CESNUR - Centro Studi sulle Nuove Religioni diretto da Massimo Introvigne

londonThe 2008 International Conference
Twenty Years and More: Research into Minority Religions, New Religious Movements and 'the New Spirituality'

An International Conference organized by INFORM and CESNUR in association with ISORECEA at the London School of Economics, 16-20th April 2008

Lying For a Good Purpose: Book of Mormon Apologetics Over the Years

by Clyde R. Forsberg, Jr. (American Culture and Literature, Fatih University, Istanbul, Turkey)

A paper presented at the 2008 International Conference, London, UK. Preliminary version. Please do not reproduce or quote without the consent of the author.


Nineteenth-century Evangelical missionaries to the Mormons, like Nancy Towle, operated from the strong belief that the Book of Mormon was "one of the most deep-concerted plots of Hell, to deceive the hearts of the simple...." [1] Such skepticism was not unique to Evangelicals, their own book the object of increasing criticism vis-à-vis the higher criticism. Evangelical anti-Mormonism adroitly directed some of the scholarly attention away from the Bible and themselves onto the Book of Mormon. Secular elites gave the “Mormon Bible” short shrift, dismissing its alleged ties to Mesoamerican archaeology out of hand along with anyone quite so naïve as to find any of it compelling, let alone believable. Mormonism’s cultured defenders, the erudite Orson Pratt a case in point, had no doubts whatsoever that the Book of Mormon had been translated from "ancient American records." However, modern science or archaeology played almost no role in how he and others arrived at such a conclusion. Rather, the truth concerning this decidedly and uniquely American revelation began as so much fruit of the spirit. What is important is that it did not end there, early Mormons like Pratt at least, not content to relegate faith to the realm of the supernatural and mystical, Mormon faith having little in common with Paul’s famous dictum—faith as the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” For Mormon intellectuals, the thing hoped for has been evidence, indeed scientific evidence, intellectual validation, and acceptance by the academy. In the early history of Mormon-Gentile, inter-faith dialogue, much of this amounted to a good deal of invention and, on occasion, misrepresentation and self-deception for a good cause. That said, Book of Mormon apologetics can also be seen as an ingenious appropriation of the best science and theology, [2] the postmodernist defense of the Book of Mormon conforming to a similar pattern but coming closest to realizing the dream of Pratt and nineteenth-century apologists of an intellectual defense of Mormonism worthy of respect.        

Conspiracy, Plagiarism, and Sharpening Occam’s Razor

Instead of a counter-argument based either in science, archaeology, history, and the new biblical criticism, non-Mormon commentary on the Book of Mormon fell under the spell of a conspiracy theory, the Book of Mormon little more than a plagiarism of Solomon Spalding's unpublished romance, Manuscript Found. Former disciple of Alexander Campbell and among Mormonism’s most famous and influential early converts, Sidney Rigdon had conspired with founder Joseph Smith Jr., or so the argument goes, to market a revision of Spalding’s manuscript as a product of divine revelation, turning most if not all discussion of the Book of Mormon into a matter of Smith’s character rather than the quality of his narrative and its cultural significance. [3] The Spalding Theory, as it came to be known, rendered moot the question of Smith’s relationship to his natural, cultural, literary, biblical, and Christian surroundings—a more difficult business academically speaking than pinning a charge of charlatanry on his lapel. Ironically, the failure of elites to take seriously the Book of Mormon as a bona fide religious phenomenon and instance of what Mircea Eliade calls “hierophany” (a manifestation of the sacred in the all too profane Golden Plates, allegedly deposited in a hill near Smith’s home and containing the record of a lost tribe of American Israelites) and thus its author/editor as homo religiosus vis-à-vis modern man meant that most Mormons, Mormons like Pratt in particular, could not help but see as a kind of negative proof. For more than a hundred years it is safe to say that the official or orthodox account of the visitation of the angel Moroni in the 1820s and Smith’s and translation of the Golden Plates was more believable by comparison. [4]   As L.D.S. philosopher and apologist Truman Madsen argues:

By the use of Occam's razor and David Hume's rule that one only credits a "miraculous" explanation if alternatives are more miraculous, the simplest and least miraculous explanation is Joseph Smith's: he translated an ancient record. It imposes..."a greater tax on human credulity" to say Joseph Smith, or anyone in the nineteenth century, created it. [5]

In fact, the Spalding Theory gave Mormon apologists the intellectual high ground almost without a fight; and however problematic such analysis now appears—archaeological, historical, and literary—it might be argued that Mormons were doing the best work on the Book of Mormon largely because they were alone in attempting any even remotely analytical and academic.  

Not unlike their foes in the Evangelical, intellectual and theological quarter of Victorian America and Europe, apologists like Pratt operated from a position of supreme confidence in two ostensibly opposing epistemologies--reason and revelation, and science and faith. [6] Not unlike Christianity’s cultured defenders in another way, Mormons of Pratt’s generation and scholastic inclination did not abandon the faith when archaeology and the reigning scientific historicism proved problematic. In their search for the Eliadean noumenal in/of the phenomenal, they were not averse to a high degree of “mythologization” and “fictionalization” when reporting on the attitude of maverick elites toward the so-called “American religion.” Crucial to this quest for respectability and the approval has been more openness to the modern and, these days, the postmodern and thus the uses to which the natural or phenomenal can be put in defense of the supernatural or noumenal. [7]

While there are a number of very fine historiographical essays on Mormon history, the Book of Mormon has not been the beneficiary of the same. [8] Little has managed to escape the orbit of the nineteenth-century polemic and the twin issues of Smith’s authorial or editorial role as a “translator” in the pre-modern and esoteric sense of the word and the book’s alleged ties to the cultures and literatures of the ancient near East and Mesoamerica as equally problematic from a text- and source-critical point of view. As a consequence, such eclectic Book of Mormon studies that have bravely attempted to link the past and present often fail to rise to the level of what Eliade calls the “synchronistic search for meaning” (p.65). Again, much of the blame for his can be laid at the feet of conspiracy theorists, but the academy, too, for failing to take seriously, again to quote Eliade, “the obscure alchemy of primitive mentality” (p.36).

Baptist dissenter and father of American Restorationism Alexander Campbell was the first to criticize the Book of Mormon in a tract, entitled Delusions: An Analysis of the Book of Mormon; With an Examination of Its Internal and External Evidences, and the Refutation of Its Pretences to Divine Authority. [9] The fact that he and Sidney Rigdon had a theological falling out, Rigdon taking some of his followers with him before converting to Mormonism, surely played a role in his negative assessment of the Book of Mormon and of Joseph Smith Jr. as another in a long line of messianic pretenders going back to the Radical Reformation and Anabaptist Munster. However, the bulk of his criticism dealt with the narrative and what he considered to be a plethora of internal and external inconsistencies. Campbell concluded that the Book of Mormon was undoubtedly a product of Smith's creative imagination and failed largely because of the author’s eccentric understanding of the Bible and Christian theology. Campbell’s Biblicism and Restorationist theological militated against a positive review. That it claimed to be a new revelation and abrogation of the Bible sealed the Book of Mormon’s fate.

For Campbell, the Bible was the only standard. To what degree the Book of Mormon failed to agree, then, reflected badly on the latter, indeed on latter-day revelation and a point that surely separated not only Mormon but Islamic hermeneutic from that of Christianity. Campbell took a hard line, too be sure, arguing that the Book of Mormon was based on,

a false fact, or a pretended fact, which makes God a liar. With the Jews, God made a covenant at Mount Sinai, and instituted a priesthood and a high priesthood. He gave to the tribe of Levi, and the high priesthood to Aaron and his sons for an everlasting priesthood. He separated Levi and covenanted to give him this office irrevocably while ever the temple stood, or till the Messiah came. . . . Jesus himself was excluded from officiating as priest on earth according to the law. This Joseph Smith overlooked in his impious fraud, and makes his hero Lehi spring from Joseph. And just as soon as his sons return with the roll of his lineage, ascertaining that he was of the tribe of Joseph, he and his sons acceptably offer sacrifices and burnt offerings to the Lord . . . build a temple, make a new priesthood. . . . A high priest is also consecrated, and yet they are all the while teaching the law of Moses, and exhorting the people to keep it! Thus God is represented as instituting, approbating and blessing a new priesthood from the tribe of Joseph, concerning which Moses gave no commandment concerning priesthood. [10]

For the same reasons, Campbell was particular suspicious of quotations from the New Testament that appear throughout the Book of Mormon. Moreover, the prospect that the book’s protagonists, the Nephites, were good Christians, "believers in the doctrines of Calvinists and Methodists, and preaching baptism and other Christian usages hundreds of years before Jesus Christ was born" struck him as peculiar, indeed. [11] It made more sense, to see the Book of Mormon as a caricature of antebellum Protestantism in all its glory. The so-called “Zoramites,” for example,  resemble Episcopalians, reading their prayers from a book, whereas other characters in the volume took aim at New England Calvinists, their arch enemies, Deists, and nearly everyone and everything in between. What a theological mishmash it seemed to the likes of Campbell and other Protestant readers and would-be literary and historical-critical interpreters.  

Such parallels, whether intentional or not, convinced Campbell of the Book of Mormon’s nineteenth-century origin and, as such, an exhaustive discussion of the great theological controversies of the day: infant baptism, ordination, the trinity, regeneration, repentance, justification, the fall of man, the atonement, transubstantiation, fasting, penance, church government, religious experience, the call to the ministry, the general resurrection, eternal punishment, who may baptize, and even the question of freemasonry, republican government, and the rights of man. [12] It surely was not lost on Campbell that the Book of Mormon dared to critique Restorationist theology, too. Campbell made much of the fact that the title page identified Smith as the book's author and proprietor which the internal or textual evidence supported. The English itself was telling, what Campbell called "Smithisms" or New England colloquialisms that ran the length and breadth of the text having a quintessentially “Yankee” ring to them. [13]

Early converts read the Book of Mormon with the same attention to its biblicism, arriving at very different conclusions. David Whitmer, for example, made his case for the new faith in terms that Bible-believing Christians would find acceptable, the Book of Mormon a carbon copy. [14] He was not alone, moreover, in making such a case. [15] The facts of the case mattered very little, for the Book of Mormon was damned for containing either too much or too little of God's Word. [16] Campbell spoke for many in the Evangelical mainstream, the Book of Mormon a simple case of religious charlatanry regardless of the Whitmers and other Bible-believing converts, because of its inconsistencies and theological heterodoxy. [17]

Nevertheless, an emergent Protestant, theological and literary critique [18] became moot when conspiracy theory and charges of plagiarism came to the fore, Campbell’s renegade disciple, Sidney Rigdon, implicated in the affair and the purloined manuscript of deceased Congregationalist minister Solomon Spalding—who, it is worth mentioning, dabbled in Masonic fiction. [19] The imaginative research of disgruntled Mormon Philastus Hurlbut and published in 1834 by E. D. Howe as Mormonism Unvailed [sic] . . . a full detail of the manner in which the famous GOLDEN BIBLE was brought before the world to which are added, inquiries into the probability that the historical part of the said Bible was written by one Solomon Spalding, more than twenty years ago, and by him intended to have been published as a romance, the Mormon prophet stood accused of conspiracy, larceny, and plagiarism--an indictment against his character that threatened, indeed, intended to bring a promising religious career and empire to an abrupt end. [20] It had the opposite effect, emboldening Smith’s followers and making nineteenth-century anti-Mormonism the more problematic of the two options available to the public.

