Return to menu

The inspiration for the inspiration



The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints attributes the restoration of the gospel to God. But we also know inspiration doesn't just happen in a vacuum. For example, we may thank the Lord for our crops, but we would not be so foolish as to suppose our fields would just produce with no effort from us. Even if the credit ultimately belongs to God, heavenly inspiration is preceeded by some corresponding Earthly effort. So can we identify the Earthly inspirations that led to the heavenly inspirations of the Restoration? Unfortunately, that information was not well-documented, so we might have to do a little digging.

You don't know me; You never knew my heart. No man knows my history. I cannot tell it; I shall never undertake it. I don't blame anyone for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I could not have believed it myself. Joseph Smith, April 7, 1844




The First Vision

The First Vision may have been inspired by a sermon by Reverend George Lane at the 1819 Gennessee Conference.

In Spring 1820, Joseph Smith prayed to know which church was true. His account in Joseph Smith History 1:11-13 states, "I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom... Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. At length I came to the conclusion that I must ...do as James directs, that is, ask of God."

But before this event, Reverend George Lane gave a talk at the July 1819 Gennessee Conference on James 1:5. The Gennessee Conference brought 110 Methodist ministers and their bishop within 15 miles of the Smith home. Years later, Joseph’s brother William remembered Joseph attending a meeting where George Lane addressed the question “What church shall I join?” Using James 1:5 as a text, Reverend Lane urged his listeners “to ask God.”

The First Vision likely did not involve seeing God with physical eyes, as is often asserted.

Joseph Smith History 1:20 states "When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven." It is often asserted in Sunday School that the First Vision was a physical experience that occurred entirely in the Sacred Grove. Baseless extrapolations are dangerous because they lead to disenchantment when people learn that the assumed details are not likely valid. Even if Joseph passed out from exhaustion after a physical experience, that would also lead to suspicion about the omission of the detail and reliability of the account. Whether the experience was literal and physical or exclusively spiritual is not nearly as important as whether it was actually inspired by God.

There is abundant evidence that Joseph considered spiritual things to be as real as physical things. For example, D&C 131:7 states, "There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes;" Supposing the First Vision occurred "in the Spirit" offers a potential resolution with Exodus 33:20, "Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live." (Note that there is a JST adjustment to that verse too.) D&C 76:116-118 suggests that such visions are necessarily spiritual: "Neither is man capable to make them known, for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him; To whom he grants this privilege of seeing and knowing for themselves; That through the power and manifestation of the Spirit, while in the flesh, they may be able to bear his presence in the world of glory." The wording in this scripture is also highly reminiscient of the wording used in Ether 4, describing the theophany of the Brother of Jared (and this indirectly connects it with the complementary theophanies of Nephi, John, Lehi, Moses, Isaiah, and Ezekiel. Several of them explicitly state that they were carried away in the Spirit. (Note: Each of those words was a different scriptural link.)




The Book of Mormon

Joseph's knowledge of Native American details predated the translation of the Book of Mormon.

Joseph Smith received the Golden plates in September 1827, the same year he married Emma Hale. But Luck Mack Smith (Joseph Smith's mother) recalled how Joseph telling stories of the Native Americans while he was still living at his parent's home:

Our sitting up late that evening to converse upon these things together with over exertion of mind, greatly fatigued Joseph; and when Alvin observed it he said: “now brother, let us go to bed, and rise early in the morning, in order to finish our days work at an hour before sunset; then, if mother will get our suppers early, we will have a fine long evening, and we will all sit down, and listen to you, while you tell us the great things which God has revealed to you.” Accordingly, by sunset we were all seated, and Joseph commenced telling us the great and glorious things which God had manifested to him...

From this time forth, Joseph continued to receive instructions from the Lord; and we, to get the children together every evening for the purpose of listening while he imparted the same to the family. I presume we presented an aspect as singular, as any family that ever lived upon the Earth face of the Earth: all seated in a circle, father, mother, sons, and daughters, and giving the most profound attention to a boy...

During our evening conversations, Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined: he would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent; their dress, mode of travelling, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, and their buildings, with every particular; he would describe their ​mode of​ warfare, as also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life with them.
Lucy Smith, Biographical Sketches, p. 85

Joseph's brother Alvin died in November, 1823. Joseph's interest in the Native Americans likely came from his role in "peeping" for buried Native American treasures, which involved telling detailed stories about what he had seen in his stone in the hat.

In his account, Joseph Smith admits that in 1825 he hired with an old gentleman by the name of Josiah Stoal, and was accused of being a "money-digger". However, a money-digger is not a person who works with a pick-axe or shovel to perform manual labor. It is a person who uses diviniation to locate buried treasure. What this account neglects to disclose is that Stoal was working with Oliver Harper and William Hale. They had suspended their efforts to seek a more help peeping for the location of the treasure. According to Artemisia Beaman Snow, "The last time he [Luman Walters, the peeper that had previously been working with Stoal's company] came he pointed out Joseph Smith, who was sitting quietly among a group of men in the tavern, and said There was the young man that could find it." Luman Walters, had his own seer stone and was known for using mystic arts to peep for buried treasure. According to D. Michael Quinn, Joseph Smith looked to Walters as an occult mentor, and according to a certain newspaper article published in Palmyra in 1831, he was he that first suggested to Smith the idea of finding a book.

They found Joseph Smith jr. who had a reputation for divining the locations of buried Native American treasures. "Their digging in several places was in compliance with peeper Smith's revelations, who would attend with his peep-stone in his hat, and his hat drawn over his face, and would tell them how deep they would have to go; but when they would find no trace of the chest of money, he would peep again and ...tell them the enchantment had removed it on account of some sin or thougtless word;" (Here's a source that's somewhat easier to read.)

The following year, Smith was arrested and tried for a misdemeanor count of being a "disorderly person and an imposter" for defrauding the others of that company as a "Glass Looker". Stoal (also "Stowell"), however, still believed and testified that Smith's powers were real. In a later 1830 trial, Stowell being sworn, testified that he positively knew that said Smith never had lied to, or deceived him". Stowell later said he saw a corner of the Bible (Book of Mormon plates), unknown to Smith, and that they resembled a stone of a greenish caste. Newel Knights sworn testimony said the "prisoner could see in a stone as stated by Stowel; that formerly he looked for money, &c., but latterly he had become holy, was a true preacher of the Gospel of Christ, possessed the power of casting out devils; he knew it to be a fact, that he, (Smith, the prisoner,) had cast a devil from him, (witness,)..."

A book, The Wonders of Nature and Providence Displayed, was in the local Manchester Library (five miles from Joseph Smith's home) and extant records show that it was reportedly checked out during the years 1826 to 1828. This book ...attempts to establish a Hebrew origin for Native Americans.

Around Cumorah were several Indian mounds, which were a source of speculation and great interest to Joseph Smith in particular.

It was a common legend that western New York and Ohio had once been the site of a terrible slaughter and that the mounds were the cemeteries of an entire race. In 1821, a Palmyra newspaper stated that diggers on the Erie Canal had unearthed "several brass plates" along with skeletons and fragments of pottery...

That Native Americans descended from the Hebrews was a popular theory at the time Joseph lived. America's most distinguished preachers - William Penn, Roger Williams, Cotton Mather, Jonathan Edwards - had all espoused the theory. A Jewish rabbi, M. M. Noah, summarized the parallels between the cultures of Hebraic and Indian customs in Joseph's hometown paper on October 11, 1825. Joseph unquestionably had access to the Wayne Sentinel, for on August 11, 1826 his father was listed among the delinquent subscribers as owing $5.60. Fawn Brodie, No Man Knows My History (35-36, 45,46)

Lehi's theophany may have been inspired by theophanies in the Bible.

A comparison of the parallels between Nephi's account of Lehi's theophany shows more similarities than might occur by random coincidence. One candidate explanation is that God follows a consistent procedure when calling someone to prophesy against a hard-hearted nation prior to its destruction. Another is that Joseph may have encountered a comparison of theophanies in the Bible, perhaps at the Gennessee conference, and planned to make the Book of Mormon seem credible by following the same template. It is a shame Book of Lehi was lost, since it would likely shed more light on the matter.

