Astonishing Correlations: The Book of Moses and Ancient Texts

Jeffrey Bradshaw’s latest publication, “Could Joseph Smith Have Drawn On Ancient Manuscripts When He Translated the Story of Enoch?” at The Interpreter, offers some simply astonishing evidence for the ancient roots of portions of the Book of Moses. The publication begins with this overview:

Question: Some say that Joseph Smith drew on ancient stories
about Enoch not found in the Bible as he translated the chapters on
Enoch in Moses 6-7. How similar are the stories of Enoch in ancient
accounts to modern scripture? And could Joseph Smith have been aware of

Summary: Although an English translation of the Ethiopian book of 1 Enoch appeared
in 1821, the ancient manuscripts that are most relevant to the LDS
story of Enoch were not available during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. The
Qumran Book of Giants, discovered in 1948, contains striking
resemblances to Moses 6-7, ranging from general themes in the story line
to specific occurrences of rare expressions in corresponding contexts.
It would be thought remarkable if any nineteenth-century document were
to exhibit a similar density of close resemblances with this small
collection of ancient fragments, but to find such similarities in
appropriate contexts relating in each case to the story of Enoch is

That brief summary doesn’t convey just how extensive and surprising the parallels are, and how strong the case is that something remarkable is going on in the Book of Moses. Please read Bradshaw, to discover the surprisingly intricate correlations
that seem rather bizarre if Joseph were just making this up and drawing
upon his environment.

Since some of you have mentioned the thesis of Salvatore Cirillo, I’ll note that his work is addressed by Bradshaw. Here’s an excerpt related to Cirillo:

Could Joseph Smith have borrowed significant portions of his accounts of Enoch from other sources? In his 2010 master’s thesis from Durham University, Salvatore Cirillo[8] cites and amplifies the arguments of Michael Quinn[9] that the available evidence that Joseph Smith had access to published works related to 1 Enoch
has moved “beyond probability — to fact.” He sees no other explanation
than this for the substantial similarities that he finds between the
book of Moses and the pseudepigraphal Enoch literature.[10]
However, after having reflected on the evidence with the more rigorous
approach of a seasoned historian about the availability of the 1821
English translation of 1 Enoch to the Prophet, Richard L. Bushman concluded differently:[11] “It is scarcely conceivable that Joseph Smith knew of Laurence’s Enoch translation.”

Just as important, even if 1 Enoch had been available to the
Prophet, a study by LDS historian Jed Woodworth reveals that the
principal themes of “Laurence’s 105 translated chapters do not resemble
Joseph Smith’s Enoch in any obvious way.”[12] Indeed, apart from the shared prominence of the Son of Man motif in 1 Enoch’s Book of the Parables and the book of Moses[13] and one or two general themes in Enoch’s visions of Noah,[14] little of great substance in common between 1 Enoch
and modern scripture. After careful study of the two works on Enoch,
Woodworth succinctly concluded: “Same name, different voice.”[15]

Note that since Joseph Smith was aware that the biblical book of Jude quotes Enoch[16] — more specifically 1 Enoch itself
— the most obvious thing he could have done to bolster his case for the
authenticity of the book of Moses (if he were a conscious deceiver)
would have been to include the relevant verses from Jude somewhere
within his revelations on Enoch. But this the Prophet did not do.

For such reasons, it is increasingly apparent that despite all the
spilled ink spent in looking for significant parallels to the Prophet’s
revelations on Enoch in 1 Enoch, the most striking resemblances are not found in that work, but rather in related pseudepigrapha such as 2 Enoch, 3 Enoch, and the Qumran Book of Giants.

As time passes, the Book of Moses has become increasingly remarkably rather than easier to explain away as a clumsy fraud.  A fascinating text indeed.

Also consider the intriguing relationships between the Book of Moses and the Book of Mormon in the articles by Noel Reynolds and myself cited below. The relationships suggest that there is a connection between the Book of Moses and the brass plates used by several authors in the Book of Mormon, with a one-way relationship between the Book of Moses as an influence on the Book of Mormon.

Related resources:

Author: Jeff Lindsay

31 thoughts on “Astonishing Correlations: The Book of Moses and Ancient Texts

  1. As time goes on and more and more plagiarism becomes more and more evident, it all starts to look more and more clumsy. Stop the bobbing and weaving on Joseph's behalf, and let the arrows of truth hit their mark. Then rectify what MUST be true (Joseph WAS influenced by the world and works around him when creating these so-called scriptures) with what you desperately WANT to be true. There's a reason people are leaving the LDS church in droves (just try to deny this, then come to my ward in the heart of mormondom on any given Sunday and see how empty our pews are. Then go to California and see how much worse it is there). As it becomes more and more apparent that we've been lied to for decades, the above rectification is not possible, Jeff.

