- Post discussing parallels
- John Smith papers at Dartmouth
- John Smith writings on mormonorigins.com
- John Smith biography
20 point summary of John Smith Lectures
As published in Kathleen Kimball Melonakos, Secret Combinations: Evidence of Early Mormon Counterfeiting 1800-1847, pages 83-84; 2016, copied from realbookofmormon.org Note, I have not seen the original source myself, so I’m skeptical until I see the primary source.
- Greek philosophy provided his concept of the Pre-existence.
- Atonement Covenant was made before the earth was.
- Plan of Salvation was agreed to in the Pre-existence.
- Father, Son and sons of men were together in the Pre-existence.
- Spiritual death was man’s condition after the fall.
- Son’s Church would exist in all ages after the fall.
- Types and shadows of the covenant found in the Scriptures.
- Oaths and covenants serve as Deity’s legal structure.
- Light, borrowed light and the light of reason would guide.
- Melchizedek Priesthood is co-eternal with God.
- The Priesthood is the source of the Son’s authority.
- Aaronic Priesthood promised to Aaron’s descendants.
- Free Agency and the right to choose is integral to the plan.
- Degrees of Glory is the structure of the Eternities.
- Consecration to Christ is required for highest exaltation.
- Revelation required to know ultimate nature of God.
- Spirit is a simpler form of matter.
- The prosperity cycle is the natural direction of history.
- Millions of peopled worlds.
- Father argues for justice and Son argues for mercy.
Comparison of Writings
Reddit user /u/astronautsaurus has been transcribing the writings of John Smith and pointing out similarities between his writings and the Book of Mormon (and LDS theology generally).
Note: I’ve slightly abridged and compiled the work below as well as made some minor adjustments for clarity and tone, softening some of the commentary (e.g., “undoubtedly -> “seems to be”), and correction of some mistakes (this John Smith was not JS’s uncle) etc. Consult the originals (which I linked to for each heading) for astronautsaurus’s exact verbiage
But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and call things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.
Rev. John Smith Lectures, Ch.1.4
The unity of plan observable in physical objects indicates the unity of God. The universe itself appears to be a system, each part of which is connected with, or depends upon, other parts by some common law of motion, or by the presence of some common substance. One law of attraction causes a stone to fall to the earth, the moon to revolve round it, and the planets round the sun. This philosophers clearly demonstrate.
Alma 30 is the chapter with Korihor, the anti-christ and atheist.
Chapter 1 of John Smith’s lectures opens with demonstrating how nature and its uniformity and motions are indicative of an omnipotent God. It closes with a criticism of atheists and how miserable and misguided they are for not seeing the evidence of God in nature.
1 Nephi 6:3
But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words. And thus it is. Amen.
Rev. John Smith Lectures, Ch.2.5
As he knows all things which actually exist…He knows how, in all respects, to order and adapt means for the accomplishment of what is best in its kind, or on the whole; and in a word, what is best and most fit in its end.
14 Therefore thou art condemned to die, according to the law which has been given us by Mosiah, our last king; and it has been acknowledged by this people; therefore this people must abide by the law.
15 And it came to pass that they took him; and his name was Nehor; and they carried him upon the top of the hill Manti . . . and there he suffered an ignominious death.”
John Smith, Lecture 33, page 11:
and that at last, he underwent that painful and ignominious death by which he made an offering to the justice of God, for the expiration of our guilt. As a just and holy person, our Lord might have been exempted from such sufferings and such a death.
But when he had engaged to submit to the law for us, he became bound to satisfy its sanctions which threatened death.
If Joseph was exposed to these lectures, it could be that he gave Nehor the one of the worst deaths he could think of; the death Christ himself suffered, in the near exact context John Smith discussed Christ’s death.
Edit: Meaning, Christ, the King (cough, Mosiah, cough) who gave the law to the people, and was above it until he chose to submit himself to it. Whereupon he suffered a terrible death. Nehor, was subject to the laws given by the King, and suffered a terrible death.
Regarding Mosiah, it is often thought Mosiah is derivative of the word Messiah.
And it came to pass in the days of Mosiah, there was a large stone brought unto him with engravings on it; and he did interpret the engravings by the gift and power of God.
And behold, when ye shall come unto me, ye shall write them and shall seal them up, that no one can interpret them; for ye shall write them in a language that they cannot be read.
John Smith, Ch.4.2
A book may be elegantly printed, in an unknown language. It may contain and assert very important truths. But what instruction can a man gain from it, while he understand not the language in which it is printed? He knows not what ideas are marked by words which he cannot read. If he understand not the meaning or signification of the words, he cannot compare and combine them in a continued series of thought, so as to apprehend those important truths which the book contains.
Here we find some interesting parallels.
First, John Smith had used the idea of having important truths hidden because they were written in an unknowng language. This concept is most clearly seen in Ether 3:22, but is also found in Omni 1:20, which is about the people of Zarahemla finding a stone stele with the story of Coriantmur, the Last Jaredite. (I suppose the whole Book of Mormon also fits into this symbolism).
