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Interpreting Interpreter
A Brass Book of Moses

This post is a summary of the article “Further Evidence from the Book of Mormon for a Book of Moses-Like Text on the Brass Plates” by Jeff Lindsay in Volume 61 of Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship. All of the Interpreting Interpreter articles may be seen at An introduction to the Interpreting Interpreter series is available at


The Takeaway

Lindsay provides further intertextual evidence that a Book of Moses-like text was present on the Brass Plates. He also considers why its detailed prophecies of Christ were not directly quoted by Nephite prophets. Lindsay notes that the text comes with warnings that it should not be shown to non-believers, positing that the brass-plates version may not have been widely distributed among the Nephites.


The Summary

In this article, Jeffrey D. Lindsay continues to build upon past efforts related to intertextual connections between the Book of Mormon and the Book of Moses. In the context of Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible, most of which is generally considered inspired commentary rather than a restoration of ancient documents, the Book of Moses appears to be something different. That this text may have been present on the Brass Plates—and may have been alluded to by various Book of Mormon prophets—is a possibility that Lindsay has helped explore by exploring textual parallels between the two books, ones that cannot easily be explained by joint dependence on the Bible. This new effort identifies thirty-six new parallels (bringing the overall total to 133), as summarized below, including several complex compound parallels that contain multiple allusions. He also argues (either in this article or in past efforts) that several of these parallels (items 98, 101, 114, and 133 below) help demonstrate the Book of Mormon‘s one-way reliance on the Book of Moses, instead of the latter representing Joseph’s creative expansion of or allusion to the already-translated Book of Mormon.

Lindsay begins by considering a compound parallel in Alma 12:1-7, arguing that Alma and Amulek’s apparent allusions to the Creation account in Genesis 3 provide deeper meaning when recognized as a complex of more extensive and sometimes subtle allusions to Moses 4:3-6. Those allusions include an interesting contrast between Satan’s ignorance of God’s thoughts (Moses 4:6) and Alma and Amulek knowing the thoughts and intents of Zeezrom’s heart. Since Moses 4 does not show signs of drawing upon lore from Ammonihah, the apparent flow of influence appears to be one-way, from the Book of Moses to the Book of Mormon.

Lindsay then lists the rest of the newly proposed parallels as follows, with examples where there may be evidence of one-way reliance being marked with an asterisk (*). An additional example, which involves a theme where one-way reliance was previously argued for, is marked with double asterisks (**):

  • *98. Shared references to fruit being “prepared for the use of Man” in Moses 3:9 and 1 Nephi 17:5 and 18:6.
  • 99. Combining the concepts of covenantal fulfillment and a choice seer being raised from “the fruit of [a person’s] loins” in Moses 8:2 and 2 Nephi 3:4-7.
  • 100. References to a “sore curse” in multiple passages from Nephi and Jacob, potentially referencing Moses 5:56.
  • *101. Helaman’s description of the curse of Cain including information not found Genesis but that is included in Moses 5 (e.g., Cain having followers that formed a secret combination and plotted with Satan).
  • 102. The shared phrasing “in the language of” in Moses 6 and 1 Nephi 3:19.
  • **103. Secret combinations being built up to get gain and power, as described in Moses 5 and Helaman 7, as well as in Ether.
  • 104. References to “the space of many generations” in Moses 7 and 2 Nephi 1.
  • 105. The phrase “(dwell/dwelt) in righteousness” as used in Moses 7 and 1 Nephi 22.
  • 106. Descriptions of a priesthood being after the “order of God” or of God’s son, as referenced numerous times in both the Book of Mormon and the Book of Moses.
  • 107. A combination of references to the above-mentioned order of God, in connection with declaring the gospel and calling the people to repentance, as seen in Moses 8 and various passages in Alma.
  • 108. The phrase “bear testimony” as seen in Moses 7 and 2 Nephi 27—a surprisingly uncommon phrase that is not biblical and not commonly employed in other faiths (though present in both Early Modern English and in the early 1800s).
  • 109. Being “caught up” or “caught away” by or in the Spirit of the Lord to receive ordinances or revelation as seen in Moses 6 and 1 Nephi 11, which is similar but not identical to phases in Revelation 21 and Acts 8.
  • 110. Individuals being “caught up into heaven” and seeing the things of God, as pertaining to both Enoch and the three Nephites.
  • 111. “Angels descending out of heaven”, which is unique to 3 Nephi 17 and Moses 17, despite similar but inexact phrasing of that concept in Revelation 21.
  • **112. Being “drawn away (many/much people) after him, as described in Moses 4 (Satan) and Alma 2 (Amlici). The Bible includes a number of similar examples of people being drawn away by negative influences, but none are as exact a match in terms of concept and phrasing.
  • 113. Phrasing connected to all things being made manifest by the Spirit, as in Moses 8 and Mosiah 5. The Bible has language related to all things being made manifest, but not by the Spirit.
  • *114. The exact phrase “the power of the Lord was upon him” as included in 1 Nephi 13 and Moses 8, a phrase not present in the KJV, though it is included in more recent translations of Luke 5:17. The phrase may be part of a deliberate allusion to Noah and the construction of the ark.
  • 115. Phrasing related to seeking to take away someone’s life as shown in Moses 8 and a number of places in 1 Nephi. Lindsay and Reynolds note that a very similar (though not exact) pattern is also found in 1 Kings 19, though both Moses and 1 Nephi also record similar references to the Spirit ceasing to strive with those who sought to take that life away.
  • 116. Becoming weak after Moses was “left unto himself” (Moses 1:9-10) and after the Nephites were “left to ourselves” as indicated in Mormon 2:26, with both being conceptually similar to the weakness observed following strong spiritual experiences as recorded in the Book of Mormon and following the First Vision.
  • 117. The concept of being crowned at God’s right hand, as observed in Moses 7 and Mosiah 26.
  • 118. The shared (but admittedly common) phrase “write the words” in the context of prophetic words that have been spoken, as indicated in Moses 2 and in various Book of Mormon passages (2 Nephi 29, Alma 45, 3 Nephi 24).
  • 119. The phrase “as many as will” included in Moses 5 and in both 2 Nephi 25 and Jacob 6.
  • Note that parallels 120-124 are related, in that they each rely on forms of the phrase “remnant of the seed”