Detail Lehi Isaiah Ezekiel John
Spirit (or symbol of) 1N 1:6-8 Isa 6:4 Eze 1:4 Rev 4:2
Saw God 1N 1:8 Isa 6:1 Eze 1:1 Rev 4:2
on throne 1N 1:8 Isa 6:1 Eze 1:26 Rev 4:2
with angels or beasts 1N 1:8 Isa 6:2 Eze 1:8-9 Rev 4:8
Praising God 1N 1:8 Isa 6:3 Rev 4:8
One comes down 1N 1:9 Isa 6:6 Eze 1:28 Rev 5:7
Delivers book 1N 1:11 Eze 2:9 Rev 5:1
Foretells destruction 1N 1:13 Isa 6:11-12 Eze 2:10 Rev 6-9
Called to prophesy 1N 1:18 Isa 6:8-10 Eze 2:3 Rev 10:11
to hard-hearted people 1N 1:19 Isa 6:9-10 Eze 2:4 Rev 11:10

Many other parallels could be noted, especially with John's vision in Revelations, and even moreso if symbols are interpreted in a manner familiar to Joseph Smith. Because of the prominent placement of Lehi's theophany (at the very beginning of the Book of Mormon), and because Lehi's theophany is explicitly connected with Nephi's, The Brother of Jared's, and Moses' very similar theophanies, it seems likely that a central motivation behind the Book of Mormon was to deliver a unification theory that tied several different Biblical visions together.

Another Biblical unification effort can be found in the "Doctrine of Christ" as described in 2 Nephi 31, 3 Nephi 11:31-39, and 3 Nephi 27:13-21. The patterns in these sections can be tied to more Bible verses than I have any intention of attempting to document at this time. So it is not clear whether citing the Bible as the source of these ideas is sufficient. It is often noted that Joseph Smith is unlikely to have been the original source of such compelling teachings. Perhaps Joseph Smith might have picked it up some ideas at the 1819 Gennessee Conference, which he attended. Perhaps there was an unknown silent co-author. Or perhaps God just wanted to repeat Bible content. But somehow, it definitely came from the Bible.

Lehi's and the Brother of Jared's journeys may have been patterned after Exodus.
Moses Lehi Brother
of Jared
Started with theophany Ex 3:4 1 Ne 1:8 Eth 3:13
Gathered flocks and/or grains Ex 12:38-39 1 Ne 8:1 Eth 6:4
Left status/wealth Acts 7:21-22 1 Ne 2:4 Eth 1:34
Directed to take
property from others
Ex 12:35-36 1 Ne 48:16-26
Plagues/destruction Ex 8-10 1 Ne 1:4 Eth 1:33
Led his people Ex 16:1 1 Ne 7:1-2 Eth 2:1
Promised land Ex 3:8 1 Ne 2:20 Eth 2:7
Light in darkness Ex 13:21 1 Ne 17:13 Eth 6:3
Travelled in wilderness Ex 13:18 1 Ne 2:2 Eth 2:5
Miraculously fed Ex 16:15 1 Ne 16:30-31
Miraculously guided Ex 13:21 1 Ne 16:10 Eth 6:8
Crossed great waters Ex 14:21 1 Ne 17:8 Eth 6:7
Rejoice/thank Lord Ex 15:1 1 Ne 17:8 Eth 6:9
Makes record that
becomes scripture
Deu 31:24 1 Ne 19 Eth 6:1
Alma the Younger's story has many parallels with Paul's story in Acts
Event Paul Alma Jr.
eloquent / influential Acts 22:3 Mosiah 27:8
persecuted the Church Acts 8:3 Mosiah 27:9-10
divine manifestation Acts 9:3-6 Mosiah 27:11
torment / affliction Acts 9:9 Alma 36:16
a disciple ministers Acts 9:10-17 Mosiah 27:14
conversion Acts 9:18 Alma 36:18-20
subsequent humility Phil 4:11-12 Alma 29:3-6
dedicates self to work 1 Cor 15:10 Alma 36:24
thousands believe Acts 21:20 Alma 4:4-5
lots of writings Much of
the N.T.
Much of Mosiah
and Alma
Paul's epistle on charity obviously influenced Moroni's discourse on charity

In general, I think most Latter-day Saints are aware that the Book of Mormon makes extensive use of wording from the King James Version of the Bible. Typical defenses of Joseph Smith suggest he may have used the King James Version of the Bible to assist in his translation efforts when ancient prophets quoted from the Brass Plates. Notably, this contradicts Emma's testimony that he conducted the work of translation without reference materials. Her testimony is probably unreliable.

charity sufferth long, and is kind, and envieth not,...is not puffed up,...seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things,...hopeth all things, endurth all things
(Moroni 7:45)
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not;...is not puffed up,...seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things,...hopeth all things, endureth all things
(1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
if ye have not charity, ye are nothing (Moroni 7:46)and have not charity, I am nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2)
charity never faileth
(Moroni 7:46)
Charity never faileth
(1 Corinthians 13:8)
that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (Moroni 7:48)that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2)
that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure (Moroni 7:48)that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure (1 John 3:3)

Quotations like these from the King James Version of the New Testament are even more troubling since the New Testament would not have been contained on the Brass Plates. One possible explanation may be that the King James Version of the New Testament was given to Moroni by divine revelation, perhaps because that is the version early Latter-day Saints would relate to. However, this explanation leaves unexplained why many quotations contain alterations, as if to suggest that the quotations had derived from some other interpretation. Suspiciously, earlier Biblical quotations in the Book of Mormon seem to be somewhat more vigilant to consider what scriptures should have been available at the time. For example, Nephi speaks of faith, hope, and charity in 2 Nephi 31, which would certainly invoke a connection to 1 Corinthians 13 for Christians, but he was not so brazen as to directly quote from the New Testament as Moroni did.

