New Approaches to the Book of Mormon
Brent Lee Metcalfe, editor

Chapter 9.
“A Record in the Language of My Father”:
Evidence of Ancient Egyptian and Hebrew in the Book of Mormon
Edward H. Ashment

The Book of Mormon purports to be a history of the ancient inhabitants of the western hemisphere (Title Page).1 It proclaims a civilization of literate2 city- and road-builders, craftsmen, metallurgists, husbandmen, explorers, and warriors3; and of faithful Christians [p.330] whom the resurrected Jesus visited for three days (3 Ne. 26:13),4 even delaying his appearance to the “lost tribes of Israel” in order to spend more time with the Nephites (17:4ff). Because the Nephites eventually apostatized from Christianity, God allowed the Lamanites to destroy them.

The Book of Mormon declares that its singular story was recorded “in the language of the Egyptians” (1 Ne. 1:2). Near the end of the book, after chronicling a thousand years of Nephite history, its close ties with Egyptian are again emphasized. It claims that the part abridged after 385 C.E.5 was written in “characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech.” This unusual writing would be unintelligible to everyone else in the world (Morm. 9:34) and therefore would require supernatural means for translation (v. 32).

Finally the Book of Mormon claims that in 600 B.C. its founding colonists brought a book of Jewish scripture with them to the New World. Called “the plates of brass” (in 1 Ne. 3:3),6 it was allegedly written by Jewish scribes “in the language of the Egyptians” (Mosiah 1:4).7

Given its unique claims, the following become relevant questions for investigation: Is the Book of Mormon a translation of ancient records written in Egyptian and “reformed” Egyptian language or characters? Are there “wordprints” of the various orators and authors which the book introduces? Can traces of the original language(s) be found in the “literal” English translation: “Hebraisms” and “Egyptianisms”? Answers to such questions are crucial in the face of increasingly numerous [p.331] apologetic claims about how the Book of Mormon was produced and the historicity of its contents. This essay examines evidence of ancient Egyptian or Hebrew in the Book of Mormon, discussing first the claims made in the book itself, then those made by Joseph Smith and his associates, and finally those made by modern apologists.

Book of Mormon Claims about Itself

 According to the Book of Mormon’s descriptions of itself, only about 27 percent of the text, the “small plates” section, would have been composed in a form of Egyptian resembling Old-World Egyptian. That would be because it was written within the first years after the Nephites arrived in the New World. Quotations from the brass plates included throughout the book would also have resembled Old-World Egyptian, but the rest would have been written in the “reformed” language. Thus the small plates section, because it would be most like its Old-World antecedents, is the most amenable to comparative analysis in a search for evidence of ancient Egyptian and Hebrew.

The relationship between “language” and “characters” in the Book of Mormon is uncertain, but a bilingual civilization with Egyptian as its literary language and Hebrew as its everyday language would be improbably unique. Thus the term “language” (1 Ne. 1:2) may mean “characters” (as in Morm. 9:33, 34), and the Nephites would be regarded as Hebrew-only speakers. More difficult to explain is the statement that Egyptian characters were so “reformed … according to our manner of speech” (emphasis added) that they would have been unintelligible. This would be an unparalleled phenomenon, for writing systems are notoriously conservative, even after the languages they represent have changed considerably (see Gelb 1963, 223-24).

How the Book of Mormon relates itself to Hebrew is problematic, for it does not mention Hebrew until near the end. Moroni explains that Hebrew characters were not used even though they were superior to Egyptian, because Hebrew characters would have taken up too much space. The assumption seems to be that Egyptian characters were somehow conceptual and thus capable of conveying more information: “And if our plates had been sufficiently large we would have written in Hebrew.” Unfortunately “the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record” (Morm. 9:33).

That the Nephites would have considered Hebrew at all is remarkable, since everything Jewish was suppressed from the beginning. Only a few years after arriving in the New World, the Judahite Nephites could no longer understand Isaiah, one of the major Jewish prophets, because their first leader Nephi purposely had “not taught [p.332] my children after the manner of the Jews” (2 Ne. 25:6).8 For from the beginning the Nephites were Christian in orientation, with many early nineteenth-century American theological concerns (see the essays by Charles, Thomas, and Vogel in this compilation).

Joseph Smith and His Associates

 Joseph Smith, using his seer stone, claimed to possess the supernatural means that the Book of Mormon declared would be necessary to interpret this unique document. As he explained it, God singled him out and gave him a divine gift to perform this very thing as his exclusive and only spiritual calling (BoC x:2).9

His contemporaries, some directly involved with the production of the Book of Mormon, described how he used this gift (see Ashment 1980, 10ff). They declared that the Book of Mormon was a literal, word-for-word translation of characters from ancient gold plates.10 Smith saw these characters along with their direct English equivalents in his seer stone, which he placed in a hat so he could see the spiritual light more clearly. He then dictated the English equivalents to his scribe (Van Wagoner and Walker 1982, 51-52).11

[p.333] Smith himself refused to say much about the process publicly, tersely informing his congregation that “it was not intended to tell the world all the particulars of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.” The most he disclosed about methodology was that he had translated the book into English “by the gift and power of God” (Van Wagoner and Walker 1982, 49). Accordingly, in a letter to James Arlington Bennett, he exulted: “truth is a matter of fact; and the fact is, that by the power of God I translated the Book of Mormon from hieroglyphics; the knowledge of which was lost to the world: in which wonderful event I stood alone, an unlearned youth, to combat the worldly wisdom, and multiplied ignorance of eighteen centuries, with a new revelation” (Times and Seasons 4 [1 Nov. 1843]: 373). About the language of the original, he simply declared that the “language of the whole” proceeded from right to left, “the same as all Hebrew writing in general,” adding that his translation of the Title Page was “literal” (Smith et al. 1978, 1:71).

Although little evidence exists documenting Smith’s modus operandi in such “literal” translations, two virtually identical translation documents have survived in the handwriting of Smith’s scribes, Oliver Cowdery and Frederick G. Williams. Taken together these two documents provide an important glimpse into Smith’s views of language and translation. Because they are not entirely identical, it is unlikely one was copied from the other. But because they are so nearly alike, it is probable they were produced simultaneously, in December 1835.12

[p.334] The translation documents consist of two parts: a transliteration of Book of Mormon English phrases into Hebrew (phonetically in English characters) as Smith apparently conceived it and the English equivalent of four Book of Mormon hieroglyphics. Figure 1 presents a composite of the transliteration portions of the two documents,13 accompanied by a modern transliteration into Hebrew, in order to give readers an approximate idea of what a Hebrew transliteration should look like.14

Figure 1.
Transliterations from English into Book of Mormon Hebrew

Questions asked in English & answered in Hebrew

English For it grieveth me that I should lose this tree & the fruit thereof
Hebrew Ans. ofin Zimim ezmon E, Zu onis i f s veris etzer ensvonis vineris
[Modern transliteration: ki car li ki yo’bad li ha’ec hazzeh upiryo]
English Brethren I bid you adieu
Hebrew Ans. i f s E Zamtri
[Modern transliteration: ‘aHay ‘omar lakem shalom]


The textual selections in the documents are from Jacob 5:13 and 7:27. Fresh out of Palestine, the Hebrew known to Jacob should have been biblical Hebrew. But as Figure 1 illustrates, it bears no resemblance to Hebrew at all.

Lack of any resemblance between Book of Mormon “Hebrew” and actual Hebrew from material on the small plates (written only fifty years after Lehi left Jerusalem) further confirms that the Cowdery and Williams documents date prior to January 1836, when Smith began his [p.335] formal study of Hebrew. After that time all of Smith’s Hebrew transliterations are recognizable as such.

Figure 2 presents a composite of the second part of the translation documents, which consists of two English phrases with the Book of Mormon characters immediately beneath.

Decipherment of Book of Mormon CharactersFigure 3.

Anthon Transcript Characters

Anthon Transcript Characters

These Book of Mormon figures cannot be identified as Egyptian hieroglyphic, hieratic, or demotic (or Meroitic). But they do resemble characters Smith said he transcribed from the golden plates for Charles Anthon, a professor of languages at Columbia University (Fig. 3). Also, in his project to translate the Book of Abraham from papyri, Smith filled in missing portions where the papyrus had flaked away with hypothetical characters resembling the figures in the Williams-Cowdery translation document (Fig. 4).15 They too reflect no known form of Egyptian; but their similarity to the characters on the Anthon Transcript and to the Williams-Cowdery characters suggests a common origin. [p.336]

Restoration of Mission Portion of Papyrus

This part of the Williams-Cowdery documents tends to support the word-for-word translation hypothesis of most Book of Mormon apologists. For Smith produced twelve lexemes for the fourteen-word English text of Jacob 5:13 and four lexemes for the five-word clause of Jacob 7:27. However, none of the proferred lexemes reflects either ancient Hebrew or Egyptian, while they do resemble Smith’s 1835 translation efforts on the Egyptian papyri.

When Smith attempted to develop an Egyptian alphabet and grammar, his transliterated Egyptian resembled his transliterated Hebrew on the Williams-Cowdery documents. Note in Figure 5 the expansive English translation from eight lexemes that Smith produced from one of his own hypothetical signs (viz. 2.1c).

Figure 5.
Attempt to Transliterate Egyptian Glyphs16

Alphabet and Grammar


Egyptian: Kiah broam=Kiah brah oam=sub zool oan
English: Having been a follower of righteous=nefs; desiring to be one who pofsefsed great Knowledge; a great follower of righteous=nefs; a pofsefsor of greater knowledge; a father of many nations; a prince of peace; one who keeps the commandments of God; a rightful heir; a high priest, having the right belonging to the fathers, from the be=beginning of time; even from the beginning, or before the foundation of the earth, down to the present time; even the right of the first born, or the first man, who is Adam, or first father, through the fathers, unto me.


[p.337] The second part of the Williams-Cowdery documents tends to support the ideographic, conceptual translation hypothesis. Translating the Book of Mormon “by the gift and power of God,” Smith dictated to his scribe the English text that appeared beneath the “reformed Egyptian” signs. The Williams-Cowdery documents represent an approximation of that process, only now with the English appearing above the signs. Four English words interpret two Book of Mormon characters. There are not enough Book of Mormon characters to indicate the definite articles or genitives which appear in the English translations even though actual Hebrew and late-period Egyptian contained definite articles and certain types of genitives. Smith’s translation of Egyptian papyri resembles his translation of Book of Mormon characters in that both sets of figures are interpreted conceptually; the impossible result is that one character could represent many clausal ideas comprised of nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and other parts of speech. Such a combination of meager transliterations that develop into expansive conceptual interpretations is otherwise unknown in the history of philology (see Coe 1992, 18).

This notion of expansive transliteration is made more problematic by the first half of the translation documents where Smith suggests a closer, nearly word-for-word approximation between English and the Book of Mormon. How did Smith produce detailed transliterations for English text which he interpreted conceptually? Ideograms are by definition not phonologically based and thus resist transliteration. What exactly was Smith translating on the gold plates? Ideas? Signs? How are we to imagine a language which in fifty years changed so drastically that its transliteration in the Williams-Cowdery documents no longer reflected in any way its suggested parent languages?

Modern Apologetics


Unfortunately only the English text exists to serve as a control for any linguistic explanation seeking to authenticate the Book of Mormon. Still the spectrum of apologetics is a broad one. At one end are those who propose a completely ideographic, conceptual translation of the Book of Mormon. Because they accommodate evidence about Joseph Smith’s actual translation methodology, their position may be described as the most conservative. However, they fail to take into account the first part of the Williams-Cowdery documents, as well as claims about the Book of Mormon being a “literal” translation in which each and every word of the English text appeared in the seer stone, Smith even spelling names because he apparently was unable to pronounce them (see Skousen 1990, 52-53).

At the other end of the spectrum are those who propose a literal, [p.338] virtually word-for-word rendering of a proposed original text written in Egyptian (in a few scenarios) or in Hebrew with Egyptian characters. These explanations can be termed liberal because they ignore methodological evidence and concentrate instead on claims of literalness. These writers assume that the English text must reflect a linguistically realistic system. As a result, the text is scoured for “evidence” of their assumption, and anything that appears to match is offered as a witness for the historicity of the Book of Mormon. For their explanatory schemes to work, it must be assumed that the King James Version of the Bible (KJV) was not a source for the English Book of Mormon text.17 The following discussion begins with examples at the conceptual or conservative end of the spectrum and moves to literalistic or more liberal examples.

