibley, "Abraham in Egypt" (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1981), 444–450.
  159. Bernhard Beer, Leben Abraham’s nach Auffassung der jüdischen Sage (Leipzig: Leiner, 1859), 194n853.
  160. Henry R.H. Hall, Hieroglyphic Texts from Egyptian Stelae in the British Museum (London: British Museum, 1925), 3.
  161. Jubilees 39:6.
  162. Peter Kaplony, “Vorbild des Königs unter Sesostris III,” Orientalia 35 (1966): 405—6.
  163. Nibley, Abraham in Egypt, 450–51.
  164. Hugh W. Nibley, Abraham in Egypt, "All the Court's a Stage: Facsimile 3, a Royal Mumming," (Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute) off-site
  165. "Race and the Priesthood," Gospel Topics on LDS.org (2013)
  166. "Race and the Priesthood," Gospel Topics, LDS.org.
  167. Lester E. Bush, Jr. and Armand L. Mauss, eds., Neither White Nor Black: Mormon Scholars Confront the Race Issue in a Universal Church, (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1984). ISBN 0941214222. off-site
  168. Anonymous, "On the Record: 'We Stand For Something' President Gordon B. Hinckley [interview in Australia]," Sunstone 21:4 no. (Issue #112) (December 1998), 71. off-site
  169. Dallin H. Oaks cited in "Apostles Talk about Reasons for Lifting Ban," Daily Herald, Provo, Utah (5 June 1988): 21 (Associated Press); reproduced with commentary in Dallin H. Oaks, Life's Lessons Learned: Personal Reflections (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 2011), 68-69.
  170. Jeffrey R. Holland, Interview, 4 March 2006.
  171. Edward L. Kimball, Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2005), chapter 24, page 4; citing Alexander Morrison, Salt Lake City local news station KTVX, channel 4, 8 June 1998.. ISBN 1590384571 (CD version)
  172. Gordon B. Hinckley, "The Need for Greater Kindness," Ensign (May 2006), 58–61.
  173. Neither White nor Black, 56; citing Editor, "Outrage in Jackson County, Missouri," Evening and Morning Star 2 (January 1834), 122. off-siteGospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  174. Neither White nor Black, 55.
  175. Neither White nor Black, 61,77.
  176. Newell G. Bringhurst, Saints, Slaves, and Blacks: The Changing Place of Black People within Mormonism (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1981), ??.
  177. Saints, Slaves, and Blacks, ??
  178. Neither White nor Black, 77–78.
  179. Neither White nor Black, 60–61, 77–78.
  180. E.S. Abdy, Journal of a Residence and Tour in the United States of North America, from April, 1833, to October, 1834, 3 Vols., (London: John Murray, 1835), 3:57-58 (emphasis added). off-site
  181. The following approach draws mostly on the language in the presentation given in Russell Stevenson "Shouldering the Cross: How to Condemn Racism and Still Call Brigham Young a Prophet," FairMormon Conference 2014.
  182. The following March, Brigham acknowledged the validity of the ordination of Kwaku Walker Lewis that likely occurred during Joseph's tenure, "we [have] one of the best Elders an African in Lowell [,MA] -- a barber." Church Historian's Office. General Church Minutes, 1839–1877, March 26, 1847, in Selected Collections from the Archives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2 vols., DVD (Provo, Utah: BYU Press, 2002), 1:18.
  183. General Church Minutes, March 26, 1847.
  184. General Church Minutes, April 25, 1847.
  185. Neither White nor Black, 70–72.
  186. For a history of such ideas in American Christian thought generally, see H. Shelton Smith, In His Image, But...: Racism in Southern Religion, 1780–1910 (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1972), 131. ISBN 082230273X.
  187. Jay M. Todd, "Egyptian Papyri Rediscovered," Improvement Era (January 1968), 12–16.
  188. Jay M. Todd, "New Light on Joseph Smith's Egyptian Papyri: Additional Fragment Disclosed," Improvement Era (February 1968), 40.; Jay M. Todd, "Background of the Church Historian's Fragment," Improvement Era (February 1968), 40A–40I.
  189. Jay M. Todd, ,"Egyptian Papyri Rediscovered," The Improvement Era (January 1968)
  190. Jay M. Todd, "Egyptian Papyri Rediscovered," Improvement Era (January 1968), 12–13. off-site (emphasis added)
  191. David L. Paulsen, "The Doctrine of Divine Embodiment: Restoration, Judeo-Christian, and Philosophical Perspectives," Brigham Young University Studies 35 no. 4 (1995–96), 6–94. (Key source)
  192. "Testimony of Martin Harris Written by my hand from teh Moth of Martin Harris," dictated to Edward Stevenson 4 September 1870, Edward Stevenson Collection, Miscellaneous Papers, LDS Church Archives; cited by Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:331.
  193. Kent P. Jackson, Robert J. Matthews, and Scott H. Faulring (editors), Joseph Smith's New Translation Of The Bible: Original Manuscripts (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2004), 82.
  194. Lucy Mack Smith, The History of Joseph Smith By His Mother Lucy Mack Smith, ed. Preston Nibley, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1956), 161.
  195. The Reflector (Palmyra, New York) (14 February 1832): 102.
  196. F. Mark McKiernan, An Early Latter-day Saint History: The Book of John Whitmer (Independence, MO.: Herald Publishing House 1980), 67, punctuation corrected; cited in Robert L. Millet, "Joseph Smith and Modern Mormonism: Orthodoxy, Neoorthodoxy, Tension, and Tradition," Brigham Young University Studies 29 no. 3 (Summer 1989), 49–68.
