This question is inspired by comments from this post:


In this question, I am referring to the Bible as the 66 books of the Old Testament and New Testament (as per the KJV).

For any religious text such as these two, when considering how or why that work came into existence, there is at least the explanation and account as presented in the text itself. If one is to reject the validity of that account, they would need to be able to present a plausible alternative explanation to explain how and why that work was created. At the least, this explanation would have to account for the motivations of the authors and any other witnesses who attest to the veracity of the message given. Additionally, it may have to account for any information included in that work which would otherwise not have been known to the authors.

How much of a stretch would any alternate theories have to go in order to be a plausible alternate explanation of each? Is there any consensus on which of the two works would have a more simple alternate explanation?

There are people who both believe and reject belief in both books, and there are many reasons one may do so. Furthermore, there may be good reasons to believe a work which otherwise has a plausible alternate explanation, and so this question does not address the believability of either account. This is only to examine the most simple alternate explanation for each.


First, I would like to thank those of you who have attempted an answer. However, from the responses, it seems that I would need to clarify that I am not asking about whether either account is actually true or supported by evidence. I am only interested in how plausible an alternative explanation could be for either work.

This would include things like describing least number of people would have to be involved in providing false or mistaken information. This may also involve whether or not there were any information included which could not have been readily obtained by the alleged author(s) apart from the proposed narrative.

It can be assumed that people in a time when they are writing a work would have information that is available to people in that time and place, regardless of whether or not they are telling the truth.

It might also be helpful to include potential motivations for why people might have attempted to create these works.

  • 5
    If nothing else, there is less archaeological and external-historical support for TBoM and fewer people, over a much shorter span of time, that would need to be involved in fabricating it... Same with the Qur'an, incidentally...
    – Matthew
    Sep 2, 2022 at 17:35
  • can you expound on plausible account meaning? do you mean origin of the book (compilation/translation into books we have today), truth of contents, authorship by varying people (original authors), or something else?
    – depperm
    Sep 2, 2022 at 17:39
  • @depperm I mean in general, an alternative explanation of how the work came into existence as we currently know it. For the NT, it would be the original writings from which the existing copies we have are made. For the OT, I suppose it would be something similar. For the BofM, I suppose that would be the documents presented by Joseph Smith. I suppose that such an alternate explanation would presume the contents to be fraudulent. Multiple alternative authors would be fine if there is an explanation of their motive, ability, etc.
    – DKing
    Sep 3, 2022 at 1:31

3 Answers 3


Which book has a more plausible alternative explanation? I assume that you are asking, in other words, "which book has the least evidence it was written by God?"

Let's take a look at both, and discuss what we find. We will start with the Bible.

The Bible was written over a very long period of time, in different parts, on two different continents, and by different people and authors. It was also collected and preserved by many different people and in many different places and at different times, and in different languages. There are many different translations available, and differences between translations and manuscripts can be publically compared. To go and fabricate all of the Bible, or change all of the manuscripts, would be completely impossible. It would be possible for the Bible to be nothing more than folklore, but even if it were only folklore, we would still have to trust its historical integrity and provenance as a document.

So is the Bible from God? The questioner who asks whether the Bible is God's word communicated through men may choose to disbelieve the message that the Bible teaches, but would also have to account for it being more than just folklore or historical fiction based on the archeological evidence it uniquely presents (Jericho or Sodom are great shorthand examples), the historical evidence it provides (David we now know to be a historical figure, the Hittite people were discovered in archeology thanks to the Bible), and prophetic evidences (like the prophecies that prefigure and predict elements of Jesus' life, for example) that the Bible contains. They would also still have to wrestle with it's theological message.

In contrast, the Book of Mormon, assuming that it existed originally as gold plates (which I think is hard to prove, but we will assume it to be true for the sake of argument) would have been very easy for a small group of people to manipulate, edit, contrive, or even destroy, as it was controlled completely by a very small group of people; and its translation and original distribution happened during a very short period of time and was seemingly under the exclusive control of the Mormon church. The validity and trustworthiness of the book of Mormon as an accurate translation or document hinges entirely upon the trustworthiness of only one man, Joseph Smith, and unfortunately, he cannot be seen as an unbiased or uninterested party, as he was also the one person with the most to gain or lose from its acceptance or rejection.

If then the book of Mormon is assumed to be an accurate translation by Jospeh Smith, and it is only taken at face value (that is, without examining its provenance but only its message), it cannot be said to contain any historically verifiable events (there are no other ancient historians or documents or relics that reference the people groups or individuals mentioned in the BOM, as there are in the case of Josephus or ruins that mention King David by name for the Bible), nor any archeological evidence that confirms or supports the claims in the BOM (BOM talks about animals and plants in the New World that have never been found here before the Europeans arrive). There may be some prophetic utterances in the BOM that seem to provide evidence for its divinity, but prophecy is very hard to use as definitive 'proof' because of its need for correct interpretation, and therefore isn't a good primary argument for its divine authorship (this applies to the Bible as well).

All in all, there are many people that believe in both books, and people that reject both books, but there is no one who believes exclusively in the book of Mormon while rejecting the Bible as God's word - the opposite is true, however, there are many people who reject the BOM, but believe exclusively in the Bible as God's word.