Much of the wording in the Book of Mormon appears to have come directly from the King James Version of the Bible. The following table was created by Chad Lyndon Dills, who gave permission for anyone to reproduce it in entirety.
Book of Mormon King James Bible
charity sufferth long, and is kind, and envieth not,...is not puffed up,...seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things,...hopeth all things, endurth all things (Moroni 7:45)Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not;...is not puffed up,...seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things,...hopeth all things, endureth all things (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
if ye have not charity, ye are nothing (Moroni 7:46)and have not charity, I am nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2)
charity never faileth (Moroni 7:46)Charity never faileth (1 Corinthians 13:8)
that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (Moroni 7:48)that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2)
that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure (Moroni 7:48)that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure (1 John 3:3)
the name of his Holy Child, Jesus (Moroni 8:3)the name of thy holy child Jesus (Acts 4:30)
the gifts of God,...are many; and they come from the same God (Moroni 10:8)there are diversities of gifts, buit the same Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4)
there are different ways that these gifts are administered (Moroni 10:8)there are differences of administrations (1 Corinthians 12:5)
but it is the same God who worketh all in all (Moroni 10:8)but it is the same God which worketh all in all (1 Corinthians 12:6)
the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men, to profit them (Moroni 10:8)the manifestations of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal (1 Corinthians 12:7)
For behold, to one is given by the Sprit of God, that he may teach the word of wisdom (Moroni 10:9)For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom (1 Corinthians 12:8)
to another, that he may teach the word of knowledge by the same Spirit (Moroni 10:10)to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:8)
to another faith, exceeding great faith (Moroni 10:11)To another faith (1 Corinthians 12:9)
to another, the gifts of healing by the same Spirit (Moroni 10:11)to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:9)
to another, that he may work mightly miracles (Moroni 10:12)to another the working of miracles (1 Corinthians 12:10)
to another, that he may prophesy (Moroni 10:13)to another prophecy (1 Corinthians 12:10)
to another, the beholding of angels and ministering spirits (Moroni 10:14)to another discerning of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10)
to another, all kinds of tongues (Moroni 10:15)to another divers kinds of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10)
to another, the interpretation of languages and of divers kinds of tongues (Moroni 10:16)to another the interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10)
all these gifts come by the Spirit of Christ; and they come unto every man secerally, according as he will (Moroni 10:17)all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will (1 Corinthians 12:11)
every good gift cometh of Christ (Moroni 10:18)Every good gift...cometh down from the Father (James 1:17)
the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead (Moroni 10:34)the Judge of quick and dead (Acts 10:42)
stand fast in the faith (Alma 1:25)stand fast in the faith (1 Corinthanians 16:13)
sit down in the kingdom of God, with Abraham, with Isacc, and with Jacob (Alma 5:24)sit down with Abraham, and Isacc, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 8:11)
the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace, and mercy, and truth (Alma 5:48)the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14)
take away the sins of the world (Alma 5:48)taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29)
the ax is laid at the root of the tree, therefore every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be hewn down and cast into the fire (Alma 5:52)the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire (Matthew 3:10)
bring forth works which are meet for repentance (Alma 5:54)Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance (Matthew 3:8)
come ye out from the wicked, and be ye separate, and touch not their unclean things (Alma 5:57)come out from among them, and be ye separate,...and touch not the unclean thing (2 Corinthians 6:17)
and to cleanse from all unrighteousness (Alma 7:14)and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9)
lay aside every sin, which easily doth beset you (Alma 7:15)lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us (Hebrews 12:1)
he who is filthy shall remain in his filthiness (Alma 7:21)he which is filthy, let him be filthy still (Revelation 22:11)
faith, hope, and charity (Alma 7:24)faith, hope, charity (1 Corinthians 13:13)
thou hast not lied unto men only but thou hast lied unto God (Alma 12:3)thou hast not lied unto men , but unto God (Acts 5:4)
resurrection of the dead,...both the just and the unjust (Alma 12:8)resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust (Acts 24:15)
the rocks and the mountains, to fall upon us to hide us from (Alma 12:27)the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from (Revelation 6:16)
must die; and after death, they must come to judgment (Alma 12:27)to die, but after this the judgment (Hebrews 9:27)
this same Melchizedek to whom Abraham paid...of one-tenth part of all (Alma 133:15)this Melchisedec,...To whom also Amraham gave a tenth part of all (Hebrews 7:1-2)
not to be tempted above that which ye can bear (Alma 13:28)not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Rabbanah, which is...powerful or great king (Alma 18:13)Rabboni; which is to say, Master (John 20:16)
being wise yet harmless (Alma 18:22)be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16)
I say unto thee, woman, there has not been such great faith among all the people of the Nephites (Alma 19:10)I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel (Luke 7:9)
my heart is exceeding sorrowful (Alma 31:31)My soul is exceeding sorrowful (Matthew 26:38)
if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen (Alma 32:21)Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)
springing up unto everlasting life (Alma 32:41)springing up into everlasting life (John 4:14)
it shall be all fulfilled, every jot and tittle, and none shall have passed away (Alma 34:13)one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled (Matthew 5:18)
against the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness (Alma 34:23)child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness (Acts 13:10)
cast out,...and is trodden under foot of men (Alma 34:29)cast out,...and to be trodden under foot of men (Matthew 5:13)
behold now is the time and the day of your salvation (Alma 34:31)behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2)
work out your salvation with fear (Alma 34:37)work out your own salvation with fear (Philippians 2:12)
worship God,...in spirit and in truth (Alma 34:38)worship him,...in spirit and in truth (John 4:24)
and learn of me; for I (Alma 36:3)and learn of me; for I (Matthew 11:29)
Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me (Alma 36:18)Jesus thou son of David, have mercy on me (Mark 10:47)
meek and lowly in heart; for such shall find rest to their souls (Alma 37:34)meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls (Matthew 11:29)
he is...the light of the world (Alma 38:9)I am the light of the world (John 8:12)
the lusts of your eyes (Alma 39:9)the lusts of the eyes (1 John 2:16)
shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth (Alma 40:13)shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12)
fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God (Alma 40:14)fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries (Hebrews 10:27)
restoration of those things of which has been spoken by the mouths of the prophets (Alma 40:22)restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets (Acts 3:21)
then shall the righteous shine forth in the kingdom of God (Alma 40:25)Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father (Matthew 13:43)
without God in the world (Alma 41:11)without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12)
it was appointed unto man to die (Alma 42:6)it is appointed unto men once to die (Hebrews 9:27)
the inward vessel shall be cleansed first, and then shall the outer vessel be cleansed also (Alma 60:23)cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also (Matthew 23:26)
lay up for yourselves a treasure in heaven (Helaman 5:8)lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20)
except ye repent ye shall perish (Helaman 5:8)except ye repent, ye shall...perish (Matthew 6:20)
And as he lifted up the brazen serpent in the wilderness, even so shall he be lifted up who should come (Heleman 8:14)And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up (John 3:14)
heaping up for yourselves wrath against the day of judgment (Helaman 8:25)treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment (Romans 2:5)
darkness rather than light (Helaman 13:29)darkness rather than light (John 3:19)
graves shall be opened; and shall yield up many of their dead; and many saints shall appear unto many (Helaman 14:25)graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,...and appeared unto many (Matthew 27:52-53)
the dog to his vomit, or like the sow to her wallowing in the mire (3 Nephi 7:8)the dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire (2 Peter 2:22)
Old things are done away, and all things have become new (3 Nephi 26:3)old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (2 Corinthians 5:17)
the elements should melt with fervent heat, and the earth (3 Nephi 26:3)the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth (2 Peter 3:10)
and heard unspeakable things, which are not lawful to be written (3 Nephi 26:18)and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter (2 Corinthians 12:4)
whether they were in the body or out of the body, they could not tell (3 Nephi 28:15)whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell (2 Corinthians 12:3)
no variableness neither shadow of turning (Mormon 9:9)no variableness, neither shadow of turning (James 1:17)
that ye may consume it on your lusts (Mormon 9:28)that ye may consume it upon your lusts (James 4:3)
an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast (Ether 12:4)an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast (Hebrews 6:19)
partakers of the heavenly gift (Ether 12:8)partakers of the heavenly calling (Hebrews 3:1)
it was the faith of Alma and Amulek that caused the prison to tumble (Ether 12:13)By faith the walls of Jericho fell down (Hebrews 11:30)
by faith that the three disciples obtained a promise that they should not taste death (Ether 12:17)By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death (Hebrews 11:5)
by faith...obtained the promise (Ether 12:22)through faith...obtained promises (Hebrews 11:33)
the Lord spake unto me, saying:...my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness (Ether 12:26)he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)
better things of you (Moroni 7:39)better things of you (Hebrews 6:9)
have not charity he is nothing (Moroni 7:44)have not charity, it profiteth me nothing (1 Corinthians 13:3)
to declare unto them concerning the things which he had both seen and heard (1 Nephi 1:18)That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you (1 John 1:3)
steadfast, and immovable (1 Nephi 2:10)stedfast, unmoveable (1 Corinthians 15:58)
being grieved because of the hardness of their hearts (1 Nephi 2:18)being grieved for the hardness of their hearts (Mark 3:5)
that one man should perish than that a nation should ...perish in unbelief (1 Nephi 4:13)that one man should not die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not (John 11:50)
kindreds, tongues, and people (1 Nephi 5:18)people and kindreds and tongues (Revelations 11:9)
who are not of the world (1 Nephi 6:5)they are not of the world (John 17:14)
the Lamb of God, who should take away the sins of the world (1 Nephi 10:10)the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29)
by the power of the Holy Ghost (1 Nephi 10:17)through the power of the Holy Ghost (Romans 15:13)
all those who diligently seek him (1 Nephi 10:17)of them that diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6)
the same yesterday, to-day, and forever (1 Nephi 10:18)the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever (Hebrews 13:8)
he that ...seeketh shall find (1 Nephi 10:19)he that seeketh findeth (Luke 11:10)
bear record that it is the Son of God (1 Nephi 11:7)bare record that this is the Son of God (John 1:34)
