Joseph Smith and the Origins of the Book of Mormon / Edition 2

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Just as a growing interest in millennialism at the turn of this century has rejuvenated religious debate and questions concerning the fate of the world, so did Mormonism develop from millennial enthusiasm early in the nineteenth century. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, and a provocative, even controversial figure in history, declared that he had been given the authority to restore the true church in the latter days. The primary source of Smith's latter-day revelation is The Book of Mormon, and to fully understand his role as the founder of the Mormon faith, one must also understand The Book of Mormon and how it came to be. Unfortunately, the literature about Joseph Smith and The Book of Mormon is permeated with contradiction and controversy.

In the first edition of this impressive work, David Persuitte provided a significant amount of revealing biographical information about Smith that resolved many of the controversies concerning his character. He also presented an extensive comparative analysis positing that the probable conceptual source for The Book of Mormon was a book entitled View of the Hebrews; or the Tribes of Israel in America, which was written by an early New England minister named Ethan Smith. Now in an expanded and revised second edition incorporating many new findings relating to the origin of The Book of Mormon, Mr. Persuitte's book continues to shed much new light on the path Joseph Smith took toward founding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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Editorial Reviews

Free Inquiry
invaluable for the vivid account it gives of Smith's background, his personality, and the turbulent first years of his church...the crispest, best-structured account...excellent
The Journal of Mormon History
carefully researched...thoughtfully presented
intriguing...copious...extensive bibliography...excellent...highly recommended
In the first edition of this study, the author presented an extensive comparative analysis positing that the probable conceptual source for was a book entitled , which was written by an early New England minister named Ethan Smith. This second edition incorporates new findings related to the origin of . The author is a technical writer and editor. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786408269
  • Publisher: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/1/2000
  • Edition description: REVISED
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 10.00 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Technical writer and editor David Persuitte lives in Washington, D.C.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface to the Second Edition 1
Prologue 5
Pt. 1 Angels, Peepstones, and Gold Plates
1 "A Romancer of the First Water" 11
2 Visions and Revivals 20
3 The Prophet in His Own Country 33
4 The 1826 "Trial" 40
5 A Record from the Earth? 54
6 "I Shall Proceed to Do a Marvelous Work" 64
7 The Gold Bible 76
8 "Send Them the Heralds of Salvation" 89
Pt. 2 Another Books of God?
9 Ancient or Modern? 100
10 A Vermont Preacher's Theory 106
11 The Idea and Its Development 120
Pt. 3 The Comparisons
12 To the Land of Promise 136
13 The Prophecies 147
14 The Division 165
15 The Wars 174
16 The Backsliding 184
17 The Arrival of Jesus 201
18 The Final Years 214
19 The Book of Ether 225
Pt. 4 Turmoil in Zion
20 The Curse of Cain 232
21 Steppingstones to Disaster 241
Epilogue 251
App. A The "Wood Scrape" 254
App. B The Book of Mormon and Ancient America 259
App. C The Spalding Theory 268
App. D The Book of Abraham 281
Notes 298
Bibliography 313
Index 317
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2003

    Modern Day Pharisee

    Jesus Christ had parallel accusations made about him. The author also assumes that no other church has ever had scandals. It's like reading a newpaper article were the author has an axe to grind.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2002

    Joseph Smith and the Origins of the Book of Mormon

    This book is very detailed in its historical research, its quotations from early 19th century sources--especially the newspapers of those times, its knowledge and excerpts of Mormon writings, and its tendency to support conclusions from reliable contemporary sources-- even the very writings of those persons who do not come off as honest, trustworthy individuals. The facts offered show without any doubt that Joseph Smith was a total phony and liar and old-time con artist both before and during his amazing claims for private revelations from God, from Jesus, from Gospel writers, from Old Testament characters, from angels and from whatever source was convenient to back up his at-hand needs. For example, when he tired of his wife Emma of many years and began cheating on her, he conveniently claimed he had a religious vision that permitted him to have plural wives. So, he seduced young women that had joined his congregation. The more powerful he became, the weirder his views became: he created a small army to fight off state authorities, he opened an unauthorized bank and ended up cheating many people out of their life savings, he had people who opposed him summarily excommunicated, he declared that he should be made a king, and he ended up dying in prison at the hands of a lynch mob. Most of the book is about his totally depraved life and how he wrote THE BOOK OF MORMON, which is obviously the product of many borrowings from books already available at the time-- including the BIBLE, about 10% of which is heisted in THE BOOK OF MORMON. The young Mormons I've met seem so sincere; but do they really know the true origins of the Mormon faith? This book should be read by anyone contemplating an attraction to that faith.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2002

