Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet
 by Dan Vogel

Chapter 9
The Lost “Book of Lehi”

[p. 130]The theft of the “Book of Lehi” was a permanent loss for Joseph Smith. His method of impromptu dictation made it impossible for him to duplicate his performance and, afraid that the stolen manuscript might be retained by some individual and compared against a re-translation, which would be devastating to his claims as an inspired translator of ancient texts, he chose not to redo the lost portion. His eventual solution demonstrated ingenuity, but it also compounded the complexity of his book.

He decided to continue translating where he had left off in what is now the eighth book of the Book of Mormon, the Book of Mosiah, and to delay as long as possible how best to deal with the opening part of the story in the event that Martin Harris might recover the lost portion. As he was finishing his dictation of what would be the end of the Book of Mormon in May 1829 and as his thoughts were turning ­toward the lost opening portion, Smith dictated a revelation (Doctrine and Covenants 10) that gave a solution to his dilemma. The revelation excused him from re-­translating the lost portion, warning him that his enemies were conspiring to destroy God’s work by altering the manuscript so that it would read differently from what had been translated. In order to thwart the devil, he should translate another record that coincidentally covered the same historical period though from a more religious perspective.

The lost manuscript was said to have contained Mormon’s abridgment of more than 400 years of Nephite history—roughly 600 B.C. to 130 B.C.—as taken from the records of Lehi and various New World kings from Nephi to Benjamin. Joseph’s replacement text—comprising what is now 1 Nephi through the Words of Mormon—covers the same time period but with less historical detail, according to his explanation. The new opening books present first-person narratives of Nephi, Jacob, Enos, [p. 131]Jarom, Omni, and others. Rather than being the record of the kings, the new account follows the lineage of the religious leaders, including some who were wicked.

Nephi’s book begins with an eight-chapter abridgment of Lehi’s record, which indicates that much of this introductory material follows Mormon’s abridgment in the lost manuscript (1 Ne. 1:17; 6:1).1 Of course, Emma, Martin, and perhaps others were already familiar with the contents of the lost manuscript, so the major elements of the story undoubtedly remained unchanged. Emma’s comments about Sariah and the walls of Jerusalem hint that Joseph’s original dictation touched on Lehi’s family and Nephi’s encounter with Laban (1 Ne. 1-5). The historical portions of the new version were probably elements that Joseph felt confident he could replicate.

It was fitting that Joseph’s book began with a family that was, in many ways, comparable to the Smith family. Both were displaced and disinherited, having left the land of their inheritance to settle in a more promising region. More importantly, both were conflicted over religion, particularly over the validity of a father’s dreams. Like Joseph’s father, Lehi received coded messages in dreams: “Behold, I have dreamed a dream; or, in other words, I have seen a vision,” he said (1 Ne. 8:2). In Lehi’s first dream, God appeared and warned him of Jerusalem’s impending destruction and instructed him to flee with his family into the wilderness (1 Ne. 1:5-15). Another of his dreams is remarkably similar to Joseph Sr.’s dream of the tree of life with the exception that Lehi’s two oldest sons, Laman and Lemuel, refused to come with him to the tree and partake of its fruit (1 Ne. 8). Thus, Joseph transformed his father’s dream of family unity into the reality of family division.

The account in the Book of Mormon is narrated by the youngest of Lehi’s four sons, Nephi, who like Joseph Smith becomes a zealous defender of his father’s dreams. Nephi’s two oldest brothers, Laman and Lemuel, oppose Lehi’s prophecies and ridicule his visions as “the foolish imaginations of his heart” (1 Ne. 2:11). The remaining brother, Sam, joins Nephi in supporting the father. Sariah, Lehi’s wife, experiences a brief period of doubt in which she “complained against” Lehi and derogatorily called him “a visionary man” (5:2). Eventually she is convinced of the truthfulness of her husband’s dreams (vv. 7-8). In Lehi’s dream, she joins him at the tree of life (8:14-16). At this point, Sariah disappears from the Book of Mormon narrative. Unlike Lehi, her death goes unreported.

The parallels to the Smith family are not seen as much in direct representations as in more subtle emotional profiles.2 Joseph’s older and younger brothers, Hyrum and Samuel, are much like Laman and Lemuel to the extent that, in Joseph’s emotional language, they “rebelled” against the authority of Joseph Sr.’s dreams and joined the Presbyterian church—even though in the Book of Mormon story both Laman and Lemuel are older than Nephi. One might see Joseph’s two older siblings, [p. 132]Hyrum and Sophronia, in the same light, the latter having also joined the Presbyterian church. Nephi and Joseph occupy the fourth position among their siblings in their respective families, although again somewhat differently. Nephi was the fourth of Lehi’s sons, but nothing is said concerning the ordering of his sisters (2 Ne. 5:6). Joseph was the fourth of Joseph Sr.’s sons only if one includes the unnamed infant who died before Alvin’s birth. At the same time, Joseph was the fourth of the living Smith children. One important difference exists in that Alvin died before the family became fractured. Regardless, Joseph’s decision to write about a family that was seriously divided over the meaning of its patriarch’s dreams is significant.

Unlike Joseph, Nephi is not silent about religious matters. There may be something of Joseph’s feelings and attitudes about his family situation in Nephi’s words and actions, emotions that Joseph may have been reluctant to express openly to his family. Nephi is closely allied with his father, Lehi, both in name and spirit; indeed, their names have a familiar sound, just as Laman’s and Lemuel’s names indicate an alliance. Nephi wants to experience the same dream that his father had of the tree of life. Before long, he excels his father in both visions and scriptural interpretations, not only expounding the meaning of his father’s vision but adding to and, more importantly, correcting his version. He becomes a second witness to his father’s gift by experiencing it himself, and not in any ambiguous terms, but in waking visions that endow his father’s testimony with even greater authority (1 Ne. 2:16; 3:1; 11:1; 15:1).

To save his family, and to possibly reunite them, Joseph Jr. knew he had to work through his father’s dreams. Far from denying them, he would come to fulfill them. The Book of Mormon was in part a fulfillment of a father’s dreams, as recognized by Abner Cole, editor of the Palmyra Reflector, who understood in 1831 that the book “corresponded precisely with revelations made to, and predictions made by the elder Smith, a number of years before.”3 To defend his father, Joseph, like Nephi, endorsed him as the inspired patriarch of the family.

Nephi’s attempt to become the family’s spiritual leader evoked jealousy and a serious rivalry from his older brothers who beat him with a rod until an angel interceded and declared to them: “Know ye not that the Lord hath chosen him to be a ruler over you, and this because of your iniquities?” (3:29). When Laman and Lemuel repent, the rivalry momentarily subsides.

As an idealized character, Nephi may reveal something of Joseph Jr.’s own perceptions and attitudes about his family and about his own mission. It is instructive to consider the plot and nuances of the Book of Mormon story for this reason and to notice the familiar ring to them.