Given the evidence and arguments laid out, the Book of Mormon seems less likely to be the word of God than the Bible.

  • 2
    "The validity and trustworthiness of the book of Mormon as an accurate translation or document hinges entirely upon the trustworthiness of only one man, Joseph Smith." No it doesn't. That's not what the book itself says, and that's not how you deal with any other literary work bearing a disputed claim of ancient origin. There are well-established rules for detecting a forged document, but every time the subject of the Book of Mormon comes up they are invariably abandoned by the wayside by its critics, because actually applying them leads to conclusions that make the critics uncomfortable.
    – Mason Wheeler
    Sep 3, 2022 at 2:31
  • 2
    @MasonWheeler with all due respect, Joseph Smith was reported to be alone when he found the gold plates. He was alone when he had his visions and visitations. He was the only one responsible for the translation, dictating what to write while another acted as a scribe. His first draft was lost; he was the only one responsible for producing the second rendition of the BOM, there is no way to compare the two drafts. The second draft was produced while Joseph peered into a hat, and dictated to Oliver Cowdery. The validity of any translation of the BOM rests 100% on Jospeh Smith's reputation. Sep 3, 2022 at 13:13
  • 2
    Most of those points are entirely correct. All of them are irrelevant. You don't determine whether or not a work purporting to be an ancient document is a forgery by asking questions about the person who produced it; you do so by looking at the work itself and nothing else. This is always and invariably considered sufficient to expose a forgery of any non-trivial length; attempting to shift the focus to Joseph Smith instead is blatant special pleading.
    – Mason Wheeler
    Sep 3, 2022 at 13:34
  • 2
    This is literally the very most basic rule of verifying purportedly ancient documents: no evidence is needed beyond the work itself. To understand why, just look at any piece of fiction set in an invented setting. No writer, no matter how good, has ever been able to produce properly consistent worldbuilding in a sizeable work. A forgery will contradict itself left and right without the author ever noticing. Everything needed to verify the authenticity of the book is inside the book itself, and in particular the promise found in the final chapter.
    – Mason Wheeler
    Sep 3, 2022 at 14:51
  • 2
    @TheodoreReinJedlicka "Am I to assume that you believe in the Quran with the same level of suspended disbelief? Because it exists, you believe in it?" That's not even close to what I said. You're consistently displaying abysmal reading comprehension here. No evidence is needed beyond the work itself because the work itself contains everything needed to demonstrate itself to be a forgery if it is one. The Quran does not purport to be an ancient document [from Mohammed's perspective] so that analysis does not apply.
    – Mason Wheeler
    Sep 3, 2022 at 18:30

Plausible: An argument or statement seeming reasonable, probable, or credible.

The man, Joseph Smith is the single, sole source of the Mormon "revelation." That means that if Joseph Smith had never been born, we would have no knowledge of any portion of the LDS "revelation," its "scripture" and it's supposed "restoration." We would have no reason nor any other source from which to derive any reason to think that any portion of the "Mormon" scriptures (such as the Book of Mormon or the so-called "Book of Abraham," or the D&C would have ever even existed let alone have any reason to believe their contents.

On the other hand, the content of the Bible enjoys the benefit of what Historians call "multiple independent attestation." That is, the events, people and places recorded in the Bible very often are represented in multiple and frequently unrelated sources, (literary, physical artifacts, verified locations, etc).

What this means is the even if the Bible were never written, many of the people, places and events recorded in its pages would still be documented or represented for us in the plethora of diverse types of evidence from history. The simple fact is, many of the people, places and events recorded in the Bible are deeply and inexorably woven into the fabric of history itself and thus, as one might expect, those people, places and events were observed, recorded and represented in many places from many different points of view. I mention this here to provide an example of commonly recognized REALITY that stands in strong, even stark, glaring contrast to the claims of Mormonism.

Therefore, it is reasonable to ask, ...why should we believe him since there is exactly nothing in Mormonism's unique claims that would have ever been even mentioned on earth if Smith had never been born.

Since the Book of Mormon claims to be an historical document it should be examined on that basis to determine its authenticity. If the BoM civilizations really did at least exist, where are the multiple lines of evidence that would necessarily indicate this? It is certainly true that all other large ancient civilizations left an abundance of diverse evidence of themselves. It's even true of MANY tiny little tribes. Why do the claims of Mormonism require or deserve special pleading?

If Joseph Smith was a real prophet of God, then why are there no facts to establish the fulfillment of his many rather grandiose predictions about events that would most certainly have been clearly observable when those predictions came true? Where is there any evidence that the events he predicted (such as the return of Christ in the 1800s, the fall of the U.S. government or the building of "THE" temple in Missouri, etc.) actually came to pass as he said that it would?

Dr. Hugh Nibley was an American scholar and apologist of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and was a professor at Brigham Young University for nearly 50 years. Here is what he stated. "The Book of Mormon can and should be tested. It invites criticism."

Brigham Young stated, "Take up the Bible, compare the religion of the Latter-day Saints with it, and see if it will stand the test." "J&D volumn 16, p. 46, 1873.

