The Book of Mormon as an Ancient Book | BYU Studies

The Book of Mormon as an Ancient Book

Volume 22:3 (Summer 1982)
Section and Issue

The Book of Mormon as an Ancient Book

C. Wilfred Griggs

The major weakness of the criticisms that attempt to deny the authenticity of the Book of Mormon is the one-dimensional approach taken to problems which the Book of Mormon presents. The assumption that any parallels between the world of Joseph Smith and the world of the Book of Mormon, real or imagined (e.g., the similarities to the account of the dream of Joseph Smith, Sr., in the case of the former, and the superficial points of contact with Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews in the case of the latter), are sufficient to discredit the Book of Mormon is naive. The challenge of the Book of Mormon lies elsewhere. It claims to be an ancient book, and it must be examined and criticized in terms of this claim.

If, as Joseph Smith states, it is a translation, any modern language source material which the translator found useful or helpful in his translating efforts cannot be used ipso facto as evidence against the authenticity of his work. In addition to identifying any language parallels with modern language sources, the critic must also analyze the historical, cultural, and social elements which are found throughout the narrative of the Book of Mormon and then must show that these elements cannot represent the ancient world home claimed for them before he can disprove the antiquity of the book. Since it is highly unlikely that anyone could invent a work which represents Ancient Near Eastern society accurately, and in such great length as the Book of Mormon (even a transplanted segment of that society would retain many characteristics of its original home which could be checked for accuracy), subjecting the book to the test of integrity in a historical context would be a reasonable task for any scholar to undertake. Criticism of fraudulent texts which use Christ as the subject (e.g., the Archko Volume or the Infancy Gospels) as well as of numerous other non-Christian forgeries shows how rather easily scholars can discredit such attempts.