the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men (1 Nephi 11:22)the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts (Romans 5:5)
the Holy Ghost come down out of heaven and abide upon him in the form of a dove (1 Nephi 11:27)the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him (Luke 3:22)
heavens open again, and I saw angels descending upon the children of men (1 Nephi 11:30)heaven open, and the angels of God ascended and descended upon the Son of man (John 1:51)
who were sick, and who were afflicted with all manners of diseases, and with devils (1 Nephi 11:31)all sick people that were taken with divers diseases...and those which were possessed with devils (Matthew 4:24)
wars, and rumours of wars (1 Nephi 12:2)wars, and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:6)
the earth and the rocks, that they rent (1 Nephi 12:4)the earth did quake, and the rocks rent (Matthew 27:51)
their garments were made white in his blood (1 Nephi 12:10)their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Revelations 7:14)
made white in the blood of the Lamb (1 Nephi 12:11)made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14)
gold, and silver, and silks, and scarlets, and fine-twined linen, and all manners of precious clothing (1 Nephi 13:7)gold, and silver,... and fine linen,...and silk, and scarlet,...and all manner vessels of most precious wood (Revelation 18:12)
pervert the right ways of the Lord (1 Nephi 13:27)pervert the right ways of the Lord (Acts 13:10)
blind the eyes and harden the hearts (1 Nephi 13:27)blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart (John 12:40)
the power of the Holy Ghost (1 Nephi 13:37)the power of the Holy Ghost (Romans 15:13)
endure unto the end...shall be saved (1 Nephi 13:37)endureth to the end shall be saved (Matthew 10:22)
tiding of great joy (1 Nephi 13:37)tiding of great joy (Luke 2:10)
last shall be first, and the first shall be last (1 Nephi 13:42)first shall be last; and the last shall be first (Matthew 19:30)
the whore of all the earth, and she sat upon many waters; and she had dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people (1 Nephi 14:11)the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:...The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations and tongues (Revelation 17:1 and 15)
the fiery darts of the adversary (1 Nephi 15:24)the fiery darts of the wicked (Ephesians 6:16)
there cannot any unclean thing enter into the kingdom of God (1 Nephi 15:34)nor unclean person,...hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ (Ephesians 5:5)
shall be saved, even if it so be as by fire (1 Nephi 22:17)shall be saved; yet so as by fire (1 Corinthians 3:15)
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke (1 Nephi 22:18)blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke (Acts 2:19)
the lusts of the flesh (1 Nephi 22:23)the lust of the flesh (1 John 2:16)
the things of the world (1 Nephi 22:23)the things that are in the world (1 John 2:16)
his sheep, and they know him (1 Nephi 22:25)his own sheep,...they know his voice (John 10:4)
and there shall be one fold and one shepherd (1 Nephi 22:25)and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd (John 10:16)
by the law no flesh is justified (2 Nephi 2:5)by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified (Galatians 2:16)
full of grace and truth (2 Nephi 2:6)full of grace and truth (John 1:14)
who layette down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit (2 Nephi 2:8)I lay down my life, that I might take it up again (John 10:17)
the firstfruits onto God (2 Nephi 2:9)the firstfruits unto God (Revelations 14:4)
that old serpent, who is the devil (2 Nephi 2:18)that old serpent, which is the Devil (Revelations 20:2)
who is the father of all lies (2 Nephi 2:18)he is a liar, and the father of it (John 8:44)
have chosen the good part (2 Nephi 2:30)hath chosen the good part (Luke 10:42)
O wretched man that I am (2 Nephi 4:17)O wretched man that I am (Romans 7:24)
the sins which do so easily beset me (2 Nephi 4:18)the sin which doth so easily beset us (Hebrews 12:1)
I know in whom I have trusted (2 Nephi 4:19)I know whom I have believed (2 Timothy 1:12)
God will give liberally to him that asketh (2 Nephi 4:35)If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally (James 1:5)
I ask not amiss (2 Nephi 4:35)ye ask amiss (James 4:3)
this corruption could not put on incorruption (2 Nephi 9:7)this corruptible must put on incorruption (1 Corinthians 15:53)
transformeth himself nigh unto an angel of light (2 Nephi 9:9)Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14)
death and hell must deliver up their dead (2 Nephi 9:12)death and hell delivered up the dead (Revelation 20:13)
they must appear before the judgement-seat of the Holy One (2 Nephi 9:15)we shall all stand before the judgement seat of Christ (Romans 14:10)
his eternal word, which cannot pass away (2 Nephi 9:16)my words shall not pass away (Matthew 24:25)
they who are righteous shall be righteous still, and they who are filthy shall be filthy still (2 Nephi 9:16)he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still (Revelation 22:11)
the devil and his angels; and they shall go away into everlasting fire; prepared for them (2 Nephi 9:16)Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his devils (Matthew 25:41)
endured the crosses of the world, and despised thee shame (2 Nephi 9:18)endured the cross, despising the shame (Hebrews 12:2)
the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world (2 Nephi 9:18)the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34)
their joy shall be full (2 Nephi 9:18)that your joy might be full (John 15:11)
commandeth all men that they must repent (2 Nephi 9:23)commandeth all men every where to repent (Acts 17:30)
where there is no law given there is no punishment (2 Nephi 9:25)where no law is, there is no transgression (Romans 4:15)
their wisdom is foolishness (2 Nephi 9:28)the wisdom of the world is foolishness (1 Corinthians 3:19)
But wo unto the rich (2 Nephi 9:30)But woe unto you that are rich (Luke 6:24)
hearts are upon their treasures (2 Nephi 9:30)where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Matthew 6:21)
shall be thrust down to hell (2 Nephi 9:34)shall be thrust down to hell (Luke 10:15)
die in their sins (2 Nephi 9:38)die in your sins (John 8:21)
to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life (2 Nephi 9:39)to be carnally-minded is death, but to be spiritually-minded is life (Romans 8:6)
And whosoever knocketh, to him will he open (2 Nephi 9:42)and to him that knocketh it shall be opened (Matthew 7:8)
Jew and Gentile, both bond and free, both male and female (2 Nephi 10:16)Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female (Galatians 3:28)
they who are not for me are against me, saith our God (2 Nephi 10:16)He that is not with me is against me (Luke 11:23)
lay aside our sins (2 Nephi 10:20)lay aside....the sin (Hebrews 12:1)
reconciled unto God (2 Nephi 10:24)reconciled to God (Romans 5:10)
through the grace of God that ye are saved (2 Nephi 10:24)by grace are ye saved (Ephesians 2:8)
the power of the resurrection (2 Nephi 10:25)the power of his resurrection (Philippians 3:10)
the Only Begotten of the Father (2 Nephi 25:12)the only begotten of the Father (John 1:14)
there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ,...whereby man can be saved (2 Nephi 25:20)there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12)
made alive in Christ (2 Nephi 25:25)in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:22)
in nowise be cast out (2 Nephi 25:29)in no wise cast out (John 6:37)
grind them to powder (2 Nephi 26:5)grind him to powder (Matthew 21:44)
darkness rather then light (2 Nephi 26:10)darkness rather then light (John 3:19)
he may draw all men unto him (2 Nephi 26:24)I...will draw all men unto me (John 12:32)
will beat us with a few stripes (2 Nephi 28:8)be beaten with few stripes (Luke 12:48)
his everlasting chains (2 Nephi 28:19)in everlasting chains (Jude verse 6)
judged according to their works (2 Nephi 28:23)judged every man according to their works (Revelations 20:13)
a lake of fire (2 Nephi 28:23)the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14)
built upon the rock (2 Nephi 28:28)built his house upon a rock (Matthew 7:24)
built upon a sandy foundation (2 Nephi 28:28)built his house upon the sand(Matthew 7:26)
for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have (2 Nephi 28:30)For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath (Matthew 13:12)
out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works (2 Nephi 29:11)out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works (Revelation 20:12)
scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes (2 Nephi 30:6)fell from his eyes as it had been scales (Acts 9:18)
There is nothing which is secret save it shall be revealed (2 Nephi 30:17)for there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed (Matthew 10:26)
made manifest in the light (2 Nephi 30:17)made manifest by the light (Ephesians 5:13)
the Lamb of God, which should take away the sins of the world (2 Nephi 31:4)the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29)
to fulfil all righteousness (2 Nephi 31:5)to fulfil all righteousness (Matthew 3:15)
straight and narrow path which leads to eternal life (2 Nephi 31:18)strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth to life (Matthew 7:14)
with the tongue of angels (2 Nephi 32:2)with the tongues...of angels (James 4:2)
because ye ask not (2 Nephi 32:4)because ye ask not (James 4:2)
ye must pray always, and not faint (2 Nephi 32:9)men ought always to pray, and not to faint (Luke 18:1)
How unsearchable are the depths of the mysteries of him; and it is impossible that man should find out all his ways (Jacob 4:8)how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out (Romans 11:33)
wither away, and we will cast them into the fire that they may be burned (Jacob 5:7)withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned (John 15:6)
quench the Holy Spirit (Jacob 6:8)quench not the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19)
nevertheless, not my will be done (Jacob 7:14)nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done (Luke 22:42)
thy faith hath made thee whole (Enos 8)thy faith hath made thee whole (Matthew 9:22)
Whatsoever thing ye shall ask in faith, believing...ye shall receive it (Enos 15)whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive (Matthew 21:22)
Come unto me, ye blessed (Enos 27)Come, ye blessed (Matthew 25:34)
grievous to be borne (Mosiah 2:14)grievous to be borne (Matthew 23:4)
if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants (Mosiah 2:21)when ye shall have done all those things...say, We are unprofitable servants (Luke 17:10)
drinketh damnation to his own soul (Mosiah 2:33)drinketh damnation to himself (1 Corinthians 11:29)
he cometh unto his own (Mosiah 3:9)He came unto his own (John 1:11)
he judgeth, and his judgment is just (Mosiah 3:18)I judge; and my judgment is just (John 5:30)
become as little children (Mosiah 3:18)become as little children (Matthew 18:3)
putteth off the natural man (Mosiah 3:19)put off the old man (Colossians 3:9)
believe that he is, and that he (Mosiah 4:9)believe that he is, and that he (Hebrews 11:6)
enemy to all righteousness (Mosiah 4:14)enemy of all righteousness (Acts 13:10)
the thoughts and intents of his heart (Mosiah 5:13)the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12)
steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works (Mosiah 5:15)stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the word (1 Corinthians 15:55)
the grave should have no victory, and that death should have no sting (Mosiah 16:7)O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory (1 Corinthians 15:55)
He in the light...of the world (Mosiah 16:9)I am the light of the world (John 8:12)
If they be good, to the resurrection of endless life and happiness; and if they be evil, to the resurrection of endless damnation (Mosiah 16:11)they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:29)
one faith and one baptism (Mosiah 18:21)one faith, one baptism (Ephesians 4:5)
stand fast in this liberty wherewith ye have been made free (Mosiah 23:13)Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free (Galatians 5:1)
pray without ceasing (Mosiah 26:39)Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Marvel not that all mankind...must be born again (Mosiah 27:25)Marvel not that...Ye must be born again (John 3:7)
the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity (Mosiah 27:29)the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity (Acts 8:23)
every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess before him (Mosiah 27:31)every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God (Romans 14:11)

