[The Smith family, RCK] ... emigrated from the town of Royalton, in the State of Vermont, about the year 1820, when Joseph, Jun. was, it is supposed, about 16 years of age. (p.11)Howe blames the Smith's family interest in treasure hunting on their economic situation.
Being miserably poor, and not much disposed to obtain an honorable livelihood by labor, the energies of their minds seemed to be mostly directed towards finding where these treasures were concealed, and the best mode of acquiring their possession. (p.11)Martin Harris appears as a religious will-o-wisp that wants to profit financially from the Book of Mormon.
He [i.e. Martin Harris, RCK] engaged in the new Bible business with a view of making a handsome sum of money from the sale of the books, as he was frequently heard to say. The whole expense of publishing an edition of 5000 copies, which was borne by Martin, to secure the payment of which, he mortgaged his farm for $3000. (p.13)Howe reports how Harris was financially ruined by that publishing venture. Harris continued to prophecy himself (p.14) and engage in complex theological discussions with whoever will listen (pp.14-15).
Oliver Cowdery is represented as a trained blacksmith and now pro-Mormon newspaper editor (p.15), which meant as no compliment.
David Whitmer is represented as part of a family of credulous people and his description of the plates presented in detail (p.16).
Howe points out that the translation process (p.18) due to the function of the seer stone actually required none of the plates, and that the alternate story of the Urim and Thumim has the same problem.
Howe comments on the odd defense against the stolen transcription of the plates (p.22) and the impossibility of the resolution of how the transcription became lost.
Again, an important record which had been made by a miracle, (p.22) kept for ages by a miracle, dug from the ground by a miracle, and translated by a miracle, was stolen by some one, so that even a miracle could not restore it .... (p.23)Howe suggests that the bad King James imitation and use of phrases gives the book a uniformity that precludes the plurality of the supposed authors of the books (p.23). The convoluted language also seems an inappropriate mode for God to reveal Himself (p.24), and Howe contrasts it with the straight-forward language of Jesus in the New Testament.
Howe complains about the use of steel by Nephi in the slaying of Laban (p.25).
Howe notes that the prophecy of Lehi for the plates taken by murder from Laban were not fulfilled, because instead of the plates, only a translation has been found and furnished to the world (p.27). The absence of the tools and the metals that Nephi was asked to leave behind makes it difficult for Howe to see how the plates that Nephi is now supposed to fashioned were made in a non-miraculous way (pp.27-28).
Howe also notes the temporal problems in Lehi's prophecy (pp.28-30) and their detailed presupposition of the King James version of the New Testament. Equally, Nephi's vision (p.31) that follows presupposes not only the Catholic Church but the Protestant Reformation.
Howe observes that Nephi (p.33) when mining the ore for building the tools to build the ship has no tools to convert the ore into tools.
Once Nephi's party lands in the Promised Land (p.35), they find oxen in the forest, which requires a surgical procedure on bulls to accomplish. Howe also notes that finding gold, silver and copper ores wont be sufficient to make brass plates which requires zinc, as Nephi is instructed (p.35).
Howe is suspicious of the prophecy of Lehi at this point, which predicts details of the crucifixion, using prophets whose names are not known elsewhere (p.36). Since Lehi then cites two chapters of Isaiah, in King James diction, Howe becomes concerned about the change of English since then and why the Lord chose not to reveal 19th century English. There is also the stylistic problem that the English of the two chapters of Isaiah is so much better than the remainder of the Book of Mormon (p.39), and even uses the modern chapter divisions. The word-for-word match is suspicious to Howe: No Old Testament prophet prophesied word-for-word speeches of the Savior, nor do the evangelists agree completely in style and diction when they quote the Savior (p.40)--only Lehi manages that feat.
Howe suspects that the base forgery that is the Book of Mormon in his eyes is due to Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith Jr (p.42).
The style riles Howe again (p.44)
Would it not be reasonable to conclude, that any book, whose author was the Holy Ghost, would be clear and perfect in all its parts; so plain that the wayfaring man need not err? particularly if the translation and style be chosen and dictated by himself, as it is pretended that the book of Mormon was.When Nephi separates from the Lamnites and goes to found the city of Nephi with his small band of followers (p.46), Howe points out that the group has only been tracking around for about 30 years and cannot possibly have grown large enough that they could seriously defend themselves against any large group of people, swords or not.