  2. The parallels are astonishing. They even appear in what might be considered the more peripheral aspects of the texts. Little things like:

    –Feral beasts crying from the wilderness.

    –Enoch being called the "Lad."

    –The heavenly voice continuing to speak as the scene changes.

    Little details that, so far as I'm aware, appear only in the Enochic texts.


  3. I guess I'm confused with this post. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to think by all of this proof and discussion. Are we supposed to think that Joseph "got it right" because his text is close to apocryphal texts of traditional Jewish traditions of Enoch? Is Joseph's text proof that the Jewish Enoch traditions are correct? Are we supposed to believe that these are "inspired similarities"? What is the worth of this discussion? Please help my ignorance. Why am I supposed to be impressed, outraged, or otherwise?

  4. Anon 11:32, please keep in mind the basic "methodology" of LDS apologetics — namely, to root around among ancient texts in search of whatever parallels might be found to the 19th-century works of Joseph Smith. It's a totally screwy method (just ask any non-LDS scholar, or any of the many LDS scholars who reject it as well). But it's good enough for those looking for whatever reason they can find to discount the overwhelming evidence of the LDS scriptures' modern origin.

    Personally, what's always impressed me the most about the Book of Moses is its identification of black skin with the Canaanites and the mark of Cain (see Moses 7:8 and 7:22). This kind of thinking is a product of the modern world, with its colonialism, slavery, and anti-black racism, not of the ancient world, and it was a very common strand of biblical interpretation among 19th-century American Protestants. It's a great example of Joseph's lamentable habit of taking 19th-century racist nonsense and repackaging it as ancient scripture.

    — OK

  5. OK, if I understand you correctly, you are saying this:

    If we are to accept Joseph's account of Enoch as an inspired translation from God, we must also accept the "Curse of Ham" as it presented in that very same work.

    That makes sense. I mean, why would God inspire some verses in a chapter and not others. If we believe the Book of Moses to be God-inspired scripture then, surely, black skin is a curse from God.

    But now I'm really confused. The church essays say, "the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse."

    Does this mean the church (and by implication the current prophets, seers, and revelators of the Q15) do not believe the Book of Moses is inspired? Or at least not the offending verses?

    How can God-inspired scripture be labeled "theory"? And what about the Latter-day Prophets who taught the "Curse of Ham" as doctrine for over a century?

    The post by anon 11:32 does nothing to ease my confused state: Is Jewish Apocrypha to be considered part of LDS canon and consistent with the Restoration? What about all of those contradictory non-Enoch parts?

    This stuff is hard!

  6. Welcome to the current era of confusion and darkness, Anon @ 1:01.
    It's all just grasping, guessing, and desperate hoping nowadays.

  7. I know that I am being pedantic but here are the verses in question:

    Moses 7:8 For behold, the Lord shall curse the land with much heat, and the barrenness thereof shall go forth forever; and there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised among all people.

    Moses 7:22 And Enoch also beheld the residue of the people which were the sons of Adam; and they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it was the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them.

    And Cain's curse according to the Bible:

    Genesis 4:9 And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?

    10 And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.

    11 And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand;

    12 When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.

    13 And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear.

    14 Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.

    15 And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.

    As we can read, there was a mark placed on Cain and the Book of Moses (as OK rightfully pointed out) that mark was dark skin. The Book of Moses does not state that this was a curse. The curse was that Cain would have to wander and could not longer work the land.


  8. That's some good lawyering Steve, but can we be honest with each other? Are you really going to argue that marking a people with black skin so that they would be "despised" isn't a curse?

    Curse: "a solemn utterance intended to invoke a supernatural power to inflict harm or punishment on someone or something."

    Blackness was placed upon the Canaanites, so "that they were despised among all people."

    Sounds like punishment to me… or, you know, a curse.

  9. There is the mark of Cain:

    Moses 36 And now thou shalt be cursed from the earth which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand.

    37 When thou tillest the ground it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength. A fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.

    38 And Cain said unto the Lord: Satan tempted me because of my brother’s flocks. And I was wroth also; for his offering thou didst accept and not mine; my punishment is greater than I can bear.

    39 Behold thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the Lord, and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that he that findeth me will slay me, because of mine iniquities, for these things are not hid from the Lord.

    40 And I the Lord said unto him: Whosoever slayeth thee, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And I the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.

    41 And Cain was shut out from the presence of the Lord, and with his wife and many of his brethren dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.

    There are pre-flood Canaanites:

    Moses 6 And again the Lord said unto me: Look; and I looked towards the north, and I beheld the people of Canaan, which dwelt in tents.

    7 And the Lord said unto me: Prophesy; and I prophesied, saying: Behold the people of Canaan, which are numerous, shall go forth in battle array against the people of Shum, and shall slay them that they shall utterly be destroyed; and the people of Canaan shall divide themselves in the land, and the land shall be barren and unfruitful, and none other people shall dwell there but the people of Canaan;

    8 For behold, the Lord shall curse the land with much heat, and the barrenness thereof shall go forth forever; and there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised among all people.

