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The "Joseph Smith" Challenge


Cold Steel

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In Elder Hugh B. Brown's Profile of a Prophet Elder Brown said: "I ask anyone to undertake to write the story of the ancient inhabitants of America, to write as he did without any source material. He must include in the story 54 chapters dealing with wars, 21 historical chapters, 55 chapters on visions and prophecies (and remember, when the writer begins to write on visions and prophecies, he must have the record agree meticulously with the Bible). He must write 71 chapters on doctrine and exhortation, and here too, he must check every statement with the scriptures or he will be proved to be a fraud. He must write 21 chapters on the ministry of Christ, and everything the writer claims Jesus said and did and every testimony he writes in the book about him must agree absolutely with the New Testament."

It's interesting that with all the talent in the world today, with all the novel writers, doctors of ancient scripture and so forth, that someone hasn't at least tried to write a volume to show how such might be possible. It doesn't have to be about America, of course. How about some of the outer regions of Asia? If producing a Book of Mormon is not outside the realm of a sharpie with a penchant for the sensational, I'd like to see someone take a mythical tribe of Israelites and take them somewhere.

I think the reason it hasn't been tried is that it can't be done. We have some professors of religion and ancient scripture on this board. Even though they're mostly believers, I wonder if they would know if anything like this has ever been attempted, or how they would feel about tackling the job themselves, just as an experiment.

My own prediction is that they'd fall flat on their faces, because it's the little things in the Book of Mormon, Book of Moses, Book of Abraham that plant the seeds of a testimony. It's not the vast, sweeping stories of ocean crossings, the battles and so forth; it's in the words themselves of the men who are writing.

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Neighbor isn't your belief that the Bible was correctly translated? Why is pattering a translation after the KJV Bible an incorrect translation? How do you know the exact words of Jesus & Paul wern't citation taken from the Book of Mormon? Who is to know when someone via the Holy Ghost is citing earlier scripture, or just plagiarizing?

The Book of Mormon was produced in Josephs head so if he plagiarized hundreds of KJV verses from memory that's quite an accomplishment.

So in response to your question quoting from any believeable scripture does not make the Book of Mormon unbelieveable.

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In Elder Hugh B. Brown's Profile of a Prophet Elder Brown said: "I ask anyone to undertake to write the story of the ancient inhabitants of America, to write as he did without any source material. He must include in the story 54 chapters dealing with wars, 21 historical chapters, 55 chapters on visions and prophecies (and remember, when the writer begins to write on visions and prophecies, he must have the record agree meticulously with the Bible). He must write 71 chapters on doctrine and exhortation, and here too, he must check every statement with the scriptures or he will be proved to be a fraud. He must write 21 chapters on the ministry of Christ, and everything the writer claims Jesus said and did and every testimony he writes in the book about him must agree absolutely with the New Testament."

Has the Book of Mormon been found to be a history of ancient inhabitants of America by anyone outside of the faith? If not, it is akin to writing a book of fiction, with oodles of borrowed biblical scriptures that turns out to be a slow read for many. It becomes a challenge if the book were historical. Otherwise, head to the local library and you will find shelves and shelves of fictional books of every imagination that meet or exceed the challenge.

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In Elder Hugh B. Brown's Profile of a Prophet Elder Brown said: "I ask anyone to undertake to write the story of the ancient inhabitants of America, to write as he did without any source material. He must include in the story 54 chapters dealing with wars, 21 historical chapters, 55 chapters on visions and prophecies (and remember, when the writer begins to write on visions and prophecies, he must have the record agree meticulously with the Bible). He must write 71 chapters on doctrine and exhortation, and here too, he must check every statement with the scriptures or he will be proved to be a fraud. He must write 21 chapters on the ministry of Christ, and everything the writer claims Jesus said and did and every testimony he writes in the book about him must agree absolutely with the New Testament."