In the Book of Mormon, the Lord tells father Lehi in a dream to send his sons back to Jerusalem to the house of a Jewish official named Laban. There they will be [p. 133]able to obtain the record of the Jews engraved on brass plates. When Lehi makes this announcement, everyone in the family complains except for Nephi. The loyal son declares to his brothers, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Ne. 3:7). So, too, for Joseph Smith, who was more willing than his siblings to accept a call to follow in his father’s footsteps. In this regard, it is interesting to notice Nephi’s resourcefulness in accomplishing his mission.

Before entering the city, the brothers cast lots and choose Laman to be the one to ask Laban for the brass plates. He meets with Laban, but the meeting does not go well. Laban accuses Laman of being a robber and compels him to flee. On hearing this, Nephi’s brothers want to return to Lehi’s camp, but knowing the importance of the scriptures for posterity, Nephi refuses. “As the Lord liveth, and as we live,” he declares to his brothers, “we will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded us” (3:15). Under Nephi’s direction, the four brothers together approach Laban and offer him their father’s lands and riches in exchange for the record. The second attempt likewise ends in failure, the brothers narrowly escaping with their lives.

At this point, the older brothers become angry with Nephi and begin to beat him with a rod. The angel intercedes a second time and commands them to return to Jerusalem, promising that the Lord will deliver Laban into their hands. Laman and Lemuel scoff and doubt the angel’s words. Declaring his unwavering faith in God, Nephi returns to the city, followed by his curious brothers. This third attempt to get the plates will prove successful, but in order to fulfill his mission, Nephi’s faith will be tested and his sense of morality compromised.

Under cover of darkness, Nephi and his brothers approach the walls of Jerusalem where Nephi leaves them to enter the city alone, being “led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do” (4:6). As Nephi nears Laban’s house, he finds him in a drunken stupor on the ground. Taking Laban’s sword from its sheath, Nephi pauses because the Spirit urges him to kill Laban. Reluctant, Nephi thinks, “Never at any time have I shed the blood of man.” But the Spirit responds: “Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands; Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief” (vv. 12-13; cf. John 11:50). Nephi decapitates Laban with his own sword and puts on Laban’s clothes and armor in the darkness.4

Making his way to Laban’s “treasury,” Nephi finds Laban’s servant, Zoram, who holds the keys. Posing as Laban, Nephi commands Zoram “in the voice of Laban” to [p. 134]open the treasury. He then orders the servant to accompany him and states that he wants to take the plates to his “elder brethren” outside the city walls. The servant, knowing that Laban had been out with the “elders of the Jews,” believes Nephi refers to the “brethren of the church.”5 When Nephi’s brothers see him wearing Laban’s armor, and with Laban’s servant, they begin to run. Nephi calls out to them in his own voice, whereupon Zoram, discovering the deception and fearing for his life, turns to run back to the city. Nephi grabs him and, being of “large stature,” holds him, promising to spare his life if he will follow them into the wilderness. Zoram agrees. Having accomplished the Lord’s errand, Nephi returns with his brothers and Zoram to Lehi’s wilderness camp.

The predicament in which Nephi found himself with his brothers and Zoram—momentarily caught between the false perceptions of his brothers and the true perception of Zoram—is similar to the moral dilemma Joseph created for himself. He, too, was caught between his assumed role as translator and prophet and the consequences of the truth. By putting on a false identity, he was able to advance God’s will as well as reunite his family and obtain for himself the feeling of spirituality he wanted; without the subterfuge, his only remaining options were force and coercion.

It is odd that Nephi changes his appearance and disguises his voice in order to deceive Zoram and yet risks detection when he speaks frankly in Zoram’s presence about his “elder brethren” outside the city walls. Perhaps, as a hint of self-perception, it reflects Smith’s belief that one could take on the role of a prophet and use the familiar language of scripture and yet feel that one is speaking the truth.

Some have compared Nephi’s beheading of Laban “with [Laban’s] own sword” to the story of David and Goliath in the Old Testament (1 Sam. 17) or to Judith’s ­beheading of the drunken Holofernes in the Apocrypha (Jth. 13).6 However, ­Ne­phi’s struggle to get the plates is equally reminiscent of Joseph Smith’s various encounters with treasure guardians and headless ghosts.7 Attempts to free various treasures from the grasps of guardian spirits sometimes included a sword or dagger and the sacrifice of a cock, dog, or sheep. The elements of a successful treasure quest are repeated in Nephi’s story—three attempts to get the treasure and confrontation with a fierce treasure guardian, followed by a blood sacrifice and finally the victory.

Nephi’s struggle fits well with the overall autobiographical tone of Joseph’s quest, involving certain moral sacrifices in order to get the gold plates. Nephi, as alter-ego, tells us something of Joseph’s attitudes about his own mission and his decision to cross moral lines to accomplish God’s errand. Like Nephi, Joseph hesitated to use his gift of persuasion for religious purposes. In time, he convinced himself that it was not only permissible but even a moral duty to do so. In order to advance God’s [p. 135]purposes, to bring salvation not only to his family but also to his nation and perhaps the world, Joseph would have to overcome an aversion to religious deception. With God’s permission, he would violate a commandment to achieve a greater good. Indeed, he would use what means were necessary.

On a deeper level, the story of Laban perhaps reflected an aspect of Joseph’s relationship with his father. Whereas Lehi represented the idealized Joseph Sr., the drunken Laban personified the side of Joseph Sr. that the son most hated—the backsliding Universalist and sword-bearing treasure seeker that Joseph Jr. wanted extinguished. With God’s permission, the son symbolically slays the evil father with his own weapon, that is, through belief in magic, hidden treasures, and inspired dreams, thus allowing the good father to emerge. Nephi’s beheading of Laban might also symbolize an attack on Joseph Sr.’s tendency to intellectualize and allegorize the scriptures, a trait undoubtedly inherited from his own father, Asael, and reinforced by his Unitarian-Universalist leanings. In this sense, Joseph Jr. wanted to free the Bible from the intellectualizing grip of his father and those like him, to interpret the scriptures for himself more literally and through the spirit of God. Thus, like Nephi, Joseph Jr. crossed moral boundaries and used deception to take the Bible from the errant father and deliver it to the inspired dreamer father.8

Lehi learns from the plates that he is related to Laban, perhaps an indication of the closeness the two characters shared in Joseph’s mind.9 Additionally, the brass plates included the “five books of Moses”—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy—as well as the historical books of the Old Testament and the writings of the prophets, including Isaiah and Jeremiah (1 Ne. 5:10-13). Later, Nephi reveals that the plates contain additional, previously unknown scripture from prophets named Zenock, Neum, and Zenos (19:10) as well as the writings of the patriarch Joseph (2 Ne. 3:4-15).