Antebellum America's penchant for conspiracy theory may explain the attraction. Evangelical and Fundamentalist anti-Mormon polemic seems determined to find the long-hoped-for proof. [21] Indeed, the contention that the original, handwritten, printer’s ms of the Book of Mormon bears a striking resemblance to Spalding’s hand is but one example. [22] The Spalding Theory continues to find supporters among the radical wing of the Reorganized L.D.S. Church (Community of Christ). [23]  That Smith and Rigdon may have traveled the same dusty New England road does not mean they met, let alone conspired to pass off a plagiarism as the prophetic Word. Rigdon’s introduction and conversion to the faith clearly followed the publication of the Book of Mormon and the prodding of another former Campbellite, Parley P. Pratt.  

Non-Mormons wasted valuable intellectual time and energy on a vacuous conspiracy theory while literary elites (and hardly a surprise) condemned the Book of Mormon out of hand. [24] The precious few who deigned to comment would not be kind or fair. Douglas Wilson, a non-Mormon scholar of American literature, chides literary critics for neglecting the Book of Mormon out of mere "ignorance and diffidence," despite the fact that "the pervasive literary judgment that it is for the most part ill-written is likely to stand." [25] That said, some of the criticism laid at the feet of the book and its author, like that of the Evangelical anti-Mormon who dismissed the Book of Mormon because of "it's [sic] poor grammar and misspelled words" [26] surely supports this. Roman Catholic sociologist of religion Thomas O'Dea observed in the 1950s that "the Book of Mormon has not been universally considered by its critics as one of those books that must be read in order to have an opinion on it." [27]

In fact, there are a number of examples from the nineteenth and twentieth-century that one can cite. Although Mark Twain should not be taken to task for poking fun when he called the Book of Mormon "chloroform in print," taking his cue from the Book of Ether, still, as Richard Cracoft argues, "if Twain read the Book of Mormon at all, it was in the same manner that Tom Sawyer won the Sunday School Bible contest--by cheating." [28]   Van Wyck Brooks devoted an entire essay to the subject of the Book of Mormon, remarkable in itself, although as Wilson points out, "the most striking thing about Brook's essay on the Book of Mormon is that it soon becomes clear, alas, that he has not even bothered to read it." [29]

William Wordsworth, beloved of Mormons, was intensely critical of the faith but largely because a member of his family was enticed into the movement. He believed along with many that the Book of Mormon was a hoax, coming to Britain when in the wake of two rather sensational literary frauds. [30] The first such deceit was Thomas Chatterton's alleged discovery of the poetry of a fifteenth-century English priest by the name of Thomas Rowley. Thomas Tyrwhitt, the renowned English scholar of Chaucer, hailed it among the greatest discoveries of the century and which Chatterton himself had manufactured—a brilliant literary fraud. James Macpherson's translation of third-century Gaelic manuscripts preserved on wood and stone which he claimed to stumble across in the Scottish highlands was a ruse that enjoyed widespread support and celebrity until Samuel Johnson proved that Macpherson had penned it all himself. The Book of Mormon would have seemed, rightly or wrongly, a foregone conclusion, literary elites as it were twice bitten and thrice shy.

Tolstoy's somewhat jaundiced impressions are a special case, in part, because of the false impression that he defended Mormonism. His distrust of institutional religion no doubt prejudiced him against Mormonism. However, that is not how the story has come to be known, Mormons and non-Mormons alike falling prey to a hoax of another, pseudo-scholarly kind.   Thomas J. Yates, a Mormon graduate of Cornell, published the now-famous encounter between the American diplomat, Andrew D. White and the Russian bard who said, "The Mormons teach the American Religion." In fact, Tolstoy said no such thing, or some of the other things that Yates claimed, such as Mormon social and economic relations were enviable and that the religion could look forward to a noble future if it resisted change. What Tolstoy said was entirely different in tone and content, that Mormonism was “two-thirds deception and one third devotion,” and thus similar to other religious institutions "the product of deception [and] lies for a good purpose." [31] He defended the right to practice such a religion, but he was extremely critical of both the Book of Mormon and Mormon history. As Leland A. Fetzer explains, his "highly negative reaction to the reading of . . . Mormon classics is undeniable." [32] The transfiguration of Tolstoy from critic to Mormon celebrity is important and an indication of the extraordinary lengths apologists might go to make converts of dignitaries in the course of winning the approval of the academy.

Mormons scoured the highways and byways of nineteenth-century geology, archaeology, and anthropology in search of scientific validation. The Indian burial grounds and mounds that dotted the countryside misled one and all, but none more so that Smith and his ilk. [33] The Reorganized L.D.S. devotion to science proved no less stubbornly devoted to a kind of fool’s errand, too, especially the belief that that somewhere in Central and South America lay a parallel set of golden plates just waiting to be uncovered and for the entire world to see. [34] The sheer number of of such Mormon-inspired works of Meso-American history and archaeology is impressive, however problematic from our modern perspective, and particularly the degree to which they imbibe the reigning academic fashions of their day. [35] The essential problem, as L.D.S. Church historian Davis Bitton has noted was "the failure of Meso-American archaeology to provide even minimal supporting evidence of the Book of Mormon." [36] The other problem, of course, lay in the failure of such faith-driven scholarship to convince any but the faithful. [37] Faith in search of understanding in the Mormon stayed the course, the other side failing to construct a credible alternative to the supernatural argument that was not in some sense prejudiced and uninformed. [38]

Alice Felt Tyler's tacit endorsement of the Spalding Theory in her now-famous Freedom's Ferment (1944) can be blamed on ignorance rather than mere bigotry. [39] The same cannot be said of modern and postmodern attempts to keep the theory live. Ironically, another disgruntled Mormon and Smith’s most famous biographer, Fawn M. Brodie, [40] attempted to elevate the discussion above the bigotry and disinformation of nineteenth-century anti-Mormonism the following year (1945) in her seminal No Man Knows My History, doing irreparable damage to the old Spalding Theory, to be sure, but replacing it with another more potentially damaging antecedent, Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews. [41] Brodie was by no means the first to identify View of the Hebrews as a source text for many of the ideas in the Book of Mormon, especially its argument for the Hebraic origin of the American Indians. Nineteenth-century L.D.S. apostle and apologist B.H. Roberts had played with the idea of Ethan Smith as the inspiration for much that had passed for revelation in Mormon circles up to that time. [42] However, View of the Hebrews was not original in any sense, merely bringing together a variety of popular anthropological and theological arguments in support of the mission to the Indians. [43] In fact, the so-called truth of the literary-historical matter lied betwixt and between, the Book of Mormon a romance and religious fiction akin to Spalding’s Manuscript Found and employing some of the same literary and Masonic tropes, but employing many of the same anthropological and theological arguments in View of the Hebrews as well. [44]  Largely because of Brodie, writing at a different time and with academics and non-Mormons in mind, the important question of the relationship between the Book of Mormon and its natural environment become the focus, Smith’s character and allegations of plagiarism becoming the exclusive intellectual property of the lunatic fringe.

In the same way that View of the Hebrews proved more damning in some respects than Manuscript Found (as a source text for the Book of Mormon) Brodie replaced the old charge of mere plagiarism and charlatanry with something equally problematic but more in tune with the psycho-historical mood of the academy at the time—Smith a pious impostor, victim of and believer in his own delusions, and with a little tweaking a character on par with Erik H. Erikson's Young Man Luther: A Study in Psychoanalysis and History (1958) and, more recently, H.G. Haile's Luther: An Experiment in Biography (1980). [45] Brodie’s adaptation of the reigning psychohistory to Mormon history would prove problematic given time. [46] Roland Bainton, the eminent Lutheran scholar, led the attack against Erickson and psycho-history. [47] However, Mormon apologists who questioned Brodie’s methods, as well as her conclusions, would not enjoy the same academic celebrity or acceptance, in part because of a lingering belief among academicians that Mormonism, alas, and the Book of Mormon in particular, were not worthy of serious consideration and that some psychological disorder is the long and short of the matter. Klaus Hansen’s application of Jules Jaynes's “bicameral mind” in his Mormonism and the American Experience (1981) to explain Smith's penchant for fantasy can be placed along side a number of decidedly secular histories of Mormonism in which Smith’s poor mental health seems the most logical, albeit regrettable explanation for his behavior. [48] The argument from psychology or psychiatry has run the gamut: the dream world of the Smiths made to fit the procrustean bed of modern psychotherapy [49] and even Smith’s traumatic bone operation as a child proof positive of the “dissociative mind” and, at least as R.L.D.S. scholar and surgeon William D. Morain sees it, the Book of Mormon symptomatic of an interminable "castration complex." [50]  

The late 1940s and early 1950s marked a watershed in Mormon studies, as non-Mormon and Mormon historians attempted to establish more of a dialogue of mutual respect and understanding. [51] L.D.S. Church Historian Leonard J. Arrington led the charge, calling for a more object and honest approach to Mormon history that non-Mormons might accept, non-Mormons like Thomas O'Dea and Whitney O. Cross among the first to respond accordingly and produce less prejudiced and more informed monographs on Mormonism. [52] (The "New Mormon History" was surely good for Mormonism, militating against the dishonesties of the past that had made pseudo-devotees of Tolstoy and Wordsworth, but not completely as we will see. [53] ) Mormon Meso-American studies underwent a similar metamorphosis at this time. [54] The “New Mormon Archaeology” required such a high degree of erudition that criticism, even from within, quickly became to purview of a select few--most Mormon historians lacking the necessary, minimum linguistic requirements and training in Classics or Religious Studies. [55] A school unto himself, trained in rhetoric, and really polymath in the tradition of Alexander Von Humboldt, Hugh Nibley proffered what he called "another approach" [56] that brought together elements of the German higher criticism and comparative mythology to make a quasi-scientific, quasi-literary argument for the antiquity of the Book of Mormon and other Mormon foundation texts. [57] Copious footnotes of dubious quality in some instances gave the appearance of something scholarly, Nibley's freewheeling and eclectic interpretation of the classical sources often too clever by half. [58] The old argument from scripture changed rather dramatically, too, Sidney B. Sperry attending the University of Chicago's divinity school and returning to head the Department of Religion at Brigham Young University. His approach and style was a step above that of Roy A. West a decade earlier. [59] Sperry’s Ph.D. from an ivy-league university seemed to lend the most credence to his new department and manner of argument. [60]

Traces of the old Mormon history, archaeology, and theology would not disappear completely, especially at the popular level. Jack H. West's infamous The Trial of the stick of Joseph (1967) is a case in point—a fictitious account of a court trial in which two Mormon missionaries allegedly convince a judge and jury of the truth of the Book of Mormon and which many in the rank and file assumed was based on a true story. [61] In keeping with the ebullience of the 50s and 60s, [62] The Trial of the Stick of Joseph suggested that science, if denuded of religious prejudice, was naturally the friend of Mormonism.