    There is the curse that Noah put on Canaan:

    Genesis 18 And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan.

    19 These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread.

    20 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:

    21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.

    22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.

    23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.

    24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.

    25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.

    26 And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.

    27 God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.

    There is the tradition that Canaan was the forefather of the Africans –

    So, really the argument is about what exactly is the curse that Noah put on Canaan and the tradition of Canaan's descendants. The tradition at least has its start in Ethiopian histories and not renaissance protestantism.

    Steve (lawyering up)

  10. Anon @ 11:32, we should understand that there was a large body of ancient traditions and ancient texts about Enoch that were not known by Joseph Smith, that must have some ancient source. Now Joseph through inspiration seeks to do an "inspired translation"/fleshing out of a few things in the brief Genesis account, and in the process, gives us a book claiming to be an ancient account from Moses. And in it, we find numerous details about Enoch that the world would later find in the Enoch traditions from antiquity. In my opinion, that doesn't mean that the details of the account, the Creation story included, is strictly accurate by modern historical and scientific standards. But it appears to reflect ancient texts and perhaps may ultimately reflect what Moses understood. The surprising correlations suggest there is a fairly strong connection between one or more ancient religious texts, and since Joseph was claiming to be providing information from antiquity in his inspired translation, the correlations suggest something more than just drawing upon his frontier New York environment was at play here.

    Further, the information Noel Reynolds and others have provided about the parallels between the Book of Moses and the Book of Mormon's brass plates material further strengthens the case for antiquity of the Book of Moses and the reality of an ancient brass plates source with related Moses material.

    So I think one ought to say, "Hmm, that's pretty wild and kinda cool."

    1. Why, if "there was a large body of ancient traditions and ancient texts about Enoch," must we assume they were unfamiliar to Joseph? Didn't he have contact with many religious leaders in his early teen years? Remember that these were men who "used all the powers of both reason and sophistry" as well as men who "were zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others." They were arguing for their religions and trying to prove how much they knew about the Bible so as to bolster their claims. Is it not plausible that one or more of them was familiar with the traditions of Enoch?

      What about Oliver Cowdery and Sidney Rigdon? Both were well educated and well read. This increases the possibility that Joseph came into contact with someone who was familiar with the traditions.

      Once again it seems you are trying to limit what Joe could know to fit your narrative.

  11. As for Cain, we don't really know what's behind the tradition of a mark. The Book of Moses does not say it was a deepening of skin color or anything racial, and does not say it would be a mark upon his descendants as well. But in Moses 7:22 we read that the seed of Cain (at that later time, at least) were black. We assume that it means the skin was black, but even that is not a certainty since "black" is used in many non-literal ways in the scriptures, but it's certainly a plausible reading and yes, many people have connected the mark with that statement to make racial implications. In any case, it's a problematic aspect of the text that raises difficult questions, as do a great deal of our ancient texts. Ancient texts, if this really is related to them as I think it is, can be painfully hard and frustrating, especially when read with a modern lens and reasonable but modern expectations. Is it all just crazy made-up stuff, or is there something of genuine value being transmitted in spite of the human influences in all such texts?

  12. So, the parallels between Enoch and the Book of Moses are "pretty wild and kinda cool."

    But the parallels between the Mormon scriptures and commonplace 19th-century American racial ideology are pure coincidence.

    Got it, Jeff.

    — OK

  13. No, they can be kinda cool, too. Like the parallels for the Late Great War and the Book of Mormon, discussed here previously. My favorite was the "curious work" parallel that refers to a round, metallic object that could have been the source for the "curious workmanship" of the round, metallic Liahona. Sure, that round metallic torpedo used in the War of 1812 seems like a dead give-away for the less-explosive compass-like tool Lehi carried with him through the desert. If that helps you explain away the account of Lehi's trail, that's cool, and maybe even kinda cool for you.

    Another good one is the nineteenth century religious revival camp meeting that some folks see in King Benjamin's speech. Definitely takes place out doors with a whole lot of preaching and people responding powerfully to the message. If you're looking for a reason to criticize the Book of Mormon, as you admittedly are in order to prop up your agenda of undermining the Church for it's positions on moral issues that aggravate you, then that's a good place to stop and declare victory. Easy. But for those interested in actually evaluating Book of Mormon claims, they might realize that focusing only on possible parallels to Joseph's day is incomplete and may even be prone to the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy plus presentism and other fallacies. An actual inquiry should also examine the possibility that the text may be what it claims and look at how it might fit into an ancient setting. There the inquiry about King Benjamin's speech becomes much more interesting and rich in insights (including explanatory power) than anything a camp meeting might offer — unless that camp meeting was run by someone skilled in the art of ancient covenant making, following the six steps of the ancient covenant formulary from the Middle East, and invoking patterns and concepts from ancient coronation rites, Jewish festivals, and temple-related concepts in ways that surpass knowledge Joseph could have had. Oh, and there's some beautiful chiasmus as well. These and many other issues are explored in the book, King Benjamin's Speech available free online at the Maxwell Institute. But maybe camp meetings really were run that way in Joseph's day which would be — I freely admit this — kinda cool.