Desiring that his sons should marry, Lehi sends them back to Jerusalem to retrieve a family headed by the patriarch Ishmael.10 Even before the party can return to Lehi’s camp, Nephi’s older brothers succeed in dividing Ishmael’s family against him. The malcontents want to stay in Jerusalem, but Nephi reminds them of the angel’s appearance and of God’s aid in obtaining the plates. Angered by his words against them, Nephi’s brothers bind him with cords and leave him to be eaten by wild animals, which was what ancient Joseph’s brothers told their father, Jacob, was their brother’s fate (Gen. 37:33). With God’s help, Nephi’s bonds fall to the ground. Then Ishmael’s wife, a daughter, and a son intercede on Nephi’s behalf, pleading with the others to leave him alone. Nephi’s tormentors—like ancient Joseph’s brothers—bow before him and beg his forgiveness. We are told that Nephi “frankly forgave them” (1 Ne. 7:20-21; cf. Gen. 43:26, 28; 44:14).

[p. 136]A comparison between Lehi’s journey to the “promised land” and the Smith family’s migration to western New York is informative, especially with regard to Nephi’s repeated persecution and Joseph’s troubles with Mr. Howard and the Gates boys.11 Nevertheless, Nephi being bound by his own family and his subsequent release through God’s help is a powerful image with psychological import. In 1813, Joseph refused to be bound and forced himself to be silent while his father held him and the surgeons operated on his leg.12 He seems to have learned to suppress his pain, remaining reticent during the revival years, for instance, despite his desire to express his true emotions as he watched his family become pulled in different directions. He desperately wanted to break the bonds that held him, and his dictation of the Book of Mormon provided him with an avenue of religious expression previously unavailable. As will become clear, the imagery of prophets in bondage—physically and metaphorically—is a theme that recurs in the Book of Mormon.

On a morning when Lehi was about to lead his family farther into the wilderness, he found, outside his tent door, “a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness” (1 Ne. 16:10). In describing the Arabian desert, Jedidiah Morse’s 1802 Geography Made Easy said “the caravans, having no tracks, are guided, as at sea, by a compass.”13 Lehi’s curious instrument—elsewhere called a “compass” (18:12) and the “Liahona” (Alma 37:38)—worked like Joseph Sr.’s divining rod, pointing the way to go according to faith (16:28). It was also like Joseph Jr.’s seer stone in that writing appeared on the pointers of the compass and on the ball’s outer surface (vv. 29-30).

Departing into the wilderness four days in “nearly a south-southeast direction” (16:13), Lehi’s company stopped at a place they called Shazer, where Nephi and his brothers hunted. They then continued their journey, “keeping in the most fertile parts of the wilderness, which were in the borders near the Red Sea” (v. 14). Rather than crossing the Saudi Arabian desert, Smith wisely chose to have his migrants stay close to water and game. “And we did follow the directions of the ball,” Nephi states, “which led us in the more fertile parts of the wilderness” (v. 16).

During a hunting excursion with his brothers, Nephi breaks his bow, “which was made of fine steel” (16:18). This event seems inspired by David’s psalm in 2 Samuel 22:35, which poetically states: “[God] teacheth my hands to war; so that a bow of steel is broken in mine arms.” Joseph Smith was probably unaware that “steel” had yet to be invented and that the King James translators should have more properly rendered it: “so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze” (RSV). Nephi’s brothers are unable to hunt because their bows had “lost their springs” (v. 21). They become angry with Nephi and begin to complain about their subsequent suffering “for the want [p. 137]of food” (v. 19). The situation in the camp becomes so unbearable that even Lehi “began to murmur against the Lord his God” (v. 20).

Nephi exhorts his family “in the energy of my soul” and they “humbled themselves because of my word” (v. 24). Lehi himself is “truly chastened” by God’s voice “because of his murmuring against the Lord” (v. 25). Only Nephi remains faithful, again proving that he is the true spiritual leader of the family.

Making a new bow from wood and following the directions Lehi finds written on the ball, Nephi climbs a mountain to find and kill wild animals (vv. 23-32). Returning to the camp with his kill, Nephi the hunter is hailed as the family’s hero. In fantasy, it was perhaps a role Joseph had played out in his own mind countless times. Though family members never complained, the Smiths had probably experienced periods of hunger and deprivation. Their three years of successive crop failures in Norwich, Vermont, were particularly difficult. Following the loss of their Manchester farm, they again found themselves in economic straits. Like Nephi, Joseph was guided by his stone to the top of a hill where he found treasure. Joseph the treasure hunter succeeded where his father had not and thereby became the family hero. Something of Joseph’s self-perception comes through in his angry response to his brother William in 1835: “I brought salvation to my father’s house, as an instrument in the hands of God when they were in a miserable situation.”14

Something else that is significant in Joseph’s life is the fact that his father-in-law, Isaac Hale, was renowned throughout the Susquehanna Valley as one of the area’s best hunters. Methodist minister George Peck described him as a “mighty hunter” and reported that he “slaughtered about a hundred deer annually, most of which he sent to the Philadelphia market.”15 Following his death in 1839, his tombstone read “Isaac Hale, the Hunter.”16 Nephi’s success in providing his family with venison came through following the instructions he received from the ball—the equivalent of the seer stone which Hale had rejected. Significantly, the hunting story immediately precedes the death of Ishmael, Nephi’s father-in-law, whom they bury at Nahom.17 Considering the humiliations received from his father-in-law, Smith’s antipathy for the patriarch of the Hale family was probably intense.18

Ishmael’s death causes his daughters to mourn and to complain against Lehi and Nephi and express a desire to return to Jerusalem. Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael try to remedy the situation by plotting to kill Lehi and Nephi. Laman, the first-born, resents Nephi’s leadership and declares to the others: “[Nephi] says the Lord has talked with him, and also that angels have ministered unto him. But behold, we know that he lies unto us; and he tells us these things, and he worketh many things by his cunning arts, that he may deceive our eyes, thinking, perhaps, that he may lead us away into some strange wilderness” (16:38). The “cunning arts” charge [p. 138]was undoubtedly one that Joseph had heard in connection with his treasure searching; the “disorderly persons” statute under which he was prosecuted in 1826 used the phrase “crafty science.”19 Perhaps Joseph’s brothers were unimpressed by his early treasure-seeing practices or not immediately convinced of the existence of the gold plates, or perhaps their association with Presbyterianism was enough to suspect them. What is most striking about this passage is that Nephi’s brothers had themselves seen an angel and yet say that their brother lied to them and somehow “deceived our eyes.” By the time this passage was dictated in Fayette in early June 1829, David Whitmer and his mother had already claimed to have seen a heavenly messenger with the plates. The passage reveals that Smith at least knew of the possibility of one person causing another to hallucinate, perhaps through strong suggestion or something like hypnosis.20 Nephi is finally vindicated when the “voice of the Lord” comes to his accusers to “chasten them exceedingly” (v. 39).

