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Book of Mormon Apologetics


jbelli21

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Before I write this I think I should preface this by saying that I believe in (in a non-orthodox way) and read/study constantly the Book of Mormon. I do love many parts of it but also have concerns as any intelligent person should.

I'm kinda at a loss of figuring out why one of the apologetic approaches to the BOM is that, "Well Joseph Smith was only 24 and finished it in 2 months". So... Do you people read? The Book of Mormon is far from being a literary masterpiece. There have been far greater literary achievements made at a much younger age and in much less time (he claimed to have the "plates" for a lot longer than two months anyways). Just a couple of examples should suffice, you can go read and find more on your own: Robert Lewis Stevenson wrote The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in just three days on a cocaine binge. He did write it at age 35, but he was just in his teens when he wrote the script to a play that would eventually transform into this famous novel. Einstein published his Annus Mirabilis (latin for extraordinary year) Papers in 1905 at the age of 26, these four papers changed the way the world looked at space, time, and matter. Like Mormon Apologetic claims, Einstein had very limited access to any scientific reference materials. So I'm not buying the he was a really young dumb farm boy who in no way could have written the Book of Mormon. There are so many anachronisms, which no have not been properly addressed by FARMS, or here on this message board, if you were about to say that, inconsistencies, and flaws that have not escaped criticism. But let's focus on this one here in this post please.

Is anyone here willing to accept an alternate than the spoon-fed orthodox American Indian historical view of the BOM, or am I in the wrong forum?

Life isn't black and white...there are colors you know unless you are color blind.

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With respect to Joseph's age, I agree that it is not a compelling argument for the question of Book of Mormon verisimilitude and historicity. There are better arguments for the Book of Mormon (e.g., the Arabian Peninsula geography; Mulek/Malkiyahu, etc).

However, I think a good case can be made that it is, textually speaking, a very complex text, even if it does not come across as such from a surface reading. The use of the Old Testament in the Book of Mormon is one such area. You might want to pursue Ben McGuire's "Nephi and Goliath" paper (published in 2009 by FARMS in the Journal of Book of Mormon and Restoration Scripture) and other like-works (e.g., Noel Reynold's article on Nephite kingship in *Mormons, Scripture, and the Ancient World* from 1998). The use of non-KJV Hebraisms and puns (e.g., Tvedtnes and Bokovoy, *Testaments: Links Between the Book of Mormon and the Hebrew Bible*) and other works (most recent example being Grant Hardy's book, published by Oxford, *Understanding the Book of Mormon*).

Just some quick thoughts. It is 2 AM here in Ireland, so I am logging off now, but I hope what I wrote adds some food for thought.

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I'm kinda at a loss of figuring out why one of the apologetic approaches to the BOM is that, "Well Joseph Smith was only 24 and finished it in 2 months". So... Do you people read?

I read voraciously. Yet, I think, you're attempting to insult me. Why are you doing that?

I don't care much about Joseph's age, but I do think that his roughly two months of formal education make his authorship of the Book of Mormon a less likely hypothesis than it would otherwise be, and I'm very impressed by the speed of its dictation. I not only read a lot, but I write a lot, and rapidly -- and yet I don't believe that I've ever written at anything even close to the sustained pace that would be required to produce a text the length of the Book of Mormon in slightly more than two months. Some of my thoughts on this and related topics occur in the first portion of an article entitled "Not So Easily Dismissed: Some Facts for Which Counterexplanations of the Book of Mormon Will Need to Account," published in the FARMS Review back in 2005.

The Book of Mormon is far from being a literary masterpiece.

This can be debated, but it's not, I think, a very important point. I do believe, though, that you underestimate the literary qualities and complexity of the book. Grant Hardy's Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010) is a very recent and extremely persuasive account of some of the book's complexity that I highly, highly recommend. (In fact, here's something I've recently written about it.) But there are also significant treatments of the Book of Mormon's content, style, and complexity (including intertextuality) by such people as Eugene England, Donald Parry, Mel Thorne, Terryl Givens, Marilyn Arnold, Dilworth Rust, Bruce Jorgenson, John Welch, etc., that should not be overlooked.

