Dale Morgan on Early Mormonism
John Phillip Walker, editor
The Book of Mormon
[p.309]Any analysis of the Book of Mormon, whether the evolution of its text or the sources of its ideas, is complicated by the circumstances under which the first quarter of the book was lost and eventually replaced. There is good reason to think that the earliest portions of the text as it now exists are the opening paragraphs of the Book of Mosiah, and that the books which precede Mosiah were not written until much later, possibly not until the late spring of 1829, when most of the book had been completed.
It has been assumed that the 116 pages Martin Harris lost comprised all of the manuscript which had been written to that time. That this assumption is mistaken, that some few pages, at least, had been written beyond that point, is shown by a revelation of May 1829, which gave instructions for replacing the lost portion of the manuscript: “You shall translate the engravings which are on the plates of Nephi, down even till you come to the reign of king Benjamin, or until you come to that which you have translated, which you have retained.” The language of this revelation is employed again in Joseph’s special foreward to the first edition of the Book of Mormon: “The Lord said unto me…thou shalt translate from the plates of Nephi, until ye come to that which ye have translated, which ye have retained.”1 (The italics in each case are mine.)
The Book of Mormon itself provides the only evidence as to the character of the lost Book of Lehi and other books replaced with those of 1 and 2 Nephi, Jacob, Jarom, and Omni. 1 Nephi 1:16 declares, “I, Nephi, do not make a full account of the things which my father hath written, for he hath written many things which he saw in visions and in dreams; and he also hath written many things which he prophesied and spake unto his children, of which I shall not make a full account.” Again, 1 Nephi 6:1 says, “I, Nephi, do not give the genealogy of my fathers in this part of my record; neither at any time shall I give it after upon these plates which I am writing; for it is given in the record which has been kept by my father.” Further, 1 Nephi 19:2 speaks of that book which contained “the record of my father, and the genealogy of his fathers, and the more part of all our proceedings in the wilderness.” There is also, in addition to this account of the Book of Lehi, a single indication as to the contents of the original Book of Nephi which in the trial draft of the Book of Mormon followed the Book of Lehi. 1 Nephi 19:4 explains,
[p.310] “I, Nephi, did make a record upon the other plates, which gives an account, or which gives a greater account of the wars and contentions and destructions of my people;” the later version—the one finally published—restates this summary but adds, “Nevertheless, I do not write anything upon [these] plates save it be that I think it be sacred.”
The fact that the revelation solving Joseph’s problem in connection with the lost portion of the original manuscript was not given until May 1829 is the best of evidence that he did not begin all over again when, in the summer or fall of 1828, he resumed work on his book.2 The existing manuscripts of the Book of Mormon itself are of no service in the critical examination of these questions, for the only complete copy of the manuscript, in the possession of the Reorganized LDS church at Independence, Missouri, is clearly a secondary copy, evidenced not only by the character of the written text, the mistakes of which are those normal to any copyist, but also by the numbering of the folios and the juncture of the two portions of the manuscript. The fragments of what supposedly is the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon, preserved by the Utah LDS church, are withheld from study even in photographic reproduction, but the pages thus preserved are known to consist only of a few leaves from the opening chapters of the book, and thus are of no service in studying the missing sections of the manuscript which are of most critical interest, particularly the Mosiah text whose priority is evident at once.3
The Book of Mormon evolved naturally from the circumstances of Joseph Smith’s growing up, the world he lived in, his interests and his needs. It is not possible to say at just what moment and under what circumstances the idea that he might undertake the writing of a history of ancient America crystallized in his mind. Perhaps, as some in Palmyra later thought, the magician Walters, flourishing his copy of Cicero in the faces of the money-diggers, directly suggested the idea of such a book and it remained latent in Joseph’s mind until it ripened under the exigencies of 1827. Perhaps the book slowly took shape in his mind over a period of four or five years. Or the idea may have come as a sudden inspiration, the catalytic agent being a casual notice in the Canandaigua paper of a pamphlet published in 1827 by a Tuscarora Indian which purported to set forth “the Ancient history of the Six Nations,” including their creation myths and a “real account of the settlement of North America, and their dissensions.”4 The cultural environment was, however, so rich in suggestion that the idea may have occurred to him independently. We will never be quite sure, for Joseph himself would never acknowledge that anything but the power of God entered into the writing of his book, and very little independent information concerning it exists.
