HOW did Joseph Smith write the BOM?

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deacon blues
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HOW did Joseph Smith write the BOM?

Post by deacon blues » Sun Dec 05, 2021 4:44 pm

I think this is STILL a good question; and I think it deserves better answers from both sides (believer or skeptic) of the question. What I hope to find is new insights into the process. Did Joseph have a photographic memory or an unusual imagination? Did he hear stories from other people? How did losing the 116 pages affect what we have as the BOM? Did God use the seer stone and/or the plates? How? Is there any evidence of an unknown manuscript, perhaps with scratch-outs, like D&C manuscripts? I've read recent versions of the Spaulding theory, are there any obscure insights into that. What does the evidence tell us?

I'll start with one insight. People often forget the first part of the Book of Mormon that we have was produced was almost certainly Mosiah. That's where the 116 pages left off. The first part of the first manuscript (Mosiah to Alma 9) are lost, probably from damage incurred while in the cornerstone of the Nauvoo temple, unless I am mistaken. Fragments, starting with parts of Alma 10 are in the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery. It opens the possibility that some and perhaps all of Mosiah was written before Oliver arrived on the scene, perhaps by Emma.

Also, the Book of Mormon apparently demands a literal interpretation of Genesis. How could it be reconciled without accepting a literal Noah, Adam, and Tower of Babel, with the traditional Bishop Ussher timeline. That is Tower of Babel around 2200 B.C.? How can a literal Noah be reconciled with archaeology?

I know there are skeptics who are reading this. It would be cool it there was a faithful reader or two who could offer a new insight based on evidence, not just warm fuzzies.
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jfro18
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Re: HOW did Joseph Smith write the BOM?

Post by jfro18 » Sun Dec 05, 2021 5:38 pm

I put an overview topic together on this and I tried to map out how I think he did it...

www.ldsdiscussions.com/authorship

My personal thinking is that he used the breaks to map out the next sections and I think he was also reading the Bible as he wrote it and was using phrases from what he read in there and then in other areas whole chunks (not just Isaiah but sermon at the temple, olive tree, etc).

I do not think he memorized the big chunks out of the bible, but am guessing that he would just bring out the KJV when he was getting into those areas and copying from them.... he likely had them out at all times anyway as he likely was studying them heavily during the entire process.

I really think that the mormon stories interviews on this are very helpful - there is a fairly recent one with Dan Vogel and one with John Hamer that go over their production theories... there is a much older one with Brent Metcalfe where he covers the 116 pages a lot and how the order of production in the BoM gives so many clues.

Zeezrom
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Re: HOW did Joseph Smith write the BOM?

Post by Zeezrom » Sun Dec 05, 2021 6:13 pm

A really good question that I and probably most TBMs wrestled with when our shelves broke. TSCC puts a lot of emphasis in presenting an either/or ultimatum: Either the Book of Mormon comes from God or an uneducated farm boy made it up. It sticks in your head so that anything beautiful or poetic you read in the B of M reinforces your belief in the Church. As doubters we should only need to disprove the Book of Mormon as the most correct book on earth rather than explain how Joseph Smith wrote it. It’s like saying Cris Angel has proven magic is real and putting the burden of proof on the audience to explain how he performed a trick.

Anyway let’s start. First of all Joseph was in his mid twenties and the son of a schoolteacher when the Book of Mormon was published not just a regular ignorant farm boy.

Next, the KJV of the Bible is responsible for a huge chunk of the text. Something most self-styled preachers of the day knew by heart. He quoted it right down to the same “errors” he later corrected in the JST Bible.

“View of the Hebrews” and “The Late War” could have provided inspiration for some of the wording and plot OR he could have used the same source as they did——-Imagination mingled with scripture!!

There’s the iron rod story which is almost identical to Joseph Smith SR’s dream that Lucy Mack later put down in a book. There’s King Benjamin’s address which is very similar to a preacher of the day’s story of giving a last sermon from a tower—-can’t remember the name of the 19th century preacher off hand.

There’s the recurring theme of slippery treasures and buried weapons which coincides with his treasure digging days for inspiration.