You need, by the way, always to keep in mind that the canons by which one kind of writing should be judged may or may not be appropriate for judging another, different, kind of writing. Just minutes before coming across your post, as luck would have it, I read the following wise observation: "We don't fault John Bunyan (unless we are idiots) because the characters in The Pilgrim's Progress lack the complexity of the characters in War and Peace. Bunyan and Tolstoy were doing different things." (John Wilson, "Stranger in a Strange Land: This Gorgeous Game," Books and Culture 16/4 [July/August 2010]: 5.)

There have been far greater literary achievements made at a much younger age and in much less time (he claimed to have the "plates" for a lot longer than two months anyways).

It's pretty clear that the dictation took just a bit more than two months, and that Joseph wasn't simply reading from a pre-composed text. (For an argument to that effect, see my "Not So Easily Dismissed: Some Facts for Which Counterexplanations of the Book of Mormon Will Need to Account," already referenced above.)

Just a couple of examples should suffice, you can go read and find more on your own: Robert Lewis Stevenson wrote The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in just three days on a cocaine binge.

Possibly. Sort of. He seems to have written the first draft in about three days, and then to have taken another three to six days to revise it. Legendarily but not certainly under the influence of cocaine. (And then it would be interesting to know whether and how his second draft may have been altered for publication.)

Anyway, as luck would have it I just re-read Stevenson's story a couple of weeks ago. It's a very different kind of writing than the Book of Mormon, and, among other things, nowhere near as complex. I don't really see its relevance to this issue. Telling a yarn, even a very good and relatively lengthy one, is not the same thing as dictating a text like the Book of Mormon.

Stevenson, by the way, had been dictating stories to his mother and his nurse since before he could read, and wrote stories throughout his childhood.

He did write it at age 35, but he was just in his teens when he wrote the script to a play that would eventually transform into this famous novel.

Which means, plainly, that he had been fishing in those waters for roughly two decades.

Einstein published his Annus Mirabilis (latin for extraordinary year) Papers in 1905 at the age of 26, these four papers changed the way the world looked at space, time, and matter.

Right.

But, again, not comparable, really, to the Book of Mormon. The papers are relatively short, and they rely, famously, on thought-experiments (e.g., "What would it be like to ride on a beam of light?") and relatively brief though profound insights. They aren't "constructed" in anything like the way the Book of Mormon is.

Like Mormon Apologetic claims, Einstein had very limited access to any scientific reference materials.

Not really relevant. The Book of Mormon would be more aptly compared to a lengthy work of historiography, say, than to the four great Einstein papers.

So I'm not buying the he was a really young dumb farm boy who in no way could have written the Book of Mormon.

I contend that the improbability of a book like the Book of Mormon being dictated by a young man like Joseph Smith within just slightly more than two months carries significant evidentiary force. Is his authorship impossible? No. Is it unlikely? Plainly, yes. Though you're welcome, obviously, to attempt to formulate a counterargument.

There are so many anachronisms, which no have not been properly addressed by FARMS, or here on this message board, if you were about to say that, inconsistencies, and flaws that have not escaped criticism.

That's a vague blanket statement. Without specifics, it's pretty much a bald assertion, lacking value.

But let's focus on this one here in this post please.

Is anyone here willing to accept an alternate than the spoon-fed orthodox American Indian historical view of the BOM, or am I in the wrong forum?

Life isn't black and white...there are colors you know unless you are color blind.

I'm not sure why you've chosen to appear here with such a display of smug, contemptuous superiority ("spoon-fed," "color blind," "do you people read?"). If you're incapable of respectful disagreement, or unwilling to admit the possibility that intelligent and informed people may honestly disagree with you, you may, indeed, have come to the wrong forum.

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I'm kinda at a loss of figuring out why one of the apologetic approaches to the BOM is that, "Well Joseph Smith was only 24 and finished it in 2 months". So... Do you people read?

