a1 Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602, USA firstname.lastname@example.org
With regard to sacred books, Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism (1805 – 1844), is best known for his publication of the Book of Mormon, as a history comparable to the Bible, and for other texts he put forth as divine revelations. These volumes established the unique beliefs of Mormonism and set it apart from other religions. What is less well known and often overlooked by historians is the fact that virtually every aspect of Joseph Smith's career involved the Bible, which was central to his theology and to the religious system that he established – but always in ways unique to him. Priesthoods of Aaron and Melchizedek, the building of temples and the establishment of communities in promised lands are all themes for which he invoked biblical precedents. He also produced, but never published in his lifetime, a revision of the Bible itself, the result of three years of adding to and editing the text. In addition, as he taught doctrine in his correspondence, newspaper editorials and sermons, he drew his texts and illustrations from the Bible and virtually never from the Book of Mormon or his own revelations. This article explores the role of the Bible in each of these enterprises and examines the ways Joseph Smith used it in the establishment of Mormon beliefs. The article proposes that, in his extensive use of the Bible, he was making a statement regarding his prophetic authority and his relationship to prophets and scriptures of the past.