B. H. Roberts’ Studies of the Book of Mormon

Introduction by Brigham D. Madsen

Roberts, B. H. Studies of the Book of Mormon (Madsen, Brigham D., ed.), University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago, 1985, xxxi+375 pp.

Introduction, by Brigham D. Madsen [Brigham D. Madsen is professor emeritus of history at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City. He received a B.A. degree from the University of Utah and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in history from the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to joining the faculty of the University of Utah in 1965, he taught at Brigham Young University and Utah State University. His publications include North to Montana! (with Betty M. Madsen), The Lemhi: Sacajawea’s People, The Northern Shoshoni, The Bannock of Idaho, Corinne: The Gentile Capital of Utah, and Gold Rush Sojourners in Great Salt Lake City, 1849-50.]. Pp. 3-34.

From the beginning of his missionary labors for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Brigham Henry Roberts faced hostile critics whose specific attacks on the authenticity of the Book of Mormon he met with skill and a determined pugnacity that came to mark his career as a defender of what the world called the “Golden Bible” and the faith which it helped to forge. Never content with superficial answers to serious questions about the story of Lehi and the peopling of the Americas and impatient with fellow Church members who were satisfied with perfunctory responses, he spent many years in industrious research and written and oral argument to sustain his early belief in the Book of Mormon. He could never understand those who were willing to settle for less.

The new scripture that absorbed so much of Roberts’s attention throughout his career as a religious leader had, in the view of its adherents, been revealed to Joseph Smith, Jr., a Vermont farm boy, in 1823, through the visitation of a heavenly being, the angel Moroni. Moroni, it was said, showed Smith some gold plates that he had deposited in a hill near present Manchester, New York, about 421 AD, just before his death as the last member of his race, the Nephites. According to the Book of Mormon, which Joseph Smith claimed to have translated from the plates by aid of a Urim and Thummim found with them, the American continents were people by migrants from the East over a period of many centuries. Smith later summarized the contents of the Book of Mormon in a letter to John Wentworth of the Chicago Democrat in 1842:

In this important and interesting book, the history of ancient America is unfolded, from its first settlement by a colony that came from the Tower of Babel, at the confusion of languages, to the beginning of the fifth century of the Christian Era. We are informed by these records that America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of people. The first were called Jaredites, and came directly from the Tower of Babel. The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem, about six hundred years before Christ. They were principally Israelites, of the descendants of Joseph. The Jaredites were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country. The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country. This book also tells us that our Savior made his appearance upon this continent after his resurrection, that he planted the gospel here in all its fulness, and richness, and power, and blessing; that they had apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists; the same order, the same priesthood, the same ordinances, gifts, powers and blessings, as were enjoyed or on the eastern continents, that the people were cut off in consequence of their transgressions, that the last of their prophets who existed among them was at commanded to write an abridgment of their prophecies, history, etc., and to hide it up in the earth, and that it should come forth and be united with the Bible for the accomplishment of the purposes of God in the last days.

Roberts first began wrestling with the Book of Mormon and its problems as a twenty-three-year-old missionary in Tennessee when a Campbellite minister, a Mr. Alsup, challenged him and his companion to a debate, held over a three-day period, February 5-7, 1881, and ‘limited to a consideration of the Book of Mormon.” The opening speech of Alsup, in which he declared the Mormon scripture to be “of no more worth than last year’s Almanac…a fraud, a cheat, and worthless,” was “for the two inexperienced elders in Book of Mormon matters…quite appalling,” but, as Roberts later wrote, “gradually things righted themselves.” The Campbellite minister first contended that the Book of Mormon was in conflict with the Bible in that it taught the gospel of Christ before the appearance of the Savior. Roberts, as the chosen opponent of Alsup, quoted the Old and New Testaments to prove that the gospel taught to Abraham was the same as revealed later in New Testament times, which led the listening congregation to conclude that Alsup’s view “had left Abraham in hell and Elder Roberts had dared him to get him out.” The Campbellite then attacked the Mormon story that Christianity was preached on the American continents 700 years before the appearance of Christ, to which Roberts again quoted Bible verses to refute his opponent. Other arguments from Alsup were concerned with the use of a mariner’s compass by the Israelite emigrants while crossing the ocean, which he said conflicted with known science; the Spaulding theory of the origin of the Book of Mormon, a claim that Smith had based his account on a story written by the Reverend Solomon Spaulding, which “falsehood” was rebutted by Roberts; and the charge that the Book of Mormon was written by one man, which Roberts acknowledged but explained that one author to be Mormon, the ancient chronicler of the Nephite people. Roberts’s defense of the book was so successful that Alsup left the debate early and eventually over sixty new members were baptized into the Mormon Church from the nearby community of Manchester, Tennessee.2

A number of years later, in 1896, while Roberts was visiting Cincinnati, Ohio, he spent some time at the local library and discovered the article in Alexander Campbell’s The Millennial Harbinger in which Campbell had attacked the Book of Mormon.3 Alsup had used the same exact arguments in debating Roberts, who was therefore really taking on the founder of the Campbellite faith. Later Roberts, in reflecting on this early missionary experience in Tennessee, thought that Campbell’s attack was “the most powerful criticism of the Book of Mormon that has been written.”4 The confrontation with Alsup fixed for Roberts ad with thedetermination to prove the authenticity of the new scripture; he wrote.in his missionary journal three years later that evidence in support of the Book of Mormon “is intensely interesting to me.…I have observed when speaking on this subject I have enjoyed great liberty of the Spirit perhaps more so than with speaking on any subject.”5

After four years of missionary work in the South, first as one of the traveling elders and later for two years as Mission President, Roberts returned to Utah to become an editor with the Salt Lake Herald until December 1886, when he was advised to leave the territory to escape imprisonment for unlawful cohabitation with his two wives. His Church sent him to Liverpool, England, to become an editor of the Millennialc of Mor-Star, the most important European publication of the Mormon Church, and during the next two years, 1887 and 1888, he pursued his studies on the origins of the Book of Mormon. When not writing weekly editorials of up to 2,000 words on various gospel subjects, he engaged in public debates, traveled widely in England, and soon gained a reputation as a fearless and articulate defender of Mormonism. He spent many hours in the nearby famous Picton Library, “making an immense collection of notes from American Archeology that was used in the evidences of American antiquities and Archeological works in the external evidences for the Book of Mormon.” The results of his research formed the basis for many of the editorials in the Star and became the foundation for this three-volume work, published in 1909, New Witnesses for God, which, as will be seen, remained his chief defense of the Book of Mormon until his further investigations in the early 1920s.6

Roberts gave a number of public lectures on what many newspapers called “The Book of Mormon Controversy,” a typical one being a talk at Swansea, Wales, where, after an hour-and-a-half discourse, he fielded a number of questions from a member of the audience, one Adolphus Bolitho, who later corresponded with his Mormon antagonist in the forum of the Millennial Star. Bolitho suggested that since there were only 553 years from the first Zedekiah to the Messiah instead of the 600 years as stated in the Book of Mormon that the “Messiah of the Book of Mormon came too late to be the Messiah of the Bible.” Elder Roberts replied that Bolitho admitted discrepancies in the Bible but would not admit that possibility in the Book of Mormon. In another exchange Roberts invited his questioner to prove that Jewish and Nephite months were identical, which Roberts said Bolitho could not do. The questions seem dated now but were evidently fiery issues in the Victorian era of biblical polemics.7

Returning from England in late 1888, Roberts took over the editorial work for the Contributor, a magazine for the youth of the Church, wrote articles under such names as Horatio, which seemed particularly suited for his muscular prose, and continued his interest in the Book of Mormon by writing a series, Corianton: A Nephite Story. It was so successful that a book and play entitled Corianton: An Aztec Romance were produced in 1902. They were both financial successes, but the play, written by a young playwright named Orestus U. Bean, was so long that diehard theater-goers and Book of Mormon addicts had to wait until after midnight to see the final scene. To Roberts, who was accustomed to hearing two-hour sermons and to using almost limitless quotations in his writing, the dramatic production was perhaps a normal exercise in histrionics. The book very much reflected his knowledge of and attraction to the Book of Mormon. There were the Zoramites, and a Shiblon and a Zoan, in addition to the hero, Corianton, whose “proud, haughty spirit now humbled to the dust, listened with prayerful attention to the instruction of his fathr and found the faith of the Gospel the stay and hope of his soul.” So ended Roberts’s one major plunge into fiction, a Book of Mormon romance.8

Four years later, he turned his attention to serious history and produced three books which marked the beginning of his work on the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The first, Outlines of Ecclesiastical History, dealt with the establishment of the Christian Church, the apostasy from the “true” faith, and the reformation and restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith. The two purposes of the book, according to the preface, were to sustain the position of the latter-day church and to teach the principles of the gospel. Roberts expressed his early professionalism as a historian by suggesting that his readers turn to the notes at the end of each section to obtain additional information and perhaps to become interested enough to pursue the subject further. To emphasize his objectivity, he announced that “no fact has been suppressed that has a tendency to support the opposite view.”9

A second book, The Missouri Persecutions, attempted to build the faith of the youth of the Church by delineating, in some detail, the sacrifices of early members in the Missouri of the 1830s and by correcting the misrepresentations and “calumnious insinuations” of anti-Mormon writers. The author was careful to list many books friendly to the point of view of Missourians, so that his readers would have both sides of the story, and he insisted that he was not presenting “argumentative history” or writing “for the purpose of glozing [sic] over the defects in the character of the early members of The Church.” In fact, he had tried to point out their “actual sinfulness in conduct.” Roberts succumbed to pride of authorship by proclaiming that his history “told more thoroughly” the account of the Missouri persecutions than had any other work; he then blasted certain unnamed plagiarizers who had stolen quotations from the earlier Contributor articles on which his book was based.10