    One of the most "kinda cool" things about the Book of Mormon is how many of the easy arguments against it eventually turn the table on the critics and require them to move on to something else. Yes, we have plenty of weak areas one can criticize, plenty of questions for which we don't have good answers, but the Book of Mormon, Book of Moses, and Book of Abraham have gone from being massive, pathetic blunders into much more nuanced works that demand Joseph had access to great maps, large libraries, Hebrew scholars, and other technical resources, all accessed from the information vacuum of a tiny town that didn't have a library and worked into the text as Joseph dictated by looking at a seerstone in a hat, hour after hour without notes at a prodigious rate. If you really are able to explain the strengths of the Book of Mormon by camp meetings and modern influences, it will truly be kinda cool if you'd give us some details for, say, King Benjamin's speech or Lehi's trail.

  14. As for what seem to be racial issues in the Book of Moses, and this also applies to the Book of Mormon, it's fair to recall that racial prejudice and numerous other human problems are not unique to the modern era and occur pretty much whenever people write about other people and races. Must we expect God to expunge that from records when they are preserved and translated with divine help? It would be nice, so I'm on the "yes, please" side of that fence. But on the other hand, is a mark on Cain evidence of racism? Is the fact that Cain's descendants are much later said to be "black" necessarily a racial comment and if so, necessarily an indication of a curse given to Cain? There's room for multiple views.

    That Mormon leaders have at times been wrong in their views on science, politics, and other things means they are human and imperfect, as we actually must expect of human leaders, though we'd like them all to be infallible nearly all the time. We don't demand perfection in them or in the writings of the past, Book of Moses included, but are grateful for their miraculous preservation and our ability to learn from them, problem spots and all. You are free to focus on the warts, as always, but there's a lot you are missing. The strengths of these texts cannot be explained by pointing to the difficult spots, stretching them into railing accusations, and declaring victory.

  15. … the Book of Mormon, Book of Moses, and Book of Abraham have gone from being massive, pathetic blunders into much more nuanced works…

    In the eyes of the Church itself, the Book of Mormon has gone from being a record of the ancestors of the Native Americans to a record of a small remnant of those ancestors. That's quite a walkback, given the number of prophets it throws under the bus. Despite all his lengthy discourses with heavenly beings, how could Joseph have been so massively wrong about such a basic aspect of the Book of Mormon? This kind of thing is not a matter of being imperfect; it completely undercuts the claim to prophetic status.

    And I know the Church doesn't like to apologize, but it seems to me to be a massive wrong to spend generations loudly proclaiming to Native Americans, in essence, "Hey Indians! Read this book! It contains the true history of your people!" and then, with nary a peep of apology, to whisper, "Oops. Never mind." (Which is to say, the Church has no sense of the basic Christian notion of repentance. See also: Mountain Meadows.)

    Also, again in the eyes of the Church itself, the Book of Abraham has gone from being a translation of ancient Egyptian to a kind of imaginative catalyst for Joseph Smith's revelation of material completely unrelated to the text of the papyri. The Church is engaging in this massive walkback because it knows perfectly well that Joseph completely botched his translation of both the text and the facsimiles. That botchup is so egregious that any any honest apologist has no other choice than to abandon the idea of "translation" entirely.

    …racial prejudice and numerous other human problems are not unique to the modern era and occur pretty much whenever people write about other people and races.

    Yes, of course. Duh. But racial prejudice takes different forms in different cultures at different times. Ditto for the language and imagery used to identify disfavored races. And the use of blackness in this regard is characteristic of the modern West, not the ancient Near East. When Joseph looked at the black figure on BoA Facsimile 3, and massively misidentified it as "Olimlah, a slave," that was 19th-century America talking, not ancient Egypt. (Facsimile 3 by itself is enough to bring down the whole apologetical enterprise.)

    Sorry, Jeff, but it's just not true. The contrary evidence is just too massively against it.

