One-Minute Answers by Stephen R. Gibson

Contents of One-Minute Answers

Does The Book of Mormon Quote Shakespeare?

Question: Didn't Joseph Smith quote from William Shakespeare in 2 Nephi 1:14?

While it is true that both the Book of Mormon and William Shakespeare used forms of the phrase "from which no traveler can return," critics are far from proving plagiarism. Let us look at the facts.

First, if one uses three words such as "Give me liberty," is he plagiarizing Patrick Henry, or did he just have similar thoughts? Obviously, a similarity of short phrases does not prove plagiarism.

Second, one would have to show that Joseph Smith not only had access to the works of Shakespeare (something which certainly has not been proven by those making the accusation), but that he actually read the Bard of Avon. This would be highly unlikely for an unlearned farmer boy.

Third, some scholars now claim that Shakespeare himself borrowed many phrases from the Bible as he wrote Hamlet, Act 3. This is particularly evident from reading the Geneva Bible version of Job 10:21. The very phrase that anti-Mormon critics accuse Joseph Smith of "borrowing from Shakespeare" is repeated at least six times in the Old Testament.

If this phrase was an inspircd thought for Job, David and other prophets in the Old Testamcnt it could certainly be an inspired thought from the same God to the prophet Lehi. Perhaps, then, Shakespeare himself "borrowed" it first from the Old Testament the same place from which Joseph Smith may have borrowed that wording. Or perhaps, as one researcher said, "Shakespeare may have received by theft what Joseph Smith received by inspiration."

FARMS researchers have shown that the idea and expression in 2 Nephi 1:13-15 was abundantly used from Mesopotamia to Egypt during Lehi's time. Joseph Smith had no way of knowing how commonly the thought "from which there is no return" was used anciently, but Lehi felt comfortable using it.

Finally, we have no right to limit the Lord. When someone says that God will not or cannot inspire different men in different places in different times with the same information or thoughts (i.e., Lehi, Job, Joseph Smith, and even Shakespeare), they are attempting to limit Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. This fallacy is certainly non-Biblical.