The Book of Abraham, Papyri Found, and the New Literary Criticism (1967)

The same year West published The Trial of the Stick of Joseph (1967), the hitherto lost Egyptian texts Joseph Smith claimed to translate and becoming the Book of Abraham were recovered. Prior to this, Egyptologists had raised serious doubts about the volume on the basis of the Egyptian facsimiles that Smith had transcribed, altered, and included with his translation. [63] With the original papyri in hand, and deciphering the Egyptian hieroglyphs more of a science, finally, and less open to mere interpretation, the jury of eminent scholars called upon to judge did not find for the defendant. Smith’s English translation and the original, Egyptian texts proved so far apart that the Book of Abraham, it would seem, had been cut from whole cloth. [64] The implications for the Book of Mormon were dire, to say the least, and Evangelical anti-Mormonism wasted no time in suggesting that Book of Mormon was no less fanciful. [65]

To be fair, the two works of revelation had come into the world by very different means. Smith claimed to translate the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God and with the help of a sacred instrument deposited with the golden plates. Martin Harris, a friend, local farmer, and financier of the first edition of the Book of Mormon, had insisted on some proof of Smith’s translation. With a transcription of some of the original characters and Smith’s translation, and to appease it seems his wife, Harris sought out the Columbia College professor of ancient languages,  Charles Anthon, for a ruling. Two accounts of what happened would emerge. Martin Harris claimed that Anthon was agreeable at first until he heard tale of angels and Smith's reliance on supernatural paraphernalia. Anthon maintained that he understood immediately that it was a fraud. [66] The truth of what transpired is probably somewhere in the middle, for Harris came away completely convinced of Smith’s powers of translation, but due to divine intervention and assistance. The Book of Abraham was a quite different affair and more Smith’s doing. The golden plates had come into his position by means of angelic visitation, whereas he purchased the Egyptian papyri from a dealer in antiquities, Michael Chandler. [67] That the Mormon Prophet fancied himself something of a scholar in the more traditional sense when the Egyptian papyri (and mummies) came into his position is clear and slightly comical. [68] He composed an Egyptian grammar, in fact.

That said, Nibley understood the gravity of the problem, [69] attempting to divorce the Book of Abraham and thus Smith from the papyri, and when that failed, arguing that "translation," after all, constitutes an inexact science--besides, Smith employed a symbolic rather than linear, grammatological approach. [70] Nibley's The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri (1975) marshaled all the latest in new literary and linguistic theory that might be used in defense of the faith, teaching himself enough Middle Egyptian in the process to offer up a Mormon translation and commentary of the papyri intended to reassure Mormon readers and church leaders, giving impetus to a more refined and sophisticated post-modernist defense of Smith’s role as translation of ancient texts extant and imagined. [71] Nibley’s apology purposely confused the hermetic with the post-modern to great effect, opening the way for a full-blown postmodernist defense of Mormonism in the years to come and of real promise in the quest for acceptance and legitimacy.  

Machiko Takayama, a Japanese scholar of American cultural history, was among the first to propose a semiotic interpretation of Mormon religious texts. In her 1990 doctoral dissertation, "Poetic Language in Nineteenth Century Mormonism: A Study of Semiotic Phenomenology in Communication and Culture," [72] she argued that Smith was not a translator in the modern sense. Beginning with the Book of Abraham and from there to the Book of Mormon, she argues that "for Abraham/(Joseph Smith), `hieroglyphics' meant a certain type of patterned pictures, not Egyptian (Or Chaldean) characters." [73] Derrida's concepts of "rebus" and "espacement" help to explain Smith’s apparent misreading of the Egyptian papyri. “And as far as Joseph Smith ha[ving] no educated knowledge about this papyrus except that it came from Egypt,” she explains,

it could be for him, in Derrida's term, a "figurative" material for a "rebus." Yet, somehow he understood this papyrus as the record of Abraham written by Abraham himself, and thus being inspired by this fact, Joseph Smith wrote The Book of Abraham. . . . In the sense that a "figurative" material suddenly transformed itself into a signifier in Joseph Smith's mind, of one particular meaning, Abraham's record, this phenomenon is what Derrida calls "espacement." By "espacement" the papyrus appeared in Joseph Smith's "psychic image" as Abraham's record in Egypt. . . . Derrida suggests that a "psychic image" is a memory, and this memory is generated by nothing else than the cultural history of the person "being in [present to] the world . . . it is quite likely that his "psychic image" of the material was formed through that source . . . the Biblical knowledge that Abraham went to Egypt and that the Egyptians worshipped idols and offered sacrifices. [74]

As Nibley had argued, Smith's modus operandi was figurative and non-linear. Takayama also describes the translation of the Book of Abraham—and that of the Book of Mormon by implication—as “a metaphorical `reading' of an arche-type (mandara) as an `arche-trace . . . a `misprision' (or creative misreading) of biblical stories based on Joseph Smith's ontological situation of personal influence and anxiety." [75] It now made more sense to see the Mormon prophet as more of a poet, translation as his trope, and the accusation of fraud or charlatanry unfounded. [76]

Toward a Respectful Meeting of Respective Minds: 1970s

As Book of Mormon apology gravitated toward the New Literary Criticism in search of a kind of proof, but, in truth, a negative apologetic and budding Mormon-Christian existentialism, the theological divide that Clark and the new Religion Department at B.Y.U. had hoped to bridge began to narrow somewhat. In 1978, the B.Y.U. Religion Department hosted an interfaith symposium, later described as "the watershed event of the decade" because it brought together believing Mormon and non-Mormon theologians to dialogue rather than proselyte. [77] Lavina Fielding Anderson, associate editor of the principal Mormon adult magazine The Ensign, captured the essence of the event perfectly in her church news piece, entitled "A Respectful Meeting of the Minds." [78] James H. Charlesworth and Krister Stendahl—the former renowned scholar of pseudepigraphical literature, the latter equally renowned in the field of New Testament scholarship--read papers on the Book of Mormon which seemed, at least, all too respectful and informed.  

Charlesworth's paper, later published as "Messianism in the Pseudepigrapha and the Book of Mormon," identified two ideas unique to the Pseudepigrapha [79] and Book of Mormon: the Messiah speaks to the lost tribes, and this advent can be seen as a second coming. [80] A peace offering from the academic quarter, the comparison seemed to support the orthodox belief in the antiquity of the Book of Mormon. Stendahl’s paper, entitled "The Sermon on the Mount and Third Nephi," had a very different agenda, arguing that the Book of Mormon Jesus was Johannine rather than Matthean, a very clever way of distancing the Mormon Christ from the Jesus of history. [81] Stendahl conceded that,

the Book of Mormon belongs to and shows many of the typical signs of the Targums and the pseudepigraphic recasting of biblical material. The targumic tendencies are those of clarifying and actualizing translations, usually by expansion and more specific application to the need and situation of the community. The pseudepigraphic, both apocalyptic and didactic, tend to fill out the gaps in our knowledge about sacred events, truths and predictions. They may be overtly revelatory or under the authority of the ancient greats: Enoch, the patriarchs, the apostles, or, in the case of the Essenes, under the authority of the Teacher of Righteousness in a community which referred to its members as latter-day saints. Such are in the style and thematic vocabulary of the biblical writings. [82]

However, what he gave with one hand he took away with the other, going on to explain:

It is obvious to me that the Book of Mormon stands within both of these traditions if considered as a phenomenon of religious texts. I would further see the Book of Mormon as an exponent of one of the striking tendencies in pseudepigraphic literature. I refer to the hunger for further revelation, the insatiable hunger for knowing more than has been revealed thus far. [83]

Lest any should misunderstand, particularly his colleagues in Religious Studies, he characterized the Mormon canon as "too much glitter in the Christmas tree" [84] and the belief in continual revelation as a case of "horror vacui." [85] However, what Stendahl may have failed to consider what that his presence was victory enough, a Religious Studies scholar of his standing having offered what might be mistaken as praise the important issue. Not unlike Wordsworth and Tolstoy, his adoption as a friend of faith was only a matter of time and a little tweaking. Charlesworth’s conscription proved less problematic, although he had been careful to say that the Book of Mormon was only ancient in character rather than in origin—a distinction without a difference in the minds of most Mormons, he and Nibley apparently equally enamored by the genius of the other. An interest in extracanonical writings vis-à-vis the Christian canon, as well as a captive Mormon audience and potentially lucrative market for Charlesworth’s forthcoming editions of the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, greased the wheels of progress, to be sure. [86]  

Where Charlesworth and Stendahl had been careful not to tread, Mormons apologists Steven L. Olsen, Blake Ostler, Stephen D. Ricks, and Angela Crowell would beat a rather wide path. [87] Such  generosity on the part of the academy’s most esteemed oracles of reason would become the basis for a new Mormon hermeneutic, lending credence to the on-going and rapidly accelerating work of Nibley et al. [88] Nibley's obsession with ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian parallels prior to the symposium, [89] as one might expect, made room for Charlesworth’s idea of the Book of Mormon as "a well-nigh perfect example of the [pseudepigraphic] genre." [90] Kevin L. Barney compared Smith's non-canonical  Inspired Version of the Bible to Jewish midrashic literature. [91] In the same vein, Harold Bloom’s controversial The American Religion: The Emergence of. the Post-Christian Nation argued for a Jewish and Gnostic thread in Mormonism, employing the idea falsely attributed to Tolstoy but in the future tense--that Mormons teach the religion of post-Christian America. [92]

The employment of parallels from the fringe of the classical and biblical period ran in tandem with an increasingly sense of the importance of the Bible per se to understanding and interpreting the Book of Mormon. There was a silk purse to be made from the old polemic of Alexander Campbell and others in the American religious mainstream and the issue of the appearance of so many allusions to and quotations from the Bible. As far back as 1950, R.L.D.S. conservative Ora P. Stewart had characterized the relationship between the Bible and Book of Mormon as so many “branches over the wall.” [93] This perfectly sensible metaphor lacked only a certain academic flair which the 1980s would soon provide. L.D.S. conservative Noel B. Reynolds, Professor of political science at B.Y.U., published a textual analysis of the first fifty or so pages of the Book of Mormon, arguing that it was a "carefully developed argument" patterned after the Bible, [94] "divided into two parallel structures," [95] and that the author "was consciously working with rhetorical patterns and devices." [96] Reynolds also saw in "the writings of Nephi" more of a "political tract" than a diary of events, the protagonist himself patterned after the Old Testament patriarchs, Joseph and Moses. Fredrick W. Axelgard, also firmly committed to his L.D.S. faith, analyzed the Book of Mormon as a pastiche of biblical language and archetypes, seeming not to mind that such an approach implied a modern or nineteenth-century point of origin. [97] A growing number of L.D.S. conservatives employed the same Bible-centered, ahistorical, and literary-critical approach in their analysis of the Book of Mormon. [98] The advantages outweighed any disadvantages, underscoring the essential Christian character of the Mormon canon and Mormonism’s Judaeo-Christian ancestry. [99]

Critical scholars of the Book of Mormon employed exactly the same approach but with a slightly better understanding of the dangers or implications. Anthony A. Hutchinson, for example, writing in the critical vein of a growing chorus of liberal Mormon scholars saw in much of this a case for “Joseph Smith creatively reworking KJV Genesis to resolve some of its problems.” [100] My M.A. Thesis, “The Roots of Early Mormonism: An Exegetical Inquiry” (1990) followed suit, casting the Book of Mormon in the role of an antebellum Bible translation and commentary on the King James Version of the Bible with Native Peoples in mind. [101]

As another example of cross-fertilization, Evangelical apologists had stumbled upon a quantitative, statistical argument to defend the Book of Isaiah and other books of the Bible against the charge of multiple authorship—the stock in trade of the higher critics. That the Bible brought together a multiplicity of writings under a single religious and literary banner was not the issue, of course, but rather the notion that three Isaiahs or someone other than Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, or several in each case, penned the books ascribed to them, simply would not suffice. Ironically, Mormon scholars, Alvin C. Rencher in particular, used the same approach and known as “wordprints” to show that the Book of Mormon—ostensibly an abridgement by a single author/editor, Mormon, but also the work of  several authors and recorded over a period of a thousand years—could be defended as polygenetic. [102]