When Lehi makes the sons of Joseph to priests, Howe points (p.48) to the fact that Paul would not even admit Jesus as priest while he was on earth, given that he did not descend from Levi.
Howe continuously points to the temporal quagmire that the an Israelite of the 6th century should talk about New Testament matters
The doctrines which are found in the new Testament, in relation to the coming Messiah, and his rejection by the Jews, is explained; a task not very difficult for any one in the nineteenth century. (p.51)But even the general chronology does not work out correctly:
Here we see the ignorant author has made too great a mistake, for, according to the Bible, Jerusalem must have been besieged six years before the pretended departure of Lehi from Jerusalem, and the city destroyed, and the Jews carried captive into Babylon, four years and six months, for the siege lasted only eighteen months. (p.51)The recurrent theme of the riches also causes Howe consternation
There seems to be a prevailing passion in the writer to represent the Nephites as being great miners after the precious metals. They are often represented as diging and searching after gold and silver -- which will perhaps be an apology for Joseph Smith's early habits in searching after hidden treasures, he being a remnant of the Nephites. (p.55)Again, the amount of time that has passed in the Book of Mormon is insufficient to allow for a numerous people, kings and wars, and all the other trappings of the narrative.
According to the most extravagant calculation, in point of increase among five or six females, the whole could not have amounted to more than about sixteen hundred, in the time mentioned, allowing no deaths to have occurred; besides, about one half of that number would be under ten years old. The story of wars and contentions, and of kings having passed away, is too ridiculous and inconsistent to be noticed and refuted in a serious manner. (p.56)Howe also notes the problem of assuming that descendants of the Jew Lehi would write in reformed Egyptian (p.59f).
Howe re-iterates the quotation argument
The fact that so great a proportion of the whole book being made from quotations from the Bible, a part of which was not written until six hundred years after the pretended period of our author, places the matter beyond controversy, and is conclusive testimony that the author was an infidel. (p.64)In the context of the judgeship of Alma, Howe points out that no coins of the denominations given have ever been found (p.72).
Howe pokes fun at the story of Ammon (p.75-76), who in his frontier mentality takes out some of the Lamnites with stones and the others by lopping off their arms with his sword.
Howe then points out (pp.77f), that the process of the seer stone translation in the hat makes the testimony of the three men of the plates unhelpful, because they had no process of determining whether the translation matched the plates they had seen.
Among the other anachronisms, Howe finds the reviling of freemasonry, which makes only sense for 19th century contexts.
Freemasonry is here introduced and is said to have originated with a band of highwaymen. This institution is spoken of in very reproachful terms, in consequence of the members having bound themselves by secret oaths to protect each other in all things from the justice of the law. (p.81)Howe notes how politically appropriate this is.
The Nephites are represented as being Anti-masons and Christians, which carries with it some evidence that the writer foresaw the politics of New York in 1828-29, or that work was revised at or about that time. (p.81)Or how astronomically astute the Book of Mormon is, eschewing the Ptolemaic view of the solar system (p.82).
Howe wonders why the Nephites succeeded against the free masons using prophetic leaders, when latter day prophet Joseph Smith Jr failed to predict the troubles they would run into in Missouri (p.84).
Howe now turns to the question of the witnesses and (p.96) points out that the interests of the witnesses in the matter undercut the validity of their oath to the point that no court would accept them. Martin Harris after all put up the publishing money and would stand to profit by the sales. Similarly for Oliver Cowdery, who was poor then but (p.97) in comfortable circumstances at the point in time when Howe was writing. Ditto for David Whitmer, who as an "inconsiderable person" became a leader of high standing within the Mormon community.
Howe makes similar short shrift (p.99) of the eight witnesses, four of which come from the Whitmer family, and three from the Smith, and attest to nothing except that they saw plates and handled them.
End of Part 1 -- See Part 2 for the continuation
- E. D. Howe, Mormonism Unveiled, 1834.