Yet once we get to the story of Mosiah in Mosiah 8, the story changes. Instead of a stone stele being brought to, (or I would guess Mosiah would have had to go see it, those things are huge), it turned into 24 plates of gold being found by the people of Limhi which were brought to Mosiah. In Mosiah 21, the plates are referred to as plates of ore. Chronologically, Mosiah 21 happens before Mosiah 8. I might be wrong here, but it also seems that after the story branches reconnect Limhi, Alma, and Mosiah together, the Jaredite plates are dropped from the narrative until Ether. You’d think Mosiah would’ve had something to say about that.
But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.
John Smith Ch 3.7
On various occasions, he has made the wrath of man contribute to the illustration of his glory; and the remainder of that wrath he has constrained. In many ways, he takes the wise in their own craftiness, and disappoints the counsels of the froward. In time, we may rest assured, that all evil, both moral and natural, will, in the issue, be overruled to answer great and wise purposes in the universe. Nor is the darkness or imperfection of our understandings, which, at present, are unable to comprehend how this can be, any reasonable objection to the truth of the assertion. It should satisfy us, that the supreme Being is infinitely powerful and good; and that he will forever do what is fit and just, although, in various respects, his judgements are to us, a great deep which we cannot fathom.
Note the tonal similarities between John Smith’s writings and the scene in Alma 14 where women and children believers were cast into a pit of fire and burned alive.
John Smith Ch.5.11
In this world, it is not unfrequently the case, that men are not rewarded or punished according to their characters and works. Vice often escapes with impunity. Civil justice is frequently eluded. And it is not rare to be behold the wicked proffering, and the virtuous depressed and unjustly suffering.
There will, therefore, as the great ruler of the world is the God of justice, be a state of rewards and punishments beyond the grave.
These arguments drawn from reason coincide with the holy scriptures, which assure us that the dead will be raised, and judged by Jesus Christ, according to their works;”
A simple search on LDS.org returns the following matches for “according to their works”:
- Old Testament - 0
- New Testament - 3
- Book of Mormon -13
- D&C - 5
The only real hit in the NT is Revelation 20:12/13:
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.”
The BoM is peculiar in that many verses follow a particular flow that matches John Smith, with thesauric variations mixed in here and there, and they are mostly clustered in Alma;
- according to their works
Alma 11:41 the day cometh that all shall rise from the dead and stand before God, and be judged according to their works.
Alma 11:44 every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works,
Alma 12:3 What does this mean which Amulek hath spoken concerning the resurrection of the dead, that all shall rise from the dead, both the just and the unjust, and are brought to stand before God to be judged according to their works?
Alma 33:22 which shall bring to pass the resurrection, that all men shall stand before him, to be judged at the last and judgment day, according to their works.
Alma 40:21 “..time which is appointed of God that the dead shall come forth, and be reunited, both soul and body, and be brought to stand before God, and be judged according to their works
Alma 42:43 and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works,
3 Nephi 27:15 according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.
… It’s important to note Alma 11 expounds on the nature of the spirit and body, resurrection and immortality.
John Smith also wrote, just above the first quoted text,
Quoting Socrates, “Life and death being contraries, as death arises from life, so must life arise from death. If living things did not arise from dead things, all things would, at last, be swallowed up by death. The immortality of the soul must, therefore, be granted.”
No man, if he believes that there is an unoriginated, self-existent Creator, will deny that he is spiritual and immortal. Therefore, as the human soul resembles God in understanding, we justly infer that it is spiritual and immortal.
Compare Alma 11:45
this mortal body is raised to an immortal body, that is from death, even from the first death unto life, that they can die no more; their spirits uniting with their bodies, never to be divided; thus the whole becoming spiritual and immortal, that they can no more see corruption.”
Summary: Amulek’s speech/theology in Alma 11 seems borrowed from John Smith and by extension, Socrates.
Comparing Alma 48 with John Smith’s theology
Summary - Story beats and the Christian virtues displayed in Alma 48 seem to be highly influcenced by, if not directly lifted from, John Smith’s lectures.
Alma 48 TL;DR - This chapter spends time discussing how Moroni and his crew exemplified Christian virtues; were passivists who would only take up violence as a last resort to defend their country and liberty. Meanwhile, Nephite dissenters and Lamanites have no qualms massacring people.
John Smith TL;DR - Passive courage is best; acting out of love, patience, and longsuffering to defend your rights and liberties is the Christian way. Active courage is bad; acting out of passion, vanity, and desires to conquer and enslave is un-Christian.
Excerpt from John’s writings, Ch.8, section 19:
We ought to exert our valour in defending and maintaining our just rights, against any power which would extort them from our hands. For this purpose we should employ every lawful expedient. But valour, exerted by heroes to gain applause, or in any way against the innocent, has no place in the catalogue of Christian virtues. Christians are not to hate, but love and pray for, their enemies.