The Book of Mormon as Translation of an Ideographic Script

Brigham Young University emeritus anthropologist John L. Sorenson (1980) rejects the possibility that the phrase “the language of the Egyptians” means that Egyptian was the underlying language of which the English text of the Book of Mormon is a translation. Rather he claims that the “Egyptian system of characters … could be used to represent any tongue, including Hebrew or any other.” We know this, he tells us, “from secular sources.” Elsewhere he explains that such a writing system “communicated mainly ideas as such, not sounds; hence it was not tied to one tongue.” In other words the Egyptian hieroglyphic writing system would have been pictographic. Referring to the fact that cuneiform characters were used by several unrelated ancient languages, he proposes that “precisely the same process of representing concepts by characters without regard to tongue could have been true of Egyptian hieroglyphics. In fact, a number of examples have been found in Palestine demonstrating that Egyptian characters were used in Old Testament times to write the Hebrew language” (1985, 78). Sorenson concludes that this writing system “made ambiguity inevitable; since the number of characters could never match the number of words or concepts to be represented, any one character could mean several things. For example, the Egyptian sign that resembled a lotus flower was code for both the lotus plant and for ‘thousand.'” This is why the Book of Mormon’s “reformed Egyptian” was so imperfect (77).

By adopting a pictographic understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphics, Sorenson subscribes to the inaccurate pre-Champollion theory of [p.339] how to interpret Egyptian hieroglyphs (summarized here by Voegelin and Voegelin): “hieroglyphics were ‘similitudinous figures’ each of which might represent a whole paragraph of meaning—utterance spans as long as a word, or longer than a word, or longer even than a sentence. This is quite an adequate identification of pictographic writing qua pictographic type” (1961, 74-75; see Coe 1992, 16-21). As Sorenson elaborates his notions about Book of Mormon language, he equates this pictographic notion of hieroglyphics with what he calls “alphabet-included logographic” Egyptian, in which the “prime content was communicated by logograms each of which carried a concept, sometimes a complete morpheme; phonemic representations were there but only to supplement the ‘ideographic’ scheme.” What is crucial to Sorenson’s “alphabet-included logographic” system is that the writing system is largely independent of the spoken language. As he explains it, Moroni’s “reformed Egyptian” possessed the same “high utility as a logographic system independent of any one tongue” (3, 4).

A system available to both Nephites and Lamanites, Sorenson sees this “alphabet-included logographic” Egyptian as one of three writing systems in the Book of Mormon. Nephites were also exposed to alphabetic Hebrew, “unquestionably part of the stream of writing tradition coming out of the discovery of the alphabetic principle among speakers of western Semitic in Syria/Palestine in the second millennium B.C.” Sorenson concludes that the Jaredite writing system differed from Nephite alternatives based on “Moroni’s comments in Ether 12 about the power of Jaredite writing in contrast to that of the Nephites” (3). According to Sorenson, the Jaredite system “would have been syllabic in type,” reflecting Jaredite origins in Mesopotamia. But with the “Hebrew alphabetic type at their disposal,” Sorenson reasons that the Nephites would have had little interest in using the more cumbersome syllabic script of the Jaredites, despite the fact that the Jaredite system “would indeed have allowed more flexible and powerful written communication” than the “hieroglyphic (logographic) system” (3).

Sorenson attempts to fit his three-part linguistic model into a convincing “geographical and cultural interpretation” template. Lamanites of the second century B.C.E. would have lived in “highland Guatemala and the Nephites in adjacent Chiapas, Mexico.” Traces of what the Book of Mormon refers to as “the language of the Nephites” would thus be found in this area. He explains that the only known writing system was “apparently ancestral to ‘Mayan’ hieroglyphic writing better known from later centuries. Of course that system is also ‘alphabet-included logographic’ in type, thus in a broad sense could qualify as ‘reformed Egyptian,’ depending upon its ancestry.” He rejects any etymological relationship between that system and the [p.340] Oaxacan system of the ninth to eighth century B.C.E., because, begging the question, he places the Jaredites “prior to 600 B.C.” in Oaxaca. Validating his conjectures about the Jaredites’ syllabic-based language originating in Mesopotamia, he finds that the “Oaxacan characters … were syllabic while the [Mayan hieroglyphics] were—as we know with some confidence—logographic” (4).

Examples of: Egyptian Hieroglyphics, Olds Babylonian Cuneiform, Hebrew, and Mayan Hieroglyphics

Sorenson accounts for the brass plates by concluding again that “the language of our fathers” (1 Ne. 3:19) refers to a writing system: “It is clear that the plates were enveloped in tradition, represented a continuous, additive record, and were written in the same character system which had been used for a long time. Based on the Joseph/Egyptian/Elohistic characteristics which I adduced,18 I conclude that the record was kept currently in an Egyptian writing system probably from the time of Joseph, through Zenos’s and Zenock’s day (Divided Monarchy), and right on down to Lehi’s and Laban’s time.” Therefore, the writing on the brass plates could not be demotic Egyptian, which “developed much too late to qualify as the system of [p.341] characters used continuously on the brass plates, in Lehi and Nephi’s day, and on as ‘the language of the fathers’ down to Mosiah’s age.” Rather the language on the brass plates must have “belonged to the general family of writings derived from hieroglyphic, however much modified.” Over time, changes and scribal haste may have produced a writing system overtly pictographic which more closely resembled demotic Egyptian. But these changes were superficial. The underlying system remained pictographic or conceptual (5).

Unfortunately for Sorenson’s proposal, the Egyptian hieroglyphic writing system was not known to “represent concepts by characters without regard to tongue.” In fact it was integrally tied to the Egyptian language.19 It is true that Egyptian is “an Alphabet Included Logographic System” but Sorenson’s equation of such a system with a pictographic system, one which could be disconnected from its spoken equivalent, is not supported by the evidence: “the alphabet included part is intricately interwoven and not clearly separable from the logographic part in all examples of Alphabet Included Logographic Systems. Two classes of signs—for sounds and for morphemes—are integrated …” (Voegelin and Voegelin 1961, 64-69, 74-75). Thus Sorenson misrepresents the Voegelins when he cites them as his “secular sources” confirming the pictographic nature of Egyptian under the rubric of “alphabet-included logographic” (1980, 1).

Sorenson similarly misrepresents the nature of the Mayan hieroglyphic writing system to connect it with his notion of “reformed Egyptian” and fit it into his required geographical and cultural scheme. In fact Mayan hieroglyphics were integrally related to the Mayan dialects they represented, Cholan and Yucatec (Schele 1982, 8ff; Schele and Freidel 1990, 50-51; Coe 1992, 49-54). Moreover ancient Mayan hieroglyphics were logosyllabic (similar to cuneiform) rather than conceptual. Further they may have descended from Oaxacan (Morely and Brainerd 1983, 532, 536; Schele and Miller 1986, 325; Schele and Freidel 1990, 52). Thus Mayan would be the more likely candidate for Sorenson’s Mesopotamian “Jaredite system” than for his “reformed Egyptian” Nephite system.

The larger fact remains that none of the pre-European era American languages or writing systems is related to or derived from ancient Egyptian, Sumerian/Akkadian, or Hebrew languages or writing systems (see Fig. 6). Sorenson is also left with the formidable linguistic problem of explaining how Joseph Smith could make a “literal [p.342] translation” of a conceptual, ideographic script that would not be bound to any language. In this context looking for “Egyptianisms” and “Hebraisms” in the Book of Mormon would be irrelevant.

Brigham Young University law professor John W. Welch implicitly concedes this point when he, agreeing with Sorenson, rejects the Book of Mormon as “a grammatically literal translation, a verbatim word-for-word, form-for-form rendition” and takes this maximally-conservative position: “Joseph’s English translation, while being more expressive than a mechanically literal rendition, still corresponded in some way, point-by-point, with the ancient writing that was being translated … [so] that the meaning of something on the plates gave rise to each element of meaning in the translation, although one cannot know in all cases how close that relationship or connection was” (1990, 140-41). Welch points to David Whitmer’s observation that “frequently one character would make two lines of manuscript, while others made but a word or two words.” Welch then proposes: “If this is an accurate statement, it confirms that the translation was rather strict, character for character, although sometimes several English words were required to express the meaning of a single inscription. So, for example, two simple characters might be translated into English as ‘the interpretation of languages’ and two others as ‘the Book of Mormon,’ as Frederick G. Williams once wrote in Kirtland” (141).

Welch’s proposed translation methodology for the Book of Mormon therefore would be the same that Smith used to produce the 1835 Book of Abraham manuscript. It is because one sign can equal many words—thus making it ideographic—that Welch can argue that the KJV of the Bible did not play a significant role in Smith’s production of the Book of Mormon. “It is a relatively small step” within this context, concludes Welch, to believe that “God projected a text similar to the biblical text through Joseph Smith, or the power of God brought that text especially to his memory as those words were appropriate and helpful” (136). Welch’s comments only underscore how pointless it is to argue that Smith’s translation reflects Egyptian or Hebrew syntax when there is no syntax in the ideograph to reflect.

The Book of Mormon as a Translation of an Underlying Language: Egyptian

Still many apologists, who may be termed liberal because they ignore nineteenth-century evidence about Smith’s translation process, have concentrated on the very task that Welch’s and Sorenson’s arguments render beside the point. Hugh W. Nibley’s project is perhaps the most moderate of the liberal approaches. He seeks to impose a modern translation methodology of an ancient underlying language onto Smith’s production of the Book of Mormon in order to authenticate its [p.343] historicity. He takes at face value the Book of Mormon’s declaration that it was written according to “the learning of the Jews” and “in the language of the Egyptians.”20 Accordingly Nibley claims to perceive a few Egyptian phraseologies and grammatical peculiarities as parallels to the Book of Mormon (1967, 169ff). But he concentrates on thematic and phraseological parallels with Jewish and early Christian apocryphal literature (171-91) and on proper names in the Book of Mormon, for which he finds Egyptian and Semitic parallels (192-96; 1964, 230-42). This is how he makes his case for the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon. This essay focuses on his evidence based on proper names.21

Of a project such as his—discovering inter-language homonyms—Nibley observes, “there is no happier hunting-ground for the half-trained scholar than the world of words … in which the ear decides for itself whether or not a resemblance in sound is to be taken as accidental or significant.” As a result, he states that he limits himself “to a few minimum claims which it would be very hard for anyone to dispute” (1964, 230-31). He thus magnifies the importance of his arguments.

Nibley proposes that Nephites “are quite aware” of historical events in ancient Egypt. When involved in the “same institutions” and the “same intrigues” as ancient Egyptian historical figures, they even take the same names (1964, 231). He singles out Korihor and Paanchi as examples (see also Nibley 1967, 192). His proposition has several problems.

First, he indicates that Nephites must have had a detailed knowledge of Egyptian history up to at least 400 years before Lehi left Jerusalem and somehow passed that knowledge on from generation to generation as part of their own history for at least another 530 years [p.344] until about 70 B.C.E. (1964, 232-33). But the only record they took with them from Palestine was the brass-plate Hebrew Bible. This record was no doubt similar to its Old World counterpart, which did not mention Egyptian events. At any rate, which happened: Did Paanchi’s parents, having a prescience that their son would challenge Pahoran and Pacumeni for the chief judgeship, name him Paanchi in accordance with the long-previous event in Egypt that they had learned about from history? Or did Helaman (or even Mormon?), knowing that millennium-old history, give him the name Paanchi in order to evoke the original, millennium-old event in the mind of readers?

Second, Nibley declares that the “Egyptian Paanchi [p’-‘nK] … was the son of one Kherihor [Hry-Hr]; Nibley here misrepresents H as ‘Kh‘… the High Priest of Ammon, who in a priestly plot set himself up as a rival of Pharoah himself, while his son Paanchi actually claimed the throne” (232). This, according to Nibley, “inaugurated the rule of priestcraft in Egypt” (233; see also Nibley 1952, 24-25). If that were so, the Nephites would have remembered ancient Egyptian history inaccurately. Contrary to Nibley’s description, the ancient Egyptian Pa-ankh (Nibley’s Paanchi) was not a son of Herihor (Nibley’s Kherihor) (Wente 1979, x-xii; Kitchen 1986, 438). On the contrary, Herihor may have been Pa-ankh’s son-in-law (Jansen-Winkeln 1992, 24-25). Moreover evidence indicates that Herihor was appointed High Priest of Amon by the king, Ramses XI (see Kitchen 1986, 250-51; Redford 1977, 1129ff). He did not inaugurate the rule of priestcraft in Egypt. Finally, the Book of Mormon Korihor was merely an ancient secular humanist—not a pretender to the Nephite throne.22

The original manuscript of the Book of Mormon indicates that the name Nibley identifies as Egyptianesque, Pahoran, Paanchi’s father, is incorrect. It should have been Parhoron (Skousen 1992, 20). In any event Nibley’s parallel for Pahoran with ancient Egyptian is tenuous. He asserts that “Pahoran reflects the Pales[tinian] Pahura, (for Eg[yptian] Pa-her-an, cf. Pa-her-y, ‘the Syrian’) which is ‘reformed’ Egyptian, i.e., a true Egyptian title, but altered in such a way as to adapt it to the Canaanite speech” (1952, 24).

