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The Book of Mormon and Acts


Introduction

Joseph Smith apparently made use of the Book of Acts in two ways. Firstly, there are a number of quotes from the book which are peppered throughout the Book of Mormon. Secondly, a few of the events described in Acts are carried over into the Book of Mormon.

Acts as a Textual Source

A Vapour of Smoke

Acts chapter 2 contains a sermon given by Peter at the occasion of Pentecost. Verses 16 through 21 are quoted from the Old Testament book of Joel. One of these verses seems to have found it's way into the Book of Mormon as well.

Acts 2:19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke... Joel 2:30 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.

As we have seen previously (and will see again), the Book of Mormon occasionally quotes a New Testament paraphrase of an Old Testament passage. This is one such occasion.

Acts 2:19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke... Mormon 8:29 ...there shall be heard of fires, and tempests, and vapors of smoke...
I Nephi 22:18 ...even blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke must come...

Note that both the Book of Mormon and Acts use the word 'vapour', while the Old Testament uses the word 'pillars'.

Repent and be Baptized

Another famous verse from Peter's sermon is found scattered throughout the Book of Mormon.

Acts 2:38: Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. II Nephi 9:23 And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name...
II Nephi 31:11 And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.
II Nephi 31:17 For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.
III Nephi 11:37 ...ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name...And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name...
III Nephi 18:11 And this shall ye always do to those who repent and are baptized in my name...
III Nephi 18:16 ...among my people who do repent and are baptized in my name...
III Nephi 21:6 ...that they may repent and come unto me and be baptized in my name...
III Nephi 27:20 ...Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name...
III Nephi 30:2 ...repent of your evil doings...and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, that ye may receive a remission of your sins, and be filled with the Holy Ghost...
IV Nephi 1:1 ...and did truly repent of their sins, were baptized in the name of Jesus; and they did also receive the Holy Ghost.
Mormon 3:2 ...Repent ye, and come unto me, and be ye baptized...
Mormon 7:8 Therefore repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus...
Ether 4:18 Therefore, repent all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me, and believe in my gospel, and be baptized in my name...
Moroni 7:34 ...Repent all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name...

All Thing Common

The early Christian Church seems to have been organised along the lines of a commune. The believers, coming, as they did, from the lower strata of society, tended to share their goods one with another. A similar thing seems to have happened to the early Nephite Christians.

Acts 2:44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common... III Nephi 26:19 ...and they had all things common among them...
IVNephi 1:3 And they had all things common among them...

A Prophet Like Unto Me

First Nephi chapter 22 contains a quote from Deuteronomy 18.

Deuteronomy 18:15,19 The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken......And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.

Strangely enough, however, the Book of Mormon paraphrase of Deuteronomy is almost identical to that of Peter's in Acts chapter 3.

Acts 3:22,23 For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. I Nephi 22:20 And the Lord will surely prepare a way for his people, unto the fulfilling of the words of Moses, which he spake, saying: A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that all those who will not hear that prophet shall be cut off from among the people.

Even stranger still, we find that Jesus Himself was apparently not immune to this problem.

III Nephi 20:23 Behold, I am he of whom Moses spake, saying: A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that every soul who will not hear that prophet shall be cut off from among the people.

Again, Jesus' paraphrase of Deuteronomy is much closer to Acts than it is to the Old Testament. What is even more interesting is that Jesus then went on to quote more of Peter's sermon.

Acts 3:24 Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. III Nephi 20:24 Verily I say unto you, yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have testified of me.
25 Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. 25 And behold, ye are the children of the prophets; and ye are of the house of Israel; and ye are of the covenant which the Father made with your fathers, saying unto Abraham: And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.
26 Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities. 26 The Father having raised me up unto you first, and sent me to bless you in turning away every one of you from his iniquities; and this because ye are the children of the covenant...

There can be very little doubt that these passages have a common source. Was Jesus quoting Peter, before he actually gave this sermon? Was Peter quoting Jesus? Or, was Joseph Smith quoting Peter quoting Deuteronomy? There is more evidence on the side of this latter thesis - another part of Peter's sermon shows up in the Book of Mormon, in fact, the verse immediately preceding the quote from Deuteronomy.

Acts 3:21 ...until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. I Nephi 3:20 ...the words which have been spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets...since the world began...
II Nephi 9:2 That he has spoken unto the Jews, by the mouth of his holy prophets, even from the beginning down...until the time comes that they shall be restored...
Alma 40:22 Yea, this bringeth about the restoration of those things of which has been spoken by the mouths of the prophets.

No Other Name

Another of Peter's sermons, recorded in Acts chapter 4, seems to have supplied a few verses in the Book of Mormon.

Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. II Nephi 25:20 ...there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ...whereby man can be saved.
II Nephi 31:21 ...this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God...
Mosiah 3:17 ...there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ...
Mosiah 5:8 ...There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh...

A quote from another part of Peter' sermon in Acts 4 also seems to have found it's way into the Book of Mormon.

Acts 4:30 ...the name of thy holy child Jesus. Moroni 8:3 ...the name of his Holy Child, Jesus...

The Gall of Bitterness

Peter's rebuke to Simon the Sorcerer, recorded in Acts 8, seems to have made a strong impression on Joseph Smith.

Acts 8:23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Mosiah 27:29 My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity...
Alma 36:18 ...who am in the gall of bitterness...
Alma 41:11 ...in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity...
Mormon 8:31 ...for they are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity.
Moroni 8:14 ...he...is in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity...

The word 'gall' is used only five times in the Book of Mormon - every time in the same context as Acts 8:23. Exactly the same situation applies to the word 'bitterness'.

The quotation in Mosiah 27 is interesting, because it occurs in the context of Alma's conversion, which, as we shall see, appears to have been inspired by the account of Paul's conversion. It is therefore significant that Paul's conversion account is recorded in Acts chapter 9 - the chapter immediately following Peter's words to Simon.