Indeed, conservatives not liberals, and certainly not the Forsbergs or the Hutchinsons would carry the day in the wake of the 1978 symposium, the old arguments in defense of the faith getting the jumpstart they needed, the Book of Mormon getting the scholarly attention if not quite respect it deserved. An annual Sperry Symposium, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, the Foundation for Ancient Research of Mormon Studies or F.A.R.M.S. and a host of likeminded conservative Mormon think tanks that have appeared since I first inquired into the subject of the history of Book of Mormon exegesis and the historiography in the mid-1990s. [103]   

The New Mormon History and the Problem of the Book of Mormon

In his book, The Democratization of American Christianity, Nathan Hatch chides historians for not devoting more attention to the Book of Mormon. [104] What is more, "Mormon historians," he argues,

have been more interested in pointing out the ways in which the book transcends the provincial opinions of the man Joseph Smith, thus establishing its uniquely biblical and revelatory character. Mormon detractors, on the other hand, have attempted to reduce the book to an inert mirror of the popular culture of New York during the 1820s, thus overlooking elements that are unique and original. [105]

What he calls "an extraordinary work of popular imagination" receives but scant attention from cultural historians. [106] He also criticizes intellectual historians for assuming that the Book of Mormon is "one intellectual document among others, as if Joseph Smith were sipping tea in a drawing room, engaged in polite theological debate with Nathaniel Taylor and William Ellery Channing." [107] According to Hatch, “the Book of Mormon is a document of profound social protest, an impassioned manifesto by a hostile outsider against the smug complacency of those in power and the reality of social distinctions based on wealth, class, and education.” [108] Hatch also underscores what Jan Shipps has argued, that historians need to return to the centrality of the Book of Mormon, or "gold bible," Joseph Smith's original testament to the world, which certified the prophet's leadership and first attracted adherents to the movement. [109] Repeatedly, Martin Marty, the prominent scholar of contemporary American Christianity has stressed the importance of addressing what he called the "generative issues"--Smith's prophetic claims and the Book of Mormon. Yet, even critical insiders have been slow to follow their lead. L.D.S. philosopher Sterling M. McMurrin maintained that such debate was a waste of time. [110] Likewise, Mormom historian Marvin Hill insisted that the question of authenticity is not germane to history, but theology. [111] Robert Hullinger's Joseph Smith's Response to Skepticism, a Lutheran reading of the Book of Mormon, lacked the necessary theological detachment" [112] and suggested that Mormonism theology dare not give itself over completely to “priestcraft.”    

New developments in Religious Studies opened the door to a vantage point, that of the outside-insider and participant observer, [113] going hand and hand with the work of Charles A. Beard, Carl Becker, James Harvey Robinson, and Thomas Kuhn) and the end of scientific history, [114] "Relativist historicism" taking its place. The idea rested in a distinction between patterns and the facts themselves. The net result, as Henry Warner Bowden, Professor of religion at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, argued, separated theology from religious history so that the historian of faith could write in the spirit of the old scientific history without undermining religious belief. The key lay in avoiding the generative issues more or less like the plague. [115]   Thomas G. Alexander, professional historian and faithful Mormon, defended himself against any charges of anti-religious or secular bias by positioning his scholarship in relationship to the Beardian hermeneutic of history for history’s sake. [116]

M. Gerald Bradford criticized Mormon scholars like Alexander for claiming to be Beardians and then employing categories in their interpretations, such as detachment and neutrality, when it suits them and which denote a secular bias. [117] LeAnn Cragun, picking up on this, thought something was not entirely truthful about the claim that the New Mormon History was the more truthful, looking to critical historians like Fawn M. Brodie [118] and Dale Morgan [119] who tended not to speak as much out of both sides of their mouths. [120] Part of the problem, as Edwin S. Gaustad, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Riverside, would point out, was that the New Mormon History had come to serve the same function assigned theologians and philosophers in other Christian communities. [121] Meanwhile, the more conservative ranks of the faith questioned the wisdom of attempted to establish a middle ground between history and theology, reason and revelation. [122]

In 1980, L.D.S. Assistant Church Historian James B. Allen had opined that Mormon historians and Christian theologians might work together under the rubric of "doctrinal history." [123] Richard L. Bushman had led the way in some respects, taking Thomas O'Dea to task for characterizing the Book of Mormon as a mirror of republican politics and American popular culture as reductionistic. Bushman’s early defense of the Book of Mormon can be seen as a negative apologetic, for by arguing that “the Book of Mormon account of the Revolution and of the behavior of godly people in revolutionary situations differ fundamentally from American accounts of the Revolution” and thus from an historical perspective the Book of Mormon does not conform in any sense to a “conventional American book. Too much Americana is missing.” [124] As Bushman divorced the Book of Mormon from history, Nibley linked it to the ancient Near East, preparing the way for a two-pronged defense of the faith—one historical and essentially negative, another literary and essentially positive. [125]      

However, the scholarship of Grant Underwood, an L.D.S. seminarian, is a better example of the problems inherent in the use, or rather abuse of modern historical methods to defend the faith. [126] Although Underwood prides himself on being true to the Butterfieldian vigilance for "unlikenesses," it is not without any real difficulty or at any risk to his faith commitment. Regardless, rather than on the cutting edge of the historical discipline, his scholarship can be summarized in terms of two mutual exclusive arguments and a methodological distortion. Among the arguments that Underwood has put forward is the notion that the early Mormons were bible-believing Christians, unlike their modern-day counterparts who moved away from their orthodox Protestant roots, redefining themselves and their tradition in terms of Joseph Smith's modern revelations--what Underwood terms a "triple-combination" mentality. [127]   The other argument he makes repeatedly is that while differences certainly prevail where the early and modern Mormon understanding of the millennium are concerned, this is not the case where the "millenarian world and Mormonism" are concerned--although his earlier statements betray a latent social or cultural reductionism which he has attempted to correct of late, distinguishing between Smith's premillennialism and that of William Miller. [128]

Not unlike "faithful" historians of other Protestant traditions, and whose research he employs to assail secularist like Klaus Hansen and Louis Reinwand in particular, Underwood took refuge under the methodological umbrella of "behavioralism." [129] Of David Byron Davis's astute comparison of Mormonism and contemporary reform movements in The Great Republic, for example, Underwood writes: 

Through the use of such a technique [behavioralism] in this study, it seems clear that to place Mormonism within the realm of contemporary reform movements, as David B. Davis has recently done, violates both the reasoning and rhetoric of the Saints and, thus, presents a major misreading of Mormonism. [130]

However, Underwood either misconstrued behaviorialism, or worse, purposely distorted it to suit his own apologetical agenda. Timothy Weber points out in his behavioralist analysis of American Premillennialism, Living in the Shadow of the Second Coming, for example, that "behavioralism," by definition, down-plays rhetoric. [131]  

Even so, Underwood's approach took it for granted that, in many cases, the Book of Mormon mirrored contemporary culture. In the minds of the participants the book was thus historical and figurative (or archetypal). [132] Converts like John Corrill, for example, believed that Smith was the book's author, but that it was of divine origin notwithstanding. Recounting his conversion, Corrill writes:

I became satisfied that Smith was the author. . . . As to its being a Revelation from God, eleven persons besides Smith bore solemn testimony of its truth . . . . I was unable to impeach their testimony, and consequently thought that it was consistent to give credit to them as to credit the writings of the New Testament, when I had never seen the authors nor the original copy. As the Bible . . . was made up of many detached parts of Revelation given from time to time, as God saw proper . . . . I thought it was no more than reasonable that we should also receive additional revelation. . . . [133]  

Bushman, Underwood and other “doctrinal/faithful historians” were perhaps not all that faithful to the new methodologies and authorities to which they now swore allegiance. they claim as their own. The Mormon quest for authority and legitimacy failed to ward off the temptation to distort the facts ever so slightly, to exaggerate the endorsement of the elite--so clearly evident in the case of Tolstoy. Little has changed. If Mormonism as a religion is defined as a quest for religious authority, as Mario DePillis observed, it should not be too surprising that Mormonism's intellectual elite should be motivated by the same need for security and legitimacy. 

Despite the very fine scholarly contributions of R.L.D.S liberals like William D. Russell and Methodist graduate of Graceland College, Susan Curtis, who have endeavoured to "re-historicize" the discussion, this added little to what O'Dea had said in 1957--that the Book of Mormon can be seen as quintessentially Jacksonian and thus a mirror of Smith' socio-intellectual environment. [134] In Dan Vogel's case, especially his attempt to account for the rise of Mormonism in terms of a single religious antecedent, Seekerism, by employing a rather traditional historical-critical techniques to do so, the facts have been distorted in an effort to find consistency and coherency where it may not, in fact, exist. [135] The same might be said of D. Michael Quinn's Mormonism and the Magic World View, [136] which inferred that Smith's was an encyclopedic mind, a veritable storehouse of not one, but several centuries of occult literature.

Clearly, a return to intellectual history, despite what Richard T. Hughes, the restorationist scholar, has said of late, [137] is not the answer since in many cases "there is little to check and anchor the interpretation of ideas, except the limits of an author's ingenuity." [138] Consider, for example, the argument put forward in Anthony E. Larson's book, Parallel Histories: The Nephites and the Americans, that the two coincidentally resemble one another. [139] If ideas are not firmly located on a material horizon of some sort, then, who is to say whether Larson's argument is not at least as plausible as O'Dea's, or Russell's, or even that in the Brent T. Metcalfe book, New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology--which purports to be the most up-to-date, critical and sophisticated discussion of Book of Mormon origins, employing rhetorical criticism in such a way as not to offend the faithful. [140] What is particularly interesting is that even secularists are historical figures and ultimately have not escaped to temptation to need to appear to have the full support of a secular establishment that is increasingly hostile to their common-sense and naturalistic assumptions.

The Eclipse of the Book of Mormon and Quest for Biblical Common Ground: 1990s

Much of the discussion of the origin and meaning of the Book of Mormon descended in some respects to an acrimonious philosophical debate about the relationship between religious truth and historical fact. Critical scholars maintained that religious truth and historical fact are not the same thing. As Brent T. Metcalfe, a leading authority on critical studies of the Book of Mormon has argued, the Book of Mormon can be truthful without being historical. However, conservatives like Robert L. Millet, B.Y.U. dean of religious education, have been reluctant to discard the belief that "if it is true . . . it is historical." [141] Conservative scholars uphold a reductionism consisting of ancient parallels, critical scholars a reductionism of nineteenth-century ones. Out of this, a new school of quot;neutral scholars" emerged, avowing a kind of nominal or contingent antiquity as a matter of course. Philip L. Barlow's Mormons and the Bible: The Place of the Latter-day Saints in American Religion led the charge, arguing for the centrality of the Bible over and above the Book of Mormon in defining early Mormon belief and practice. "For the historian," Barlow writes, what is probably the nearest model for Smith's expansions of scripture is to be found not among his contemporaries but among biblical writers themselves. After all, the broad conceptions of authorship discussed above were not novelties of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; they existed anciently. [142] The emphasis on the Bible had obvious political advantages, locating Mormonism closer to its Evangelical nemesis and constituting a major revision and denial of its anti-clerical beginnings meant that the American religion might well live up to the name once and for all.

That Mormon historians were now re-writing the past to conform with the present is a trifling accusation. Roger D. Launius, former president of the Mormon History Association, writes:  "History to me, however, is an attempt to recount, model, or reconstruct the memory of the past for the purposes of the present." [143] Historians, Launius goes on to argue, are imbued with a kind of sacred trust and social responsibility. If they become too concerned with "telling it like it was" they may run the risk of cutting themselves off from the community they are meant to serve. [144] The Book of Mormon represented a serious threat to Mormonism’s Christian coming of age. Its harsh statements against evangelical piety no longer suited the increasingly evangelical tone of modern Mormon scholarship. The Book of Mormon was in the process of fading from view as a consequence.

