n a discussion of the validity of the Book of Mormon an immediate groundwork must be laid. Church leaders themselves have issued the challenge that either it is true or a fraud. This article will not fall on the side of the Book of Mormon being a literal work. This article will illustrate written material and concepts available in the era of a young America and how they can be seen reenacted in the Book of Mormon.
Lets begin with the individuals in the Book of Mormon known as "king-men". These characters fight the Republican style of government that is described in the Book of Mormon. They work from the inside to destroy the established government and install a monarchy. The publication date of the Book of Mormon is 1830 and one need not look many years prior to find a strong similarity in the Tories of the American Revolution. The Tories were Americans that took an active role on the side of the British crown against the colonists. Early histories of the Revolution blame the Tories for the continuation of the conflict and the excess blood that was shed. Likewise, the king-men of the Book of Mormon are faulted in Alma 60:16,
"…were it not for these king-men, who caused so much blood shed among ourselves…"
Compare this to Mercy Otis Warren's History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution, 1805, pg. 623:
"…they were responsible for all the additional blood that had been spilt by the addition of their weight in the scale of the enemy…"
This similarity may not appear all that significant on its own. Traitors have surfaced in all of mankind's wars. However, further research in this area reveals enough parallels to reasonably conclude that if the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction then the author was taking inspiration for its war scenes from accounts of the American Revolution. In fact, it may be considered as a retelling of history rather than a case of history repeating itself, as believers would suggest. If the king-men are modeled after the Tories then the following information will take on greater significance.
Most Americans know enough of Revolutionary War history to identify taxation without representation as one of the causes of the conflict. Sentiments among the colonists involved principles that went beyond money. The issue was slavery to the King. They resented being sent a bill every time the Crown was in financial difficulty. The colonists did not want to see their property rights evaporate or their children sold into future servitude.
George Washington identifies this theme in a letter he wrote to the people of Canada in 1775 where he says, "We have taken up Arms in defence of our Liberty, our Property; our Wives and our Children."
David Ramsay, friend and biographer of Washington, documents this theme in his History of the American Revolution, 1789, page 277."…liberties, property, wives and children…"
Now observe the pattern being repeated in the Book of Mormon, Alma 48:10, where Moroni was attempting to protect, "…their liberty, their lands, their wives, and their children…"
Is this a translation or may something else be going on? Did ancient Americans fight for the same things as colonial Americans or do these parallels indicate that the material is being infused into a fictional story.
Ramsay notes in his Life of George Washington that the General was thanked by Congress for having defended the "standard of liberty". This phrase can also be found in Ramsay's History on page 646. In the Book of Mormon, Alma 46:36, Moroni has his own "standard of liberty". A close analysis of Ramsay reveals numerous verbiage and concept duplication. For instance, on page 156 of the History, we find the phrase "spirit of freedom". Also, Samuel Adams in his American Independence speech calls upon this "spirit of freedom".
Likewise, in Alma 60:25 the same concept is repeated,
"…show unto me a true spirit of freedom…"
Mercy Otis Warren in her History on page 31 also appreciates,
"…that manly spirit of freedom…"
Mercy Warren politely lectures the reader with her moral observations as she relates the events of the War. On page 5 of her History she attributes,
"The love of domination and an uncontrolled lust of arbitrary power…"
as the reason for British aggression. Likewise, in Ramsay's History on page 324, he notes it as the,
"…lust of power and of gain…"
The Book of Mormon identifies the same motives in Ether 8:22,
"…to get power and gain…"
Note how the following passage in Alma 43:45 sums up the previous concepts,
"…the Nephites were inspired by a better cause, for they were not fighting for monarchy nor power but they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children…"
Is this a coincidence? Is Joseph Smith merely using familiar terms while translating or is there a story within a story emerging.
The Americans felt justified in defending themselves and innocent of offenses toward the King. This theme was known throughout colonial writing as "the justice of the cause". Examples can be found in Warren, Ramsay, and Samuel Adams, in addition to other authors. It can also be found in Alma 46:29.
Mercy Warren, on page 93, tells us about,
"…the determination of the Americans, carefully to avoid every thing that had the appearance of beginning hostilities on their part…"
The Nephites follow the same advice in Alma 48:14,
"…they were also taught never to give an offense…"
and to only raise a sword in self-defense. Thus, the Nephites in their struggle for freedom against the Lamanites, and the Americans in their conflict against the King, prove to the world the injustice of their aggressors by only acting defensively.
Is this just another common theme of war or is the Book of Mormon attempting to retell the saga of the Revolution. Even if the previous material is nothing more than broad generalities it will not explain how ancient Americans, purported to be of Hebrew origin, express themselves in Revolutionary War terms. Additionally, more specific terms and concepts can be illustrated.
Consider the life and times of George Washington and his counterpart, General Moroni. Both Washington and Moroni receive their commissions as young men in their twenties. Both are considered robust in stature and faithful Christians, relying on prayer and God, riding horses, brandishing swords, and wearing cloaks. When Moroni creates his "title of liberty" he places it on "a pole" and causes it to be flown throughout the land. One of Washington's roving headquarters was the Liberty Pole Tavern. Liberty poles were popular among the colonists and an irritant to British troops.
Both Washington and Moroni are hampered by lack of resolve and coordination within their governments. Resources and men are always in short supply for either commander. They are not only plagued by the enemies without but must also counter the enemies within. Ramsay, in chapter 7 of his Life of Washington talks about the lack of support as,
"…the embarrassments which cramped the operations of Washington…",
"In a letter to congress he expressed his embarrassment…"
The Nephite general Helaman in Alma 58:9 sees the lack of support as,
"…the cause of these our embarrassments…",
the result of which is Moroni petitioning the government for the relief of Helaman. Ramsay, in his History, page 488, documents the loss of morale due to lack of support,
"…the Americans severely felt the scarcity of provisions. Their murmurs became audible…".
Likewise, Moroni's armies in Alma 60:4 suffer from lack of support,
"…were this all we had suffered we would not murmur…"
Similarly, Ramsay uses the terms "disappointments" and "disappointed" to describe military failures. The book of Alma uses the same words in the same meaning.
Are these parallels just more broad generalities or is a pattern developing. Consider the following battlefield tactic described by David Ramsay, in his Life of Washington, chapter 4.
"The Americans moved from their encampment on the Skippack road in the evening of the 3rd of October, with the intention of surprising their adversaries early next morning, and to attack both wings in front and rear at the same time…".
And now the same maneuver in the Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 4:25,
"And this they did do in the night-time, and got on their march beyond the robbers, so that on the morrow, when the robbers began their march, they were met by the armies of the Nephites both in their front and in their rear."
Note how both accounts have a night long march in order to surround the enemy in the front and rear simultaneously. Ramsay, in his History, page 426, uses similar verbiage,
"…attacked in the rear as well as in the front…",
as does the book of Alma 56:23,
"…bring them up in the rear at the same time they were met in the front…"
On page 289, Ramsay says,
"…driving the Americans before them…",
and again in Alma 51:28,
"…driving the Nephites before them…"
Ramsay, in his History, page 378, describes battle lines shifting back and forth,
"The Americans and British alternately drove, and were driven by each other…",
Likewise, in Mosiah 11:18, poor grammar not withstanding,
"…and they were driven back, or they drove them back…"