Has the Book of Mormon been found to be a history of ancient inhabitants of America by anyone outside of the faith? If not, it is akin to writing a book of fiction, with oodles of borrowed biblical scriptures that turns out to be a slow read for many. It becomes a challenge if the book were historical. Otherwise, head to the local library and you will find shelves and shelves of fictional books of every imagination that meet or exceed the challenge.

Total and complete nonsense. Have you read the Book of Mormon? If so, you couldn't say this or compare it to a novel. It reads as fact, and has doctrinal value. Doctrinal value that compares to what is in the Bible. It reads as scripture. It presents the stories in a very interesting way, and the way the prophets write the events, and weave into it the scriptures of THEIR day, it makes it totally believable.

You say, go to the library, and you will find something even better. Can you suggest even one book that will do this? I didn't think so. Sorry I had to be the one to knock the straw man down...

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My questions about the BOM are.

The BOM is hundreds of pages long. How many thousands of plates would it have taken to be later translated into the BOM? We are talking about many writers, many years, many stories. Are you to tell me that the few simple gold plates hold all the information contained in the BOM?

And. why is writing of the BOM in King James English? I was told as a child that it is the language of the Lord.

Since Jesus was born in the middle east and the language he spoke was Aramaic, and as Jesus was God's son, would'nt God's language be Aramaic?

And if Joseph Smith would have translated the gold plates would it not have made more sense to translate it into the language of that time?

The changes made in the BOM (per the apologists) was grammatical. So it appears to me as though Joseph tried to translate the plates with Bible language and made mistakes that had to be corrected.

Also, if he was truely inspired to translate and was God's will, it would seem to me also that God, (who is perfect, and I truely mean that) would have known exactly what words he wanted in which place?

These questions I have asked and have recieved pat answers for. Have faith and all will be explained.

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I have a challenge for Elder Brown. Since the church receives revelation from God, lets see it produce more scripture to be added to its canon. This would impress me.

It might be a little hard for Elder Brown to meet your challenge, seeing as how he's been dead now for over thirty years.

But I'm sure we'll have some new scripture ... as soon as the precondition is met:

3 Nephi 26

9  And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them.

10  And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation.

11  Behold, I was about to write them, all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbade it, saying: I will try the faith of my people.

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I have a challenge for Elder Brown. Since the church receives revelation from God, lets see it produce more scripture to be added to its canon. This would impress me.

I knda doubt it. If the Book of Mormon does not "impress," nothing else will either. matt 12:39

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Also, if he was truely inspired to translate and was God's will, it would seem to me also that God, (who is perfect, and I truely mean that) would have known exactly what words he wanted in which place?

Joseph Smith didn't "channel" the Book of Mormon text.

Moroni wrote it. Mormon wrote it. Ether, Nephi, and Alma wrote it. They didn't channel. They used their prophetic mind inspired by the Holy Ghost, and there is their signature and personality on it, and that's OK.

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Why is it, when a reasonable question is asked about LDS doctrine, they can only be answered by quoting additional LDS doctrine?

Mostly becaue we are talking about LDS doctrine.

Where else would you go?

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Also, if he was truely inspired to translate and was God's will, it would seem to me also that God, (who is perfect, and I truely mean that) would have known exactly what words he wanted in which place?

Joseph Smith didn't "channel" the Book of Mormon text.

Moroni wrote it. Mormon wrote it. Ether, Nephi, and Alma wrote it. They didn't channel. They used their prophetic mind inspired by the Holy Ghost, and there is their signature and personality on it, and that's OK.

You did not answer the question. Also, I never said he "channeled it or that Moroni wrote it.

Let me simplify the problem as I see it, JS translated the BOM that Mormon, Ether, Nephi and Alma wrote. Using the urim and thummin, should it not have been translated as it was written, so why did it need to be changed, it is almost as though you are saying that it was not translated properly. And don't we believe that the Bible is the word of God as far as it is translated correctly? Should'nt the same logic be used for the BOM?

I say if there were mistakes in the BOM, admit them as we belive that there may be mistakes in the KJV. Why is that so hard to fathom?

