The Late War and the Book of Mormon

A 19th century book, The History of the Late War Between the United States and Great Britain, has been mentioned before now as a possible source for the Book of Mormon, most notably by Rick Grunder in his 2008 work, Mormon Parallels: A Bibliographic Source. But the suggestion that Joseph Smith may have used this book in his writing of the Book of Mormon hasn’t seemed to gain much traction until now.

At the 2013 Ex-Mormon Conference in mid-October, former Mormon Chris Johnson presented findings he and his brother, Duane, uncovered in their study and analysis of a comparison of the two books. Mormon discussion forums and blogs are now in serious dialogue about how Gilbert Hunt’s 1819 New York textbook relates to the Book of Mormon, and in some cases more specifically, how it undermines the popular apologetic reliance on Hebraisms to substantiate the ancient origin of this Mormon scripture.

TheLateWar1Gilbert Hunt wrote The Late War in imitation of the “biblical style,” in the hope that any young student reading the book would acquire a love for the style and it would become “an inducement to him to study the Holy Scriptures.” Consequently, The Late War employs word structures and ancient-sounding language that reads very much like the Bible (KJV) – and the Book of Mormon.

Some people see the strong Book of Mormon parallels in The Late War as proof that Joseph Smith, a person with easy access to Gilbert’s book, used it in composing the Book of Mormon – thus negating any pretense that the Book of Mormon is divine. Others merely shrug and dismiss the whole thing as unimportant. The actual significance of The Late War is more likely somewhere in between. Yet one thing is certain: Hebraisms found in the Book of Mormon do not prove a thing about its origin. In fact, they shouldn’t even be presented as any sort of persuasive evidence.

On the Mormon Dialogue & Discussion board, canard78 asked, “There is clear evidence that the claimed Hebraisms found in the Book of Mormon are also found in 19thC literature. With the emergence of ‘The Late War…’ will there now be less emphasis placed on Hebraisms as evidence for the Book of Mormon as an ancient Hebrew text?” Canard78 provided a few examples of these parallels that he gleaned from “other sites.” In the following examples, canard78 took the information regarding the Book of Mormon from John Tvedtnes’ book, The Hebrew Background of the Book of Mormon.


Tvedtnes: Hebrew has fewer adverbs than English. Instead, it often uses prepositional phrases with the preposition meaning in or with. The English translation of the Book of Mormon contains more of these prepositional phrases in place of adverbs than we would expect if the book had been written in English originally—another Hebraism. Here are some examples:
“with patience” instead of patiently (Mosiah 24:15)
“with much harshness” instead of very harshly (1 Nephi 18:11)
“with joy” instead of joyfully (Jacob 4:

The Late War: Ch VII, p.46, 43. “So William was ordered to depart to the land which lieth in the east, where he remaineth unto this day, and his name shall be no more spoken of with reverence amongst men.”
Ch XIX, p.101, 20. “And the men of Columbia rushed forward with fierceness, and drove the men of Britain from their strong hold.”

Compound Prepositions

Tvedtnes: Hebrew often uses compound prepositions, made up of a preposition plus a noun, in places where English would normally use just a preposition. For example, Hebrew uses compound prepositions that would be translated literally as by the hand of and by the mouth of. English would normally use just by. The Book of Mormon contains many examples that appear to show the influence of this Hebrew use of compound prepositions:
“ye shall be taken by the hand of your enemies” (Mosiah 17:18)
“I have also acquired much riches by the hand of my industry” (Alma 10:4)

The Late War: Ch XLIII, p.222, 2 “But it was lighted up by the hand of heaven, and not to be extinguished by the insignificant and self-created gods of the earth.”