The final volume in this early trilogy was The Rise and Fall of Nauuoo, a “companion volume” in “historical sequence” to his book on the Missouri persecutions. In his introduction Roberts discussed at some length the cruel banishment of the French Acadians from their homes in Nova Scotia by British officials during the French and Indian War and then excoriated the victors for their “atrocious crimes” in depriving the French peasants of their homes, a stain “upon the escutcheon” of England. He concluded by comparing this “execration” with the enforced evacuation and destruction of Nauvoo permitted by the “United States, the boasted asylum for the oppressed of all nations.” The only reason for Roberts’s selection of the Acadian story to introduce his volume may have been that Illinois was formerly a French province, but his tactic of attempting to prejudice his readers in advance by the tearful comparison of an Evangeline-type recounting of British cruelty with that of similar brutality on the part of Illinois frontiersmen was a ploy he should have reconsidered. The story, told simply, of the expulsion of the Saints from Nauvoo was dramatic enough in its condemnation of unrelenting persecution.11

In 1892 Roberts published his one biography, a narrative of the life of John Taylor, cellmate with Joseph and Hyrum Smith at the time of their murders, third president of the Mormon Church, and a hero to Roberts, who “loved” his subject. Roberts could see few defects in Taylor’s character, and his recital of Taylor’s great qualities reflects the virtues by which Roberts attempted to guide his own life. The Church president had a “universal benevolence, powerful intellect, splendid courage, physical as well as moral, a noble independence of spirit, coupled with implicit faith and trust in God, a high sense of honor, unimpeachable integrity, indomitable determination, and a passionate love of liberty, justice and truth.” Above all was Taylor’s love of liberty: “I was not born a slave! I cannot, will not be a slave. I would not be slave to God! . . I’d rather be extinct than be a slave.” It is understandable why Roberts’s fierce independence thrilled at such statements from his alter ego. Taylor had other attributes of which his biographer approved: scrupulous honesty, little desire for “money getting,” his preference for “a faded coat to a faded reputation,” his insistence that a plowed field be well done and not merely skimmed over, and finally his desire to be “a preacher of righteousness.”12

An opportunity for Roberts to apply some of the above qualities to his discipline of history came when he was asked to revise and publish the journal of Joseph Smith, which he had already compiled in three volumes while sering as a missionary in England. The six-volume History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, publication of which began in 1902, reflected Roberts’s determination to present the facts of early Church history as “related by the persons who witnessed them”; to allow the reader to “form his own conclusions”; and to add notes that would give further explanation of some of the important events related.13 Recognizing that some of the journal material had been prepared by scribes and not Smith himself, the editor felt free to make numerous changes in spelling and grammar to ensure better clarity and to eliminate such indecorous incidents as that of J. B. Nicholls, who kicked a Presbyterian minister “on his seat of honor,” and Smith’s argumentative reasoning asking for repeal of a hog ordinance passed by the City of Nauvoo.

A more serious challenge to Roberts’s editorial methodology was his deletion of significant passages, ranging from an omission of the definition of the word Mormon as being “more good,” which the editor thought was “based on inaccurate premises and was offensively pedantic,” to the more consequential deletion of such detailed accounts as the description of how the “ruffian” who had attempted to decapitate the murdered Joseph Smith at Carthage jail had been paralyzed by a sudden and powerful light “from the heavens.” Roberts commented on the latter incident: “It was inevitable, perhaps, that something miraculous should be alleged as connected with the death of Joseph Smith; that both myth and legend, those parasites of truth, should attach themselves to the Prophet’s career.” Some critics have rightly charged Roberts with thus “mutilating” history, of failing to report the personally written accounts of Joseph Smith’s death and of neglecting to differentiate between materials written by Smith and those recorded by his secretaries. It must be remembered, however, that whatever Roberts did had to meet the approval of the First Presidency of the Church, so that his editorial judgment was, at times, somewhat proscribed.14

Throughout his early career as an editor and historian, Roberts was always challenging or being challenged by divines and critics, particularly about the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, and he accepted these opportunities for debate with alacrity and the fire of the warhorse scenting battle. An especially pertinent exchange occurred with Dr. William M. Paden, who, in three discourses delivered in Salt Lake City during early 1904, attacked III Nephi of the Book of Mormon as a “Fifth Gospel” that did not add anything to the picture of Christ.15 In a very lengthy sermon, dutifully reported by the Church organ, the Deseret News, Roberts cited several antiquarian historians to prove his contention that signs of cataclysmic events and darkness following the Messiah’s death had occurred in the Americas and that the traditions of the native Americans not only proved the divinity of Jesus but also helped authenticate the Book of Mormon and added the new knowledge that Christ had appeared to the people of this hemisphere. Roberts’s use of these early evaluations of the monuments and other archeological evidence found in the Western continents was a foreshadowing of his later extensive investigations of written materials concerning these civilizations.

In a more comprehensive examination of Book of Mormon criticism, an individual known only by the signature “M” had published two lengthy attacks on the Mormon scripture in articles in the Salt Lake Tribune of November 22 and December 4, 1903.16 The “Unknown,” as Roberts described him, charged that: (1) Nephi quoted Christ’s apostles 600 years before they were active in their roles; (2) Nephi quoted from Shakespeare in a sentence from Hamlet’s soliloquy; (3) Nephi quoted from the King James version of the Bible, not published until A.D. 1611; (4) Nephi wrote in the “campmeeting exhortation” style of 1828; (5) there was not one item of moral truth revealed by the Book of Mormon; and (6) finally, although the three witnesses to the book explained that “Joseph Smith had nothing whatever to do except simply to read the English sentences as they appeared in translation,” apparently the Mormon prophet must have also quoted not only from the Bible and Shakespeare but also from other English works and perhaps from the peculiar views of Sidney Ridgon as well. After noting “M’s” lack of courage in hiding behind anonymity, Roberts attempted to dispose of the charges one by one. (1) At times Joseph Smith “used Bible phraseology in representing ideas akin to those found in Jewish Scriptures.” (2) The quotation more closely followed Job than Shakespeare, who may have taken his inspiration from the Old Testament prophet in the passage to which “M” referred. (3) The larger question of how the Book of Mormon was translated, Roberts explained in a manner that upset the then current Mormon conception of a simple reading of the English words as they appeared to the eyes of the youthful prophet:

Because Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon by means of the inspiration of God and the aid of Urim and Thummim, it is generally supposed that this translation occasioned the Prophet no mental or spiritual effort, that it was purely mechanical; in fact, that the instrument did all and the Prophet nothing, than which a greater mistake could not be made. All the circumstances connected with the work of translation clearly prove that it caused the Prophet the utmost exertion, mental and spiritual, of which he was capable, and while he obtained the facts and ideas from the Nephite characters, he was left to express those ideas in such language as he was master of. This, it is conceded, was faulty, hence here and there [are] verbal defects in the Fnglish translation of the Nephite record. Now when the Prophet perceived from the Nephite records that Isaiah was being quoted; or when the Savior was represented as giving instructions in doctrine and moral precepts of the same general character as those given in Judea, Joseph Smith undoubtedly turned to those parts of the Bible where he found a translation, subsequently correct, of those things which were referred to in the Nephite records, and adopted so much of that translation as expressed the truths common to both records; and since our English version of the Jewish scriptures was the one the Prophet used in such instances, we have the Bible phraseology of which the Unknown complains, and of which this, in the judgment of the writer, is the adequate explanation to all of that class of his objections.17

(4) Nephi had received in a vision the knowledge that Christ was to appear, to be baptized of John, and to complete his ministry among the people. (5) The Book of Mormon contained a number of new religious truths such as “Adam fell that men might be; and men are that they might have joy.” (6) “M” showed what a “back number’ he was by referring to the outmoded and disproven theory of the Spaulding manuscript as the origin of the Book of Mormon.

Roberts’s detailed explanation of his “new” theory of the method employed by Smith in translating the characters engraved on the gold plates is quoted here because of the prominence it was given by the Mormon faithful and Gentile critics in the next several years. As Roberts wrote later, “The translator is responsible for the verbal and grammatical errors, in the translating”; “to talk of ‘literal translation’ is to talk of literal nonsense”; and “the translation of the Book of Mormon is English in idiom, and the idiom of the time and locality where it was produced.”18

At about the same time as the “M” exchange, Roberts had replied in similar fashion to a question about the translating of the Book of Mormon from an H. Chamberlain, who was so satisfied with the Mormon historian’s detailed reply that he rejoined, “I am free to say that your reasons for his [Joseph Smith] so doing are not only probable, but the only solution that can be given.”19 As late as 1925 G. A. Marr wrote Roberts that his explanation of the method of translation was “the greatest creative effort of which the annals of controversy bear record.”20 Roberts himself was so satisfied with his reasoning in the matter that he incorporated it as part of his argument in his New Witnesses for God.21 To modern scholars the controversy over the translation of the Book of Mormon and Roberts’s explanation may seem quaint, but in the early 1900s it tended to end more of the speculation concerning the book.

