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He Didn't Write It

by Robert McKay

Mormons believe that the Book of Mormon is a product of divine inspiration. They feel that God both caused the book to be written and provided means for its translation. Mormons are adamant in taking the position that Joseph Smith did not write the Book of Mormon. Bruce R. McConkie wrote, "no man (and this would include Joseph Smith, RM) could have written the Book of Mormon" (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, page 446).

I agree that Joseph Smith did not write the Book of Mormon. I feel this way not because of the book's internal evidence -- the text of the book leads me to the conclusion that it was written by some man. Nor is it because of a testimony of the Book of Mormon -- I have no such testimony. I do not take this position because of outside confirmation of the Book of Mormon -- there is none.

Quite simply, I do not believe Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon because of his obvious lack of familiarity with it. While I would not expect Joseph to be able to quote the entire book verbatim if he were the author, I would expect him to have some knowledge of its doctrinal contents. Such knowledge he manifestly did not possess.

For example, let us consider the doctrine of God. According to the Book of Mormon, there is only one God (Alma 11:28, 29). He is (not has) a spirit (Alma 18:26-28). He does not change (Mormon 9:9-10).

The god of Joseph Smith was much different. To Joseph, god was only one of many gods (History of the Church, Volume 6, page 474; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, page 349). He believed that God is an exalted man with a physical body (Journal of Discourses, Volume 6, page 3; Doctrine & Covenants 130:22).  Joseph's God had once been a mortal man and became God (History of the Church, Volume 6, page 305) -- a very changeable being. Another place to look is the alleged total apostasy of the church. According to the Book of Mormon it never happened. The Book of Mormon specifically promises preservation for God's people (I Nehpi 11:36; Alma 50:22), and tells of three Nephite apostles who are supposedly still alive and ministering (III Nehpi 28:4-8).

Joseph taught differently. In his First Vision story he claimed that God told him "that I must join none of them (Christian churches) for they were all wrong" (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith - History 19). He issued a revelation calling the Mormon church "the only true and living church upon the face of the earth" (Doctrine & Covenants 1:30); obviously if this is so, all other churches are apostate.

Joseph did not even agree with the Book of Mormon on the matter of its correctness. The book itself says, "And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men" (title page). Another place declares, "And he gave me, Jacob, a commandment that I should write upon these plates a few of the things which I considered to be most precious" (Jacob 1:2). In another passage we read, "And if our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew ... and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have no imperfection in our record" (Mormon 9:33). Joseph flatly contradicted these disclaimers. He declared in 1841, "I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth" (History of the Church, Volume 4, page 461).

It is plain that Joseph Smith did not write the Book of Mormon.  No intelligent man would found a religion based on a book he had written without keeping as close to the teachings of that book as possible. Nor could Joseph have translated the Book of Mormon -- it would be impossible for him to be so intimately involved with its production while remaining so ignorant of its teachings. Of course, it really doesn't matter who did write the Book of Mormon since God manifestly had nothing at all to do with it. The identify of the human penman is important -- what matters is whether or not God inspired the book, and all the evidence indicates He did not.