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The Book of Mormon contains many verses from the Bible, either repeated in whole or in part. For a believing Latter-day Saint, this could be the result of at least two separate processes: (1) these verses were revealed as-is to Joseph Smith, without any reference to a Bible, or (2) a Bible was used when writing these portions of the Book of Mormon, with alterations inspired as the verses were copied.

I doubt the LDS Church has an official position on this, but have any church leaders or scholars ever commented on which of these seems most plausible?

*A previous version of this question had a title that did not match the question, I apologize for this.

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The short answer is that some church leaders and others have commented on this subject, with various points of view taken.

On the one hand, some point out that those who witnessed the translation process testified that no materials were used in the translation. For instance, in "The Last Testimony of Sister Emma," first published in the RLDS publication The Saints' Herald volume 26, number 19, Joseph Smith's wife gives the following in response to questions on the subject of the translation of the Book of Mormon:

Q: Had he not a book or manuscript from which he read?

A: He had neither manuscript nor book to read from.

Q: Could he not have had, and you not know it?

A: If he had had anything of the kind he could not have concealed it from me.

Others, however, argue that a Bible was likely used in the process. A passage from B.H. Robert's New Witnesses for God, part 2, volume 3 (see this link for an electronic copy) most clearly takes this point of view. Pages 425–440 quote a letter with a very similar question addressed to Joseph F. Smith, sixth president of the LDS Church, and Smith's response, which begins with the following statement (p. 427):

"The difficulty which you point out [referring to the verbatim nature of the quotations] of course has been recognized by believers in the Book of Mormon, but I do not know that I can say that the Church as yet has settled upon any explanation which could be regarded as an authoritative view on the subject."

However, Smith then goes on to offer his own opinion for the similarities (p. 429–430):

"It should be understood also, in this connection, that while Joseph Smith obtained the facts and ideas from the Nephite characters through the inspiration of God, he was left to express those facts and ideas, in the main, in such language as he could command; and when he found that parts of the Nephite record closely parallel passages in the Bible, and being conscious that the language of our English Bible was superior to his own, he adopted it, except for those differences indicated in the Nephite original which here and there made the Book of Mormon version of passages superior in sense and clearness. Of course, I recognize the face that this is but a conjecture; but I believe it to be a reasonable one; and indeed the only one which satisfactorily disposes of the difficulty you point out."

In addition, there are also some leaders and scholars who have stated that Joseph Smith's use the language of the KJV was a choice, while remaining somewhat more agnostic about the exact process behind how that wording was put in the translation. For instance, LDS scholar Hugh Nibley outlined his thoughts on this in response to a letter to the editor of the Church News in 1961 (reprinted in The Prophetic Book of Mormon, ed. John W. Welch, volume 8):

As to the "passages lifted bodily from the King James Version," we first ask, "How else does one quote scripture if not bodily?" And why should anyone quoting the Bible to American readers of 1830 not follow the only version of the Bible known to them? Actually the Bible passages quoted in the Book of Mormon often differ from the King James Version, but where the latter is correct there is every reason why it should be followed... Since the Book of Mormon is a translation, "with all its faults," into English for English-speaking people whose fathers for generations had known no other scriptures but the standard English Bible, it would be both pointless and confusing to present the scriptures to them in any other form, so far as their teachings were correct.

In addition, in the 1966 edition of Mormon Doctrine (p. 302, entry titled "King James Version of the Bible", electronic copy here), Bruce R. McConkie appears to take this stance:

Joseph Smith read, respected, reverenced, and taught the King James Version "as far as it is translated correctly." (Eighth Article of Faith.) Whenever he found Biblical quotations in the Book of Mormon (they having been copied from the brass plates and preserved by the Nephite prophets), he rendered them into English in the exact language of the King James Version, except in instances in which the language of that version did not convey accurately the original thought.

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Yes. The Bible verses found in the Book of Mormon were translated directly from the plates. In fact, such comments by scholars can be found right in the Book of Mormon. 2 Nephi 12 is a good example. The chapter is a quotation of the Book of Isaiah chapter 2, but it does not read exactly as the text in Isaiah.