Most of the theological meat comes in the form of answers to sectarian theological disputes of New England in the early 1800s. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think the B of M sides more closely with the Methodists which coincidently is the sect JS said he felt closest to in the 1838 First Vision account.

The lengthy war portions could honestly come from the imagination of any young boy/man interested in war history and playing Cowboys and Indians. The laughable explanation we were given over the pulpit was that it was written for our day and God knew we’d live in a time of wars. In reality every age of the Earth has had its share of wars and NOT ONE of the wars fought since 1830 bears any resemblance to the B of M stories of swords and clubs and making guards drunk so you can escape Prisoner of War forts. I’m sure Captain Moroni and Teancum had great plans to foil terrorism and space age weapons—-you can be inspired as you want to fight for family and religion but it won’t stop ballistic missiles from blowing you up.

A lot of the book is just simply, as Mark Twain said, “chloroform in print”. Which is why as members we had to be COMMANDED to read it everyday! LOL.

Im not saying the Book of Mormon wasn’t an amazing feat of imagination and storytelling but it comes a long way from clearing the bar as being what it claims—-the most correct book on Earth. And it’s far from the only man made religious text to teach wisdom of one kind or another. Although it might be the only religious text foolish enough to use a person’s skin color as an ever changing barometer of their degree of righteousness!!!

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Re: HOW did Joseph Smith write the BOM?

Post by dogbite » Sun Dec 05, 2021 8:44 pm

I don't particularly care how he did it. It is clearly not what the church portrays it as nor as they credit it. That's enough to be done with it. The details are flecks of history. Historians can figure it out, I have better things for my limited time.

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Re: HOW did Joseph Smith write the BOM?

Post by Palerider » Sun Dec 05, 2021 10:26 pm

There's a bit of heavy reading here but I would highly suggest that anyone who is seriously interested in how Joseph wrote the BoM make the effort to read "Inside the Mind of Joseph Smith" before jumping to any conclusions. Plus I think you'll get to know Joseph in a way that makes him much more of a real person than the two dimensional facade created by the church. The book is free here:

http://signaturebookslibrary.org/inside ... eph-smith/

ETA:

I have for a long time theorized that Joseph had a relationship with Sydney Rigdon long before their supposed meeting in Kirtland (was it?) and that Sydney aided in much of the writing just as they collaborated on the "Inspired version" of the Bible.

This book is the first reading I've done that makes me question the Smith/Rigdon theory. Haven't given it up entirely but can see how it could have been done without Sydney.
Last edited by Palerider on Mon Dec 06, 2021 9:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: HOW did Joseph Smith write the BOM?

Post by moksha » Mon Dec 06, 2021 12:03 am

Image
Most of the time young Joseph Smith sat on his porch playing the
banjo. There's no way he could have written the Book of Mormon
by himself.
Good faith does not require evidence, but it also does not turn a blind eye to that evidence. Otherwise, it becomes misplaced faith.
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Not Buying It
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Re: HOW did Joseph Smith write the BOM?

Post by Not Buying It » Mon Dec 06, 2021 6:08 am

dogbite wrote:
Sun Dec 05, 2021 8:44 pm
I don't particularly care how he did it. It is clearly not what the church portrays it as nor as they credit it. That's enough to be done with it. The details are flecks of history. Historians can figure it out, I have better things for my limited time.
Bingo! It obviously isn't what it claims to be - when you start from that point, you might as well ask how does anyone write any work of fiction? How did J.R.R. Tolkien write The Lord of the Rings? One of the best descriptions I have ever heard of Joseph Smith as author of the BOM was "Tolkien without the Oxford education". How did L. Ron Hubbard not only write Dianetics, but dozens and dozens of science fictions books? How did J.K. Rowling write the Harry Potter series? How did Tolstoy write War and Peace? You get my point.

We need to get away from this idea that writing the Book of Mormon would have been some kind of amazing feat of authorship. It's not all that impressive really. The most inspiring parts are cribbed from the Bible. Sure, some people find some of the other parts inspiring, but some people thought Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingston Seagull was inspiring back in the 70s, and nobody wonders how Bach wrote it.

