Plagiarism definition includes to “present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.” By this definition, Joseph Smith, Jr. clearly plagiarized.
How to identify plagiarism: We will be judging Joseph Smith, Jr. on the criteria listed in this paper. Specifically:
1) If he typically performed poor work and then suddenly did amazing things, odds are it was plagiarized.
2) If there are few or no citations to previous works, it is likely plagiarism.
3) If there are ANY exact match sentences, odds are there was plagiarism.
4) Feel free to do your own random searches.
These are NOT anti-mormon methods. These are the standards for finding and identifying plagiarism.
NOTE: One does not need to copy the entire play “Hamlet” to plagiarize Shakespeare. One needs merely to include key identifiable lines that are highly unlikely to be the student’s own work. Similarly, if Smith uses unique phrases from other works in his own, this is plagiarism whether or not he copies the entire work. That there are differences in the two works IS NOT A COUNTER ARGUMENT. If you don’t believe me, send in a work to be published, copying word for word a few sentences from Shakespeare without crediting him and wait for a letter from the publisher’s editor, along with a possible court summons.
I will post the timeline in the following format:
[Date] Source. Joseph Smith, Jr. Document that is affected, along with an approximate effect. SOURCE.
1599 - Shakespeare’s Hamlet- Ophelia speech . In the Book of Mormon, death is referred to as “a silent grave.” This phrase originates with Shakespeare. Mayan/Mesoamerican cultures do not have the same concept of a “death as a silent grave” in any writings so far discovered.
1600s - The phrase “Type and a Shadow” arises with the Protestant church and the Guttenberg press. Latin translations do not have this concept present in them. The Book of Mormon uses this phrase so frequently, that searching for it online results in mostly mormon websites. “Tupos,” the original Greek word that “type” is taken from, would not have been invented when Nephites supposedly are saying it.
1604 - Grammatical mistake in Isaiah 6:2 pluralizes “seraphims”” 2 Nephi 16:2 original text pluralizes it to “seraphs”. Corrected later to “Seraphim” to hide the incorrect grammar
1800s - “Curious Worksmanship” is a masonic phrase and has no meaning outside of it, but is solidly defined in Masonry. The Liahona in the Book of Mormon is described as being of “Curious Worksmanship”.
1784 - A man by the name of Emanuel Swedenborg wrote a book about his visions of the afterlife. Swedenborg insisted, “There are three heavens,” described as, “entirely distinct from each other.” He called the highest heaven, “the Celestial Kingdom,” Claims there are two kingdoms that resemble “Spirit Paradise” and a “Spirit Prison” in mormon theology. for the unbaptized are mentioned. Angels in the Celestial Kingdom wear a garment given to them by “the Lord” (description of the garment similar to Moroni’s in the 1838 version of the Moroni visit. He quotes several of the scriptures of the new testament to explain this.). Spirits and angels converse “as one man with another.” The spirit world is on Earth, but cannot be seen because of “the veil.” Marriage exists only in highest of Celestial Kingdom. Compare to doctrines in D&C 77.
1816 - Elias Smith vision, similar to First Vision.
1817 - Joseph Smith’s library acquires a copy of Swedenborg’s “Heaven and Hell and Its Wonders.” Although Smith’s family are not members, the book is checked out frequently and the neighbors certainly read and discussed it. source: Magic and the Early World View, D. Michael Quinn.
1821 - A Palmyra newspaper stated that diggers on the Erie Canal had unearthed “several brass plates” along with skeletons and fragments of pottery. Source: Fawn Brodie, No Man Knows My History, pp. 35-36.
1821 - Charles G. Finny vision, similar to First Vision.
1 January, 1823 - Spaulding manuscript sold to printing house. Sidney Rigdon takes 3 years off of being a minister, reported to be working on a document during these three years. More analysis here.
1823 - Detroit manuscript found by Joseph Smith’s uncle and sent to Dr. Mitchel for translation. The characters are printed in local paper. Characters are almost identical to the Anthon Transcript. More here.
1823 - Ethan Smith publishes “View to the Hebrews.” Oliver Cowdery’s stepmother and three sisters were members of Ethan’s congregation. The concept of Native Americans being lost tribes of Israel is the point of the novel.
Prior to November 1823 - “During our evening conversations, Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of traveling, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would to with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life with them.” (Lucy Smith, Biographical Sketches, p. 85).
1824 - Sacred Geography published in Philadelphia. Joseph Smith’s personal copy available by the Reorganized Church in Independence Missouri. Book of Abraham ideas about dark skinned individuals coming from Noah are specifically mentioned in a similar way (Ham’s descendants to be “servants of servants”).
1 October, 1825 - M. M. Noah summarized the parallels between the cultures of Hebraic and Indian customs in Joseph’s hometown paper. Joseph Smith’s father took the paper (Fawn Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 45-46).
1826-1828 - The Wonders of Nature and Providence Displayed is written. This book is checked out of Smith’s local library continuously. It contains Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews.
28 December,1827 - Philosophy of a future state published by Thomas Dick. Joseph Smith possessed a copy. Book of Abraham numbers, stars, counting and philosophy are similar, including stars populated by “various orders of intelligences.” These intelligences are “progressive beings” headed towards perfection.
March 1830 - Book of Mormon is published.
October 1830 - Peter Bauder inteview of Joseph Smith, First Vision.
1831 - Legend of Enoch, told in Masonry, is very similar to Joseph’s version of Moroni’s visit written in 1831. List of similarities available here.