Another objection raised by “higher” criticism” was that entire chapters of Isaiah are quoted in the Book of Mormon, although these chapters, 40-66, were not written until the time of the Babylonian captivity, 586-38 B.C., by another author and perhaps 125 years after Isaiah’s death and fifty years after the Lehi colony left Jerusalem, supposedly with all of Isaiah intact. Of the 433 verses of Isaiah quoted in the Mormon scripture, 199 were repeated word for word, and the remaining 234 were slightly changed from the wording in the King James Bible.22 In a series of articles Roberts refuted, to his own satisfaction, the “higher critics” and announced that the Book of Mormon “shoots holes into higher criticism!…and established the integrity and unity of authorship for the whole book of Isaiah.” If Roberts could not have satisfied himself that all of Isaiah was the work of one writer, then, as he acknowledged, the authorship of chapters 40-66, some fifty years after Lehi led his family into the desert, “throws the whole Book of Mormon under suspicion of being fraudulent.”23 As for the exact wording of Isaiah verses apparently copied from the Bible into the Book of Mormon, Roberts’s explanation of Smith’s method of translation satisfied him and most Mormon adherents, including the First Presidency of his Church, “who approved of Brother Roberts’ views regarding this matter as perhaps the best reasons that could be given in the absence of a knowledge of the facts.”24 By the early 1900s Elder Roberts evidently had become the chief Church spokesman in defending the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.Roberts’s interest in the origins of the book and his prompt and eager acceptance of almost any opportunity to debate its virtues led him into written conflict with Theodore Schroeder, a former lawyer in Utah who had been disbarred by the state supreme court for unprofessional conduct. Schroeder, who later led the fight in Washington, D.C., against Roberts being seated in the House of Representatives, wrote a series of four articles for the American Historical Magazine, attacking Book of Mormon claims by resurrecting the “old exploded Spaulding story” of its origins. The anti-Mormon Salt Lake Tribune was reproducing the articles, and Roberts wrote the editor, Colonel William Nelson, asking the privilege of answering Schroeder, who was claiming to have found a second Spaulding manuscript. At Nelson’s suggestion Roberts corresponded with David I. Nelke, the editor of American Historical Magazine, who indicated he would consider publishing a response to Schroeder if it met the literary and professional standards of his journal. The first Roberts reply was so satisfactory that eventually all four of his responses were printed, along with Schroeder’s attacks, in this magazine (whose title was soon changed to the Americana).25

In refuting the relationship of the second Spaulding manuscript to the Book of Mormon, Roberts wrote, “We ‘mormons’ get considerable amusement out of the conflicting theories advanced to account for the origin of our Book of Mormon.” The story of the Spaulding manuscript began with Solomon Spaulding, an obscure minister, who, about 1809 and while living in Conneaut, Ohio, produced a manuscript about the ancient inhabitants of America based on a supposed translation of a Latin document that he claimed to have found in a cave near Conneaut, and so the name “Manuscript Found.” In 1834, some years after the death of Spaulding, his relatives transferred the manuscript to a former Mormon, D. Philastus Hurlburt, who wished to expose it as the ancestor of the Book of Mormon. This first manuscript was eventually deposited in the library of Oberlin College, and both Mormons and non-Mormons who examined it declared its 112 pages have nothing in common with the Book of Mormon. But then Schroeder claimed that the Book of Mormon was based upon a second Spaulding manuscript, allegedly a story written in scriptural style and asserting that native Americans were descended from Israelites. It was this second manuscript which Roberts spent 114 large printed pages destroying; he never lacked for words or thoroughness in his polemical writing.26

The last of Roberts’s four articles on the subject was particularly germane in view of his later questions about the Book of Mormon. He first declared that when the twenty-two-year-old Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon he did not need the assistance of a Solomon Spaulding, a Sidney Rigdon, or any other man—that Smith was “superior in talents…[and] in literary power of expression” to any of the supposed authors of the book. Second, he wrote, if the book had been produced as explained by Schroeder “it would not have been so full of petty errors in grammar and the faulty use of words as is found in the first edition of the Book of Mormon.…They are ingrained in it; they are constitutional faults” as expressed by the uneducated but brilliant boy prophet. Roberts concluded his four articles with the somewhat immodest but perhaps accurate claim that they constituted “a successful rejoinder.[which] exhibits how inherently weak, and foolish this Spaulding theory”27

Roberts’s reference to errors in the first (1830) edition of the Book of Mormon came from a very close reading of his personal copy, which is in the B. H. Roberts Collection at the University of Utah and contains copious marginal notes in his own handwriting. He especially marked mistakes in grammar and the repetitive use of such words as “did,” which he called the “did series.” Localisms like “much horses” and “good homely cloth” were marked. Similarities with passages of the Bible were underlined-for example, he compared Hebrews 3:15 (“While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation”) with page 139 of the Book of Mormon (“Yea, today if he will hear his voice, harden not your hearts: for why will ye die?”). Contradictions like the slaying of one leader on page 272 and seven on page 274 were noted. Finally, he made occasional cryptic comments, as on page 275 when “king Lamoni saith, Is it above the earth? and Ammon saith, Yea, and he looketh down upon all the children of men.” Roberts noted in the margin, “Heaven located.”28

All of his early investigations into the Book of Mormon and his debates with skeptics finally led him, as the chairman for nine years of the Manual Committee of the Mutual Improvement Association (MIA), the youth organization of the Church, to write three of the annual manuals which attempted to assemble the evidence for the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Under the title New Witnesses for God, they were first published in 1903 as a single volume and later appeared in three volumes in 1909. The first volume was devoted to Joseph Smith as a witness for God and the last two volumes considered the external and internal evidences of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. In his “Life Story,” Roberts noted that many regarded this work “as his greatest contribution to the literature of the church.”29

In the manuals Roberts sought to impress the young people of his Church with the importance of the Book of Mormon but recognized that the teachers in the MIA might “have some difficulty with the boys, because they have not had much experience in the matter of literary criticism.” Therefore, he listed seven points that should be emphasized: 1) a diversity of style permeated the book, which was only logical when nine men were the authors of the first 156 pages; (2) there was an originality in the several hundred names in the book; (3) the forms of government described were consistent with the circumstances; (4) the events in the book harmonized with the character of the writers; (5) the 40th chapter included such philosophical statements as “Adam fell that men might be, and and men are that they might have joy,” a concept only “dull” readers would not discern as being dramatically new and inspiring; (6) the book gave a unique definition of truth as being “knowledge of that which is, of that which has been, of that which is to be”; and (7) the explanation of the doctrine of “opposite existence.”30

In his lesson outlines for the manual he was more specific, proposing review questions and instructions about methods of teaching the Book of Mormon. Typical questions included: “In what way would the message of Joseph Smith be affected if the Book of Mormon were proven untrue?” “What is meant by burden of proof?” “In any discussion on the truth of the Book of Mormon on whom does the burden of proof rest?” His suggestions for lesson treatment were also typically forthright—“Talk directly to the subject…Practice stopping at the right time and place. Do not allow endless rambling discussions.…Master the lesson as thoroughly as possible.…Do not be satisfied with ‘skimming.’…Get the Spirit of God, and work hard under that influence.” The type of questions Roberts proposed reflected his wish to establish in the classes open, frank, and honest discussion of the difficulties he saw in proving the divinity of the Book of Mormon.31 Nevertheless, his personal belief in its authenticity was apparently unshaken in 1905 when he could wnte, “It is useless to ascribe the knowledge it imparts…to human intelligence or learning at all.”32

In order to understand the development in Roberts’s thinking concerning the origin of the Book of Mormon, it is necessary to describe the arguments he advanced in the early 1900s to support his belief in its authenticity, so that a comparison can be made with his point of view as expressed in the studies he completed in the 1920s. An examination of volumes 2 and 3 of Roberts’s New Witnesses for God provides this perspective, and his preface in volume 2 explains the purposes for which he wrote the book:

While the coming forth of the Book of Mormon is but an incident in God’s great work of the last days, still the incident of its coming forth and the book are facts of such importance that the whole work of God may be said in a manner to stand or fall with them. That is to say, if the origin of the Book of Mormon could be proved to be other than that set forth by Joseph Smith; if the book itself could be proved to be other than it claims to be,then the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and its message and doctrines, which, in some respects, may be said to have arisen out of the Book of Mormon, must fall; for if that book is other than it claims to be; if its origin is other than that ascribed to it by Joseph Smith, then Joseph Smith says that which is untrue; he is a false prophet of false prophets; and all he taught and all his claims to inspiration and divine authority, are not only vain but wicked; and all that he did as a religious teacher is not only useless, but mischievous beyond human comprehending.

Nor does this statement of the case set forth sufficiently strong the situation. Those who accept the Book of Mormon for what it claims to be, may not so state their case that its security chiefly rests on the inability of its opponents to prove a negative. The affirmative side of the question belongs to us who hold out the Book of Mormon to the world as a revelation of God. The burden of proof rests upon us in every discussion…for not only must the Book of Mormon not be proved to have other origin than that which we set forth, or be other than what we say it is, but we must prove its origin to be what we say it is, and the book itself to be what we proclaim it to be-a revelation from God.…To be known, the truth must be stated and the clearer and more complete the statement is, the better opportunity will the Holy Spirit have for testifying to the souls of men that the work is true. While desiring to make it clear that our chief reliance for evidence to the truth of the Book of Mormon must ever be the witness of the Holy Spirit,…I would not have it thought that the evidence and argument presented…are unimportant, much less unnecessary. Secondary evidences in support of truth, like secondary causes in natural phenomena, may be of firstrate importance, and mighty factors in the achievement of God’s purposes.33

There could not be a clearer and more honest statement of the case for the Book of Mormon. B. H. Roberts was caught between history and creed, presenting both the objectives and attitude of a trained historian while acknowledging that his belief in the Nephite record would inevitably color his judgments. Nevertheless, he believed that proving the Mormon scripture true was, after all, the proper job of a Mormon theologian.