    — OK

  16. Whoa, you make such strong claims because the Church recognized a common assumption about the text was overly broad and reasonably made a change in wording of the introduction to Book of Mormon? The change in the non-canonical introduction to the Book of Mormon went from from saying the Lamanites were "the principal ancestors" of Native Americans in the 1981 edition to being "among the ancestors" of Native Americans. Recognizing that the (genetic) Lamanites descended from Lehi (and/or from the Jaredites) were not the only ancestors and maybe not even the dominant ancestors of modern Native Americans does not lessen the value of the Book nor overthrow its place as a source of information about some of the ancestors of Native Americans. Native Americans can recognize that their genes may be largely Asian, and yet have Lehites among the ancestors. That's one of the cool things about the flow of genes over many centuries: we can have ancestors from all over the world and many thousands of diverse ancestors, even though our mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosomes come from only one man and one woman at any generation among what may be thousands of ancestors.

    Note also that the Book of Mormon initially refers to Lamanites as those descended from Laman, but later refers to them in social terms: those who are not aligned with Nephites are called Lamanites. As for calling Native American's "Lamanites," the social designation is certainly appropriate for all Native Americans, but even if genetic Lamanites were a minority on the continent in 400 A.D., it is very likely that their genes survived and have had plenty of time to spread across the continent, making it reasonable for Native Americans to all have Lehi and Sariah as one of their multitude of ancient ancestors — if the Book of Mormon is true, that is, just as you and I probably both have William the Conqueror among our ancestors.

    You are greatly mischaracterizing things, OK. Joseph Smith recognized that there might have been other migrations to the New World (the Toltecs specifically were mentioned as an example). Nearly a century ago other leaders began to recognize that the Book of Mormon might not describe all the origins of Native Americans. Long before DNA studies were done, scholars in the Church were recognizing that the text itself is very clearly about a limited geography, not the South America to North America scope that early readers and still some today made as a lazy assumption.

    It turns out that Mesoamerica offers a reasonable location capable of meeting the broad requirements of the Book of Mormon in terms of geography, as well as the existence of writing, of cities and roads, volcanism, etc. The internal map of the Book of Mormon can be superimposed with surprising success in that region, though with many issues to still work out and debate. Importantly, Joseph did not know this. He was surprised and delighted with the publication in 1841 of Stephen's book on travels in the Yucatan, showing that the kind of cities in the Book of Mormon actually did exist, and he felt that the Book of Mormon lands should be compared to those described in that work. This was hardly an embarrassing walkback, but a man using data and evidence to adjust his reading and interpretation of a text for which he was the translator, not the author.

  17. Joseph's views on the text began in a vacuum because he wasn't the author. He hadn't used maps and scholarship to create a story for a specific location. He was trying to figure out what it was all about, and data from Mesomerica gave him guidance and allowed him to update his views. You should welcome that rather than be appalled, but I have to remember that your mission here is to always be appalled because you think the Church is evil for its stance on same-sex marriage. But it clouds your thinking.

    Joseph's views on Mesoamerica came shortly before his death and the chaotic Mormon Exodus, and didn't sink in among others as well as they should have, so old folk views of the book continued and it took more modern scholarship to reveal what the text really requires and why Mesoamerica is the most logical setting for the book. The correspondences between Mesoamerica and the text are impressive (see Mormon's Codex by John Sorenson, abounding in data provided by a respected scholar). But meanwhile, many in the Church continued to assume that "what we know is all there is" when it comes to New World populations, so Bruce R. McConkie's editorial comment that the Book of Mormon describes the origins of the ancestors of Native Americans entered the introduction to the 1981 Book of Mormon. In light of both ongoing LDS scholarship and external scholarship about the Americas, it became clear that a more scientifically reasonable statement for those who believe in the Book of Mormon would be to say it describes the origins of those who are "among the ancestors." You make it sounds like it now reads "not among the ancestors." That's wrong.

    Prophets don't automatically know science. An inspired translator doesn't automatically get a map and detailed geographical information about the revealed text. Finding faults in human understanding about what a revealed text means hardly discredits the Lord's call given to such leaders, all of whom are limited and fallible, in spite of being authorized servants. Their ministry is not about anthropology and cartography, and they, like us, can learn from new sources of information. That's healthy progress, wouldn't you say?

    1. One would think that if Joseph had discussions with the angel Moroni, years before the publication of the BoM, that were exhaustive enough that he could describe the culture "with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them," that he would have an idea of their place in ancient American history.

      Also, you claim that Joseph discovered "data from Mesomerica [which] gave him guidance and allowed him to update his views." I'm curious to know what evidence you have that he changed his views? The language in Times and Seasons connotes that Stephens' work merely confirmed what was already known. This type of language was used in multiple issues.

      It seems to me that The reason it was not viewed as new information is that the BoM was considered the history of ancient America by Joseph and the church.

