The Great and Spacious Book of Mormon Arcade Game: More Curious Works from Book of Mormon Critics

Abstract: A novel theory for the origins of Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life has been offered by Rick Grunder, who argues that the story was inspired by a June 1829 visit to Rochester where Joseph could have seen a “great and spacious building,” a river, an iron railing, and even fruit trees. The purported source for the great and spacious building, the Reynolds Arcade, has even been suggested by one critic as a place where Joseph might have found “rare maps,” such as a map of Arabia that could have guided his fabrication of Lehi’s trail. As beautiful as such theories may be to their champions, they utterly fail to account for Nephi’s text.

Among the shortcomings of Grunder’s theory and creative extensions of it, the timing is problematic, for Joseph’s visit to Rochester likely occurred well after 1 Nephi was dictated. The proposed parallels offer little explanatory power for Book of Mormon creation. (For comparison, two online appendices for this article have been provided to illustrate how interesting random parallels can be found that may be more compelling than those Grunder offers.1) Further, any inspiration from a visit to Rochester as the plates of Nephi were being translated fails to account for the influence of Lehi’s vision and Nephi’s text on other portions of the Book of Mormon that were translated long before Joseph’s trip to Rochester. Finally, Nephi’s account of the vision of the Tree of Life and surrounding text cannot be reasonably explained by Grunder’s theory of last-minute fabrication inspired by Rochester or by any other theory of modern fabrication, as it is far too rooted in the ancient world and far too artfully crafted to have come from Joseph Smith and his environment. Continue reading

The Late War Against the Book of Mormon

Recently, the Exmormon Foundation held their annual conference in Salt Lake City.1 A presentation by Chris and Duane Johnson proposed a new statistical model for discussing authorship of the Book of Mormon.2 The study attempts to connect the Book of Mormon to a text published in 1816: The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain.3 The latter is a history of the war of 1812 deliberately written in a scriptural style. A traditional (non-statistical) comparison between this text and the Book of Mormon was apparently introduced by Rick Grunder in his 2008 bibliography Mormon Parallels. I will discuss only the statistical model presented by the Johnsons here.4 Continue reading


  1. The conference occurred between October 18th and October 20th, 2013. 

  2. The presentation was titled “How the Book of Mormon Destroyed Mormonism.” It was presented on Saturday, October 19th, by Chris Johnson. The study was co-authored by Chris and Duane Johnson. The presentation can be viewed here: http://buggingmos.wordpress.com/2013/10/25/chris-johnson-how-the-book-of-mormon-destroyed-mormonism. 

  3. The full title of the work is given as: The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain From June, 1812, to February 1815 (G.J. Hunt: New York, 1816). Rick Grunder provides this description of the various publications of this text: “This work went through at least sixteen editions or imprints 1816-19, all but two in 1819. All were published in New York City, under a total of ten different publishers’ names. First “Published and sold for the author, by David Longworth,” 1816… the book was then issued as The Historical Reader, Containing “The Late War… Altered and Adapted for the Use of Schools… ,” etc., promoted particularly as a textbook (Samuel A. Burtus, 1817). There was no edition in 1818, but in 1819 there appeared no fewer than six separate editions or imprints under the original title and eight more editions or imprints as The Historical Reader. All fourteen of these 1819 publications called themselves the third edition. In five instances that year, both of the titles were published by the same parties, including the author himself. Furthermore, most of the 1819 editions (irrespective of title) seem to have had the same pagination (233 pp., with possible differences in plates and ads).” (Rick Grunder. Mormon Parallels: A Bibliographic Source. [Lafayette, New York: Rick Grunder—Books, 2008], p. 724.)  

  4. I may at some future point deal in a more detailed fashion with the thematic parallels presented by Grunder, along with his discussion of potential Hebraisms in the text. 

Finding Parallels: Some Cautions and Criticisms, Part Two

Review of Rick Grunder. Mormon Parallels: A Bibliographic Source. Layfayette, New York: Rick Grunder—Books, 2008. 2,088 pp. On CD-ROM. $200.00.

Abstract: Discovering parallels is inherently an act of comparison. Through comparison, parallels have been introduced frequently as proof (or evidence) of different issues within Mormon studies. Despite this frequency, very few investigations provide a theoretical or methodological framework by which the parallels themselves can be evaluated. This problem is not new to the field of Mormon studies but has in the past plagued literary studies more generally. In Part One, this review essay discusses present and past approaches dealing with the ways in which parallels have been used and valued in acts of literary comparison, uncovering the various difficulties associated with unsorted parallels as well as discussing the underlying motivations for these comparisons. In Part Two, a methodological framework is introduced and applied to examples from Grunder’s collection in Mormon Parallels. In using a consistent methodology to value these parallels, this essay suggests a way to address the historical concerns associated with using parallels to explain both texts and Mormonism as an historical religious movement. Continue reading

Finding Parallels: Some Cautions and Criticisms, Part One

Review of Rick Grunder. Mormon Parallels: A Bibliographic Source. Layfayette, New York: Rick Grunder—Books, 2008. 2,088 pp. On CD-ROM. $200.00.

Abstract: Discovering parallels is inherently an act of comparison. Through comparison, parallels have been introduced frequently as proof (or evidence) of different issues within Mormon studies. Despite this frequency, very few investigations provide a theoretical or methodological framework by which the parallels themselves can be evaluated. This problem is not new to the field of Mormon studies but has in the past plagued literary studies more generally. In Part One, this review essay discusses present and past approaches dealing with the ways in which parallels have been used and valued in acts of literary comparison, uncovering the various difficulties associated with unsorted parallels as well as discussing the underlying motivations for these comparisons. In Part Two, a methodological framework is introduced and applied to examples from Grunder’s collection in Mormon Parallels. In using a consistent methodology to value these parallels, this essay suggests a way to address the historical concerns associated with using parallels to explain both texts and Mormonism as an historical religious movement. Continue reading