So there would be no doubt, Roberts listed his intentions in establishing the authenticity of the Book of Mormon in volume 2 of his New Witnesses for God. They were: (1) to show the American Indians what the Lord had done for their ancestors; (2) to teach the natives what covenants the Lord had made with their fathers; (3) to convince Jew and Gentile alike that Jesus was the Messiah; (4) to convert the American Indians to Christianity; (5) to convince the Jews that Jesus was the Christ; (6) to be another witness to the truths taught by the Bible; and (7) to restore truths of the gospel which had been lost from the Jewish scriptures. Then, after describing how Joseph Smith had received the plates and translated them and after giving an analysis of the Book of Mormon, the author launched into a discussion of the impossibility of defining the exact locations of the Nephite and Lamanite peoples, their cities and monuments, because of the cataclysmic changes that the Book of Mormon described as having occurred in the Western Hemisphere during a three-hour period at the time of the crucifixion of the Savior. He argued that significant changes in the earth’s crust could happen over a short period and that “nowhere else in the records kept by men” had such terrible events occurred. He further doubted that the Nephites, the civilized portion of the Book of Mormon peoples, had occupied lands any farther north than the southern part of Mexico, a “misapprehension” which he thought was widely held by most Church members at the time.34

To make clear his methodology, Roberts next defined what he meant by external evidence—“facts outside the book itself”: testimony of witnesses, ancient ruins, and the customs and traditions of American native races. (Internal evidence was, of course, concerned with the structure, internal consistency, and theory of organization of the book.) For six chapters he evaluated the testimonies of the three witnesses who had examined the gold plates and had never refuted what they said they had seen; that of the eight witnesses who had also seen the plates and had never denied their stories, evidence “of such a nature that it could not possibly have been the result of deception wrought by the cunning of Joseph Smith”; and finally, the certainty that the Mormon prophet had been visited by angels—“Such phenomena are mistakenly considered supernatural. They are not so really. They are very matter of fact realities; perfectly natural, and in harmony with the intellectual order of a universe where intelligence and goodness govern.” After all, Roberts admonished, if electric energy could be transmitted 460 miles [730 km] from Niagara Falls to New York City, why should humans question the power of God to maintain instant communication with all parts of his creation?35

After disposing of these preliminaries, Roberts began to examine what was really the heart of his argument—that American antiquities and traditions could prove the Book of Mormon. His first thesis was that certain evidence led him to believe that the Nephites did not work in stone but had built their temples and other buildings of wood, which accounted for the lack of material remnants of their civilization in South and Central America. He also was of the opinion that, although it would be difficult to produce ‘in quantity and clearness” the evidence in antiquities to support the Book of Mormon, he was sure that eventually there would be a “development of the fulness of monumental testimony to its truth” still hidden among the ancient ruins of the Western Hemisphere.36

In his preliminary considerations of these ancient proofs of Nephite and Lamanite occupation of the Americas, Roberts acknowledged that there had probably been many other adventurers from Europe, Africa, and Asia who had sailed to the Western continents as well as others who had returned to the East. He considered the mingling of early Spanish buildings with those of ancient ones in America as being troubling also. He then recited the difficulties in investigating the writings of antiquarians and more modern authors whose biases and credibilities had to be carefully weighed as one reads their accounts of the Ten Lost Tribes and of their descriptions of old ruins. In his summary before turning to a specific evaluation of archeological evidence and traditions he maintained that he had established that: (1) civilized races existed in both North and South America; (2) the monuments of these people were being found along the western plateau of South America and in Central America, where the Nephites and Jaredites had lived in Book of Mormon times; (3) there were successive civilizations in the Americas with the latest being the most advanced; and (4) the main center of the ancient civilizations was in Central America, where the oldest Book of Mormon races lived. The author was convinced that nothing had been advanced by scholars that conflicted with the claims of the Book of Mormon and that much of their work supported the story.37

Looking first at the traditions and mythology of the native Americans, Roberts cited proof that they knew of the creation, the fall of man, the flood, the tower of Babel, and especially of the prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah, who, as the “traditionary personage” of Quetzalcoatl, visited the peoples of the Western Hemisphere after his resurrection as related in the Mormon scripture. As for the Hebrew origin of the American Indians, after citing some early writers who had advanced evidence to support the theory, Roberts announced that “so much in the foregoing summary of points of comparison between the American races and the Hebrews as may not be successfully contradicted stands as evidence of no mean order for the truth of our Nephite record.” He summed up this section of his books by describing several other “gold plates” discovered in the eastern part of the United States; he called one a “hoax,” admitted that another’s “genuineness” was in question, but concluded that these accounts constituted “at least important incidental evidence” for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. As for the requirement that the Nephite story demanded a unity of race for modern American natives, he cited two authorities to substantiate this fact, which was only “one more evidence for the truth of the Book of Mormon.”38

To round out his discussion of external evidence, Roberts first tackled the problem of whether the Book of Mormon was produced after the publication, in English, of works on ancient American civilizations that would have been available to Smith. As Roberts explained, “Was it possible for Joseph Smith…to have possessed such a knowledge of American antiquities and traditions that they [Smith and his associates] could make their book’s alleged historical incidents, and the customs of its peoples, conform to the antiquities and traditions of the native Americans?” He answered the question by arguing that to become acquainted with the vast knowledge of American antiquities and traditions and then make them conform to the story in the Book of Mormon was an insurmountable task for a youthful prophet who was “not a student of books.” Roberts then listed the only works which “so far as I can ascertain” might have been accessible to Joseph Smith: the publications of the Amencan Antiquarian Society, 1820; Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews, second edition, 1825; The History of the American Indians, by James Adair, 1775; and Alexander Humboldt’s books on New Spain, 1811. Roberts discusses these works more fully in his “A Book of Mormon Study” presented in this volume, but it is interesting how easily he brushed them aside in 1909. This list also revealed how little he knew of the extensive literature on the subject of American antiquities. He was to spend several years in study to rectify that omission.39

After a discussion of the “Isaiah problems” in the Book of Mormon, already examined above, Roberts briefly touched on the Bible passages which mention “other sheep…which are not of this fold,” concluding, as do nearly all faithful Mormons, that the other flocks mentioned were the peoples of the Americas. At this point he announced that it was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that bore witness to the Book of Mormon rather than the reverse. Then, admitting that the Book of Mormon was not the first account to mention the possible Israelite origin of the American Indians, he maintained that the native traditions established the existence of Christian ideas in the Western Hemisphere; denied that Joseph Smith or any other individual could have had the intelligence or imagination necessary to compose the Book of Mormon; and then took a healthy swing at the “intellectual pride…which so often attends upon the worldly learned man” who does not know the meaning of humility and who cannot accept the Mormon scripture because of its “complex, confusing and clumsy” treatment of historical events and its faulty language. In spite of what the world esteemed to be its “contemptible” character, there was, within its pages, the power to “cheer, comfort and encourage men” through the Spirit of God.40

In chapters XLIV through XLVI II of volume 3 of New Witnesses for God, Roberts came to an important part of his defense of the Book of Mormon as he considered “Objections to the Book of Mormon.” After dispensing with “Counter Theories of Origin,” including Campbell’s charge that Smith was the author, the “shallow story” of Spaulding, the contention of Rigdon’s authorship, and the psychological study of Woodbridge Riley that Joseph Smith’s inspired visions were in reality hallucinations caused by epilepsy, Roberts repeated his earlier explanation of how the Nephite record was translated, admitting that errors in grammar, localisms, and verbatim copying from the Bible had been introduced by Smith because of his poor education and the attempt to “ease himself” by using Bible passages already in existence.41

In considering a series of criticisms of Nephite pre-Christian era knowledge of the gospel, Roberts first noted that if Old Testament prophets could be told of the coming of the Messiah, certainly the inhabitants of the Americas would not be denied those truths. Also, just because the people of the Eastern Hemisphere had lost their earlier accurate knowledge of astronomy, it did not follow that the Nephites could not have an understanding of the movement of the earth and its planetary system as revealed in the Book of Mormon. After discounting accusations that there was no “definiteness” about Book of Mormon geography by explaining that the record was only an abridgement that did not permit detailed descriptions of land forms, the author discussed comparisons between ancient Egyptian writing and a transcript of characters from the Nephite plates made by Joseph Smith. Roberts declared “a strong family likeness” existed, exploding the charge that there was no resemblance between the two.42

Roberts’s final chapter dealt with some particular objections to which he devoted much greater emphasis in his 1920s study than he did in this brief examination. To the contention that the Book of Mormon had copied incidents from the Bible—for example, that in Alma’s conversion he was struck dumb for two days just as Paul had been stricken with blindness for three days, or that the Jaredite use of eight barges was “an attempt to outdo the Bible account of Noah’s ‘one ark’”—Roberts argued that the same use of parallelisms could be made in comparing the Old and New Testaments. To the objection that there was an absence of Book of Mormon names in native American languages, he recognized “here a real difficulty” but observed, in a rather far-fetched assertion, that the name “Nahuas” was probably derived from “Nephi”; that the river Amazon no doubt got its name from “Ammon,” the son of King Mosiah 11; and that “Andes” could have come from the common use of “anti” in the Nephi record, such as “Anti-Nephi-Lehi’ the name of a Lamanite king. And to the question of how a small group of 100 adults in Lehi’s company could “duplicate Solomon’s temple,” the answer was obvious: it was a very tiny temple, “only like unto Solomons temple in its arrangement and uses?”43

In his later study of the Book of Mormon, Roberts was seriously concerned with the fact that while iron and steel had been extensively used by the Nephites no archeological evidence had been found to substantiate this fact. He.proposed that the rapid oxidation of the metal left no specimens to be found and that it was easier for the Nephites to convert their plentiful supply of copper into the implements they needed. A similar and important objection that no evidence of horses, cows, asses, goats, and sheep had been discovered among the ruins of ancient America or in the traditions of the natives while the Book of Mormon insisted that such animals existed in Nephite days led Roberts to admit “that it constitutes one of our most embarrassing difficulties.” In response, he insisted that during the thousand years that had elapsed between the final destruction of the Nephite civilization and the coming of the Spaniards, some calamity could have destroyed all such animals and adopted the suggestion of one scientist that a “wide-spread epidemic” had eliminated them. But Roberts finally concluded that the “weight of evidence” lay with those who said that horses and the other domestic animals were not found in the Americas before Columbus.44

Of the many other objections Roberts attempted to counter, a final one concludes this discussion of his New Witnesses for God. A number of writers had ridiculed Smith’s claim that he had carried the gold plates from the Hill Cumorah about two miles to his home and on the journey had successfully fought off three assaults while running at top speed. One critic had estimated that the plates, at 7 x 8 inches and 6 inches thick [18 x 20 x 15 cm], would have weighed 200 pounds [90 kg]. Roberts refused to “haggle” about the weight, which he said could have been as low as ninety or even fifty pounds [40, 23 kg], but explained that Smith was a “strong, athletic young man” who, under the stress and excitement of the moment, could have performed this amazing feat. Roberts would not turn to an “appeal to the supernatural, to the miraculous,” but chose instead to compare Smith’s achievement to that of Samson’s feats of strength.45

Roberts concluded his three-volume series in defense of the Book of Mormon by pointing out that the arguments made against the book were similar to those made against the Hebrew scriptures and that, while “Sectarian divines” felt free to use such tactics against the Mormon scripture, they complained bitterly when such strategies were employed against the Bible. He acknowledged that not all of the objections to the Book of Mormon had been answered to the satisfaction of critics or even to Roberts himself, but he thought a little more time and research would vindicate his efforts. As his later study demonstrates, the more he studied the problems of the Book of Mormon, the more difficult they became to solve. But in his last sentence he declared that the evidence he had presented was sufficient, “both in quality and quantity,” to convince any rational person of the truthfulness of the Mormon scripture.46