A lot of us were conditioned for years to think the BOM is more impressive than it is. What the book mostly boils down to is doctrinal sermons on stuff relevant to religious questions of the 1820s, and lots of war scenes from someone who clearly had a fascination with battles but no clue how actual battles work (geez, half the time the heads of two armies end up fighting each other mano o mano, like that would ever really happen). A lot of descriptions of battles are downright embarrassing.

Was Joseph Smith a creative guy? Sure. Is the Book of Mormon all that much more impressive than dozens of other works of fiction I could name? Nope.
"The truth is elegantly simple. The lie needs complex apologia. 4 simple words: Joe made it up. It answers everything with the perfect simplicity of Occam's Razor. Every convoluted excuse withers." - Some guy on Reddit called disposazelph

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Re: HOW did Joseph Smith write the BOM?

Post by jfro18 » Mon Dec 06, 2021 7:02 am

dogbite wrote:
Sun Dec 05, 2021 8:44 pm
I don't particularly care how he did it. It is clearly not what the church portrays it as nor as they credit it. That's enough to be done with it. The details are flecks of history. Historians can figure it out, I have better things for my limited time.
This is really what is all boils down to. Once you can demonstrably show that it's not ancient, the "how" isn't really all that important even if it is interesting.

And one of the things that the church leans so heavily on is that Joseph Smith never really talked about how he did it which was *by design.* Joseph (and the initial witnesses) gave so little that you have to speculate because no one can ever know, and the church uses that ambiguity to tell members that it had to be from God when the text itself screams that Joseph Smith wrote it in the 19th century.

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Re: HOW did Joseph Smith write the BOM?

Post by wtfluff » Mon Dec 06, 2021 9:11 am

Did Joseph ever actually write any part of to book? Didn't he dictate while others did the writing?

(Yes, I know I'm being pedantic, but it is honestly "easier" to dictate a story while someone else writes...)
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Re: HOW did Joseph Smith write the BOM?

Post by Palerider » Mon Dec 06, 2021 11:23 am

wtfluff wrote:
Mon Dec 06, 2021 9:11 am
Did Joseph ever actually write any part of to book? Didn't he dictate while others did the writing?

(Yes, I know I'm being pedantic, but it is honestly "easier" to dictate a story while someone else writes...)
Quite sure Joseph actually wrote none of the BoM. I think part of making the con believable is having the scribe present as a kind of "witness" that the guy is actually translating and not writing the words himself. It's a subtle way of lending credence to the con.
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Re: HOW did Joseph Smith write the BOM?

Post by Yobispo » Mon Dec 06, 2021 11:40 am

Palerider wrote:
Mon Dec 06, 2021 11:23 am
wtfluff wrote:
Mon Dec 06, 2021 9:11 am
Did Joseph ever actually write any part of to book? Didn't he dictate while others did the writing?

(Yes, I know I'm being pedantic, but it is honestly "easier" to dictate a story while someone else writes...)
Quite sure Joseph actually wrote none of the BoM. I think part of making the con believable is having the scribe present as a kind of "witness" that the guy is actually translating and not writing the words himself. It's a subtle way of lending credence to the con.
What to do with Oliver C? I honestly don't know if he was in on it or was a dupe, but I lean more towards in on it.

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deacon blues
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Re: HOW did Joseph Smith write the BOM?

Post by deacon blues » Mon Dec 06, 2021 12:16 pm

Jfro's reply was excellent. I was very impressed with his overview topic. this for the excellent discussion. this board is the best.

Jfro's reply: I put an overview topic together on this and I tried to map out how I think he did it...
www.ldsdiscussions.com/authorship
My personal thinking is that he used the breaks to map out the next sections and I think he was also reading the Bible as he wrote it and was using phrases from what he read in there and then in other areas whole chunks (not just Isaiah but sermon at the temple, olive tree, etc).
I do not think he memorized the big chunks out of the bible, but am guessing that he would just bring out the KJV when he was getting into those areas and copying from them.... he likely had them out at all times anyway as he likely was studying them heavily during the entire process.
I really think that the mormon stories interviews on this are very helpful - there is a fairly recent one with Dan Vogel and one with John Hamer that go over their production theories... there is a much older one with Brent Metcalfe where he covers the 116 pages a lot and how the order of production in the BoM gives so many clues.
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Re: HOW did Joseph Smith write the BOM?

