Book of Mormon

Week 2: Historicity, geography & textual transmission of the Book of Mormon

12 September 2019

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Additional reading and links

On Book of Mormon historicity:

  • Dallin H. Oaks, “The Historicity of the Book of Mormon,” in Historicity and the Latter-day Saint Scriptures, ed. Paul Y. Hoskisson (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center at Brigham Young University, 2001), 237–38. Elder Oaks’ 1993 talk (along with the ten other papers in the book) argues that the Book of Mormon must be considered a historical account. (Purchase this book)
  • Stephen O. Smoot, “Et Incarnatus Est: The Imperative for Book of Mormon Historicity,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 30 (2018): 125–62. Some Latter-day Saints insist that the Book of Mormon should be read as “inspired fiction” written by Joseph Smith instead of as an authentic ancient text. In this paper, Stephen Smoot rejects this proposition as “not only logically incoherent but also theologically impotent.”

On Book of Mormon geography and demography:

  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Book of Mormon Geography,” Gospel Topics. This article sets forth the Church’s position on the location of Book of Mormon events.
  • ⸻, “Book of Mormon and DNA Studies,” Gospel Topics. This article discusses how to reconcile modern DNA evidence with the Book of Mormon’s claim that Israelites came to the Americas 2,600 years ago.
  • John E. Clark, “Archaeological Trends and Book of Mormon Origins,” BYU Studies 44, no. 4 (2005): 83–104. In this paper presented at the 2005 ”Worlds of Joseph Smith” conference at the Library of Congress, John E. Clark, Professor of Anthropology at Brigham Young University, argues that, “The scientific trend of archaeological evidence of its historic facticity indicates that the Book of Mormon is what Joseph Smith claimed it was—an ancient book.”
  • ⸻, “Revisiting ‘A Key for Evaluating Book of Mormon Geographies’,” Mormon Studies Review 23, no. 1 (2011): 13–43. In this update to his 1989 article, Professor Clark proposes a key for judging real-world models of Book of Mormon geography, based exclusively on what the book itself says about locations, distances, and directions.
  • James E. Smith, “How Many Nephites? The Book of Mormon at the Bar of Demography,” in Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins, ed. Noel. B. Reynolds (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1997), 255–93. Smith reviews how ancient historical documents counted large numbers of people and theorizes on how many people lived in the civilizations described in the Book of Mormon. (Purchase this book)
  • John L. Sorenson, The Geography of Book of Mormon Events: A Source Book, 2nd ed. (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1992). BYU professor Sorenson’s book catalogs all the Book of Mormon geographical models (up to 1992), and also sets forth the requirements in the Book of Mormon itself for constructing a geography that matches the descriptions in the text.
  • ⸻, “When Lehi’s Party Arrived in the Land, Did They Find Others There?”, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 1, no. 1 (Fall 1992): 1–34. Professor Sorenson reviews the evidence from the Book of Mormon that the Americas were already populated when Lehi₁’s family arrived, and that the Book of Mormon peoples coexisted among other groups.

On the textual transmission of the Book of Mormon:

  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Book of Mormon Translation,” Gospel Topics. This article discusses how the Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith using a seer stone and the Nephite interpreters to reveal the inspired text.
  • Royal Skousen, “The Systematic Text of the Book of Mormon,” in Uncovering the Original Text of the Book of Mormon: History and Findings of the Critical Text Project, ed. M. Gerald Bradford and Alison V. P. Coutts (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2002), 45–66. BYU professor Royal Skousen reviews his suggested corrections to the text of the Book of Mormon, based on the findings of his multi-decade research project.
  • ⸻, “Some Textual Changes for a Scholarly Study of the Book of Mormon,” BYU Studies 51, no. 4 (2012): 99–117. In this article, Skousen presents thirty of the most significant changes he recommends to the Book of Mormon text.

Videos

  • Where in the Americas did the events of the Book of Mormon take place? Were the Nephites and Lamanites spread throughout both North and South America or confined to a more limited area? Where did Lehi₁’s ship land? Where were the cities of Zarahemla and Bountiful, the narrow neck of land, and the hill Cumorah? And have any of these questions been answered by revelation? Book of Mormon Central examines these questions in KnoWhy #431, “Where Did the Book of Mormon Happen?
  • In this video from the Church History Department, Mason Allred and Mark Ashurst-McGee discuss the various historical accounts of the translation of the Book of Mormon, including the accounts of Joseph Smith using a seer stone to translate.

Maps

BYU Virtual Book of Mormon internal map

BYU Virtual Book of Mormon internal map