Tvedtnes : Hebrew uses another compound preposition that would be translated literally as from before the presence of or from before the face of. English would normally use simply from. The influence of the Hebrew can be seen in these Book of Mormon passages:
“they fled from before my presence” (1 Nephi 4:28)
“he had gone from before my presence” (1 Nephi 11:12)
“they were carried away . . . from before my face” (1 Nephi 11:29)

The Late War: Ch XLVIII, p.255, 34 “Now when the men of Columbia heard that Ross, the chief captain of the king, was slain, and the host of Britain was compelled to flee from before the city, they were exceedingly rejoiced.”

As the discussion on the forum developed, participants presented additional interesting parallels and comparisons between the Book of Mormon and The Late War, all worthy of consideration. But for this blog post, one thing I found quite notable was a comment made by Mormon apologist Daniel O. McClellan. Responding to another commenter who suggested that people in Joseph Smith’s time would have been crying “Plagiarism!” had the Book of Mormon strongly reflected the content of The Late War, Mr. McClellan (posting as “maklelan”) wrote,

“It’s not plagiarism that’s the question here. The question is whether or not The Late War is an indication that Hebraisms can crop up in modern non-Hebrew compositions that are being patterned after the linguistic style of the KJV, and I think the answer is certainly yes. There have been many Latter-day Saint scholars who have argued that Book of Mormon Hebraisms are of no apologetic value if they can be shown to be found within the KJV. They can arise just from the couching of new ideas in KJV-sounding language. The Late War certainly shows that, since many of the putative Hebraisms that people have pointed to before as an indication of the Book of Mormon’s ancient provenance are also found there. Appealing to Smith’s lack of education is no help here, as it doesn’t take formal education to repeat grammatical patterns you have had ingrained in you your entire life.”

Mr. McClellan said in another comment found a little further on,

“It’s my impression that the Hebraisms arise almost entirely from the mimicking of biblical prose. The presence or absence of a Hebraism from any given segment of text is a function of the proximity of Smith’s choice of prose to particularly Hebraic constructions from the KJV.”

Rick Grunder’s Mormon Parallels quotes BYU professor Donald Parry who, in 2002, wrote that that Hebraism’s in the Book of Mormon “attest to the book’s Near Eastern background and antiquity. Their presence cannot be explained as a matter of coincidence, nor could a modern writer have integrated them so effectively (naturally and correctly) throughout the narrative.” These literary forms, Dr. Parry wrote, “were generally uncommon in, if not altogether foreign to, the English of Joseph Smith’s day.” Dr. Parry was mistaken. The Late War demonstrates that writing done in the biblical style, complete with integrated Hebraism’s, was a genre employed during the time, and in the place, of Joseph Smith’s youth. Therefore, Hebraism’s do not persuasively attest to an ancient origin for the Book of Mormon.

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
This entry was posted in Book of Mormon, Mormon Scripture and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to The Late War and the Book of Mormon

  1. MJP says:

    I’ve always hated that style. I suppose hundreds of years ago, it was normal. But I’ve never found the BoM’s employment of that style as persuasive. Not only is the translation supposed to be of ancient documents (well before the 16th and 17th century when the KJV was composed) when the documents were written, but it seems utterly unnecessary to use the language in modern times. So unnecessary, in fact, that I find it superfluous, obnoxious, and distracting.

    I know this is merely my opinion, but I have to admit I find it a stretch that anyone would rely on KJV sounding language as proof of anything.

  2. spartacus says:

    I just finished watching Chris Johnson’s presentation on YouTube. I didn’t see a link for it in this article, but you can just search his name or the talk title, How the Book of Mormon Destroyed Mormonism.

    I also thought the rather quick snippet about hebraisms was of greater significance then the time given it. The video is over an hour and a bit technical but interesting if you have the time or nothing to watch on TV.

  3. Mike R says:

    One thing about the Book of Mormon that sincere Mormons should consider is that it’s been
    claimed that the Book of Mormon was written for ” our day ” i.e. the latter days , it should be
    used to expose false teachings of men in these latter days . Thus , sincere Mormons should
    use it in testing what their leaders have taught about God , as one example , and see if they
    have not ran past it’s teachings about God/Jesus and drifted into doctrinal error . Have they
    introduced unsound doctrines to the membership ? After all, this certainly is not a new
    problem that many well meaning men have succumbed by introduced what they reasoned
    to be spiritual truth from God to their flock , yet it was false and misleading , not from God—
    “they taught for doctrine the commandments of men ” .