Still, it is illuminating to see how suggestive the environment was, and to consider certain ideas which may have influenced not only the character of the Book of Mormon but the decision to write [p.311] it. Nor must it be forgotten that Joseph was not the first in his family to undertake the writing of a book; Solomon Mack’s little autobiography was one of the few claims to distinction which his family, during the years of Joseph’s growing up, had possessed. While the paucity of information about Joseph Smith’s early life is such that it cannot be proved that he had read any particular book, parallels between the book he eventually published and a popular historito-religious treatise of this decade are too striking to pass without comment. Pastor of a church in Poultney, Vermont, a few miles west of the area from which the Smith family migrated to New York in 1816, Ethan Smith published in 1823 a painstaking contribution to the theory that the American Indians were of Israelitish descent, and this book, View of the Hebrews; or the Tribes of Israel in America, was so well received as to have been reprinted in an enlarged edition two years later.
View of the Hebrews, like the Book of Mormon, espoused what in the 1820s was incomparably the most popular view of the origin of the American Indians, the theory of Hebrew descent. Ethan Smith conceived the Indians to be the remnant of the lost ten tribes of Israel; his young contemporary, whether from pure creative impulse or from a judicious appreciation of the dangers of getting beyond his depth,5 was content to present the Indians as the descendants of a few families who had come to America independently (though later he gratified the curiosity of his followers as to the Ten Tribes to the extent of explaining that they had taken up their residence in the vicinity of the North Pole6). Otherwise Ethan and Joseph Smith were in cordial agreement with respect to the pre-Columbian history of the Americas. “It is highly probable,” the Vermont minister theorized in words that anticipate the Book of Mormon in detail, “that the more civilized part of the tribes of Israel, after they settled in America, became wholly separated from the hunting and savage tribes of their brethren; that the latter lost the knowledge of their having descended from the same family with themselves; that the more civilized part continued for many centuries; that tremendous wars were fought frequently between them and their savage brethren, ’til the former became extinct. This hypothesis accounts for the ancient works, forts, mounds, and vast enclosures, as well as tokens of a good degree of civil improvement, which are manifestly very ancient…. These partially civilized people became extinct. What account can be given of this, but that the savages extirpated them after long and dismal wars?” This theory, so congenial to the sentiments of a religious community which regarded the Bible as the ultimate frame of reference in which all human knowledge must be set, Ethan Smith supported with quotations from Humboldt and contemporary American anti-quarians as to the existence in the New World of ancient fortifications, temples, and whole cities, and he argued at length the cultural evidences that the American Indians and the Ten Tribes were one. For three hundred years, ever since the discovery of America, those [p.312] of scholarly bent and pious inclination had dissected the folkways and beliefs of the Indians for proofs of their Israelitish descent. The languages of the Indians, in actuality as widely dissimilar as those of the peoples of Europe or Asia, were listened to for Hebrew affinities and roots; ideas of a Great Spirit which the red men had picked up from intercourse with the whites were identified as a survival of Jewish monotheism; while the taboos, ritual purifications, and sacrifices, which have proved to be common to all primitive peoples everywhere, in this generation seemed conclusive proof of the identity of the Indians with ancient Israel. Ethan Smith dwelt upon the existence among the Indians of inspired prophets and gifts of the spirit, and did not fail to point out the similitude to the Urim and Thummim of the breastplate of an Indian medicine-man, “made of a white conch-shell with two holes bored in the middle of it, through which he puts the ends of an otter skin strap, and fastens a buck horn button to the outside of each, as if in imitation of the precious stones of the Urim.”
View of the Hebrews made much of the destruction of Jerusalem, the scattering of Israel, and its promised gathering “in the last days,” themes which are central to the Book of Mormon. Both books quoted extensively and almost exclusively from Isaiah, anticipating the literal fulfillment of Isaiahic prophecies; both conceived the American nation as the instrument by which Israel in America should be saved in the last days; and even the Book of Mormon’s conception of a ministry performed by Christ in the New World is implicit in Ethan Smith’s view of Quetzalcoatl, the dominant figure of Aztec mythology, as a “type of Christ.”