I had a testimony of the BOM to my very core, but the simple questions of a child that were never answered have grown into serious doubts as an adult.

Having your signature and personality on the book is fine, then admit that there could be mistakes and problems with the writings.

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Let me simplify the problem as I see it, JS translated the BOM that Mormon, Ether, Nephi and Alma wrote. Using the urim and thummin, should it not have been translated as it was written, so why did it need to be changed, it is almost as though you are saying that it was not translated properly.

Nana, you are expecting a perfect translation from a device (the Urim and Thummim) that is operated predominantly by faith. Additionally, it was operated by a relatively illiterate farm boy, with the resulting translation passed on orally to a scribe, and then filtered through the printer and his assistants and published in several different editions.

It would be foolish not to expect errors to crop up. Indeed, in the preface, Joseph himself says that if there are errors, they are the errors of men.

And don't we believe that the Bible is the word of God as far as it is translated correctly? Should'nt the same logic be used for the BOM?

I say if there were mistakes in the BOM, admit them as we belive that there may be mistakes in the KJV. Why is that so hard to fathom?

The Book of Mormon does not claim to be, nor do conversant, faithful LDS claim it to be, inerrant. We claim it to be doctrinally correct and consistent. The doctrines and teachings of the Book of Mormon are the most correct of any book now in the hands of man. Unfortunately, "most correct" does not mean inerrant or perfect. The LDS have never pretended otherwise.

That's why we have prophets today.

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One further thing- there is no such thing as a "perfect translation".

A translator is moving ideas from one imperfect language to another imperfect language. There are issues of vocabulary in both languages, matters of idiom and even of oral tradition that cannot be resolved with exactness.

If you were to journey to the 1830's and tell someone that his wool clothing was "cool", he'd look at you like an idiot. Ask that same individual about his "bling", and he'd likely have you commited.

Tell someone from the early 1900's that you're "gay", and she'll likely ask you what you're so happy about.

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Why is it, when a reasonable question is asked about LDS doctrine, they can only be answered by quoting additional LDS doctrine?

Mostly becaue we are talking about LDS doctrine.

Where else would you go?

I was referring to the unanswered question in the original post. Why is the BoM written in the same language as the KJV Bible. And who decided that Johnsonian English, is in fact, the language of the Lord. Neither the ancient prophets, nor Jesus spoke english. Neither the old or new testements were written in english. So, how and when, did Johnsonian English become the language of the lord.

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Selek:

Nana, you are expecting a perfect translation from a device (the Urim and Thummim) that is operated predominantly by faith. Additionally, it was operated by a relatively illiterate farm boy, with the resulting translation passed on orally to a scribe, and then filtered through the printer and his assistants and published in several different editions.

It would be foolish not to expect errors to crop up. Indeed, in the preface, Joseph himself says that if there are errors, they are the errors of men.

Would it not be just as reasonable to assume that god would just ensure that his message came through loud and clear, and went down on paper exactly as he intended it? Given that he is omniscient, and had a very large population to choose from, he obviously chose the vessels that would produce the results he desired. He would know exactly what "filtering" would occur due to free will, mortal fallibility etc, and thus whatever final message was delivered, was what he choose to have delivered. If he didn't like the interpretation that a particular prophet would make of his Word, he could just choose a different vessel.

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Why is the BoM written in the same language as the KJV Bible. And who decided that Johnsonian English, is in fact, the language of the Lord. Neither the ancient prophets, nor Jesus spoke english. Neither the old or new testements were written in english. So, how and when, did Johnsonian English become the language of the lord.

This seems intuitive and obvious to me. If a young man versed in religious truths from the King James Bible, were given the task to translate another ancient record into a new volume of scripture, what style and language would he use to express it in? The same style and language he was used to learning scripture in.

If Joseph had been a young German boy who was trained up in the ways of God from the Guttenburg Bible, I'd expect the first modern translation of the Book of Mormon to be in German.