Less dated now than his work on the Book of Mormon, B. H. Roberts’s six-volume A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ ofLatter-day Saints also has more enduring importance for today’s investigators of Mormonism. The history was an outgrowth of the four exchanges with A. Theodore Schroeder published in the Americana. David I. Nelke of that magazine had invited Roberts to write a detailed history of the Mormon Church, which was eventually published in monthly editions of the magazine, at about forty-two pages per month, over the period from 1909 to 1915, under the title “History of the Mormon Church.” The death of Nelke prevented the publication of the articles in book form at the time, and the estimated cost of $50,000 for publication was more than Church authorities could afford. It was not until 1930 and the centenary anniversary of the founding of the Church that arrangements were made to print the six volumes under its present title, wiping “out the years of disappointment through which the author had suffered over it.”47

In his preface to the volumes and also in his “Life Story,” Roberts expressed his purpose in writing the history to be “pro-church of the Latter-day Saints” but also emphasized his intention to follow the precept of Theodore Roosevelt that history to be of any worth must not only tell of your successes, but also of your failures or semifailures. Roberts thought that to “so treat the course of events as not to destroy faith in these men [leaders engaged in the work of God], becomes a task of supreme delicacy; and one that tries the soul and skill of the historian,” especially when “it must be said of those entrusted with this great mission of God that they were not always 100% perfect and right in their administrations, neither were those who fought them always and every time 100% wrong:” A historian, he said, must follow the truth “justly, firmly and without hesitation, or he will fail in his absolute duty to the truth of things” a quality he insisted he “religiously held” throughout his writing and that was its “chief characteristic.” Not all Church members were comfortable with this approach, as was evident in the case of David McKenzie, a clerk in the office of the Church president, who one day accosted Roberts: “Well I have read your story in this month’s Americana and Aye Mon the frankness of it: the frankness o’ it. How dare you do it Mon.” Despite such misgivings on the part of some then and perhaps now, if and when the books are read, Roberts may be forgiven his lofty assertion that “undoubtedly it is the masterpiece of historical writings in the first century of the Church’s History’ He may still be right.48

Others have praised his history for its comprehensive treatment, his willingness to meet such issues as the Danites forthrightly, for what one called his “interpretative balance…a church history that is free of fustian and prejudice”49 while another considered him to be “the greatest Mormon historian.…While never objective, Roberts didn’t allow his passionate defense of the faith to overhelm his respect for truth.”50 He had little patience with Church writers who saw miracles in everything. Uis response to one who claimed that the use of ‘ouiza” boards as ‘spiritist” magic had been foretold by the Book of Mormon was to write in the margin of the magazine, “The article here in is of the kind that makes our Mormon argument contemptible.”51 On the other hand, J. Reuben Clark, a sophisticated counselor to several presidents of the Church, could write of the documentary history, “Brother Roberts’ work is the work of advocate and not of a judge, and you cannot always rely on what Brother Roberts says. Frequently, he started out apparently to establish a certain thesis and he took his facts to support his thesis, and if some facts got in the way it was too bad, and they were omitted.” Clark’s evaluation must, however, be placed in perspective. He and Roberts had personal difficulties dating back to a public altercation on September 3, 1919, when then Major J. Reuben Clark had spoken to a Tabernacle crowd against the League of Nations. After Clark had finished, Roberts rose from his seat on the stand to announce that he would answer Clark’s arguments, which he did six days later.52

There was no doubt of Roberts’s honesty, his moderate approach to history, and his industry and tenacity in digging our the facts. He could be abrasive in his independence, despised the maxim “thus far shalt thou come, but no farther,” and denounced the “simple faith” which could lead to belief without understanding or to “ignorant and simpering acquiescence.” He knew from personal experience that many looked upon thinkers as being troublesome and once wrote, “But some would protest against investigation lest it threaten the integrity of accepted formulas of truth-which too often they confound with the truth itself, regarding the scaffolding and the building as one and the same thing.”53

His memorial library of 1,385 books in the LDS Archives reveals his studious nature and his preferences for the various disciplines. Of the eighteen categories under which his books have been cataloged, theology leads the list with 171 items; then history with 134; followed by politics, 76; Christian history and the Bible, 71; science, 69; World War I, 68; philosophy, 62; American antiquities, 62; and anti-Mormon writings, 56. Furthermore, most of the books have marginal notes with many asterisks and underlinings. it is a working scholar’s library.54

From the completion of his History of the Mormon Church in 1915 to his discharge from his position as a chaplain in the U.S. Army in January 1919, Roberts was so caught up in World War I that his historical scholarship was placed in reserve except for his The Mormon Battalion: Its History and Achievements, published in 1919. The book was well researched and, à la Roberts, presented a new view that the Mormon leaders had appealed to the government to allow them to enlist a battalion in the Mexican War to help get their people to a home in the Great Basin, a much different conception from the one long held by most Mormons that the enlistment was a sacrifice demanded by President James K. Polk. On May 30, 1927, when Roberts delivered the main address at the unveiling of the Battalion Monument on the State Capitol grounds, it was reported that “literal quotations from diplomatic correspondence…with Elder Roberts’ comments, startled his audience in a manner that was quite unexpected.”55

The incident that really motivated Roberts to become involved again in historical study and especially to reexamine the origins of the Book of Mormon was a letter from a young man in Salina, Utah, William E. Riter, who, on August 22, 1921, wrote to the geologist and theologian Apostle James E. Talmage, asking for a response to five questions submitted to him by a Mr. Couch of Washington, D.C., who was investigating the claims of the Book of Mormon.56 Talmage asked Elder Roberts to prepare answers to the questions, which were concerned with the following items:

1. How could the great diversity in primitive Indian languages have occurred in such a short period after about A.D. 400, when the Nephites, whose Hebrew language was so highly developed, disappeared?

2. The Book of Mormon reports that the followers of Lehi, upon their arrival in the New World, found horses, which were not in existence when the first Spanish explorers arrived.

3. Although the Jews had no knowledge of steel in 600 B.C., Nephi was reported to have had a bow of steel after he left Jerusalem.

4. The Book of Mormon speaks of “swords and scimeters,” and yet the word “scimeter” does not appear in early literature before the rise of Mohammedianism, which took place after Lehi departed from Jerusalem.

5. Even though silk was not known in America, the Nephites knew of and used silk.

While Roberts began the investigations that led to his first treatise, “Book of Mormon Difficulties: A Study,” apparently another apostle, Richard R. Lyman, decided to ask two of his well-educated friends with interests in the Book of Mormon to respond to the questions. Dr. George W Middleton, a physician, and Dr. Ralph V. Chamberlin, a biologist, wrote the rather brief analyses included in the correspondence herein. There is also a brief letter from Riter inquiring when he can expect a reply from Roberts, who wrote back asking for more time for his research, which had already occupied “several weeks.” Then, because he had “found the difliculties more serious than 1 had thought,” Roberts wrote Heber J. Grant, president of the Church, on December 29, 1921, asking for an appointment to present a 141-page typed report to the First Presidency, the Twelve Apostles, and the Council of Seventy, so that from the “collective wisdom” of all them and from “the inspiration of the Lord” they might find a solution which would satisfy both the youth of the Church and outside investigators.

The request was granted, and Roberts presented his treatise to the assembled General Authorities over a period of two days—January 4-5, 1922-from 10 A.M. to 6 P.M. the first day and from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. and then after a short recess, again until nearly 8 A.M. on the second day. Apostle George Franklin Richards merely noted the meetings in his diary but Talmage wrote at some length in his journal, describing the substance of the Roberts presentation:

a lengthy but valuable report…what non-believers in the Book of Mormon call discrepancies between that record and the results of archeological and other scientific investigations. As examples of these “difficulties” may be mentioned the views put forth by some living writers to the effect that no vestige of either Hebrew or Egyptian appears in the language of the American Indians, or Amerinds. Another is the positive declaration by certain wnters that the horse did not exist upon the Western Continent during historic times prior to the coming of Columbus.

I know the Book of Mormon to be a true record; and many of the “difficulties” or objections as opposing critics would urge, are after all but negative in their nature. The Book of Mormon states that Lehi and his colony found horses upon this continent when they arrived; and therefore horses were here at that time.58

Apostle Talmage’s journal entry for the following day merely noted that Roberts continued his presentation.

The document reveals a Roberts whose dogmatic assertions of his New Witnesses for God had been replaced by pained and troubled doubts about the Book of Mormon, which he challenged his colleagues in the hierarchy to help resolve. Based on the five questions asked by Couch, Roberts quoted ancient and modern writers and investigators to attempt to clarify three problems involved in the Book of Mormon story: linguistics; the presence in America, before the Spanish conquest of domestic animals, iron and steel, silk, wheat, and wheeled vehicles mentioned by the Nephite record; and the origin of the native American races.

