Gregory: “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”
— “Silver Blaze“, Arthur Conan Doyle (1892)
One of the standard secular explanations for Joseph Smith’s production of the Book of Mormon is that he cribbed from the Bible, in particular from the Old Testament — not just in taking direct quotes from Isaiah and Malachi, but in themes, events, situations, and the like. In my opinion, there are profound flaws with such an explanation, which could (and do) fill several books, but there you go.
Along those lines, there are two themes commonly found through the historical sections of the Old Testament that are curious by their absence (or near-absence) in the Book of Mormon — at least, curious if you consider the Book of Mormon to have been “inspired by” the Old Testament. Those themes are burial locations and romance/marriage.
The Old Testament history is full of details about the burial of various major and minor characters, including the names of the places of where they were buried (check out these references). Yet the Book of Mormon is quite silent on that matter, with only one real exception: Ishmael being buried at Nahom. Make no mistake — the Book of Mormon talks a lot about burial per se, usually mass burials of soldiers or victims of wars and other disasters; it also talks about the deaths of key individuals quite frequently. What it rarely does, unlike the Old Testament, is talk about the burial of a given dead individual. Lehi is the only other person whose burial is explicitly mentioned, though no location is named; on the other hand, the disappearance of Alma2 leads to speculation that he was either “taken up by the Spirit, or buried by the hand of the Lord.” (Alma 45:19).
The second curious absence involves marriage and romance. The Old Testament history is full of marriages and not a little romance as well (notwithstanding the meme that “romance” is a relatively modern invention). Time and again, the Old Testament record names wives and in some cases records details about how the marriage came to be and about the marriage itself. Indeed, these are some of the best known stories out of the Old Testament: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel, and so on.
The Book of Mormon, by contrast, is profoundly silent on wives, marriage, and romance. Of Lehi’s initial party, we know Sariah’s name, but not that of any of the other women, includng Ishamel’s and Nephi’s own wives. And after Sariah, not another wife is named in the Book of Mormon. There are references to marriage (usually as groups, much as with burials) and to wives (ditto), but there are only a few references to one individual marrying another — and the wife is never named.
Having just written the above, and while doing a bit of online searching, I ran across this essay by Orson Scott Card, which I’m sure I have read at one time or another. In the section titled “American Culture and the Book of Mormon” and in the subsection titled “Women”, he makes the same point, but more broadly, more eloquently and in more detail. He even points out that there are only three named women in the entire Book of Mormon [i.e., within its historical record, as compared to mentions of Eve, Sarah, and Mary]: Sariah, the harlot Isabel, and the servant woman Abish. Again, this stands in stark contrast to the many women named — and often playing an important role — in the Old Testament.
Along those lines, here are a few more links:
- “Ten Women in the Book of Mormon“, a blog post calling out ten key women in the Book of Mormon
- “Women in the Book of Mormon” by Camille Williams (JMBS 11:1), a scholarly paper discussing the relative lack of women discussed and named in the Book of Mormon
Just my thought for the day. ..bruce..