Of course not. I avoid it at all costs, and do so in three languages.

The Book of Mormon is far from being a literary masterpiece.
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Joseph's age isn't the important part. It's the fact that he had almost no education and certainly no knowledge about Hebrew poetry, Arabian geography, etc. He didn't even know that Jerusalem had walls.

Yeah, that does seem to be the issue.

The example that jbelli mentioned, was that of Einstein. Too bad that came after years of schooling and many years of preparatory and university studying. Joseph had the equivalent of a third grade education. There's only one way to explain the miracle that is the Book of Mormon, and that is that Joseph was taught from on high, much as the ancient prophets and apostles were.

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Joseph's age isn't the important part. It's the fact that he had almost no education and certainly no knowledge about Hebrew poetry, Arabian geography, etc. He didn't even know that Jerusalem had walls.

I'm certainly no expert on Mormon theology, but I thought JS was at least well acquainted with the Bible at the time he penned the BoM? The Bible discusses Jerusalem's walls in more than one place (2 Kings 25:10,Ezra 4:12, Nehemiah 2:13, Psalm 51:18.)

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I'm certainly no expert on Mormon theology, but I thought JS was at least well acquainted with the Bible at the time he penned the BoM? The Bible discusses Jerusalem's walls in more than one place...

Joseph's mother said he was more prone to contemplation than reading.

The Bible mentions the existence of walls, the destruction of walls, and the rebuilding of walls.

Those walls were destroyed shortly after Lehi and family left Palestine.

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I'm certainly no expert on Mormon theology, but I thought JS was at least well acquainted with the Bible at the time he penned the BoM? The Bible discusses Jerusalem's walls in more than one place (Ezra 4:12, Nehemiah 2:13, Psalm 51:18.

But Emma was insistent that he did not know. He had to call for a Bible and read a passage that mentioned the walls when he got to the point in the Book of Mormon text that talked about them.

Lehi

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as mentioned earlier I only use Stevenson and Einstien as examples. I realize they weren't writting religious documents but the content they produced are at least at level with what is contained in the BOM. Consider Shakespere,

True, Joseph Smith did have lack of "formal" education but so did most children in rural American during those times. However, it can hardly be argued that Joseph was "uneducated". His father and brother Hyrum were part time school teachers in the off seasons. Joseph attended high school with the Stowells while he worked with them in Harmony, PA. Abraham Lincoln had very little formal education and Benjamin Franklin had only one year of formal education. I suppose the poor grammer in the original text of the Book of Mormon would prove Joesph's lack of formal education.

Sure I guess you could argue that it is just one's opinion that the book of mormon is or is not a literary masterpeice. As far as I've seen the general membership of the church seems to think it is, however that is irrelavant. I'm certainly not a literary master myself but here's a few quotes to consider.

Mark Twain thought the BOM was extremely boring and referred to it as 'chloroform in print'. The book seems to be merely a prosy detail of imaginary history, with the Old Testament for a model; followed by a tedious plagiarism of the New Testament. The author labored to give his words and phrases the quaint, old-fashioned sound and structure of our King James's translation of the Scriptures; and the result is a mongrel -- half modern glibness, and half ancient simplicity and gravity. The latter is awkward and constrained; the former natural, but grotesque by the contrast. Whenever he found his speech growing too modern -- which was about every sentence or two -- he ladled in a few such Scriptural phrases as "exceeding sore," "and it came to pass," etc., and made things satisfactory again. "And it came to pass" was his pet. If he had left that out, his Bible would have been only a pamphlet. Mark Twain, Roughing It

Even Assistant Church Historian and General Authority B.H. Roberts objectively stated:

"... [T]here is a certain lack of perspective in the things the book relates as history that points quite clearly to an undeveloped mind as their origin. The narrative proceeds in characteristic disregard of conditions necessary to its reasonableness, as if it were a tale told by a child, with utter disregard for consistency...