      As a reminder, below is an excerpt from Times and Seasons (note that Joseph was acting editor at the time–imagine that, an uneducated farmboy editing a publication–it must be divine):

      "The foregoing extract has been made to assist the Latter-Day Saints, in establishing the Book of Mormon as a revelation from God. It affords great joy to have the world assist us to so much proof, that even the most credulous cannot doubt. . . Let us turn our subject, however, to the Book of Mormon, where these wonderful ruins of Palenque are among the mighty works of the Nephites. . . . Mr. Stephens’ great developments of antiquities are made bare to the eyes of all the people by reading the history of the Nephites in the Book of Mormon. They lived about the narrow neck of land, which now embraces Central America, with all the cities that can be found. . . . Who could have dreamed that twelve years would have developed such incontrovertible testimony to the Book of Mormon? Surely the Lord worketh and none can hinder."

      I see no indication that this information was viewed as new or groundbreaking, or that it changed anyone's view of things.

  18. "Anon 11:32, please keep in mind the basic "methodology" of LDS [critics] — namely, to root around among [modern] texts in search of whatever parallels might be found to the 19th-century works of Joseph Smith. It's a totally screwy method (just ask any LDS scholar, or any of the many [non-]LDS scholars who reject it as well). But it's good enough for those looking for whatever reason they can find to discount the overwhelming evidence of the LDS scriptures' [ancient] origin."

    Fixed it for ya.

  19. The idea that Joseph knew all about the peoples of the ancient Americas is highly questionable. It's explored in some detail by Kevin Christensen in the latest publication at The Interpreter: "Playing to an Audience: A Review of Revelatory Events." Here's an excerpt:

    There are some unexamined oddities about the Lucy Smith quote. Before I would take it as an interpretive foundation, I must consider that, even though a first-hand account, it is not an autograph account, and it is late, dating to an 1844 dictation in Nauvoo to the non-LDS, 24-year old Martha Jane Coray regarding events in Palmyra 1823 and then not published until 1853.

    The Lucy Smith quote, aside from being a late account, rather than early and contemporary (not “real time access,” not a direct “window on the moment”), turns out to be notably odd and unique with respect to Joseph Smith, rather than well supported from a range of sources. Certainly much in Lucy’s biography is well supported, but let us recognize the anomaly here. Odd accounts do occur in history, yes, but the account raises questions that should be faced and mentioned before building one’s structure there. First of all, the Book of Mormon we have has no descriptions of people riding animals in over 500 pages that include several major migrations and 100 distinct wars. It provides no notably detailed descriptions of clothing (other than armor) and no detailed descriptions of the structure of later buildings. The most detail we get involves descriptions of fortifications with palisaded walls and ditches.

    Then there is the unasked question as to why — if Joseph Smith as a youth was capable of this kind of detailed, immersive, evening-filling recital on the everyday particulars of Book of Mormon peoples and culture — do we have no further record anywhere of his performing the same service as an adult? Perhaps the closest circumstance on this topic involves the Zelph story on Zion’s Camp, but in that case the notable differences in the details recorded by the different people who reported it, even those writing close to the event, should give pause to a person trying to build an interpretive foundation on an isolated, late, anomalous account related to far longer and complex narrative than the Zelph gossip. It bears mentioning that if Joseph Smith had been telling stories about the Book of Mormon peoples, animals, clothing, and culture, such stories should have had an obvious influence on Abner Cole’s 1830 parody version, the Book of Pukei, which “tells in mocking fashion about the sorts of things that Joseph’s neighbors expected to find in the Book of Mormon.”14 Yet the most notable thing about the Book of Pukei is how utterly different it is from the actual Book of Mormon. The book Joseph Smith produced was emphatically not what his neighbors expected.

    It is true the Book of Mormon does contain abundant details about “their religious worship” and their “modes of warfare,” but we have no other accounts of Joseph Smith’s filling anyone’s evening or afternoon with amusing or serious recitals on those topics either. Again, why not? This is not a frivolous question but one addressed to a foundation stone upon which Taves chooses to build.

    The one notable discussion of ancient buildings from Joseph Smith comes as his surprised and delighted review of John Lloyd Stephen’s Incidents of Travels Central America as expressed in two articles in the Times and Seasons in Nauvoo. I find Michael Coe’s report of Joseph Smith’s encounter with the Stephen’s book particularly telling…[this gets very interesting but I'll let readers read the original for further insights].

  20. OK, regarding how Joseph "massively misidentified" a figure as "Olimlah, a slave," which you said shows that this "was 19th-century America talking, not ancient Egypt," those reading your comment might mistake your point and think you are suggesting that Joseph's view on how Facsimile 3 was being applied the documents before him was wildly anachronistic, as if you meant that slavery was not known in ancient Egypt, especially the enslavement of Africans, and that a scene with a black slave must necessarily be out of Joseph's day and not the ancient world.

    Just to avoid misunderstanding, slavery was known in ancient Egypt (Wikipedia). The Egyptians did make servants/slaves out of their subjects and yes, black Nubians were among the subjects of the Egyptians (per the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago) and thus, if course, Egyptian slavery was a problem for those from Sudan.

