CES Letter Mormon: Was the Book of Mormon Copied from the Bible? Part 2

Todd Noall

Todd Noall

Source Expert

Todd Noall is an author and religious scholar at Mormonism Explained with a focus on the history and theology of religion.

Fact Checked by Kevin Prince

But if there were only one of these, it might be easy to say that Joseph Smith got lucky. But this is just one of many examples. Let me share with you my very favorite. Let’s first look at Matthew 5:48. It says, “Be therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven, which is perfect.” The comparative verse In the Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 12:48 states, “Wherefore, I would that ye should be perfect, even as I or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” You probably caught the change in the Book of Mormon version; “I” was added. In other words, in the New Testament, Christ did not include himself as being perfect. But in the Book of Mormon, he does. Is this a mistake that Joseph Smith made, or is there something more to this? Again, what is the difference in the events between these two accounts? The New Testament version is prior to his death and resurrection, while the Book of Mormon version is after Christ was not perfected until he was resurrected. Of course, he was sinless but not perfected in the meaning that he was not completed, which is what “perfect” means in Greek. He hadn’t yet become like the Father in all ways until after he was resurrected. So when he appears to the Nephites, he is now perfected and like the Father in all ways, and he includes himself in that verse, “Be therefore perfect even as I or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” Lucky guess by Joseph Smith, fraud, or divine appointment of the Prophet to open this dispensation? There are so many others, a lot of which are picked apart in the CES Letter, and I would encourage you to compare these chapters further and find your insights.

I’ll give you one more example before we move on. The first part of Matthew 5:22 says, “But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” That is different from the 3 Nephi 12:22 account, which says, “But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment.” There are some other nuanced differences, but the biggest difference is “without a cause” is not in the Book of Mormon version. Why would this be different? I’m going to ask you to use your common sense on this. Which one sounds more like the doctrine that Christ would teach? Because if Joseph Smith is a fraud, why would he remove that? But more than that, why would the New Testament version have a phrase like “without a cause” when Christ taught very clearly in many places that you need to forgive others unconditionally, 70 times 7? He told Peter, “Does ‘without a cause’ sound like pure doctrine, or does that sound like something that’s been mistranslated or something added later by those who didn’t like the doctrine?” To me, it is clear that the Book of Mormon has the true, pure version of The Sermon on the Mount, and the New Testament is lacking. Remember the 8th Article of Faith: “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.” For me, these so-called copy-paste sections of the Book of Mormon that resemble chapters in the Bible are some of the strongest evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and a sure witness of Joseph Smith’s calling as a prophet, seer, revelator, and translator.

So while there are many more, let’s move on. I’d like to discuss for a moment the reality of writing a book like this in what was probably about 68 days. That is 531 pages of stories, doctrine, literary depth, and complexity that are truly unmatched. If Joseph Smith was a fraud, then he practically dictated this book off the top of his head, page by page, day after day, until it was done. Later editing was quite minor, relatively speaking. I would love to see someone get anywhere close to doing something similar, regardless of that person’s age, background, or educational level. Hugh Nibley, a famous professor and writer, would give his students a challenge the first day of the semester, asking them to write a history that matches the length, depth, and complexity of the Book of Mormon during that semester. Of course, no student ever did submit one. But let’s remember we are talking about a young man with a third-grade education. If Joseph was a fraud, he is the best I’ve ever heard of.

Recently, I wrote a book, a fictional novel. I did it for fun and because my daughter asked me to do it. As it turned out, I wrote it in just about 90 days. Joseph spent one-third less time than I did. The Book of Mormon has 269,900 words in it; my book has 257,166 words. So Joseph’s book has 14,000 plus or minus words more than my book has. After my book was written, it took me about a month to edit it, and that was with the use of AI, a tool, of course. Joseph didn’t have access to the internet and endless source materials. Joseph had access to the Bible, and that was nearly it. Someone who wrote a slightly shorter book with 50% more time, mine being a work of fiction and Joseph being a purported history of a fallen people, me having a computer and editing software, Joseph having a scribe and dictating word for word, hour after hour, day after day without on-the-spot edits or changes. I can tell you there is no way Joseph or any other person could have written that book. Yet apostates say, “So anyway, he’s in his early 20s, he’s translating the Book of Mormon, he faces a bunch of ups and downs, he goes through a few scribes, and after a very productive 90-day window, he had a very productive 90 days and cast it off like it’s no big deal,” or they just downplay it, which is just ridiculous.

