Read this first paragraph of an article on the Book of Mormon. I rather quickly came to some conclusions about the author and the quality of his arguments.
WHO WROTE THE BOOK OF MORMON? For nearly two centuries, faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) have claimed that Joseph Smith translated the text from the writings of ancient prophets, while critics have endlessly recycled inadequate theories of plagiarism or co-authorship. What has rarely been addressed is that for much of his language and narrative structure, Smith turned to the most read and memorized author of the late seventeenth century, John Bunyan. He did so in such imaginative ways that the resulting work transcends any easy charge of plagiarism and calls upon us to reimagine the rich oral traditions of early America.
The rich oral traditions? Is that a new fancy term for “bullshit”?
The premise of the article is that the Book of Mormon is written as a literary homage to Bunyan — now I’m no fan of that pious nonsense Bunyan wrote, but that is perhaps the most slanderous thing I’ve seen written about him. No, Joseph Smith was not consciously emulating Bunyan; Smith was a con man with no literary skill who was mimicking the style of 17th century English to tie his phony story to the religious authority of the King James Bible and yes, other religious authors of that era. It is not an “imaginative” book — it’s pure blithering hackwork that goes on and on, and is a blighted fusion of faux KJV and glossolalia. It is the work of a charlatan shouting into a hat.
I’ve read chunks of the Book of Mormon. It is crap. It’s more poorly written than the Twilight series, or even 50 Shades of Gray. If you’re looking for the primal source of American popular hack literature, there it is in the work of Joseph Smith, and his bad fantasy novel that would have died of contempt if he hadn’t used it to tap into American religious gullibility. It is to Bunyan and the religious literature of the times as Eye of Argon is to science fiction and fantasy literature — a badly written derivative.
Seriously, this is a terrible article that tries to put a thin golden veneer on top of a turd. I don’t know why the LA Review of Books or Salon chose to publish it. The author is pandering to the Mormons, nothing more.
For instance, take a look at this summary of the Mormon story.
To the LDS faithful, the Book of Mormon is the true historical account of a group of ancient Israelites who fled Jerusalem prior to the Babylonian captivity (600 B.C.E.) and later journeyed to the Americas to establish a new civilization. Mormons claim that in 1823 an angel named Moroni revealed to Joseph Smith the location of a set of gold plates – which recorded that sacred history – buried in a hill south of Palmyra in upstate New York, known today as the Hill Cumorah. Six years later, at the age of 24, Joseph translated this ancient record, which he claimed was written in “Reformed Egyptian,” into English by “the gift and power of God.”
A real historian would look at that baldly ridiculous story and dismiss it as nonsense. Just the complete absence of provenance and its foundation in a story made up in a non-existent language and written on mysterious gold plates in New York (plates that no one else has ever seen) ought to mark it as fraud. But no, not to William L. Davis, who is trying to rationalize the story.
This is how he sums up the case against the veracity of the Book of Mormon.
Detractors, on the other hand, assume the Book of Mormon to be Smith’s invention, pointing not just to the improbability of the story, but to the lack of any linguistic, archeological, or DNA evidence tying any tribe of Native Americans to ancient Israelites. Several theories of the origin of the text have emerged, but they lack solid evidence and require leaps of speculation. The wider academic community steered clear of the debate, leaving serious inquiry into the Book of Mormon to a small group of scholars and enthusiasts. Some Mormon scholars, like Grant Hardy, who wrote Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Guide, have attempted to move the discussion away from polemics to an appreciation for the book’s narrative complexities. As with most scripture, however, claims to historical authenticity remain a central issue. Joseph Smith stated that the Book of Mormon was “the keystone of our religion,” to which the former LDS Prophet Ezra Taft Benson added, “Just as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does all the Church stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.” Thus the stakes regarding authenticity are high, and the suggestion that Joseph Smith looked extensively to John Bunyan for inspiration to write the Book of Mormon is fraught not only for Mormon scholarship but for the religion as a whole.
No, the argument against the historicity of the Book of Mormon isn’t based on nothing but a lack of evidence supporting it; it’s about a body of “linguistic, archeological, or DNA evidence” that directly contradicts the story. America was not colonized by a group of Hebrew refugees in 600BCE who built a flourishing white civilization that crumbled, leaving modern degenerate tribes of brown people to wander among the ruins. It didn’t happen, period. You want to find the roots of Mormonism, you should be looking to the endemic racism of the Americans of European descent who were trying to justify an ongoing genocide. Not Bunyan.
I do like the remark that “so does all the Church stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.” I’m happy to accept that. It falls.
You know, the truth matters. Religions built on lies, like all of them, do not deserve respect or to persevere. I can see through all the vain striving to find some glimmer of character in Joseph Smith or some shadow of literary quality in his hat-shouting exercise — but what it all ought to come down to is, “IS IT TRUE?” And when it isn’t, it ought to be kicked to the curb and hauled away with the trash.