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The American Bible: Linguistic Similarities Between the Book of Mormon and the King James Bible

The American Bible: Linguistic Similarities Between the Book of Mormon and the King James Bible

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An exploration of the linguistic similarities between the Early Modern English of the King James Bible and the Modern English Book of Mormon.
An exploration of the linguistic similarities between the Early Modern English of the King James Bible and the Modern English Book of Mormon.

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Published by: Matthew Palmer LaFever on Nov 09, 2010
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01/02/2013

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Matthew LaFeverDecember 15th, 2009English 325 K. DotyHistory of the English Language
The American Bible: Similarities between the
Book of 
 
Mormon
and the
King James Bible
In 1830 a New Yorker by the name of Joseph Smith changed theAmerican socio-political landscape when he self-published The Book of Mormon: Another testament of Jesus Christ. Smith claimed, “The Bookof Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is arecord of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americasand contains, as does the Bible, the fullness of the everlasting gospel(Book of Mormon, Intro).” Many found solace in Smith’s book- arevision of the American historical narrative that places Jesus in New York days after his resurrection. During a time where the future of America was unclear, Smith’s words offered reassurance to the massesof immigrants that the New World was theirs. Smith claimed The Bookof Mormon was given to him in the form of seven gold tablets that hetranslated then published. Though Smith claims no involvement in theactual writing of the text, for academic purposes Smith will beconsidered the author.Melvyn Bragg describes the creation of the King James Bible (1611)in the following passage: “By the beginning of the seventeenth centurythere were so many competing versions (of the translated Bible) that
 
seven hundred and fifty reformers from within the Church of Englandrequested James VI of Scotland, who had become James I of England,to authorize a new translation.” A new, democratizing text emerged. Asense of Englishness solidified and the future of peoples felt secure.Since, the King James Bible has emerged as one of the most significanttranslations of the Christian holy text. When examining the language of the Book of Mormon stylistically it harkens to the King James Bibleincluding direct use of biblical passages from the King James version,words and phrases unique to the King James Bible, and a deliberaterevisiting of the linguistic traditions of Early Modern English.Biblical quotations and citations pepper the Book of Mormon.Mormon doctrine explains when Jesus visited America he presented thenative people the texts of Moses and Isaiah. LDS scholars havecompared the Biblical passages found in the Book of Mormon withother scriptural sources, with two main areas of research- passagesfrom Isaiah and the Sermon on the Mount. (Sperry,
Journal of Book of Mormon Studies)
According to Sidney Sperry’s article, "The IsaiahProblem," 19 chapters of Isaiah are included in the Book of Mormon,approximately 30% of the book’s total text. Though presented as aseparate book, a critical reader begins to immediately sense arelationship between the Book of Mormon and the King James Bible“The Sermon on the Mount” is one of the Bible’s most well knownsections describing Jesus’ mountain top appeal to the people and the
 
Book of Mormon has its own version of the scene. The scenes are notidentical and if in fact the Book of Mormon was taken from ancienttablets the reader would see similarities to early Greek Bibles ratherthan the King James. Alas, the Book of Mormon’s version greatlyresembles the King James Version leading many researchers to believe Joseph Smith’s reliance on the King James Bible to dictate the Book of Mormon (Sperry,
The Sermon on the Mount 
).Many words that appear in the Book of Mormon hold meaningexclusively between the Book of Mormon and the King James Bible. This suggests these words were not part of the authors activevocabulary but borrowed their context and meaning from the King James Bible. For example, "fervent" and "elements" each appear twice,both times together in the same phrase, and in the same context asthe2 Peter 3:10(3 Nephi 26:3,Mormon 9:2). Also, "talent" is used only once, in the same context asMatthew 25:28(Ether 12:35) (Huvel,
KJBContext 
)
1
.Outside of content-based similarities between the King JamesBible and the Book of Mormon, a syntactical analysis of Moroni 7:46-47reveals linguistic elements consistent with that of Early ModernEnglish. The aforementioned passage reads:“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye arenothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity,
1
I have chosen not to include the text of the aforementioned passages for the sake of brevity.Inclusion of the passages was to instruct the reader where to locate the repetition of meaningbetween the The Book of Mormon and the King James Bible, not to highlight the passages’ text.

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