The Enemy of Righteousness

Just as Peter rebuked Simon the Sorcerer, so Paul rebuked another sorcerer, by the name of Elymas, in Acts chapter 10. This rebuke also appears to have stuck in the Prophet's mind.

Acts 13:10 ...thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? I Nephi 13:27 ...that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord...
I Nephi 22:14 ...who hath perverted the right ways of the Lord...
II Nephi 28:15 ...and pervert the right way of the Lord...
Jacob 7:7 ...they pervert the right way of God...
Mosiah 2:37 ...and becometh an enemy to all righteousness...
Mosiah 4:14 ...he being an enemy to all righteousness.
Mosiah 12:26 ...wo be unto you for perverting the ways of the Lord!...ye have perverted the ways of the Lord.
Mosiah 29:23 ...and thus an unrighteous king doth pervert the ways of all righteousness.
Alma 10:18 Ye are laying plans to pervert the ways of the righteous...
Alma 31:11 ...they did pervert the ways of the Lord...
Alma 34:23 ...who is an enemy to all righteousness.
Moroni 8:16 Wo be unto them that shall pervert the ways of the Lord...
Moroni 9:6 ...that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness...

The word 'pervert' is used ten times in the Book of Mormon - every time in the same context as Acts 13:10.

God Commandeth All Men

During his sermon on Mars Hill, Paul made the following statement, which also found it's way into the Book of Mormon...

Acts 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent... II Nephi 9:23 And he commandeth all men that they must repent...
III Nephi 11:32 ...the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent...

Uncircumcised of Heart

During Stephen's final address, he made a following comment which appears in the Book of Mormon.

Acts 7:51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears... II Nephi 9:33 Wo unto the uncircumcised of heart...
Helaman 9:21 ...ye uncircumcised of heart... ye stiffnecked people...

The word 'uncircumcised' is used four times in the Book of Mormon. On two occasions, it appears in a quote from Isaiah 52:1. The other two times, it is used in the same sense as Acts 7:51.

Other Quotes

Peter's rebuke to Ananias and Sapphira, recorded in Acts 5, also has an echo in the Book of Mormon.

Acts 5:4 ...thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. Alma 12:3 ...for thou hast not lied unto men only but thou hast lied unto God..

Alma 12 contains what appears to be another quote from Acts.

Acts 24:15 ...there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. Alma 12:8 ...the resurrection of the dead...both the just and the unjust...

The word 'unjust' is used only here in the Book of Mormon.

Acts 8:39 ...the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip... I Nephi 11:1 ...I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord...

This is the only place where the phrase "caught away" appears in the Book of Mormon.

Finally, the phrase 'the quick and the dead' appears in both Acts and the Book of Mormon.

Acts 10:42 ...it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. Moroni 10:34 ...the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead...

The word 'quick' is here used in it's archaic, KJV sense of 'alive'. It is used in this sense in only one other place in the Book of Mormon, Helaman 3:29, which happens to be a quote from Hebrews 4:12.

Acts as a Narrative Source

It would appear that Joseph Smith lifted not only quotes from the book of Acts, but narrative events as well.

The Conversion of Alma

Mosiah 27:10-24 recounts the story of the conversion of Alma. Skeptics have often pointed out that this story has much in common with Paul's conversion, recorded in Acts 9:1-18.

- Both Alma and Paul persecuted the Christian Church. (Mosiah 27:10 and Acts 9:1-2)

- Both were visited by a heavenly messenger. (Mosiah 27:11 and Acts 9:3)

- Both 'fell to the earth' with the Visitation. (Mosiah 27:12 and Acts 9:4)

- The Messenger accused both of persecuting the Church. (Mosiah 27:13 and Acts 9:4)

- Alma was struck dumb after the vision; Paul became blind. (Mosiah 27:19 and Acts 9:8)

- Both were led away by their companions to another city. (Mosiah 27:19 and Acts 9:8)

- Both were healed after the intervention of a Christian. (Mosiah 27:22-23 and Acts 9:17-18)

There are other clues that indicate that the story of Alma's conversion was actually patterned after Paul's conversion in Acts 9. Firstly, as we saw earlier, Alma uses the phrase 'gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity' (Mosiah 27:29) which is found in Acts 8, the chapter immediately preceding the account of Paul's conversion in Acts 9. Secondly, a quote from Acts 9 appears elsewhere in the Book of Mormon.

Acts 9:18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith... II Nephi 30:6 ...and their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes...

The word 'scales' appears only once in the Book of Mormon - in this verse.

Alma's Escape from Prison

Alma 14 contains an account of a miraculous escape from prison. Alma and Amulek escape after an earthquake broke apart the prison walls. In Acts 16, we find a that a similar event occurred to Paul and Silas. Both were cast into prison for preaching the Gospel (Alma 14:22 and Acts 16:23), and both were rescued after an earthquake damaged the prison (Alma 14:27 and Acts 16:26).

Conclusion

The book of Acts seems to have been a fruitful source for Joseph Smith, both for textual quotes and narrative inspiration. Since Acts records the origins of the early Christian Church, Smith appears to have made use of it in the same sense in the Book of Mormon. The life of Alma has a lot in common with that of Paul.

We have seen here more examples of Smith's mode of borrowing - certain phrases seem to have stuck in his mind, and they appear on the lips of many different Book of Mormon characters, in widely separated time frames. We have also seen how the Book of Mormon often quotes New Testament paraphrases of Old Testament sources, rather than quoting the Old Testament itself. We have also seen that there is a possibility that Smith borrowed some events from the New Testament for narrative purposes. We will see all of these again.


Contents Copyright 1997 Curt van den Heuvel

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