    Are Mormon leaders guilty of this very thing with the Book of Mormon ? their followers
    that are concerned about being safe from false doctrine should ponder that thought .

  4. falcon says:

    So the KJV of the Bible is written in what Elizabethan English? Joseph Smith wanted the BoM to pattern after the Bible so it would stand to reason that he’d want it to sound as much like the KJV as he possibly could. Why would it be so hard to get into the mode of using Hebraisms?
    What was that book that the guy wrote that parodied the BoM. It was the Book of Z………, I forget. There are writing contests where people submit manuscripts in the style of some famous author. These “authors” are really good at mimicking the actual authors. So this idea that it would be difficult to copy some literary form is simply not true.
    Mormons keep on trying to prove that the BoM is the real deal and the only thing that they really have to offer is their personal conviction that it’s true.

  5. falcon says:

    We have versions of the Bible written in modern English. These versions also have the advantage of scholarship that wasn’t available to prior translators.
    So, when will the BoM be translated into modern English? OOPS, I forgot, there is no original copy of Smith’s “translation” of those golden plates. What language was written on the golden plates? Do we have other documents that are also written in that language?
    Does anyone know what happened to the hand written “translation” of the golden plates? Are there any ancient texts that provide a record of a lost tribe of Israel getting in magic boats and coming to the North or South American continent?
    Is there any archeological or linguistic or DNA evidence that support the story told in the BoM?

  6. MistakenTestimony says:

    If the LDS church were going to do something major to their scriptures such as modernize the language or de-emphasize certain teachings then they would have done it last year when they updated their scriptures. Instead they realized that doing something such as modernizing the language would shake the ground of the faithful way too much so they are now dug down deep in their trenches and they know it. Their only real strategy now is “that’s not official.” For most investigators who come across the pseudo-archaic language they only hear it scream charlatan, but the Corporation don’t care. So long as they have 5 active members they can buy and spend billions on all the prime real estate they want while maintaining the tax exempt status because they are a recognized religion by the government. I feel very sorry for those poor souls who are victims of this scam machine.

  7. falcon says:

    Actually it doesn’t matter what’s in the BoM or how it is written. As long as Mormons embrace an open cannon of Scripture, it’s the doctrinal wild west.
    The past is a big “so what”! Everything is evolving, changing, progressing. Even the Mormon god is evolving and progressing. As the Mormon god grows in wisdom and knowledge, he can share his growth and discoveries with his prophet.
    Now the problem is that practice sets-up a huge mess as old doctrines, practices and rituals are discarded and new ones introduced. Joseph Smith was a real ace as that is concerned. Brigham Young had a couple of guys follow him around writing down everything he said. He said that the sermons he preached were as good as any scripture anyone would ever hear.
    So with things so wide open, a prophet can never be wrong. Couple that with the assignment of the fail-safe “it was just his opinion” and/or “that’s just folk doctrine” and Mormonism is a stew that’s always cooking and having ingredients added or ladled out all the time.

  8. Inquisitor says:

    Falcon, Brigham Young taught that our God/Father in heaven is growing in knowledge but most Mormons today do not believe that or think about that concept. Modern LDS leaders reject that idea. Brigham reasoned thus that since eternal progression is infinite than so is the growth in knowledge infinite. It makes perfect sense in the context of mormonism. Their is no end in the progression of God. If the Mormon God is growing in knowledge than it should stand to reason that any God above the God of this earth is also growing in knowledge. Obviously this is a heretical teaching to the Christian faith.

