As I’ve stated earlier the purpose of my blog is to bear my witness that the Book of Mormon is another witness of Jesus Christ. This blog post is the first of several about the writers and the construction of the Book of Mormon. To understand the Book of Mormon it is important to understand its organization, and the times and the context in which it was written. Into this context we can fit the major writers of the Book of Mormon. We can come to know each writer and hear their specific testimony. They all testified of Christ, but each writer has their individual style and their particular emphasis.
Joseph Smith was not the author of the Book of Mormon. He was simply the translator. Multiple writers contributed to the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith’s own writings have a very different style than the wording of the Book of Mormon. The title page of the Book of Mormon states the following: “An account written by the hand of Mormon upon the plates taken from the plates of Nephi.” Mormon lived around 315 to 385 AD. He had access to the many records written by various other prophets from the time that Lehi and his family left Jerusalem around 600 BC. The records had been engraved on metal plates. He had the onerous task of abridging these records into a manageable size. During this abridgment process he quoted verbatim several other writers.
There is a science of measuring literary style called “wordprinting” or stylometry.” According to an article on FairMormon.org, a website dedicated to answering questions about the Mormon Church, the “main assumption underlying stylometry is that an author has aspects of literary style that may be unconsciously used, and be used to identify their work. Stylometrists analyze literature using statistics, math formulas and artificial intelligence to determine the “style” of an author’s writing. If wordprinting is a valid technique, then this analysis suggests that it is “statistically indefensible” to claim that Joseph Smith wrote the 30,000 words in the Book of Mormon attributed to Nephi and Alma. The Book of Mormon also contains work written by more than one author. Critics who wish to reject Joseph’s account of the Book of Mormon’s production must therefore identify multiple authors for the text, and then explain how Joseph acquired it and managed to pass it off as his own.” Though not scientific, it has been my personal experience in reading the Book of Mormon to recognize these different styles. I have felt the spirit and testimony of each one. It is as if they had become real. I have felt the “power” of their words. They have been to me as a “voice speaking from the dust.”
Before we discuss the construction of the Book of Mormon, it is important to understand what the Book of Mormon is not. President James E. Faust said the following, “It is important to know what the Book of Mormon is not. It is not primarily a history, although much of what it contains is historical. The title page states that it is an account taken from the records of people living in the Americas before and after Christ; it was “written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation. … And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.”
President George Q. Cannon (1827–1901), First Counselor in the First Presidency, stated: “The Book of Mormon is not a geographical primer. It was not written to teach geographical truths. What is told us of the situation of the various lands or cities … is usually simply an incidental remark connected with the doctrinal or historical portions of the work.”6
What, then, is the Book of Mormon? It is confirming evidence of the birth, life, and Crucifixion of Jesus and of His work as the Messiah and the Redeemer. “(Ensign, Jan. 2004)
My focus is to be true the purpose of the Book of Mormon to bear witness that the Book of Mormon is another witness of Jesus Christ. The history and geography help put the Book of Mormon in the time and context of the Bible, both the Old and New Testament.
The Construction of the Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon is comprised of four major records:
- The small plates of Nephi are an unabridged record of the writings of Nephi, his brother, Jacob and a few other writers, covering the time period from around 600 BC to 130 BC. Even though this is a large time period, the bulk of it only covers 181 years. 288 years are quickly summarized in only five pages.
- The second record is an abridgement of the large plates of Nephi by Mormon, covering the time period from 130 BC to 386 AD. The bulk of this record is the 130 years before the coming of Christ, giving us a pattern to prepare for the second coming of Christ.
- The book of Ether is a record of the Jaredites, another group who migrated from the Old World at the time of the Tower of Babel. It is taken from some plates which Nephites found.
- The personal writings of Mormon and his son, Moroni make up the last section of the Book of Mormon.
Extensive records were kept throughout the 1000 years of the Book of Mormon time period. Mormon, who lived around 315 AD to 385 AD speaks of these records when he says, “And now there are many records kept of the proceedings of this people, by many of this people, which are particular and very large, concerning them. But behold, a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people cannot be contained in this work.” (Helaman 3:13-14)
In the next few posts I’ll go into more detail about the different sections of the Book of Mormon. Each is unique. Skillfully interwoven throughout the pages of the Book of Mormon is a witness of Jesus Christ. We are taught by the pure testimony of prophets. Principles are illustrated through the stories. Examples are given of righteous living and wickedness. We are taught the consequences of sin and are asked to “consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.” (Mosiah 2:41) To me it is record of heaven itself.