Post by deacon blues » Mon Dec 06, 2021 12:17 pm

deacon blues wrote:
Mon Dec 06, 2021 12:16 pm
Jfro's reply was excellent. I was very impressed with his overview topic. this for the excellent discussion. this board is the best.



Jfro's reply: I put an overview topic together on this and I tried to map out how I think he did it...
www.ldsdiscussions.com/authorship
My personal thinking is that he used the breaks to map out the next sections and I think he was also reading the Bible as he wrote it and was using phrases from what he read in there and then in other areas whole chunks (not just Isaiah but sermon at the temple, olive tree, etc).
I do not think he memorized the big chunks out of the bible, but am guessing that he would just bring out the KJV when he was getting into those areas and copying from them.... he likely had them out at all times anyway as he likely was studying them heavily during the entire process.
I really think that the mormon stories interviews on this are very helpful - there is a fairly recent one with Dan Vogel and one with John Hamer that go over their production theories... there is a much older one with Brent Metcalfe where he covers the 116 pages a lot and how the order of production in the BoM gives so many clues.
God is Love. God is Truth. The greatest problem with organized religion is that the organization becomes god, rather than a means of serving God.

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deacon blues
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Re: HOW did Joseph Smith write the BOM?

Post by deacon blues » Mon Dec 06, 2021 12:19 pm

Sorry about the double post. :oops: I'm not sure which is the best one to delete. :?
Anyway, I loved the responses. :D
And check out Jfro's site!!!
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Re: HOW did Joseph Smith write the BOM?

Post by jfro18 » Mon Dec 06, 2021 12:47 pm

Yobispo wrote:
Mon Dec 06, 2021 11:40 am
What to do with Oliver C? I honestly don't know if he was in on it or was a dupe, but I lean more towards in on it.
I really think Oliver believed JS could do it... I don't think he was in on it. The more you learn about how Oliver got brushed aside when Rigdon came in, the more I think that he wasn't in on it and as such Joseph felt no need to make him #2 *until* Oliver was willing to lie for Joseph about the priesthood restoration and also lied for Joseph in the trial where he lied about the translation process.

Of course it's impossible to know with 100% certainty and it will forever be debated. :lol:

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Re: HOW did Joseph Smith write the BOM?

Post by Just This Guy » Mon Dec 06, 2021 1:22 pm

dogbite wrote:
Sun Dec 05, 2021 8:44 pm
I don't particularly care how he did it. It is clearly not what the church portrays it as nor as they credit it. That's enough to be done with it. The details are flecks of history. Historians can figure it out, I have better things for my limited time.

One of the things that stood out to me with the Mark Hoffman case. When you are trying to prove that a document is not of the historic origin that it claims to be, you only need 1 piece of evidence to prove that it is not historic. One thing that does not meet with time when it was supposedly produced. It could be use of a word that was not period correct. It could be an error in geography or history. It could be paper that is not period correct. Ink that is not period correct, or has not aged correctly. It can be any number of things. One error is enough to prove the whole document is not what it is claimed to be. That is all it take to prove fraud.

Really, you have SOO many pieces of evidence with it comes to the BOM. Some you can exlain away as a product of translation, but you still have more than enough to prove it is not a what it is claimed to be. The simple fact that it contains Bible passages that JSjr later claims to be mistranslated is enough to prove it is not "the most correct book" ever. Any more than that is just gravy on top. Once you start the dominos, it just keeps falling apart. Beyond that, what can you say?
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Re: HOW did Joseph Smith write the BOM?

Post by jfro18 » Tue Dec 07, 2021 7:25 am

deacon blues wrote:
Mon Dec 06, 2021 12:19 pm
Sorry about the double post. :oops: I'm not sure which is the best one to delete. :?
Anyway, I loved the responses. :D
And check out Jfro's site!!!
One thing I'd note is that the overview I did incorporated a lot of the things I had seen from others including Dan Vogel, John Hamer, and Bill Reel.