As if these textual correspondences were not striking enough, View of the Hebrews reads almost like a manual of instruction for intending prophets, seers, revelators, and translators. If the Indians were of Israel, Ethan Smith declared, some decisive evidence of the fact would soon be exhibited. Suppose a leading character in Israel “should be found to have had in possession some biblical fragment of ancient Hebrew writing. This man dies, and it is buried with him in such manner as to be long preserved. Some people afterwards removing that earth, discover this fragment, and ascertain what it is—an article of ancient Israel. Would such an incident…be esteemed of some weight?” Ethan Smith could not—nor has anyone since been able to—furnish evidence so decisive for his thesis,7 but he related a story he had lately heard about an old Indian at Stockbridge, Massachusetts, who was reported to have given information “that his fathers in this country had not long since had a book which they had for a long time preserved. But having lost the knowledge of reading it, they concluded it would be of no further use to them; and they buried it.” Such things seemed now to be turning up; he himself had just barely failed to establish the whereabouts of certain parchments said to have been dug up in Pittsfield, reliably reported to be written in Hebrew. Ethan Smith was confident that some such discovery soon would be authenticated, and his reflections upon the [p.313] significance of such a find for the redemption of the Indians are fully echoed in the Book of Mormon: “When God’s bowels shall yearn for Ephraim, earnestly remembering him still, and about finally to restore him, it will prove that he has not been unmindful of that providential train of evidence, which must eventually identify a people long outcast and lost from the knowledge of the literary and civilized world, with his ancient beloved children of Abraham.”8
As impressive as are the parallels between View of the Hebrews and the concept and content of the Book of Mormon, we need not insist upon them. It is more important that the ideas common to the two books should have been the common property of their generation. That this should be the character of Joseph’s book, that it should exemplify as truly as View of the Hebrews a state of mind and a complex of ideas, the concepts of its time embedded in its pages like so many oysters in a stratum of limestone, is more significant in the evaluation of the Book of Mormon than any question of literary derivation, however decisive its bearing may be upon what the book claims to be. For, painful as such a finding may be to the sensibilities of those to whom the historicity of the Book of Mormon is a matter of the greatest importance, Joseph’s book is a great deal more useful to a student of the intellectual preoccupations and the folkways of New York State in the third decade of the nineteenth century than to a scholar who would reconstruct the pre-Columbian history of America. In contrast to the often fascinating correspondences archaeologists have discovered between the Bible record and the early civilizations of the Near and Middle East, during a century of intensive excavation in the New World the Book of Mormon has neither pointed to, accounted for, nor been illuminated by any find, while its central idea, the Hebraic origin of the American Indians, has been wholly exploded, and is given credence today nowhere outside Mormon seminaries.9 Yet from the beginning, the basis of the appeal of Joseph’s book was that it constituted a record of the New World comparable in every respect to the biblical account of the Old. But if the materials directly borrowed from the Bible—its prophets, kings, and judges; its wrath and goodness of God; its silks, fine-twined linens, chariots, and implements of brass and steel-were sifted out of the Book of Mormon, what remains would mirror only Joseph’s own milieu, extending even to treasures hid up in the earth and made “slippery” by “sorceries, and witchcrafts, and magics.”10
The story Joseph undertook to tell was that of a people who had come to America from Jerusalem six centuries before Christ. These wayfarers split into two warring races, the “white and delightsome” Nephites, and the savage and murderous Lamanites. The Nephites were greatly favored of God, and built up a great civilization, but eventually fell into transgression, and their abominations and wickedness were such that God turned his face from them. In a long series of wars, climaxed by many bloody battles in which their armies were slaughtered by the thousand and ten thousand, the wayward [p.314] Nephites finally were exterminated by the Lamanites. That their history might be preserved, it had been engraved upon golden plates which, about the year 421 A.D., had been hidden away in the Hill Cumorah, not to come forth until the Lord in his wisdom should provide.
As a work of speculative ethnology, the Book of Mormon undertook with considerable ingenuity to unriddle the mystery of America’s past. It was the Nephites, readers of the book were to learn, who had built the walled cities, temples, towers, and pyramids which had so long deeply impressed visitors to Mexico. Driven northward by their relentless enemies, the Nephites had built the great mounds of the Mississippi and Ohio valleys, and finally in western New York had been overwhelmed amid their last defenses. Thus was solved the mystery of the mound builders. All this was well calculated to appeal to men of reason, for except that it gave a new name to the Mound builders there was nothing in the least original about it. For their iniquities, the Lamanites were cursed by the Lord with dark skin; “their heads [were] shaved that they were naked;” they were girded with a “leathern girdle about their loins;” and were given to painting their faces with vermillion. An idle race, full of mischief and subtlety, they dwelt in the wilderness and subsisted upon beasts of prey. That the Lamanites were thus the ancestors of the Indians was perfectly apparent.
