Book of Mormon consistency and complexity

Book of Mormon consistency and complexity January 10, 2018


Mormon at work
The prophet Mormon, abridging the plates (LDS Media Library


One of the arguments that can be made for the inspired authenticity of the Book of Mormon regards the sheer complexity of the text.


For example, over the years I’ve made a point many times in firesides that I based on John Sorenson’s An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon and other related works such as his Mormon’s Map and, much more recently, his Mormon’s Codex.


I’m personally impressed by his efforts to match the Nephite record to specific locations in Mesoamerica but, I’ve said, accepting a Mesoamerican location for the book isn’t actually my point in this case.  Rather, with regard to this particular issue, I’m struck by what Dr. Sorenson did before his attempted match to the archaeology and topography of Mesoamerica:  He carefully, meticulously, systematically read through the Book of Mormon, multiple times, in order to extract every hint of or clue to the geographical facts and interrelationships in its text — something that at least a few would-be Book of Mormon geographers have notably failed to do.  Only then was he in a position to attempt to match what he had found to a specific geographical setting in the known world beyond the text.


What impresses me in this regard is that he was able to come up with a consistent, coherent geographical model from the book.  Given the fact that the Book of Mormon contains literally hundreds of toponyms and geographical indicators and given the rapid speed at which the text was dictated (i.e., according to many critics, the speed at which it was actually composed), this is genuinely remarkable.  City A is always in the same relationship to City X, River Y, and Wilderness Z throughout the book, even many pages apart.


On the speed with which the Book of Mormon was dictated, see the brief treatment at


“How Long Did It Take to Translate the Book of Mormon?”


which has now been supplemented, strengthened, and essentially replaced by a chapter in the very important book Opening the Heavens:


“The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon”


And yet Joseph Smith seems neither to have been working from a memorized text nor dictating from a concealed manuscript:


“Not So Easily Dismissed: Some Facts for Which Counterexplanations of the Book of Mormon Will Need to Account”


I offer here an additional pair of examples of consistency and complexity.  In these instances, we’re talking about what scholars have come to call “intertextuality,” where one text cites another or plays of off it:


“Textual Consistency”


“Sacrament prayers have ancient origin”


These may seem small matters.  But it’s precisely in such tiny details that a hurried or casual forger is likely to slip up — and exactly such details through which a genuinely inspired and/or genuinely historical text may well disclose its authenticity.


A good, albeit brief, general treatment of the subject is


“Complexity, Consistency, Ignorance, and Probabilities”



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