The story of Nephi’s rivalry with his brothers is similar to the account in Genesis of Joseph, whose dreams and status as his father’s favorite attracted his brothers’ ­enmity. When ancient Joseph’s brothers learned that his dreams predicted their subservience to him, they responded much like Laman and Lemuel: “Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words” (Gen. 37:8). Later, Smith will make ­direct comparisons between himself and the ancient Joseph, not only drawing attention to the name, but also to the same spiritual gifts and chosen lineage (2 Ne. 3:4-15).

That the modern Joseph identified with the ancient Joseph’s abuse at the hands of his brothers may be a matter of sibling rivalry, which is common to most families but intensified in Smith’s case due to the inheritance of his father’s name and spiritual gifts.21 In such a situation, it was not unusual to find that his brothers rejected the symbolic elements that bonded the two Josephs and that they had aligned themselves with their mother.22

Leaving Nahom, the Lehite company proceeded in a “nearly eastward” direction across Saudi Arabia and continued in that direction “from that time forth” (17:1). After an eight-year sojourn in the wilderness, during which time Lehi’s two sons, Jacob and Joseph, were born, the company arrived at a place they called “Bountiful, because of its much fruit and also wild honey” (vv. 4-5). Bountiful was situated on the shores of the Indian Ocean, or what Lehi’s company called “Irreantum, which, being interpreted, is many waters” (v. 5). Claims to the contrary, Smith’s contemporaries knew that southern Arabia was fertile. Jedidiah Morse’s 1802 Geography described it thus: “But the southern part of Arabia, deservedly called the Happy, is blessed with an excellent soil, and, in general, is very fertile. There the cultivated lands, which are [p. 139]chiefly about the towns near the seacoast, produce … oranges, lemons, pomegranates, figs, and other fruits; honey and wax in plenty, with a small quantity of corn and wine.”23

Returning to the Smith family, following Joseph Jr.’s birth and the family’s departure from the relative tranquility of Solomon Mack’s farm in Sharon, Vermont, they seemed to wander in a wilderness of despair and discontent. During the eight years between Sharon and their arrival in western New York, they were constantly on the move, all the while experiencing terrible hardships including the death of Ephraim, typhoid fever in Lebanon, New Hampshire, which nearly claimed the lives of some of the family, and near starvation in Norwich, Vermont.24 Unlike Lehi’s party, the Smiths were not led in the “more fertile parts of the wilderness,” but rather wandered in the waste lands of Vermont and New Hampshire, as symbolized in Joseph Sr.’s dreams.

After “many days,” the voice of the Lord came to Nephi, commanding him to climb a high mountain. So Nephi, like Moses, ascended a mountain to speak with God. God commands him: “Thou shalt construct a ship, after the manner which I shall show thee, that I may carry thy people across these waters” (17:8). God shows Nephi where he can find metal ore from which he can make tools. To fashion these metals, Nephi makes a “bellows” from animal skins; and to make a fire, he “did smite two stones together” (v. 11). If such things were not prominent in Joseph Sr.’s cooper shop, they would have been otherwise familiar to Joseph Jr.

Like skeptics of Smith’s day, Nephi’s brothers scoffed at the idea of building a ship to cross the ocean, saying: “Our brother is a fool, for he thinketh that he can build a ship; yea, and he also thinketh that he can cross these great waters” (17:17). When Nephi’s brothers refuse to work, Nephi begins to worry that he would not be able to accomplish the errand. His brothers mock him: “We knew that ye could not construct a ship, for we know that ye were lacking in judgment; wherefore, thou canst not accomplish so great a work. And thou art like unto our father, led away by the foolish imaginations of his heart” (vv. 19-20).

Nineteenth-century debates about whether the ancients crossed the ocean to America often turned on the question of navigation. Many doubted if such a crossing could be accomplished without a mariner’s compass.25 However, Nephi has the strange brass ball to steer his way over the ocean to the mysterious “land of promise” that lay beyond.

Nephi reminds his brothers of the miracles which accompanied the Israelite exodus from Egypt. “If the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men,” he declares, “how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship?” (17:51). In delivering this sermon, Nephi is carried away [p. 140]in revivalistic fashion to the point of losing physical power. “Behold, I am full of the Spirit of God,” he states, “insomuch that my frame has no strength” (v. 47).26

His sermon succeeds in angering his brothers, who now attempt to throw him into the sea. Nephi declares: “In the name of the Almighty God, I command you that ye touch me not, for I am filled with the power of God, even unto the consuming of my flesh,” and then warns: “whoso shall lay his hands upon me shall wither even as a dried reed; and he shall be as naught before the power of God, for God shall smite him” (17:48). By God’s command, he stretches forth his hand to touch his brothers, whereupon they receive a tremendous “shock,” much like the one Smith said he received in 1823 while trying to remove the plates from the hill. Nephi’s brothers immediately fall to the earth and begin to worship him. Nephi stops them, saying: “I am thy brother, yea, even thy younger brother; wherefore, worship the Lord thy God” (v. 55; cf. Rev. 19:10).

Working together, Nephi and his brothers construct the boat. “I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me,” Nephi says, “wherefore, it was not after the manner of men” (18:2). Thus, he sidesteps the technical issue of ancient navigation. After loading the ship with various provisions including seeds, the company “put forth into the sea and were driven forth before the wind towards the promised land” (v. 8).

During the voyage, Nephi’s brothers and Ishmael’s children give in to levity, singing, dancing, and rude speech. Fearing that such behavior will bring God’s wrath upon the party, Nephi lectures them with “much soberness.” Furious, Laman and Lemuel tie him with cords. Lehi tries to defend his son, but as Nephi reports, “they did breathe out much threatenings against anyone that should speak for me” (18:17). Distressed, Lehi and Sariah are “brought down, yea, even upon their sick-beds” (v. 17). As Nephi fears, the “compass” stops working and a storm blows up, causing his brothers to worry that the ship might sink. After four days, Nephi’s brothers repent and free him. “Wherefore, they came unto me,” Nephi comments, “and loosed the bands which were upon my wrist, and behold they had swollen exceedingly; and also mine ankles were much swollen, and great was the soreness thereof” (v. 15).