Passive courage is, indeed, often applauded and inculcated in the sytem of Christ, under the applelations of patience and longsuffering. This is a real and substantial virtue, taking its rise from the noblest qualities of the soul; from a becoming confidence in the guardian care of the Almighty, and the contempt of sufferings, pain, and death, in the cause of truth and virtue.
Not unfrequently active courage or valour is excited by passion, vanity, or self-dependence; when it is the parent of injustice and cruelty, as well as the offspring of pride and revenge. True passive courage is the fortitude of a real philosopher; but active courage or valour is too often the ferocity of a savage.
In the class of heathen virtues patriotism is ranked; patriotism, so highly extolled at the present day. It was this which long preserved the liberties of Greece, and exalted Rome to the empire of the world. When men are actuated by sincere love to their country to vindicate its rights and liberties, and promote its realy happiness and glory, but justifiable means, they manifest laudable patriotism: but that which urges men to conquer and enslave other countires, to advance the prosperity and grandeur of their own, is exlcluded from the catalogue of Christian virtues.
Compare this to the story beats in Alma 48:10-11,14,23:
- And thus he was preparing to support their liberty, their lands, their wives, and their children, and their peace, and that they might live unto the Lord their God, and that they might maintain that which was called by their enemies the cause of Christians.
- And Moroni was a strong and a mighty man; he was a man of a perfect understanding; yea, a man that did not delight in bloodshed; a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery;
- Now the Nephites were taught to defend themselves against their enemies, even to the shedding of blood if it were necessary; yea, and they were also taught never to give an offense, yea, and never to raise the sword except it were against an enemy, except it were to preserve their lives.
- Now, they were sorry to take up arms against the Lamanites, because they did not delight in the shedding of blood;
When writing about how we can know whether the scriptures are true, John Smith said (Ch.8,Sec.28):
The gospel invariably inculcates piety and good morals. Its precepts are such as unbiased reason will forever approve. Its spirit is divine. And, if we receive it with honest and believing heart, it opens to our view the path of life and unfading glory.
Compare this to Moroni’s Promise:
Moroni 10:4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Summary: John Smith links scriptures by St. John in Revelation about the ‘mother of harlots, abomination of the earth’ to the apostasy of the Catholic church. 1 Nephi describes at length a vision given to Nephi how the whore of the earth is the church of the devil, and points out John by name as the apostle who will write about it.
Has the Roman church greatly apostatized from the puritiy of the Christian faith and worship? This Saint Paul has foretold, 2 Thess. 2:3 “That day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the Son of Perdition.” And Saint John has predicted, that the church of Rome would be so corrupt, as to become “the mother of harlots, and the abomination of the earth.
Here is the full scripture John Smith quotes from:
Rev.17:5 And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
Note the word ‘church’ is missing from Revelation in this context, but is prevalent in John Smith’s writing.
1 Nephi 13:5,8,34, 14:27
Behold the formation of a church which is most abominable above all other churches…Behold the gold, and the silver, and the silks, and the scarlets, and the fine-twined linen, and the precious clothing, and the harlots, are the desires of this great and abominable church…the Gentiles do stumble exceedingly, because of the most plain and precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that abominable church, which is the mother of harlots
And I, Nephi, heard and bear record, that the name of the apostle of the Lamb was John, according to the word of the angel.
The Book of Mormon quotes 30% of Isaiah, most of which is found in 2 Nephi. These quoted verses usually are there for the purpose of talking about Christ.
Summary: John Smith’s favorite OT prophet to quote was Isaiah.
In the manuscripts of John Smith written 30 years prior, Isaiah is the most quoted Old Testament prophet (I’ve seen Isaiah 40,42,49,53 quoted so far, up to Ch.9), used to support the veracity of the scriptures. To prove that the prophecies of Isaiah have been fulfilled,
These predictions have been exactly fulfilled. (Ch9.Pt1).
2 Nephi 25:7
But behold, I proceed with mine own prophecy, according to my plainness; in the which I know that no man can err; nevertheless, in the days that the prophecies of Isaiah shall be fulfilled men shall know of a surety, at the times when they shall come to pass.
In the following verses, “Nephi” goes on to one-up Isaiah’s prophecies by prophecying Jerusalem’s destruction, the exact timing of Christ’s birth from his day (600 years), that his name will literally be Jesus Christ, and that Nephi’s writings will be preserved for the last days and that all men would be judged by them.
Next in 2 Nephi 25:24-25, Nephi says:
- And, notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law of Moses, and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled.
- For, for this end was the law given; wherefore the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments.
Previous to John Smith’s single largest quotation of Isaiah (Ch.53), he writes this about the purpose of scriptures:
They endeavour to convince men of the insufficiency of forms and ceremonies, without unfeined love to God and man, and that obedience to the moral law which is of more importance than “sacrifices and burnt offerings.