How could Joseph Smith have composed the Book of Mormon?
last update: 2022-11-29
The oral composition model
The oral composition model is discussed in some detail by William Davis in his dissertation, Performing Revelation: Joseph Smith and the Creation of the Book of Mormon, and book Visions in a Seer Stone. However, the following is my own summary and synthesis, somewhat independent of Davis’s work:
- Cultural immersion: Joseph was immersed in a cultural and religious milieu that seems proportional to the contents of the Book of Mormon.
- Oral composition capability: Joseph was highly intelligent and demonstrated significant oral compositional ability (e.g., Book of Moses, Book of Abraham, Revelations in the D&C, extensive sermons). Since most in the developed world of the 21st century organize their thoughts via writing, it may be difficult to imagine others composing extensive structure primarily in their minds, but this was not an uncommon ability in that era (e.g., regularly demonstrated among preachers). The available time to compose the book (~65 working days) is not inconsistent with some kind of oral composition event.
- Preparation and practice: The timeline provides room for years of rumination and planning to have preceded the final compositional event. And, even though this was not likely according to plan, the initial dictation of the lost 116 pages would have served as a warm-up period allowing Joseph significant practice in order to develop and refine his compositional abilities before dictating the text we now know as the Book of Mormon.
- Mostly modular construction: The Book of Mormon is mostly modular in its construction (i.e., it has few dependencies from section to section generally). Where dependencies exist, those can be explained by him and/or Oliver going back over the existing manuscript, or perhaps simply due to his oral compositional abilities.
- Book of Mormon Issues (essays)
- Youtube videos (interview on Mormon Stories; the first 10–15 or so focus on evidence suggesting a modern origin and/or “fingerprints” suggesting Joseph Smith’s authorship.
Vogel and Hamer
- 1054-1055: Joseph Smith’s treasure digging (Dan Vogel)
- 1056-1058: How the Book of Mormon was created (Dan Vogel)
- 1063-1065: The Book of Mormon’s 19th century context (John Hamer)
- 1082-1083: How the Book of Mormon was created (John Hamer)
- Visions in a Seer Stone: Joseph Smith and the Making of the Book of Mormon (book)
- Performing Revelation: Joseph Smith and the Creation of The Book of Mormon (PhD Dissertation)
- The Book of Mormon and the Limits of Naturalistic Criteria: Comparing Joseph Smith and Andrew Jackson Davis (Dialogue article)
- Joseph Smith and 19th-Century Sermon Culture in the Book of Mormon (Sunstone Symposium presentation)
- 688: Dr William Davis on Chiasmus, Tight vs Loose Translation (Gospel Tangents pt1)
- 689: New BoM Translation Timeline, Joseph was Methodist Exhorter? (Gospel Tangents, pt2)
- 1396: Visions in a Seer Stone: Joseph Smith and the Making of the Book of Mormon (Mormon Stories)
- After Dinner Chat EP010 - William L. Davis - making the Book of Mormon (Priesthood Dispatches)
Creativity theory and oral composition
- Creativity Theory and the Origin of the Book of Mormon and other Mormon Scriptures (post by frogontrombone)
- Is it possible for Joseph Smith to have orally dictated the BoM without notes? (post by frogontrombone)
- Mosiah Priority (post by ImTheMarmotKing)
- Evidence of Oral Composition (comment by ImTheMarmotKing)
- Explaining Consistencies (comment by ImTheMarmotKing)
- Book of Mormon parallels to 1800s thought
- Recent LDS Scholar observations favoring a modern origin for the Book of Mormon
- Was Joseph Smith intellectually and educationally capable of authoring the Book of Mormon?
- Reasons to discount aspects of Emma’s testimony of the creation of the Book of Mormon
- Curiously Unique: Joseph Smith as Author of the Book of Mormon (Brian Hales)
- Rebuttal to Hamer (post by stisa79; also note counter-responses in comment section)