One wonders if the attention to detail in Nephi’s account draws from an actual event. William D. Morain has questioned Lucy’s claim that young Joseph remained unrestrained during his surgery.27 Actually, Joseph had two operations on his leg and may have been tied up for only the first. Regardless, the repetition of Nephi being bound by his older siblings points to the significance the image had for Joseph. Nephi’s second confinement ends differently because he is freed by his repentant brothers rather than by God. Joseph must feel deeply a sense of emotional and spiritual [p. 141]confinement. God’s freedom comes quickly, but that which comes from his family will occur only after providence has worked upon them, prolonging Joseph’s suffering. It is interesting that in Joseph’s later autobiography, he confesses to the sins mentioned in Nephi’s complaint about his brothers: “I fell into many vices and follies. … And those imperfections, to which I allude, and for which I have often had occasion to lament, were a light, and too often, vain mind, exhibiting a foolish and trifling conversation.”28

Once freed, Nephi prays to God. Like Jesus calming the storm, “the winds did cease, and the storm did cease, and there was a great calm” (18:21; cf. Mark 4:39). In Nephi’s hands, the compass works again, allowing him to guide the ship to the promised land. Arriving in the western hemisphere,29 they begin to plant seeds and to hunt. In the new land, they find a variety of animals, including “both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men” (v. 25).30 They also discover “all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper” (v. 25). Shortly after arriving, Nephi makes plates of ore upon which he records his father’s record as well as his own (19:1).

Lehi blesses his family and dies (2 Ne. 4:12). Following his death, Laman and Lemuel seek Nephi’s life because of his preaching (4:13; 5:1-2), but God warns Nephi of this and he flees into the wilderness with “Zoram and his family, and Sam, mine elder brother and his family, and Jacob and Joseph, my younger brethren, and also my sisters, and all those who would go with me” (5:6). After traveling “for the space of many days” (v. 7), Nephi arrives at a place he calls Nephi (v. 8).31 It becomes the home of Nephi’s people for the next 300 years.

The Nephites obey the law of Moses, which is elaborated on the brass plates, and under Nephi’s direction, they begin building a temple. This temple is constructed after “the manner of the temple of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land … [but] the workmanship thereof was exceeding fine” (5:16). One wonders if Joseph appreciated the magnitude of Solomon’s temple or what was necessary to support such an immense undertaking.

When Nephi’s people request that he become their king, Nephi, like Samuel in the Old Testament (1 Sam. 8:6), “was desirous that they should have no king” (5:18) —perhaps reflecting the early American aversion to monarchy. Nevertheless, like Samuel (1 Sam. 8:19-22), Nephi yields and becomes king of the Nephite nation, fulfilling God’s prediction that he would be a ruler and teacher over his brethren (6:2; cf. Jacob 1:9, 11, 15). After a long and prosperous reign, Nephi “anoint[s]” his successor “to be a king and a ruler over his people” (Jacob 1:9). At this point, Nephi’s broth­er Jacob follows with a short account of his ministry among the Nephites, but fails to [p. 142]give the name of Nephi’s successor. Some have felt that Jacob was modest in not mentioning himself,32 but it is highly possible that Joseph had forgotten the name. It may have been one of Nephi’s sons, for instance, but in fact, the replacement text for the missing portion does not mention a single king until the new record is connected to Mormon’s abridgment of the Book of Mosiah.

Comparison between the original and revised versions was thus discouraged because the latter included only the most essential historical details and few chronological indicators. Of the six dates given during the more than 250 years following Nephi’s death, none were of the kind that could have been correlated with a previous version. Originally, the chronology was probably organized according to the reigns of kings—“in the first year of the reign of the kings,” etc.—as appears later for the reign of judges (Mosiah 29:47; Alma 1:1). But with the loss of the manuscript, reconstructing the exact dating or the names of kings would have been difficult. Events were therefore chronicled from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem. Even when King Mosiah I and his son Benjamin are mentioned near the end of the restored history, no chronological indicators are given (Omni 1:12, 23). Regarding the unnamed kings, Jarom simply states: “Our kings and our leaders were mighty men in the faith of the Lord; and they taught the people the ways of the Lord; wherefore, we withstood the Lamanites and swept them away out of our lands, and began to fortify our cities, or whatever place of our inheritance” (Jarom 1:7). These events and the lives of the Ne­phite kings were likely the subject of Smith’s lost manuscript.

Even before Nephi’s death, there were wars between his people and Lamanites. Jacob mentions that Nephi had “wielded the sword of Laban” in defending his people and that the Lamanites “delighted in wars and bloodshed” (Jacob 1:10, 24). Details of these encounters were likely included in the first version, but considering the short space of time that had elapsed and the limited numbers involved, such conflicts would have been more like family feuds than wars. Yet, much like Nephi’s temple project, Joseph envisions large-scale conflicts. In addition, despite continual war and bloodshed, the Nephites are said to be a “multitude” (Jacob 7:17). This is the first indication of a problem with regard to population growth.33

In contrast to the civilized Nephites, the Lamanites become nomadic hunters, dwelling in tents, wandering in wilderness. As a result of Lamanite rebellion, God causes a “sore cursing” to come upon them, “wherefore, as they were white, and exceeding fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people, the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them. … And cursed shall be the seed of him that mixeth with their seed; for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing” (2 Ne. 5:21, 23). Reflecting a perspective on race that was common in Smith’s day, this passage was intended to explain how Native Americans became [p. 143]dark complexioned. In reality their pigmentation was inherited from Siberian and Mongolian ancestors.34

While Joseph apparently believed that Indian skin color changed instantane­ously as the result of a divine curse, others of his contemporaries had more naturalistic theories. James Adair speculated in his 1775 History of the American Indians that the change was due to environmental and weather conditions. After generations of exposure to “parching winds, and hot sun-beams,” he conjectured, “nature would, as it were, forget herself, not to beget her own likeness.”35 In assigning skin color to God’s curse, the Book of Mormon drew from among several theories the racist attitudes that were prevalent in Calvinistic North America.36

In fact, the Book of Mormon’s entire description of Lamanites reflects colonial and early American perceptions of Indians. Jacob’s son Enos, for instance, says Lamanites “were 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 shortskin 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 were raw meat; and they were continually seeking to destroy us” (Enos 1:20). According to Enos’s son Jarom, Lamanites “loved murder and would drink the blood of beasts” (Jarom 1:6). Such one-dimensional, fanciful descriptions of the Lamanites suggest that the author’s actual contact with Native Americans was limited.

Like those on the frontier in Smith’s day, Nephites lived in constant fear of a Lamanite attack and possible annihilation. God warns Nephi that the descendants of Laman will become “a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in remembrance of me; and inasmuch as they will not remember me, and hearken unto my words, they shall scourge them even unto destruction” (2 Ne. 5:25). This situation served God’s purposes, for it reminded Nephites of the nearness of death and the importance of obedience to God. Enos, for instance, uses providential terms to explain the purpose of Nephite/Lamanite wars: “The people [of Nephi] were a stiffnecked people, hard to understand. And there was nothing save it was exceeding harshness, preaching and prophesying of wars, and contentions, and destructions, and continually reminding them of death, and the duration of eternity, and the judgments of the power of God, and all these things—stirring them up continually to keep them in the fear of the Lord. I say there was nothing short of these things, and exceeding great plainness of speech, [that] would keep them from going down speedily to destruction” (Enos 1:22-23).

