B.H. Roberts Testimony

B.H. Roberts on the Book of Mormon

CES Letter Core Question

B.H. Roberts saw similarities between View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon. Does this give strength to the claim that the Book of Mormon plagiarized from it?

LDS General Authority and scholar Elder B.H. Roberts privately researched the link between the Book of Mormon and the View of the HebrewsJoseph’s father having the same dream in 1811 as Lehi’s dream, and other sources that were available to Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris and others before the publication of the Book of Mormon. Elder Roberts’ private research was meant only for the eyes of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve and was never intended to be available to the public. However, Roberts’ work was later published in 1985 as Studies of the Book of Mormon. Based upon his research, Elder B.H. Roberts came to the following conclusion on the View of the Hebrews:

Did Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews furnish structural material for Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon? It has been pointed out in these pages that there are many things in the former book that might well have suggested many major things in the other. Not a few things merely, one or two, or a half dozen, but many; and it is this fact of many things of similarity and the cumulative force of them that makes them so serious a menace to Joseph Smith’s story of the Book of Mormon’s origin.

While this does not prove that the Book of Mormon was plagiarized from the View of the Hebrews, it does demonstrate that key elements of the story of the Book of Mormon – i.e. Native Americans as Hebrew descendants, ancient records of natives preserved, scattering and gathering of Israel, Hebrew origin of Native American language, etc. pre-dated the Book of Mormon and were already among the ideas circulating among New England protestant Americans.

With these ideas already existing and the previously cited issues with KJV plagiarism, errors, anachronisms, geography problems, and more issues to come, is it unreasonable to question Joseph Smith’s story of the Book of Mormon origins as Church Historian B.H. Roberts did?

CES Letter, Page 20-21

By selectively quoting B. H. Roberts’ writings, The CES Letter creates an illusion that B. H. Roberts’ lost faith in its authenticity, but multiple sources demonstrate that he never did.

Just before his death in September 1933, Elder Roberts was visited at his office by a long-time friend, Jack Christensen. During the conversation, B. H. Roberts spoke of his Book of Mormon studies and then gave Christensen his considered judgment: “Ethan Smith played no part in the formation of the Book of Mormon.”  

Elder Roberts had sent the entire 435 pages to President Heber J. Grant and the Quorum of the Twelve on March 15, 1923. In a cover letter, he wrote:

“This report herewith submitted is what it purports to be, namely a ‘study of Book of Mormon origins,’ for the information of those who ought to know everything about it pro et con, as well that which has been produced against it, and that which may be produced against it. I am taking the position that our faith is not only unshaken but unshakable in the Book of Mormon, and therefore we can look without fear upon all that can be said against it.”

In B. H. Roberts manuscript entitled, “The Truth, the Way, and the Life,” his doctrinal magnum opus, written in 1927–1928:

He quotes verses from the Book of Mormon over 130 times.

He goes out of his way to identify the Book of Mormon as an ancient record written by prophets who lived long ago.

He writes that “Joseph Smith was commanded to translate, and was given the power and means by which he could translate the unknown language of these ancient American peoples.”

He repeatedly reaffirms the divine origin and antiquity of the Book of Mormon.

He added scriptures from the Book of Mormon in later drafts, which would be unexpected if he had doubts about the books authenticity.

A favorite description for the Book of Mormon and especially for 3 Nephi was “a fifth gospel.”

In his own notebook B. H. Roberts wrote “a man would get nearer to God by abiding by Book of Mormon precepts than by any other book.”

Given these quotes from a study B. H. Roberts’ writings, and are vital to understanding what B. H. Roberts thought, it's curious the The CES Letter conveniently fails to mention them.