The biblical text of Isaiah 2:16 is:

16 And upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures.

The Book of Mormon rendering of that verse is:

16 And upon all the ships of the sea, and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures.

The Book of Mormon has a footnote on the word "sea" which explains the difference:

The Greek (Septuagint) has "ships of the sea." The Hebrew has "ships of Tarshish." The Book of Mormon has both, showing that the brass plates had lost neither phrase.

A footnote at the beginning of Isaiah 2 (in the LDS-printed Bible, which is the KJV with footnotes from LDS scholars) says:

Isaiah chapters 2–14 are quoted from the brass plates by Nephi in 2 Ne. 12–24; there are some differences in wording which should be noted.

In other words, the biblical quotations in the Book of Mormon originated from the brass plates, some of which words were copied by the Nephite prophets onto the gold plates, which were translated into what we know as The Book of Mormon.

If Joseph Smith copied parts of the Book of Mormon from his Bible, the wording would have matched that as found in the KJV. Even if he had corrected or completed some of the wording by inspiration (your second hypothesis), the corrections would have been part of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, but no such translations exist for Isaiah chapter 2.

Finally, if the words were originally not included in the gold plates, thus necessitating copying from a Bible, how would Joseph have known which portions to copy? The Nephites couldn't have written <Insert Isaiah chapters 2-14 here> because they didn't have the Bible with its chapters and verses as we do today. Although I'm sure they would have loved to do that, given that inscribing characters on the gold plates was described as tedious work. (Which, actually, I doubt they would have done, since the brass plates contained more than our Bible does today. Given that their prophets knew this, they copied the words in full for us to be sure we would have them.)

  • Matt, this reads like your opinion, which is fine even if speculative. However, the OP asks have any church leaders or scholars ever commented on which of these seems most plausible. Can you quote a church leader or scholar? – Dick Harfield Jun 20 '15 at 23:15
  • I agree that quotations would be nice. I have found the original section in B.H. Roberts book where Dick's quote is from, as well as some other sources from different perspectives, more along the lines of what Matt is saying—I can write up an answer based on those. – lish Jun 21 '15 at 0:06
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    Did you not read that the footnotes are the work of Church scholars? – Matt Jun 21 '15 at 4:39
  • That is a good point. In my mind, stating that the chapters are quoted from the brass plates could be consistent with either POV. You can say something is quoted but still have adjusted the quotation to match the language of the current bible. To me Emma's quotation spoke more directly to that point of view. But I'm open to adding it if you feel it is important evidence for that point of view. – lish Jun 21 '15 at 5:56
  • The Inspired Version (aka, Joseph Smith Translation) is actually a little different than either the Brass Plates Version or the King James Version. For example, the JST of Isa 2:15 reads: "And upon every people, and upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall, ", the KJV reads: "And upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall," and the Brass Plates reads: "And upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall;" Only major changes in the JST were incorporated into the footnotes and appendix of the LDS edition of the KJV. – Tavrock Oct 31 '16 at 15:27
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An anachronistic example difficult to explain as being a literal translation from the gold plates is found in the Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 20:23-26, which in English is almost word for word the same as the King James Bible translation of Acts 3:22-26, written long after the Mormons should have had any contact with the people left behind in Israel:

3 Nephi 20:23-26: Behold, I am he of whom Moses spake, saying: ''A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that every soul that will not hear that prophet shall be cut off from among the people.

Verily I say unto you, yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many have spoken, have testified of me.

And behold, ye are the children of the prophets; and ye are of the house of Israel; and ye are of the covenant which the Father made with your fathers, saying unto Abraham: And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.

The Father having raised me up unto you first, and sent me to bless you in turning away every one of you from his iniquities and this because ye are the children of the covenant.


Acts 3:22-26: For *Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.

And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.*

Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.

Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.

Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.

The noted Mormon scholar B. H. Roberts is reported to have addressed the question of protracted KJV quotes in the Book of Mormon in his monumental apologetic work New Witnesses for God, where he quotes then president Joseph Fielding Smith:

When Joseph Smith saw that the Nephite record was quoting the prophecies of Isaiah, of Malachi, or the words of the Savior, he took the English Bible and compared these passages as far as they paralleled each other, and finding that in substance, they were alike, he adopted our English translation; and hence, we have the sameness to which you refer.