In fact paHura (Pakhura) is merely the Babylonian pronunciation of the Egyptian p’-Kry (Pakhery; Ranke 1935, 116-17). How that represents “reformed Egyptian” is open to question. (Would the English word “French” in this context be considered “reformed French” for français?) There is no Egyptian “Pa-her-an” equivalent, and neither Pakhura nor Pakhery sounds like Pahoran. Nibley misrepresents the K (in p’-Kry) as “h” (which should be transliterated as “Kh”), thus [p.345] enabling him to create his parallel for Pahoran.

Elsewhere Nibley’s ear “decides for itself” that the Egyptian H in Hy-shri represents a soft “c” to become parallel to Cezoram (1952, 25), the same H he already misrepresented as “Kh” in his transliteration of the Egyptian Hry-Hr.

In another instance Nibley proposes that Mormon is a transliteration of the Egyptian Mry-Imn (1964, 235-36; see also 1952, 25). He appeals to evidence from a fifth-century B.C. Jewish mercenary military garrison at Elephantine, which he wrongly characterizes as a colony of exiles fleeing Babylonian persecution (1952, 31-32; 1964, 233-34; see Albright 1968, 162; Smith 1984, 219). However, he fails to explain how Mry-Imn and similar theophoric names that represent Egyptian pagan gods were so popular among the pre-Christian Christian Nephites (see 1952, 27-31; 1964, 235-36), who lived an even higher law (2 Ne. 25:24-27) than their religious counterparts in Judah (among whom Egyptian theophoric personal names were far from customary). The Jews at Elephantine on the other hand were heterodox, having “intermarried with Egyptians and worshipped a number of deities besides Yahweh” (Smith 1984, 219), with the result that pagan theophoric names would be expected among them.

Nibley finds authentication for “deseret” as “honey bee” (Ether 2:3) in the red crown of Lower Egypt (1953, 184-89). He sees the Egyptian name of the red crown, dshrt, to be cognate with the Book of Mormon “deseret,” because occasionally Egyptians used the red crown as a substitute word for the king of Lower Egypt, bity, “He of the bee.” But “deseret” is not cognate with dshrt. The Egyptian word for both “bee” and “honey” was bit, and the name for the red crown comes from the Egyptian word for red, dshr, and has nothing to do with honey or bees. Undaunted Nibley speculates that dshrt was so sacred a word that Egyptians never used it in connection with bees, just as Jews never pronounced the tetragrammaton. Indeed he is “personally persuaded that the archaic and ritual designation of the bee was deseret, a ‘word of power’ too sacred to be entrusted to the vulgar, being one of the keys to ‘the king’s secret.'” That is why there would be no evidence for Nibley’s speculation. His proof that the red crown “is the ‘bee-crown’ is … the long antenna that protrudes from the base of it.” However, the red crown more likely represented part of the eye of Horus, as seen in Figure 7 (Riemschneider in Westendorf 1989, 43, 47).23 [p.346]

The Red and White Crowns of Egypt as the Eye of Horus, According to Riemschneider

Clearly Nibley’s “minimum claims” that “would be very hard for anyone to dispute” have little foundation. Surely his own caution about the “unbridled license of speculation and airy weakness of evidence … of the homemade philologist” is well founded. His attempts demonstrate that efforts to parallel Book of Mormon names with ancient Near Eastern names should be approached with skepticism.24 In fact Book of Mormon names can be accounted for in a much [p.347] simpler way. If those names which parallel or are derived from biblical names are set aside, Book of Mormon names are built out of relatively few stems, some used extensively, to which one or more affixes from eight classes have been added to create a new name. The process has been aptly labeled “affixation,” defined as “the creation of new words by the addition of suffixes, prefixes, or infixes” (Forsberg 1990, 72). The Book of Mormon may be the only known source of a stem, or it may be a variation of a biblical name. The table below shows 70 possible stems with various affixes. These combinations generate 136 Book of Mormon names for which it is difficult to justify an ancient origin.

Table 1.
Book of Mormon Names Divided into Stems and Affexes

Book of Mormon Names Divided into Stems and Affixes Table 1. page 2 Table 1. Page 3 Table 1. Page 4


The Book of Mormon as Hebrew Written in Egyptian Characters

Despite Sorenson’s assertion of the existence of a number of ancient Palestinian Hebrew documents written in Egyptian characters, defenders of the Book of Mormon’s claims have been unable to produce an authentic parallel. Stephen D. Ricks (1992a) uses an Egyptian papyrus from the Ptolemaic period to suggest that the language of the Book of Mormon was not Egyptian per se but rather Hebrew in Egyptian characters.25 Papyrus Amherst 63, perhaps “the longest ancient copy of an Aramaic text ever found,” comprises “cultic texts, mainly prayers, with a story at the end.” Its script is “a peculiar variety of demotic, many signs having a form met with rarely, if at all” elsewhere (Nims and Steiner 1983, 262; see Fig. 8).

Column 11, Lines 11-14 of Papyrus Amherst 63

[p.352] Ricks uses Papyrus Amherst 63 to generalize that “using one script to convey another language was not unknown in the Middle East in ancient times.” He points out that the document contains “a version of Psa 20:2-6 … just like the original script of the Book of Mormon may be an Egyptian script used to convey scripture in a semitic language (Hebrew).” Concluding that Book of Mormon Nephites “certainly … were still familiar with Hebrew,” Ricks speculates that the reason they wrote in Egyptian characters was because Egyptian scripts “may take up less space than the Hebrew characters required to express the same thought.” Accordingly, he finds “striking parallels between the two documents. The demotic Egyptian-Aramaic Papyrus Amherst 63 is more compact than would have been the case if the Aramaic script had been used, just as the Book of Mormon plates could be more compact using Egyptian characters rather than Hebrew.” Ricks finds another parallel in Moroni’s complaint that writing in Egyptian characters “led to imperfections that would not have existed if he and others could have written in Hebrew.” Similarly the Aramaic papyrus in demotic script “is much more difficult to read and has much more ambiguity than if it had been written in Aramaic script.”

As with Sorenson’s assertions about Egyptian hieroglyphics and Nibley’s assertions about name studies, Ricks’s assertions misrepresent the actual evidence in order to make it appear parallel to the Book of Mormon. First, Ricks downplays the fact that the papyrus is a paganized adaptation of Psalm 20:2-6 (see Fig. 9) by calling it “a version.” The decipherers of the document, Nims and Steiner, suggest that the Jews who wrote it had become “polytheistic or syncretistic in their beliefs,” just as the Jews at Patros and Elephantine, or that it was written by “Aramean pagans who wished to adapt the prayer for use in the cult of Horus” (1983, 272).26 At any rate the document does not show the efforts of pious, religious Jews carefully recording part of their scripture in Egyptian characters, as the Book of Mormon does.

Figure 9.
Psalm 20:2 in English, with a Translation of the Aramaic Paganized Adaptation
(Nims and Steiner 1983, 264)

May the Lord answer you (11) May Horus answer us

in time of trouble.

in our troubles. [p.353]

May the name of the (12) May Adony answer us

God of Jacob keep you

out of harm’s reach

in our troubles

O Bow in Heaven, (13) Sahar.

Send your emissary from the

temple of Arash, and from

Zephon (14) may Horus

sustain us.


Ricks is wrong in his assertion that Papyrus Amherst 63 “is more compact than would have been the case if the Aramaic script had been used.” The papyrus attempts to use demotic alphabetic and non-alphabetic signs phonetically to represent Aramaic (Nims and Steiner 1983, 262; 1984, 90; 1985, 65). Some of the non-alphabetic signs are in fact much longer than their Aramaic equivalents. For example, to represent the Aramaic phoneme (r), the scribe used a demotic group—eight strokes vs. one (1983, 262). And the papyrus adds Egyptian determinatives to many words, thus increasing their length (Nims and Steiner 1983, 263; 1984, 91; 1985, 66). Finally the demotic sign (‘) is scattered throughout the text so often as to be “almost meaningless” (Nixns and Steiner 1983, 263; 1984, 91; 1985, 67). Contrary to Ricks, the text in Egyptian characters is quite a bit longer than its Aramaic equivalent would have been (Fig. 10).

Figure 10.
A Transliteration of the Demotic Characters and Their Aramaic Equivalent


(11) y”n’n'(m) ‘Hr(g) b’m’tswryn'(m) y’nn Hr bmc(w)ryn
(12) y”’ n’ n'(m) e’t’ny(m) b’mtswryn(m)h’y’ksh’t(m) b’sh’myn(g) (13) s’hr'(m)sh’ r’H'(m) tsy’r’k(m) mnnk’r(m) e’r’sh'(w) w’ mntsp’ n'(m) (14)’Hr(g) y’ s”t’ n'(m) y’ nn ‘bny bmc(w)ryn
hy-qsht bshmyn shrshlH cyrk mn-‘gr ‘rshwmn-cpn Hr ys’dn

In addition to requiring more space than Aramaic, Nims and Steiner note that “this script fails to express many of the contrasts expressed by the traditional Aramaic script” with the result that “the renderings are highly ambiguous, some forms having dozens of possible interpretations” (262). They conclude hypothetically that “it was written for a priest whose Aramaic was so poor that he was able neither to memorize the liturgy nor to read it in Aramaic script. Like many American Jews today, he needed a phonetic transliteration into a familiar script. It was never meant to be intelligible. It was meant to enable an Egyptianized Aramean to continue the tradition of reciting prayers in Aramaic despite his ignorance of that language” (272).

As a result there is no trade off of “ambiguity” for compactness as [p.354] Ricks claims. The text is not only “partially unintelligible” (Nims and Steiner 1983, 272) but also takes up more space and is more cumbersome. Consequently this papyrus is hardly a good candidate for authenticating the language claims of the Book of Mormon. It in no way resembles the evidence of Smith’s translation efforts. But because of a dearth of evidence, it must do.

The Book of Mormon Reflects an Underlying Language: “Hebraisms”

Perhaps the most liberal apologetic explanations for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon are those that require a wooden translation into English from Hebrew, leaving Egyptian out of the picture altogether. Advocates of this approach look for expressions in English that resemble authentic Hebrew expressions and use them to posit a hypothetically original Hebrew on the gold plates, which Smith must have translated literally. Several have followed the lead of Sidney Sperry in this regard (1935 and 1954). They appeal to a rather standard litany of “Hebraisms.”

In a brief article E. Craig Bramwell (1961) presents two of his most salient arguments from his BYU master’s thesis of a year earlier, “Hebrew Idioms in the Small Plates of Nephi.” He first attempts to account for the similarity between KJV and Book of Mormon compound subjects. According to Bramwell, the rule is that the speaker is listed first in Hebrew syntax. For instance, “My father and I” becomes “I and my father.”27 His Book of Mormon examples include:

I, Nephi, and my brethren took our journey in the wilderness (1 Ne. 3:9);
I and my brethren did consult one with another (1 Ne. 3:10);
I and my father had kept the commandments wherewith the Lord had commanded us (1 Ne. 5:20);
the Lord commanded him that I, Nephi, and my brethren, should again return unto the land of Jerusalem (1 Ne. 7:2);
I, Nephi, did again, with my brethren, go forth into the wilderness (1 Ne. 7:3);
after I and my brethren and all the house of Ishmael had come down unto the tent of my father, they did give thanks unto the Lord their God (1 Ne. 7:22); [p.355] ye need not suppose that I and my father are the only ones that have testified (1 Ne. 22:31).28

For Bramwell, these occurrences are “a striking indication that this scripture was written by persons versed in Hebrew” and represent evidence of a “rather literal translation of the Book of Mormon as opposed to the philosophy that the concept or meaning was obtained by the Prophet and that he was then left to his own devices and experience for the expression of it.”29 He does not discuss the implications of Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) 132:11, in which the construction also occurs, viz.: Is the Lord’s English therefore governed by Hebrew syntactic rules? Nor does he deal with the possibility that these few Book of Mormon occurrences are the result of Smith’s efforts at archaizing.

But Bramwell’s second grammatical peculiarity which “bears the earmarks of Hebrew” comprises several “rules” regarding the use of the conjunction in Hebrew. He remarks that “Hebrew sentence structure is relatively simple, somewhat like the speech of children.” He accounts simplistically for the extensive use of the conjunction: “Hebrews are such an and loving people they exhibit a dislike even to begin a sentence without its use; even books are commenced with it” (497). More specifically he notes that “and” is “to join sentences in Hebrew” (497, 517). Thus he accounts for the Book of Mormon’s “And it came to pass” and other sentence-initial ands, phrases which mime the KJV’s literal rendering from the Hebrew. In fact waw served Hebrew semantics in many complex and subtle ways, including indicating [p.356] succession, epexegesis, pluperfect, or a consequential situation after a circumstantial clause or phrase (Waltke and O’Connor 1990, 519-63). The translators of the KJV were apparently unaware of some of waw‘s more subtle meanings. As in the KJV, so in the Book of Mormon.