Had Joseph been content to keep his story within the bounds of so simple a framework, it would probably never have been published. Indeed, it is doubtful whether it would ever have been written. Primarily, it was the character of the Book of Mormon as a work of religious import which induced Martin Harris to finance the writing and which enabled Joseph to command the labors of the succession of scribes without whom there could have been no book, though Joseph’s bible has some internal admissions that as first conceived it did not concern itself entirely with sacred history, being more characteristically “an account of the reign of the kings, and the wars and contentions” of the people.11
From the very beginning, however, Joseph wedded his book firmly to the Bible, which became the inexhaustible well from which he drew ideas, incidents, material, culture, and even language. The deadly style of Chronicles had of course been the literary stock-in-trade of every village editor since the Revolution, and it was a rare political campaign in which the air did not resound with “beholds,” “it-came-to-passes,” and “false prophets ravening amongst the people.”12 And there would be occasion for surprise if Joseph had not already tried out this idiom before the juvenile debating club in the old red schoolhouse in Palmyra. Although his adoption of the idiom of the King James Bible for his narrative, which lent itself readily to wholesale borrowings from the King James text, has become one of the major embarrassments of the Book of Mormon, contributing largely to a revision of Mormon critical thinking about it, it is quite certain that Joseph could neither have written [p.315] nor won acceptance for the divinity of a book phrased in any other idiom.
The tale which, with its mingled qualities of the familiar and the strange, Joseph’s scribes wonderingly set down on paper commenced in Jerusalem during the reign of the king Zedekiah, six hundred years before Christ. It was given the patriarch Lehi, even as his sorrowing contemporary, Jeremiah, to foretell the imminent destruction of the Holy City. When Lehi was scorned, reviled, and threatened, the Lord commanded him to leave the accursed city and flee into the wilderness. It being wisdom in the Lord that he should carry with him a record of his forefathers, Lehi sent his sons back to Jerusalem to obtain from his kinsman Laban certain brass plates on which this genealogy was engraved. After many difficulties, the resolute younger son Nephi slew Laban with his own sword and carried off the plates. Joined by Laban’s servant Zoram, and by the patriarch Ishmael and his family, which included a convenient number of unmarriaged daughters, the little party launched upon their arduous journey. After some years of wandering, they reached the shores of a distant sea where by the help of God they built a vessel in which to voyage to a new world.
Thus briskly Joseph set his narrative to marching, though how much literary skill his opening chapters exhibited, and how he may have fumbled with either the theme itself or the language in which he developed it, is impossible now to say, for the first quarter of the book as it was originally composed was lost and eventually rewritten from a different angle of view. It would appear that the first draft was less pretentious than the version finally published, and that it partook rather more of profane history—”an account of the reign of the kings, and the wars and contentions” of the people, though containing also a liberal admixture of “many things which [Lehi] saw in vision and in dreams; and…many things which he prophesied and spake unto his children.”
This mention of the visions of Lehi is more than provocative, and an analysis of them, had the text survived, might have been revealing. For like any novelist, Joseph may have converted the stuff of his own life to the service of his art. Emma herself must have been struck with some of the parallels between Joseph’s own family and the central personalities of his book. The patriarch Lehi was, in the words of his wife Sariah, “a visionary man,” a view of the elder Joseph Smith to which Lucy Smith distinctly inclined; and during the time Lehi remained in the wilderness, while pausing in a valley called “Lemuel” in remembrance of his stiff-necked, irascible second son,13 Lehi was vouchsafed a vision of the gospel and of Babylon which anticipated in remarkable detail a dream Joseph Smith, Senior, had had 2,400 years later.14 Quite as extraordinary were the resemblances between the two sons, for both Nephi and Joseph, Junior, were born of goodly parents, large of stature, taught somewhat in the learning of their fathers, visited with many afflictions in the course of their days yet highly favored of the Lord, and possessed of a [p.316] great knowledge of and thirst after the mysteries of God. (Both also, the unkindly might observe, appeared to be given to the making of records with their own hands, according to their own knowledge.)