Here's another comparison showing the extent to which ideas in the Bible were incorporated in the Book of Mormon.

A book called "The Pilgrim's Progress" may have influenced the story of Abinadi.

The Pilgrim's Progress from This World, to That Which Is To Come is a 1676 Christian allegory written by John Bunyan. Similarities between this book and the Book of Mormon were first observed by Eber Howe as early as 1831 in his anti-Mormon book Mormonism Unvailed. As examples, he noted the use of the names "Desolation" and "Bountiful" in Lehi's story, as well as several thematic elements.

However, Howe apparently did not feel inclined to continue comparing the two works in a systematic manner because Abinidi's story, which occurs later in the Book of Mormon, exhibits even more distinctively similar narrative elements. In Pilgrim's Progress,

  • Faithful is bound and thrown into prison. (Mosiah 12:17, Mosiah 17:5)
  • A town leader assembles a group of associates to examine them. (Mosiah 12:17)
  • The prisoners are "brought before" the town leaders and put on trial. (Mosiah 12:18)
  • They accuse Faithful of being a "madman", (Mosiah 13:1)
  • of slandering the town leaders. (Mosiah 17:12)
  • Faithful speaks "boldly" in his defense, but to no avail. (Mosiah 13:2-4)
  • The trial leader condemns Faithful to be "slain" and "put to […] death." (Mosiah 17:7)
  • Faithful is then "scourged," and (Mosiah 17:13)
  • finally burned at the stake. (Mosiah 17:14)
  • Thus, Faithful "seals" his "testimony" with his "blood." (Mosiah 17:10,20)
  • Faithful’s teachings and martyrdom convert a witness, Hopeful, who becomes a major character in the story. (Mosiah 17:2)
  • Other converts follow and depart from the city, (Mosiah 18:34)
  • "entering into" a "covenant" to follow Christ. (Mosiah 18:13)

In total, Bunyan wrote upwards of 60 books, tracts, and pamphlets [with] narrative parallels to the Book of Mormon.

A book called "The Late War" may have influenced Book of Mormon war stories.

In 1816, a book titled The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain by Gilbert J. Hunt was published. It offered a scriptural style account of the War of 1812. Between 1817 and 1819 it was marketed "for the use of schools throughout the United States" under the title The Historical Reader. This book contains an uncanny number of parallels with stories in the Book of Mormon. This site offers a side-by-side comparison of such similarities.

Linguistic analysis shows a surprising co-occurrence of rare 4-grams between this book and the Book of Mormon, surpassed only by the King James Version of the Bible. Also, this book contains significant and clear chiastic structure, suggesting a potential source for the chiasmus in Alma 36, and refuting the false claim that chiasmus was unknown in Joseph Smith's time.

A sample of some wording overlaps is given in the table below. For a much more thorough comparison of overlapping themes, plots, details, and word choices, please follow that link.

