I was talking to someone the other day about the validity of the Book of Mormon and whether Joseph Smith could have written it or not. It really got me thinking about the subject and I wanted to share some of my thoughts here.
Personally, I think it is virtually impossible that he could have written that book out of his own imagination and with his personal knowledge base. I admit that nothing is *impossible*, but seriously, in my opinion, the chances that he wrote the book are, like, less than .1%
I estimate the Book of Mormon to be roughly 254,000 words. (I counted the words on 3 random pages and averaged them out, then multiplied that by the number of pages in the book.) 254,000 words is a very large book.
To put it in perspective, I used the same method to estimate the number of words in "Breaking Dawn" by Stephanie Meyer and there are about 170,000 words in that book.
To use another example, there are probably about 187,000 words in The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings. (That estimate is based on a number someone posted on the internet by a person who estimated it using the same method I employed above.)
As far as Breaking Dawn goes, I think it's safe to say that The Book of Mormon has a LOT more substance to it. To be fair, though, I admit that The Lord of the Rings is significantly more substantial than Breaking Dawn.
Historical sources estimate that it took Joseph Smith 80 days to "write" The Book of Mormon.
It took Stephanie Meyer about 1 year to write Breaking Dawn.
Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings in roughly 4 years.
Stephanie Meyer was 35 years old and had a bachelor's degree in English literature when Breaking Dawn was published.
Tolkien was 62 and was a major scholar of the English language, specializing in Old and Middle English and twice Professor of Anglo-Saxon (Old English) at the University of Oxford.
Joseph Smith was a 25-year-old farm boy with the formal education level of a current-day 4th grader when The Book of Mormon was published. It's true that he was much more bright and introspective than the average bear, but it is too much of a stretch for my mind to make to believe he could have written that book from his own personal knowledge and education.
If Joseph Smith did write The Book of Mormon, he was the most brilliant writer in the history of the world. And it just so happened that he was also a religious fanatic who wanted to deceive the whole world into thinking he had seen angels and translated a book from a set of gold plates. What a coincidence that one person would be both of those things.
On top of that, I just want to talk about the structure, story, POV, etc. in the Book of Mormon from a writer's perspective. I've tried to write a book and it is HARD. There is so much to keep straight. I find myself often trying to remember how old one of my characters is, or what name I had given to their mother, and a hundred other details. What was the name of the town they grew up in, again? Who was that person they met in chapter 2? And that's with a story that only has a dozen or so prominent characters, and the whole story being told from the same point of view.
The Book of Mormon, on the other hand, features so great a number of characters, I couldn't even begin to estimate how many there are. And the stories are told from so many different peoples' points of view. And never do the different characters vary in form throughout their section of the book. When Mormon is abridging parts of the book or summarizing them, he often says, "And thus we see . . ." and goes on to give the moral of the story. Never does Nephi or Alma or any of the other characters do such a thing. What book have you read recently that didn't break POV at least once?
And, there is the fact that Joseph would have had to know a lot of things about Middle Eastern life and cultures. How many books do you think there were in the Palmyra City Library in 1825 about the methods used to graft in branches on wild and tame olive trees? It is different than the care of any kind of tree Joseph could have known about in upper state New York, yet he described exactly how it is done in Jacob 5.
Authors who write about another culture do a LOT of research in order to get all their facts straight. If there had been a professor in Joseph's home town who taught him all of these kinds of things, or if he spent countless hours at a university library, I think someone would have known about it.
Meyer and Tolkien had editors and publishers they worked with to help them correct mistakes in their books. I don't know about Tolkien, but I know Meyer sends her manuscripts out to readers, who help her figure out some of the things she needs to change to make the story make sense, flow better, etc. Joseph Smith had none of that.
Sorry to ramble on for so long, but I've been thinking a lot about this. Especially now, as I'm trying to get back into writing the book I'm working on and struggling with it. I have a lot of reasons to believe the church is true, but I'm not trying to bear my testimony here. :) I just wanted to comment on some of my thoughts about The Book of Mormon from a writer's perspective.
If any of you have thoughts about what I've written (as opposed to bashing on the church) I'd love to hear your perspectives.