The discussions during the two days of meetings were so unsatisfactory and disquieting to Roberts that he wrote a letter to President Grant just four days later, on January 9, 1922, expressing his disappointment about the irrelevancy of the comments expressed but promised to continue his investigations, fully aware that Couch’s questions had been inadequately answered. In response, Grant allowed Roberts some time in the council meeting of January 26, 1922, for a further exposition of his report on “Book of Mormon Difficulties.” Furthermore, on three other occasions extending from February 2 to May 25, 1922, Roberts met in some evening sessions in a private home with Grant’s councilor, Anthony W. Ivins, and with Apostles Talmage and John A. Widtsoe to “consider external evidences of the genuineness of the Book of Mormon” and to approve a letter of reply to Couch. There is no evidence of Roberts’s reaction to these meetings.59

But not quite two months before his death, Roberts did discuss the episode of his meeting with the Church authorities as recorded in the Personal Journal of Wesley P. Lloyd, former dean of the Graduate School at Brigham Young University and a missionary under Roberts in the Eastern States Mission. Lloyd wrote on August 7, 1933, that he had spent three and a half hours with his former mission president and that “the conversation then drifted to the Book of Mormon and this surprising story he related to me.” Lloyd then recounted Roberts’s explanation of the background of Riter’s request for answers to the Book of Mormon problems and how Roberts had been assigned the task of answering the questions:

Roberts went to work and investigated it from every angle but could not answer it satisfactorily to him self. At his request Pres. Grant called a meeting of the Twelve Apostles and Bro. Roberts presented the matter, told them frankly that he was stumped and ask for their aide [sic] in the explanation. In answer, they merely one by one stood up and bore testimony to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. George Albert Smith in tears testified that his faith in the Book had not been shaken by the question. Pres. Ivins, the man most likely to be able to answer a question on that subject was unable to produce the solution. No answer was available. Bro. Roberts could not criticize them for not being able to answer it or to assist him, but said that in a Church which claimed continuous revelation, a crisis had arisen where revelation was necessary. After the meeting he wrote Pres. Grant expressing his disappointment at the failure and especially at the failure of Pres. Ivins to contribute to the problem. It was mentioned at the meeting by Bro. Roberts that there were other Book of Mormon problems that needed special attention. Richard R. Lyman spoke up and asked if they were things that would help our prestige and when Bro. Roberts answered no, he said then why discuss them. This attitude was too much for the historically minded Roberts. There was however a committee appointed to study this problem, consisting of Bros. Talmage, Ballard, Roberts and one other Apostle. They met and looked vacantly at one and other, but none seemed to know what to do about it. Finally, Bro. Roberts mentioned that he had at least attempted an answer and he had it in his drawer. That it was an answer that would satisfy people that didn’t think, but a very inadequate answer to a thinking man. They asked him to read it and after hearing it, they adopted it by vote and said that was about the best they could do. After this Bro. Roberts made a special Book of Mormon study. Treated the problem systematically and historically and in a 400 type written page thesis set forth a revolutionary article on the origin of the Book of Mormon and sent it to Pres. Grant. It’s an article far too strong for the average Church member but for the intellectual group he considers it a contribution to assist in explaining Mormonism. He swings to a psychological explanation of the Book of Mormon and shows that the plates were not objective but subective with Joseph Smith, that his exceptional imagination qualified him psychologically for the experience which he had in presenting to the world the Book of Mormon and that the plates with the Urim and Thummim were not objective. He explained certain literary difficulties in the Book such as the miraculous incident of the entire nation of the Jaradites, the dramatic story of one man being left on each side, and one of them finally being slain, also the New England hill surroundings of a great civilization of another part of the country. \Ve see none of the cliffs of the Mayas or the high mountain peaks or other geographical environment of early American civilization that the entire story laid in a New England flat hill surrounding. These are some of the things which has made Bro. Roberts shift his base on the Book of Mormon. Instead of regarding it as the strongest evidence we have of Church Divinity, he regards it as the one which needs the most bolstering. His greatest claim for the divinity of the Prophet Joseph lies in the Doctrine and Covenants.60

As indicated by Lloyd, in a letter to Riter dated February 6, 1922, Roberts briefly answered Couch’s questions, covering “the problems suggested” without delving into any of the difficulties that had been discussed by the General Authorities in three separate council meetings. Riter, an evidently tenacious and inquisitive young man, responded by thanking Elder Roberts and then asked another question, “Why can not the Negro hold the Priesthood?” We have no record oa [sic] an answer to the query.

As for Roberts, an errant buzz saw whose persistent and disturbing clatter and sharp cutting edges increasingly disturbed the tranquility of the elders who controlled the church in Zion, the First Presidency on May 29, immediately after the Book of Mormon confrontation, told him he “might select any mission within the United States as a field of Labor” as a mission president or he might even consider accepting the editorial direction of the Church newspaper, the Deseret News. There was no hesitation on the part of Roberts, who chose to go to New York City as head of the Eastern States Mission covering the northeastern section of the United States. For years he had felt “cribbed, cabined and confined in Utah” and had once written a journalist friend, Isaac Russell in New York City, about being “hampered by the restrictions which our peculiar conditions impose on all such workers and which grows no better so far as I can see with the elapse of time.” He expressed his discomfort further and explained his own way of dealing with the problem by quoting from a letter he had received from another young friend who had left Utah for the East: “One of my objects, I might say, my chief object in leaving Salt Lake was that I might avoid if possible, causing pain to my friends and relatives by openly announcing my spiritual and intellectual independence and freedom from what had become bondage I could no longer endure.” After the frustration of encountering mostly indifference to his report on Book of Mormon difficulties, New York and New England probably looked very inviting to Roberts.61

A further inducement, as reported in his autobiography, was that “it had the attraction of including within it the territory of the early activities of the Church—Vermont—the birthplace of the Prophet; New York-the early scenes of the Prophet’s life, the first vision and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, the Hill Cumorah;…which naturally would endear this section of the country to the mind and heart of Elder Roberts.” As soon as he was located in New York and as he traveled around the mission, he began researching and gathering materials to satisfy himself about the origins of the Church and especially the Book of Mormon. His file at the University of Utah contains references to books which he read and copied during these travels. Among them were: (1) Jedediah Morse, Geography Made Easy, 5th ed. (Boston, May 1796), with the note, “above book in Municipal Museum of Rochester, copied by B. H. Roberts, June 7, 1922,” and a marginal comment that “America was peopled from the North East parts of Asia”; (2) Josiah Priest, American Antiquities and Discoveries in the West, 5th ed. (Printed by J. Munsel, 1841), with the note, “Title Page of Josiah Priests Work 1841 Copied by B. H. Roberts, N.Y.”; (3) Josiah Priest, Wonders of Nature and Providence (Albany: Published by Josiah Priest, E. & E. Hosford Printers, 1836), with the note “Copied from the copy in New York Public Library. The above book bears copyright date of June 2, 1824”; (4) Elias Boudinot, A Star in the West (Trenton, NJ.: Published by D. Fenton, S. Hutchinson and J. Dunham, George Sherman, Printer, 1786), with handwritten notes by Roberts; and (5) Ethan Smith, View of the Hebrews (Poultney, Vt.: Printed & Published by Smith & Shute, 1823), with the note, “Copied by B. H. Roberts from copy in 1st Edition, New York City Library. The second Edition (1825) is about one third larger than the first.” These five were perhaps the most important Roberts acquisitions, although there were many others. We thus have a picture of Roberts publicly trimming and nurturing an eastern branch of the tree of Mormonism while privately digging away at its roots trying to determine from whence they came.62

While pursuing his investigations of the origins of the Book of Mormon in his spare time, he nevertheless ran a vigorous missionary campaign during the five years he was president of the mission. He established a mission school to ensure that his missionaries were well prepared to present the gospel message, and he sent them out into rural areas on “summer campaigns,” away from their comfortable winter lodgings “in the spirit of adventure to extend our borders.…Let there be no retreating, nor growing listless, nor weary in well doing. This is the heroic part of your mission. This is where you display manhood or prove that you have none…Be you brave and persistent, and remember, Emmanuel!” His missionaries also learned that “three hateful words” were idleness, listlessness, and restlessness, and in another proclamation they heard, “I want action…1 want it done.” He used the Book of Mormon as a chief means of winning converts, announcing in one letter to his missionaries “that it has survived all the ridicule and mockery of those who have scorned it,…and that its voice is testimony of the Christ as Eternal God.”63

One missionary, Roscoe A. Grover, remembered Roberts’s resolute independence and especially an incident when Roberts found it difficult “to get into line with the Brethren” and “packed his books ready to go home until someone talked him out of it.” When Grover was released to go home, he was “flabbergasted” to hear the president tell him he did not need to depart at once but perhaps should stay and continue his education in the fine arts. As Grover knew, the General Authorities of the Church wanted to get the missionaries back home and married as soon as possible, but Roberts continued, “You ought to be where the market is. Back home on the farm you have to have a pair of gloves, work shoes, overalls, and a straw hat. Beyond that then you try to support your family well enough so that your sons can go on missions. That’s the first priority.” Grover once met Roberts in the American Museum of Natural History and asked what he was doing there. Roberts replied, “By all means go and see the Golden Plates. And see the things that Mahonri Young has done.” Young was a Utah sculptor whose work included many motifs from the Book of Mormon. Grover saw the golden plates, “which had nothing to do with our golden plates.” When President Roberts wrote a farewell message to his missionaries before he departed the mission for Utah in the spring of 1927, he left a statement of his convictions: “Concerning my own testimony of the truth of these things I can say that time the impressions of my youth deeper makes. as streams their channels deeper wear.”64

Before leaving for his mission, Roberts had decided to continue with the presentation of some additional Book of Mormon problems to the First Presidency and had written a letter dated March 15, 1923 [1922], indicating that “the truth of the Book of Mormon is absolutely essential to the integrity of the whole Mormon movement” and that his further studies had seemed only to increase the problems. But, as a letter of October 24, 1927, to Apostle Lyman shows, he had reconsidered and had sent neither the letter nor the additional material. Now, back from the Eastern States Mission, he indicated to Lyman that he had come upon an “embarrassing” theory about the Book of Mormon based on quite remarkable similarities between the Nephite record and Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews, published in 1823 and 1825 and probably available to Smith before the production of the Book of Mormon. He indicated that his latest examination was “not one fourth part” of what could be written about such a comparison but suggested that if Lyman thought it wise, he might submit it to other members of the Council of Twelve Apostles.65

In addition to his two longer treatises—”Book of Mormon Difficulties” and “A Book of Mormon Study” already described—Roberts authored a third document based on his investigations of the Ethan Smith book. This quite brief analysis of Roberts’s conclusions about a possible relationship between the View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon was apparently written during the 1920s and given the title “A Parallel.”