    Some might also think that you mean that Joseph reflexively assumed that a drawing in dark color must necessarily be a slave rather than a divine being or representative of such a being, but in response we must note that in Facsimile #1 the black-toned Anubis or priest of Anubis (whose head may have been poorly restored) is not a slave but much more properly a priest.

    Some may also mistakenly assume that you meant that ancient Egyptian drawings with people drawn in a darker color could not reflect racial characteristics (like, say drawings of African subjects or of Nubian slaves), and that any such labeling would be "massively misidentified," although we must admit that African slaves in Egypt might not have been as common as slaves of other races.

    Other might think that your criticism is with the name Olimlah, as if it were an impossible and ridiculous name for an Egyptian figure, servant or not, of high enough status to be in a royal court. They would not recognize, of course, that Olimlah is a pretty good Egyptian name for which one plausible meaning is "Great is Amun-Ra."

    This issue may be in the same category as the crazy name "Onitah" in Abraham 1:11, discussing three sacrificed daughters of Onitah, when Onitah turns out to be a reasonable name related to the goddess Neith as explained by Val Sederholm: "perhaps from '3 Nit, 'Great is Neith.'" Sederholm reminds us that Abraham 1:11 states that Onitah was "one of the royal descent" who was "known for his three daughters, who are, by default, daughters of Neith, as is every princess of Egypt (Abraham 1:11). Onitah also calls to mind First Dynasty ruler, Anedj-ib; '(n)Dj, the Sound of heart; Sound or Hale is also an attested Middle Kingdom name." It is not yet in the same category, though, as another "O" name given us in the Book of Abraham, Olishem, which goes the extra mile by providing us not only with plausible meaning but also with apparent archaeological finds not only establishing Olishem as a place name in the right place for the Book of Abraham account.

  21. Some might also think that your point is that scenes such as this can only have one meaning, so what is Anubis or someone else in one application cannot plausibly be used by later priests in Egypt to describe other scenes — contrary to what Nibley has argued for with evidence regarding Facs. 3. In fact, anyone can see that what is clearly a woman is here described as man, yet this shifting of roles is something that has precedent in who some Egyptians did things.

    But I think you probably mostly meant that the Egyptian text on Facs. 3 doesn't fit the story and names Joseph gives, which certainly raises a serious question. But there are possibilities to consider, such as the possibility that an existing figure has been adapted and repurposed or simply referred to by ancient copyists of an Abraham text to describe a scene in a new story, or that the original one was lost and a similar one has been attached in another document. But of course, one can also argue that it just means Joseph got it wrong and was a fraud. But there are enough curious things going right in the Book of Abraham account — the idol worshipping father, the attempted sacrifice of Abraham, the crocodile god of pharaoh (Soebek), the place Olishem, the figure on the altar making the Egyptian symbol of prayer, the recognition of a link between the four sons of Horus and the "four quarters of the earth," the link between the solar barque and 1000 cubits, the significance of the wedjet eye, and much more — that we have to be more open to the possibility that some other than ignorant fraud is going on here, and if so, what and why?

  22. Way to blow smoke, Jeff. My criticism is actually quite simple: Joseph misidentified the figures on the facsimile (not just "Olimlah") because he cooked it all up in his own brain.

    Is it possible "that an existing figure has been adapted and repurposed or simply referred to by ancient copyists of an Abraham text to describe a scene in a new story, or that the original one was lost and a similar one has been attached in another document"?

    Well, I suppose that's possible, in the same way it's possible that Joseph Smith's peepstone really did give him the ability to find buried treasure, only gosh darnit he never quite found any of that treasure because it was "slippery" — because, you know, whenever a shovel gets near buried treasure, the treasure slips deeper into the earth. But this is kind of a stretcher, doncha think? It's far, far more likely that Smith was wrong about this, too, and was just blowing smoke up the you-know-whats of his gullible marks. That's what con men do.

    — OK

  23. There's another thing I'm curious about, Jeff, and it doesn't seem to get debated much here on Mormanity, where the apologetical spotlight tends to stay on the BoM and Pearl of Great Price.

    As you know, there are a host of problems not just with the BoM/PGP, but with the Old Testament as well, or rather with the traditional 19th-century Protestant reading of the Old Testament. Secular scholarship now tells us that the cosmic model of Genesis 1 is all wrong, that Adam and Eve were not historical personages, that the Tower of Babel and global flood were not historical events, and so on. And yet the Book of Mormon, at least as traditionally read — as an inspired history rather than a kind of 19th-century American midrash — seems to be predicated on a literal understanding of the OT.

    In other words, from a secular/scholarly perspective, LDS belief is unjustified not just because the Church's understanding of the BoM/PGP is wrong, but also because its understanding of the Old Testament is wrong.