Orientalism, Charlatanry, and Lying for a Good Purpose When Need Be

When my book, Equal Rites: the Book of Mormon, Masonry, Gender, and American Culture, was accepted for publication, I did not imagine for a moment that Mormons, or Masons, would be amused. Still, the news was good in the main—or so one would have thought. Viewed from the twin perspectives of American Freemasonry and Evangelical Protestantism, early Mormonism can be seen as rather daring, making women—white, red, and black—equal and active participants in the ritual world of Victorian, bourgeois manhood. The murder of Captain William Morgan by rogue New York Masons in 1826 and the scandal that ensued gave impetus to a popular, revisionist, adoptive, and Christian-Masonic revitalization movement calling itself the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. American-born, early Mormonism could be seen as more medieval than modern, Catholic rather than Protestant, and a new order of Knights Templar in fine--Christian on the outside, Masonic on the inside. What is remarkable about the reaction to the book is how Mormon liberals and conservatives, the ultra-conservative Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies at Brigham Young University and anti-Mormon apologists for Scottish Rite Masonry in Washington D.C., have banded together to discredit it so completely—a critique that has been deeply personal, too. The history of Book of Mormon apologia holds but some of the answers.

To be sure, Equal Rites does not quality as a work of New Mormon History, or even Mormon history per se because of its comparative, homologous, and new historicist bent, its author in no sense a candidate for inclusion in Richard Bushman’s coalition of “faithful historians.” Neither faithful nor historian, a liking for the Romanian-American historian of religion, Mircea Eliade, and a natural inclination toward the so-called “myth of the eternal return,” methodological openness, ahistoricism, an interest in meaning, modalities, underlying unities and symbol and ritual  rather than text and the primacy of the document qualifies him almost immediately from membership. That Community of Christ (formerly R.L.D.S.) scholar and Smithsonian, aerospace historian Roger D. Launius should weigh in, that in itself may be significant since theology is not his bag. In an unsolicited review for Amazon.com, he writes: Forsberg, “in essence, dares anyone to ignore his challenging reinterpretation of the influence of Masonry on the origins and development of Smith's esoteric religion . . . [which] should make his ideas the target of exceptional investigation, if only to refute them.” [145] John-Charles Duffy’s award-winning essay in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, entitled “Clyde Forsberg’s Equal Rites and the Exoticizing of Mormonism,” underscores only the latest strategy on the part of Book of Mormon apologists and how well it conforms to the latest in academic trends in hopes of winning the approval of the academy. The accusation that Equal Rites is guilty of casting Mormons in the role of “Other” because of its Masonic reading of the Book of Mormon get the argument exactly wrong in order to make its point and defend the faith against attack. 

Robert Irwins’s iconoclastic For Lust of Knowing: The Orientalists and their Enemies provides an interesting vantage point from which to assess the reaction of many Mormon scholars to Equal Rites. Edward Said accused eighteenth and nineteenth-century British and French scholars of the Orient, Islam, and Arabia of being pawns of their respective imperial and hegemonic, Western cultures, of being participants and victims of a discourse that was “essentialist, racialist, patronizing and ideologically motivated.” [146] One need only add “misogynistic” to the list and the Mormon critique of Equal Rites is a near perfect match. Irwin points out that the Orientalists Said dismissed out of hand were “heavily influenced by work done in biblical exegesis, literary criticism, and historiography and other grander disciplines” and a fair description of the author of Equal Rites. Irwin’s devastating rejoinder argues essentially that Said did not know his Orientalists, for many opposed to the imposition of British and French institutions and culture, opting instead for a more cooperative and egalitarian working relationship with the so-called Muslim and Hindu “Other.” Irwin’s contention that Said’s Orientalism ought to be seen as “a work of malignant charlatanry in which it is hard to distinguish honest mistakes from willful misrepresentations,” [147] describes very well the basic problem of the Mormon critique of Equal Rites by Duffy and “Believing History,” that “lying for a good purpose” has yet to be abandoned in the Mormon question of acceptance and legitimacy.  



  Nancy Towle, Vicissitudes Illustrated in the Experience of Nancy Towle (Charleston: printed by the author, 1832), p. 142.


  See in this connection, Orson Pratt, "An interesting account of several remarkable visions and of the late discovery of ancient American records," later published in book-form by Joseph W. Harrison (New York), 1841. Also see Orson Pratt, Divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon (Liverpool: R. James, 1850-51).


  See in this connection, F.C. Barber, "Mormonism in the United States," De Bow's Review, 3,4 (April 1854), 368-382.


  Mormons have maintained from the beginning that the evidence connecting Joseph Smith and Solomon Spalding was without foundation in fact. See in this connection two fairly early rebuttals, one by George Reynolds, The myth of the "manuscript found" : or, The absurdities of the "Spalding story" (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1883), p. 104, and Theodore A. Schroeder, The Origin of the Book of Mormon, reexamined in its relation to Spalding's "Manuscript Found" (Salt Lake City: n.p., 1901). Also see John E. Page's criticisms, published by the R.L.D.S. Press, The Spalding story: concerning the origin of the Book of Mormon: duly examined, and exposed to the righteous contempt of a candid public (Plano, Illinois: Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 1866).


  Truman G. Madsen, "B.H. Roberts and the Book of Mormon," Brigham Young University Studies, Vol. XIX, No. 4 (Summer 1979), 430. Also see in this connection B.H. Roberts, "The Probability of Joseph Smith's Story," Improvement Era, 7 (March 1904), 321-331, from which the latter quote is taken.


  See in this connection, A.B. McKillop, A Disciplined Intelligence (Montreal: McGill-Queen's Press, 1979), which discusses critical inquiry in Canada, but is certainly applicable to the American experience in many details. For a broad discussion of the American intellectual crisis of the Victorian era see James Turner, Without God, Without Creed: The Origins of Unbelief in America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985).


  See in this connection, Mario S. De Pillis, "The Quest for Religious Authority and the Rise of Mormonism," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 1,1 (Spring 1966), 68.



  See in this connection, "Book of Mormon scholars," published by F.A.R.M.S., 1987. For an in-depth discussion of the early historiography see, Howard Clair Searle, "Early Mormon Historiography; Writing the History of the Mormons, 1830-1858," (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California, 1979). Also see, David J. Whittaker, "Early Mormon Pamphleteering," (Ph.D. Dissertation, Brigham Young University, 1982). See in this connection, Brent T. Metcalfe, New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1993). This extremely important collection of critical essays on a variety of subjects related to the Book of Mormon does not contain a much-needed historiographical overview--strangely and unfortunately.



  Included in a compilation of "anti-Mormon" tracts, entitled Inside Mormonism (Joplin, Missouri: College Press, nd), pp. 1-24.


  Ibid., pp. 15-16.


  Ibid., p. 9.


  Ibid., p. 19.


  Ibid., pp. 22-23.


  See in this connection, David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ (St. Louis: Author, 1839).


  See in this connection, G.J. Adams, "A lecture on the authenticity & scriptural character of the Book of Mormon," (Boston: n.p., 1844), James H. Flanagan, Mormonism triumphant...being a reply to Palmer's internal evidences against the Book of Mormon (Liverpool: R. James, 1849), Edwin R. Parry, A prophet of latter days: his divine mission vindicated (Liverpool: Millennial Star Office, 18-?), Wingfield Watson, "The Book of Mormon. An essay on its claims and prophecies," (Spring Prairie, Wisconsin, 1899), Nephi Lowell Morris, The "Book of Mormon," the story of its discovery--its construction--the testimony of the witnesses--the internal evidences, (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1899), William W. Blair, Joseph the seer: his prophetic mission vindicated, and the divine origin of the Book of Mormon defended and maintained.... (Lamoni, Iowa: Board of Publication of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 1889), Isaac M. Smith, The Book of Mormon vindicated: scriptural evidences of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon (Independence, Missouri: Ensign Publishing House, 1908), Roy E. Weldon, The Bible points to the Book of Mormon and the New World (Independence, Missouri: Raveill-Farley Adv., 1969),


  For good example of this in the recent historiographical past, see Floyd McElveen, God's Word, final, infallible and forever (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Gospel Truths Ministries, 1985). Also see H. Stevenson, A lecture on Mormonism, delivered in the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel (Newcastle: J. Blackwell and Company, 1839), Enos T. Hall, The Mormon Bible; a fabrication and a stupendous fraud; its condemnation of polygamy (Columbus, Ohio: F.J. Heer, 1899), M.T. Lamb, The Mormons and their Bible (Philadelphia: Griffith & Rowland Press, 1901), F.A. Sakuth, Why was Joseph Smith a false prophet? For the benefit of my many friends and all earnest students of Mormonism (Salt Lake City: n.p., 1903), Paul Jones, The Bible and the Book of Mormon: some suggestive points from modern Bible study (Logan, Utah: n.p., 19-?), Arthur Budvarson, The Book of Mormon, true or false? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1960), and Mormonism: can it stand investigation? (Pheonix: Utah Christian Mission, 1960). 


  See in this connection, Origen Bachelor, Mormonism exposed, internally and externally (New York: n.p., 1838) and Henry Caswell, The prophet of the nineteenth century; or, the rise, progress, and present state of the Mormons, or Latter-day Saints: to which is appended, an Analysis of the Book of Mormon (London: J.G.F. & J. Rivington, 1843). evidence against the Book of Mormon (Also see James H. Flanagan's rebuttal to such argumentation by another cleric, entitled Mormonism triumphant...being a reply to Palmer's internal Liverpool: R. James, 1949).


  Some later works in this genre include: Ellen E. Dickinson, New Light on Mormonism (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1885), M.T. Lamb, The golden bible; or, The Book of Mormon, is it from God? (New York: Ward & Drummund, 1886), S.J.S. Davis, The origin of the Book of Mormon, together with an account of the rise and progress of Mormonism (Louisville, Kentucky: Pentecostal Publishing Company, 1899), Alva Tanner, Facts about the Book of Mormon, Oakley, Idaho: by author, 1918) and Book of Mormon plagiarism (Oakley, Idaho: by author, 1924).


  For a more detailed discussion of the prevalence of the Spalding Theory in periodical and pamphlet literature see Richard Olsen Cowan, "Mormonism in National periodicals," (Ph.D. Dissertation, Stanford University, 1961).

[20]           The argument hinged on the testimony of Spalding's widow who claimed that her husband had taken his book ms to the Pittsburg printing office of Lambdin and Patterson and with whom Rigdon did business. Howe charged Lambdin with giving Spalding’s unpublished book to Rigdon in 1823 or 1824 and which he and Smith published as the Book of Mormon in 1830. Hurlbut, who did most of research, had succeeded in locating the original Spalding manuscript which, to his dismay bore little or no resemblance to the Book of Mormon. This did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of Howe who remained convinced of the essential truth of the yarn. Rather less believable than the original tale of the translation of the Book of Mormon from the golden plates, Howe supposed that another Spalding ms, waiting to be discovered, was the one Smith and Rigdon had used. To this day, no such draft has been recovered. 



  See in this connection Walter Martin, The Maze of Mormonism (Ventura, California: Regal Books, 1978) and The Kingdom of The Cults (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany Fellowship, Inc., 1977).


  See in this connection, Lester E. Bush, "The Spalding Theory Then and Now," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 10, 4 (Spring 1975-76), 40.

[23]           See in this connection the erudite and indefatigable Dale R. Broadhurst and his webpage, “Truth Will Prevail: Spalding Studies Home Page.” http://solomonspalding.com/index3.htm


  See in this connection, Benjamin Winchester, The origin of the Spalding story, concerning the manuscript found: with a short biography of Dr. P. Hurlbut, the originator of the same and some testimony adduced, showing it to be a sheer fabrication, so far as its connection with the Book of Mormon is concerned (Philadelphia: Brown, Bicking & Guilbert Printers, 1840).


