Why was the Book of Mormon Written in Ancient Irish?

Posted: March 17, 2013 in Fred Anson, Mormon Studies, Richard B. Stout
Clonmacnoise, the burial place of the last High King of Ireland

Clonmacnoise, the burial place of the last High King of Ireland

by Fred W. Anson
Christian Researcher, Richard B. Stout, has done extensive research correlating the alleged “Reformed Egyptian” characters on the plates that the Book of Mormon were “translated” from to Ancient Irish. The following questions and supporting evidence explain and summarize his case:

Q: According to Mormon History were the Anthon Transcript characters copied from the alleged Golden Plates?
A: Yes. We have documented evidence from Martin Harris, David Whitmer, and Joseph Smith that they were.

Q: Can a correlation between the Anthon Transcript characters and Egyptian Hieroglyphs be established?
A: No. Anthon was not a qualified “expert” and modern Egyptologists can find no correlation.

Q: Can a correlation between the Anthon Transcript characters and the Detroit Manuscript characters be established?
A: Yes. There are character for character matches.

Q: Since it has been established that the Detroit Manuscript characters are ancient Irish (thus resulting in near-complete translation of the document) what are the Anthon Transcript characters?
A: Ancient Irish.

Thus the following question/challenge/problem remains for Mormon Scholars:
If you accept Martin Harris’s assertion that the characters on the Anthon Transcript were copied from the Golden Plates, then how you explain why the Golden Plates were written in Ancient Irish rather than ‘Reformed Egyptian’ as Joseph Smith claimed?”

Supporting Evidence
Please consider these links between the Detroit Manuscript and the Anthon Transcript are compelling. This is from Richard B. Stout’s article “A Singular Discovery”:

Richard B. Stout

Richard B. Stout

“According to Mormon history, Joseph Smith, Jr. discovered a hidden, religious work in 1823. Facsimiles of the “unknown characters” in which the Book of Mormon was written were later copied and taken to “the learned.” One of the opinions sought was that of Dr. Mitchell of New York City. Earlier, secular history had also recorded the discovery of a hidden, religious work in 1823.

Facsimile pages were made of this book’s “characters,” which were also said to be “unknown.” They too were taken to “the learned”-one of whom was Dr. Mitchell. However, Joseph Smith did not discover what became known in the national press as the Detroit Manuscript. That honor went to Col. Abraham Edwards, a business partner of Joseph’s uncle, Stephen Mack.

Especially because of this family connection, it would appear likely that Joseph Smith used the details surrounding the Detroit Manuscript as a template upon which to construct his story of the Book of Mormon’s “coming forth.” Further, there is evidence which proves that events, names, places, and even controversial animals which appear in the Book of Mormon could have been borrowed from the writings of the well-known scholar identified in both accounts as Dr. Mitchell. Perhaps most startling of all, paleographic research indicates that Joseph may have copied many of the characters he had Martin Harris take to Dr. Mitchell directly from the Detroit Manuscript.”
(“A Singular Discovery: The Curious Manuscript, Mitchill, and Mormonism Part 1” by Richard Stout, The Evangel, Oct 2001)

In addition, Stout’s research has established an interesting correlation between the characters on the Anthon Transcript (which Harris claimed were characters from the Golden Plates) and the Detroit Manuscript (which turned out to be ancient Irish characters). He then validated this Irish correlation by extending the character comparisons out to other ancient Irish manuscripts.

Here are the exhibits from the article. Exhibit “B” has been excluded as it is only clear and relevant within the context of the article’s main text.


Exhibit “A”
This small sample of early modern shorthand above is from Jeremiah Rich’s 1673 New Testament. The reader will find more than fifteen different characters here which are also found in the “Anthon transcript.”

Exhibit “C”
The ogham code symbol on the left is from page 311 of the 14th century Book of Ballymote (the vertical line is merely a divider). The three symbols on the right are from the “Anthon transcript.”

exhib-dExhibit “D”
The highlighted symbol (left) of four dots below a stem line is from page 312 of the Ballymote manuscript. The “Anthon transcript” symbol to its right is from line four of the transcript.

exhib-eExhibit “E”
Naithair fria fraech (“Serpent through the heather”) ogham code letter on left Book of Ballymote, p. 313. Two of several similar “Anthon transcript” symbols on right.

So, again, I suppose the question that Mormon Scholars must address at this point is this:
If you accept Martin Harris’s assertion that the characters on the Anthon Transcript were copied from the Golden Plates, then how you explain why the Golden Plates were written in Ancient Irish rather than ‘Reformed Egyptian’ as Joseph Smith claimed?”

Even if you’re not an Egyptologist, intuitively it’s hard to see how “Reformed Egyptian” which allegedly looks like this . . .


“Reformed Egyptian” sample given to Martin Harris. These characters were allegedly copied from the Golden Plates that the Book of Mormon was translated from

. . . in any way correlates to Egyptian Hieroglyphics which look like this:


Egyptian Heiroglyphic Primer

And in their purest form like this:

Egyptian Hieroglyphs

Egyptian Hieroglyphs

And the research continues while this question remains to haunt us: Why was the Book of Mormon Written in Ancient Irish?

  1. what about coptic egyptian, the non-hiroglyphic variety


  2. fredwanson says:

    OK, what about it?

    If you’re arguing that the Book of Mormon was written in Coptic Egyptian then you’re opening an even bigger can of worms. Here’s why:

    1) It’s anachronistic: The Coptic period in Egypt was from the late 2nd/early 3rd Century AD to approximately the 17th Century AD – nowhere close to the preexilic (aka around 600BC) Old Testament period that many of the Book of Mormon books claim to be a record of.

    And if you try to rationalize it by saying, “Well, they learned it before they left the Middle East” then you have to explain how Jews leaving the Middle East around 600BC learned a system of writing that was invented 3-Centuries later and thousands of miles away that they have no direct or indirect contact with.

    Simply put, it makes no sense even before you consider the other problems with this theory.


    2) There are no matches. Here’s a page of sample Coptic Egyptian manuscripts:

    Now I suppose if one “data mines” these manuscripts for matches you might squeeze one or two out of them but no objective scholar would take your research seriously.

    3) Coptic Egyptian was derived primarily from Greek and only secondarily from Egyptian:

    “Egyptian began to be written using the Greek alphabet in the 1st century. The new writing system became the Coptic script, an adapted Greek alphabet with the addition of six or seven signs from the demotic script to represent Egyptian sounds the Greek language did not have.”
    (source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coptic_language ; bolding and italics added for emphasis)

    This points to a manuscript authored not by immigrant Jews in America but yet another pagan culture – this time not the Irish Celts but Hellenized Egyptians.

    4) Coptic was a known, translatable language in the 19th Century. If the “Charactors” were Coptic it would have been a simple matter for Professor Anthon or any other scholar of ancient languages to identify. Further, no competent scholar would have identified Coptic Egyptian as Ancient Egyptian.

    This argument simply isn’t cogent – sorry. Where did you hear it?


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