Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2008, October 26

Book of Mormon: “BUT Joseph Smith Could Have Copied…!” by grego

Book of Mormon: “BUT Joseph Smith Could Have Copied…!”
by grego

I find it very interesting that much of what Joseph Smith wrote was not necessarily the first time something had been written about, and how this is used as a “con” against him and the Book of Mormon.

Just today I ran into a website that said this:
“•Judith [and] Nephi
One of Nephi’s exploits is remarkably similar to an incident found in the book of Judith, in the Apocrypha of the Catholic Bible, which Joseph Smith was familiar with. The story in the Apocrypha goes like this:
Judith was a devoted servant of God. She was opposed by Holofernes, who was evil. She sought help from the Lord. She went to the city where Holofernes lived, entering the city by night, and found him asleep, drunk with wine. She unsheathed his sword, then grabbed him by the hair, and then using his own sword, cut off his head. She then departed, taking some of his possessions. When she rejoined her people there was great rejoicing, and burnt offerings were offered to the Lord.
Now, if you go back over the preceding paragraph, and substitute the name Nephi for Judith, and Laban for Holofernes, and “he” for “she,” you have the story of Nephi and Laban. There are other details, of course, which don’t correspond, but the similarities are sufficient to make one wonder if the similarities might be a result of something other than coincidence.”
Which makes me wonder, was Joseph familiar with the Apocrypha in the Catholic Bible, and what are the chances that he would use this story?1

Here’s another section:
“• Alma [and] The Westminster Confession
In 1729 the Presbyterian Church in America adopted a statement of beliefs called The Westminster Confession. Many phrases from the Confession are similar to phrases in the book of Alma in the Book of Mormon. For example:
Westminster: “before the tribunal of Christ” (Confession 33:1)
Alma: “before the tribunal of God” (Alma 5:18)
Westminster: “our first parents” (Confession 6:1)
Alma: “our first parents” (Alma 42:2)
Westminster: “the souls of the wicked…remain in darkness: (32:1)
Alma: “the souls of the wicked…yea, in darkness…remain in this state” (40:14)
Westminster: “their souls…return to God who gave them.” (32:1)
Alma: “the spirits…are taken home to that God who gave them life.” (Alma 40:11)
Westminster: “bodies…shall be united again to their souls.” (32:2)
Alma: “the souls and bodies are re-united.” (Alma 40:20)
Westminster: “The souls of the righteous.are received into the highest heavens” (32:1)
Alma: “The spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness.” (Alma 40:12)
Westminster: “The souls of the wicked are cast into hell…and utter darkness.” (Confession 32:1)
Alma: “The spirits of the wicked…shall be cast out into outer darkness.” (40:13)
Other Book of Mormon prophets besides Alma used terms that also occur in the Westminster Confession. For example, Nephi uses the term ‘carnal security’. That strange term is never found in the Bible, but it is found in chapter 33 of the Confession. There is no doubt that Joseph Smith had access to a copy of the Confession, since his mother and three of his siblings had joined the Presbyterian church prior to his writing of the Book of Mormon. Again, it could be argued that the similarities are coincidental, but they do seem rather remarkable.”1
Once more, I wonder if they really had a copy of the Confession just because they were Presbyterian…
Possible? Maybe. But was it probable?2

What about Nahom, in Arabia? Is that a direct hit, a sure sign of prophecy? Well… not really. Yet, as found here3: the odds are extremely high.

Other similar comments bring me to a certain belief that “impossible” is almost never the keyword in these discussions, but it all comes down to a question of probability.

In comments like this, I have three considerations:

*Was It Available to Joseph Smith?
Among apologists who frequently run into this type of argument, there is the joke that the local library in the little frontier town of Palmyra or Manchester was akin to the Library of Congress, and that Joseph Smith lived in the library most of the time as a youth (Out working in the fields supporting his poor family? Yeah, whatever! Obviously just a front.), up until the writing of the Book of Mormon; and that no matter how rare or old or difficult to obtain the book/ map/ ancient document, or how late the records might show, the local library had it; and no matter what Smith or his mother or relatives or neighbors or anyone said about his lack of schooling and desire to read, he had read it, preparing for the Book of Mormon! Add to that, some of these materials were only available in foreign languages, which means that Joseph Smith either read them or had someone in Palmyra who could read them and would take the time to read them to him and wait while he took notes.
If nothing else, the possibility that a wandering Jew came through town and stopped and talked to Joseph Smith and gave him lessons in Hebrew, or someone teaching him about something that couldn’t really have been gotten in any other way, is always there…

*How Did Joseph Smith Compile It?
Smith would have had to pull so many fragments of rare material that didn’t conflict from so many rare sources in such a short time, that just the feat of compiling the Book of Mormon–instead of bringing it forth as he said–still stands to be something incredible.
Anyone doing even a 10-page research paper can attest to the problems of time, sources, footnotes, borrowing and originality, internal conflict (think deconstructionism), etc. What are the odds that Joseph Smith, in his state of education, really did that?

*How Did Joseph Smith Know What to Choose?
We are aware that many things that used to be true, aren’t now; and vice-versa. The Book of Mormon contains many examples of things that “weren’t true” then, but now are. The incredible thing is, out of all the things Smith could have chosen, how did he know what to choose, that wouldn’t later be proven wrong? What are the chances he would choose so many unknown/ unsupported/ “wrong” things, only to have them verified later–maybe even 178 years later? The list of “facts” that confront the Book of Mormon is dwindling incredibly fast, as more and more understanding is attained and continues to whittle it down.

I’m not old, but I’m not really young, either; I’m not Catholic, but probably unlike Joseph Smith, I’ve had Catholic friends and spent two years among 98% Catholics or such; I’ve studied languages more than Joseph Smith did, and definitely spent more time in the local library (literally hundreds of hours as a youth, though it wasn’t always in the religion/ history/ rare collections sections); I have a university degree (and actually attended 13 years of school prior to that); etc. What made the story of Judith interesting to me was, I had never heard it before. And yet, of course, it’s so obvious. Now, that reflects bad on me, I guess. But then if so, more so on the critics… I haven’t heard it, even from a critic, and I had been in apologetics heavily for about two years! Which makes me wonder even more, why is it that it takes the critics years and years to do what they accuse Joseph Smith of having done in a few short years as a young man in an obscure town?

Is it impossible? No.
Is it improbable? Yes. Probably somewhere in the odds of a monkey at the typewriter writing one of my 10-page research papers… (No doubt many critics are laughing about right now, yes, that’s about what it was, “a monkey at the typewriter” ha ha ha ha!!)

1. http://www.mormonism-proandcon.org/id10.html
2. Here’s an explanation that spreads a little light: http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Mormon/Plagiarism_accusations/Westminster_Confession
3. http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2001_Arabia_and_the_Book_of_Mormon.html


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