Mark Twain’s Review of the Book of Mormon

From Twain’s “Roughing It”

The book seems to be merely a prosy detail of imaginary history, with the Old Testament for a model; followed by a tedious plagiarism of the New Testament. The author labored to give his words and phrases the quaint, old-fashioned sound and structure of our King James’s translation of the Scriptures; and the result is a mongrel — half modern glibness, and half ancient simplicity and gravity. The latter is awkward and constrained; the former natural, but grotesque by the contrast. Whenever he found his speech growing too modern — which was about every sentence or two — he ladled in a few such Scriptural phrases as “exceeding sore,” “and it came to pass,” etc., and made things satisfactory again. “And it came to pass” was his pet. If he had left that out, his Bible would have been only a pamphlet.

Comments

17 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. I’m pretty sure Mark Twain is the best literary critic to ever walk the earth. I used his reviews of James Fenimore Cooper in a high school project to back up my argument that The Last of the Mohicans and The Deerslayer are two of the most miserable novels in American literature.

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  2. crunchy,

    I feel his pain in reading those books of the Mormon bible, but he never felt the pain associated with reading from a poorly designed website like that one!

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  3. six,

    it came to pass….. for the LOVE OF GOD, it came to paaaaaaaaaaaaassssss.

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  4. Anna,

    best literary critic? oh-ha, not so. The guy can’t even read the table of contents!

    “the books of Jacob, Enos, Jarom, Omni, Mosiah, Zeniff, Alma, Helaman, Ether, Moroni, two “books” of Mormon, and three of Nephi.”

    #1: there is no book of Zeniff. It talks about him, but he does not have an entire book named after him. He can be found in the book of Mosiah.

    #2: there are four books of Nephi.

    And this is just part of the things he got wrong. I love the man to death, but he really needs to get his facts straight.

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  5. Joe,

    Well I don’t know what Anna is talking about, ’cause I see nothing she mentioned within the context stated above. I pretty much had the same problem as Twain when I tried to read the book of Mormon.

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  6. Gene Thomas,

    With the above link to Twain’s Roughing It is broken, you read the chapter on the BOM here: http://www.mtwain.com/Roughing_It/17.html

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  7. Justin,

    It’s very possible that when Mark Twain read the book of Mormon, there WERE only three books of Nephi – especially since the book of Mormon is ever so changing.

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  8. RJ,

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zy0d1HbItOo

    That is all I am going to say on the matter, one should also look into the full story of how Mr. Smith came across the original book of mormon. It all sounds a little fishy to me

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  9. Rachel,

    How exactly is it ever changing Justin? Cause, we have a pretty old copy, and it’s the same as the one I can pick up in both the church bookstore, and Borders.

    I understand that being Mormon is still, and likely always going to be, controversial. My point is, if you’re going to complain about the church, or want to argue whether it’s right or wrong, get your facts straight. That includes getting the facts on the actual church, and not the one run by Warren Jeffs… they’re about as bad as Scientologists :D

    As to coming across the Book of Mormon seeming fishy… I’d like to point out a few things here.

    For one, we do NOT consider the Book of Mormon, Doctorine and Covenants, or the Pearl of Great Price, books of the Bible. They are considered a companion of the Bible, and to be used in conjunction with. We use the same bible everyone else does.

    For two, How many of you here are mainstream Christians? How many of you Mainstream Christians follow the word of God every day? How many of you shove you’re religion down peoples throats, without praticing what you’re preaching to them? How many of you have something like a Family Home Evening, or a Relief Society weekly, to help your community?

    …How many of you would help a family that is not a “Christian” or a member of your church?

    How many feel pious because they go to church for two hours on Sunday, and do as they please the rest of the week?

    I’m not saying you have to be Mormon. Seriously, do what makes you happy. The only person responsible for your soul is YOU. But don’t practice your religion… LIVE it.

    And seriously guys… we can all be gung ho about some books written over 2,000 years ago, when we have no way of knowing who actually wrote them… but the Book of Mormon is a problem?

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  10. outeast,

    Yup, we’re all about mainstream Christianity here at Cynical-C. Except for Chris, of course – he’s a Seventh Day Adventist, IIRC.

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  11. Brian,

    Whoa whoa whoa Rachel…

    Your defensiveness is all too apparent.

    The question is not about whether mainstream Christians follow the Word of God everyday, but it is about the Book of Mormon. Is it true, or is it a butchered KJV?

    The fact you attack mainstream Christians (not unwarranted perhaps) in substitution for arguing the literary weight of the Book of Mormon shows ignorance and/or fear of arguing the point made.

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  12. abc,

    If the book of Mormon is based on the Bible, and then a Mormon attacks the Bible, then they are attacking the basis of their religion. And don’t say it’s not based on the Bible, because they talk about Jesus and then try to get to Christians by saying they’re all about Jesus.

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  13. Patrick,

    I think it’s funny how someone tried to “create” a religion by basing it on a religion, that when evaluated analytically, is about as inconsistent as it can get. If you are going to plagiarize, at least use a reliable source so your “work” won’t get discredited when the other one is. The bible has been discredited already which in turn, discredits the BoM.

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  14. Jessie,

    The Bible has not been discredited. People still believe in it.

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  15. 1984,

    Yes. despite any evidence to support it.

    Just another fan club of many..

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  16. BillE,

    If you think about it, Mormonism is a lot like Islam. Both religions are a mixture of Judaism and Christianity (Yes, Muslims believe in Jesus, though don’t believe he is God) and both religions added an enlightened prophet to their faith in order to differentiate it from the two main religions they stole from. Think about it.

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  17. Adam,

    It’s funny how people call it plagiarism when they also claim everything came out of Joseph Smith’s head. If both books are the works of God’s people from similar, but different heritages, doesn’t that mean they have the rights to the words? That would be like Mr. Twain here “plagiarizing” his own Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

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