Friday, May 9, 2014
Everyone knows that The Book of Mormon was originally written on gold plates a couple of millennia ago and only translated into English in 1829, but not everyone believes that. Some people think that Joseph Smith (or someone else) wrote The Book of Mormon with a little help and a hardy dose of imagination.
Who's help might Joseph have enlisted? Well, some say Sidney Rigdon fed him an awesome (but very mysterious) manuscript that was easily adaptable to the aims of budding Mormonism, but it seems this theory is not especially popular at the moment.
More people look at Ethan Smith's book View of the Hebrews (1823) as a source. Some folks, like LDS general authority B. H. Roberts (d. 1933), say Ethan's book gave Joseph's book its general premise and key points of its framework; others are content pointing out that Ethan's and Joseph's books both derive from popular notions held in the 1820s with regards to the origins of the First Nations.
Some people suggest that Joseph Smith and his father (Joseph Smith, Sr.) worked together on creating The Book of Mormon using William Marsden's The Travels of Marco Polo (1818) as a template.
Another book in the canon of Joseph's Potential Helpers is Gilbert J. Hunt's Late War between the United States and Great Britain (1819), which was "written in the ancient historical style."
There's also The First Book of Napoleon, the Tyrant of the World (1809) by Eliakim the Scribe. Reading it you might think it was trying to sound like The Book of Mormon.
John Walker's A Key to the Classical Pronunciation of Greek, Latin, and Scripture Proper Names (1808) seems to have inspired or directly provided Joseph Smith with names for Book of Mormon characters.
Many other textual similarities have been found in the writings of Mercy Otis Warren, David Ramsey, George Washington, The Declaration of Independence, and several founding fathers.
It's almost feels like The Book of Mormon was written in a post-American Revolutionary climate where these texts were part of common thought and parlance.
Oh, and let's not forget the Bible! Without the King James Bible The Book of Mormon would be much, much thinner!
But I doubt Joseph and his friends could have read all this stuff let alone be influenced by any of it. It doesn't make sense that an ignorant young man like Joseph could produce a book as complicated and poorly written as The Book of Mormon in such a short amount of time all by himself. The only logical solution is that he had the gold plates to translate from. It just makes sense.