There are all sorts lists of things that critics of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seem to think its members ought to know. You find them all over the internet. But what are the things the Devil does NOT want anyone to know about the Book of Mormon, the “keystone” of our religion?
- Writing ancient history on metal plates was a real thing. Although totally unknown in 1829, hundreds of examples of this type of record keeping have been discovered all over the world since the publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830. One of the most notable discoveries was made in Persepolis in present-day Iran in 1933. German archaeologists uncovered inscribed gold and silver plates in stone boxes placed there by King Darius of Persia to commemorate the building of a palace about 515 B.C., not many years after Lehi and his family left Jerusalem.
- There were more qualified witnesses to the reality of the plates than you would need to get a murder conviction in any court. Over a dozen upstanding citizens in their communities saw and/or handled the plates and signed documents to that effect.
- Modern computer wordprint studies called “stylometry” have established beyond a reasonable doubt that the Book of Mormon text was written by at least 22 different authors with individual writing styles, using many ancient Hebrew literary techniques. None of the writing styles were those of Joseph Smith or any of his scribes when compared with their other contemporary writings.
- Although the Book of Mormon does contain some material quoted from the Bible, any unacknowledged parallels between it and the Bible or other books such as the Solomon Spalding Manuscript or View of the Hebrews are miniscule and insignificant. Over 93 percent of the text is totally original and remains unchallenged by any charges of plagiarism.
- According to well-documented sources, Joseph Smith dictated the 500+ pages of the first draft of the translation of the Book of Mormon to his scribes in less than 70 days, using no notes or external research sources. It took J.R.R. Tolkien over 12 years to write Lord of the Rings. Joseph had only three years of formal frontier elementary education, very little library access, and no internet.
- The first draft was the only draft, except for minor changes in grammar, punctuation, etc. A number of changes have been made in subsequent editions to correct scribal and printing errors and what was thought to be “poor English” in the first edition. However much of that “poor English” has since been discovered to be excellent Hebrew word construction, though awkward to readers in other languages.
- There are many archaeological, anthropological, geographical, historical, and botanical claims about ancient America in the Book of Mormon that seemed outlandish and absurd when it was published in 1830, but which have been validated by scientific research since that time. Many references to supposed “anachronisms” such as the presence of horses, barley, etc. in ancient America have been discovered to be accurate only in recent years.
- As a historical document the Book of Mormon is very complex. It speaks of three different groups reported to have migrated from the Middle East to the Americas. It covers a time period of over 2,600 years and records complex political histories, wars, and societal changes. It describes geographical details that include dozens of cities, rivers, seas, mountain ranges and so forth, including the distances and directional relationships between those places. It interweaves throughout this history the religious teachings found in both the Old and New Testaments. But after almost 200 years of careful scrutiny of this history and doctrine by its critics, there have been found no internal contradictions or inconsistencies.
- As a literary document, the Book of Mormon is exceptional. It contains many kinds of obscure Near Eastern ancient traditions and Hebrew word plays including parallelisms, “if-and” constructions, etc. It was only in 1967 that many excellent examples of a forgotten form of Hebrew poetry known as “chiasmus” were discovered in the text. Hebrew scholars from all over the world have acknowledged the beauty and complexity of the chiastic passages in the Book of Mormon.
- As a geographical document, the Book of Mormon is a puzzle. In its very opening chapters it describes in remarkable detail the journey of Lehi and his family from Jerusalem through the Arabian Desert southward along the borders of the Red Sea, and then eastward to a luxuriant oasis on the shore of the Indian Ocean where they built a ship and sailed to the Americas. Modern explorers have re-traced Lehi’s trail through the desert and found many of the landmarks described by Nephi in just the right places. These include the ancient city of Nahom where the family made a radical change in their direction, and the Khor Karfot seaside oasis that corresponds exactly to Nephi’s description of the area he called “Bountiful”. None of these geographical details were known to the Western world in 1829, much less to Joseph Smith. Most of that area known as “The Empty Quarter” was not mapped until over a hundred years later.
- (Okay, this is a bonus item – no extra charge!)
The subtitle of the Book of Mormon is “Another Testament of Jesus Christ”. That’s because the central message of the book is that after his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus visited his “other sheep” of the House of Israel who lived in the Americas. If true, this astounding claim not only testifies of the divinity of our Savior Jesus Christ, but it supports and verifies the Bible and its record of his ministry as well. (That’s known as a “two-fer”.) Of course, in 1829 this was a pretty crazy idea, but since that time many historical accounts and legends have been discovered of a “white and bearded god” who appeared in the Americas at about the time of Christ. These accounts come from all over the western hemisphere. They have often been corrupted over the centuries and details vary, but the preponderance of evidence indicates that someone very much like Jesus who had what we would today call “super-powers” did indeed visit this continent sometime around 34 AD. 
So, why does the Devil not want you to know about these things (and any more) regarding the Book of Mormon? Well, the almost inescapable conclusion is that if these things are true, then:
- Joseph Smith did indeed translate the Book of Mormon from ancient records through the “gift and power of God”, and therefore,
- He was a true prophet of God, and therefore,
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is indeed a restoration of Christ’s New Testament Church, and the way to find salvation and true eternal happiness.
And the Devil does not want you to know that.
Robert Starling has been a writer and producer for the NBC Television Network and has worked at Schick Sunn Classic Pictures, Osmond Productions, and the media production department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He has served in various producing capacities on feature films such as: “Jack Weyland’s Charly”, “In Search of Historic Jesus”, “Tears of a King”, “Scout Camp: The Movie”, and “Abandoned Mine”. His recent book “A Case for Latter-day Christianity” is available in many bookstores, on Barnes and Noble, and on Amazon.com in printed and e-book versions. He lives in Riverton, Utah with his wife Sharon. They have four adult children and eleven grandchildren.