The Late WarBook of Mormon
LocationQuotationQuotationLocation
4th of July ... 26:1
the fourth day of the seventh month, which is the birth day of Columbian Liberty and Independence, the fourth day of this seventh month, which is in the tenth year of the reign of the judges. Alma 10:6
Teancum ... 27-28 ... near Moravian Town ... And it came to pass ... the army ... were under ... a chief warrior, whom they called Tecumseh [...] smote their chief warrior [Tecumseh], and slew him ... he fell to the earth. ... people of Morianton ... And it came to pass ... the army ... was led by a man whose name was Teancum [...] they did pursue Teancum, and slew him ... he was dead, and had gone the way of all the earth. Alma 50:33,35, Alma 62:36-37
Striplings ... 35:5-6 two thousand hardy men, who ... fought freely for their country ... Now the men of war ... were ... men of dauntless courage. two thousand of those young men ... to defend their country. ... they took their weapons of war, ... were all young men, and they were exceeding valiant for courage, ... Alma 53:18-20
Americas ... 20:11-16 ... the land ... most plentiful ... yielding gold and silver, and ... all manner of creatures which are used for food, And ... the huge mammoth that once moved on the borders ... It is more wonderful than the elephant; ... the land, ... exceeding rich, ... of gold, and of silver, and ... all manner of ... animals which were useful for the food of man. And ... cureloms and cumoms; ... and more especially the elephants ... Ether 9:17-19
Forts ... 29:20-23 [men] were prepared ... and they let loose their weapons of war ... and smote ... with great slaughter. And the deep ditch that surrounded the fort was strewed with their slain and their wounded. [men] were prepared, with their swords and their slings, to smite ... with an immense slaughter ... ditches ...filled up in a measure with their dead and wounded. Alma 49:20-25
More Forts ... 51 it came to pass ... on the tenth day of the eighth month ... the people began to fortify ... and entrench the high places round about the city. And ... build their strong holds ... it came to pass ... on the tenth day of the month ... the Nephites had dug a ridge of earth ... so high [...] round about ... the city ... And ... built a strong hold ... Alma 49,52
Casualties ... 23:24 ... fought ... and there were many slain and wounded on both sides ... fought ... and there were many slain on both sides Alma 52:35
Standard ... 6-7 sent forth a Proclamation, ... abroad ... And it came to pass, that a great multitude flocked to the ... standard of Columbia...they came in battle array against the ... sent a proclamation throughout ... the land; ... And it came to pass that thousands did flock unto his standard [of liberty] ... they ... went down with their armies ... against the ... Alma 61-62
Cataclysms ... 19:37-44 ...thunders: ... as the mighty earthquake, which overturneth cities. And the whole face of the earth ... overshadowed with black smoke; so that, for a time, one man saw not another: ... sharp rocks had fallen upon them: ...thunder, ... did shake the whole earth ... cities were sunk, and ... the face of the whole earth... could feel the vapor of darkness ... so that ... for the space of three days, that there was no light seen; ... great destruction had come upon them. 3 Nephi 8
Liahona ... 50:24 made partly of brass ... with curious works, like unto a clock; and as it were a large ball. a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles 1 Nephi 16:10
Weapons ... 19:13 And ... weapons of war were of curious workmanship And ... weapons of war ... of exceedingly curious workmanship Ether 10:27
51:3-10 it came to pass that the husbandmen ... gathered together, and pitched their tents, [and] assembled together ... And the people shouted with a loud voice, ... it came to pass that ... the people gathered themselves together ... And ... pitched their tents ... ye should assemble yourselves together ... And they all cried with one voice, ... Mosiah 2-4
53:4 ... it came to pass, that they gathered together their army ... their navy ... on the borders of the ... land of Columbia ... ... it came to pass that they gathered together all their people ... their flocks ... near the borders of the ... land of Zarahemla Alma 27:13-15
13:20 Now when Carden heard these words, his heart leaped with joy; Now when he had said these words, his heart was swollen ... with joy; Alma 17:29
35:34 And the chief warriors gave up their instruments of destruction, and laid them at the feet of Jackson... And ... their chief captains, ... threw down their weapons of war at the feet of Moroni... Alma 52:38
3:29 ... people to rise up one against another, and ... their own children. ... people to rise up in rebellion against their brethren. Helaman 1:7
44:21 ... go with all our might against their chief city ... go forth with all our might against the Lamanites, who were in the city Alma 58:13
34:10 it came to pass, in the same year, that the people of Columbia were revenged of the evil: it came to pass that in the same year that the people of Nephi had peace restored unto them, Alma 50:37
The 1811-1812 New Madrid Earthquakes may have inspired the Great Destruction.

On December 16, 1811, the largest earthquake to hit the contiguous United States east of the Rocky Mountains in recorded history occurred. An aftershock with a moment magnitude of 7.4 occurred later the same day, and two more earthquakes of similar magnitude occurred in the following two months. Joseph Smith would have only been six years old at the time, but the tales and interpretations that followed likely would have influenced him. Among the religious revivalism at the time and the looming threat of war with Britain, the tremors led many to ponder the deeper divine messages encoded in the shaking. Among Baptist and Methodist congregations closest to the tremors, conversions spiked in early 1812, and observers attributed the revivalism to the earthquakes. People soon derided those "Earthquake Christians" who abandoned commitments to church attendance and other proper Christian behavior when the shaking stopped in the spring of 1812. ...The American Methodist Church’s 10% rate of growth in 1812 nearly doubled that of the previous year.

Scientists in the domain of paleoseismology study geologic sediment and rocks for signs of ancient earthquakes. Several list of historical earthquakes are easily available, but conspicuously absent is any evidence for a major seismic event in the Americas around 33 CE. This seems significant given the intense description found in the Book of Mormon: "But behold, there was a more great and terrible destruction in the land northward; for behold, the whole face of the land was changed, because of the ...exceedingly great quaking of the whole earth;" (3 Nephi 3:12)

It may be significant that darkness (except due to disruptions of electrical power grids) is not typically associated with earthquakes. However, darkness is explicitly mentioned in three of the gospels around the time of the crucifixion. The Book of Mormon account also strongly emphasizes darkness.

Section 27 derives from Paul's epistle on the armor of God, but so do many verses in the Book of Mormon.

In D&C 27, the Lord references scriptures in Ephesians 6 (without actually noting the reference). But somewhat more peculiar is how numerous passages in the Book of Mormon also make reference to the "Armor of God".




The Pearl of Great Price

The Book of Abraham likely came from some source other than the Egyptian papyrii.

The Church's study manual states that the Book of Abraham originated with Egyptian papyri that Joseph Smith translated beginning in 1835. The Book of Abraham papyri were thought to have been lost in the 1871 Great Chicago Fire. However, in 1966 several fragments of the papyri were found in the archives of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and in the LDS Church archives. Upon examination by professional Egyptologists (both Mormon and otherwise), these fragments were identified as Egyptian funerary texts, including the "Breathing Permit of Hôr"[nb 1] and the "Book of the Dead", among others.

Two common theories explaining this discrepancy are the "missing scroll theory" and "catylist theory", described here. Further, the Book of Moses certainly demonstrates that having a relevant manuscript to translate was not any kind of necessity for the Urim and Thummim. D&C 7 is another example of Joseph Smith translating a manuscript that was not actually in his possession.




Doctrines

A large number of LDS views were likely inspired by Milton's Paradise Lost

John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost was published in 1667. The Church accounts for the numerous doctrinal overlaps between Milton's work and the restored gospel by claiming Milton was an inspired man. That same article lists many doctrinal overlaps with many teachings typically considered unique to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

  • The pre-mortal realm,
  • The Council in Heaven,
  • Lucifer's rebellion,
  • The War in Heaven,
  • Unity of spirit and matter,
  • A corporeal God,
  • Creation from existing materials rather than ex nihilo,
  • praising Eve for partaking of the fruit,
  • celebrating the Fall,
  • Free agency (as opposed to Calvanism),
  • Satan misunderstanding what it means to be free,
  • The Apostasy following Jesus' atonement,

It is very likely that Joseph Smith read Remarks on the character and writings of John Milton, a pamphlet by William Channing published in 1826, and likely would have sought out the full poem by Milton.

Another piece of evidence suggesting Joseph was familiar with Paradise Lost is the chiasmus that occurs in Alma 36. Milton's Paradise Lost (1663) exhibits significant chaistic structure. Unfortunately, it is often falsely taught in LDS circles that chiasmus was first discovered in the Book of Mormon in 1967, then was later found to also occur in the Bible. This has been so widely published by the Church that it dominates many simple Google searches on the topic. However, Paradise Lost proves authors were already incorporating chiasmus in their writings as early as the 1600's. In 1742, J. A. Bengal calls attention to the presence of chiasmus in a few passages of the New Testament. The Late War by Gilbert Hunt, published in 1816, contains significant chiastic structure, and is believed to have significantly influenced the Book of Mormon. And in 1820, John Jebb wrote a book called Sacred Literature in which he continues the work of Bishop Lowth in the study of chiasmus. These topics likely would have been curiosities of interest at the Gennessee Conference, which Smith is known to have attended. Thus, claims that Smith would have had no exposure to scholarly gospel topics are more likely the product of faith-promoting exaggerations than accurate analysis.

I think Augustine brilliantly described the dangers of carelessly repeating unreliable faith-promoting information:

Often, a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other parts of the world, about the motions and orbits of the stars and even their sizes and distances, ...and this knowledge he holds with certainty from reason and experience. It is thus offensive and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about such things, claiming that what he is saying is based in Scripture. We should do all we can to avoid such an embarrassing situation, which people see as ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn.

The shame is not so much that an ignorant person is laughed at, but rather that people outside the faith believe that we hold such opinions, and thus our teachings are rejected as ignorant and unlearned. If they find a Christian mistaken in a subject that they know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions as based on our teachings, how are they going to believe these teachings in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think these teachings are filled with fallacies about facts which they have learnt from experience and reason.

Reckless and presumptuous expounders of Scripture bring about much harm when they are caught in their mischievous false opinions by those not bound by our sacred texts. And even more so when they then try to defend their rash and obviously untrue statements by quoting a shower of words from Scripture and even recite from memory passages which they think will support their case ‘without understanding either what they are saying or what they assert with such assurance.’ (1 Timothy 1:7)
St. Augustine of Hippo (354AD – 430AD)

The tradition that John the apostle never died likely inspired the story of the Three Nephites who never died.