After the death of Roberts, his oldest son, Ben E. Roberts, and perhaps others, informed friends about the document, and soon it was public knowledge that the parallel of the Book of Mormon with Ethan Smith’s work seemed to cast doubt on the authenticity of the Mormon scripture. To correct this misapprehension, Ben E. Roberts in a letter of July 22, 1939, declared that his father had “found nothing in his study which reflected upon the integrity of Joseph Smith’s account of the Book of Mormon.” On October 10, 1946, Ben E. Roberts discussed his father s work on the Book of Mormon before the Timpanogos Club in Salt Lake City and, after the meeting, distributed mimeographed copies of “A Parallel” to members of the audience. Dr. Mervin B. Hogan, of the faculty of the University of Utah, obtained a copy and had it published in January 1956 in the Rocky Mountain Mason. The parallel is composed of eighteen typed pages concerned with eighteen items and with notes and quotations from both the Book of Mormon and the View of the Hebrews arranged in parallel columns on each page. This short review, since its publication in 1946, has been the object of many evaluations by both supporters and detractors of the theory. “A Parallel,” as originally written by B. H. Roberts, including handwritten additions and corrections, is included in this volume. The much longer and more comprehensive “Study,” presented here, will now probably take the place of the 1946 publication for argument and debate.66

Ethan Smith, the author of View of the Hebrews, was a New England minister who was born in Belchertown, Massachusetts, December 19, 1762, and died in Pompey, New York, on August 29, 1849. During his long life he was prominent enough to have a number of his sermons printed, and he also authored or edited several books, including A Dissertation on the Prophecies relative to Anti-Christ and the Last Times; Memoirs of Mrs. Abigail Bailey; and his most famous work, View of the Hebrews. At the time he was writing this latter book, he was the minister of the Congregational Church at Poultney, Vermont, where he served from November 21, 1821, to December 1826.67 Early in 1827 the Reverend Smith apparently visited Palmyra, because by December 31, 1826, the Wayne Sentinel posted his name for letters remaining in the Palmyra Post Office (Wayne Sentinel, January 5, 1827). As some critics who relate Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon to Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews have pointed out, Oliver Cowdery, Joseph’s cousin and his scribe during the writing of the Mormon scripture, had lived in Poultney for twenty-two years until 1825. In fact, Cowdery’s stepmother and three of his sisters were members of Ethan Smith’s congregation, according to the Poultney Church Records, Book 3 (August 3, 1818).68 Poultney is just a half-mile from the border separating the states of Vermont and New York and about seventy miles from Albany, which marked the eastern end of the Erie Canal, completed as far west as Brockfort in 1823, about forty miles beyond the village of Palmyra. Today it is difficult to measure the importance of the Grand Canal as the preeminent thoroughfare to the interior of the northern United States during the 1820s and until the 1850s, when the railroad became the carrier of people and freight. To be situated on the canal meant that the inhabitants of a village could receive freight from New York City, about 335 miles away, on boats that traveled forty miles a day; passengers and mail could move eighty to ninety miles in twenty-four hours. Thus, in about a week’s time, news and goods could be delivered to families and businesses in the town from the great metropolitan city at the mouth of the Hudson, and a constant stream of freighters and packet boats made Palmyra a bustling and busy stop on the Erie Canal.

Furthermore, a reading of the town’s weekly newspaper, the Wayne Sentinel, indicates that there were at least three bookstores which advertised wares to the citizens of Palmyra: The Canandaigua Bookstore, and two local establishments, J. D. Evernghim & Co. and the Wayne Bookstore, the latter run by Tucker & Gilbert, the publishers of the newspaper. In at least two issues the Wayne Bookstore listed the titles of books just received for sale, a four-column spread in the December 17, 1823, issue, and a similar listing of new books in the November 24, 1826, issue. But usually Tucker & Gilbert merely noted almost weekly “have this day received, several boxes of Books” or “More New Books” at their bookstore, later renamed the Palmyra Book Store. Occasionally, an entrepreneur would import a stock of books to be auctioned off, as did one who advertised on August 30, 1825, “18 Cases of Books, recently received from New York and Philadelphia, being the largest and most varied collection of Books…ever offered at public or private sale in this village.…The books are fresh and new.” With such opportunities to acquire books, it would be unusual if the Joseph Smith family were not aware of Ethan Smith’s work.

In addition, Josiah Priest’s The Wonders of Nature and Providence Displayed was in the local Manchester Rental Library, just five miles from Joseph Smith’s home, and the membership records, now located in the Ontario County Historical Society in Canandaigua, show that it was checked out repeatedly during the years 1826 to 1828. Priest’s book included a long selection from Ethan Smith’s work and attempted to establish that the Indians were of Hebrew descent. Very early in this century I. Woodbridge Riley in his book, The Founder of Mormonism, had noted that Ethan Smith’s “work was published in Poultney, Vermont, next to Windsor County, where Joseph’s parents once lived, and by 1825 had circulated to westernmost New York.” But as Fawn M. Brodie, another of the writers to hypothesize a connection between the two books by the two Smiths, has pointed out, “It may never be proved that Joseph saw View of the Hebrews before writing the Book of Mormon.” Yet at the same time she insisted that the parallel features could not be “mere coincidence.”69

In Roberts’s consideration of origins in his “A Book of Mormon Study,” he divided the work into two parts: Part I, an initial discussion of the “Literature Available to Joseph Smith as a Ground-Plan for the Book of Mormon” followed by the major portion of the treatise, “View of the Hebrews as Structural Material for the Book of Mormon,” which included a final chapter on “The Imaginative Mind of the Prophet Joseph Smith”; and Part II, “Internal Evidence that the Book of Mormon Is of Human Origin-Considered.” After completing his final study of the Book of Mormon by the time he left New York City and his Eastern States Mission, Brigham H. Roberts returned to Salt Lake City and to the life of a General Authority of the Church. He died there in 1933.

During the last six years of his life is there any evidence that Roberts still retained his faith in the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, despite his critical examination of the origin of the book? The record is mixed. In his public statements he was still the defender of the faith. For example, at the semi-annual conference of the Church in April 1928 he was reported to have “defended the Book of Mormon as the word of God…[and] closed his address by bearing an impressive testimony to the divinity of the Church.”70 And a year before his death in 1933 he penned an article for the Atlantic Monthly on “What College Did to My Religion,” in which he declared that God would complete His work of the “New Dispensation of the fulness of times. It will never be destroyed, nor its work be given to another people.”71 But in a sermon in April 1929 he sounded rather enigmatic as he said, “I rejoice at the prominence given the Book of Mormon in this Conference. It is, however, only one of many means in letting God’s work be known to the world.” He then “told of an experience where the Doctrine and Covenants was instrumental in converting a friend, after the Book of Mormon had failed.”72 In one of his seven last discourses he counseled the youth of the Church to “carefully and thoroughly examine every principle advanced to them and not only intellectually assent to it as a grand system of truth, but also become imbued with its spirit and feel and enjoy its powers.”73 Finally, in a 1932 article, “Joseph Smith: An Appreciation,” the fire and conviction of his youth came through as Roberts confessed his love and respect for Joseph Smith, as an admirer “who believes in him without reservation…I was influenced by the boldness of his claims, for the tremendous intellectual daring…for the very sway and swagger of him, and for his unschooled eloquence.…To me and for me, he is the Prophet of the Most High, enskied and sainted!”74

Whether or not Roberts retained his belief in the Book of Mormon may never be determined. In his last conference address of April 1933 he referred to the Book of Mormon as “one of the most valuable books that has ever been preserved, even as holy scripture.”75 But in his “A Book of Mormon Study,” Roberts presents an intense and probing evaluation of the possibility that Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews furnished a partial framework for Joseph Smith’s written composition, that the Mormon prophet had the intellectual capacity and imagination necessary to conceive and write the Book of Mormon, and that internal contradictions and other defects added further evidence that it might not be of divine origin.

As for Roberts himself, one can appreciate his fierce independence, his forthright honesty, his deeply imbedded integrity, and, above all, his fearless willingness to follow wherever his reason led him. He could be abrasive in his defense of stubbornly held beliefs, but he had the capacity to change his views when confronted with new and persuasive evidence. It is easy to admire Brigham H. Roberts, and, to apply his description of Joseph Smith to himself, to enjoy Roberts’s “unschooled eloquence,” his “tremendous intellectual daring,” and “the very sway and swagger of him.”

NOTES

1. Quoted in B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1930), 1:167.

2. Deseret News, 24 Feb. 1881; B. H. Roberts, “Life Story of B. H. Roberts” (typescript), 115-18, Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City; Truman G. Madsen, Defender of the Faith: The B. H. Roberts Story (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1981), 126-29.

3. Alexander Campbell, The Millennial Harbinger, 2 (Bethany, Va.: Printed and published by the Editor, 1831), 86-96.

4. Roberts, “Life Story,” 119.

5. Madsen, Defender of the Faith, 129.

6. Ibid., 160-78; Roberts, “Life Story,” 154, 161; B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God, 3 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1909).

7. Millennial Star, 50:113, as quoted in Journal History, 13 Feb. 1888, 5-6, L.D.S. Archives, Salt Lake City; Madsen, Defender of the Faith, 170.

8. Madsen, Defender of the Faith, 296-97; B. H. Roberts, Corianton: A Nephite Story (Salt Lake City: N.p., 1889), 111.

9. B. H. Roberts, Outlines of Ecclesiastical History (Salt Lake City: George Q. Cannon & Sons, 1893).

10. B. H. Roberts, The Missouri Persecutions (Salt Lake City: George Q. Cannon & Sons, 1900).

11. B. H. Roberts, The Rise and Fall of Nauvoo (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1900).

12. B. H. Roberts, The Life of John Taylor (Salt Lake City: George Q. Cannon & Sons, 1892).

13. B. H. Roberts, ed., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Period I. History of Joseph Smith, the Prophet. By Himself (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1902).

14. For a more detailed evaluation of Roberts as the editor of this history, see Dean C. Jessee, “The Reliability of Joseph Smith’s History,” Journal of Mormon History, 3 (1976):23-46, and Madsen, Defender of the Faith, 289-93.