The concept that God would use Indians to humble backsliding Anglos was a Puritan view of American history. As New England’s second generation became increasingly [p. 144]occupied with economic concerns, Increase Mather and the other Puritan ministers filled the air with lamentations of spiritual decline and jeremiads of God’s judgments.37 Mather believed that the colony’s Indian troubles were the result of divine displeasure with the “woeful neglect of the Rising Generation” with regard to religion. “Why should we marvel,” he said in 1676, “that God taketh no pleasure in our young men, but they are numbered for the sword, the present judgment lighting chiefly upon the rising generation.”38 Even when colonists defeated the Indians, Mather advised against premature pride, warning that “there is yet another storm hastening upon this land, if repentance avert it not. … The Lord can easily punish us by the same instruments again, if we go on to provoke him. … Why then should carnal security grow upon us?”39 While the colony was momentarily spared, Mather and others were pessimistic about the future. Their warnings became incessant.

Puritan jeremiads were the natural outgrowth of a providential view of history. Ignoring Calvin’s warning that God’s providences are “mysterious” and “hidden,” Puritans searched for concrete signs of God’s favor or displeasure. For them, history “became special revelation rather than inscrutable mystery. … Puritan historiography actually created a source of special revelation apart from the Bible.”40 Under Increase Mather’s leadership, Puritan ministers began recording various providential events hoping to more accurately know the judgements of God toward the colony. “For God’s glory and the good of posterity,” Mather decided to publish his findings in 1684 under the title, An Essay for the Recording of Illustrious Providences.41 Urian Oaks stated in 1673 that the Puritan historian became the “Lord’s remembrancer or recorder.”42

Like the Puritan project headed by Mather and carried on by his son Cotton and others, the Book of Mormon was intended—until the loss of the translation manuscript—to be a record of God’s providence under the general editorship of Mormon. Even in the replacement text, Nephi states that one purpose in writing his history of ancient America was so that those in the latter days “may know the judgments of God, that they come upon all nations, according to the word which he hath spoken” (2 Ne. 25:3). Thus, Nephi and Mormon, as historians and recorders of God’s dealings with the Nephite nation, express the same concerns as the Puritan historians.

Joseph Smith lived at a time of considerable interest in the American Indian, and the threat they posed to national security was a hotly contested political issue. The only feasible solution, U.S. President Andrew Jackson believed, was to remove Indians completely from the United States and place them in western territories. The threat of Indian uprisings loomed so large in the minds of Smith’s contemporaries, that the Book of Mormon was able to take advantage of the situation, warning America to repent or suffer the same fate as the Nephites. In the style of the Old Testament and early Puritan histories, the Book of Mormon offered a providential history.

[p. 145]Still, the cycling ebb and flow of Nephite history was not unlike Smith family history, too. If Joseph Sr.’s drinking problems were not episodic, his economic fortunes were. Several times he seemed on the verge of success, but in the end, he lost everything. Perhaps the economic swings that characterized Joseph Sr.’s life were God’s way of humbling him and of making him more open to a message of repentance and hope. The story of Nephi’s rivalry with his brothers not only reflected the family dynamics of Joseph Smith’s own circumstances but also functioned as a warning to accept the Book of Mormon.

The lost manuscript had followed the lineage of the kings who were probably the descendants of Nephi, while the new version traced the names of Jacob’s descendants, the priestly lineage: Enos, Jarom, Omni, Amaron, Chemish, Abinadom, and Amaleki. For the most part, these last seven writers skim over some 300 years of ­history and provide few details until the last writer, Amaleki, who inexplicably provides historical information necessary to understand what comes after in Mormon’s abridg­ment of the Book of Mosiah.

One major event reported by Amaleki was when God commanded Mosiah I to flee with the righteous from the land of Nephi. The people journey with Mosiah43 time that Zedekiah, king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon” (Omni 1:15). It is later revealed that this colony was headed by Mulek, one of the sons of King Zedekiah (Mosiah 25:2; Hel. 6:10; 8:21). Two things are verified by the discovery of these people: first, Jerusalem had indeed been destroyed according to Lehi’s prediction; second, without the scriptures, the Nephites would have lost faith. Amaleki records that the Mulekites “brought no records with them; and they denied the being of their Creator” (v. 17). Zarahemla and its people unite with Mosiah and his followers, and they appoint Mosiah king. Without Amal­eki’s account, readers would be confused by the appearance of the people of Zara­hemla in the Book of Mosiah (Mosiah 1:10).

Amaleki also reports that in the days of King Benjamin, a large group left Zara­hemla to return to the land of Nephi, that contention arose in the party, and that all but fifty were killed; that a second group departed for the same purpose, including a brother of the king, but that so far nothing had been learned of the fate of the second party (vv. 27-30). Again, without Amaleki’s account, the later search for the lost expedition, as well as mention of the record of Zeniff in the Book of Mosiah, would be inexplicable to readers (Mosiah 7, 9-22).

It is here that the attempt to recover from the loss of the original manuscript becomes most transparent. The two events recorded by Amaleki are so integral to the Book of Mosiah that they undoubtedly reiterate what was recorded in the lost manuscript. [p. 146]Amaleki’s effort presupposes a knowledge of Smith’s future loss of the manuscript and a need to replace the first part of Mormon’s abridgment, otherwise Amaleki would not have recorded information that was simultaneously being kept by the kings when nothing like this had appeared previously in the clerical version of the history. Amaleki anticipates the future need to connect the two records at precisely that spot, knowing exactly what material would be needed to make sense of the remaining portion of Mormon’s abridgment.


1. See S. Kent Brown, “Lehi’s Personal Record: Quest for a Missing Source,” BYU Studies 24 (Winter 1984): 19-42.

2. I believe that Robert Anderson may overstate the case for making a direct and literal comparison between Nephi’s and Joseph Jr.’s siblings. For Anderson, Laman=Alvin, Lemuel=­ Hyrum, Sam=Sophronia, and Nephi=Joseph Jr. (Robert D. Anderson, Inside the Mind of Joseph Smith: Psychobiography and the Book of Mormon [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1999], 44). This leads Anderson to assert that Joseph “chang[ed] a hard-working brother (Alvin) into an unbelieving reprobate, [who was] hostile and defiant (Laman).” Anderson does not explain why Joseph would portray Alvin, who gave him the most support, in such a fashion. In comparing Sophronia and Sam, Anderson states: “Despite the shift in gender, an obvious disguise, Soph­ronia and Sam share the qualities of being cooperative and quiet, and their names begin with the same letter.” Yet, Sophronia had joined the Presbyterian church with her mother, and one should not assume that because the historical record is silent regarding Sophronia that the real Soph­ronia was also silent.

