Part 7: CES Letter Book of Mormon Questions [Section F]
By Sarah Allen
In this one, we’re going to discuss possible sources for the Book of Mormon that critics love to throw out: View of the Hebrews by Ethan Smith, The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain by Gilbert Hunt, and The First Book of Napoleon by Michael Linning. I spoke last week about how these types are arguments are really weak and badly presented, which I hope will come to be obvious by the end of this post. Just to get this out of the way up front, here are PDFs of each of the books in question if you want to compare them for yourselves:
- View of the Hebrews by Ethan Smith
- The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain by Gilbert J. Hunt
- The First Book of Napoleon by Michael Linning
To begin with, back at the 2014 FAIR Conference, Matt Roper and Paul Fields gave a presentation talking about the “pseudo-Biblical” writing style and how the Book of Mormon compares to both the KJV and to other books from the same period, including The Late War. (Stanford Carmack wrote a similar article for the Interpreter here.) They demonstrated pretty aptly that the Book of Mormon and KJV writing styles are very, very similar, and that other attempts at imitating it, such as The Late War and The First Book of Napoleon, are actually not very similar at all. It’s an interesting presentation that is well worth your time if you’re inclined to check it out. (There is also a funny chart showing the extremely high correlation between the divorce rate in Maine and the consumption of margarine in the US over the same time period.)
One of the things they noted in that presentation was that this style of writing was pretty popular from approximately 1750 to approximately 1850, about 100 years, with the Book of Mormon falling toward the later middle of the period. As such, there are a lot of books and newspaper articles imitating this same style of KJV-like writing that are bound to have some turns of phrase in common, particularly those phrases rooted in the Bible.
Going along with this, Jeff Lindsay offers a pretty hilarious parody of this type of argument on his website, where he declares Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass the very best possible inspiration for the Book of Mormon, despite it being first published in 1855. The reason these claims are so easy to parody is because they’re ridiculous reaches in the first place.