Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins

Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited is a sequel to Book of Mormon Authorship: New Light on Ancient Origins, published in 1982 by BYU’s Religious Studies Center and also edited by Noel Reynolds. In light of the growing body of significant insights into the antiquity of the Book of Mormon, this volume refreshes, updates, and extends the discussion begun sixteen years ago. Contributors present sixteen essays from a broad range of perspectives to address directly those questions that relate to Book of Mormon origins and authorship. In the contributors’ view, one cannot prove scientifically that ancient prophets wrote the Book of Mormon. One can, however, definitively refute false claims as well as give evidence in support of the divine theory. Revisited does an outstanding job of presenting insightful and interesting evidence to support the Book of Mormon as an ancient text. The analysis below will highlight some of the noteworthy points in the four sections of the anthology.

Part one, “The Nineteenth-Century Origin of the Book of Mormon,” focuses on the historical background, the witnesses, and the translation process. the underlying theme is that, in their haste to show that the Book of Mormon is a product of early nineteenth-century culture, critics gloss over the historical details. The issue is “matching”: do purported theories about the origin of the book match the nineteenth-century historical evidence? Richard Bushman uses primary sources to lay out the historical context that any theory on Book of Mormon origins must address. His essay points out the matter-of-factness of the translation process and the consistency of the source material to the details. Royal Skousen’s analysis of the original manuscript strengthens Bushman’s evidence. Skousen shows how the original manuscript indicates that the work was written from a translation and dictation process. These essays, along with Richard Anderson’s update of the accounts of the eyewitnesses to the golden plates, form a solid case that the scenario that best matches the historical details is the explanation given by Joseph Smith.

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