long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Monday, June 17, 2024

Ward Radio: Jonathan Edwards and Intertextuality

Ward Radio released our interview about Jonathan Edwards.


The Jonathan Edwards connection is one of the most significant new discoveries about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. The connection helps us understand the Book of Mormon in several ways:

- it corroborates Joseph Smith's claim that he translated the ancient record

- it offers new insights on how God prepared Joseph Smith for his role as translator and prophet

- it explains Joseph's statement that he had "an intimate acquaintance with those of different denominations" 

- it provides context and background for the non-biblical language in the Book of Mormon

- it shows Christians that the Book of Mormon is a fulfillment of their long-anticipated hopes for, as Edwards explained it, the "prosperity of the church, in its most glorious state on earth in the latter days"


Many Latter-day Saints have never heard of Jonathan Edwards. Others have only heard about him from certain LDS scholars who offer a demeaning caricature for their own apologetic purposes.

By contrast, most Christians are familiar with Jonathan Edwards as the highly accomplished and influential 18th century Christian minister, author, and theologian.

As Christians, Latter-day Saints owe it to themselves to learn about Edwards and the important role he played in laying a foundation for the Restoration. We have a special interest in Edwards because our understanding of the Book of Mormon is enhanced by seeing how influential he was.


There is an introduction to Jonathan Edwards at MOBOM.org, here:


At that link there are additional links to examples of intertextuality that show how Joseph Smith drew upon his own vocabulary when he translated the plates. We can see that the language in the Book of Mormon draws on the King James Bible and the works of Jonathan Edwards that were on sale in the bookstore in Palmyra that Joseph visited regularly, as well as other sources of Edwards' works such as pamphlets, newspaper and magazine articles, and sermons by Christian ministers who frequently quoted Edwards.

The database of nonbiblical Book of Mormon language that is found in the works of Jonathan Edwards is large and growing. 


For those interested in learning even more, there are two books on the subject. Infinite Goodness: Joseph Smith, Jonathan Edwards, and the Book of Mormon, offers an overview with lots of examples. It is available in print and Kindle, and soon in audio.


The accompanying database (currently 1,473 pages in a Word document), called the Nonbiblical Intertextual Database (NID)  is available in Kindle only. 


An early version of the NID is on the MOBOM site, here.



Although more and more LDS scholars are coming to recognize the significance of the connections between Joseph Smith and Jonathan Edwards, others resist the growing evidence. Readers should consider the evidence for themselves. 

Some critics cite this evidence to suggest that Joseph Smith composed the text of the Book of Mormon and his other writings by plagiarizing Edwards (and the KJV). However, evidence of composition is also evidence of translation. IOW, the evidence that these critics cite merely corroborates what Joseph said all along; i.e., that he translated the ancient plates. Every translator draws on his/her own mental language bank, the same way every author does. This is obvious.

Inevitably, people interpret evidence to confirm their biases. Those who believe Joseph (and Oliver) will see corroboration, validation, and new insights in the connection with Edwards. Those who disbelieve Joseph and Oliver will confirm their own biases as well.  

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