    I suppose there are two paths that LDS apologetics could take when confronted with modern Bible scholarship. One is to dispute the scholarship and defend the literalist, 19th-century American Protestant reading of the OT. The other is to deny that the BoM is predicated on such a literalist reading at all — that is, to argue that the historicity of (for example) the Jaredite voyage doesn't depend on a literal understanding of Gen. 11:1-9. Maybe the apologist could argue that, even if Gen. 11:1-9 is an etiological myth, the Book of Ether is not similarly mythic but historical.

    Just curious about where you are on these questions.

    — OK

  24. You raise a good question about the OT. I don't have a satisfying answer for myself when it comes to Genesis and several other aspects of the OT. I absolutely believe there was a Creation and that the evidence of deliberate and overwhelmingly masterful design is pervasive, and can see how that steps of a lengthy Creation could be revealed to ancient men in the various forms of the Creation account (Pearl of Great Price having perhaps the most scientifically reasonable info, IMHO). But how to relate any version of Adam and Eve to the fossil record and scientific theories for the rise of man is beyond me. What happened there and when it happened is something that requires patience and faith for me. Ditto for the details, timing, and location of Noah's flood.

    However, I believe there are good reasons to question the allegations of some academics regarding the alleged non-existence of the Exodus, of Moses, etc. It was only a few years ago that these same scholars were telling us that there was no Kingdom of David or Temple of Solomon, or nothing more than perhaps a few tribesmen whose much later ancestors concocted such stories to add status and meaning to their society. Now solid evidence is coming in that the Kingdom of David did exist and that there was a Temple of Solomon. And there is powerful evidence on several fronts that the Exodus account was not the late fabrication and did happen — in some form. As with the Book of Abraham, there are still many questions, but there is evidence to help us move forward in faith without compelling us to do so.

    While the traditions of the Creation, Adam and Eve and the Flood raise many questions and what we have in those traditions may be off in terms of the science and history in several ways, though I'm not sure — I believe the Book of Mormon reflects what a faithful early Hebrew like Lehi would have believed and preached. Indeed, there are good reasons why Margaret Barker is impressed with the Book of Mormon's representation of pre-exilic belief among faithful "old school" Hebrews like Lehi.

    Yes, I believe there is no fundamental problem with recognizing that early Jews knew of the Exodus, the Creation, Abraham, etc., and that these accounts were already in place in Lehi's day and not merely fabricated after the Exile. Ditto for the quoted parts of Isaiah: I believe they were on the brass plates, as was other content related to our modern Book of Moses.

    Some of the evidence from non-LDS scholars for such positions is discussed in some of my articles at The Interpreter, including:
    Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Map: Part 2 of 2 and
    "'Arise from the Dust;: Insights from Dust-Related Themes in the Book of Mormon (Part 1: Tracks from the Book of Moses)".

  25. Also see:
    — K. A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003).
    –James K. Hoffmeier and Dennis R. Magary, editors, Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? A Critical Appraisal of Modern and Postmodern Approaches to Scripture (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014).
    –James K. Hoffmeier, Ancient Israel in Sinai: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Wilderness Tradition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).
    –James K. Hoffmeier, Israel in Egypt: The Evidences for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1996).
    –Richard Elliott Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible?, 2nd edition (New York: HarperCollins, 1997).
    –Joshua Berman, “Was There an Exodus?,” Mosaic Magazine, March 2, 2015.
    –Yosef Garfinkel, “The Birth & Death of Biblical Minimalism,” Biblical Archaeology, Review 37/3, May/Jun 2011, 46–53, 78.

  26. Thanks, Jeff.

    One more question, if you don't mind. What do you think of the idea that divine creation did not involve active, conscious design, but instead consisted of the creation of an initial something — some kind of singularity packed with incipient matter, physical "laws," etc. — designed to be capable of spontaneously generating the universe as we know it today? This idea could be seen as ennobling rather than denigrating the creator, since it's easier to create an ordered object than it is to create something capable of self-generating order. In this sense, Big Bang + abiogenesis + evolution is a more impressive means of creating humans than the hands-on style of creating humans.

    Can this idea be reconciled with Genesis? Sure, as long as one is willing to see scripture (as many LDS do) as revelation couched not in literal scientific/historical terms, but in terms comprehensible to the pre-scientific people to whom it was revealed.

    Again, just curious.

    — OK

  27. I'm not Jeff, but I'll give my thoughts as an active LDS. I don't have a problem with the notion that God set things in place- a singularity or whatever- and then let them do their thing. He's pretty smart, so I could see him designing the coolest Rube Goldberg device ever. However, I suspect he was involved at more than one point- in evolution, for example, I wouldn't be surprised if he tweaked things to make sure we got to a particular place. But maybe it was all set up in the initial singularity, and if so, I would have no problem with that.

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