Lehi was, however, less fortunate in his family than the elder Joseph, for though occasionally the inflammable William stirred up strife among the Smith sons, none among them was possessed of so evil a genius as Lehi’s wayward and truculent eldest sons, who were in almost continual rebellion against the Lord, a sore trial to the tractable Lehi. Notwithstanding, in their strange craft (which Joseph never undertook to describe other than to say that it was “constructed after the manner which the Lord had shown… wherefore, it was not after the manner of men”), Lehi and his strife-torn following succeeded in voyaging to what they, even as the stump orators of Palmyra and Harmony, “did call…the promised land.” There they found “beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manet of wild animals, which were for the use of men.” This abundance Joseph drew uncritically from the wealth of the Bible; had he been better educated, he might have been more circumspect, for the well-informed even among his contemporaries knew that save perhaps the “wild goat,” all these animals had been introduced into America by the dons and hidalgos who sailed in the wake of Columbus.
Fair as was the new land, it soon was as embattled as the old. The willful Laman and Lemuel drew the sword against their kinsmen, obliging Nephi and such others as remained faithful to seek refuge in the wilderness. Cursed with “a sore cursing, because of their iniquity,” the Lamanites saw their own flesh turn dark, and commenced with the Nephites a thousand-year-long strife which could end only in the entire extinction of the one people at the hands of the other. Since it was only too evident that the savages rather than the civilized peoples of ancient America had emerged victorious from the age-long warfare, it was incumbent upon Joseph to explain. Here the religious turn his book had taken provided an answer: The Nephites had come to their untimely end because they had turned their faces from God—they had sunk under the weight of their own abominations and wickedness.
Joseph’s narrative, however, soared far beyond this simple necessity of plot. The promise inherent in the biblical prose of his story and its beginning in doomed Jerusalem, Joseph’s book made good in truly original fashion. “Other sheep have I,” Christ had said, “which are not of this fold.” Those sheep, Joseph reasoned, were the American aborigines, and his book built up to the climactic drama implicit in the appearance of the risen Redeemer to his believers in the New World after he had taken final leave of his disciples in the Old. The final debacle which had overtaken the Nephites Joseph dismissed in as small space as possible, the events of the final four hundred years of Nephite history being compressed into forty pages.
[p.317] Undoubtedly the most anachronistic feature of the book was the introduction into it of Christian themes. Through revelation, the Nephites were made conversant, centuries before Christ, with all the details of his ministry. Long before the time of Christ, the Nephites, as Joseph developed their story, believed in him as the Redeemer, worshipped in his name, and even sought to be reconciled to the Father through an atonement yet to be made. Assuming Joseph’s authorship, what could have motivated him in this turn he gave to his narrative? It may be that in his own fashion he was simply trying to present his Nephites as a people more favored of the Lord than any other who ever lived. But it may also be that Joseph’s well of invention ran dry when called upon to flow sufficient detail as to make green a thousand years of history. This expedient greatly simplified the task by enabling Joseph to fill out the book from the interminable religious disputations to which he had been exposed in church and out these many years. As Alexander Campbell was soon to observe, “This prophet Smith, through his stone spectacles, wrote on the plates of Nephi, in his book of Mormon, every error and almost every truth discussed in New York for the last ten years. He decides all the great controversies—infant baptism, ordination, the trinity, regeneration, repentance, justification, the fall of man, the atonement, transubstantiation, fastng, penance, church government, religious experience, the call to the ministry, the general resurrection, eternal punishment, who may baptize, and even the question of freemasonry, republican government, and the rights of man.”15
The Book of Mormon has been likened to a novel, one of the early examples of frontier fiction.16 Actually, it belongs to a genre much more rare, fictional history written to be read as real history. The Book of Mormon is directly modeled upon the Bible and reflects the fulfillment of an inspiring design that the red men might be brought to a knowledge of their fathers, believe the gospel, be glorified through faith in Jesus Christ, and at last, through repentance, be saved. The religious significance with which Joseph invested his history was of the greatest importance in the shaping of both the book and his own career. Bringing the red men to a saving knowledge in Christ, after all, had been a preoccupation of the American conscience from the time of John Eliot, although the zeal to save the souls of the Indians increased at about the square of the distance from the frontier. Joseph’s history was calculated to gratify both the pious and the intellectual curiosities of the age, and to suppose that he was unaware of this would be to grossly underrate his intelligence. It is even possible that the utility of the Book of Mormon for proselyting the Indians was Joseph’s initial moral justification for writing it; it certainly became the basis for the elaborate rationalization by which eventually he came to the conviction that both his book and its author were divinely inspired.