Bramwell then notes that “it is also common for and to stand before each word in a series.” If “several nouns are coupled by its use, the possessive pronoun, if used, must be repeated with each noun” (emphasis added).30 He cites 1 Nephi 2:4: “And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things.” He omits the next clause, which breaks his “must” rule: “and took nothing with him save it were his family, and provisions, and tents.”

Bramwell adds parenthetically that “similarly the preposition is repeated before each word when several words are united under the power of the preposition.”31 He cites 1 Nephi 16:23 as an example: “wherefore I did arm myself with a bow and an arrow, with a sling and with stones” (517). According to his rule of the redundantly-repeated preposition, 1 Nephi 16:15 is an obvious exception: “with our bows and our arrows and our stones and our slings” should read “with our bows and with our arrows and with our stones and with our slings.”32 But Bramwell’s examples are enough for him to conclude that “the mass of such items gives evidence that the Book of Mormon is what it claims to be—an authentic product of the Near East” (517).

John A. Tvedtnes similarly defends the Book of Mormon on the basis of assuming an underlying Hebrew structure. Unlike Nibley, Tvedtnes dismisses Egyptian: “Whatever reformed Egyptian was, it must have been influenced by the language that the Nephites used in daily speech—Hebrew” (1991, 77-78). To confirm this assumption, Tvedtnes (1991) develops thirteen grammatical and syntactic categories of English words and phrases from the Book of Mormon, which he claims reflect an underlying Hebrew original:

[p.357] 1. Construct state. The adjective is expressed by a genitival phrase in apposition to the noun it describes: “plates of brass” instead of “brass plates” (79).

2. Adverbials. The adverb is expressed by a prepositional phrase: “with patience” instead of “patiently” (79-80).

3. Cognates. The object noun is a derivative of a transitive verb: “I have dreamed a dream” (80).33

4. Compound prepositions. A prepositional phrase is used periphrastically instead of a simple preposition: “by the hand of and by the mouth of” instead of merely “by” (81).

5. Conjunctions. “And” is used redundantly in lists along with “related elements such as prepositions, articles, and possessive pronouns” (as in Bramwell’s examples above): “And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things” (82).

6. Subordinate clauses. “Prepositions plus a word that translates as that” mark a subordinate clause: “because that my heart is broken” (86).

7. Relative clauses. The relative clause “does not always closely follow the word it refers back to”: “Our brother Nephi … has taken it upon him to be our ruler, and our teacher, who are his elder brethren” (87).

8. Extrapositional nouns and pronouns. Resumptive pronouns are [p.358] used “in a way that seems unnecessary or redundant in English”: “I beheld, and saw the people of the seed of my brethren that they had overcome my seed” (87-88).34

9. Interchangeable prepositions. Prepositions inappropriate in English appear in the text: “after ye have arrived to the promised land” (88).

10. Comparisons. “The Book of Mormon frequently uses the word above in comparisons in a way that is more like the Hebrew use of from“: “a land which is choice above all other lands” (88-89).

11. Naming conventions. A periphrastic idiom is employed in naming someone or something: “we did call the name of the place Shazer” (89).

12. Possessive pronouns. The possessive pronoun is expressed by a genitival phrase: “hear the words of me” (89).

13. Words used in unusual ways. For example: “we are upon an isle of the sea,” referring to the “American continent” (90).

On the basis of such examples, Tvedtnes concludes: “These Hebraisms, as I will call them, are evidence of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon—evidence that Joseph Smith did not write a book in English but translated an ancient text and that his translation reflects the Hebrew words and word order of the original” (1991, 77).35

[p.359] For these categories to prove underlying Hebrew as Tvedtnes claims, they must be confined to the Book of Mormon. If numerous examples are found in other productions of Joseph Smith, the argument for a literal translation of the Book of Mormon from Hebrew is weakened and the possibility that they are due to Smith’s familiarity with the King James Version English is strengthened.

In fact these categories are not confined to the Book of Mormon. The first fifteen chapters of the 1833 BoC contain numerous examples of Tvedtnes’s “Hebraisms” in Smith’s other writings (see Appendix A).

Which came first? Smith’s literal, KJV-like rendering of the English in the Book of Mormon, which would have so strongly affected him that he used the same style in his revelations? If so, his revelations did not come word for word from God but were only impressions in his mind, which he then articulated in his own KJV English. Could he not also have produced the Book of Mormon in the same manner, utilizing his KJV literary style? On the other hand, was Smith the Lord’s mouth-piece—a vessel through whom the Lord channeled? If so, then the “Hebraisms” in the Book of Mormon and the BoC/D&C (as well as grammatical and syntactic errors36) are the Lord’s, and the Lord does not really speak to “my servants in their weakness, after the manner of [p.360] their language, that they might come to understanding” (D&C 1:24; emphasis added), but speaks English with a rather thick Hebrew grammatical and syntactic “accent.” In that case, maybe some of the old rabbis were correct and Hebrew—not Spanish—is God’s language.37

Royal Skousen raises an intriguing possibility about “Hebraisms.” He frames the question of whether the Book of Mormon is a literal translation this way: “This supposed problem of grammatical ‘errors’ leads directly to the question of whether the Book of Mormon text represents the Lord’s actual language to Joseph Smith or simply Joseph Smith’s own translation using his own language. In other words, does the Book of Mormon represent a direct and exact revelation from the Lord, or did the ideas come in Joseph’s mind and then he put them into his own words?” (1990, 50)

Skousen rejects evidence for “loose control” of the translation (viz., that the bad grammar and syntax reflect Smith’s poor education). Rather he proposes that Smith “allowed” the faithfully translated Book of Mormon “to be [re-]’translated’ from its original [manuscript English] language into standard English” in subsequent editions. Moreover, rather than Smith using the KJV “to help him translate biblical passages,” Skousen proposes that “it was the Lord himself who chose to quote from the King James Version when it agreed with the Book of Mormon” (55; cf. Ashment 1990, 247-48).

As “evidence for tight control,” Skousen first presents statements by “observers and participants” of the production process. All “mention an instrument of translation in a hat” and confirm that Smith did not require the “gold plates or any other physical text” as he dictated the contents of the Book of Mormon.

Skousen next points to David Whitmer’s observation that Smith was unable to pronounce some of the Book of Mormon names appearing in English in the stone. As a result he “spelled them out in syllables, and the more erudite scribe put them together” (52).38 After the first occurrence, Smith did not continue to spell them out because “spelling variation of hard-to-spell names (like Amalickiah) does [p.361] occur in the manuscripts” (53).

Finally, Skousen points to what he calls “Semitic textual evidence.” Here he refers to Nibley’s work for “many examples of Semitic and other Near Eastern names and phrases in the Book of Mormon.” Skousen argues that placed alongside the “spelling control” of names, Nibley’s project provides “evidence for control at the word level.” In this same context Skousen refers to Welch’s studies about chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, which “demonstrate a tight control on the order of specific words and phrases.”

He notes that there are “some very interesting textual relationships between Book of Mormon passages and corresponding biblical passages.” He cites for his example the Book of Mormon version of Isaiah 3:18-23. Here “the” was missing before “hoods.” This same “the” is missing in the Vatican version of the Septuagint and in texts at least partially dependent on the Septuagint. Skousen finds it remarkable that of “all the the’s that could have been ‘accidentally’ deleted in this long list, Joseph Smith comes up with the one that is missing in part of the biblical textual tradition” (53f). Thus Skousen appeals to a missing word in the second-century B.C.E. Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, the Septuagint, as evidence that Joseph Smith literally translated the Book of Mormon from gold plates. The possibility of a simple omission of “the” either by Smith or his scribes during the production of the Book of Mormon is not considered.

Skousen suggests that the first edition of the Book of Mormon contained many “Hebraisms” which subsequently were edited out: “As an example, in English we express a conditional statement by using if and optionally then, as in the sentence ‘if you come, (then) I will come.’ In Hebrew, this same idea would be expressed as ‘if you come and I will come.’ The original text of the Book of Mormon contains many examples of this Hebrew way of expressing a conditional statement. Consider, for instance, the famous passage from Moroni 10:4. In the original language, it read as follows: ‘and if you shall ask with a sincere heart with real intent having faith in Christ and he will manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost.’ Although this sentence is excellent Hebrew, it is rather difficult for English speakers to understand. Accordingly, the conjunction and was removed by later editing (in the 1837 Kirtland edition)” (1992, 20).

A cursory examination of conditional clauses in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon, BoC, and book of Jeremiah (included as a contemporary Hebrew control document) reveals that the actual situation is not nearly so clear cut. Table 2 provides a summary of conditional clauses which are unmarked, marked by an “and,” anomalously marked, or marked by “then” in these three sources. (For a detailed breakdown of the various clauses, see Appendix B.) [p.362]

Table 2.

Total English Conditional Clauses

Book of Mormon 476  
Doctrine and Covenants 1-20 64  
Jeremiah 38  

Percent Unmarked English Apodoses

Book of Mormon 68% (324)
Doctrine and Covenants 1-20 73% (47)
KJV Jeremiah 47% (18)
Hebrew Jeremiah 29% (11)

Percent Anomalous English Apodoses

Book of Mormon 19% (90)
Doctrine and Covenants 1-20 17% (11)
KJV Jeremiah 3% (1)
Hebrew Jeremiah 13% (5)

Percent “Then”-Marked English Apodoses

Book of Mormon 8% (39)
Doctrine and Covenants 1-20 3% (2)
KJV Jeremiah 47% (18)
Hebrew Jeremiah 0% (0)

Percent “And”-English Apodoses

Book of Mormon 5% (23)
Doctrine and Covenants 1-20 6% (4)
KJV Jeremiah 3% (1)
Hebrew Jeremiah 58% (22)

According to Skousen’s rule, there should be at least a significant percentage of conditional clauses with the apodosis marked by “and” in Smith’s first edition of the Book of Mormon—a “tightly-controlled” (literal) translation. (After all, 58 percent of the apodoses in the Hebrew Jeremiah are marked by w.) But the above table shows only 5 percent—even less than in the English D&C. Moreover, 29 percent of the apodoses of the conditional clauses in the Hebrew Jeremiah ignore Skousen’s rule and are unmarked (i.e., “if … O”). Patterning the percentage of conditional clauses in the Book of Mormon after the Hebrew Jeremiah—if in fact the Book of Mormon were “tightly-controlled”—there should be about 29 percent unmarked apodoses. Instead there are more than twice as many—68 percent (324)—again, much more characteristic of the English D&C.

[p.363] Thus Skousen’s rule for the marked apodosis in Hebrew appears to be too comprehensive and is misrepresentative of the evidence. For in contrast with the Hebrew Jeremiah, and contrary to Skousen’s rule, the “tightly-controlled” (literal) first edition of the Book of Mormon contains an extremely low percentage of “and”-marked apodoses. Moreover, in contrast with the Hebrew Jeremiah, and contrary to Skousen’s rule, the “tightly-controlled” (literal) first edition of the Book of Mormon contains a high percentage of unmarked apodoses. On the other hand, it is significant that the percentages of occurrences of the apodosis marker of conditional clauses in the Book of Mormon are characteristic of the English D&C. The evidence from the Book of Mormon and the D&C illustrates that both works originated from the same author.

In the same apologetic tradition, Brian Stubbs proposes that the Book of Mormon English reflects an underlying Hebrew text. Stubbs argues that an unusual syntactic pattern can be discerned in the Book of Mormon, characterized by -ing forms of verbs39 or nominative absolutes (after Curme 2:17.3). Such collocations are “acceptable in Hebrew, though unorthodox and discouraged in English” (cf. Brown, in Visser 2:1038 and Schlesinger 1992, 110). Stubbs cites Mosiah 7:21-22 as an example: “Ye all are witnesses … that Zeniff, who was made king, … he being over zealous, … therefore being deceived by … King Laman, who having entered into a treaty, … and having yielded up [various cities], … and the land round about—and all this he did, for the sole purpose of bringing this people … into bondage.”40

The Book of Mormon contains numerous collocations consisting of the subjective nominative absolute followed by a verbal clause introduced by the consequentive conjunction “there- wherefore.” Examples from 1 Nephi alone include41:

1 Ne. 1:1: I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father;
1 Ne. 1:1: and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored [p.364] of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days;
1 Ne. 2:16: And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young never the less being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord;
1 Ne. 7:8: And now I, Nephi, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts therefore I speak unto them;
1 Ne. 15:3: and they being hard in their hearts, therefore they did not look unto the Lord.


If such nominative absolutes in the Book of Mormon were “acceptable” Hebrew syntax, the 1981 text from the modern Selections from the Book of Mormon in Hebrew should readily reflect the literally-translated Book of Mormon text. In fact, it does not.