Curt van den Heuvel ('The Bible in the Book of Mormon') says there really is only one theory which fully accounts for all the features of the phenomenon. This theory is that the Book of Mormon was written by someone who either had a KJV Bible in front of him, or was intimately familiar with its contents.

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    It is incorrect to refer to the people in the Book of Mormon as Mormons. Mormons are members of the LDS church. – user23 Jun 21 '15 at 18:27
  • That explains why I was so confused. – Matt Jun 21 '15 at 19:20
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    I fail to recognise how this is an example of an anachronism. Jesus spoke those words in both the old and new worlds probably within the same year, those that heard them wrote them down. The fact that the individual records of the same sermon given at two different locations were translated into english several hundred years apart does not make their similarities anachronistic. – ShemSeger Jun 21 '15 at 20:15
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    @ShemSeger Parallels to the Book of Isaiah can be explained by the emigrants taking a copy of the prophet's book from the Holy Land when they left prior to the Babylonian Exile. I termed 3 Nephi 20:23-26 'anachronistic' because this explanation could not apply to it. 3 Nephi 20:23-26 is credited to Jesus, but not so Acts 3:22-26 which was spoken by Peter, who would scarcely have used identical, or even similar, words in such different circumstances, with translation into identical King James English. Curt van den Heuvel seems to have the only plausible explanation in this case. – Dick Harfield Jun 21 '15 at 21:54
  • @DickHarfield Both Jesus and Peter are quoting Moses. I think that's an even more plausible explanation. – PyRulez Mar 25 '18 at 0:13
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A recently published paper entitled "New Testament Words and Quotations in the Book of Mormon" addresses this issue in detail. The abstract is shown below:

This paper identifies 441 phrases that are seven words long or longer, that are common to the Book of Mormon and the New Testament, but that are not found in the Old Testament. These phrases are proposed as candidate quotations of the New Testament by the Book of Mormon. This is important because the presence of any New Testament material in the Book of Mormon would seem to be inherently anachronistic and therefore potentially problematic for those who accept the Book of Mormon as a religious text. This study defines three categories of New Testament quotations in the Book of Mormon, and identifies for each category the potential modes of transmission that would permit the appearance of a New Testament quotation in the Book of Mormon that would also be consistent with the internal structure of the book. This study shows that all potential modes of transmission either require a supernatural assumption or the conclusion that authorship of the Book of Mormon postdates the King James Version of the Bible.

The full paper (PDF) may be downloaded here.

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    Welcome to Christianity.SE. For a quick overview, please take the Site Tour. While the paper you cite is certainly relevant to the question, it's not clear that it provides an LDS teaching on this subject, which is what the question asks for. – Lee Woofenden Jun 6 '17 at 16:27
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The very simple answer is that both records are testaments of the one and only Jesus Christ, who taught the same doctrine to all of his deciples around the world. It is natural that they would contain many of the same revelations and teachings. We should consider those found in both records as being of great importance.

The authors of the Book of Mormon scriptures are descendants of jews that came to the American continent. They brought with them a copy of the hebrew scriptures which were written on plates of brass. These included the writings of Isaiah, which were included in the second book of Nephi as well as in the old testament.

In addition to the scriputures contained on the brass codex, there were many other revelations which were revealed to both old and new world prophets. In the case of many new testement teachings also appearing in the book of mormon, they are the words that Christ delivered personally when he visited the American continent. It is not surprising that he would deliver the same words to his deciples in the new world as he had to his deciples in the old world.

As for the wording of the translated scriptures being significantly similar or even identical in many instances as the bible verses. For those scriptures, the work of translation was already complete, it would have been sensible to take advantage of the existing english translation. The language had also been well established in Christian worship at that time, so it was logical to maintain that convention of language in the work of translating the Book of Mormon.

Both books are witnesses of Christs ministry from different ends of the earth. It should be expected that they would contain many of the same verses.

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