3. Palmyra Reflector 2 (14 Feb. 1831): 101 (EMD 2:245).

4. Some have questioned the logic of Nephi’s account, pointing out that Laban’s blood-­stained clothing would have been a poor disguise. However, the narrative does not specify whether Nephi removed Laban’s clothing before or after decapitation, only that Nephi put them on afterwards.

5. Note that the misunderstanding turns on some word play that exists only in the English language, confusing different uses of the term “elder,” which at least in Hebrew are completely different words.

6. Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Mormonism: Shadow or Reality, 4th ed. (Salt Lake City: Modern Microfilm Co., 1982), 72.

7. Harmony resident Sallie McKune remembered that Smith was prevented from getting a treasure because of a “headless Spaniard” dressed as a “warrior” ([Frederick G. Mather], “The Early Mormons: Joe Smith Operates at Susquehanna,” Binghamton Republican, 29 July 1880 [EMD 4:348]).

8. Two recent interpreters have discussed Laban’s decapitation in terms of Smith’s 1813 leg surgery (William D. Morain, The Sword of Laban: Joseph Smith, Jr., and the Dissociated Mind [Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Press, 1998], 92-95; and Anderson, Inside the Mind of Joseph Smith, 45-47, 236). While both make a connection between Laban and Joseph Sr., they emphasize that Nathan Smith wielded the amputation knife and suggest that Nephi’s actions represent Joseph’s revenge on the surgeon. While the surgery undeniably had an enormous psychological impact on seven-year-old Joseph, its connection to Laban’s decapitation, if any, would be secondary to the more direct interpretation offered here. Morain, in particular, recognizes the “splitting” of Joseph Sr. into Lehi and Laban, which he explains as “a primitive defense mechanism commonly used by traumatized children” (93). He further suggests that Laban is a “fused symbol” representing both Dr. Smith and his father and that Joseph accomplishes through Nephi a “double castration” (94). Nevertheless, the primary association is between Joseph Sr. and Laban. One might therefore interpret Laban’s decapitation as the fulfillment of an oedipal fantasy in slaying an inadequate father and taking his place as family leader, which is a major theme in the story of Nephi and Lehi.

9. It was standard practice in the nineteenth century to record genealogies in the family ­Bible.

10. Ishmael is biblical (Gen. 16:11), and Smith’s contemporaries recognized the Arabian desert as the land of Ishmael (see Jedidiah Morse, American Universal Geography [Boston, 1812], 2:640).

11. See chapter 2.

12. According to Lucy, Joseph did scream out twice during the surgery. However, Lucy notes that on the first occasion, he asked her to leave and promised to tough it out—to repress the urge to scream.

13. Jedidiah Morse, Geography Made Easy: Being an Abridgment of the American Universal Geography (Boston, 1802), 388.

14. Joseph Smith Jr., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 7 vols., 2nd ed. rev. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1948), 2:343.

15. George Peck, The Life and Times of Rev. George Peck, D.D., Written by Himself (New York: Nelson and Phillips, 1874), 67-68 (EMD 4:281).

16. Inscription on tombstone of Isaac Hale located in McKune Cemetery, Oakland, Susque­hanna County, Pennsylvania.

17. Some Latter-day Saint writers have associated Nahom with NHM (variously Nehhm, Nehem, Nihm, Nahm) in southwestern Saudi Arabia, a remote place in the highlands of Yemen that has an ancient cemetery nearby (Warren P. Aston and Michaela Knoth Aston, In the Footsteps of Lehi: New Evidence for Lehi’s Journey across Arabia to Bountiful [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1994]). The discovery of two altars with NHM inscriptions on them has recently been referred to as “the first actual archaeological evidence for the historicity of the Book of Mormon” (Terryl L. Givens, By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion [New York: Oxford University Press, 2002], 120). These writers speculate that Lehi’s party followed the “Frankincense Trail” to a place “which was called Nahom” by the area’s residents, that Lehi had “frequent” contact with these people, and that Ishmael died near Nahom and was buried in the nearby cemetery. The following objections to this thesis have been raised: (1) What need was there for a compass if Lehi followed a well-known route? (2) The Book of Mormon does not mention contact with outsiders, but rather implies that contact was avoided. (3) It is unlikely that migrant Jews would be anxious to bury their dead in a heathen cemetery. (4) There is no evidence dating the Arabian NHM before A.D. 600, let alone 600 B.C. (5) The pronunciation of NMH is unknown and may not relate to Nahom after all. This last point deserves further comment. Some writers associate Smith’s Nahom with a Hebrew root meaning “to comfort, console, to be sorry,” which they believe refers to Ishmael’s death and burial, although the place was named before Lehi’s arrival. David P. Wright, a professor of Judaic studies at Brandeis University, points out that the NHM on the altars and on an eighteenth-century map are written with a soft H whereas the root for consolation in Hebrew is written with a hard H (personal correspondence). S. Kent Brown responds that Lehi reinterpreted (and revocalized) the word to reflect a Hebrew idiom (“‘The Place that Was Called Nahom’: New Light from Ancient Yemen,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8 [1999]: 67). It seems simpler to suggest that Smith’s Nahom is a variant of Naham (1 Chron. 4:19), Nehum (Ne. 7:7), or Nahum (Na. 1:1).

18. My interpretation is similar to that of Anderson, Inside the Mind of Joseph Smith, 48.

19. See Laws of the State of New-York, Revised and Passed at Thirty-Sixth Session of the Legislature, 2 vols. (Albany, NY: H. C. Southwick and Co., 1813), 1:114.

20. On the experiences of David Whitmer and his mother, see chapter 24; on Joseph Smith and hypnotic suggestion, see chapter 27.

21. On parental favoritism and sibling rivalry, see Robin Baker, Baby Wars: The Dynamics of Family Conflict (Hopewell, NJ: Ecco Press, 1999); Douglas W. Mock and Geoffrey A. Parker, The Evolution of Sibling Rivalry (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); and Frits Boer and Judy Dunn, Children’s Sibling Relationships: Developmental and Clinical Issues (Hillsdale, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates, 1992), esp. “Favoritism Breeds Hostility” (43-44).

22. Fawn Brodie noted the emphasis on fratricidal conflict in the Book of Mormon. Referring to Lucy Smith’s account of fourteen-year-old Joseph being shot at by an unknown person, she speculated: “Since the shooting happened at the door of his own home, one cannot help wondering if young Joseph thenceforth harbored unconscious or even conscious fantasies about the would[-]be murderer being one of his own brothers” (Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 2nd ed. [New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1971], 414).

