Source:Rediscovering the Book of Mormon:Ch:21:1:Ritual kingship in the Book of Mormon

Ritual kingship in the Book of Mormon

Ritual kingship in the Book of Mormon

There are many features of the Book of Mormon that I believe were beyond the capabilities of Joseph Smith—or of any person living in the early nineteenth century—to devise. Some people have suggested that the Book of Mormon is the kind of book someone could and would write if the author lived in a culture saturated by the Bible, as New England was in the early 1800s. If that were true, then why was Joseph Smith the only one to produce such a book? The Book of Mormon is the only writing coming out of the nineteenth century that faithfully reflects the ancient Israelite covenant tradition. None of the books, articles, or sermons written in Joseph Smith's day presents the eight elements of the ritual pattern that I have shown are found in the Book of Mormon. Nor do any of his "everyday" writings contain anything like this pattern.

Further, I think it is clear and convincing from the similarity between King Benjamin's and King Limhi's presentations that the actions were ritual in nature and were repeated on special occasions. The similarity between the Israelite covenant renewal festivals and what we have recorded from among the Nephites in the Book of Mormon is undeniable. Those who are willing to ignore this type of ancient material in the Book of Mormon overlook what I consider to be compelling evidence.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Book of Mormon is available to us only in English and has passed through the hands of Joseph Smith, its ancient background can be detected throughout the book. The evidence that the Book of Mormon shows the Nephites faithfully carrying out the Israelite ritual tradition, even down to fine details, is for me among the most persuasive of all. It isn't possible that Joseph Smith just blindly duplicated the old Israelite covenant tradition through luck because he had read the Old Testament a good deal. Rather, the Book of Mormon repeats the same pattern and features it in almost identical language, over and over again.

Moreover, the evidence demonstrates that those responsible for keeping the Nephite records were conscious of the fact that their actions were part of a ritual tradition. The nature of the actions, the similarity of the language, and the understanding of the ancient Israelite covenant are simply too precise to be accounted for in terms of luck or even as a result of the most profound abilities in comparative literature. It seems to me that this is one aspect of the Book of Mormon that even the most skeptical of critics cannot explain away.[1]


  1. Blake T. Ostler, "The Covenant Tradition in the Book of Mormon," in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, edited by John L. Sorenson and Melvin J. Thorne (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co.; Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1991), Chapter 21.