‘ani nepi noladti lehorim nikbadim; laken yussad leqaH limmuday ‘al Heleq mikkol torat ‘abi I, Nephi, was borne to honorable progenitors. Therefore, the learning of my teachings was founded on a portion from all the instruction of my father.
‘omnam ra’ot rabbot ra’iti beyomay ‘ak ‘adonay Hanan ‘oti berob Tubo kol yomay. ‘ ap qaniti rob da’ at ‘al Tub ‘elohim usetaraw. ‘al ken ‘ershom ‘et zikronot qorotay beyomay. Truly great miseries have I seen in my days. But the Lord favored me from the abundance of his goodness all my days. Also, I have acquired an abundance of knowledge concerning the goodness of God and his secret places. Therefore, I inscribe the remembrances of my encounters in my days.
wa’ani nepi ‘ap ki hayiti ca’ir me’od hayiti ‘ish middah wegam hayu li teshuqot gedolot lada’at ‘al ‘odot mistere ‘ eloah. ‘ al ken za’ aqeti ‘el ‘adonay and though (‘ap ki) I, Nephi, was very young, I was a man of stature, and also there were to me great longings to know concerning the mysteries of God. Therefore, I cried to the Lord.
and I, Nephi, was grieved concerning
wa’ani nepi ne’ecabti ‘al qeshi libbam. ‘al ken dibbarti ‘alehem the hardness of their heart. Therefore, I spoke to them and on account of the hardness of
ubiglal qeshi libbarn lo’ panu ‘aHay ‘el ‘adonay their heart, my brothers did not turn
to the Lord


[p.365] Contrary to Stubbs’s assertions, the unusual syntax of the Book of Mormon is not characteristic of Hebrew.42 To help make this clear, Genesis 1:1 is written according to the syntax of the Words of Mormon 15-18.43 The Book of Mormon text is on the left, and the biblical text in Book of Mormon syntax is on the right:

15. And it came to pass that after there had been false Christs, and their mouths had been shut, and they punished according to their crimes; And it came to pass that after the Gods
had counseled among themselves, and
their counsels had been spoken, and
they considered according to their
16. And after there had been false prophets, and false preachers and teachers among the people, and all these having been punished according to their crimes; and after there having been much contention and many dissensions away unto the Lamanites, behold, it came to pass that king Benjamin, with the assistance of the holy prophets who were among his people— And after there had been Lucifer, and his followers and his angels among the intelligences that were before the world was, and all these having been cast down; and after many of the noble and great ones having been chosen to be rulers, behold, in the beginning it came to pass that God, with the assistance of the noble and great ones who were among the spirits—
17. For behold, king Benjamin was a holy man, and he did reign over his people in righteousness; and there were many holy men in the land, and they did speak the word of God with power and with authority; and they did use much sharpness because of the stiffneckedness of the people— For behold, there is no god beside God, and all things are present with him, for he knows them all; and there was one among the noble and great ones that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: we will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth—[p.366]
18. Wherefore, with the help of these, king Benjamin, by laboring with all the might of his body and the faculty of his whole soul, and also the prophets, did once more establish peace in the land. Wherefore, with the help of these, God, by laboring with the Gods and all the noble and great ones, and also the spirits who were before the world was, created the heavens and the earth.

As this hypothetical demonstrates, that unusual syntax is not characteristic of the biblical text, but it does characterize other products by Joseph Smith such as the D&C and Pearl of Great Price.44

The foregoing discussion illustrates how the “Hebraisms” apologetic attempts to authenticate the historicity of the Book of Mormon indirectly by searching for grammatical and syntactic peculiarities in the English text for which analogous parallels can be adduced from authentic Hebrew texts, then bearing witness that Smith produced the Book of Mormon from a hypothetically Hebrew original. Various arguments and devices are used to make those parallels appear more convincing—even if actual English usage and Hebrew grammatical and syntactic rules must be misrepresented. The “Hebraisms” apologetic must minimize obvious relationships between the KJV and the Book of Mormon text by ignoring the fact that the latter is badly contaminated by numerous quotations and paraphrases from the former—even from the New Testament in allegedly sixth-century B.C.E. material45—and in ignoring or trivializing obvious KJV-isms in Smith’s revelations.

Claims for “Individual Authorship” in the Book of Mormon

Another apologetic approach is to seek for individual styles of the various characters in the Book of Mormon in an attempt to demonstrate that the Book of Mormon text is not the product of one man but is a translation of a compilation of the writings of a number of men. One type of stylistic study concentrates on idiosyncratic phraseologies; a second seeks to establish “wordprints” for the various characters introduced in the Book of Mormon.

[p.367] In an article captioned “A Reader Notes an Expression That Is Unique to Nephi,” the Brigham Young University-affiliated Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) cites the work of Richard Rust, who focuses on Nephi’s phrase “my soul delighteth.” According to Rust, this phrase “appears to be unique to Nephi,” thus serving as “a hallmark of Nephi’s writing” (Rust 1992, 4). The FARMS article concludes: “Since it appears to be unique to Nephi and not randomly scattered through the book (as would presumably have been the case if one writer—Joseph Smith—had written the book), Rust finds this unique usage another piece of circumstantial evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.”

Rust rightly points out that the phrase “appears to be unique to Nephi” in the Book of Mormon, but he neglects to provide the proper context. That this phrase occurs only in 2 Nephi is significant. After Smith lost 116 pages of the original manuscript, he did not immediately return to the beginning and start over. Rather he continued on from the portion of the manuscript he had retained and dictated the rest of the Book of Mormon. Then he returned to the beginning of the chronology and dictated material designated as having come from the “small plates,” which covered the very time period of the lost pages. (See Metcalfe in this compilation.)

Smith quoted relatively little Isaiah material in his text from Words of Mormon through Moroni (predominantly from Isaiah 52-54; see Pack 1973, 190f). But extensive sections of Smith’s last-dictated text comprise direct quotations from KJV Isaiah: 1 Ne. 20-21 (= Isa. 48-49); 2 Ne. 7-8 (= Isa. 50-52:2); 2 Ne. 12-24 (= Isa. 2-14); 2 Ne. 27:2-35 (= Isa. 29:6-24) (see Ashment 1990b, 260n55). “My soul delighteth” occurs in Isaiah 42:1, 55:2, and 66:3. It is no surprise that the phrase first occurs in the Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 4:15. There the phrase is sandwiched between extensive quotations from KJV Isaiah. Virtually all other occurrences of the phrase come immediately before or after the Isaiah quotations (in 2 Ne. 4:16; 9:37, 49, 51; 11:1, 4, 5[2], 6; 25:4, 5, 13; and 31:13).

Rust’s only example of the phrase from someone other than Nephi—by Jacob in 2 Nephi 9:51—is in reality a paraphrase of Isaiah 55:2:

Isa. 55:2: Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? And your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.
2 Ne. 9:51: Wherefore do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words [p.368] which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness.


Consequently, instead of being an idiom virtually exclusive to Nephi, the evidence indicates that when Smith saw the idiom in Isaiah he used it fourteen times while it was fresh in his mind. The fact that he actually quoted Isaiah using that very phrase in 2 Nephi 9:51 demonstrates his awareness of its origin. Had he dictated 1 and 2 Nephi at the beginning—rather than at the end—of his Book of Mormon narration, the phrase may well have appeared at least occasionally in the rest of the book. That Smith used it after 2 Nephi is demonstrated by D&C 25:12, 14.

“My soul delighteth” is not a diagnostic characteristic of Nephi’s idiomatic style, which therefore provides “another piece of circumstantial evidence of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.” Rather it reflects Smith’s narration sequence of the Book of Mormon and shows that he freely used KJV biblical idioms in his narration.

In a potpourri chapter edited by John Welch (1992), several apologists advance similar arguments intended to authenticate the historicity of the Book of Mormon. The chapter focuses on words and phrases in the Book of Mormon which, according to Welch, reflect ancient Near Eastern usages and attitudes. He suggests that “phrase distributions” in various locations in the Book of Mormon reflect various characters’ rhetorical styles or “attitudes … that were particularly relevant and current” at a specific time period.

For example, he cites one phrase cluster, “Lord [God] Omnipotent,” which appears “six times in the Book of Mormon, and all six of them are in King Benjamin’s speech” (at Mosiah 3:5, 17, 18, 21; 5:2, 15). Consequently, the article concludes, “this name for God, spoken four times by the angel in Mosiah 3, and once by the people and once by Benjamin in Mosiah 5, was distinctive to Benjamin’s speech and perhaps was not generally used by other Nephites outside of Benjamin’s text” (282).

What the article fails to mention is that the first occurrence of this phrase is a paraphrase from Revelation 19:6. As with the phrase “my soul delighteth,” the use of this idiom in the Book of Mormon is tied to a phrase from the KJV and only occurs in a limited context. Again the distribution of the phrase suggests that Smith used the idiom frequently while it was fresh in his mind.

A second example is the phrase “the Holy One of Israel,” which “never appears in the Book of Mormon except in the Small Plates of Nephi and in passages quoted from Isaiah.” The article notes, “This name for God appears some thirty times in the Old Testament, and [p.369] almost all of those occurrences are in Isaiah or in texts that originated around the time of Lehi,” suggesting that “this name reflects attitudes about God that were particularly relevant and current around Lehi’s time” (283). The term occurs twenty-seven times in Isaiah.46 In the Book of Mormon the phrase first occurs in 1 Nephi 19:14 and continues to appear throughout the Isaiah-quotation sections for a total of thirty-five times.47 As with “my soul delighteth” and “Lord [God] Omnipotent,” while “Holy One of Israel” was fresh on Smith’s mind, he used it extensively in dictating that portion of the Book of Mormon.

Another word and phrase “island and isles of the sea” appear exclusively in the Books of 1 Nephi and 2 Nephi. Why should the important prophecies of Isaiah about the Lord remembering ‘those who are upon the isles of the sea’ (2 Nephi 10:21; Isaiah 11:11; 49:1; 51:5) be so prominent here but unmentioned later?” The article suggests that “at first the Nephites figured they were upon an island of the sea, and it took a few years for the Nephites to explore their new land far enough to realize that they were upon a much larger land mass than an island” (283).48

It is important to note that the phrase does not occur in the Book of Mormon before 1 Nephi 19:10 even though the Land of Promise is mentioned several times previously.49 It does occur in a Book of Mormon section which centers around extensive quotations from the Bible,50 just as “my soul delighteth,” “Lord (God) Omnipotent,” and “Holy One of Israel” are found near quotations or paraphrases from the KJV.

The article identifies another localized example, “great and abominable church,” noting that this phrase is confined to the “early Nephite writings” and that “Nephi uses the phrase eleven times, and his brother Jacob uses it once in 2 Nephi 6:12.” On the basis of this distribution, the article concludes that it “appears to have remained so distinctively associated with Nephi’s vision that it did not enter into any widely used [p.370] Nephite theological discourse” (283). This phrase is not a distinctive feature of Nephi’s speech pattern. Rather it seems more distinctive of the author of the book of Revelation and was imported into the Book of Mormon as an eschatological peshitta, which the Book of Mormon itself states. After the angel showed Nephi a vision parallel to Revelation 17-19, he tells him in 1 Nephi 14:18-30 that “one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb,” whose name would be “John,” would one day see and record the same vision (“he shall see and write the remainder of these things”), going beyond what Nephi recorded. John’s work would be “plain and pure, and most precious and easy to the understanding of all men” when it would first appear, by implication doomed to the same obfuscatory editorial fate as the rest of the Bible at the hands of the “great and abominable church” (1 Ne. 13:26, 28).

Not only do the same phrases occur in Revelation and the Book of Mormon but also in the D&C (29:21, 88:94). (For a complete listing of the relevant phrases from all three sources, see Appendix C.) As with the “Hebraisms” that appear in the BoC, occurrence of the alleged idiosyncratic phraseologies in the D&C again returns us to the problem of which came first. Did Smith’s literal translation of the Book of Mormon have such a great effect on him that he used the same phraseologies in his revelations? In that case his revelations must have been only impressions in his mind that he articulated in his own KJV scriptural English, thus accounting for their occurrence in the D&C. Or was he merely a vessel through whom the Lord channeled his revelations? But then the phraseologies would be those of the Lord and not diagnostic of any particular character in the Book of Mormon.

The high concentration of the term “the lamb (of God)” in both Revelation and 1 Nephi is noteworthy. The “lamb of God” occurs twice in the Bible (in John 1:29, 36). “The lamb,” referring to a person, occurs exclusively in Revelation. In the Book of Mormon, “the Lamb (of God)” occurs virtually exclusively in 1 Nephi 10-14, for a total of fifty-six times. There are only thirteen occurrences in the remainder of the Book of Mormon. In addition the term occurs fifteen times in the D&C; it occurs once in the Pearl of Great Price.51

As with the other phrases—”my soul delighteth,” “Lord [God] Omnipotent,” “Holy One of Israel,” “isles of the sea,” and “great and abominable church”—phrases from the Bible seemed to trigger “the [p.371] Lamb [of God]” usage. The cumulative distribution of these terms begins to point to a pattern in Smith’s work. A new phrase would be used in a concentrated way and then dropped. These concentrations do not indicate idiosyncratic nor temporally-specific usages by Book of Mormon characters.