23. Morse, Geography Made Easy, 388. For claims that Smith’s contemporaries were not informed about the southern Arabian coast, see Aston and Aston, In the Footsteps of Lehi, 29-30; and Eugene England, “Through the Arabian Desert to a Bountiful Land: Could Joseph Smith Have Known the Way?” in Noel B. Reynolds, ed., Book of Mormon Authorship: New Light on Ancient Origins (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1982), 145-46.

24. Robert Anderson also sees significance in the eight-year “wilderness” sojourn of Lehi’s family (Anderson, Inside the Mind of Joseph Smith, 48). However, rather than suggest the years 1808-16, as I do, he points to 1810-18, or from “Ephraim’s death in March 1810 to settling in the [Jennings] cabin in Palmyra in comfort around 1818.” In my opinion, Anderson does not sufficiently explain why Smith chose Ephraim’s death as the beginning of his family’s wilderness condition. Why would this event signal the image of wandering? The Smiths had moved to Royalton two years prior to this and William was born the following year in the same place. At least one more year passed before the Smiths moved to Lebanon, New Hampshire. The suggestion that the family’s wilderness condition ended when they settled in the Jennings cabin, two years after their arrival in Palmyra, is also unconvincing. Why would it matter to Joseph if the family rented a cabin in the woods three miles south of the village of Palmyra rather than one on Main Street? Anderson’s choice may result from following too strictly the birth order of the two families. By focusing on the years 1810-18, he bypasses the births of Samuel (1808) and Ephraim (1810) and connects William (b. 1811) and Don Carlos (b. 1816) with the two sons born to Lehi in the wilderness (p. 50). Both Lehi and Joseph Sr. had sons born in the wilderness, but whether Joseph Jr. intended these to be William and Don Carlos exclusively is uncertain. Regardless, I find it more persuasive to see the family’s wanderings in their entirety beginning with their move from Sharon about 1808, at which time they moved to Tunbridge (“land of inheritance”) for the birth of Samuel, shortly after which they launched into a journey that took them to Royalton, Lebanon, and Norwich, and basically out of the sphere of the Smith and Mack families. It is also easier to equate Lehi’s arrival in the “land of promise” with the Smith family’s arrival in Palmyra in 1816.

25. On this topic, see Dan Vogel, Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon: Religious Solutions from Columbus to Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1986), 44-46.

26. On the “falling power,” or fainting, in the revivals, see Ann Taves, Fits, Trances, and Visions: Experiencing Religion and Explaining Experience from Wesley to James (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999).

27. Morain, Sword of Laban, 109.

28. Joseph Smith to Oliver Cowdery, Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate (Kirtland, Ohio) 1 (Dec. 1834): 40 (EMD 1:42).

29. On the west coast of South America, according to a later geographic passage in Alma 22:27-32 (see chapter 15).

30. Nephi’s discovery of the horse in America is an anachronism (see chapter 22).

31. A later geographic passage reveals that Nephi’s party traveled in a northward direction, Alma 22:27-34 (see chapter 15).

32. For example, Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), 156.

33. For a discussion of the Book of Mormon’s presentation of population growth, see John C. Kunich, “Multiply Exceedingly: Book of Mormon Population Sizes,” in Brent Lee Metcalfe, ed., New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1993), 231-67. In arguing that Kunich’s estimates may be too low, James E. Smith states that “the greatest chances are that there were between twenty-five descendants of the founding group alive near the time of Nephi’s death. But we also note that there is a reasonably high probability (about a five percent probability) that the number of descendants could have been greater, say between fifty and sixty-five people.” Still, Smith admits that “with these demographic results we see that the Nephite population at the time of Nephi’s death and during Jacob’s ministry would have been small” (“Nephi’s Descendants? Historical Demography and the Book of Mormon,” Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 6 [1994]: 286-87). When this higher estimate is divided between the two Lehite settlements, Jacob’s term “multitude” is incongruent.

34. See Thomas W. Murphy, “Lamanite Genesis, Genealogy, and Genetics,” in Dan Vogel and Brent Lee Metcalfe, eds., American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002), 47-77.

35. James Adair, The History of the American Indians (London, 1775), 4; see also Vogel, Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon, 64-65.

36. The history of associating skin color with divine retribution for sinfulness is traced in Stephen R. Haynes, Noah’s Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002). For a discussion of the Book of Mormon in the context of early American attitudes about race, see Newell G. Bringhurst, Saints, Slaves, and Blacks: The Changing Place of Black People within Mormonism (Westport, CO: Greenwood Press, 1981), chapter 1.

37. The jeremiad can be seen as early as the late 1640s in the writings of Samuel Shepard and John Cotton, but it first appears in full bloom in the poetry of Michael Wigglesworth in 1662 (God’s Controversy with New-England). On Puritan use of the jeremiad, see Perry Miller, The New England Mind: From Colony to Providence (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1953), 27-39; and the works of Sacvan Bercovitch: “Horologicals to Chronometricals: The Rhetoric of the Jeremiad,” Literary Monographs, ed. Eric Rothstein, vol. 3 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1970), 113-14; American Jeremiad (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978); and The Puritan Origins of the American Self (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975).

38. Increase Mather, An Earnest Exhortation to the Inhabitants of New-England to Hearken to the Voice of God in His Late and Present Dispensations (Boston, 1676), 16-17; [Increase Mather], Necessity of Reformation (Boston, 1679).

39. Mather, An Earnest Exhortation to the Inhabitants of New-England, [1], [2].

40. Ronald J. VanderMolen, “Providence as Mystery, Providence as Revelation: Puritan and Anglican Modifications of John Calvin’s Doctrine of Providence,” Church History 47 (Mar. 1978): 27-47.

41. At a meeting of ministers in Massachusetts in 1681, Increase Mather presented “Some Proposals concerning the Recording of Illustrious Providences.” He suggested that the “ministers of God … diligently enquire into and record such illustrious providences,” which would then be passed on to an editor (Increase himself) and assembled in a single volume. The ministers were to collect: “Such divine judgments, tempests, floods, earthquakes, thunders as are unusual, strange apparitions, or whatever else shall happen that is prodigious, witchcrafts, diabolical possessions, remarkable judgements upon noted sinners, eminent deliverances, and answers of prayer, are to be reckoned among illustrious providences” (Increase Mather, Remarkable Providences Illustrative of the Earlier Days of America Colonization [reprint of An Essay for the Recording of Illustrious Providences, 1684] [London: John Russell Smith, 1856], from the preface, unpaginated). Cotton Mather continued the project in Magnalia Christi Americana: Or the Ecclesiastical History of New-England (1702), 2 vols. (New York: Russell & Russell, 1967).

42. Qtd. in Perry Miller, ed., The American Puritans: Their Prose and Poetry (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1956), 113; see also Miller, American Puritans, 60.

43. Later, we learn that Mosiah and his people traveled in a northward direction, Alma 22:27-34 (see chapter 15).