It's why I get so frustrated when apologists such as Brian Hales and Tad Callister continually say that there's no theory as to how JS wrote the BoM in a naturalistic way that makes sense, because I've seen a few of them and they're well articulated and fit the accounts we do have.

I think the olive tree story is a HUGE clue to understanding how Joseph did it as well, because it shows how Joseph was moving between two sources when dictating the story and lost track of the fact that they were two stories when switching over. It's one I've only seen mentioned a few times and it seems incredibly important.

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Re: HOW did Joseph Smith write the BOM?

Post by Not Buying It » Tue Dec 07, 2021 10:29 am

jfro18 wrote:
Mon Dec 06, 2021 12:47 pm
Yobispo wrote:
Mon Dec 06, 2021 11:40 am
What to do with Oliver C? I honestly don't know if he was in on it or was a dupe, but I lean more towards in on it.
I really think Oliver believed JS could do it... I don't think he was in on it. The more you learn about how Oliver got brushed aside when Rigdon came in, the more I think that he wasn't in on it and as such Joseph felt no need to make him #2 *until* Oliver was willing to lie for Joseph about the priesthood restoration and also lied for Joseph in the trial where he lied about the translation process.

Of course it's impossible to know with 100% certainty and it will forever be debated. :lol:
I've always thought Oliver had to be in on it, for the simple reason that he was supposedly present for the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood by John the Baptist, the restoration of the Mechlizedek Priesthood by Peter, James, and John, and the restoration of the keys at the Kirtland Temple by Moses, Elias (whoever the hell that is), and Elijah. In that the claims for these events involve both Joseph and Oliver, we are left with three possibilities (discounting that these things really happened, which they obviously didn't):

1) Oliver didn't really see these things, but somehow Joseph convinced him he did, either after the event, or through imposters posing as divine messengers. This would require Martin Harris levels of gullibility.
2) Oliver didn't really see things things, but never bothered to contradict Joseph when he claimed these things happened. Not likely, the "nasty, dirty, filthy" Fannie Alger episode tells us quite conclusively Oliver didn't hesitate to call Joseph out when he thought he'd done something wrong.
3) Oliver was in on it.

If you apply Occam's Razor, in my opinion #3 is easily the simplest explanation with the fewest assumptions. That Oliver got shoved out of the way when he wasn't useful to Joseph anymore isn't surprising, Joseph ran hot and cold on best buds and co-conspirators all the time, he was constantly picking up and abandoning new favorites. But Oliver's only real means of support and making a living was in the Church, and he was in way too deep to admit it was a "bottle of smoke" all along (which, actually, was the rumored phrase Oliver would use about the Church if you got him drunk enough).

I think the preponderance of evidence indicates Oliver was in on the scam, but didn't want to admit publicly he was a con man like Joseph.
"The truth is elegantly simple. The lie needs complex apologia. 4 simple words: Joe made it up. It answers everything with the perfect simplicity of Occam's Razor. Every convoluted excuse withers." - Some guy on Reddit called disposazelph

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Re: HOW did Joseph Smith write the BOM?

Post by jfro18 » Tue Dec 07, 2021 11:38 am

Not Buying It wrote:
Tue Dec 07, 2021 10:29 am
1) Oliver didn't really see these things, but somehow Joseph convinced him he did, either after the event, or through imposters posing as divine messengers. This would require Martin Harris levels of gullibility.
2) Oliver didn't really see things things, but never bothered to contradict Joseph when he claimed these things happened. Not likely, the "nasty, dirty, filthy" Fannie Alger episode tells us quite conclusively Oliver didn't hesitate to call Joseph out when he thought he'd done something wrong.
3) Oliver was in on it.
I think that the priesthood restoration shows that OC was willing to lie for joseph to give him credibility and OC was promptly rewarded by being elevated to #2 after creating that story.

So I think that 3 is true, but I don't think that OC helped joseph write the BoM... and what's funny is that OC spoke the least about the translation than the other witnesses, which has always intrigued me since he was the main scribe.

It's a fun discussion though, although I will say that I think OC was a believer even if he knew that Joseph was willing to lie to promote faith in the church. I imagine having that magical worldview grants a lot of license to stretch the literal truth.