  9. falcon says:

    I was aware that this was BY’s little hobby horse and the controversy surrounding it. So much for prophets, right? What good are they?
    It’s the same sort of idea that Mormons teaching that the Mormon god(s) are eternal. Then when you examine it, it turns out that what they mean is that “matter” is eternal so therefore so are the gods. Totally bizarre.
    You are right. All of this is heretical to Christians. There is One God and He has attributes such as being omniscient or all knowing, omnipresent He is everywhere, omnipotent all powerful, immutable unchanging, holy, righteous, sovereign, loving and merciful.
    The Mormon gods, who are an invention of Joseph Smith, are all former men. That’s with the exception of Jesus who sort of reversed the process and was a god who became a man. All pretty weird none-the-less.

  10. Mike R says:

    Falcon said concerning the behavior of Mormon leaders’s doctrinal offerings since 1830 :
    ” It’s the doctrinal wild west . ”

    Sure seems like a apt description because of the track record these latter days apostles have
    established . Most Mormons receive what they teach , and then years later it’s considered a
    teaching that is not important or sound doctrine . This kind of behavior is a false prophet’s /
    apostle’s dream , especially when they empower it by telling their flock that to criticize their
    leadership is to show signs of spiritual sickness that can be lethal , and also that Lucifer
    convinces those who think that their leaders are as likely to be wrong as they are to be right
    on any doctrine or plan they introduce . This is the Mormon system .

    Consider what Mormons like Brigham Young taught people about God and the gospel of
    salvation while on his mission in 1832 . With Bible and Book of Mormon in hand he taught
    the “gospel truth ” about God : One God . Yet not to many years later he was teaching about
    multitudes of Gods and Goddesses ! At one point he taught his flock that the Divine trinity
    who formed this earth were : Elohim , Jehovah , and Michael .

    When considering an evaluation of Mormon leaders ‘ “gospel preaching ” track record ,
    it needs to be pointed out some of the claims made by these men about their preaching :
    ” Mormonism supplies a consistent and positive theology ….it speaks with no uncertain sound.
    It utters the voice of authority ….it is definite in it’s revealments and doctrines . Dubiety remains
    not under it’s influence . Uncertainty is marked upon all the creeds of men —-Mormonism is
    certain and conclusive . ” [ Why I am a Mormon , by Pres. Charles Penrose ] .

    When all the evidence is observed , the Mormon people have been treated by their leaders
    similar to those who Paul mentions in Eph 4:14 .

  11. falcon says:

    This is waaaaaaaay off topic but I noticed yesterday when I was watching the Badger/BYU football game that there were BYU players sporting tattoos. I thought that was a real no-no in Mormon culture along with men having long hair, beards or mustaches?
    Did one of the Mormon prophets have a revelation about this as of late?
    Anyway, can a Mormon man become a god if he has a tattoo?

  12. Rick B says:

    Im sure some LDS as usual wont agree, But I once asked a mormon if I ever would be able to move up the ranks from how I look, IE, 4 Tattoos, big biker type bushy goatee and at the time really long, way below the shoulders hair. My reply was, I can join the church, but will never be allowed to teach any classes and most likely wont be able to enter the temple.

    Thats Funny, God never said anything to that effect, We know Jesus had a beard, and while he did not have any Tattoos, He called the sinners to repent and took us just as we are. So I suspect if any LDS gives you an answer, it might be what he/she believes, But you will find another LDS who wont agree.

  13. falcon says:

    Well for a long time I’ve felt that you were not god material. NO WAY!
    Becoming a god is serious business. You have to look a certain way, talk a certain way, behave a certain way over all and absolutely NO CAFFEINE. This is the Mormon god program and without wearing a special under-garment and doing Free Mason rituals in a Mormon temple you’re relegated to, maybe at most, the second level of Mormon heaven.
    However, I’ve heard that people can do the “work” in the next life. Is that true?
    None-the-less, a Mormon man is under a lot of pressure to get on board the train leading to the Celestial Kingdom. Is it true that his wife and kids will be given to another man if he doesn’t make it?
    The whole thing is a total farce!