In a different vein the article asserts that the (Mormon?) concept of “‘the second death’ is at home in Egyptian texts and iconography depicting the divine judgment of Osiris” (283-84). In its caption to an Egyptian 21st Dynasty judgment scene (see Piankoff 1957, 53, 147ff, pl. 17; an illustration that accompanies Book of the Dead, chap. 125), the article notes that “Alma spoke of the ‘second death,’ a concept also found in ancient Egyptian religion … If one’s heart is too hard and heavy, it is devoured by the Chaos Monster in a second death” (284). But the Egyptian scale does not weigh “hardness.” The deity Ammit first appears in the latter 18th Dynasty as the “Devourer of the Dead” (see Seeber 1976, 163) and does not specifically represent chaos. Both of the article’s assertions are presentistic, eisegetically interpreting modern Mormon hermeneutics back into Egyptian beliefs.

Instead of appealing to ancient Egyptian beliefs to authenticate the Book of Mormon’s use of the term “second death” as ancient in Alma 12:16, 32, and 13:30, the article should have referred to the book of Revelation, where the term occurs four times (2:11, 20:6, 14, 21:8) and to Jacob 3:11, where it first appears in the Book of Mormon, paraphrasing Revelation 21:8, thus establishing an antecedent for Smith’s use of the term:

Rev. 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murders, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
Jacob 3:11 … loose yourselves from the pains of hell that ye may not become angels to the devil, to be cast into that lake of fire and brimstone which is the second death.

Alma 12:16-17 contains those same elements, declaring the “second death” to be a “time when their torments shall be as a lake of fire and brimstone.” The Egyptian Ammit, on the other hand, eats the damned.

Finally, the article wrongly attempts to equate the Book of Mormon phrase “it came to pass” with Mayan hieroglyphic anterior and posterior date and event indicators by declaring “the confirmation by Mayan experts that an element translated ‘and it came to pass'” functions in four ways, which the article also claimed to find in the Book of [p.372] Mormon. The time-obsessed Maya used those glyphic indicators specifically with calendric dates, denoting time lapse “since” or “until” a given date or event. They do not translate as “it came to pass,” as the article claims, nor are they used as a literary device in narrative texts (see Schele 1982, 21-25).

The second apologetic approach that attempts to identify individual literary styles within the Book of Mormon appeals to statistical wordprint analysis or “stylometrics.” Proponents of this method—Wayne Larsen, Alvin Rencher, and Tim Layton—declare: “The defenders of the book maintain that it is just what it claims to be—a sacred record written on metal plates by many ancient authors and translated by Joseph Smith with divine assistance and direction” (1980, 225). They point out that “Book of Mormon apologists find evidence of Hebrew and other ancient writing styles in the book” while “detractors point to the grammatical mistakes in the earlier editions as evidence that there could have been no miraculous translation.” And “both sides also cite archaeological evidence to defend their points of view.” They present wordprint analysis as the arbitrating solution to this confusion, advertising it as “a rigorous and objective statistical analysis” which would be a “test of the competing claims” (225).

Wordprint analysis refers to the study of “non-contextual” words that are characteristic of a specific author. The most famous wordprint study attempted to identify the anonymous Federalist Papers, the rest of which were known to have been written by John Jay, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton. The author’s style from the known documents served as a control for the anonymous ones. Those documents paralleling Madison’s style were attributed to him and those paralleling Hamilton’s to him (see Mosteller and Wallace 1964). Thus reliance on a known body of literature of a given author provides the crucial control when studying an unattributed item.52

The first problem facing wordprint analysis of the Book of Mormon is the impossibility of such control. No documents of known attribution exist outside of the text of the Book of Mormon for any of the disputed authors. As a result Larsen, Rencher, and Layton must presuppose discrete authorship within the Book of Mormon in order to discover discrete authorship. For example, they must accept the Book of Mormon’s declaration that Alma is the author of a given text within the book in order to test it as Alma’s text. This means that the item to [p.373] be tested becomes the control document for itself.53

Larsen, Rencher, and Layton make two assumptions: “(1) that each of the major engravers and those they quote were distinct individuals, and (2) that the writers of each verse, or partial verse, could be identified according to information given in the text” (229). Assuming the historicity of the account, they accept at face value, for example, discrete authorship for Mormon, Alma, Amulek, and an angel in the two-verse segment of Alma 8:19-20 (see Fig. 11). They do not consider the possibility that 400 years hence Mormon may have paraphrased and encapsulated material that he attributed to various characters in the text.

Figure 11.
The Authorship of Alma 8:19-20, According to
Larsen, Rencher, and Layton (1980, 229)

Source Segment
Mormon 19. And as he entered the city he was an hungered, and he said to a man:
Alma Will you give to an humble servant of God something to eat?
Mormon 20. And the man said unto him:
Amulek I am a Nephite, and I know that thou art a prophet of God, for thou art a holy prophet of God, thou art the man whom an angel said in a vision:
Angel Thou shalt receive.
Amulek Therefore, go with me into my house and I will impart unto thee of my food; and I know that thou wilt be a blessing unto me and my house.

Larsen, Rencher, and Layton further obfuscate the issue by comparing an alleged Book of Mormon author’s wordprint with certain of Smith’s other published material, failing to take into account that the “control” material for Smith has been heavily edited.

John L. Hilton (1990) makes the same assumptions as Larsen, Rencher, and Layton. He presents another wordprint analysis of the text of the Book of Mormon and comes to the same conclusions. He declares: “Of course, wordprint analysis, while it can measure certain [p.374] facts objectively, cannot prove the holiness of the Book of Mormon. The understanding that the Book of Mormon has a divine origin is obtainable only by developing faith. Thus, while valid and objective wordprinting is no substitute for faith, wordprinting can, nevertheless, bolster the establishment of faith by rigorously demonstrating factual information about the book.” With his agendum of “bolstering the establishment of faith” through his word-print analysis, he accordingly sets his parameters and measures the data to conclude unsurprisingly that “the Book of Mormon measures multi-authored, with authorship consistent to its own internal claims” (101).


Robert J. Matthews, former dean of religious instruction at Brigham Young University, has drawn a line in the sand regarding the historicity of the Book of Mormon: “The reader of the Book of Mormon is forced to decide: either Joseph Smith was a fraud who has now been exposed through his citing biblical passages that have been disproved by scientific investigation, or Joseph Smith was a prophet who translated an ancient historical, doctrinal, religious record—a new witness for Jesus Christ. There is no middle ground to this matter without compromise and a loss of truth” (1992, 107; emphasis added).

In other words, for Matthews and other apologists the question of the historicity of the Book of Mormon is one of faith: if the Book of Mormon is True, then it is historical (see Ashment 1992, 286-87; 1990b, 251). This means that after a person becomes convinced that Joseph Smith was a prophet, she or he must accept the Book of Mormon uncompromisingly as “an ancient historical, doctrinal, religious record.” Otherwise, according to Louis Midgley, a professor of political science at Brigham Young University, to “reduce the Book of Mormon to mere myth weakens, if not destroys, the possibility of it witnessing to the truth about divine things” (1990, 525). As Paul Althaus “looks to historical research for the guarantee that the Christ of faith is not just another great myth of world religions” (Meier 1991, 28), Midgley seeks to establish the historicity of the Book of Mormon so as not to weaken or destroy “the possibility of its witnessing to the truth about divine things.” That is the apologetic agendum. Unfortunately there is no direct evidence to support the historical claims of the Book of Mormon—nothing archaeological, nothing philological. As a result, those for whom Truth is the product of spiritual witness, not empirical inquiry, resort to developing analogies and parallels to defend the book’s historical claims. That is the apologetic historical methodology.54

[p.375] This essay has considered three categories of assertions about the language of the Book of Mormon: those of the Book of Mormon about itself, those of Smith and his associates, and those of modern apologists. The Book of Mormon claims that it was written in Egyptian language/characters, which had become so reformed through time as to be undecipherable except through supernatural means. Smith claimed such means, and with his seer stone interpreted the characters from the ethereal plates. He and his associates suggested that a given character he deciphered could result in a word or even a concept longer than a sentence. In other words what he translated would have been pictographs, which can only be interpreted—not “translated”—because they are non-linguistic. Accordingly the underlying language of the Book of Mormon is Smith’s KJV English.

With no direct, linguistic evidence for the gold plates being written in either Egyptian or Hebrew, modern apologists have appealed to analogies and parallels to defend the historicity of the Book of Mormon. In their deep conviction of already having the Truth of the Book of Mormon revealed to them spiritually, they often misrepresent data in order to place it within Book-of-Mormon-authenticating parameters. As a result Book of Mormon “translation” apologetics have produced a broad range of explanations, some of which contradict others. But the contradictions and the multiplicity of approaches seem acceptable to apologists, for one way or another the Book of Mormon must continue to witness “to the truth about divine things.”

Appendix and Bibliography

1. For its claim that the Words of Mormon through Moroni is history, see 1 Ne. 9:2; 2 Ne. 4:14, 5:33; Jacob Heading; 1:2, 3.

2. See Alma 33:3, 4; Hel. 3:15; 8:11; 3 Ne. 27:5.

3. The Nephites were farmers, horticulturists, and ranchers (Enos 1:21) who worked industriously with their hands to “build buildings” and “work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper and of brass, and of steel and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores” (2 Ne. 5:16-17.). They explored and settled throughout the Western Hemisphere, even attempting to resettle lands from which Lamanites had driven them (see Omni; Mosiah 7ff; Alma 22:29ff, 63; Hel. 3). The earlier “Jaredite” civilization was similarly described (see Ether 9:16-19; 10:22-27).

In contrast, in just one generation (from Jacob to Enos) Lamanites had degenerated into a people “led by their evil nature that they became wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey; dwelling in tents, and wandering about in the wilderness with a short skin girdle about their loins and their heads shaven; and their skill was in the bow, and in the cimeter, and the ax. And many of them did eat nothing save it was raw meat; and they were continually seeking to destroy [the Nephites]” (Enos 1:20).

Later in the Book of Mormon, however, Lamanites were apparently no longer that degenerate. Although they delighted in robbing the Nephites (Alma 17:14), and their “more idle part … lived in the wilderness, and dwelt in tents” (22:28), they too were ranchers (watering their flocks at the water of Sebus) (Alma 17), who had a king who ruled over vassal kings (20:4, 8-9), who transported themselves in horse-driven chariots (18:9), and who built cities, synagogues, and palaces (21:2, 4-5; 22:2; 23:2, 4, 9-13).

4. See 3 Ne. 10:18-19 where Jesus declared to righteous Nephites and Lamanites, the only ones to survive the crucifixion holocaust (9:13), that “So great faith have I never seen among all the Jews; wherefore I could not show unto them so great miracles, because of their unbelief … there are none of them that have seen so great things as ye have seen; neither have they heard so great things as ye have heard” (vv. 35-36).

5. The dates provided for Book of Mormon chronology are taken from the footers of the current (1981) LDS edition of the book.

6. Neither Egyptian nor Hebrew had a word for “brass.” Hsmn is “bronze” (Wb. 3:163); neHushah is “copper or bronze” (HAL3 647f). Brass was not known in Egypt before Roman times and, except for a local zinc impurity in bronzes from 1400-1200 B.C., was unknown in Palestine until Roman times (Forbes 1971, 267-89).

7. That record was considered to be so important that one of the most pious Book of Mormon characters killed its owner, one of his relatives, to get it (1 Ne. 4). Those plates, which would have been written in Old-World Egyptian, were destined to be “kept and handed down from one generation to another, and be kept and preserved” supernaturally “until they should go forth unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people” (Alma 37:4). They and other “plates which do contain that which is holy writ” would never tarnish (v. 5).

8. Throughout its history the Book of Mormon claims that the Egyptian brass plates served as the Nephites’ source for such Jewish records as “the five books of Moses … And also the prophecies of the holy prophets,” including “many” of Jeremiah’s prophecies (1 Ne. 5:11, 13; see Omni 1:14; Mosiah 1:3, 16; 3:10; 28:11; Alma 37:3; 3 Ne. l:2)—a virtual Old Testament up to the time of Lehi. Such a collection presumes an orderly, intentional composition of the Law (“The five books of Moses”) and the Prophets (“the prophecies of the holy prophets”)—two of the three major components of the Old Testament—before 600 B.C., apparently as the authors, to whom the various books were attributed, wrote. But that does not accord with the evidence. Deuteronomy, originally written ca. 620 B.C., was the core around which the various narratives were collected which eventually became “the five books of Moses.” These were composed after the Babylonian captivity, ca. 400 B.C. “The Prophets” did not take form until ca. 180 B.C. (Perrin and Duling 1982, 435-36; see Barr 1983, 50; and Rowley 1963).

9. Later the wording of the revelation was expanded to make the production of the Book of Mormon the threshold of his spiritual gifts, so that after he finished it, God would give him more to do (1835 D&C 32:1).