But then, if the book is quote “full of full-blown copy and paste jobs from the Bible,” why would you have to ask yourself why these chapters? If Joseph Smith was a fraud, why would he include these? But if he is legitimate, well, we know exactly why these are in there, contrary to what other sources like the CES Letter might claim. Second Nephi 9:1 says, “And now, my beloved brethren, I have read these things that ye might know concerning the covenants of the Lord that he has covenanted with all the house of Israel.” In Second Nephi 11:2-3, it says, “And now, I, Nephi, write more of the words of Isaiah, for my soul delighteth in his words. For I will liken his words unto my people, and I will send them forth unto all my children, for he verily saw my Redeemer, even as I have seen him. And my brother Jacob also has seen him as I have seen him; wherefore, I will send their words forth unto my children to prove unto them that my words are true. Wherefore, by the words of three, God hath said, I will establish my word. Nevertheless, God sendeth more witnesses, and he proveth all his words.” Nephi is including these chapters because of the prophecies regarding the scattering and gathering of Israel and also what happens to his posterity because he wants to impress these things upon them. He also, as he said, considers himself and his brother Jacob and Isaiah as witnesses, which is why he would have picked these chapters — a witness that they actually saw the Savior. This would be exactly what someone like Nephi would want to include.

But it seems hard to imagine a good reason for Joseph Smith, if he were a fraud, to include these specific chapters from Isaiah. But Nephi even gets more specific, and you can read about it yourself in 2 Nephi 25. But he says that Isaiah is difficult to understand, but if you have the spirit, you will understand it. And it says that you can use it as a gauge to see if you have the spirit or not. He also says that he wants his posterity to understand the judgments that will come upon the wicked, which are outlined in Isaiah. These are challenging chapters that do discuss the scattering and gathering, the judgment, and the second coming of the Lord, and testify of the divinity and mission of the Savior. However, it does seem to be beyond what a farm boy could understand if he were attempting to hoodwink millions of people all over the world. Of course, if Joseph was a fraud, he would certainly have had to think through the fact that the portions Nephi included would have been sections of the Bible that would have been prior to 600 BC when Nephi supposedly lived. But why not more from the first books of Moses or something else? Isaiah, to Nephi, would have been considered a contemporary, at least to Lehi, being just a hundred or so years prior to Lehi. Lehi’s grandfather could have known Isaiah, so it is likely that Nephi really connected with Isaiah, especially when so many of his prophecies would be about his own posterity.

Then in Third Nephi, this is after the resurrection of Christ, so a fraudster Joseph could take the liberty of using things from the New Testament. So you have to ask if he was a fraudster, why would he pick those chapters to copy from the New Testament? Would he have the mental acuity to pick the very best chapters to describe the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness? Nothing sums up the gospel better than these chapters. So either Joseph is a mad genius or he is a prophet of an almighty God. He would have had to know Greek and Hebrew at somewhere between a reasonable and a high expert level, depending on what you believe. He had no experience in any of that. He would have to have known Jewish customs, biblical rituals, Hebraic poetry, language styles, and so much more. Furthermore, nearly every page testifies of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

Look, my testimony of Joseph Smith has nothing to do with any of this, but I find it literally impossible for Joseph Smith to be a fraud. There is simply no way he could have written the Book of Mormon himself, as sources like the CES Letter claim. It was done through divine assistance and came forth just as he said it did in modern times. We can think the process is strange with seer stones, hats, and so forth, but I did a video on the seer stone itself that I would encourage you to watch if you are interested, which illustrates how natural that process was. Does this mean that Joseph Smith was perfect? No. Does it mean that prophets are infallible? No. There’s plenty of things wrong with church history, some mistakes in history, doctrine, and policies, and so forth. Joseph never claimed to be perfect. In fact, he said that he wasn’t perfect, but that there were no flaws in the revelations that he brought forth. What if Joseph would have fallen as a prophet after that time? Does that make the Book of Mormon untrue? No. And I don’t think Joseph did fall, even though I don’t think he was perfect. But if he had, it wouldn’t make him any less of a prophet to do the things that he did. He was a man. He made mistakes. But he also was a prophet of God, and he brought forth The Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God, and I believe that more than anything else in this world, and I would go to my grave believing in defending Joseph.

By Todd Noall, Source Expert

Todd Noall is an author and religious scholar at Mormonism Explained with a focus on the history and theology of religion.

Fact Checked by Mr. Kevin Prince, Source Expert

Kevin Prince is a religious scholar and host of the Gospel Learning Youtube channel. His channel has garnered over 41,000 subscribers and accumulated over 4.5 million views. Mr. Prince also created the Gospel Learning App, a reliable platform where individuals seeking truth can access trustworthy answers to religious questions from top educators worldwide.

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