10 February, 1831 - Alexander Campbell prints a pamphlet stating that the Book of Mormon answers all the theological questions of the day in a curious manner. Alludes to Rigdon having written it (Campbell’s subject areas: infant baptism, ordination, the Trinity, regeneration, repentance, justification, the fall of man, the atonement, transubstantiation, fasting, penance, church government, religious experience, the call to the ministry, general resurrection, eternal punishment, who may baptize, the right of man, and apostasy). He claimed that phrases such as, “your own eternal welfare,” “salvation is free,” “everlasting salvation of your souls,” “an infinite atonement,” “flesh must go to mother earth,” and “death must deliver up its dead” were not uncommon 2300 years prior.
1832 - First Vision written in Joseph Smith’s diary. source: 1832, Joseph Smith Letterbook 1, pp.2,3, in the handwriting of Joseph Smith.
1832 - Orson Hyde and Samuel Smith preach the Book of Mormon in Ohio. Nehemiah King, Spaulding’s brother, and seven other residents identify it as coming from Spaulding’s Manuscript. E. Howe’s Mormonism Unvailed contains their affidavits.
March 1832 - Doctrine and Covenants 77 published.
1832 - Orson Pratt and John Murdock diaries record several excommunications including branch presidents who denounce degrees of glory as a Satanic revelation. Even Brigham Young had a hard time with it at first and described it as a, “trial too many” (D&C 77).
1833 - Book of Commandments is published with a section on how the plates were found. No First Vision mentioned.
August 1834 - Lord commands Sidney Rigdon to write a description of Missouri. 75% exact match to Diary entry by W. W. Phelps is entered into Church History document in conjunction with the revelation. No source cited.
1835 - Oliver Cowdery prints rebuttal to Alexander Campbell’s delusions by rewriting debate and sticking to three points not attacked by Campbell –thus establishing FAIR/FARMS mode of communication including sarcasm, and ad hominem attacks.
1834-1836 - Olvier Cowdery publishes “Messenger and Advocate” with the origin of Book of Mormon. No First Vision mentioned.
9 November, 1835 - Joseph Smith gives First Vision account to Jewish Minister.
14 November, 1835 - Joseph Smith gives First Vision account to Erastus Holmes.
1837 - Parley P. Pratt publishes A voice of warning as a guide for missionaries. No First Vision mentioned.
7 May, 1838 - James G. Marsh vision includes seeing son of God and Father (God) as separate individuals. This was the son of Thomas Marsh. Joseph was intimately connected with the proceedings and the publication of the vision in the paper.
1838 - First Vision is revised and includes seeing the son of God and Father (God) as separate individuals. Because of a scribe’s death and Joseph’s imprisonment in the liberty Jail, this had to occur a few months after James’ death.
1839 - Edward Hunter reports that Joseph Smith said, “Emanuel Swedenborg had a view of the world to come, but for daily food he perished.”
1841 - Parley P. Pratt states that he owns a copy of “Apocryphal Book of Enoch” which is very similar to the Enoch portion of the Pearl of Great Price, translated 4 years previous. Source: Millennial Star 1 (July 1840):61.
1 March, 1842 - Wentworth letter published in Times and Seasons mentioning gold plates and angels, but no earlier “First Vision.”
15-16 March,1842 - Joseph Smith becomes Master Mason.
17 March, 1842 - Relief Society organized. Joseph uses masonic language in the introduction. Citation to masonic ceremony not mentioned.
14 May, 1842 - Nauvoo endowment introduced with same grips, tokens signs and penalties as the Masonic ceremony, except for the fourth grip. Five points of fellowship are identical. Source: David Buerger, Mysteries of Godliness: A History of Mormon Temple Worship, Chapter 3: Joseph Smith’s Ritual (as well as pre-endowed individuals of 1990 who were also Master Masons).
1842 - Joseph Smith History published as a series in the Times and Seasons, containing the Moroni Visit and First Vision as we now know them.
17 June, 1842 - “Bro Joseph Ses Masonary was taken from preasthood but has become degen[e]rated. But menny things are perfect” (Letter from Heber C. Kimball to Parley P. Pratt).
1844 - Joseph admits in his diary that in 1844 he studied the Kabbalah with a Jewish convert to Mormonism, Alexander Neibauer, who was born near Prussia and educated in the Law of Moses to become a Rabbi. Jewish scholars identify Kabbalah teachings included in the Church Doctrine. Smith also studied under Joshua Seixas, a Jewish Hebrew scholar who was brought to Kirtland to teach Hebrew in Smith’s school for the Elders (Seixas didn’t convert to Mormonism). The class met in the upper room of the temple. Joseph, along with Oliver Cowdery, also met with both Neibauer and Seixas privately to gain information on various Hebrew and religious subjects (Mormons and Jews: Early Mormon Theologies of Israel by Steven Epperson. Signature Books;
SLC, 1992. Cited at http://www.signaturebookslibrary.org/Jews/jewsch4.htm).
22 June, 1844 - Joseph Smith is killed.
1844 - An Original History of the Religious Denominations at Present Existing in the United States, edited by Daniel Rupp, is published. Joseph Smith wrote the chapter on Mormonism (prophesy about what a textbook might say some day is interesting in context) contains a different rendition of the First Vision.
Autumn 1966 - James B. Allen, who served as assistant church historian, frankly admitted that the story of the First Vision “was not given general circulation in the 1830s” (Source: Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Autumn 1966, p.33).
Any number of these are clear plagiarism by today’s standards –enough that any student attempting a small portion of this would be thrown out of BYU.
Why is the mormon God okay with such loose standards of plagiarism, especially when he is fine with giving technology 3700 years in advance (submarines to the brother of Jared), and could easily have told Joseph and others how to keep good records?
Why would Joseph need to plagiarize any doctrine, even a single line?
I think the shifting First Vision, the clear presence of multiple sources to each document Joseph produced, and so forth clearly illustrate a pattern of plagiarism and a total lack of original ideas whenever Joseph had large, clear portions of newly written revelation.