“Another fascinating book published in 1809, The First Book of Napoleon, is shocking… It’s like reading from the Book of Mormon.”
In 2014, a group “analyzed 110,000 books” to find “phrases matched with the Book of Mormon.” They found a bunch of matches in a random book called The First Book of Napoleon, the Tyrant of the Earth.
CES Letter snips short phrases out of context and out of order. People often use three dots known as “ellipses” to paraphrase when they are quoting someone, but the phrases should be in the same order which they originally appear. CES Letter picks out small parts and rearrange them out of order into a single sentence, to make them sound similar to the Book of Mormon. Additionally, CES Letter cherry-picks words and phrases that are mentioned many times in the text and are not unique:
“Condemn not the (writing)(misquote)…an account(this phrase appears 21 times)…the First Book of Nephi(misquote & wrong location)…upon the face of the earth(this phrase appears 26 times)…it came to pass(this phrase appears 1,297 times)…the land(this phrase appears 786 times)…his inheritance and his gold and his silver and(misquote & wrong location)…the commandments of the Lord(this phrase appears 27 times)…the foolish imaginations of his heart…large in stature(wrong location, doesn’t match First Book of Napoleon)…Jerusalem(this word appears 27 times)…because of the wickedness of the people.(this phrase appears 7 times)
(Not a single sentence)”
|“…condemn not the things of God…The First Book of Nephi …his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and…large in stature…an account…upon the face of the earth…it came to pass …the land …the commandments of the Lord…the foolish imaginations of his heart…Jerusalem… because of the wickedness of the people…”|
“Condemn not the (writing)…an account…the First Book of Napoleon…upon the face of the earth(this phrase appears 2 times)…it came to pass(this phrase appears 13 times)…the land…their inheritances their gold and silver and(misquote & wrong location)…the commandments of the Lord(this phrase appears 2 times)…the foolish imaginations of their hearts…small in stature…Jerusalem(this phrase appears 5 times)…because of the perverse wickedness of the people(wrong location, 2 mentions).
(Not a single sentence)”
|“…condemn not the feebly imitative manner of writing…the First Book of Napoleon…upon the face of the earth…it came to pass…their inheritances, their gold and silver …the land…the commandments of the Lord…the foolish imaginations of their hearts…because of the perverse wickedness …small in stature…Jerusalem.”|
Common Phrases Do Not Indicate Relationship
“When I first read this along with other passages from The First Book of Napoleon, I was floored. Here we have two early 19th century contemporary books written at least a decade before the Book of Mormon that not only read and sound like the Book of Mormon but which also carry so many of its parallels and themes as well.”
Why would this surprise you? Most of these cherry-picked words and short phrases are mentioned hundreds or thousands of times throughout the Book of Mormon. This is the same game CES Letter‘s source played in their previous argument, where they picked phrases which showed up many times throughout the chapters they were analyzing and claimed that it was symmetrical. There is no logical pattern in picking a few very common words to show some kind of order. Additionally, they are very common words and phrases for people in the 19th century.
A simple Google search shows how common these words and phrases are in their library of popular 19th century books:
|Parallel Phrase:||# Of 19th Century Books That Contain This Phrase:|
“Condemn not the”
“The First Book of”
“Upon the face of the earth”
“It came to pass”
Inheritance… gold and… silver and
“the commandments of the Lord”
“foolish imaginations of”… heart
“because of the”… wickedness
The phrase “the land” shows up 1,297 times within the Book of Mormon and 1.5 million times in other 19th century books. You are really going to try to claim that as a parallel? Everybody was saying it! There is only one true parallel that I could find: “The foolish imaginations of his/their heart(s).” This only shows up 386 times in Google’s collection of 19th century books, that I could find, though that does not include books from the 18th century or older, or more obscure books. You are really going to claim based on one tiny parallel phrase that this book reads and sounds like the Book of Mormon, with the same parallels and themes?