The origin of this tradition is a verse in the Book of John:

Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me. John 21:20-22

Amusingly, the very next verse cautions against interpretting these words to imply John would never die.

Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? John 21:3

Yet, that very caution itself seems so tantalizingly random, as if the author of the Book of John was saying "no comment" when confronted with an accusation, that verse 23 is probably the primary impetus behind the story continuing to maintain its traction. Historically, there was even a legend that the ground in Ephesus where St. John was buried would rise and fall as though someone were breathing, or even snoring.

In April, 1829 (immediately before translation of the Book of Mormon began), Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were intrigued by this tradition. In a vision, Joseph Smith saw a piece of parchment written and hidden up by the hand of John clarifying the matter, and Joseph translated it through the Urim and Thummim. (See also the Section heading for D&C 7.) It was originally Section 6, and was significantly edited between the 1833 and 1835 versions. Here's the 1833 version. (And tangentally, here's a page for comparing versions of various sections.)

When the Book of Mormon was subsequently translated, it became apparent in 3 Nephi 28 that it was not going to be left out of this juicy tradition. In a sense, it one-upped the story by making three of them insted of just one! Apparently, the Three Nephites were very busy making appearances throughout Utah and Idaho until about the 1920's, when the number of accounts seemed to start decreasing considerably.

The universalism movement may have influenced the doctrine that all receive a kingdom of glory.

Universalism was a complex issue for Joseph Smith, since his father was a Universalist and his mother was a Calvanist. Interestingly, D&C 76 presents somewhat of a compromise that simultaneously embraces aspects of both sides of the issue. Wikipedia has a whole article about the complex relationship between universalism and LDS doctrines.

The practice of plural marriage may have been inspired by Jacob Cochran's spiritual wifery.

FairLatterDaySaints.org takes the position "There is no contemporaneous or late evidence that the Cochranites influenced LDS ideas about plural marriage." That's rather like standing in the light of the noon-day sun and taking the position that no double-blind studies have been formally conducted to confirm that it is presently day time. Sometimes there are ways of saying things that are technically true while still blatantly lying. In this case, the evidence may not be contemporaneous, but the amount of circumstantial coincidence is too compelling to honestly dismiss. The following brief time-line shows how polygamy evolved within the Church:

By 1818followers of Jacob Cochran were already using the term "spiritual wifery" to describe their religious doctrine of free love, a term that was later used to describe polygamous marriages in the Church.
1830Jacob Cochran went into hiding to avoid imprisonment for practicing polygamy.
1830The Church is organized.
Early 1830'sThe first Mormon branches in Allegany County were established in the area immediately surrounding the Cochranite colony.
1831Smith tells Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner in a private conversation that she was the first woman God commanded him to take as a plural wife. (She was 12 at the time. They were actually sealed by Brigham Young in 1842, when she became Joseph's ninth wife.)
May 1831Joseph receives a revelation to organize a system of consecration. Incidentally, Cochran also was working towards a communal order where everything was held in common.
1831Joseph was teaching about plural marriage. (This is according to Brigham Young, Orson Pratt, and Lyman E. Johnson after Joseph's death.)
1832Mormon missionaries are known to have been laboring successfully to make converts among Maine's Cochranites
13 June, 1834The Church held a conference in Saco, Maine, the center of Cochranism.
1834Joseph told associates that an angel appeared to him three times between 1834 and 1842 and commanded him to proceed with plural marriage when he hesitated to move forward.. (According to Benjamin F. Johnson, the angel came with a drawn sword and threatened him with death, and Erastus Snow indicated he had to plead on his knees before the angel for his life.)
21 August, 1835The Church held another conference in Saco, Maine, the center of Cochranism. At least 7 of the 12 newly ordained apostles were known to be present, including Brigham Young. (August Adams Cobb, a former Cochranite, would later become one of Brigham Young's plural wives.)
1835The first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants is published and presented to the Church at this conference. By this point, the Church had already been accused of embracing polygamy. Section 101 in this edition responds by denying these accusations and making it clear that the Church's official doctrines forbid it: "Inasmuch as this Church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication and polygamy, we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife, and one woman but one husband..."
1835A revelation through Joseph Smith states, "Thus, none shall be exempted from the justice and the laws of God, that all things may be done in order and in solemnity before him, according to truth and righteousness." Technically, the context of this verse gives room for an interpretation that a person who is found innocent by the Twelve Apostles (as Joseph Smith clearly was), then that is the end of controversy concerning him. But an interpretation like that does a sufficient job of condemning itself before God.
1841At least three more women were sealed to Joseph Smith
17 January 1842Brigham Young seals Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner (mentioned earlier in 1831) to Joseph Smith. At least nine other women were sealed to Joseph Smith before October.
1 October, 1842 Dr. J.C. Bennett was excommunicated from the Church. The manner in which this was done appears particularly hypocritical. A proclamation was publised in the Time and Seasons exposing Bennett for polygamy. "We, the undersigned members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and residents of the city of Nauvoo, person and families, do hereby certify and declare that we know of no other rule or system of marriage then the one published from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and we give this certificate to show that Dr. J. C. Bennett's "secret wife system" is a creation of his own make as we know of no such society in this place nor ever did." It was signed by 27 Nauvoo residents, including Wilford Woodruff. Section 101 was republished with this proclamation explicitly announcing the Church's official opposition to polygamy.
1843Joseph Smith receives the revelation that is now Section 132 relating the principle of plural marriage. (This is according to Brigham Young in 1852. Some have suggested Young may have fabricated the revelation. Notably, this revelation emphasizes the authority of the First President, as Brigham often did, rather than common consent as was more characteristic of Joseph. But there is plenty of other evidence Smith was involved in polygamy, so this issue may have little significance.)
1845Joseph Smith killed.
1846Wilford Woodruff marries 3 more wives.
1847Pioneers arrive in Utah.
1849Emma Hale personally consented to and witnessed Joseph’s post-humous marriages to four women.
1852Brigham Young officially revealed the doctrine of polygamy to the whole Church. According to Young, the revelation was actually received by Joseph Smith on 12 July, 1843 (11 months before Joseph's death). (Notably, this was only a few years after the Saints arrived in Utah. They were shielded by distance from the laws of the United States. But Saints who followed Young there believing the Church's official doctrines of monogamy found themselves in a difficult position.)
1876Brigham Young removed section 101 (which affirmed monogamy) from the Doctrine and Covenants and added the revelation on polygamy (Section 132), which he had disclosed to the Church in 1852. (Some find this suspicious because Brigham Young enthusiastically embraced and promoted polygamy, calling it one of the best doctrines ever published.)
1879Emma Hale denied Joseph had ever sanctioned plural marriage, stating "No such thing as polygamy or spiritual wifery was taught, publicly or privately, before my husband's death, that I have now, or ever had any knowledge of". This bizarre (in light of what is now known) statement has sparked numerous conspiracy theories.

One theory suggests Joseph may have never actually supported polygamy, but was bullied by other leaders at the time to adopt it into the Church. This is supported by the observation that Jospeh Smith fathered nine children with Emma Hale (proving that he had the ability), but fathered 0 confirmed children with his more than 40 plural wives. (Some other children have been alleged, but mostly with little credibility, and all paternity tests have turned out negative.) While this does show Joseph probably wasn't having a great deal of sex, it should be noted that he had fewer than 3 years with the vast majority of his marriages, and several other factors may have limited the frequency of his sex. There is still a great deal of evidence that he was personally involved in plural marriages and did have sex with his plural marriages.