    • 120. The connection between “remnant” phrasing and the concept of covenant, as in Moses 7 and 1 Nephi 13.
    • 121. Connections between “remnant” phasing and a metaphorical “rock” (i.e., of Heaven, “my rock and my salvation”), also in Moses 7 and 1 Nephi 13, though also in 1 Nephi 15.
    • 122. Discussion of gathering those scattered remnants, as described in Moses 7, 1 Nephi 13 & 15, as well as 2 Nephi 30.
    • 123. A specific reference to the gathering being “from the four quarters of the earth as noted in Moses 7 and 3 Nephi 5 & 16.
    • 124. The location of the gathering being the New Jerusalem, as described in Moses 7 and 3 Nephi 21, as well as Ether 13.

  • 125. Conceptual similarity between the Moses 4 phrase “agents unto themselves” and 2 Nephi 2’s “to act for themselves”, as well as similar phrasing in 2 Nephi 10, Alma 12, and Helaman 14. They also note that the phrase “agent unto himself” also appears in D&C 29.
  • 126. The phrase “blessed are they” in connection with the rock symbology described above.
  • 127. The ideas of being swallowed up in water per Moses 7 in comparison with 1 Nephi 18 and Ether 2, as well as references in Alm 36 and Helaman 8 to the drowning of the Egyptians during the Exodus. The phrasing is also used in Psalm 69, but in a metaphoric rather than literal sense.
  • 128. The concept of withering in connection between being left without strength following spiritual experiences as described above (in Moses 1 and 1 Nephi 16).
  • 129. A servant of God receiving strength when struggling with an opponent, in this case Moses’s struggle with Satan and Nephi’s struggle with Zoram and later with his brothers.
  • 130. A servant of God receiving strength after an encounter with the divine, which applies to Moses per the above, and to Alma the younger’s angelic visitation.
  • 131. A compound parallel involving language around repentance, the phrase “this is the plan of (salvation/redemption) and a reference to the Only Begotten Son, comparing Alma 12 and Moses 6.
  • 132. The idea that God has “conversed” with man, as described in Moses 6 and Alma 12.
  • *133. This is the parallel involving the encounter with Zeezrom in Alma 12. Though discussed in detail in the beginning of the paper, it is numbered last as a late find in this work.

Lindsay also includes addenda for previously-published parallels, including the following:

  • 9. Additional support for the shared concepts of the devil leading men captive according to his will, which had a more direct verse to support it (2 Nephi 1:18) than the previously reported 2 Nephi 2:27.
  • 56. Combining the shared concept of “fear” with the previously included shared phrase “perished in their sins”.
  • 63. The shared phrasing related to Moses 6’s “all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment” being strengthened by an additional connection with 2 Nephi 9.
  • 76. The weakening of the parallel related to being “caught (up/away) in the Spirit to an exceedingly high mountain” due a conceptually similar phrase in Revelation 21.
  • 96. Additional examples of shared phrasing related to “full of grace and truth”, including “grace, equity, and truth” (Alma 9) and, “grace, mercy, and truth” (Alma 5).

If a form of the Book of Moses was available to Book of Mormon prophets, and there’s evidence that their language was influenced by it, one might ask why they didn’t rely on it more explicitly, particularly when trying to persuade people of the coming of Christ. In response, Lindsay suggests that the text may have been considered sacred with “advanced mysteries not meant to be shared widely”. This type of sacred knowledge is familiar to Latter-Day Saints (as is the practice of alluding to such language obliquely). However, he acknowledges that there could be many possible answers to that question, and that any attempt to answer it requires speculation.

As Lindsay concludes:

“Despite much that we don’t know about Joseph Smith’s translation and of the Bible and the canonized portion of that work that is now our Book of Moses, it is remarkable that apparent one-way connections exist between the Book of Moses and the Book of Mormon exist, and that so many connections, some with explanatory power, occur… Some [parallels] may be weak and some may have alternate explanations, but in many cases…the details in the Book of Moses help add meaning and context to the related passages in the Book of Mormon, and sometimes support a one-way direction of influence with the Book of Moses appearing as a plausible source.”


The Reflection

I’m a fan of the idea that the Book of Moses was available on the Brass Plates, and I’ve found previous efforts helpful in that regard. This effort has some excellent nuggets as well. Given the systematic nature of Lindsay’s search (providing information on any shared language or concepts—or even compound concepts—that don’t have an exact and direct corollary in the Bible), my intuition is that it could uncover a substantial number of false positives, at times reminiscent of how critics reference large numbers of n-grams in random nineteenth-century texts. Acknowledging the weakness of some of the parallels goes a long way to avoid that kind of pitfall, but it’s hard to escape the feeling of diminishing returns.

A next step I’d find interesting is putting some hard numbers on the distribution of these parallels. If it’s as non-uniform as it appears to be—being concentrated in the words of Nephi, Jacob, and Alma—such would argue against the Book of Moses as a creative expansion of the Book of Mormon. This would be especially the case if parallels are relatively absent in the material written closest to when the Book of Moses was recorded, such as the final portions of the Small Plates or the sections of the D&C written near 1830. Lindsay notes that these parallels are unexpected, but it would be useful to compare it to what we would expect if the connections between the Book of Moses and the Book of Mormon were spurious.

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