    I have a better way. Come to a knowledge of the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ by faith and be totally born again. That’s it! We don’t deserve it. We can’t earn it. It is a gift of God not of works that any of us could boast.

  14. falcon says:

    Mike’s comment regarding what BY taught in 1832 regarding the nature of God, that being quite conventional Christianity, got me thinking.
    Does anyone have a chronology of how things developed in Mormonism? What things for example, were tried and discarded.
    I’m wondering, did the Temple rituals precede the temple? So what were the big roll-outs? There was the BoM of course. There was the “priesthood”. They tried some socialism. There was the man to god “revelation” brought forth in the King Follett discourse. Someone had to flesh that out of course. Polygamy? A big one. Dumping polygamy, very big. Adam-god never got the traction as some of the stuff although if someone wants pure Brigham Young Mormonism, check out the FLDS. Now those folks are Mormons. On to blacks and the priesthood and then the changes in the BoM and also the changes in the temple ordinances. The WOW and the BoA were also added features. Baptism for the dead; when did that start? That’s still a pretty big deal with some of the sects of Mormonism. Others never got into it.
    So anyway, this restored gospel of Smith’s had the big feature of being changeable. My guess is that’s why there’s so many different sects of Mormonism. The restored gospel is pretty much a mess as I’m fond of saying and confusion reigns. Even individual Mormons have their own take on what it’s all about.
    So much for the need for prophets to reveal things!

  15. Mike R says:

    BYU does’nt care about players with tatoos ( unless their vulgar ) who come into the University
    on a football scholarship , if they are a blue chip high school player BYU wants them , it does’nt
    matter what they look like . Of course there is moral code on campus with no beards are
    allowed ( last time I heard any way ) . It’s all about advertising the brand —BYU , and if they
    have a top ranked team they get the attention which sooner or later comes around to talking
    about the church which then leads to the religion being inquired about , that’s the goal .

    Have you noticed how top tier officials in the church have no beards ? They’ve worked hard
    the last 50 years to try and disconnect from the past in looks and with various doctrines
    so the church would be more accepted . Nobody ever accused the Mormon church of being
    poor in P.R. skills .

  16. Mike R says:

    Falcon ,

    When you said , ” So much for the need for prophets to reveal things ! ” Let’s insert the
    word ” Mormon ” between the words ” for” and ” prophets” . I know this is what you meant
    but it can’t be emphasized too much . Paul warned about men who would feel that they were
    hearing from God to introduce spiritual truths , yet these messengers / prophets had succumbed
    to swerving from sound doctrine and had wandered farther away from the teachings of the
    apostles —1 Tim 1:3-7 ( also 2Jn 7-9 ) . This problem is still here in our day —2Tim 4:3-4 .
    But Mormon leaders make claim to exclusive ongoing personal supervision from Jesus to
    teach and guide their flock because the Mormon church alone is Jesus’ church .
    Now this scenario concerning being misled by false prophets/teachers that Paul mentions is
    not hard to understand , and Mormon leaders are aware of it because apostle LeGrand Richards
    ” The apostles understood fully that there would be those who would come among the people
    teaching their own ideas and changing the doctrines they had taught . The people were warned
    against such false teachers . ”

    Apostle Richards also stated that the reason why the Christian churches have forsaken clear
    scriptures truths is because they have not understood the scriptures and being without
    revelation and the priesthood they have to depend on their own ideas for their guidance .
    [ A Marvelous Work and a Wonder , p 111,114 ]

    So Mormon leaders claim that non Mormons can’t be trusted as consistent guides , they’re
    inconsistent , unstable —not reliable .

    Yet when we look at the teaching track record of Mormon leaders ever since they appeared
    on the scene and started claiming to be Jesus’ true modern day apostles , we can only remind
    them : ” if the shoe fits …”

    The precious Mormon people deserve better . May they exchange their apostles for the one’s
    in the New Testament , the ones who imitation apostles in the latter days attempt to mimic .
    Rev 2:2 ; 2Cor 11:13 .

