Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Could You Write the Book of Mormon?

A few years ago I responded to a news article in which the author stated that Joseph was a polygamist. My response generated other responses, one of which indicated Joseph was a fraud and wrote the Book of Mormon himself, which was an easy task to do. In my response I challenged him to write another book just like it—since it was so easy to do. He never replied and I have not seen a book published by him to date. When I discussed this event with a friend, he candidly quipped, "If Joseph wrote the Book of Mormon himself, he must have been a pretty smart fella." After studying the Book of Mormon for over 48 years, I could not agree more with my friend's off-the-cuff observation. With all of its plots, sub-plots, interwoven story lines, and Christian doctrines aligning with the Bible but contrary to the teachings of the day, the book is brilliant. If it was not of divine origin and did not come forth just as Joseph testified, then Joseph, with less than a forth grade education, was the most brilliant author the world has ever known.

Price Publishing Company publishes a tract entitled, "Could You Write the Book of Mormon?" While many of you may have read this or something similar to it, since this blog is about defending Joseph, I thought it would be good to reproduce here the contents of that tract. It lists 33 criteria necessary to write a book like the Book of Mormon under similar conditions as did Joseph. Its intent is to show how impossible it was for Joseph to write the Book of Mormon himself, thus confirming its divinity. The points it makes are probably not all inclusive. So, if you can come up with additional points of your own to show that Joseph could not have written the Book of Mormon himself, please share them with us in your comments.

Before I begin reciting the points of the tract, I need to say a few things about it. According to this Price Publishing Company publication, "the author of this article is unknown. The article was circulated in the Independence area in 1948. Dates and numbers relating to how many years have passed since the Book of Mormon was printed, have been changed to correspond with the year 2008." In addition, the references to the number of chapters, the length of the book, the number of words per page, etc. correspond to the RLDS 1908 version of the Book of Mormon. These references are different in other Book of Mormons such as those published by the LDS and the Church of Christ (Temple Lot).

Now to the points of the tract. Review the list below to see if you could write a book similar to the Book of Mormon under conditions comparable to those experienced by Joseph.

  1. You must be between twenty-three and twenty-four years of age.
  2. You cannot be a college graduate. In fact, you can have only three years of formal schooling.
  3. Whatever you write must be on the basis of what you know and not what you learn through research.
  4. You must write a history of an ancient country, such as Tibet, covering a period from 2200 B.C. to 421 A.D.
  5. You must write a book with 102 chapters, twenty-five of them about wars, ten about history, twenty-one about prophecy, thirty-two about doctrines, five about missionaries, and nine about the mission of Christ.
  6. You must include in your writings the history of two distinct and separate nations, along with histories of different contemporary nations or groups of people.
  7. Your writings must describe the religious, economic, social, and political cultures and institutions of these two nations.
  8. You must weave into your history the religion of Jesus Christ and the pattern for Christian living.
  9. When you start to produce this record covering a period of over twenty-six hundred years, you must finish in approximately eighty days.
  10. When you have finished, you must not make any changes in the text. The first edition must stand forever (this does not include grammatical errors, etc).
  11. After pauses for sleep and food, if you are dictating to a stenographer, you must never ask to have the last paragraph or last sentence read back to you. You must start right where you stopped previously.
  12. Your history or record must be long, approximately 777 pages with over 500 words per page.
  13. You must add 180 proper nouns to the English language (William Shakespeare added thirty).
  14. You must announce that your "smooth narrative" is not fiction, but true—yes, a sacred history.
  15. In fact, your narrative must fulfill the Bible prophecies; even in the exact manner in which it shall come forth, to whom given, and its purpose and accomplishments.
  16. You must publish  it to  every nation,  kindred, tongue, and people, declaring it to be the Word of God.
  17. You must include with the record itself this marvelous promise:  "And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost."
  18. Tens of thousands must bear record to the world for the next 178 years that they know the record to be true. Because they put the promise to the test, the truth is manifested to them by the power of the Holy Ghost.
  19. Thousands of great men, intellectual giants, and scholars, must subscribe discipleship to the record of its movement, even to the point of laying down their lives.
  20. There can be no flaw, whatever, in the entire book (except in grammar, or other errors of man in transcribing, etc.).
  21. Your descriptions of the cultures in these civilizations, of which you will write about, is not known when you publish your manuscript.
  22. Yet, you must not make any absurd, impossible, or contradictory statements.
  23. Even so, many of the facts, ideas, and statements given as true in your record must be entirely inconsistent with, even the direct opposite of, the prevailing belief of the world. Yet very little is even claimed to be known about these civilizations and their thousands of years of history.
  24. You must invite the ablest scholars and experts to examine the text with care.   You must strive diligently to see that your book gets into the hands of all those most eager to prove it a forgery and who are most competent to expose any flaws in it.
  25. After 178 years of extensive analysis, no claim or fact in the book is disproven, but all are vindicated. Other theories and ideas as to its origin rise and fall, leaving your claims as the only possible ones.
  26. Thorough investigation, scientific evidence, and archaeological discoveries for the next 178 years must verify your claims and prove even the minutest details of your history to be perfectly true.
  27. Internal and external prophecies must be confirmed and fulfilled in the next 178 years.
  28. Three honest, accreditable witnesses must testify to the whole world that an angel from heaven appeared to them and showed them the ancient records from which you claim your record was translated.
  29. You must hear out of heaven the voice of the Redeemer declaring to you and those three witnesses that your record is true, and that it is their responsibility to bear testimony of it—and that they do.
  30. Eight other witnesses must testify to the world that they saw the ancient records in broad daylight, and that they handled them and felt the engravings thereon.
  31. The first three and the second eight witnesses must bear their testimony, not for profit or gain, but under great personal sacrifice and severe persecution, even to their deaths.
  32. You must talk a friend into financing your book with the understanding that he or you will never receive any monetary remuneration from it. This person must mortgage his farm to have it printed. You must sell the book at cost or less.
  33. Finally, after suffering persecution and revilement for twenty-four years in the process of producing and defending this book, you must give, willingly, your own life for your testimony that the record is of God.