15. Deseret News, 29 May, 11June 1904.

16. B. H. Roberts, “Attack on Book of Mormon” (1903), L.D.S. Church Archives.

17. Ibid., 6-7.

18. B. H. Roberts, “Translation of the Book of Mormon,” Improvement Era, 9 (Apr. 1906):430; 9 (May 1906):544, 548.

19. H. Chamberlain, “Letter to B. H. Roberts, from Spencer, Iowa, November 13, 1903,” Improvement Era, 7 (Jan. 1904):193-96.

20. G. A. Marr, “Letter to B. H. Roberts, March 19, 1925,” 19, L.D.S.Archives: for further information, see B. H. Roberts, Defense of the Faith and the Saints. 1 (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1907), 278ff.; for a modem reiteration of Roberts’s stance, see Edward H. Ashment, “The Book of Mormon-A Literal Translation,” Sunstone, 5 (Mar.-Apn 1980):10-14.

21. Roberts, ‘The Manner of Translating the Book of Mormon, New Witnesses for God, 2:106-21.

22. Paul R. Cheesman, The Keystone of Mormonism (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1973, 95-96; for an earlier and more critical evaluation of Book of Mormon changes, see also Lamoni Call, 2000 Changes in the Book of Mormon (Bountiful Utah: Lamoni Call, 1898).

23. B. H. Roberts, “Higher Criticism and the Book of Mormon,” Improvement Era, 14 (July 1911):781; B. H. Roberts, “An Objection to the Book of Mormon Answered; “ ibid., 12 (July 1909):681-89.

24. Journal History, 9 Nov. 1903, 3.

25. Roberts, “Life Story,” 214-16.

26. B. H. Roberts, “The Origin of the Book of Mormon,” American Historical Magazine, 3 (Sept. 1908):451, 441-68; 3 (Nov. 1908):551-80; 4 (Jan.1909):22-44; 4 (Mar. 1909):168-96. The four articles were later reprinted in Roberts, Defense of the Faith and the Saints, 2 (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1912), 1-229.

27. Roberts, “The Origin of the Book of Mormon,” American Historical Magazine, 4 (Man 1909):179-81, 196. An effective argument against the Spaulding theory about the origin of the Book of Mormon is Fawn Brodie’s No Man Knows My History, 2d ed. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979), 442-56 (Appendix B).

28. Joseph Smith, Jr., The Book of Mormon (Palmyra: Printed by E. B. Grandin, for the Author, 1830). For a modern evaluation of the many changes made in the language and format of the various editions of the Book of Mormon, see Cheesman, Keystone of Mormonism, 75-76, 84, 93-94. For example, Cheesman notes that there have been about 200 deletions of the phrase “and it came to pass” (93).

29. Roberts “Life Story,” 210.

30. B. H. Roberts, “Review of the New Manual,” Improvement Era, 8 (Aug. 1905):783-89.

31. B. H. Roberts, “New Witnesses for God. Volume II. The Book of Mormon, Part I,” Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association’s Manual, 1903-1904, no. 7 (Salt Lake City: The Deseret News, 1903):i-lxv.

32. B. H. Roberts, “Originality of the Book of Mormon,” Improvement Era, 8 (Oct. 1905):902.

33. Roberts, New Witnesses for God, 2 (1909):iii-viii.

34. Ibid., 45, 169-85, 199-200.

35. Ibid., 237-310, 311, 323, 326.

36. Ibid., 347-55.

37. Ibid., 356-70, 415-16.

38. Ibid., 417-41; 3 (1909)3-66, 82-87. Because Roberts discusses these antiquarian authorities and other more modem writers in much greater detail in his later Book of Mormon Studies included in this work, descriptions and citations of the materials involved have been deferred to the footnotes for those sections.

39. Roberts, New Witnesses for God, 3:87-90.

40. Ibid., 115-12, 170-78, 229-30, 329-31.

41. Ibid., 347-460.

42. Ibid., 461-510.

43. Ibid., 511-23.

44. Ibid., 524-33.

45. Ibid., 552-56.

46. Ibid., 557-61.

47. Roberts, Comprehensive History; Roberts, “Life Story,” 214-15.

48. Roberts, “Life Story,” 216-17; Roberts Comprehensive History, vii-ix.

49. J.O., “Mormons: Their Social and Economic Development,” in the Preface, found in Anthony W. Ivins Collection, Box 17, fd. 1:10, Utah State Historical Society, Salt Lake City; the editor has been unable to identify who “J.O.” was and whether or not a book by this title was published.

50. Samuel W. Taylor, Nightfall at Nauvoo (New York: Macmillan, 1971), 382.

51. J. M. Sjodahl, “Book of Mormon Facts,” Juvenile Instructor, 6 (June 1922):305-9; Roberts’s marginal note is at the bottom of the first page of a copy of the above article found in “Book of Mormon, Articles’ Ms. 106, box 5, fd. 3, Roberts Papers, Marriott Library.

52. J. Reuben Clark statement, 8 Apr. 1943, in “Budget Beginnings,” 11-12, Box 188, J. Reuben Clark Papers, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, as quoted by D. Michael Quinn in On Being a Mormon Historian (Salt Lake City: Modern Microlm Co., 1982), 8; Madsen, Defender of the Faith, 313-14; Deseret News, 12 Sept. 1919.

53. B. H. Roberts, “B. H. Roberts on the Intellectual and Spiritual Quest,” Dialogue, 13 (Summer 1980): 123-28.

54. B. H. Roberts’s Memorial Library of 1,385 Books, L.D.S. Archives.

55. B. H. Roberts, The Mormon Battalion: Its Historyd Achievements (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1919); Junius F. Wells, “The Mormon Battalion,” Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, July 1927, 98-99.

56. In giving a brief descriptive overview of the events and correspondence that led to Roberts’s study of Book of Mormon problems, it seems wise to defer exact citations and explanations of the people involved in the story to their appearance in the correspondence and in the meetings that took place.

57. George Franklin Richards, Diaries, L.D.S. Archives.

58. James E. Talmage, Journals, Jan. 1922-July 1933, Harold B. Lee Library.

59. Ibid., 26 Jan., 2 Feb., 28 Apr., 25 May 1922.

60. Wesley P. Lloyd, Personal Journal (in private possession), Monday, Aug. 7, 33. Permission to quote the Lloyd Journal has been given by the family.

61. Roberts, “Life Story,” 217; “Letter of B. H. Roberts to Isaac Russell, 25 October 1909,” and “Letter of B. H. Roberts to Isaac Russell, 9 September 1910,” Scott Kenney Papers, Special Collections, Marriott Library.

62. Roberts, “Life Story,” 217; B. H. Roberts Collection, Box 5, fd. 5 Special Collections, Marriott Library.

63. Massachusetts Conference of Eastern States Mission, President’s Records, June 1923, Jan., 22 Mar., 20 Sept. 1924, 1July 1926, L.D.S. Archives.

64. Inteiew of Roscoe A. Grover, by Gordon Irving, Salt Lake City, Utah, Feb.-Mar. 1979, Oral History Program, L.D.S. Archives; Massachusetts Conference of Eastern States Mission, President’s Records, 15 May 1927.

65. From a reference in the Lyman letter of Oct. 24, t927, it is evident that Roberts’s letter of Mar 15 should carry the date of 1922, not 1923. Additional support for this change of date comes from the fact that the original letter in the Roberts file is typed and has the printed letterhead, Salt Lake City, Utah, while the date has obviously been written later in ink and in Roberts’s handwnting. By 1923 Roberts was living in New York City as president of the Eastern States Mission and would have found it difficult to meet regularly with the committee composed of James E. Talmage, John A. Widtsoe, and the others who were residing in Salt Lake City.

66. Ariel L. Crowley, About the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1961), 131-32; Mervin B. Hogan, “‘A Parallel’: A Matter of Chance versus Coincidence,” Rocky Mountain Mason, 4 (Ian. 1956):17.18.

67. James Grant Wilson and John Fiske, eds., Appleton’s Cyclopedia of American Biography (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1888), 562-63; Joseph Sabin, A Dictionary of Books Relating to America (New York: Biographical Society of America, 1892-1928), 176-78; Zadock Thompson, History of Vermont (Burlington, Vt.: Chauncey Goodrich, 1842), 143. Daphne Bartholomew, librarian of the Poultney Public Library, in a letter to the editors of Aug. 20, 1982, indicates that, according to a History of Poultney, published in 1875, Smith was dismissed from his Poultney ministry because of a misunderstanding with one of the deacons of the church. See also Wesley P. Walters, “The Use of the Old Testament in the Book of Mormon” (M.A. thesis, Covenant Theological Seminar, St. Louis, 1981), 98.

68. Hal Hougey, “A Parallel”—The Basis of the Book of Mormon (Concord, Calif.: Pacific Publishing, 1963), 5-6; Larry W. Jonas, Mormon Claims Examined (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1961), 41-42; Robert N. Hullinger, “The Lost Tribes of Israel and the Book of Mormon,” Lutheran Quarterly, 22 (Aug. 1970): 327-29; Walters, “Use of the Old Testament in the Book of Mormon,” 97-98.

69. George E. Condon, Stars in the Water: The Story of the Erie Canal (New York: Doubleday, 1974), 4-5,115; Wayne Sentinel (Palmyra, N.Y.), 1 Oct. 1823-13 June 1828; I. Woodbridge Riley, The Founder of Mormonism (NewYork: Dodd, Mead, 1903), 124-25; Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 46-47; Walters, “Use of the Old Testament in the Book of Mormon,” 99.

70. Deseret News, 9 Apr. 1928. As already indicated in the Lloyd Journal, this assertion was in line with Roberts’s belief that the Doctrine and Covenants offered the strongest proof of the divinity of Joseph Smith.”

71. B. H. Roberts, “What College Did to My Religion,” as quoted in the Improvement Era, 36 (Mar. 1 933):259-61, from an article in the Atlantic Monthly, June 1932, by Philip E. Wentworth.

72. Deseret News, 8 Apr. 1929.

73. B. H. Roberts, Discourses of B. H. Roberts (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1948), foreword.

74. B. H. Roberts, “Joseph Smith: An Appreciation,” Improvement Era, 36 (Dec. 1932):81.

75. B. H. Roberts, Conference Reports, Apr. 1933, 117, L.D.S. Archives.


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