  17. Ralph says:

    You’re right RickB,

    I do disagree with that person’s point of view. If you joined the church now, after you had the tattoos done there is nothing ‘stopping’ you from being called to any position in the church or even going to the temple. If you joined the church first and then got the tattoos done – again there is nothing ‘stopping’ you from being called to any position in the church or going to the temple. One of the members of my bishopric has at least one tattoo that is visible with a short sleeve shirt on, and he was born into the church and served a mission – and is younger than me (I’m 42).

    The same with facial hair. There is nothing stopping anyone from having a calling or holding the priesthood if they grow a beard or mustache – unless they are an ftm transsexual. They may be asked (note may) to shave it if they get called to a position like stake president or bishop or a higher leadership position, but they still have their choice to keep it.

    The ‘no piercings, no tattoos, no facial hair’ are just guidelines, there is nothing in the temple recommend requirements (and thus in calling requirements which are less stringent) about these things.

    I have said this before, one of my friends joined the church in his late teens and was a surfer. His only clothing were tanks, cut-offs and thongs (for all you who are unfamiliar with the vernacular these are – singlet top, denim jeans cut off at the top of the thighs like shorts and flip flops). He was allowed to pass the sacrament dressed like this for as long as he wanted. He has since served a mission and as a bishop.

    It is all about the commitment and faith of the person to Heavenly Father, not their attire or tattoos, etc; however as pointed out by many on this site, the mannerisms after you have committed yourself to God should show a different being to the old – one more in line with His commandments and teachings. Thus there is a standard that can be shown in a person’s life (ie their works) that indicates their level of commitment and faith in Heavenly Father which is what all of these so called policies and requirements for living and temple etc in the LDS church are looking at when it comes to getting a calling or going to the temple.

    I do not know why the person you spoke with said what they did, you’ll have to ask them.

  18. Kate says:

    “I have said this before, one of my friends joined the church in his late teens and was a surfer. His only clothing were tanks, cut-offs and thongs (for all you who are unfamiliar with the vernacular these are – singlet top, denim jeans cut off at the top of the thighs like shorts and flip flops). He was allowed to pass the sacrament dressed like this for as long as he wanted. He has since served a mission and as a bishop.”

    I guarantee here in Utah this would never fly. He wouldn’t have made it through the front door of the church. I dare anyone to try this here.

  19. MJP says:

    “Thus there is a standard that can be shown in a person’s life (ie their works) that indicates their level of commitment and faith in Heavenly Father which is what all of these so called policies and requirements for living and temple etc in the LDS church are looking at when it comes to getting a calling or going to the temple.”

    So, Ralph, its a merit based system?

  20. falcon says:

    In Christianity it’s a “come as you are” party!
    God the Father accepts us as we are because through the blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, He sees us as perfect, without stain or blemish. In fact the Bible tells us that “our sins and lawless deeds He will remember no more” and “as far as the east is from the west so have I removed your transgressions from you”.
    Mormonism is a made up system of works where by the participant thinks he will become a god if he climbs the LDS ladder of success. It is another gospel, one made up by men.
    I suggest you embrace the gospel as it was once and for all delivered to God’s prophets and apostles. These are the ones who have the knowledge and wisdom of God and followed His dictates regarding how mankind can obtain eternal life.
    I will continue to pray for you and your family.

  21. Rick B says:

    I new some LDS would say they dont agree and thats fine. But as Kate said, try that in Utah. Also I have noticed on this blog, LDS cannot and have not agreed as to what Mormonism teaches, believes, what is Doctrine or what is “Official”

  22. MJP says:

    I find this post one of the more important at Mormon Coffee because it offers an explanation whereby Smith could have indeed manufactured the Book of Mormon from his imagination.

    Its proof of nothing, I realize that. But it certainly is not out of the question and adds to a long list of the story of Mormonism that should raise red flags.

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