Orson Pratt: "Convince us of our errors of Doctrine, if we have any by reason, by logical arguments, or by the Word of God and we will ever be grateful for the information and you will even have the pleasing reflections that you have been instruments in the hands of God of redeeming your fellow beings." "The Seer, p. 15.

  • 4
    The argument that "no Joseph Smith" means "no Book of Mormon" (or other related teachings) is circular. It assumes in advance that the Book of Mormon was not inspired. Since this is the very claim under evaluation, it cannot be assumed in advance. Absent the a priori assumption that the book is fraudulent, we are left with two possibilities rather than one: either a) Joseph Smith/peers made it up or b) it was revealed by God. In case b, God could have revealed it all to someone other than Joseph Smith, meaning the argument "no Joseph Smith" means "no Book of Mormon" doesn't work. Sep 5, 2022 at 1:13
  • My argument is not circular. Your the one that is doing the "assuming." You ask: " It assumes in advance that the Book of Mormon was not inspired." Your logic is damaged when you challenge me to prove a negative assertion. No one can present proof of a negative assertion (such as asking me too prove to you the Book of Mormon is not inspired." Suppose you prove that God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to 14 year old Joseph Smith in 1820? Prove that Jesus told Joseph that all the churches were corrupt and he was not to join any of them. Btw, your "assuming" God may have chosen another.
    – Mr. Bond
    Sep 7, 2022 at 17:59
  • 1
    I feel that this might be a good answer to a slightly different question. I think that instead of saying without Joseph Smith there wouldn't be the BofM, you could say for this question that only one person would need to be involved in deception, and then state his potential motives. For the Bible, please consider that known historical facts don't contradict alternative theories. If there are multiple authors, would they all have to be incorrect independently, or could they have been wrong from the same source? I would be more interested in that sort of thing.
    – DKing
    Sep 7, 2022 at 18:40
  • @DKing I'm trying to keep this simple by asking to prove God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Smith. All we have is Smith's word for this encounter. It's like me asking, "Prove to me your honest?" The other thing that does Smith in is the fact that he said God the Father physically appeared to him despite the fact that even Jesus stated the Father cannot be seen. John 5:37, John 6:46. Does this make sense to you?
    – Mr. Bond
    Sep 9, 2022 at 17:52

If one is to reject the validity of that account, they would need to be able to present a plausible alternative explanation to explain how and why that work was created.

do they? isnt the onus on the one making those claims?

Is there any consensus on which of the two works would have a more simple alternate explanation?

Using someone like Joseph Smith against the entire swathe of Christianity is a bit unfair, because the creation and development of his religion is well documented, and it was in fairly recent memory. But in both cases, the central claim of communication with God is just one of those "youll have to trust me" kind of things. I mean, unless God's going round telling different things to everyone he speaks to, one of those groups has to be wrong, they have conflicting claims.

Is there any consensus on which of the two works would have a more simple alternate explanation?

Mormons because their history is shorter, but they are both as simple as each other: definitely terrestrial in origin, with claims of divinity in the authorship

  • 1
    This does not seem to address the question presented. You may be unfamiliar with the topic, but at least for the Bible, you will find that many modern historians, even those who do not agree with the message, at least acknowledge that there were people providing actual evidence of their claims. Alternative explanations often take the form of things such as claiming authors writing from different time periods or mass delusion, but I don't expect much on "Just trust me". If you could research those claims and present them more thoroughly, though, that would be helpful to the discussion.
    – DKing
    Sep 7, 2022 at 18:24
  • "This would include things like describing least number of people would have to be involved in providing false or mistaken information" To me, despite the fact the bible describes historical events, it adds absolutely no wait to the claim there is a being in control of the universe. "This may also involve whether or not there were any information included which could not have been readily obtained by the alleged author(s) apart from the proposed narrative" there is no such information in any holy book that couldnt have been gleaned by a 2nd century peasant
    – SleepyJoe
    Sep 9, 2022 at 9:41
  • "It might also be helpful to include potential motivations for why people might have attempted to create these works." Why did people invent the Greek Pantheon of Gods that we can all agree is just a fiction? Same reason I think
    – SleepyJoe
    Sep 9, 2022 at 9:42
  • This is not a discussion about the veracity of either work. Those are good questions handled elsewhere. This is only about what it would be required of an alternative account of the work. Historical accuracy helps to date the writing. For instance, if the BofM were faked in early America, the author might not have access to certain historical details. If the book of Daniel, for instance, were faked after Alexander, then he author might lack certain facts lost between the supposed writing and his invention. The differences between these texts can be measured this way.
    – DKing
    Sep 9, 2022 at 15:53
  • The explanation of the invention of Greek Gods is quite different. None of the information from these myths was ever presented as first hand information. Therefore, very many simple alternate accounts could be plausible, all the way to some folks just telling entertaining stories. Some texts, however, such as the Bible, Quran, etc., claim to be reports of first hand witnesses who at the least have their reputation on the line. That being the case, we can analyze what they might have to gain from a lie and whether that supposed lie were crafted in a way plausibly conducive to that end.
    – DKing
    Sep 9, 2022 at 16:00

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