10. That the plates were anything more than a revelation is open to question. Note Warren Parrish’s answer to E. Holmes in a letter of 11 August 1838: “Martin Harris, one of the subscribing witnesses, has come out at last, and says he never saw the plates, from which the book purports to have been translated, except in vision; and he further says that any man who says he has seen them in any other way is a liar, Joseph not excepted” (1838, 226). This agrees with Book of Commandments (BoC) IV.4: “for I will give them [three witnesses] power, that they may behold and view these things as they are.” Compare Moses 1:11: “mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes.”

11. As early as September 1829, Martin Harris described Smith’s translation process: “The treasure consisted of a number of gold plates about 8 inches long, 6 wide, and one-eighth of an inch thick, on which were engraved hieroglyphics. By placing the spectacles in a hat and looking into it, Smith interprets the characters into the English language” (Gem [Rochester, NY], 5 Sept. 1829).

Smith declared that the gold plates were bound together into a codex: “Tablets, tables, and plates, are all of the same import, and the mode of fastening leaves, plates or tablets together at the back with rings, is the same way the Book of Mormon was connected. We may, at some future day, pursue this subject far enough to convince honest people, that the stone tables of the Bible, and gold plates of the Book of Mormon, were constructed and carried alike” (Times and Seasons 3 [1 Sept. 1842]: 908).

12. Both Cowdery and Williams served as scribes to Smith from 1832 to 1835. Cowdery’s tenure effectively ceased in late October 1835, while Williams’s ended in January 1836. The previous summer Smith had purchased some Egyptian papyri and had been trying to decipher one of the scrolls as well as develop an Egyptian alphabet and grammar. Both Williams and Cowdery were connected with the Egyptian papyrus project. It is certainly conceivable that there would be heightened interest in the language of the Book of Mormon at this time, with its peculiar mix of Egyptian and Hebrew, just as Smith and his close associates were beginning to study Hebrew in earnest. As they were studying Hebrew with the prophet in December 1835 they must have asked him a question about the language of the Book of Mormon, requesting a back-transliteration, according to Williams: “Question asked in English & answered in Hebrew.” Then they asked Smith to decipher four Book of Mormon Egyptian signs. Each man recorded the results for his own “profit and learning,” in the words of Cowdery. For a discussion of the specious argument that the documents regarding ancient texts in the handwriting of Smith’s scribes were really attempts to compete with him, see Ashment 1990a.

13. For a facsimile copy of each, see Williams 1988, 16-17, who notes that there are several additional characters on the back of the Williams document. To date the LDS church has not allowed public scrutiny of that side of the document.

14. The LDS church recalled this publication, Selections from the Book of Mormon in Hebrew (1981), after Israelis became convinced that Mormons were planning to use the Brigham Young University Jerusalem Study Center as a proselyting base to convert Jewish people.

As elsewhere in this book, an eclectic transliteration of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Egyptian is used in this study for technical reasons. The transliteration of consonants is: alef=’; bet=b; gimel=g; dalet=d; he=h; waw=w; zayin=z; het=H; tet=T; yod=y; kaf=k; lamed=l; mem=m; nun=n; samekh=s; ayin=’; pe=p; tsadi=c; qof=q; resh=r; sin=S; shin=sh; taw=t. The length or brevity of vowels is not marked. The technical transliteration of Egyptian, which is given without vowels and in italics in the essay, is (following the standard alphabetical order): ‘, i, y ‘, w, b, p, f, m, n, r, h, H, K, S, s, sh, q, k, g, t, c, d, j. Capital “H” is used for Akkadian cuneiform hard “h.”

15. For a discussion of the Book of Abraham Characters, see Ashment (forthcoming).

16. The transliteration of the sign is taken from Smith’s autographic “Egyptian Alphabet,” which contains corrections and additions in Oliver Cowdery’s handwriting. The translation of the sign is taken from Book of Abraham Ms. 2. The bound “Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar” (EAG) contains interpretations of the “dissected” sign in various parts and degrees.

17. For an example of how far at least one apologetic argument has gone to avoid Smith’s dependence on the KJV, see Ashment 1990b, 247-48.

18. Sorenson (1977) claims to have established a northern Israel origin for Lehi. His conclusion rests on the “appearance of ‘Lord’ over ‘Jehovah’ (over 1,400 times verses [sic] 2 times, respectively).” This fact indicates an “Elohistic” or northern origin for the Book of Mormon. But it is well known that “Lord” is a translation of “Jehovah,” which even he admits (1977, 39n39). Elohim would have been translated as “God.” With such an explanation as a foundation, Sorenson claims that “four prophets unmentioned in the Bible—Zenock, Zenos, Neum, and Ezias,” who are mentioned in the Book of Mormon—are therefore “Northern Kingdom Prophets.”

19. A bibliography would be useful for the plethora of documents Sorenson claims “have been found in Palestine demonstrating that Egyptian characters were used in Old Testament times to write the Hebrew Language.”

20. Nibley addresses the problem of whether the gold plates were written in the Egyptian language or in Hebrew using Egyptian characters as follows: “To preserve mere characters but a single page of Hebrew and Egyptian signs would have been necessary, and Lehi or his sons could have produced such from memory, since they had already been taught them. And if the language in question were Hebrew, Lehi’s children could have produced from their own resources any number of books in their own language, so that when Nephi expresses his belief that without that one volume of plates a language will be lost—the ancient language of his fathers—he cannot possibly be speaking of Hebrew. The preservation of Hebrew would naturally require possession of the scriptures, the canon of the pure language, but these could be had anywhere in Judah and would not require the dangerous mission to Laban. The language of Lehi’s forefathers was a foreign language; and when Nephi tells us it was the language of the Egyptians he means what he says” (1952, 26).

21. For a discussion of Nibley’s effort to find parallels in a variety of literature, see Ashment 1990a, 229-31.

22. For use of the Korihor label by modern apologists, see Peterson 1992.

23. For how ludicrous “name studies” may become, note a recent question and answer from Walter Scott’s “Personality Parade” in Parade, 23 Aug. 1992, 2:

Q. A while back, you said Tonto was calling the Lone Ranger “faithful friend” when he used the phrase “kemo sabay.” Actually Tonto was calling him “he who doesn’t understand” (from the Spanish “quien no sabe”). But he was just returning the insult: “Tonto” is Spanish for “fool.” I figured it was an inside joke. Why not ask Clayton Moore, who played the Lone Ranger?

A. It was Moore, in fact, who said “kemo sabay” is Iroquois for “faithful friend”—which the Iroquois Indian Museum is having trouble checking, since each of the six Iroquois nations has its own language. But the late James Jewell, first director of “The Lone Ranger,” said he named Tonto (which Indians told him meant “wild one”) and took Tonto’s phrase from Kee Mo Sah Bee, a camp in Michigan. You decide. Meanwhile where did Tonto learn Spanish?

24. Stephen D. Ricks (1992b), a professor of Asian and Near Eastern Languages at Brigham Young University, attempts to account for Greek names in the Book of Mormon by suggesting several possible origins. He limits his treatment to “Timothy” and “Lachoneus,” omitting discussion of the theologically most important Greek name in the Book of Mormon: “Christ” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew “Messiah,” both of which mean “Anointed” (see BDB 603; Liddell and Scott, 9th ed., 2007; Kittel and Friedrich 1964-76, 9:496ff).

The term “Christ” first occurs in the Book of Mormon in 1 Nephi 12:18 (in the 1830 edition), several years before an angel revealed for the first time (in 2 Nephi 10:3) that the “name” of the Messiah would be “Christ.” Apparently because of this serious internal anachronism, the term “Christ” was edited out of 1 Nephi 12:18 and changed to “Messiah” in the 1837 edition.

That “Christ” occurs at all in the Book of Mormon is remarkable, for it is merely a translation into Greek—a language with which the Nephites would not have been familiar—of a Hebrew word that the Nephites would already have understood. As Christianity spread in the western world to people who did not know what it meant “Christ” came to have status as a name in its own right (see Kittel and Friedrich 1964-76, 9:573-80). By the time of Joseph Smith, “Christ” was a name; Smith did not understand that to Nephites “Christ” would have been a meaningless replacement in a totally foreign language. It is in this context that “Christ” appears in the Book of Mormon. (Also see Metcalfe, in this compilation.)

25. Ricks thus disagrees with Nibley, who argues: “Did the wealthy Lehi learn Egyptian characters so that he could sit in his house in the land of Jerusalem and by writing Hebrew with demotic symbols save a few cents a month on writing materials?” Rather, Lehi and his sons “had no other reason for learning Egyptian characters than to read and write Egyptian. … And the Egyptian characters can only have been preserved for their use because the language was also preserved; for people who were not crowded for space would not have continued to write Hebrew in the difficult Egyptian characters for hundreds of years, when all the time they might just as well have been writing in the twenty-two simple and practical characters of the Hebrew alphabet.

“Many reasons might be added for rejecting this interesting theory, but the simple statement of Mormon [sic] should be enough to banish the darling illusion that anyone who has had elementary Hebrew knows the original language of the Book of Mormon. If that were so, its translation by the gift and power of God would have been no great miracle, and instead of a Urim and Thummin [sic] a short list of Egyptian characters with their Hebrew equivalents would have been the only tool necessary to Joseph Smith’s generation or our own. The fact remains that the abridging and editing of the Book of Mormon was in a language known to no other people on earth but the Nephites” (1952, 16-17).

26. In fact Steiner suggests that the writers of the text originally were from Rash, whose inhabitants were deported to Bethel in Samaria by Ashurbanipal, and that “the Rashans either lived among or were themselves soldiers from Judea and Samaria. Either way, a link with Elephantine seems unavoidable” (1991, 363).

27. He cites Davidson 1901, section 114: “When compound subj. is of different persons 1st pers. precedes 2nd and 2nd the 3rd. 1 K. 1.21 above, I and my son. I Sam. 14:40; 20:23; Nu. 20.8; Gen. 43.8.” Following Davidson, Bramwell cites 1 Kgs. 1:21; 1 Sam. 14:40; and Gen. 43:8. See also Gen. 22:5; 31:44; 34:30; 37:10; Ex. 9:27; 33:16; Num. 20:19; Judg. 7:18; 11:37; 12:2; 20:4; 2 Sam. 3:28; 1 Kgs. 1:21; 3:17; 2 Kgs. 9:25; 2 Chr. 32:13; Neh. 1:6; 2:12; 5:14; Esth. 7:4; Isa. 8:18 (2 Ne. 18:18).

28. The construction occurs also in Mosiah 9:7, 16, 17; 11:27; and Alma 27:15.

29. In his thesis on possible Hebraisms in the large plate section of the Book of Mormon, Deloy Pack cites the studies of Rasmussen and Smutz, both of whom studied “textual parallels between the Doctrine and Covenants and the King James Version of the Bible.” They found “a great deal of influence of the latter on the wording of the former. Smutz found that over half the verses she studied contained at least two phrases which paralleled the King James Version either in vocabulary, syntax, meanings, or concept.” That demonstrates to Pack that “when Joseph Smith was in that particular mental state associated with receiving revelations, he had an unusual ability to recall biblical material. If he was in a similar condition while dictating the Book of Mormon, he could have recalled biblical terminology well enough to have incorporated Hebraisms as contained in the King James Version into the text of the Book of Mormon. The parallels between Book of Mormon verses and biblical passages … show that Joseph Smith did have some facility for recalling biblical material while dictating the Book of Mormon.”

Pack is less liberal than Bramwell, concluding that the “possibility cannot be excluded, then, that Hebraisms occur in the Book of Mormon because Joseph Smith when under inspiration had an exceptional ability to recall biblical phrases and terms.” Though he favors the idea that a literal translation is responsible for Hebraisms that he sees in the English text of the Book of Mormon, Pack notes that his data “are not sufficient for one to draw a final conclusion between these two possibilities” (1973, 177-79).

30. He cites Davidson, who states, “If several nouns be coupled by and, suff. must be repeated with each” (1901, section 2).

31. He apparently refers to Davidson 1901, section 101 (whom he does not cite): “When several words are coupled together under the regimen of the same prep. it is often repeated before each, as Hos. 2.21 … Gen. 12.1; 40.2, 2S. 6.5, Hos. 1.7.” Bramwell would have done well to have followed Davidson in being less prescriptive.

32. In this context Bramwell last cites an example attributed to a prophet named Zenos: “The Lord God surely shall visit all the house of Israel at that day, some with his voice, because of their righteousness, unto their great joy and salvation, and others with the thunderings and the lightnings of his power, by tempest, by fire, and by smoke, and vapor of darkness, and by the opening of the earth, and by mountains which shall be carried up” (1 Ne. 19:11). But Zenos seems to have relied on Isaiah (29:6): “Thou shalt be visited of the Lord of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire.”