  197. As cited in Millet, "Joseph Smith and Modern Mormonism," footnote 12.
  198. Robert S. Boylan, "D&C 50:43 and the 'Oneness' of the Father, Son, and Believers vs. the claim early Latter-day Saint Theology was a Form of Modalism," <https://scripturalmormonism.blogspot.com/> (7 July 2020).
  199. The current D&C 76 vision was first published in Evening and Morning Star, Independence, Missouri, July 1832.
  200. 3 October 1883, Salt Lake School of the Prophets Minute Book 1883 (Palm Desert, California: ULC Press, 1981), 39; cited in Paulsen, 34.
  201. "An Abridged Record of the Life of John Murdock Taken From His Journal by Himself," (typescript) Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 13; cited in Paulsen, 35.
  202. Truman Coe, “Mormonism,” Cincinnati Journal and Western Luminary (25 August 1836). Reprinted from Ohio Observer, circa August 1836. off-site See Milton V. Backman, Jr., "Truman Coe’s 1836 Description of Mormonism," Brigham Young University Studies 17 no. 3 (Spring 1977), 347-55. See also Vogel, Early Mormon Documents 1:47.
  203. Milton V. Backman, Jr., "Joseph Smith's First Vision: Cornerstone of a Latter-day Faith," in To Be Learned is Good, If ..., ed. Robert L. Millet (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1987).; cited in Millet, "Joseph Smith and Modern Mormonism," 59.
  204. Oliver Cowdery (editor), "ON THE ABSURDITY OF SUPPOSING THAT THE THINKING PRINCIPLE IN MAN WILL EVER BE ANNIHILATED," (December 1836) Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 3:423-425. (An extract from "Thomas Dick's Philosophy of a Future State.") It should be noted that the November 1836 date given for this article given by Brodie in No Man Knows My History on page 171 is incorrect.
  205. Kenneth W. Godfrey, "A Note on the Nauvoo Library and Literary Institute," BYU Studies 14, no. 3 (1974).
  206. Robert Paul, "Joseph Smith and the Manchester (New York) Library," BYU Studies 22, no. 3 (1982): 333–356.
  207. John L. Brooke, The Refiner's Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 207.
  208. Thomas Dick, Philosophy of a Future State (London: William Collins, 1830), 121.
  209. Ibid.
  210. Ibid.
  211. Ibid.
  212. Ibid., 123.
  213. Ibid., 119.
  214. Ibid.
  215. Ibid., 121.
  216. Ibid., 125.
  217. Ibid., 276.
  218. Ibid., 279.
  219. Hugh Nibley, No, Ma'am, That's Not History: A Brief Review of Mrs. Brodie's Reluctant Vindication of a Prophet She Seeks to Expose (Bookcraft: 1946). off-site
  220. Edward T. Jones, "The Theology of Thomas Dick and its Possible Relationship to that of Joseph Smith," BYU Master's Thesis, 1969, 94–96.
  221. Stanley B. Kimball, "Kinderhook Plates Brought to Joseph Smith Appear to be a Nineteenth Century Hoax," Ensign 11 (August 1981).
  222. Notable works that mentioned it are William Alexander Linn, The Story of the Mormons: From the Date of Their Origin to the Year 1901 (New York: Macmillan, 1902) and Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Archaeology and the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Modern Microlm, 1969).
  223. Edward J. Decker and Dave Hunt, The God Makers: A Shocking Exposé of What the Mormon Church Really Believes (Eugene, OR: Harvest, 1984), 99–115; Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Mormonism: Shadow or Reality?, 4th ed.(Salt Lake City: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1987); John Ahmanson, “The Book of Mormon," Ahmanson’s Secret History: A Translation of Vor Tids Muhamed, trns. Gleason L. Archer, (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1984), 75–102; Grant H. Palmer, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002), 30–34, 259; Jeremy T. Runnells, CES Letter: My Search for Answers to My Mormon Doubts (American Fork, UT: CES Letter Foundation, 2017), 77–80.
  224. Don Bradley and Mark Ashurst-McGee, “‘President Joseph Has Translated a Portion’: Joseph Smith and the Mistranslation of the Kinderhook Plates,” Producing Ancient Scripture: Joseph Smith's Translation Projects in the Development of Mormon Christianity, eds. Michael Hubbard McKay, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Brian M. Hauglid (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2020), 499–502.
  225. Don Bradley, "President Joseph Has Translated a Portion': Solving the Mystery of the Kinderhook Plates," FAIR Conference 2011.
  226. Craig L. Foster, "Henry Caswall: Anti-Mormon Extraordinaire," Brigham Young University Studies 35 no. 4 (1995-96), 144–159.
  227. Henry Caswall, The Prophet of the Nineteenth Century, or, the Rise, Progress, and Present State of the Mormons, or Latter-Day Saints : To Which Is Appended an Analysis of the Book of Mormon (London: Printed for J. G. F. & J. Rivington, 1843), 223. off-site
  228. [John Taylor,] "Three Nights: A Public Discussion between the Revds. C. W. Cleeve, James Robertson, and Philip Cater, and Elder John Taylor of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at Boulogne-Sur-Mer, France" (Liverpool: John Taylor, 1850), 5. off-site
  229. Rev. Henry Caswall, The City of the Mormons: Or, Three Days at Nauvoo in 1842 (London: Rivington, 1842), 5, 35–36.
  230. Unsigned author, "Reward of Merit," Times and Seasons 4 no. 23 (15 October 1843), 364. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  231. Dean Jessee, Ron Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (editors), The Joseph Smith Papers: Journals, Vol. 1: 1832–1839 (Church Historian's Press, 2008), 107. ISBN 1570088497.
  232. Dean Jessee, Ron Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (editors), The Joseph Smith Papers: Journals, Vol. 1: 1832–1839 (Church Historian's Press, 2008), 135. ISBN 1570088497.