So, what do you think? Could you write the Book of Mormon? If you could not, how could Joseph do so with less than a fourth grade education? I know I could not do so and I have had 18 years of formal education. The thing I like about this list is that it gives an everyday perspective to writing such a book and helps me relate to just how difficult it would be to do this on my own without direction from God. This list confirms to me that the book is of divine origin and could not have come about in any other way than was described by Joseph.

After reading the list, I have a couple of additional observations about the Book of Mormon that confirm to me that Joseph did not write it himself. First, for all you readers out there that have higher than a third grade education, what is the direction you travel going away from Jerusalem along the eastern shore of the Red Sea? No fair peaking at a globe or using Google Earth. Time is ticking—what is your answer? Do you know it off the top of your head or do you give up? For those that do not know, the answer is found in 1 Nephi 5:15-16, 18 (RLDS) or 1 Nephi 16:12-14 (LDS). With less than a fourth grade education, how could Joseph have known this to be true when some of us with a much better education do not know it and the rest of us that did know it certainly did not know it in the fourth grade. While this is a small thing, to me it is further testimony that Joseph did not write the Book of Mormon in any other way than he claimed.

The second observation I have about the Book of Mormon is the use of first-person and third-person writing styles. As we know, Martin Harris lost the first 119 pages of Joseph's translation. According to Joseph, this translation was of Mormon's abridgement of the large plates of Nephi (a third-person narrative with quotes from first-person narrative). The Lord told Joseph not to re-translate it but to translate the small plates of Nephi instead (a first-person narrative only). The small plates of Nephi covered the same period of time as did the first 119 pages of Joseph's translation. If Joseph's account is true, then the first part of the published Book of Mormon should be strictly a first-person narrative and the remaining part should be mainly a third-person narrative with quotes from first-person narrative. And that is exactly what occurs in the published Book of Mormon.

By my calculations, the translation of the small plates of Nephi ends somewhere in the middle of the "Words of Mormon" chapter where Mormon's abridgement picks up regarding King Benjamin. The first part of the published Book of Mormon is written in first-person narrative by the original authors of the plates—Nephi, Jacob, Enos, etc. The second part of the published Book of Mormon from Mosiah to Mormon is Mormon's abridgement of the large plates of Nephi. As such, it is written in third-person narrative by Mormon with quotes from the original text in first-person narrative plus Mormon's own comments in first-person narrative. Thus, the first-person and third-person writing styles of the published Book of Mormon supports Joseph's account of the translation and is further testimony that the book is exactly what Joseph said it was.

So these are my two additions to this list. What are yours? If you have any, please add them through comments. I am anxious to hear what you have to say.