Coincidental Phrases – The problem with this study is that books share random phrases all the time, especially if they are both based on bible language, which these two books are, or were written around the same time. Pick any random phrase from the Book of Mormon; for example, Alma 32:16- “blessed are they who humble themselves.” Google search this exact phrase for 19th century books. The result is at least three non-Mormon books: The Divine Word Opened. Sermons. (Third Edition.), The Family Fire-side Book: Or, Monuments of Temperance, The American Temperance Magazine, and Sons of Temperance. Does that mean Joseph Smith stole this phrase from one of these books? This approach only looks for coincidences and does nothing to show how one book might be related to the other.
But let’s say that they are correct, that Joseph Smith did read this book and it did influence the phrases that show up in the Book of Mormon. So what? Does this prove that the Book of Mormon is made up? No, of course not! With any translation there are all kinds of idioms that translators can translate into whatever they feel is suitable, and they might translate it into an idiom that they happened to read in some book once. For example, “foolish imaginations” is a phrase that is likely to appear in someone’s translation if that is a phrase the translator commonly uses in his day to day life.
Cherry-pick a handful of common phrases which happen to exist in both books, and arrange them out of order into a sentence with a bunch of ellipses? You can do this with almost any book in existence. There are tens of thousands of 19th century books that share a handful or more of short phrases with the Book of Mormon. Take your pick!
The First Book of Napoleon is a totally different book than the Book of Mormon. In order to make them sounds similar, you have to twist what the books actually say. For example, CES Letter picks from The First Book of Napoleon: “their inheritances their gold and silver and.” But that’s not what it says. Here is what the book actually says, in context:
Compare this with the Book of Mormon:
Completely different contexts, language, and themes! Totally different!
Notice how CES Letter added the word “and” to the end, after the word “silver,” and then CES Letter erased all the commas, and snipped it completely out of context. This makes it sound more similar to the Book of Mormon quote, also misquoted. Many of the cherry-picked snippets of phrases appear in totally different contexts and convey totally different meanings. Truth is, they are totally different quotes.
Joseph Smith Never Saw This Book
How is Joseph Smith supposed to have come across this book which was printed in a different continent, 3,500 miles away? This is a goofy and nonsensical narrative for how the Book of Mormon was created. The First Book of Napoleon was a random book that was published in London. There is no evidence Joseph Smith ever came across it, or that it made its way to New York at all.
Why Would Joseph Smith Do This? – Why would someone creating a hoax book of scripture take short, common phrases from some random book printed in London with totally different contexts, but make sure to keep these random phrases in the same order? What, did Joseph Smith jot down in a notebook a handful of “parallels and themes” that he thought were cool and then make sure to include them in the Book of Mormon in the same order? How and why would he do that?
CES Letter Logical Fallacies
|Falsehood||Almost all of the alleged parallels are false quotes, misplaced, or common phrases within the book. CES Letter misquotes both the Book of Mormon and the First Book of Napoleon, and presents them completely out of context alongside each other, with both words and punctuation altered to appear more similar. They also present the phrases and words in incorrect order.
CES Letter gives an incorrect title of the book. Actually, it is much longer: The First Book of Napoleon, the Tyrant of the Earth: Written in the 5813th Year of the World, and 1809th Year of the Christian Era. CES Letter shortens this title, which makes it sound more similar to The Book of Mormon: The First Book of Napoleon.
|Shifting Goalposts||In their previous argument, CES Letter portrayed an association between Joseph Smith and the author of a book; it was printed kinda close to where he lived. This time, they compare it to a book printed in London 3,500 miles away, which almost certainly never made its way to Joseph Smith.|
|Cherry-picking||Anyone can cherry-pick a few idiosyncrasies that were common 200 years ago and draw a relationship between the two random books. In a study, Jeff Lindsay found many striking parallels between the book Leaves of Grass and the Book of Mormon. Only problem? The Book of Mormon was published 20 years earlier.|
|Confirmation Bias||All of the alleged parallels are in wildly different contexts, and many exist because both books happen to reference the bible.