Most translations of the Book of Mormon today aren't even in English, so I imagine this whole topic is culturally bound, and wouldn't make much sense to someone in Tonga or Russia.

No mortal, no matter how inspired and talented, is perfect, and the Latter-day Saints don't expect even the Book of Mormon to be perfect. What we do know is that God is perfect and He teaches by His Spirit. Any errors that are the fault of men... Well, let me quote the original writers of the Book of Mormon. They say it better:

Mormon 8:12 And whoso receiveth this record, and shall not condemn it because of the imperfections which are in it, the same shall know of greater things than these. Behold, I am Moroni; and were it possible, I would make all things known unto you.

 

  14 And I am the same who ahideth up this record unto the Lord; the plates thereof are of no worth, because of the commandment of the Lord. For he truly saith that no one shall have them bto get gain; but the record thereof is of cgreat worth; and whoso shall bring it to light, him will the Lord bless.

  15 For none can have power to bring it to light save it be given him of God; for God wills that it shall be done with an eye single to his glory, or the welfare of the ancient and long dispersed covenant people of the Lord.

  16 And blessed be he that shall bring this thing to light; for it shall be brought out of darkness unto light, according to the word of God; yea, it shall be brought out of the earth, and it shall shine forth out of darkness, and come unto the knowledge of the people; and it shall be done by the power of God.

  17 And if there be faults they be the faults of a man. But behold, we know no fault; nevertheless God knoweth all things; therefore, he that condemneth, let him be aware lest he shall be in danger of hell fire.

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Nice touch, dadof7.

It seems no one is able to understand the challenge, much less meet it.

Use whichever verses from whichever Bible version you feel comfortable with, but when you quote them, quote them correctly. Whatever warts or weaknesses anyone feels is evident in the Book of Mormon may be duplicated or improved upon. I simply feel that in a world so rich in information that it should be a cinch to knock out a book like the Book of Mormon when the sky's the limit.

We live in a day of immese creativity. Is everyone saying that a farm boy in upstate New York is going to be one up on a culture which produces Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Kill Bill -- that we can't even come up with a few rewritten Bible stories, a few new takes on the Messiah, and an epic that spans three cultures?

Nope. Just snippits and snide remarks.

Like I said, it's the little things that will never be able to be reproduced. I'm sure Elder Brown wouldn't even mind if you used chiasmus as a freebie.

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I'm LDS, but I've thought about taking up the challenge. But it would be near impossible to recreate the circumstances under which Joseph wrote the Book of Mormon. I've read the Bible and the Book of Mormon several times. I've read all of the so-called "problems" with the Book of Mormon, so it would be easy for me not to recreate them.

Actually I'm confident I could write something like the Book of Mormon in nine months. The hard part would be not borrowing ideas from the Book of Mormon (I might be accused of plagiarizing...). Maybe I should find a copy of View of the Hebrews.

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My questions about the BOM are.

The BOM is hundreds of pages long. How many thousands of plates would it have taken to be later translated into the BOM? We are talking about many writers, many years, many stories. Are you to tell me that the few simple gold plates hold all the information contained in the BOM?

And. why is writing of the BOM in King James English? I was told as a child that it is the language of the Lord.

Since Jesus was born in the middle east and the language he spoke was Aramaic, and as Jesus was God's son, would'nt God's language be Aramaic?

And if Joseph Smith would have translated the gold plates would it not have made more sense to translate it into the language of that time?

The changes made in the BOM (per the apologists) was grammatical. So it appears to me as though Joseph tried to translate the plates with Bible language and made mistakes that had to be corrected.

Also, if he was truely inspired to translate and was God's will, it would seem to me also that God, (who is perfect, and I truely mean that) would have known exactly what words he wanted in which place?

These questions I have asked and have recieved pat answers for. Have faith and all will be explained.

Nana, with all respect for you, I don't see how these questions are issues.