  Douglas Wilson, "The Book of Mormon as a Word of American Literature," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. III, No. 1 (Spring 1968), 32.



  George L. Faull, Inside Mormonism (Joplin, Missouri: College Press, n.d.), p. 1.


  Thomas O'Dea, The Mormons (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964), p. 26.


  Richard H. Cracroft, "The Gentle Blasphemer: Mark Twain, Holy Scripture, and the Book of Mormon," Brigham Young University Studies, Vol. XI, No. 2 (Winter 1971), 119.


  Douglas Wilson, "The Book of Mormon as a Work of American Literature," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. III, No. 1 (Spring 1968), 30.


  Gordon K. Thomas, "The Book of Mormon in the English Literary Context of 1837," Brigham Young University Studies, Vol. XXCII, No. 1 (Winter 1987), 37-45.


  Cited in Ibid., 21.



  Leland A. Fetzer, "Tolstoy and Mormonism," Brigham Young University Studies, Vol. VI, No. 1 (Spring 1971), 21.


  See in this connection, Charles Thompson, Evidences in proof of the Book of Mormon, being a divinely inspired record, written by the forefathers of the native whom we call Indians, (who are a remnant of the Tribe of Joseph (Batavia, New York: D.D. Waite, 1841).


  Apologetical works to be published by the R.L.D.S. church include Harold Iven Velt, The riddle of American origins (Independence, Missouri: Herald House, 1941), The sacred book of America (Independence, Missouri: Herald House, 1952) and Roy E. Weldon, Criticisms of the Book of Mormon answered (Independence, Missouri: Herald House, 1973).


  Early turn-of-the-century works devoted to archaeological and geographical speculation include: Rudolf Etzenhouser, The book unsealed; an exposition of prophecy and American antiquities; the claims of the Book of Mormon examined and sustained (Independence, Missouri, n.p., 1892), Louise Palfrey, The divinity of the Book of Mormon proven by archaeology (Lamoni, Iowa: Zion's Religio-Literary Society, 1901), Elizabeth R.C. Porter, The cities of the sun: stories of ancient America founded on historical incidents in the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1911), Louis E. Hills, A short work on the Popol vuh and the traditional history of the ancient Americans by Ixi-lil-xochitl  (Independence, Missouri: n.p., 1918 and New light on American archaeology (Independence, Missouri: Lambert Moon Printing Company, 1924), James W. Lesueur, Indian Legends (Independence, Missouri: Zion's Printing and Publishing Company, 1928) and Jean R. Driggs, "The Palestine of America," (Salt Lake City: n.p., 1928). 

Works from the 30s and 40s in the same genre include: J.A. Washburn, From Babel to Cumorah (Provo, Utah: New Era Publishing Company, 1937), Joel Ricks, Whence Came the Mayas (The author, 1943), Paul M. Hanson, Jesus Christ among the ancient Americans (Independence, Missouri: Herald Publishing House, 1945), James W. Lesueur, Indian legends (Independence, Missouri: Zion's Printing and Publishing Company, 1928) and The Guatemalan petroglyphs (Mesa, Arizona: author, 1946), Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Cumorah - where? (Independence, Missouri: Zion's Printing and Publishing Company, 1947), Leland H. Monson, Life in ancient America (Salt Lake City: Deseret Sunday School Union, 1946), Chris Benson Hartshorn, External Evidences of the Book of Mormon (Independence, Missouri: Herald Publishing House, 1949), Elmer Cecil McGavin, The geography of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft Inc., 1949) and Harold Iven Velt, America's lost civilizations (Independence, Missouri: Herald House, 1949).


  Davis Bitton, "The Mormon Past: The Search for Understanding," Religious Studies Review, 11,2 (April 1985), 114-120.


  See in this connection, Michael D. Coe, "Mormons and Archaeology: An Outside View," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 8, 2 (Summer 1974), 40-48. Also see early evangelical criticisms: Charles A. Shook, American anthropology disproving the Book of Mormon (Cleveland: Utah Gospel Mission, 1930) and Harold Hougey, The truth about the "Lehi tree-of-life" stone (Concord, California: Pacific Publishing Company, 1963), and Archaeology and the Book of Mormon (Concord, California: Pacific Publishing Company, n.d.).


  See in this connection, Thomas W. Brookbank, Concerning the Brass Plates (Liverpool: Millennial Star, 18-?), Jane M. Sjodahl, Authenticity of the Book of Mormon (Liverpool: Millennial Star Office, 18-?) and An introduction to the study of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book News Press, 1927), Andrew Jenson, The Book of Mormon (Liverpool: Millennial Star Office, 1909), E. Cecil McGavin, An apology for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1930), John A. Widtsoe and Franklin S. Harris, Seven claims of the Book of Mormon: a collection of evidences (Independence, Missouri: Press of Zion's Printing and Publishing Company, 1936), and Francis W. Kirkham, A new witness for Christ in America: the Book of Mormon; contemporary historical data concerning its "coming forth" and publication (Independence, Missouri: Zion's Printing and Publishing House, 1942).


  Alice Felt Tyler, Freedom's Ferment (New York: Harper & Row, 1944), p. 92.


  Although there are those who stubbornly refuse to abandon it. See in this connection, Howard A. Davis, Donald R. Scales and Wayne L. Cowdery, Who really wrote the Book of Mormon? (Santa Ana, California: Vision House, 1977).


  See in this connection, John W. Welch, "An Unparallel: View of the Hebrews: substitute for inspiration?" (F.A.R.M.S., 1985). Clearly critics have made as much of the Ethan Smith connection, as was hitherto made of the Solomon Spalding one. See in this connection, Harold Hougey, "A Parallel," the basis of the Book of Mormon: B.H. Roberts' "Parallel" of the Book of Mormon to View of the Hebrews (Concord, California: Pacific Publishing Company, 1963), and more recently, David Persuitte, Joseph Smith and the origins of the Book of Mormon (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 1985).


  See in this connection, B.H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, edited and with an introduction by Truman G. Madsen (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985). Cf. B.H. Roberts Book of Mormon Difficulties (photocopy, 1977). Also see B.H. Roberts, Analysis of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Company, 193-?) and Truman G. Madsen, "Did B.H. Roberts lose faith in the Book of Mormon?" (F.A.R.M.S., 1985).


  See in this connection Dan Vogel's seminal work, Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1986).


  See in this connection, Klaus J. Hansen, Mormonism and the American Experience (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), pp. 10-12.


  Erik H. Erickson, Young Man Luther. A Study in Psychoanalysis and History (New York: W.W. Norton, 1958), and H.G. Haile, Luther: An Experiment in Biography (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980).


  James M. Stayer, "The Eclipse of Young Man Luther: An Outsider's Perspective on Luther Studies," the original version read on November 13, 1983, in Toronto at a Luther Symposium co-sponsored by the Toronto School of Theology and Toronto's Goethe Institute.


  See in this connection, Roland H. Bainton, "Luther: A Psychiatric Portrait," Yale Review, (Spring 1959), 405-410.


  Klaus Hansen, Mormonism and the American Experience, pp. 20-21.


  C. Jess Groesbeck, "The Smiths and Their Dreams and Visions," Sunstone, 12,2 (March 1988), 22-29.


William D. Morain. The Sword of Laban: Joseph Smith Jr. and the Dissociated Mind (Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Press, 1998).


  See in this connection, Davis Bitton and Leonard J. Arrington, Mormons and their Historians (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1988).


  Although, there is an argument which divorces the "New Mormon History" from Fawn M. Brodie. See in this connection an unpublished paper by Louis Midgley and David H. Whittaker, "Mapping Contemporary Mormon Historiography: An Annotated Bibliography," (August 6, 1990 draft).



  See in this connection, Clara Marie Viator Dobay, "Essay in Mormon History," (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Houston, 1980). Also see, Dennis L. Lythgoe, "The Changing Image of Mormonism in Periodical Literature," (Thesis, University of Utah, 1969).


  Works from the 1950s in the same genre include: Walter Milton Stout, Harmony in Book of Mormon geography (Las Vegas, Nevada: Chief Litho, 1950), Ariel L. Crowley, "Metal record plates in ancient times," (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Library, n.d.), Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon (Oakland, California: Kolob Book Company, 1950), Dewey Farnsworth, Book of Mormon evidences in ancient America (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1953), Norman C. Pierce, Another Cumorah, another Joseph (Salt Lake City: n.p., 1954), Milton R. Hunter, Archaeology and the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1956), George Reynolds, Book of Mormon geography: the lands of the Nephites, the Jaredites (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1957), Riley L. Dixon, Just one Cumorah (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft Inc., 1958), Leland H. Monson, Ancient America Speaks (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1958) and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, One fold and one shepherd (San Francisco: Books of California, 1958).  Interestingly, nothing published in the 1960s in this vein, but speculative archaeological and anthropological works which favour a Book of Mormon and mesoamerican connection re-emerge with a vengeance in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. See in this connection: Ross T. Christensen, ed., Transoceanic crossings to ancient America (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1970), Paul R. Cheesman, These early Americans: external evidences of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1974), Hugh Nibley, "The Book of Mormon and the ruins: the main issues," (F.A.R.M.S., 1980), John L. Sorenson, "The Book of Mormon as a Mesoamerican codex," (F.A.R.M.S., 198-?), Carl Hugh Jones, "The `Anthon transcript' and two Mesoamerican cylinder seals," (F.A.R.M.S., 198-?), David A. Palmer, In search of Cumorah: new evidence for the Book of Mormon from ancient Mexico (Bountiful, Utah: Horizon, 1981), Noel B. Reynolds, Book of Mormon origins: new light on ancient origins (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft Inc., 1982), V. Garth Norman, "San Lorenso as the Jaredite City of Lib," (F.A.R.M.S., 1983), Sidney B. Sperry, "Were there two Cumorahs?" (F.A.R.M.S., 1983), John L. Sorenson, An ancient American setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1985), Diane E. Wirth, A challenge to the critics: scholarly evidences of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Horizon Publishers, 1986), Bruce W. Warren, The Messiah in ancient America (Provo, Utah: Book of Mormon Research Foundation, 1987), F.R. Hauck, Deciphering the geography of the Book of Mormon; settlements and routes in ancient America (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1988), Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the lands of the Book of Mormon (Orem, Utah: S.A. Publishers, 1989), Frederick G. Williams III, "Did Lehi land in Chile?: an assessment of the Frederick G. Williams statement," (F.A.R.M.S., 1989),  Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the lands of the Book of Mormon (Orem, Utah: S.A. Publishers, 1989), Wilfred C. Griggs, "The Book of Mormon as an ancient book: gold plates and the tree of life from the ancient Mediterranean; and the tree of life in ancient cultures," (F.A.R.M.S., 1989), Warren P. Aston, "The search for Nahom and the end of Lehi's trail in southern Arabia," (F.A.R.M.S., 1989), John L. Sorenson, "The Geography of Book of Mormon events: a source book," (F.A.R.M.S., 1990), James R. Harris, Southwestern American Indian rock art and the Book of Mormom [sic] (Orem, Utah: J.R. Harris, 1991) and John L. Sorenson and Melvin J. Thorne eds., Rediscovering the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1991).


  See, for example, Noel B. Reynolds and Charles D. Tate eds., Book of Mormon authorship: new light on ancient origins (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982).


  See in this connection, Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert and the World of the Jaredites (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft Ltd., 1952).