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Re: HOW did Joseph Smith write the BOM?

Post by Hagoth » Tue Dec 07, 2021 1:05 pm

The BoM translation essay tells us that "Joseph was incapable of writing a book" because of his limited formal education. Many people have produced books that appear to be equally miraculous. Here are a few examples from my response to the essay, from roughly the same time period as the Book of Mormon:

Philemon Stewart was a member of the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, a religious community commonly known as the Shakers. He produced the sacred text known as The Sacred Roll and Book, which he claims was dictated to him by an angel of God, and of which Martin Harris was also a witness, both of the book and the angel. Part 1 of the shakers’ sacred scroll is over 400 pages long and was dictated in just 14 days, which is impressive even when compared to the 90-day claim for the Book of Mormon. Stewart disavowed all 'natural wisdom' and maintained that he 'knew nought of the subject' until it was 'opened and brought forward, word after word, by the mighty Angel.' (Stein, Inspiration, revelation, and scripture: The story of a Shaker Bible, Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society (Vol. 105, No. 2, p. 347). There is no question that Stewart produced an extremely impressive piece of work, especially considering that it was dictated in public before witnesses in just two weeks without any kind of notes.

In the early 1900s a poorly educated and otherwise unimpressive housewife named Pearl Curran suddenly began writing lengthy novels and poems without any previous writing experience, which she claimed were dictated to her by the spirit of a 17th century woman named Patience Worth. Curran would dictate long, impressive novels easily, without notes, often for hours on end in front of marveling onlookers. Her work gained high acclaim and the renowned poet Edgar Lee Masters observed, “There is no doubt...she is producing remarkable literature.” The prestigious Braithwaite anthology listed five of her poems among the nation’s best published in 1917, and the New York Times hailed her first novel as a true “feat of literary composition.” She produced seven impressive novels, volumes of poetry, short stories, and plays that added up to nearly four million written words - all by dictation without notes or editing (Diliberto, Smithsonian Magazine, September, 2010). Curran seemed to be able to write detailed histories about time periods long before her time, with dialects and vocabulary with which she was supposedly unacquainted, and descriptions of places she had never been. Besides being so mindbogglingly prolific, Curran created literature that was extremely popular at the time and garnered wide acclaim from critics, something that certainly cannot be said for the Book of Mormon.

James Strang was an early Mormon convert who claimed to have been appointed by Joseph Smith as his successor. Most members of the modern LDS church might be surprised to learn that upon Joseph’s death a large contingent of the church numbering in the thousands followed Strang rather than Brigham Young. These were predominantly those saints who did not want to participate in polygamy and those who still desired to follow a prophet, a calling to which Brigham made no claims. Strang, on the other hand, declared that he communed with angels including Moroni, who showed him the location of buried ancient metal plates. Among those who chose to follow Strang instead of Brigham were Emma Smith and her children, Joseph’s Mother Lucy, Joseph’s only living brother William, all of the living members of the eight witnesses, and the Three Witnesses except for Oliver Cowdery, who didn’t officially join the movement but moved near to the Strangite community. Like Joseph Smith, Strang had eleven eyewitnesses of his plates. Unlike Joseph, it was the witnesses who were told where to find the plates and who dug them up themselves. Also unlike Joseph’s gold plates, the Strangite plates remained in the community for decades until they were supposedly borrowed by the Salt Lake LDS church for examination but were never returned. Although he had only a grade school education, Strang translated the contents of two sets of plates by the “gift and power of God” to produce the Voree Record and The Book of the Law of the Lord. The resulting texts contain many of the same Hebraisms that we find in the Book of Mormon (http://www.strangite.org/Chiasmus.htm).

Joseph’s own mother Lucy Mack Smith is another excellent example. Despite having no formal education, but having access to the exact same resources as her son, Lucy wrote a very intelligent and complex 500-page book which she produced by dictating to a scribe. According to this essay’s own criteria of what it takes to compose a book, Lucy should have also been “incapable of writing a book.”

If we use Joseph's limited education as our justification then we have to conclude that Mohammed couldn't have written a book either.
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

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