CES Letter quotes the first chapter of First Book of Napoleon and says it is “fascinating” and “shocking” how similar it sounds to the Book of Mormon. That’s because it uses older language from the 19th century. Lots of books did.
|Dramatic Language||CES Letter uses dramatic phraseology: “I was floored,” “shocking,” “fascinated.”|
|Non-sequiter||CES Letter claims their quotes “read and sound like the Book of Mormon but which also carry so many of its parallels and themes as well.” But what parallel themes?|
|Repetition||“Read and sound” are redundant|
|Etymology Fallacy||CES Letter includes verse numbers in the quote from First Book of Napoleon which makes it sounds like the Book of Mormon. But the first printing of the Book of Mormon did not have verse numbers.|
Why Does CES Letter Have Parallels To ‘Our Race’
Let’s try something out. Why don’t we use the same technique to see compare CES Letter to a book titled “Our Race” by British Israelite Charles A.L. Totten? I’ll even be nice and put the phrases in correct order:
|“Jeremy… long as… King James Version… supposed to be… many of the… shall be… Truth has no fear of the light”||“Jeremy… long as…. King James Version… Truth has no fear of Light… shall be… many of the… supposed to be…”|
How shocking! Wow! (sarcasm)
Setting The Narrative – We might think, “Maybe Jospeh Smith read this book and it influenced him, maybe not. Who knows?” But this argument also associates Joseph Smith with “tyrant of the earth” Napoleon Bonaparte. That is what really makes this argument effective. Even if you walk away shaking your heads at the argument, you still might associate him now with tyranny. Are Mormons tyrannts?
Take a closer look at the first chapter that they quote and claim sounds like the Book of Mormon:
5. And they moreover smote, with mighty wrath, the king’s guards, and banished the priests, and nobles of the land, and seized upon, and took unto themselves, their inheritances, their gold and silver, corn and oil, and whatsoever belonged unto them.
CES Letter remarks, “It’s like reading from the Book of Mormon.” It doesn’t to me. It sounds like the bible, and there’s lots of books out there that sound like the bible. So, why did skeptics choose this book to compare to the Book of Mormon, rather than the tens of thousands of other 19th century books that happen into include common phrases from the Book of Mormon or bible language? Think about it. They just got done doing the same thing with a book about the American Revolution, and they cherry-picked a bunch of phony parallels that sounded racist and colonial-minded. I see the same kind of association here, with a quote about people raging against a “lawful king” and stealing their property. They say this sounds like the Book of Mormon, a quote about stealing and rebellion. Raging like the heathen against a lawful king? Where does that happen in the Book of Mormon?
To me, that snippet makes it sound like a socially bankrupt book of morals, and it leads me to ask why out of all the snippets in all the books with biblical language, why choose that one? We might start to think: How terrible of this book, which is suspiciously similar to the Book of Mormon, to condemn the people for rising up against a king! They should be free to rebel against a king! We hate kings! The gold, silver, and inheritances belong to the people, not the bourgeois! Is that the kind of thing we start thinking? Is that what we could start associating with the Book of Mormon?
Contradiction – Yet the only true parallels are a handful of common phrases like “an account” and “it came to pass.” Pretty sad. But somehow it is effective. The human mind is trained to find patterns and dissimilarities. It is easy to cherry-pick a few vague similarities between two random books. This is the same kind of argument that is sometimes used against the bible. Skeptics say it was ripped off Babylonian, Sumerian, and Egyptian legends. The human brain is trained to look for discrepancies and patterns, so this trick is common. Pareidolia is why people see the Virgin Mary in breakfast cereal and figures on Mars. It is confirmation bias.
When it comes to history, there is so much we don’t know and will never know. We have are some fragments of bones in the ground and some texts that claim to be ancient. Don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t be easily tricked when it comes to pareidolia and history. Use critical thought. If there is vague evidence for something but we mostly don’t know what really happened because it is ancient history, don’t jump to conclusions, whatever narrative is hyped and dressed up in emotional language.
What do skeptics believe in? What tenant of faith do hold that we can verify or discredit with these kinds of comparisons? Global warming? Human evolution? Give us something! Why don’t Antimormons discuss their alternative belief to the beliefs of the Book of Mormon and bible, and talk about physical evidences?
(All claims in this article are personal opinion and speculation. Quotes regarding CES Letter are derived the March 2015 version of CES Letter and may not reflect more recent versions.)