Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Biblical Passages Referencing the Book of Mormon

 After the Book of Mormon appeared in Palmyra, NY on March 26, 1830, some of the early Saints such as Parley P. Pratt scoured the Bible looking for passages they thought referenced this new book of scripture. They considered these verses biblical "proofs" of the Nephite text.

Genesis 48:16 "and let them [Ephraim and Manasseh, sons of Joseph] grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth." "Multitude" is self-explanatory. Joseph's posterity would be numerous. "In the midst of the earth" the early Saints interpreted as the Americas, the Western Hemisphere between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Genesis 48:19 "his [Ephraim's] seed shall become a multitude of nations." Lehi was a descendant of Manasseh (Alma 10:3). Ishmael was a descendant of Ephraim and Ishmael's sons married Lehi's daughters (Erastus Snow citing Joseph Smith in Journal of Discourses 23:184). Lehi's sons took the daughters of Ishmael to wife (1 Nephi 16:7) and Nephi mentions that he had sisters (2 Nephi 5:6). Some of the "multitude of nations" descended from Ephraim, son of Joseph, were in the Americas where many indigenous nations from the Arctic to Patagonia flourished prior to European contact. Today more than 30 independent nations occupy the Western Hemisphere. 

Genesis 49:22 "Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall." The early Saints interpreted "the wall" as the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and "over the wall" as the Americas.

Genesis 49:25 Joseph's posterity would receive "blessings of the deep that lieth under." The early Saints interpreted this as the ocean the Lehites crossed to reach their promised land in the Americas.

Genesis 49:26 Joseph's blessings would prevail "unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills" which the early saints identified as the mountain ranges in the Western Hemisphere. From Jacob's vantage point in Egypt, the Americas would be the "utmost bound."

Shaded Relief Map from NASA
Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM)

Genesis 49:26 Joseph being "separate from his brethren" the early saints interpreted as a type for the Lehites being in the Americas separate from the rest of the house of Israel.

Psalms 85:11 "Truth shall spring out of the earth" refers to the Nephite plates of gold dug up by the prophet Joseph Smith on September 22, 1823 and transferred to his safekeeping on September 22, 1827.

Psalms 85:11 "righteousness shall look down from heaven" was interpreted by the early Saints as the Angel Moroni returning to the earth as a resurrected, glorified being.

William Weeks' Drawing of the Angel Moroni
Weathervane Atop the Nauvoo Temple

Isaiah 11:11 "the Lord shall set his hand a second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros [upper Egypt], and from Cush [Nubia], and from Elam [western Iran], and from Shinar [southern Iraq], and from Hamath [western Syria], and from the islands of the sea." The Nephites in the Americas considered themselves upon one of the isles of the sea (2 Nephi 10:20, 21)

Isaiah 28:21 "that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act." We know from D&C 95:4 and D&C 101:95 that as of December 16, 1833, the Lord's strange act and strange work was still a future occurrence. The early Saints interpreted this passage as referring to the discovery of large cities and high civilization in ancient America via Stephens and Catherwood's pathbreaking 1841 book Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan. See The Times and Seasons, published at Nauvoo, Illinois under the editorship of Joseph Smith, Vol. 3 No. 22 (September 15, 1842). See also George J. Adams, "A Lecture on the Authenticity and Scriptural Character of the Book of Mormon" (Boston: J.E. Farwell, 1844).

Isaiah 29:2 "it shall be unto me as Ariel." For the early Saints, this was the Nephite nation.

Isaiah 29:3 "I will camp against thee round about, and will lay siege against they with a mount, and I will raise forts against thee." This was the final battle at Cumorah.

Isaiah 29:4 "And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and they speech shall whisper out of the dust." The Nephite nation was brought down and the Nephite recordkeepers spoke out of the ground or the dust as their plates of gold were dug up, translated, and published by the prophet Joseph.

Isaiah 29:5 "the multitude of the terrible ones shall be as chaff that passeth away: yea, it shall be at an instant suddenly." 230,000 Nephites were destroyed in a single day at Cumorah (Mormon 6:10-15).

Isaiah 29:6 "Thou shalt be visited of the Lord of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire." The destruction at the death of Christ included thunder (3 Nephi 8:6), quaking of the earth (3 Nephi 8:12), tumultuous noises (3 Nephi 10:9), great storm (3 Nephi 8:5), great and terrible tempest (3 Nephi 8:6), and fire (3 Nephi 8:8).

Isaiah 29:7-10 "dream of a night vision," "hungry man dreameth," "thirsty man dreameth," "drunken, but not with wine," "stagger, but not with strong drink," "spirit of deep sleep," "closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered." The early Saints interpreted these passages to :mean the great apostasy that gripped the earth from the death of Christ's original apostles to the opening of the heavens in the spring of 1820.

Isaiah 29:11 "words of a book that is sealed" refers to the plates of gold and their sealed portion.

Isaiah 29:11 "men" refers to Joseph Smith, Jr. (1805-1844) and Martin Harris (1783-1875).