  See in this connection, Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1964).


  See in this connection, chapter 2 of my M.A. Thesis, entitled "The Roots of Early Mormonism: An Exegetical Approach," (M.A. Thesis, University of Calgary, 1990). Nibley's approach, and that of many of his school, seems comparable to that of the Rabbis, creative and didactic, but not scientific in the modern sense.


  Roy A. West, An introduction to the Book of Mormon: a religious - literary study (Salt Lake City: L.D.S. Department of Education, 1940).


  Sperry's is one of only a few comprehensive Book of Mormon commentaries. See in this connection his Book of Mormon Compendium (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft Inc., 1968), which, not unlike Daniel H. Ludlow's A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), is more of a parallel narrative than a theological commentary. Actually, Sperry's brave efforts to elucidate the writing of Paul for Mormons gave him a chance to show off his theological acumen. See in this connection his Paul's Life and Letters (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft Inc., 1955). Also see his Problems of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft Inc., 1964). Less well known commentaries include J.N. Washburn, The content, structure and authorship of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft Inc., 1954), and Eldon Ricks, Story of the formation of the Book of Mormon; an analysis of the sources and structure of the sacred record (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1959). Many such commentaries consist of restating the narrative in language that the average reader can--presumably--understand and thus arrive at moralistic rather than intellectual or academic conclusions.   


  Jack H. West, The trial of the stick of Joseph (Sacramento: Fritz'n Rich, 1967).


  See in this connection, Franklin S. Harris, The Book of Mormon: message and evidences (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1961), and Ross T. Christensen (ed.), Progress in Archaeology: an anthology...1951-1963, presenting views and discoveries of special interest to students of the scriptures (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 1963).


  See in this connection, Rt. Rev. F.S. Spalding, D.D., Joseph Smith, Jr., As a Translator (Salt Lake City: Arrow Press, 1912), and Samuel A.B. Mercer, Ph.D., "Joseph Smith as an interpreter and translator of Egyptian," The Utah Survey, 1,1 (September 1913), 3-36.


  See in this connection, Klaus Baer, "The Breathing Permit of Hor" A Translation of the Apparent Source of the Book of Abraham," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 3,3 (Autumn 1968), 109.


  See in this connection, William B. Crouch, The myth of Mormon inspiration (Shreveport, Louisianna: Lambert's Book House, 1968) and G.T. Harrison, That Mormon book: Mormonism's keystone exposed, or, the hoax book (by the author, 1981), and Ernest H. Taves, Trouble enough: Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon (Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books, 1984).


  See in this connection James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints  (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), pp. 40-44.


  See in this connection Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1986), pp. 168-180.


  "Two Boston Brahmins Call on the Prophet," in Among the Mormons, eds. William Mulder and A. Russell Mortensen (Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1973), p. 137.


  See in this connection, Joseph Fielding Smith, "Joseph Smith's `translation' of the Scriptures," Improvement Era, XVII,6 (1914), 590-596.


  See in this connection, Hugh Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), see especially pp. 47-55.


  Cf. Stephen D. Ricks et al., "Joseph Smith's means and methods of translating the Book of Mormon," (F.A.R.M.S., 1986).


  Machiko Takayama, "Poetic Language in Nineteenth Century Mormonism: A Study of Semiotic Phenomenology in Communication and Culture," Ph.D. Dissertation (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University, 1990), p. 7.


  Ibid., p. 18.


  Ibid., pp. 30-31.


  Ibid., pp. 78,83.


  Ibid., p. 87. My only criticism of Takayama's extremely insightful, albeit highly technical, analysis is that Joseph Smith did more than simply interpretatively translate the Book of Abraham narrative exclusively on the basis of his first impressions of and later nighttime reflections about the three Facsimiles. He did, after all, write a grammar of the Egyptian language which purported to be an accurate translation of the Egyptian hieroglyphics proper. See in this connection Joseph Smith, "Joseph Smith's Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar," (Salt Lake City: L.D.S. Church Archives). 


  See in this connection the publication which followed the symposium, edited by Truman G. Madsen, Reflections on Mormonism: Judaeo-Christian Parallels (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1978).


  Lavina Fielding Anderson, "A Respectful Meeting of the Minds," The Ensign, (June 1978), 70-75.


  The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha is a collection of Jewish apocryphal writings. The genre itself is fictional, of course. Pseudepigrapha means "false signatures," or "false authors." It is a rather voluminous collection of spurious works ostensibly written by a biblical figure.


  James H. Charlesworth, "Messianism in the Pseudepigrapha and the Book of Mormon," in Reflections on Mormonism, pp. 99-137.


  See in this connection, Stan Larson, "The Historicity of the Matthean Sermon on the Mount in 3 Nephi," in New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology, ed., Brent T. Metcalfe (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1993), pp. 115-164. Larson does not dispute Stendahl. Like Stendahl, he notes that the Book of Mormon Sermon on the Mount is clearly reliant upon the King James Version and not an ancient source. Also see, David P. Wright, "`In Plain Terms That We May Understand': Joseph Smith's Transformation of Hebrews in Alma 12-13," in Ibid., pp. 165-229 and Edward H. Ashment, "`A Record in the Language of My Father': Evidence of Ancient Egyptian and Hebrew in the Book of Mormon," in Ibid., pp. 329-394. The argumentation in Larson, Wright and Ashment is striking similar to my own. See in this connection, Clyde Forsberg, "The Roots of Early Mormonism: An Exegetical Inquiry," (M.A. Thesis, University of Calgary, 1990), chapters 2,3 and 4.


  Krister Stendahl, "The Sermon on the Mount and Third Nephi," Reflections on Mormonism, p. 152.




  Ibid., p. 154.


  Ibid., p. 152. Cf.  John W. Welch, The Sermon at the temple and the Sermon on the Mount: a Latter-day Saint approach (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1990).


[86]           James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Vol. 1: Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments; The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Vol. 2: Expansions of the Old Testament and Legends, Wisdom and Philosophical Literature, Prayers, Psalms, and Odes, Fragments of Lost Judeo-Hellenistic works (Anchor Bible, 1985).


  See in this connection Steven L. Olsen, "Cosmic Urban Symbolism in the Book of Mormon," Brigham Young University Studies, Vol. XXIII, No. 1 (Winter 1983); Blake Ostler, "The Throne-Theophany and Prophetic Commission in 1 Nephi: A Form Critical Analysis," Brigham Young University Studies, Vol. XXVI, No. 4 (Fall 1986), 67-95; Stephen D. Ricks, "The Narrative Call Pattern in the Prophetic Commission of Enoch (Moses 6)," Brigham Young University Studies, Vol. XXVI, No. 4 (Fall 1986), 97-105; and Angela Crowell, "Midrash: Ancient Jewish Interpretation and Commentary in the Book of Mormon," Zarahemla Record, 57 (October 1991), 2-4..


  See in this connection, John M. Lundquist and Stephen D. Ricks eds., By study and also by faith: essays in honor of Hugh W. Nibley on the occasion of his eightieth birthday, 27 March 1990 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1990).


  See in this connection Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert and the World of the Jaredites (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1952) and Since Cumorah (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1967). Later editions, and subsequent statements betray an eclectic approach to the question which has permitted Nibley to embrace the new without abandoning the old.


  Hugh Nibley, "To Open the Last Dispensation," in Nibley on the Timely and the Timeless, ed. Truman G. Madsen (Provo: Brigham Young University, 1978), p. 4.


  Kevin L. Barney, "The Joseph Smith Translation and Ancient Texts of the Bible," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. XIX, No. 3 (Fall 1986), 85-102.

[92]   (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992).


  Cf. Ora P. Stewart, Branches over the wall (Independence, Missouri: Zion's Printing & Publishing Company, 1950).


  Noel B. Reynolds, "Nephi's Outline," Brigham Young University Studies, Vol. XX, No. 2 (Winter 1980), 133.


  Ibid., 133.


  Ibid., 149.


  Fredrick W. Axelgard, "1 and 2 Nephi: An Inspiring Whole," Brigham Young University Studies, Vol. XXVI, No. 4 (Fall 1986), 53-65.


  S. Kent Brown, "Lehi's Personal Record: Quest for a Missing Source," Brigham Young University Studies, Vol. XXIV, No. 1 (Winter 1984), 19-42, and George S. Tate, "The typology of the Exodus Pattern in the Book of Mormon," (F.A.R.M.S., 1987).


  See in this connection, John Tvedtnes, "The Isaiah variants in the Book of Mormon," (F.A.R.M.S., 1981), Roy Johnson, "The use of oaths in the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon," (F.A.R.M.S., 1982), Robert F. Smith, "`It came to pass' in the Bible and the Book of Mormon,'" (F.A.R.M.S., 1984) and "Book of Mormon event structure: ancient Near East," (F.A.R.M.S., 1985), John Tvedtnes, "Was Lehi a caravaneer?" and "The Isaiah texts in the Book of Mormon," (F.A.R.M.S., 1984), Paul Y. Hoskisson, "An introduction to the relevancy and a methodology for a study of the proper names of the Book of Mormon," (F.A.R.M.S., 1985), Larry G. Childs, "Epanalepsis in the Book of Mormon," (F.A.R.M.S., 1986), John W. Welch, "Theft and robbery in the Book of Mormon and ancient Near Eastern law," (F.A.R.M.S., 1985), "King Benjamin's speech in the context of ancient Israelite festivals," (F.A.R.M.S., 1985), "Preliminary comments on the sources behind the Book of Ether," (F.A.R.M.S., 1986), "The Nephite sacrament prayers" from King Benjamin's speech to Moroni 4-5," (F.A.R.M.S., 1986), "Chiasmas in Helaman 6:7-13, (F.A.R.M.S., 1987), " Stephen E. Robinson, "Early Christianity and 1 Nephi 13-14: and Warring against the saints of God," (F.A.R.M.S., 1988), Donald W. Parry, "Poetic parallelism of the Book of Mormon" and "Parallelisms according to classification," (F.A.R.M.S., 1988), John W. Welch, "Chiasmas in Alma 36," (F.A.R.M.S., 1989), Hugh Nibley and John W. Welch (eds.), The prophetic Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1989), John W. Welch, "Lehi's last will and testament: a legal approach," (F.A.R.M.S., 1989, John L. Sorenson and Melvin J. Thorne, Rediscovering the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1991), John W. Welch (ed.), Reexploring the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1992),


  Anthony Hutchinson, "A Mormon Midrash? LDS Creation Narratives Reconsidered," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. XXI, No. 4 (Winter 1988), 69.


  Clyde Forsberg, "The Roots of Early Mormonism: An Exegetical Inquiry," Master's Thesis (Calgary: University of Calgary, 1990). See chapters 2-4.


  See in this connection, Alvin C. Rencher, "Book of Mormon authorship chronology," (F.A.R.M.S., 1986). Also see Brian C. Roberts, "Stylometry and wordprints: a Book of Mormon reevaluation," (M.A. Thesis, Brigham Young University, 1983), and John L. Hilton, "Some Book of Mormon `wordprint' measurements using `wraparound' block counting," (F.A.R.M.S., 1989).


  See in this connection, Bruce A. Van Orden and Brent L. Top (ed.), Doctrines of the Book of Mormon: The 1991 Sperry Symposium (20th) (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1992), Paul R. Cheesman, S. Kent Brown and Charles D. Tate (ed.), The Book of Mormon: the keystone scripture: papers from the First Annual Book of Mormon Symposium (Provo, Utah, Brigham Young University, 1988), Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate, The Book of Mormon: First Nephi, the doctrinal foundation: papers for the second annual Book of Mormon Symposium (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 1988), and Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate Jr., The Book of Mormon: Alma, the testimony of the word: papers for the Sixth Annual Book of Mormon Symposium, 1991 (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 1992).


  Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), pp. 68-81, 115-117. Also see in this connection, "The Christian Movement and the Demand for a Theology of the People," Journal of American History, 67 (December 1980), 561,546. Notably, G. Homer Dunham made essentially the same criticism in his Joseph Smith: Prophet-Statesman (Salt Lake City, 1944). "The Book of Mormon," he wrote, "has been grossly neglected by American writers and students in their efforts to understand Mormonism" (Ibid., p. 3).


  Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity, p. 115.




  Ibid., p. 116.


  Ibid., pp. 116-117. Gordon Wood makes the same argument in "Evangelical America and Early Mormonism," New York History, 61 (1980), 359-386. Recently, Richard T. Hughes, the scholar of American Restorationism, criticized Hatch and other "social historians." In his view, social history undermines the religious imperatives that drive such movements as the Churches of Christ and the Mormons. See in this connection, Richard T. Hughes, "Two Restoration Traditions: Mormons and Churches of Christ in the Nineteenth Century," Journal of Mormon History, 19, 1 (Spring 1993), 34-51.


  Jan Shipps, Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition (Urbana: The University of Illinois Press, 1985), pp. 33-34. Also see her article, "The Prophet Puzzle: Suggestions Leading Toward a More Comprehensive Interpretation of Joseph Smith," Journal of Mormon History, 1 (1974), 3-20.


  Martin E. Marty, "Two Integrities: An Address to the Crisis in Mormon Historiography," Journal of Mormon History, 10 (1983), 3-19 and "We Might Know What To Do and How to Do It: On the Usefulness of the Religious Past," The Westminster Tanner-McMurrin Lectures on the History and the Philosophy of Religion 1 (Westminster College of Salt Lake City,. March, 1989), 3-21. Cf. Sterling M. McMurrin, "The History of Mormonism and Church Authorities: An Interview with Sterling M. McMurrin," Free Inquiry, 4/1 (Winter 1983-84), 32-34; later published as "An Interview with Sterling M. McMurrin," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 17/1 (Spring 1984), 18-43. McMurrin argues that it is a mistake to tie religious faith to history. History is not qualified to adjudicate in matters of faith and thus the debate about the "authenticity" of the Book of Mormon "is just a waste of time."


  Marvin S. Hill, "The `New Mormon History' Reassessed in Light of Recent Books on Joseph Smith and Mormon Origins," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 21,3 (Autumn 1988), 115-127. Hill argues that questions of authenticity are not the purview of historians.


  Robert N. Hullinger, Joseph Smith's Response to Skepticism (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1992), p. 180.


  Klaus J. Hansen, "Arrington's Historians," Sunstone, 13, 4 (August 1989), 41-43.


  See in this connection, Klaus J. Hansen, "Reflections on the Writing of Mormon History," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 1,1 (Spring 1966), 156-157.


  Henry Warner Bowden, "From the Age of Science to the Age of Uncertainty: History and Mormon Studies in the Twentieth Century," Journal of Mormon History 15 (1989), 105-120.


  Alexander has written most in this respect. Alexander locates the New Mormon History somewhat in the middle of what conservative or tradition and secularist history. See in this connection, Thomas G. Alexander, "The Place of Joseph Smith in the Development of American Religion: An Historiographical Inquiry," Journal of Mormon History, 5 (1978), 3-17, "Is Objective History Possible?" 7th East Press, August 24, 1982, 9, "An Approach to the Mormon Past," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 16,4 (Winter 1983), 146-148, "Toward the New Mormon History: An Examination of the Literature on the Latter-day Saints in the Far West," in Michael P. Malone, ed., Historians and the American West (University of Nebraska Press, 1983), 344-368, and "Historiography and the New Mormon History: A Historian's Perspective," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 19,3 (Fall 1989), 25-49. Alexander and the New Mormon History has been assailed from all sides it seems. Clearly, the criticisms of insiders, conservatives for the most part, are unfair in their criticism that the New Mormon History is secular history. See in this connection, David E. Bohn, "No Higher Ground," Sunstone, 8,3 (May-June 1983), 26-32, and "The Burden of Proof," Sunstone, 10,6 (June 1985), 2-3. Instead, it is highly apologetical. See in this connection, Marvin S. Hill, "Richard L. Bushman: Scholar and Apologist," Journal of Mormon History, 11 (1984), 125-133.


  See in this connection, M. Gerald Bradford, "The Case for the New Mormon History: Thomas G. Alexander and His Critics," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 21,4 (Winter 1988), 143-150. Cf. Alexander's reply to Bradford, "No Way to Build Bridges," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 22,2 (Spring 1988), 5. Alexander maintains that the New Mormon History does not undermine faith, because it is not concerned with faith questions.


  Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1946).


  Dale Morgan on Early Mormonism: Correspondence & A New History, John Phillip Walker, ed. (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1986).  Cf. Gary Topping, "Dale Morgan's Unfinished Mormon History," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 20,1 (Spring 1987), 173-174.


  LeAnn Cragun, "Mormonism and History: In Control of the Past" (Ph.D. Dissertation, American Studies, University of Hawaii, 1981).


  Edwin S. Gaustad, "History and Theology: The Mormon Connection," Sunstone, 5,6 (November 1980), 44-50, and "Historical Theology and Theological History: Mormon Possibilities," Journal of Mormon History, 11 (1984), 99-111.


  Cf. Louis Midgley, "The Challenge of Historical Consciousness: Mormon History and the Encounter with Secular Modernity," in John M. Lundquist and Stephen D. Ricks, eds., By Study and By Faith; Essays in Honor of Hugh Nibley on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday, March 27, 1990 (Salt Lake City: F.A.R.M.S. and Deseret Book, 1990).


  See in this connection, James B. Allen, "The Emergence of a Fundamental: The Expanding Role of Joseph Smith's First Vision in Mormon Thought," Journal of Mormon History, 7 (1980), 43.


  Richard L. Bushman, "The Book of Mormon and The American Revolution," Brigham Young University Studies, Vol. XVII, No. 1 (Autumn 1976), 10,20.


  See in this connection his chapter on the Book of Mormon in his Joseph Smith and the Beginning of Mormonism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984). Also see in this connection "The Book of Mormon in Early Mormon History," in New Views of Mormon History, eds. Davis Bitton and Maureen Ursenbach Beecher (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1987), pp. 3-18.


  This seems very clear from the start, if one reads all that Underwood has written on the subject of Mormon millenarianism. See in this connection, Grant Underwood, "Early Mormon Millennialism: Another Look," (Unpublished M.A. Thesis, Brigham Young University, 1982), p. 4.


  This is a reference to the three standard works or scriptures that are unique to Mormonism, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price, and which are bound together.


  See in this connection, Grant Underwood, "The Millenarian World of Early Mormonism," (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California, 1988). Underwood's dissertation is not only a repetition of much of his M.A. Thesis, but several chapters are based on articles which he has published in various Mormon academic journals--which, incidentally, is what he criticized Klaus Hansen for doing. While Underwood is quite right to emphasize that premillennialism and post millennialism overlap in several respects and that the latest scholarship has essentially demolished the Norman Cohn school of thought--which emphasizes environmental and social causes to the exclusion of religious motivations--his research seems to be controlled by an apologetical agenda which links Mormon eschatology with that of the early Christians.


  See in this connection Robert F. Berkhofer Jr., A Behavioral Approach to Historical Analysis (New York: Free Press, 1969).   


  Grant Underwood, "Early Mormon Perceptions of Contemporary America: 1830-1846," Brigham Young University Studies, Vol. XXVI, No. 3 (Summer 1986), 55.


  Timothy Weber, Living in the Shadow of the Second Coming (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1983), p. 7. It works in Weber's favour to discard what his participants say, in favour of what they do. For example, he cannot get around the fact that some Dispensationalists read and disseminated anti-semitic literature; but, according to Weber and with the help of behaviorialism, he can, presumably with the endorsement of a number of eminent historians, argue that Dispensationalists were not anti-semitic because they also supported and even facilitated the establishment of a Jewish homeland, the State of Israel. In this case, their actions, he argues, speaks louder than their words. Underwood has it backwards. 


  Grant Underwood, "The Earliest Reference Guides to the Book of Mormon as Windows into the Past," Journal of Mormon History, Vol. 12 (1985), 69-89.


  John Corrill, Brief History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints...with the Reasons of the Author for Leaving the Church (St. Louis: by the author, 1839), p. 11. Corrill's complaint was not the Book of Mormon or the issue of its authenticity. "I left you, not because I disbelieve the bible," he writes at the end, and that he does not capitalize the `b' leaves open the possibility, at least, that by "bible" he means what some called at that time "the Mormon bible" or the Book of Mormon (Ibid., p. 48). His reasons for leaving have to do with Smith subsequent false prophecies, which caused others to abandon Smith but not necessarily the Book of Mormon. See in this connection, David Whitmer, "An Address to Believers in the Book of Mormon," (Utah State University Archives).


  See in this connection William D. Russell, "History and the Mormon Scriptures," Journal of Mormon History, Vol. 10 (1983), 53-63 and Susan Curtis, "Early Nineteenth-Century America and the Book of Mormon," in The Word of God: Essays on Mormon Scripture, ed. Dan Vogel (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1990), pp. 81-96. Also see Edward A. Warner, "Mormon Theodemocracy: Theocratic and Democratic Elements in the Early Latter-day Saint Ideology, 1827-1846," (Ph.D. Dissertation, The University of Iowa, 1973). Warner's dissertation is utterly reductionistic, arguing that early Mormons were faithful to both America and "shared numerous common Protestant denominational concepts" (Ibid., p. 5). Warner argues for a political synthesis of sorts--much as I do.


  Dan Vogel, Religious Seekers and the Advent of Mormonism (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1988). Mark Thomas was critical of the volume because it did not seem to take into account the obvious Arminian or revivalistic rhetoric in the Book of Mormon which, for Thomas, is a more likely explanation as to the book's intellectual point of origin. Who or what are "literalist seekers" anyway? Are they not 17th century spiritualists in 19th century Mormon literalist garb?


  D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1987).


  Richard T. Hughes, "Two Restoration Traditions: Mormons an Churches of Christ in the Nineteenth Century," The Journal of Mormon History,  (1993), 36.


  James M. Stayer, The German Peasants' War (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1991).


  Anthony E. Larson, Parallel Histories: The Nephites and the Americans (Orem, Utah: Zedek Books, 1989).


  This is one of the pitfalls of the Brent T. Metcalfe volume, New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology, which, given its historical-critical approach might be more aptly named "Old Approaches to the Book of Mormon" since all that is "new" are the conclusions--and not too many of them.

[141] .

  Brent T. Metcalfe, "Apologetical and Critical Assumptions about Book of Mormon Historicity," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 26, 3 (Fall 1993), 154.

[142] .

  Philip L. Barlow, Mormons and the Bible: The Place of the Latter-day Saints in American Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 60.

[143] .

  Roger Launius, "Mormon Memory, Mormon Myth, and Mormon History," Journal of Mormon History, 21, 1 (Spring 1995), 8.

[144] .

  See in this connection, the discussion of revitalization movements in McLoughlin, Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform,pp. 1-23.

[145]          Provocative Reading, Sometimes Persuasive but often Not, May 21, 2005.


[146]          Robert Irwin, For Lust of Knowing: Orientalists and their Enemies (Penguin), p. 3.


[147]          Ibid., p. 4.


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