"Is this all sober history ... or is it a wonder-tale of an immature mind, unconscious of what a test he is laying on human credulity when asking men to accept his narrative as solemn history." (Studies of the Book of Mormon, B.H. Roberts)

Many books are far more complex and more difficult to write than the Book of Mormon. There are also hundreds of examples of other religious men who claim to have written "scripture" - Mohammed, Zoroaster, Loa Tze, etc. Even well meaning believers in Joseph Smith produced just as impressive books of "scripture". Christopher Marc Nemelka claimed to have translated the sealed portion of the BOM and even the lost 116 pages. Altogether he produced over 668 pages of "BOM scripture". Others include James Strang, Gorker Harim III, and the Church of the Firstborn who attempted to create "BOM like scripture"

While yes Joseph Smith was not heavily formally educated or very old to say that this is evidence of it's divinity is a far stretch.

On another point, it seems to me if Mormons want to consider the Book of Mormon historical then they will have to provide the evidence for this claim. Joseph Smith certainly did not produce any evidence of it's historicity other than his testimony and the book itself which both can be analyzed. The Book of Mormon does not stand up to the historical scrutiny as does most of the Bible (albeit quite a bit of the bible doesn't stand up to that test either) The Book of Mormon in my view is most likely the work of Joseph Smith and perhaps others world view and religious unbringing and unless proved otherwise all evidence points to it being the work of 19th century origins.

However just because I think the BOM may have been written by him doesn't mean that I don't think it can't be an inspiring work and bring people closer to Christ.

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Joseph's lack of education is just one problem that he would have faced if he had tried to author the Book of Mormon on jis own. The prodigious amounts of information that he would have had to assimilate and integrate into his narrative would have been a major and daunting hurdle for even a well educated man, with ready access to many different libraries to obtain the information. In addition to this he would have had to have not just an excellent memory, but a photographic memory.

Taking each element alone seems hardly impressive to the critics. And I have seen none that have dealt honestly with all of the pieces that the Book of Mormon fits together.

A few Hebrew constructs and phrases alone might not seem remarkable. But LDS scholars have shown evidence of scores of Hebraic structures in the texts.

Chiasms is a subset of the Hebraic structures. Taken alone, they might not be very impressive. It seems that people often produce unintentional chiasms, simple ones. However, the Book of Mormon has some skillfully crafted chiastic prose which involve whole chapters, such as Alma Chapter 36.

Names in the Book of Mormon, the new non-biblical names and names not normally associated with a person or man have been glossed over by the critics, yet the names are stubbornly there. We have all probably discussed the Alma name, normally a name associated with a female in the U.S. but attested to in the Lachish papers as belonging to a male in ancient Judea, in Lehi's time. And speaking og the name Lehi, it is found in the Bible, as a place name, and means something like jawbone. The latest Journal of Book of Mormon Studies has an article by Jeffrey Chadwick noting that the name Lehi has also been found as a male name in documents from Samaria and an ostracon from the shore of the Red Sea.

There are many more which have been presented by the Maxwell Institute articles and elsewhere. I have seen no critic take on the whole picture. Most focus on one item here or there, mostly things like Book of Mormon anachronisms. However, that list has been shrinking, slowly, but still shrinking.

However, for most critics, none of that matters. They will have to be hit over the head by a lightening bolt from God who speaks in a voice of thunder declaring to them and the world that the Book of Mormon is indeed inspired.

And I would have to be hit by a similar type of bolt, with the Lord telling me that the Book of Mormon is of the devil and not inspired, because it was God, through the medium of the Holy Ghost, who told me it was true in the first place.

Glenn

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No one is claiming that Joseph's age proves authenticity. It is a piece of evidentry information.

In a homicide case the fact that the shooter was a man is a piece of evidence. Does it prove John Doe was the murderer? No. But it makes it more likely that Jane wasn't the shooter.

Is Joseph's age evidence for the authenticity of the BOM? Yes. Does it prove it? No. But the fact that he was young is evidence.

(Please review Article 4 in the Federal Rules of Evidence)

There are other pieces of evidence that bolster the authenticity of the BOM.