That no part of the book’s conception was conspicuously original only strengthened its appeal and was strikingly characteristic of [p.318] Joseph’s subsequent practice in the role of prophet, seer, and revelator, for the distinguishing feature of Joseph’s church was not to be the novelty of its doctrines but the authority with which it seized upon the floating ideas of its generation. What gave Joseph’s book vitality, however, was not intellectual content but the emotional impact which followed from its identification with the Bible. Joseph had neither the wit nor the learning to write a book parallel to the Bible which men would be able to receive as being of equal standing, but he did possess a boundless ingenuity, a certain plasticity of mind, and a verbal facility which are worthy of all admiration, whatever the defects of the work they combined to produce. The Bible gave him both his frame of reference and the warp into which he wove the blood-and-thunder adventures, platitudinous moralizing, family memories, revivalist sermons, political alarms, speculative ethnology, backwoods folklore, and all the other curious threads which make up the woof of his narrative.
The eminently personal character of the Book of Mormon extends far beyond its incidental revelation of Joseph’s lack of learning. In a sense it is a truer autobiography than the formal account he later gave the world, for quite unconsciously it mirrors his mind, both its quality and the character of its ideas and interests. The absorption of his society in the mystery of the moundbuilders and the origin of the American Indians, its rapt interest in folk magic, the periodic interruption of its religious anxieties and ecstasies, its naive assurance in the divinely ordained future of America, all are presented in Joseph’s book with as much assurance as the cracker-barrel sage of any village store. If all this, which gave flesh and blood to a fictional history designed to be read as living history, was received with conviction, it was because he brought to it an elemental simplicity which returned all controversies to the ultimate authority of the scriptures.
In significant ways the Book of Mormon has shaped the evolution of Mormon thought. It has made uncompromising fundamentalists out of believers, who are bound to a monolithic view of the Bible which can admit nothing to higher criticism, and who must dismiss as mere speculation scientific discoveries which stand against a literal interpretation of the scriptures. It has also given them a curious sense of inferiority which has emerged throughout its history in the characteristic form of aggression, a natural resentment felt because of the basic necessity for apology the marvelous phenomena attendant upon the coming forth of the Book of Mormon has always imposed.
It has been claimed for the Book of Mormon that it contains the gospel in its fulness, the word of God brought down through time uncorrupted, whereas from the Bible “many precious parts” have been lost. These claims, however, are not now often heard, for its believers can point to no great truths it contains that are not found in the Bible,17 and its importance now is held to be that it “confirms” the truth, inspiration and authenticity of the Bible, making it “more [p.319] valuable than a thousand Rosetta Stones.” The controversies which it addressed are dead; its naive speculations as to American ethnology and archaeology have been shown to be idle. If the Book of Mormon remains for Mormonism what Joseph called it, “the keystone of our religion,” it is only in the circumstances of its coming forth, a kind of artifact, not for any truths it contains. But it will continue to be interesting, both for what it reveals of Joseph’s mind and as a kind of concretion of its age. [p.321]
2. B. H. Roberts, in editing History of the Church, 1:23, rejected the date given for this revelation, May 1829, and conjecturally dated it for August or September 1828. In this he followed the vague and rather perilous authority of Joseph’s autobiography. It would in fact simplify the problem of dealing with the authorship and text of the Book of Mormon to grant Roberts and Joseph Smith their point. Yet the fact remains that the revelation was dated May 1829 when first printed in the Book of Commandments in 1833, that it appeared in this book as Chapter 9 rather than Chapter 3, and that when reprinted in the various editions of Doctrine and Covenants, published under Joseph Smith’s own eye, the date first given it was retained, even when the revelation itself was internally revised. Convenient as I would find it to date the revelation for 1828, I find it necessary to postulate the correctness of the later date.
