Many great sermons found in the Book of Mormon have been found to closely match the sermons being given in Joseph Smith’s day by revival preachers—such as Methodist preachers Lorenzo Dow, Ray Potter, Alfred Bennet, Eleazar Sherman, Abel Thornton, and George Whitefield—who gave stirring discourses at locations very near to Joseph Smith’s home and in the time era very close to 1828, when Joseph Smith started his work on the Book of Mormon.
Many of the revival sermons were recorded and later printed in newspapers and books. Today, online digitization has brought to our attention the sources for the many of the sermons found in the Book of Mormon. For example, one striking parallel is found in King Benjamin’s speech. It has been discovered that just 15 months before Joseph Smith began translating the Book of Mormon, there was a revival conference held about a mile from Joseph’s home in Palmyra. The keynote speaker at this conference was an aging, beloved religious leader who was about to give his great and final sermon. The people gathered round about a tower that was constructed for their beloved leader’s speech, and they each pitched their tents round about, facing the tower, so that they might hear the word of God. In his sermon, he expressed his love and service for the people, and after he spoke, the people fell to the ground and committed to Christ. Does this sound familiar? It is an exact parallel to King Benjamin’s speech. This event was discovered by historians to be recorded in the memoirs of a Methodist minister named Benjamin.
Note the similarities between King Benjamin’s speech and the beloved Methodist minister’s speech. One wonders if perhaps King Benjamin was more Methodist than Mormon. 🙂
Joseph Smith could very well have been in attendance, especially considering its proximity to his home. If he was not in attendance, it is likely he would have heard of it from friends or family who were part of the large crowd that attended. Descriptions were also printed in the news of the time, announcing this great and final sermon of their beloved preacher.
You can access the memoirs of Reverend Benjamin G. Paddock here to read a description of the proceedings.
Have you ever wondered why the ancient Native Americans were giving sermons relating to the popular controversial topics of the early 19th century such as the validity of infant baptism, the abominations of the churches, which church was right, “anti-Christs,” and even the dangers of secret combinations? These were prevalent topics in Joseph Smith’s day and much of the source material for the Book of Mormon has been discovered within the elements of his environment. It is important that we understand that these source materials were vital to the remix process that resulted in the Book of Mormon.
For a more detailed overview of the 19th century revival teachings that influenced the Book of Mormon, see this link.
Continue to Book of Mormon Origins.
For a more contextual explanation, see Part 2 of the Gentle Awakening Presentation Series.