When I read the Book of Mormon, I find the language to be more similar to 19th century English than the KJV. In fact, I find the BOM's language to be distinct from both of them - the KJV uses a lot of obscure spellings and vocabulary, whereas the Book of Mormon uses the phrases "And it came to pass that," or "And thus we see that" much more often. I'm not a linguist, but I don't see the problem you're talking about.

If you have a complaint about how a 500 page document was gleaned from a single set of plates, may I ask you - exactly how many plates do you feel there SHOULD have been? Is there any real way of judging or measuring? Who isn't to say that whole phrases were translated from a single character on the plates? Or who isn't to say that there weren't also many hundred plates? I heard from somewhere, once, as to the approximate thickness of the plates, but I couldn't reference it - would appreciate it if someone could. I remeber, as a child, seeing the US constitution in the glass case in the National Archives at Washington DC, and being absolutely astounded that the entire document was originally written on a single piece of paper. Perhaps, when the facts come out, you'll feel the same way about the Gold Plates?

Since Jesus is a God, I have no problem believing that he knows more languages than Aramaic. How could he possibly be God and NOT know more languages than Aramaic? And even if he didn't, there's still the gift of tongues, such as is described in Acts 2.

Ditto what rocky terrain said. There cannot be an innerant word if language itself is of a flawed nature. I've also heard that most of the Book of Mormon changes actually restored the modern editions closer to the original manuscripts, though I don't have a reference for that.

If you've received pat answers, I think it's because most LDS you've talked with have seen these as pat questions.

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Antley,

I'm LDS, but I've thought about taking up the challenge. But it would be near impossible to recreate the circumstances under which Joseph wrote the Book of Mormon. I've read the Bible and the Book of Mormon several times. I've read all of the so-called "problems" with the Book of Mormon, so it would be easy for me not to recreate them.

Then you clearly have an advantage. If you feel you're up to the challenge, I'd say go for it. If (when) you fail, it will enhance your appreciation and your testimony of Joseph Smith as a prophet of God.

Vurt,

Would it not be just as reasonable to assume that god would just ensure that his message came through loud and clear, and went down on paper exactly as he intended it?
If the Book is doctrinally correct, then God's message DID come through loud and clear.
Given that he is omniscient, and had a very large population to choose from, he obviously chose the vessels that would produce the results he desired.
He did. And Joseph brought forth the Book of Mormon, just as God desired he would.
He would know exactly what "filtering" would occur due to free will, mortal fallibility etc, and thus whatever final message was delivered, was what he choose to have delivered. If he didn't like the interpretation that a particular prophet would make of his Word, he could just choose a different vessel.

Why not assume and apply the same standard to any of the dozens or hundreds of translations of the Bible?

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I have a challenge for Elder Brown.  Since the church receives revelation from God, lets see it produce more scripture to be added to its canon.  This would impress me.

One step ahead of you. It's called The Doctrine and Covenants.

Actually, make that TWO steps ahead of you. How many patriarchal blessings were issued just last week?

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I have a challenge for Elder Brown.  Since the church receives revelation from God, lets see it produce more scripture to be added to its canon.  This would impress me.

One step ahead of you. It's called The Doctrine and Covenants.

Actually, make that TWO steps ahead of you. How many patriarchal blessings were issued just last week?

I just got mine in the mail! :P

And let's not forget the JST, and the "dead horse" (but let's not let this degrade into a BoA translation thread) known as the BoA!

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In Elder Hugh B. Brown's Profile of a Prophet Elder Brown said: "I ask anyone to undertake to write the story of the ancient inhabitants of America, to write as he did without any source material. He must include in the story 54 chapters dealing with wars, 21 historical chapters, 55 chapters on visions and prophecies (and remember, when the writer begins to write on visions and prophecies, he must have the record agree meticulously with the Bible). He must write 71 chapters on doctrine and exhortation, and here too, he must check every statement with the scriptures or he will be proved to be a fraud. He must write 21 chapters on the ministry of Christ, and everything the writer claims Jesus said and did and every testimony he writes in the book about him must agree absolutely with the New Testament."