33. Paul Hoskisson also declares that cognate accusatives are diagnostic of Hebrew in order to strengthen the historicity of the Book of Mormon. He claims to have “discerned a Semitic flavor in the Book of Mormon that was foreign to English. For instance, it is not common in English to use cognate accusatives; that is, using objects of the verb that are derived from the same root, such as ‘sing a song’ or ‘live a good life.’ English contains a few cognitive accusatives because no acceptable synonyms are available, but on the whole, English usually avoids them. The Book of Mormon uses them quite often. … This frequent usage is indicative of the book’s Near Eastern heritage” (1988, 15). Elsewhere in an attempt to strengthen the position that cognitive accusatives are virtually nonexistent in English, he goes so far as to claim that ”We even go to the extreme in English and invent elaborate sentences to avoid a cognate accusative” (1982, 41). Brian Stubbs also wrongly appeals to cognitive accusatives in the Book of Mormon to argue for the historicity of the Book of Mormon: “the cognitive accusative, literarily redundant in English, is used in Hebrew for emphasis” (1992, 1:180).

Unfortunately, cognate accusatives are more common in English than either is willing to allow. Visser (1984, 1:415) observes that although “Cognate objects … are somewhat rare in Old English, they are made with increasing frequency in Middle English, and become quite numerous in the Modern Period, where the usage, however, remains confined to literary diction.” Moreover, Curme (1962, 1:63-64) notes that the “cognate object” is characteristic of modern English: “Verbs which are usually intransitive often become transitive by taking a cognate object, i.e. a noun of a meaning cognate or similar to that of the verb, repeating and explaining more fully the idea expressed by the verb. The cognate object is usually modified by one or more adjectives or by an of-genitive, which makes it possible to describe the action still more accurately: ‘He died a violent death. He is living a sad and lonely life. He laughed a little short ugly laugh. He sighed a sigh of ineffable satisfaction.'”

34. Tvedtnes cites Genesis 1:4 (wayyar’ ‘elohim et-ha’or ki-Tob) as the Hebrew template for certain Book of Mormon phraseologies, such as “I beheld, and saw the people of the seed of my brethren that they had overcome my seed” (1 Ne. 12:20); “I beheld the wrath of God, that it was upon the seed of my brethren” (1 Ne. 13:14); “And I beheld the Spirit of the Lord, that it was upon the Gentiles” (1 Ne. 13:15); and “I … beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended” (1 Ne. 14:14). He translates the Hebrew of Genesis as “God saw the light that it was good,” remarking that “the King James Bible reflects the Hebrew wording, despite the fact that in English the normal way of saying this would be, ‘God saw that the light was good'” (1991, 87f). The Hebrew wayyar’ ‘elohim et-ha’or ki-Tob translates literally as “and God saw the light that good” (predicate adjective). The KJV solution is to add a resumptive pronoun, as well as a form of the verb to be, making ki-Tob into a subordinate clause: “that it was good.” A similar construction occurs in Genesis 6:2 with a resumptive pronoun, wayyir’u bene ha’elohim’et-bnot ha’adam ki-Tobot henhah, that the KJV treats in the same way it does Genesis 1:4: “that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair.” A more literal English translation would be: “and the sons of God saw that the daughters of mankind were beautiful” (predicate adjective). Waltke and O’Connor note that “English does not discriminate between stative verbs and predicate adjective constructions.” But Hebrew marks the stative, while leaving the predicate-adjective construction unmarked. “English cannot render the latter representation; it must add the ‘dummy verb’ to be, thereby making it appear as though there is no difference between the two Hebrew constructions” (1990, 364-65). Therefore none of the Book of Mormon examples Tvedtnes cites is valid, because all the subordinate clauses are either verbal or adverbial—not adjectival. Tvedtnes’s use of this construction as an example of an underlying Hebraism in the Book of Mormon is inappropriate. It is more likely that Smith was imitating KJV English literary patterns with which he was familiar.

35. Elsewhere Tvedtnes contends that “the best evidence for the Book of Mormon is not archaeological or historical in nature, as important as these may be, but rather linguistic. This is because we have before us a printed text which can be subjected to linguistic analysis and comparison with the language spoken in the kingdom of Judah at the time of Lehi” (1984, 176). Any linguistic evidence would be the “best evidence” for the historicity of the Book of Mormon. Indeed because of the absence of archaeological or historical evidence, it would be the only evidence. But in the absence of the gold plates, there can be no linguistic evidence either—only English-to-Hebrew analogs. However, since Sorenson’s geographical theory places the Nephites in his Mayan (Lamanite) region, an exciting area of research for Book of Mormon apologists would be to scour the recently-deciphered Mayan hieroglyphic texts and inscriptions for any references to Nephites.

36. A few examples from the first edition of the Book of Mormon:

2 Ne. 5:32: “And if my people be pleased with the things of God, they be pleased with mine engravings”;

Mosiah 27:1: “the persecutions which was inflicted on the church”;

Alma 12:26: “if it were possible that our first parents could have went forth”

Hel. 7:8: “yea, if my days could have been in them days”

Hel. 13:25-26: “And now when ye talk, ye say, If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, ye would not have slain the prophets; ye would not have stoned them, and cast them out. Behold, ye are worse than they”;

3 Ne. 28:25: “Behold, I were about to write the names of those who were never to taste of death”;

Ether 2:15: “And the brother of Jared repented him of the evil which he had done”;

Ether 5:1: “And now I, Moroni have written the words which was commanded me”;

Moro. 8:5: “for if you have learned the truth, there has been disputations among you.”

37. For the influence of the KJV on the BoC/D&C, see the discussion and references in Pack 1973, 178f.

38. Smith’s pronunciation of Nephi as Nefi, for example, is borne out by the 1869 edition of the Book of Mormon in the phonetic Deseret script. But John Gee (1992), anxious to create an ancient Egyptian antecedent for Nephi, overrides Smith’s carefully worked-out pronunciation and claims that it really is to be pronounced Nefi. That way he can declare that Nephi is a homophone of the ancient Egyptian Nfr. Gee impressively cites numerous examples of ancient Egyptian names that contain Nfr and concludes misleadingly that Smith’s Nephi “is the proper form of a proper name of the proper gender from the proper place and proper time” (191).

39. Visser (2:1036-37) hesitates to label the -ing form as a “gerund,” which accounts only for its nominative use. The -ing form, having a dual origin, has two functions: one is verbal, the other nominal. Both meanings are evident in modern collocations. He prefers “the duplex form in ing.”

40. Stubbs also refers to Mosiah 2:20-21 and Helaman 1:16-17.

41. See also Jacob 1:10-11; 7:26; Omni 1:1-2, 25, 28; Mosiah 1:4; 2:7; 7:21; 9:1-2; 18:32; 19:4; 20:3; 21:23; 23:1; 24:3; Alma 1:1, 9; 2:16, 28; 7:1; 12:31-32; 13:3; 15:16-18; 16:5; 18:16; 19:2, 6-7, 17; 35:15-16; 46:34; 47:4; 48:5; 50:30; 52:21, 34; 62:30; 63:5; Hel. 3:7; 11:23, 24; 3 Ne. 3:4; 4:24; 7:12, 15-16; Morm. 1:15; 2:1; 6:6; Ether 13:16.

42. Nor is it representative of Egyptian, in which the syntax is verb-subject-object (later subject-verb-object), and the verb is not separated from its subject by numerous phrases and clauses. It is remarkable that such a penchant for periphrasis would be characteristic of a record scratched into metal with a stylus: “I cannot write but a little of my words, because of the difficulty of engraving our words upon plates” (Jacob 4:1).

43. For additional examples, see 1 Ne. 1:4; 10:17; 16:21; 17:30; 18:17; 2 Ne. 1:10-11; 6:2; Jacob 4:1-3; Enos 1:1-2; Omni 1:12-13; Mosiah 15:2-9; 16:11-12; 18:4; 19:26; 29:35-36, 42; Alma 2:1-2; 3:1-3; 7:1; 8:1, 14; 9:19-23; 10:19; 13:3-9; 16:1, 21; 17:6, 18; 22:30; 25:5-6; 31:1; 43:38; 47:36; 51:1-2; Hel. 2:6-7; 7:4-6; 3 Ne. 4:4; 6:17; 20:26-27; Morm. 4:15. Note 1 Ne. 3:17 in the first edition: “And all this he hath done, because of the commandments of the Lord: for he knowing that Jerusalem must be destroyed, because of the wickedness of the people. For behold, they have rejected the words of the prophets—”

44. See D&C 1:17, 29; 19:2-5; 20:1-4, 6, 13, 73; 29:36, 49; 33:15; 38:26; 42:74; 74:4; 26:11-12; 93:38; 104:52; Moses 1:24-25; 5:48-50; Abr. 1:2, 5, 23, 26, 27; JS-H 1:15, 19, 28, 45, 52, 59, 66, 68, 74.

45. Apart from the obvious quotations from KJV Isaiah in 1 and 2 Nephi, note for example the parallels between 1 Ne. 13-14 and Rev. 17-19—Nephi gets a preview of John’s revelation; 1 Ne. 22:25 quotes and paraphrases John 10:14-16; 1 Ne. 4:13 paraphrases John 11:50. For a list of KJV-“quotations, paraphrases, or allusions” in the “large plate” section of the Book of Mormon, see Pack 1973, 189-194.

46. Isa. 5:19, 24; 10:20; 12:6, 7; 17:7; 29:19, 23 [of Jacob]; 30:11, 12, 15; 31:1; 37:23; 41:14, 16, 20; 43:3, 14, 15; 45:11; 47:4; 48:17; 49:7; 54:5; 55:5; 60:9, 14. It also occurs twice in Jeremiah (50:29, 51:5) and once in 2 Kings 19:22. “Holy One in Israel” occurs in Ezekiel 39:7.

47. 1 Ne. 19:14, 15; 20:17; 22:5, 18, 21, 24, 26, 28; 2 Ne. 1:10; 3:2; 6:9, 10(2), 15, 18(2), 19, 23, 24, 25, 26; 9:40, 41, 51; 15:19, 24; 21:21; 22:6; 25:29; 27:30, 34 (of Jacob); 30:2; 31:13. Two additional occurrences appear in Omni 1:25 and 26.

48. This explanation is contrary to Tvedtnes (1991, 90), who declares that it “seems strange to have Nephi call the American continent an island. But the Hebrew word generally translated isle in the Bible has a wider range of meaning than just island. It most often refers to coastal lands.”

49. 1 Ne. 2:20; 4:14; 5:5, 22; 7:1, 13; 10:13; 12:1, 3, 4, 20; 13:12, 14, 20, 30; 14:2; 17:13, 14; 18:8, 22, 23, 25.

50. 1 Ne. 19:10, 12, 16; 21:1 (=Isa. 49:1), 8 (=Isa. 49:8); 22:4; 2 Ne. 8:5 (=Isa. 51:5); 21:11 (=Isa. 11:11); 29:7.

51. Rev. 5:6, 8, 12, 13; 6:1, 16, 7:9, 10, 14, 17; 12:11; 13:8, 11; 14:1, 4(2), 10; 15:3; 17:14(2); 19:7, 9; 21:9, 14, 22, 23, 27; 22:1, 3; 1 Ne. 10:10; 11:21, 27, 31(2), 32, 34, 35, 36; 12:6, 8, 9, 10, 11(2), 18; 13:24, 26(2), 28, 29(2), 32, 33, 34(4), 35(2), 36, 37, 38, 39(2), 40(2), 41(3); 14:1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 10(2), 12(2), 13, 14(2), 20, 24, 25, 26, 27. See also 2 Ne. 31:4, 5, 6; 33:14; Alma 7:14; 13:11; 34:36; Hel. 6:5; Morm. 9:2, 3, 6; Ether 13:10, 11; D&C 58:11; 65:3; 76:21, 39, 85, 119; 88:106, 115; 109:79; 122:6; 132:19; 133:18, 55, 56(2); Moses 7:47.

52. Hilton correctly observes that “Wordprinting measures the difference in the way non-contextual word patterns occur in two compared texts. Usually one of the texts is of disputed authorship while the other is by an author suspected of writing the disputed text” (1990, 21).

53. They use the Book of Mormon as evidence of itself in much the same way Robert P. Carroll observes that a “literal reading” about the production of the book of Jeremiah from Jeremiah 36 seems to “presuppose too many unwarranted assumptions about the text and also to involve a circularity of argument whereby xxxvi is read as a statement of how the book was produced and then used as evidence for the reliability of such an account. Circularity of this kind is a useless tool for the analysis of biblical texts” (1991, 224).

54. For a discussion of its philosophical methodology, see Ashment 1992. When challenged, some Mormon apologists do not deal with the evidence adduced. Rather they dismiss it out-of-hand and denounce with ad hominems anyone who arrives at a conclusion unacceptable to them, accusing them of already having made up their minds according to a faith-position; of arriving at false and misperceived conclusions; of being enemies; of being anti-Mormons.