Many passages of the Book of Mormon are demonstrably dependent on the New Testament. The most obvious use of the New Testament in the Book of Mormon comes in 3 Nephi 12–14, most of which is copied nearly verbatim from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5–7 in the King James Version (KJV). However, there are many other interesting examples that are important because they demonstrate this textual dependence in other ways. Among the most noteworthy parts of the Book of Mormon making use of the New Testament are the writings attributed to Moroni, especially Mormon 8–9 and Moroni 7–10.
In a new series of articles, I explore the evidence from these passages that they were composed—not just translated—by a modern author who drew freely and extensively on the New Testament from the KJV. Three installments of this series are now online. Here I will provide what the Book of Mormon would call an abridgment of those three articles. The headings below give the titles of each article with a link.
In part 1 of the series, I provide an overview of the subject. I first look at what the Book of Mormon itself claims about the writings of Moroni: that he was a Nephite prophet in the early fifth century AD writing partly to address concerns of his own day and partly to exhort future readers to accept the message of the Book of Mormon.
Next, I discuss criteria for identifying meaningful parallels between the New Testament and the Book of Mormon. Expressions that are too short, not distinctive, or not meaningful, or that could come from the Old Testament books to which Moroni (if he existed) would have had access, should not be counted here. With these restrictions, I limit the pool of meaningful parallels to strings of five or more words paralleled verbatim (including variant grammatical forms such as you and thee) between the Book of Mormon and the New Testament, such as “behold the Lamb of God” (Mormon 9:3; cf. John 1:29, 36). Merely identifying a parallel as such does not prove one source borrowed from the other; one must consider all of the facts before drawing that conclusion.
In the rest of part 1, I survey the parallels between Moroni’s writings and the New Testament. I first identify four major parallels:
- Mormon 9:22b-24 exactly parallels Mark 16:15-18 KJV, a passage about Jesus commissioning his apostles to preach the gospel after his resurrection; the only verbal difference at all in 80 words is an additional use of the word and to begin a clause in Mormon 9.
- Moroni 7:44b-47 closely parallels 1 Corinthians 13:2b, 4-8a, in Paul’s famous “love chapter,” including a 32-word string in 1 Corinthians 13:5b-8a KJV that is identical to one in Mormon 7 except again for an additional occurrence of the word and.
- Moroni 7:48 contains 36 words paralleled in 1 John 3:1-3, a passage about believers becoming the children of God, including a string of 18 words that are verbally identical.
- Moroni 10:8-17 contains substantial parallels to Paul’s discussion of the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. About 93 words (including grammatically variant forms) of the passage in 1 Corinthians 12 are paralleled in Moroni 10 in the same order.
I then identify an additional 21 examples of comparatively minor parallels between Mormon 8–9 or Moroni 7–10 and the New Testament. Here are just two examples of those minor parallels:
and the elements shall melt with fervent heat (Mormon 9:2).
and the elements shall melt with fervent heat (2 Peter 3:10, 12).
and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Mormon 9:27).
work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12).
Counting the four major parallels noted previously, then, there are 25 texts in Mormon 8–9 and Moroni 7–10 containing parallels to 25 different texts in 12 different books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 1 John, and Revelation. To put it another way, the parallels involve passages in the Gospels, Acts, Paul’s epistles, the general epistles, and Revelation—every part of the New Testament.
Having surveyed the parallels between Moroni’s writings and the New Testament in part 1, in part 2 I offer an analysis of this evidence. This analysis yields ten distinct lines of evidence that the Book of Mormon had one modern author who made extensive use of the KJV New Testament. Here is a quick rundown of those ten lines of evidence.
- New Testament parallels in a book first appearing in 1829
- Quantity of New Testament parallels
- Diversity of New Testament parallels
- Density of New Testament parallels
- Multiple parallels to widely separate parts of the same New Testament book
- Parallels to adjacent New Testament chapters
- Clustering of New Testament parallels in the Book of Mormon
- The same New Testament texts paralleled in other parts of the Book of Mormon
- Use of the wording of parallel New Testament passages in the King James Version
- Adaptation of the New Testament material to address issues of Joseph Smith’s day
Taking these ten lines of evidence cumulatively, the only reasonable explanation is that the real author of Moroni’s writings was a modern English-speaking individual. The obvious and most likely suspect, given the appearance of the Book of Mormon for the first time in 1829 and 1830, is Joseph Smith.
Part 3: First John in the Book of Mormon
Part 3 is the first of several planned articles that look more closely at some of the New Testament parallels in the writings attributed to Moroni. In this article, I discuss two parallels in Moroni 7–8 to the epistle of 1 John:
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son Jesus Christ, that ye may become the sons of God, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him: for we shall see him as he is, that we may have this hope, that we may be purified even as he is pure” (Moroni 7:48; cf. 1 John 3:1-3).
“Behold, I speak with boldness, having authority from God; and I fear not what man can do: for perfect love casteth out all fear” (Moroni 8:16b; cf. 1 John 4:17-18a).
After presenting the parallels in a table, I analyze the parallels and discuss their significance. The exact parallel using the 18-word sequence that when he shall appear we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is (Moroni 7:48) can only be plausibly understood as the Book of Mormon drawing on the text of 1 John 3:2 in the KJV. The parallels between these two texts are not merely verbal but also follow the same conceptual train of thought: (a) the Father has bestowed love on believers; (b) they are or will be sons of God; (c) when Christ appears we will be like him because we will see him as he is; (d) this hope purifies us to be pure like him. The second parallel, in Moroni 8:16b, comes a chapter later and parallels 1 John 4:17-18a, which is also a chapter later in 1 John as compared to the first passage paralleled. Based on these and other observations, I draw the following conclusion:
The simplest explanation is that the actual author of Moroni 7–8 was someone familiar with 1 John in the KJV, since this view would explain all of the evidence: the similar trains of thought, the two parallels in the same order, the duplication of wording, and the many parallels in the surrounding context to other books of the New Testament. Therefore, we should conclude that the author was an English-speaking person writing after 1611 and of course no later than 1829.
That author was evidently Joseph Smith.