It's interesting that with all the talent in the world today, with all the novel writers, doctors of ancient scripture and so forth, that someone hasn't at least tried to write a volume to show how such might be possible. It doesn't have to be about America, of course. How about some of the outer regions of Asia? If producing a Book of Mormon is not outside the realm of a sharpie with a penchant for the sensational, I'd like to see someone take a mythical tribe of Israelites and take them somewhere.

I think the reason it hasn't been tried is that it can't be done. We have some professors of religion and ancient scripture on this board. Even though they're mostly believers, I wonder if they would know if anything like this has ever been attempted, or how they would feel about tackling the job themselves, just as an experiment.

My own prediction is that they'd fall flat on their faces, because it's the little things in the Book of Mormon, Book of Moses, Book of Abraham that plant the seeds of a testimony. It's not the vast, sweeping stories of ocean crossings, the battles and so forth; it's in the words themselves of the men who are writing.

A couple of observations about this challenge:

1) Why would anybody even be motiviated to do so? Joseph had motivations to write this book (not to debate those at the moment) that were vastly different from those of anybody who would be taking up this challenge. Writing a book structured along the same thematic lines as the Book of Mormon is, if nothing else, a lot of work. Once it was written, what would be accomplished? Would you, Cold Steel, then leave Mormonism? I'm guessing the answer is no. Would the Book ever be even so much as an obscure footnote anywhere? Most likely not. So the biggest reason that nobody has taken up this challenge, IMO, is that the amount of work it would require would is so inordinately out of proportion with anything that could be accomplished by doing so that nobody would want to do this. Most creative individuals create a new and unique work rather than trying to replicate what they may consider to be a mediocre book in any case.

2) In issuing this challenge, you and Hugh Brown are of course making numerous favorable assumptions to make the claim look more impressive, i.e.,

-Joseph Smith's sole authorship

-The unassailability of the text (both internally and against external sources)

-The belief that it was written without source material

Without delving into these issues individually, I think that most would agree that there is at least controversy about each of the above assumptions. In making his grand-sounding challenge, however, Hugh Brown is treating these issues as closed cases.

3) Something not entirely dissimilar has been done to this: the Quaran, written by an uneducated Bedouin.

4) People have written books that have, IMO, displayed much greater creativity and a much more remarkable internal consistency than the Book of Mormon. The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien, for instance, comes to mind. I know that, in a certain sense, this is an apples-to-oranges comparison. I bring it up only to show that the supposedly amazing level of internal consistency that believers often attribute to the Book of Mormon exists in many works of much greater length, complexity and imagination than the Book of Mormon.

5) If you want to spin this challenge differently, it would be easy to do so. For instance, suppose that after the publishing of the Book of Mormon, numerous books of a similar nature had been produced. Could that fact not also be presented as a proof of the Book of Mormon's truth? I can imagine believers talking about how imitation is the sincerest form of flattery or how the copycats still can't measure up to the original. The fact that nobody else has attempted to produce a copy of a work like the book of Mormon can be re-interpreted as a negative imputation on the book just as easily as it can be said to be a positive one.

6) I'm very long winded today. (just checking to see if anybody is still reading :P )

7) The historical conditions make it much less likely that anybody would attempt to write a book making claims like the Book of Mormon does today. We know much more about the world than was known in Joseph Smith's time. Therefore, a skeptic would say Joseph Smith was speculating about lost cultures. Today, a person would be trying to overturn universally accepted history if they wrote a book making historical claims akin to those made by Smith. Smith was nothing if not bold, but to make historical claims against widely accepted history today would require an even more remarkable level of audacity.

Now, if anybody survived to the end of this post, you deserve some sort of reward for endurance. My point in this long-winded exercise is merely that I don't think that the fact that nobody has undertaken to write a book on lines nearly identical to those of the Book of Mormon can really be used as any special sort of evidence that the Book of Mormon must be true. The challenge is specious.

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