3. The copy of the Book of Mormon manuscript in the possession of the Reorganized LDS church at Independence, Missouri, commonly spoken of as the original, or “one of the original manuscripts,” clearly is a secondary copy. I was enabled to study a photostatic reproduction of it in February 1948. The errors it contains are those characteristic of retranscriptions, notable examples of which appear on folios 181 and 426; the numbering of the folios is not interrupted at the critical point, nor the continuity of the transcription; and the testimonies of the three and eight witnesses at the end continue as an integral part of the manuscript. Presumably, therefore, the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon was the copy placed in the cornerstone of the Mansion House in Nauvoo and largely destroyed by the damp. A few pages of this copy were subsequently salvaged, some going to the Reorganized LDS church (subsequently to crumble away), and some to the Utah LDS church, which still preserves them. These pages are withheld from study, even in the form of the photographs which have been made of them, but are understood to comprise some twenty-odd folios from the opening pages of the Book of Mormon, one of which is reproduced in Francis W. Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ in America (Independence, 1942), p. 216. The pages thus preserved being a part of the “restored text,” they are, unfortunately, not likely to yield much information of value even when made available to scholars.
[Editor's note: Since the early 1970s, the LDS church in Utah has made available to researchers either a photocopy or a microfilm copy of the original manuscript to the Book of Mormon.]
4. Canandaigua Ontario Repository, July 11, 1827. The work referred to, David Cusick’s Sketches of Ancient History of the Six Nations (Lewistown, New York, 1827), went through several editions. Its content does not suggest that it could have contributed anything to the Book of Mormon beyond the primary idea quoted by the Repository.
5. A formidable literature concerning the Ten Tribes had come into being by this time, and Ethan Smith drew upon much of this for his evidences. Among the better-known works were James Adair, The History of the American Indians (London, 1775); Robert Ingram, Accounts of the Ten Tribes of Israel being in America (Colchester, England, 1792); Charles Crawford, An Essay upon the Propagation of the Gospel, in Which There Are Facts to Prove That Many of the Indians in America Are Descended from the Ten Tribes (Philadelphia, 1799); and Elias Boudinot, A Star in the West; or a Humble Attempt to Discover the Long Lost Ten Tribes of Israel Preparatory to Their Return to Their Beloved City, Jerusalem (Trenton, 1816).
7. Since 1870, when Orson Pratt described it to the Saints in a sermon at Salt lake City (Journal of Discourses 13:130-31), apologists for the Book of Mormon have periodically referred to a stone decalogue carved in Hebrew characters, found in a mound at Newark, Ohio, in 1867, as evidence for the authenticity of Joseph Smith’s book; this decalogue, however, was a hoax.
See E. O. Randall, “The Mound Builders and the Lost Tribes: The ‘Holy Stone of Newark,’” Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society Publications, 17 (April 1908). Archaeological research in the Americas has brought to light no single artifact which can be regarded as of Hebrew origin.
9. It exhibits the literary kinship of the Book of Mormon and the Procrustean adjustments required in the thinking of believers that such books as Josiah Priest’s American Antiquities (1833) and Lord Kingsborough’s Antiquities of Mexico (1830-48) are still cited by apologists for the Book of Mormon, while the disciplined scholarship of modern archaeologists and ethnologists is dismissed as “speculative.” The complex states of mind to which the Book of Mormon has given rise could profitably be explored at length; in general, the point of view of earnest church members against the adverse weight of evidence is that not all the evidence is in. However long it takes, Joseph’s book will finally be vindicated; the disrepute into which it has fallen is only an incident in the trials by which true believers shall be sifted out from those of little faith.
11. See 1 Nephi 2:16 and 9:4 for almost the only information we have about the character of that part of Joseph’s book which disappeared, and which as rewritten had a more pronounced religious emphasis.”
13. It is curious that at the time Joseph Smith was writing of a visionary Lehi who dwelt in a skin tent in the Valley of Lemuel, his own visionary father was living at Manchester in a drafty house which, together with the land on which it stood, had fallen into the possession of Lemuel Durfee.
14. The complete texts of the two visions, as derived from the Book of Mormon and Lucy Mack Smith’s Biographical Sketches (Liverpool, 1853), may be compared in parallel in I. Woodbridge Riley, The Founder of Mormonism (New York, 1902), pp. 114-17. The common origin of these visions is evident from the elements common to each. Had the first 116 pages of the original Book of Mormon manuscript not been lost, it might have been possible to identify other “visions of Lehi” with the six additional dreams Lucy Smith describes.
17. See B. H. Roberts, Defense of the Faith and the Saints (Salt Lake City, 1907), pp. 335-37, 351, 362-64, in which Roberts could only adduce as new truth the pronouncements (a) “fools mock, but they shall mourn;” (b) “the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to preach his word;” and (c) “Adam fell that men might be; and men are that they might have joy.”