    Joseph Smith and the Origins of the Book of Mormon

    First, let me say I concur on just about every detail in the review by Don Evans who seems to have given the book a careful reading. While it is true that Persuitte's main motive is not to heap abuse on current Mormon faithful or make cheap fun of their beliefs, he nevertheless marshalls a great number of historic documents ( personal letters, legal testimonies, court records, newspaper articles, contemporary affidavits, etc.) that can leave no doubt that Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon religion, was a constant liar, deceiver, con man, lazy scoundrel, lustful womanizer, polygamist (he had over 30 wives), and phony visionary who duped many unsophisticated and uneducated people during the frontier days of the 1820's and 1830's. But most of the book is about how he wrote The Book of Mormon which, in sizable measure, is a plagiarized series of items from several early 19th century sources and from the King James Bible. To say there are 'similarities' between The Book of Mormon and Smith's main plagiarized source, View of the Hebrews, is being generous beyond need. I taught college research writing for many years and what Smith did with his 'sources' was nothing less than widespread and rampant plagiarism. Persuitte does a remarkably detailed job of showing this-- and how Smith arrived at many other ideas which he took false credit for. His is the best book I've read so far on its subject. But read also MY FORTY YEARS IN THE MORMON CHURCH by Bishop R. C. Evans-- and you'll get the identical inside picture of Joseph Smith, the cheating scoundrel, from a man who attained the highest position in the Mormon Church in the late 19th century and who had access to all the Church's historical records on Smith.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2001

    A Well-Written Critical Approach to Mormon Origins

    David Persuitte provides an excellent introduction to the historical and literary issues raised by the publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830. Using primary and secondary sources with skill he presents in detail the argument that the Book of Mormon is a work of creative literature that draws on and reflects in myriad details the cultural and literary milieu of its period. In doing so he reviews and confronts the claims of Joseph Smith and his defenders that the book was translated from buried plates containing the history of the descendants of a family of Jews who immigrated to America centuries before Christ. This is not, however, an anti-Mormon book, except insofar that any criticism of Mormon origins can be regarded as an attack. Persuitte has no interest in defaming Mormons or their founders, although he does not hesitate to point out the not infrequent troubles with the law they encountered (through shady financial dealings, not from ¿religious persecution¿ as Mormons usually claim). His point is to understand how the Book of Mormon came to be as a product of early nineteenth-century American creativity, and he marshals an overwhelming body of evidence showing how the book reflects early American culture, and notably fails to reflect anything which we have subsequently learned about pre-Columbian American history. While much of the book covers ground familiar from other critical works, Persuitte¿s traversal of the material can be recommended as lively, accessible, and very entertainingly written. He quotes frequently and at length from the primary sources which serve both to establish his argument and add a great deal of color to the narrative. His main ¿original¿ contribution to the topic is the most detailed discussion yet published of the similarities between Ethan Smith¿s View of the Hebrews (1823) and the Book of Mormon. But while the Smith book is given the most attention, Persuitte is also thorough in pointing out the many other literary and historical influences behind the Book of Mormon, including the King James Bible and numerous long-forgotten but once popular works of popular and speculative history. It¿s a fascinating detective story, well told, and with something both for the scholar and for the general reader curious about the origins of one of the world¿s fastest-growing religions. Highly recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2003

    Excellent and informative research

    This book shows the detailed and thorough research that the author has done. The background information he has presented on the early life of Joseph Smith is based on first-hand material and original sources. This material reveals a side to Joseph Smith that is hardly compatible with his supposed calling as a prophet of God. But where the author really shines is in the very extensive and convincing parallels he has developed between Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon. Those parallels, along with other material presented in the book, can lead an intellectually honest reader to only one conclusion: The Book of Mormon, rather than being a supernaturally revealed accurate history of ancient America, is actually a fanciful literary product of the early nineteenth century.

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    Posted March 26, 2013

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    Posted September 1, 2013

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    Posted October 20, 2013

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