The Book of Mormon and Romans


As the seminal work on New Testament theology, we can expect the book of Romans to provide some ideas for the Book of Mormon. Indeed, this is so. We will see that Smith borrowed not only quotes from the book, but also fairly sophisticated concepts which he worked into the theology of the Book of Mormon.

Vain Imaginations

Romans 1:21 ...but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. I Nephi 2:11 ...And this they said he had done because of the foolish imaginations of his heart.
I Nephi 12:18 And the large and spacious building, which thy father saw, is vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men...
I Nephi 17:20 And thou art like unto our father, led away by the foolish imaginations of his heart...

The word "imaginations" only appears in its plural form in the Book of Mormon. It is used three times, once with the word "vain", and twice in the phrase "foolish imaginations of his heart".

The Day of Wrath

Romans 2:5 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God... Helaman 8:25 ...and even at this time, instead of laying up for yourselves treasures in are heaping up for yourselves wrath against the day of judgment.

It is instructive to note that the word 'impenitent' is used only twice in the Book of Mormon. Although, it does not appear in Helaman 8:25, it is found just two chapters earlier, in Helaman 6:2, where it occurs in context with the word 'hardened'. The other occurrence is Alma 47:36, where it again appears with the word 'hardened'.

None that doeth Good

Romans 3:12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. II Nephi 28:11 Yea, they have all gone out of the way; they have become corrupted.
Moroni 7:17 ...for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one...
Moroni 10:25 ...for there shall be none that doeth good among you, no not one...

The Law as a Symbol

Although the Book of Mormon repeatedly claims that the Nephites kept the Law of Moses, it also claims that they understood that the Law merely foreshadowed Christ (Mosiah 16:14). This is also a major theme of the book of Romans.

Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight... II Nephi 2:5 And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified...

Some of Paul's other comments on the meaning of the Law are also found in the Book of Mormon.

Romans 4:3: was counted unto him for righteousness. Moroni 7:7 For behold, it is not counted unto him for righteousness.
Romans 4:15: ...where no law is, there is no transgression. II Nephi 9:25 Wherefore, he has given a law; and where there is no law given there is no punishment; and where there is no punishment there is no condemnation...

Shed Abroad

Romans 5:5 ...because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. I Nephi 11:22 ...Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men...

Another quote from Romans 5 appears in the Book of Mormon.

Romans 5:12 ...and so death passed upon all men... II Nephi 9:6 For as death hath passed upon all men...

The Wages of Sin

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death... Alma 5:42 And whosoever doeth this must receive his wages of him; therefore, for his wages he receiveth death...

Wretched Man

Romans 7:24 O wretched man that I am!... II Nephi 4:17 ...O wretched man that I am!...

This is the only place that the word 'wretched' is used in the Book of Mormon.

Carnally Minded

Romans 8:6,7 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God... II Nephi 9:39 ...Remember, to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life eternal.
Mosiah 3:19 For the natural man is an enemy to God...

The word 'carnally' is used only once in the Book of Mormon, here in II Nephi 9:39.

Grafting Olive Branches

One of the major themes of Romans is the rejection and restoration of the nation of Israel. Paul made extensive use of the allegory of an olive-tree in his analysis of the problem. He pictured the Gentiles being 'grafted in' as wild branches to the 'natural' olive tree, the original nation of Israel.

The Book of Mormon, too, makes use of the allegory of an olive tree to represent the nation Israel, and also speaks of 'wild' branches being grafted into 'tame' trees. This principle is alluded to in I Nephi, and underpins Zenos' parable of the vineyard, found in Jacob 5.

Romans 11:17,24,33 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree...For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? I Nephi 10:12 Yea, even my father spake much concerning the Gentiles, and also concerning the house of Israel, that they should be compared like unto an olive-tree, whose branches should be broken off and should be scattered upon all the face of the earth.
I Nephi 10:14 And after the house of Israel should be scattered they should be gathered together again; or, in fine, after the Gentiles had received the fulness of the Gospel, the natural branches of the olive-tree, or the remnants of the house of Israel, should be grafted in...
I Nephi 15:12 ...the house of Israel was compared unto an olive-tree...and behold are we not broken off from the house of Israel, and are we not a branch of the house of Israel?
I Nephi 19:24 who are a remnant of the house of Israel, a branch who have been broken off...
Jacob 5:9 Take thou the branches of the wild olive-tree, and graft them in, in the stead thereof; and these which I have plucked off I will cast into the fire and burn them, that they may not cumber the ground of my vineyard.
Jacob 5:10 ...and grafted in the branches of the wild olive-tree.
Jacob 5:17 ...the tree in the which the wild olive branches had been grafted...
Jacob 5:30 ...they came to the tree whose natural branches had been broken off, and the wild branches had been grafted in...
Jacob 5:34 ...Behold, because thou didst graft in the branches of the wild olive-tree they have nourished the roots...
Jacob 5:55 ...they took from the natural tree...and grafted in unto the natural trees...
Jacob 5:67,68 And the branches of the natural tree will I graft in again into the natural tree; And the branches of the natural tree will I graft into the natural branches of the tree...

More support for the theory that Smith was inspired by Romans 11 is found in the fact that another quote from this chapter appears in the Book of Mormon, also in the book of Jacob.

Romans 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! Jacob 4:8 Behold, great and marvelous are the works of the Lord. How unsearchable are the depths of the mysteries of him; and it is impossible that man should find out all his ways...

Vengeance is Mine

Romans 12:19 ...for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Deuteronomy 32:35 To me belongeth vengeance and recompence... Mormon 3:15 Vengeance is mine, and I will repay...
Mormon 8:20 Behold what the scripture says--man shall not smite, neither shall he judge; for judgment is mine, saith the Lord, and vengeance is mine also, and I will repay.

The Old Testament passage that Paul referred to in Romans 12:19 was probably Deuteronomy 32:35. Once again, however, we see that the Book of Mormon quotes a New Testament paraphrase of an Old Testament passage, even though it explicitly states '...the scripture says...'.


We have seen that Paul's allegory of Israel as an olive tree inspired large parts of the Book of Mormon. It laid the foundation for Zenos' parable in Jacob 5, and Smith used the concept to justify his interpretation of the restoration of Israel.

Contents Copyright 1997 Curt van den Heuvel

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