According to Latter-day Saints, The Book of Mormon was written by ancient prophets who originated from Jerusalem (contemporaries with Jeremiah, in fact), then later traveled to the Americas.

As far as we have it today, the Bible is replete with Jewish (and Greek) characteristics directly in its language and writing. It contains poetry/songs, chiastic structure, acrostics, etc.

Does The Book of Mormon similarly contain literary styles and techniques common among Jews? Are there complex lingual devices in The Book of Mormon?

2 Answers 2


The Book of Mormon is rich with chiasmus, which is a symmetric structure that looks something like ABCDCBA, fairly unique to Hebrew culture. That article outlines several instances of chiastic structure.

Additionally, there are more Hebraisms scattered throughout.

  • Repetition of possessive pronoun: Possessive pronoun prefixed to each list item, for example, 1 Nephi 2:4, 1 Nephi 2:11, 1 Nephi 3:22 (first quote), Mosiah 4:6 (second quote)...

    22 And it came to pass that we went down to the land of our inheritance, and we did gather together our gold, and our silver, and our precious things.

    In English, we would typically omit these extra pronouns.

    6 I say unto you, if ye have come to a knowledge of the goodness of God, and his matchless power, and his wisdom, and his patience, and his long-suffering towards the children of men; and also, the atonement which has been prepared from the foundation of the world, that thereby salvation might come to him that should put his trust in the Lord, and should be diligent in keeping his commandments, and continue in the faith even unto the end of his life, I mean the life of the mortal body—

  • Repetition of preposition: Similar as above, but needlessly repeating the preposition or prepositional phrase in a list. For some examples, see 1 Nephi 19:11, 2 Nephi 5:15, Jarom 1:8, Alma 31:24, Alma 44:5 (quoted), Helaman 10:5...

    5 And now, Zerahemnah, I command you, in the name of that all-powerful God, who has strengthened our arms that we have gained power over you, by our faith, by our religion, and by our rites of worship, and by our church, and by the sacred support which we owe to our wives and our children, by that liberty which binds us to our lands and our country; yea, and also by the maintenance of the sacred word of God, to which we owe all our happiness; and by all that is most dear unto us—

  • Cognate accusative: Verbs and related nouns are often built from the same root. You can see this in 1 Nephi 14:7 (first quote), 2 Nephi 3:18 (second quote), Enos 1:13, Alma 1:1, among many others.

    7 For the time cometh, saith the Lamb of God, that I will work a great and a marvelous work among the children of men; a work which shall be everlasting, either on the one hand or on the other—either to the convincing of them unto peace and life eternal, or unto the deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds unto their being brought down into captivity, and also into destruction, both temporally and spiritually, according to the captivity of the devil, of which I have spoken.

    Again, in English, this construct is unusual.

    18 And the Lord said unto me also: I will raise up unto the fruit of thy loins; and I will make for him a spokesman. And I, behold, I will give unto him that he shall write the writing of the fruit of thy loins, unto the fruit of thy loins; and the spokesman of thy loins shall declare it.

  • Suffixed possessive pronoun: The pronoun is suffixed to the thing possessed. For instance 1 Nephi 22:14, 2 Nephi 9:25 (first quote), 2 Nephi 10:8, Moroni 8:20 (second quote).

    25 Wherefore, he has given a law; and where there is no law given there is no punishment; and where there is no punishment there is no condemnation; and where there is no condemnation the mercies of the Holy One of Israel have claim upon them, because of the atonement; for they are delivered by the power of him.

    In English, we would use a different word to rephrase it ("his power" or, for below, "his atonement").

    20 And he that saith that little children need baptism denieth the mercies of Christ, and setteth at naught the atonement of him and the power of his redemption.

  • Construct states (basic/material/possession): In Hebrew, there's two nouns with an implied of, but English uses an adjective and a noun. The basic construct state is seen, for example, in 2 Nephi 25:2 (first quote), or Helaman 5:28 (second quote):

    2 For I, Nephi, have not taught them many things concerning the manner of the Jews; for their works were works of darkness, and their doings were doings of abominations.

    To satisfy this first construct state in English, we would say "dark works" or "their works were dark," and "their doings were abominable" (noun and adjective).

    28 And it came to pass that they were overshadowed with a cloud of darkness, and an awful solemn fear came upon them.

    We might say "dark cloud."

    It's also common to see this with materials, for example 1 Nephi 3:3...

    3 For behold, Laban hath the record of the Jews and also a genealogy of my forefathers, and they are engraven upon plates of brass.