Isaiah 29:11 "one that is learned" refers to Charles Anthon (1797-1867), Professor of Classics at Columbia College.

Portrait of Charles Anthon that Hung for Many Years
in the Classics Library, Columbia University

Isaiah 29:11 "Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed:" Paraphrase of the conversation Martin Harris had with Charles Anthon in New York City in the winter of 1828.

Isaiah 29:12 "him that is not learned" refers to the prophet, Joseph Smith.

Portrait of Joseph Smith by David Rogers
September, 1842

Isaiah 29:13 "draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:" The early Saints interpreted this as a description of the various sects of Christianity active in Joseph Smith's day.

Isaiah 29:14 "I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder:" This is the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the restoration of the Kingdom of God upon the earth through the prophet, Joseph Smith. See D&C 4:1, 6:1, 11:1, 12:1, 14:1, 18:44.

Isaiah 29:18 "in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness." The book, of course, is the Book of Mormon.

Isaiah 43:16 "the Lord, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters;" The early Saints saw this as a reference to the transoceanic voyages of Lehi and Mulek.

Isaiah 49:1 "Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far;" The Nephites and Lamanites were considered part of the house of Israel inhabiting isles (2 Nephi 10:20-21). The Americas were certainly far from the Levant.

Isaiah 51:5 "the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust." During their righteous periods, the Nephites in the Americas fit this description.

Isaiah 60:1 "thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee." Joseph Smith's first vision comes to mind, as well as the prophet's other angelic ministrants.

Isaiah 60:2 "darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee." This can be seen as the great apostasy followed by the restoration through Joseph Smith.

Isaiah 60:4 "thy sons shall come from far" was seen as the gathering of Israel from all parts of the earth. In the early days of the Church, it was a literal gathering to Kirtland, Missouri, Nauvoo, and then Utah.

Isaiah 60:9 "the isles shall wait for me." This could refer at least in part to the Nephites and Lamanites in the Americas. 

Isaiah 60:9 "the ships of Tarshish first," Many biblical scholars locate Tarshish in the Guadalquivir delta of southwestern Spain (See for example John Day, "Where was Tarshish?" in Let Us Go Up to Zion, Essays in Honour of H.G.M Williamson, Vetus Testamentum Supplements, Vol. 153 (Leiden: Brill, 2012). Columbus made four voyages from southwestern Spain to the Americas in 1492 - 1502. His ships were the first to cross the Atlantic in modern times.

Columbus Sailed from Ports that were
Part of Ancient Tartessos in Spain

Isaiah 60:9 "bring thy sons from far" Columbus brought native Americans with him back to Spain on his first 3 voyages. Ditto many other European voyagers.

Isaiah 60:9 "their silver and their gold with them" could refer to Spanish treasure fleets that brought American silver and gold to the Old World in large quantities.

Ezekiel 36:24 "I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries" could refer in part to countries in the Americas.

Ezekiel 37:16 "Take thee one stick, and write upon it, for Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions:" The stick written upon for Judah is the Bible.

Ezekiel 37:16 "Then take another stick, and write upon it, for Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions:" The stick that came after the Bible, written upon for Joseph (Ephraim) is the Book of Mormon.

Ezekiel 37:17 "Join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand." In the hands of the Latter-day Saints, the Bible and the Book of Mormon have become a single set of scriptures. They are sometimes bound together in a single volume. The 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon was bound to look very similar to a trade Bible of the period, emphasizing the physical reality of the two becoming one in a believer's hand.

1830 Bible Sold in EB Grandin's Print Shop in Palmyra
Alongside Replica Book of Mormon

Hosea 11:10 "the children shall tremble from the west." The early Saints interpreted this to mean from the Americas, west of Judea.

John 10:16 "Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd." The Savior himself interpreted this passage as referring to the Nephites and Lamanites in the Americas (3 Nephi 15:21).

Revelation 14:6 "I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people." The early saints thought this angel was Moroni who brought the Book of Mormon to the prophet Joseph Smith.
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All of this biblical close reading was facilitated by a fulfilled prophecy proof mandate the Saints found in modern revelation:

3 Nephi 10:14 "he that hath the scriptures, let him search them, and see and behold if ... all these things are not unto the fulfilling of the prophecies of many of the holy prophets." 

Mormon 8:22 "the eternal purposes of the Lord shall roll on, until all his promises shall be fulfilled."

Moroni 10:28-29 "I declare these things unto the fulfilling of the prophecies." "God shall show unto you, that that which I have written is true."

D&C 29:10 "that which was spoken by mine apostles must be fulfilled; for as they spoke so shall it come to pass."

D&C 42:39 "that which I spake by the mouths of my prophets shall be fulfilled."

D&C 52:36 "that the prophecies may be fulfilled."

D&C 101:19 "And all these things that the prophets might be fulfilled."

D&C 109:23 "thou hast put forth thy hand, to fulfill that which thou has spoken by the mouths of the prophets, concerning the last days."