Now if you have a particular argument against it's authenticity (other than other young people wrote stuff too) please share it Once you state it I will be more than happy to discredit it.

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It is also clear that you have no real respect for the BOM. You claim to read, study, and believe in the book. If you think that it is the invention of the Prophet and has no literary value, why use it. Thus, I am calling you out on your bull.

You are not a believer, but are only pretending to be one to enhance your position in this debate. Crawl back in your hole.

You say that the BOM has value in bringing souls unto Christ. Thus, what is your purpose in attacking the book? Are you trying to destroy people's faith in Christ, by attempting to discredit a book that brings souls unto the Christ?

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The Book of Mormon in my view is most likely the work of Joseph Smith and perhaps others world view and religious unbringing and unless proved otherwise all evidence points to it being the work of 19th century origins.

However just because I think the BOM may have been written by him doesn't mean that I don't think it can't be an inspiring work and bring people closer to Christ.

There is, at least to me, a falicy here. If the BOM, as you claim, is a work of fiction (based on your rather selective viewing of the 'evidence') then Joseph Smith was a liar to have claimed otherwise, along with the 11 witnesses and others. I suggest that if this were the case then it can't be an inspiring work that would bring people closer the Christ. A book premised on a lie would, in my opinion, have little value in bringing people closer to Christ, I just don't think the Savior works through a lie. There are others here who are much better able to defend the Book of Mormon than I am, but it seems to me that if you really are a person of faith then you will seek the spiritual witness of the book's authenticity that is after all the only sure foundation of a testimony of its truthfulness.

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Joseph's age isn't the important part. It's the fact that he had almost no education and certainly no knowledge about Hebrew poetry, Arabian geography, etc.

Agreed. To me, his 'indigent circumstances' and lack of education are even more compelling reasons for his calling as a prophet.

1 Corinthians 1:27

"But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;'

Sure, some people may get cranked up on cocaine and write a book in 3 days after studying the idea for 20 years. I really don't see how that applies here.

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This is all a moot subject. If Joseph was 40 years old and translated the Book of Mormon, apologetics would find a way to explain the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and the critics would find a way to discredit it. If Joseph claimed he required a cow bell around his neck to translate, the apologetics would explain why they think that was a valid reason and the crtitics would call him crazy. It's really not that different than the idea of using a stone.

People use his age as maybe some proof of Joseph being a prophet. Here is the thing....the book is either from God or it's not. His age and his education do not mean squat. The concept that he used a rock to translate is unbelievable in itself. If he was 18 or 56 years old, this is all about faith and there is no way to prove one side or the other.

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Before I write this I think I should preface this by saying that I believe in (in a non-orthodox way) and read/study constantly the Book of Mormon. I do love many parts of it but also have concerns as any intelligent person should.

I'm kinda at a loss of figuring out why one of the apologetic approaches to the BOM is that, "Well Joseph Smith was only 24 and finished it in 2 months". So... Do you people read? The Book of Mormon is far from being a literary masterpiece. There have been far greater literary achievements made at a much younger age and in much less time (he claimed to have the "plates" for a lot longer than two months anyways). Just a couple of examples should suffice, you can go read and find more on your own: Robert Lewis Stevenson wrote The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in just three days on a cocaine binge. He did write it at age 35, but he was just in his teens when he wrote the script to a play that would eventually transform into this famous novel.