    We would say "brass plates." This appears in several verses including 1 Nephi 8:19, Mosiah 21:27, and Helaman 2:7, to name a few. Compare with Genesis 35:14 (KJV).

    The third construct state, then, is possessive, where the word "of" is implied instead of the use of a possessive noun in English. Seen in 1 Nephi 7:4, 2 Nephi 5:14 (first quote), Words of Mormon 1:13, Mosiah 12:33 (second quote), and Helaman 7:10. Compare to Genesis 24:47 (KJV).

    14 And I, Nephi, did take the sword of Laban, and after the manner of it did make many swords, ...

    In English we'd say "Laban's sword."

    33 But now Abinadi said unto them: I know if ye keep the commandments of God ye shall be saved; yea, if ye keep the commandments which the Lord delivered unto Moses in the mount of Sinai, saying:...

    Compare this one to Biblical references, for example Leviticus 7:38 which uses both forms, "mount Sinai" and "wilderness of Sinai." In English we might say it as "Sinai's mount" or "Sinai's wilderness."

Remember: Mormons will be quick to remind anyone that these scholarly topics, though interesting, have little significance in the LDS Church, which is primarily focused on the spiritual teachings in The Book of Mormon, and that seekers of truth—which we on this site are not—should pursue spiritual, not scholarly, evidence.

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    The problem here, as I see it is that the Book of Mormon lacks the original texts in the original Reformed Egyptian. This makes determining chiasmus and examination of pronouns, prepositions and accusatives difficult. It is impossible to say what was added or rearranged by the translator to make the text sensible in English. For example, verbs in Hebrew usually appears as the first word of a sentence. In English, this is not the case. This severely impacts chiasmus. Since Reformed Egyptian isn't even a known language, it is difficult to say how the linguistic structure impacts or relates. Commented Nov 28, 2016 at 15:25
  • @James, we don't have the original texts for most of the Bible either. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_manuscript has a handy table of the oldest copies currently discovered. The oldest complete copy was all in Greek in the 4th century CE. The oldest complete Hebrew version we have is from the 10th century CE.
    – Tavrock
    Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 18:22
  • When I refer to the "original texts" I typically mean the texts before they were translated. I am aware that the Bible is mostly comprised of copies of the original manuscripts. But my point is that we have these untranslated copies in their original language. We can examine them, verify their translations, debate better translations, After translation, chiasmus can be lost or added. We can check the origional language to see. We simply can't do that with the Book Of Mormon. We don't have the untranslated texts. Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 18:29
  • @Tavrock: How do we know we aren't missing chiasmus or these chiasmus actually were in the original Reformed Egyptian Texts? For example, In Hebrew, the verb typically is the first word in the sentence and there are no punction marks (periods) to end a sentence. To see some chiasmus in Hebrew, you actually have to outline the text based on the verbs, not sentences - because the actual structure of the Hebrew language looks nothing like English. How do we know that the case isn't similar for Reformed Egyptian? (we have no other known intelligible Reformed Egyptian writings) Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 18:34
  • How valuable is the Hebrew (as an "original" language) if it was translated from the Latin which was translated from the Greek because the older Hebrew copy has already been lost centuries before?
    – Tavrock
    Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 18:49

John Woodland Welch, a Mormon (LDS) law and religion scholar who has written a number of learned articles on the the Mormon scriptures, says the Book of Mormon contains a long and complex chiasmus in Alma chapter 36, as well as smaller chiastic structures elsewhere in the book. The significance of this is that it seems unlikely that Joseph Smith or his associates would have been able to use such an advanced rhetorical device, thus improving the chances of the Book of Mormon being of ancient origin. He says ('Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon'):

This is truly an amazing passage of scripture, both in its rich content and in its complex structure. Alma has skillfully framed the story of his conversion with chiastic panels for the sole purpose of drawing our attention to the centrality of Jesus Christ in that conversion.

However, Robert M. Bowman Jr., an American Evangelical Christian theologian, has carefully reviewed Welch's description of Alma chapter 36 ('Alma 36: Ancient Masterpiece Chiasmus or Modern Revivalist Testimony?') and, using Welch's own criteria, conclusively determined that the chapter does not constitute a chiastic structure.

Acording to Bowman, the following table briefly summarises his assessment of the purported chiasmus in Alma 36, according to Welch’s own criteria:

enter image description here

Bowman simply believes that Welch found a single pair of statements that would make a good centre for a chismus, then used his ingenuity to build a chiasmus around it. Not dishonestly, but as a triumph of faith over study.

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