One possible explanation for Joseph's sealings to women who still were married to other men is that the doctrines of marriage and sealing were separate concepts at the time. Since sealing was believed to be essential for exaltation, women who were married to men that were not faithful in the Church might naturally have been anxious to be sealed to someone more likely to qualify for the Celestial Kingdom. However, this explanation cannot apply to the cases of plural sealings or marriages with non-members.
1890Wilford Woodruff ends the Church's official support of new polygamous marriages
1894The RLDS Church sues the LDS Church in the Temple Lot Case to dispute ownership of the temple lot in Jackson County Missouri. In order to determine which faction was the rightful heir of the "primitive" Church, the Judge inquired how revelations were canonized into law. The RLDS Church claimed that revelations received by the President must receive unanimous consent as being "of God" by (1) The Quorum of the First Presidencey, (2) The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and (3) The Quorum of the Seventy, then it would be presented to the general membership for majority consent, and then would be canonized as doctrine and scripture. The LDS Church, represented by Wilford Woodruff, indicated Brigham Young had changed affairs such that the Twelve had total authority without consent of the other quorums.

The judge found that Brigham Young had made this change, as well as the change to institute polygamy without obtaining the requisite consent from other quorums. He also noted that Wilford Woodruff's signature was on the 1842 proclamation declaring monogamy to be the official doctrine of the Church. In defense of Brigham Young, Woodruff admitted that Joseph Smith had been practicing polygamy since at least 1842. (I suspect this is when details of the full story started coming into the light.) The judge concluded, that the LDS Church was not the rightful heir of the "primitive" church because it did not follow the procedures Joseph Smith established in his Church. Notably, the law of consent was mandated according to several revelations recorded in D&C 26:2, D&C 28:13, and D&C 104:21, but there is some room for interpretation since it is more explicitly defined for the ordination of individuals than for the establishment of official doctrines.
Campbellism may have influenced LDS views on baptism.

In the sacrament ordinance, Latter-day Saints consider water to be just as acceptable as wine, even though it lacks the symbolic appearance of blood. Yet, with the ordinance of baptism, the symbol of being completely immersed in water is considered imperative. One might ask, why does this inconsistency exist?

A simple answer may be that Sidney Rigdon's group of Campbellite Baptists had some influence on LDS doctrines. Baptists believe baptism by immersion is essential.

Some views highlighted in Lectures on Faith may have come indirectly from Gnosticism.

Gnosis is the Greek noun for knowledge. In the first century AD, several Christian and Jewish sects (called "Gnostics") taught that salvation was obtained by gaining personal knowledge about God. In Lecture 3 Smith and/or Ridgon teach that a correct knowledge of God's character and attributes is necessary for the exercise of faith leading to life and salvation. In Lecture 6 it is taught that the knowledge that one's life is in accordance with God's will is necessary for obtaining eternal life. And in Lecture 7 it is taught that by faith, one obtains knowledge of God, through which knowledge one can receive all things pertaining to life and godliness.

Unfortunately, little is known about the Gnostics because the early Church viewed their teachings about personal revelation as a threat to their authority, and systematically destroyed most of their texts. But Joseph Smith certainly believed in personal revelation. He also held the gnostic belief that spirit was quite literally as real as matter,

All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes; D&C 131:7

and spiritual experiences result in knowledge as real and reliable as any knowledge based on phyiscal evidence.

And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, ...for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand. O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; Alma 32:34-35

There is some evidence Joseph Smith may have been influenced by Kabbalah

FairLatterDaySaints of course takes the useless position that thers is no proof. They are not wrong. A clear connection has not been established (as far as I know). But there are several overlapping themes include Zionism, the gathering of Israel, and the doctrine that men can become gods. A lack of proof is not a sufficient reason to dismiss these similarities unless one is already committed to another interpretation. There are some works that have found many parallels. I haven't really investigated this, yet, so todo: investigate further.

Certain LDS temple ordinances and symbols may have derived from Freemasonry

Joseph Smith joined the fraternity of Freemasons in March, 1842. Soon after, he introduced the temple endowment, which contained a number of symbolic elements that were very similar to those in Freemasonry. It is no secret that there is a relationship between the ordinances. Heber Kimball reported that Joseph Smith justified using Masonic symbols by claiming Freemasonry "was taken from the priesthood but has become degen[e]rated. but many things are perfect."

Deriving from Masonic symbols and ordinances is a big deal to both Masons and Latter-day Saints as these ordinances are (or were) delivered along with solemn covenants accompanied by threats of violence or death and symbolic motions that mime such death to those who reveal them. In recent decades, some of the similar components were removed from the LDS temple endowment, but it is no longer difficult to find details about how the ordinances were historically performed or how they evolved.

The phrase, "O Lord my God, is there no help for the widow's son," is significant to Freemasons. It is used as a distress call between Masons. Before Joseph was shot in Liberty Jail, he cried, "Oh Lord, my God..." It is speculated that Joseph likely recognized Masons among those who had come to kill him, and was attempting to complete this call when he shot five times.

The locations of significant historical events may have been inspired by Joseph Smith's places of residence.

In the Bible, most events of significance seem to have happened in the viscinity of Egypt and Israel. Yet peculiarly, the battle of Cumorah occurred where Joseph Smith lived, Joseph's seer stone was buried where he happened to be digging a well, The Garden of Eden was in Missouri where the Saints later intended to make their home, and The City of Enoch turned out to be the Gulf of Mexico (which geologists tell us was not scooped up, but rather was depressed by the weight of water from the Missippi River). It is also very surprising that geologists have not found evidence of the Great Destruction that allegedly changed the whole shape of the land.




The Bible

The Ten Commandments may have been influenced by the negative confessions of Ma'at

Since Moses was educated in the Pharoah's court, he certainly would have been familiar with Ma'at, the Egyptian concept of truth, balance, order, harmony, law, morality, and justice. So when he was establishing his own law to rule the Hebrews, he may have borrowed some ideas from the Egyptians. About half of the 10 commandments appear to derive from the 42 negative confessions found in the Papyrus of Ani, that the Egyptians taught deceased persons must make to their pantheon of deities.

Ma'at10 Commandments
Thou shalt have no other gods before me
Thou shalt make no graven image
37. I have not cursed or blasphemed god. Thou shalt not take the name of God in vain
Thou shalt remember the sabbath day
Thou shalt honor thy father and mother
4. I have not slain men and women. Thou shalt not kill
11. I have not committed adultery, I have not lain with men. Thou shalt not commit adultery
3. I have not stolen. Thou shalt not steal
8. I have not uttered lies. Thou shalt not bear false witness
Thou shalt not covet

(Frankly, I think it's a great shame that more of the negative confessions did not make it into the Hebrew Commandments.)

The Creation, Garden of Eden, and Flood stories in Genesis likely came from Sumerian mythology

Mesopotamian influences can be seen in the visual arts of Egypt, in architecture, in technology, weaponry, in imported products, and also in the possible transfer of writing from Mesopotamia to Egypt and generated "deep-seated" parallels in the early stages of both cultures. It follows that Moses, who was educated in Egypt, would likely have been familiar with Sumerian traditions. Therefore, it is likely more than coincidence that Sumerian accounts of similar events which predate Genesis are notably similar to the stories Moses was presumably shown in vision when he encountered the burning bush. There are also Egyptian variations of Creation, Garden of Eden and the Flood, but they are not quite as similar to the accounts in Genesis as the Sumerian versions.

The tradition that Jesus was born of a virgin may have been inspired by a mistranslation

Matthew 1:22-23 claims that Jesus was born to a virgin in fulfillment of a prophesy in Isaiah 7:14. However, that scripture had been mis-translated. The word used by Isaiah was "almah", meaning "young woman", but was incorrectly translated to "parthenos", meaning "virgin", in the translation available to the author of Matthew.

It can be argued that "young woman" does not necessarily exclude the possibility of being a "virgin", but it is awkward to even debate something that was taken so entirely out of context anyway. Isaiah 7 very clearly describes the Lord telling Ahaz not to be concerned that Ephraim and Syria have conspired against him because their plan is doomed to fail. As a sign to confirm this prophesy, he invokes the young woman bearing a son and says, "For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings." The only connection to the Messiah comes from the poor interpretation by the author of Matthew. But Nephi's vision in 1 Nephi 11:18 anachronistically echoes Matthew's misinterpretation 592 years earlier.







(Permission is granted for anyone to use or derive from this document for any purpose, without royalty or attribution.)