Then it really wasn't written in 3 days. It was first penned when he was in his teens and the idea formation, plot, and substance of the idea took how long prior to that? It's a weak argument at best.
Einstein published his Annus Mirabilis (latin for extraordinary year) Papers in 1905 at the age of 26, these four papers changed the way the world looked at space, time, and matter. Like Mormon Apologetic claims, Einstein had very limited access to any scientific reference materials.
Yet Einstein himself had years of formal education in physics. His knowledge and understanding of those physics was and still is approached as Newtons. His understanding of Space and Time and the fact that he repalced 'ether' with the phrase of 'space-time' (which he later retracted prior to his death in that it is synonomous). Further more many of his theories have yet to be proven, but are held in esteem until they do. Furthermore how long did it take him to write and publish the book? You may wish to adjust your examples as the time lines do not coincide to your favor.
So I'm not buying the he was a really young dumb farm boy who in no way could have written the Book of Mormon.
The complexity of the Book of Mormon and the amount of his formal education should iterate the process. If for instance Joseph had manuscripts and outlines and fully developed arcs describing what he wrote prior to the authorship of the Book of Mormon then you might have a case. Yet, there are none.
There are so many anachronisms, which no have not been properly addressed by FARMS, or here on this message board, if you were about to say that, inconsistencies, and flaws that have not escaped criticism.
I'm curious about what those specifics would be. Please enlighten me.
But let's focus on this one here in this post please.

Is anyone here willing to accept an alternate than the spoon-fed orthodox American Indian historical view of the BOM, or am I in the wrong forum?

Life isn't black and white...there are colors you know unless you are color blind.

So far you have failed in your examples and your process needs to be revisited, but state your theory if you wish. I won't deny you an opprotunity to share ideas or thoughts.
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as mentioned earlier I only use Stevenson and Einstien as examples. I realize they weren't writting religious documents but the content they produced are at least at level with what is contained in the BOM. Consider Shakespere,

Irrelevant.

True, Joseph Smith did have lack of "formal" education but so did most children in rural American during those times.

And relatively few of them produced complex, lengthy books of purported scripture. Or any other books, for that matter.

However, it can hardly be argued that Joseph was "uneducated".

It most certainly can.

Sure I guess you could argue that it is just one's opinion that the book of mormon is or is not a literary masterpeice. As far as I've seen the general membership of the church seems to think it is, however that is irrelavant. I'm certainly not a literary master myself but here's a few quotes to consider.

Mark Twain thought the BOM was extremely boring and referred to it as 'chloroform in print'.

There is no reason to believe that Mark Twain had seriously engaged himself with the Book of Mormon. He may not have even read it.

He was a humorist. His comments about the Book of Mormon and about Mormonism should be read with that firmly in mind.

See Richard H. Cracroft, "The Gentle Blasphemer: Mark Twain, Holy Scripture, and the Book of Mormon," BYU Studies 11/2 (1971).

Even Assistant Church Historian and General Authority B.H. Roberts objectively stated:

What makes you describe Elder Roberts's alleged view -- it may, as you perhaps don't realize, not have been his own view at all -- as "objective"? Presumably, conflicting views aren't objective? If so, on what grounds?

Many books are far more complex and more difficult to write than the Book of Mormon.

Maybe. Maybe not.

I heartily recommend Grant Hardy's new book.

There are also hundreds of examples of other religious men who claim to have written "scripture" - Mohammed, Zoroaster, Loa Tze, etc.

Yup. I know them well.

So?

Even well meaning believers in Joseph Smith produced just as impressive books of "scripture". Christopher Marc Nemelka claimed to have translated the sealed portion of the BOM and even the lost 116 pages. Altogether he produced over 668 pages of "BOM scripture". Others include James Strang, Gorker Harim III, and the Church of the Firstborn who attempted to create "BOM like scripture"

You say that they're "just as impressive," but, so far as I can see, you've done absolutely nothing to demonstrate your claim, and I deny it.

While yes Joseph Smith was not heavily formally educated or very old to say that this is evidence of it's divinity is a far stretch.

No it's not.

On another point, it seems to me if Mormons want to consider the Book of Mormon historical then they will have to provide the evidence for this claim. Joseph Smith certainly did not produce any evidence of it's historicity other than his testimony and the book itself which both can be analyzed. The Book of Mormon does not stand up to the historical scrutiny as does most of the Bible (albeit quite a bit of the bible doesn't stand up to that test either) The Book of Mormon in my view is most likely the work of Joseph Smith and perhaps others world view and religious unbringing and unless proved otherwise all evidence points to it being the work of 19th century origins.

I deny this, too.

http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/

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