However strange to relate, about fifteen persons, in this city have been led away by these false doctrines, have been baptised and joined the Mormon church. And some of these persons have set out for the promised land, the place of refuge for the house of Israel, and for all the Gentile world, who will take warning and flee thither for safety. [FOOTNOTE #1: This place is situated in Jackson county, Missouri, ten miles from the town of Independence.] Two individuals who have gone, are defenceless females. They had acquired by their hard industry $2300, one of them having $800, the other $1500, which they have given up to go into the general stock. One of these females was in a consumption, and her friends thought she would not live to reach her destined place. Her afflicted sister told me, that if she had been buried here, before she had been led away by these errors, and had left satisfactory evidence that she was prepared to die, her grief would have been far less than it is now. The remaining persons who were baptised and joined the church, and contemplate going to the west, possess between $3000 and $4000, which they also are going to put with the general fund, and which they can never draw out again, should they get sick of Mormonism and wish to return home to their friends.
Thus are our friends swindled out of their property and drawn from their comfortable homes, to endure the perils of a journey about two thousand miles, by these ignorant fanatics; and when arrived at their earthly paradise, to become the miserable dupes of these temporal and spiritual lords.
from Prefatory Remarks by Joshua V. Himes
Boston, Aug 14. 1832
"Delusions. An Analysis of the Book of Mormon with an Examination of Its Internal and External Evidences, and a Refutation of Its Pretenses to Divine Authority" by Alexander Campbell was written just two years after the Book of Mormon was published and it's still one of the best refutations to the Book of Mormon to this day.
The Nephites, like their father, for many generations were good christians, believers in the doctrines of the Calvinists and Methodists, and preaching baptism and other christian usages hundreds of years before Jesus Christ was born!
Perhaps the biggest stumbling block to the belief that the Book of Mormon is an ancient document is its Christian nature. If it really was written by ancient Jews hundreds of years before Christ, why is it so completely Christian? One possible answer Mormons can give is that Nephi and his descendants had access to ancient scriptures which are now lost to us. The Old Testament contains no references to Jesus whatsoever, but scriptures that the Nephites had such as Zenos, Zenock, Neum, Ezias, and Joseph of Egypt contain extremely explicit references to Jesus. The Nephites had these records and were therefore able to be good Christians hundreds of years BC. Unfortunately, the Nephites seem to have misplaced these records since they weren't among the plates that Joseph Smith translated. Nevertheless, the Nephites are not only good Christians, they are also good Jews:
Enos gave the plates to Jarom, his son. In his time 'they kept the law of Moses and the sabbath day holy to the Lord.'
However, the fact that the Nephites are simultaneously good Christians and good Jews presents some difficulties for the text:
King Benjamin assembled the people to sacrifice according to the law around the new temple; and he enjoined upon them, at the same time, the christian institutions, and gave them a Patriarchal valedictory. After they had heard him speak, and had offered up their sacrifices, they fell down and prayed in the following words: 'O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ, that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ the son of God, who created heaven and earth and all things, who shall come down upon the children of men.' Then the spirit of the Lord fell upon them and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins.' p. 162.
Apparently, the Nephites were unable to gain forgiveness for their sins by the blood of Christ alone, so they had to perform animal sacrifices as well. Perhaps the reason they still had to perform animal sacrifice was because Christ hadn't been born yet, so invoking his atoning blood didn't work on its own.
This Joseph Smith overlooked in his impious fraud, and makes his hero Lehi spring from Joseph. And just as soon as his sons return with the roll of his lineage, ascertaining that he was of the tribe of Joseph, he and his sons acceptably 'offer sacrifices and burnt offerings to the Lord.' - p.15. Also it is repeated, p. 18 - Nephi became chief artificer, ship-builder and mariner; was scribe, prophet, priest and king unto his own people, and 'consecrated Jacob and Joseph, the sons of his father, priests to God and teachers - almost six hundred years before the fulness of the times of the Jewish economy was completed. p.72. Nephi represents himself withal as 'under the law of Moses,' p. 105. They build a temple in the new world, and in 55 years after they leave Jerusalem, make a new priesthood which God approbates. A high priest is also consecrated, and yet they are all the while 'teaching the law of Moses, and exhorting the people to keep it! - p.146,209. Thus God is represented as instituting, approbating and blessing a new priesthood from the tribe of Joseph, concerning which Moses gave no commandment concerning priesthood. Although God had promised in the law of Moses, that if any man, not of the tribe and family of Levi and Aaron, should approach the office of priest, he would surely die; he is represented by Smith as blessing, approbating, and sustaining another family in this approbated office. The God of Abraham or Joseph Smith must then be a liar!! And who will hesitate to pronounce him an imposter? This lie runs through his records for the first six hundred years of his story.
According to the law of Moses, only descendants of the tribe of Levi can be priests, yet in the Book of Mormon, descendants from the tribe of Joseph have the priesthood. Either the Nephites didn't really keep the law of Moses as they claimed, or the Bible is incorrect. Since Mormons believe the Bible wasn't translated correctly, this actually presents no difficulties. This same answer can be used to answer Campbell's next objection:
This ignorant and impudent liar, in the next place, makes the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, violate his covenants with Israel and Judah, concerning the land of Canaan, by promising a new land to the pious Jew.
If a company of reprobate Jews had departed from Jerusalem and the temple, in the days of Zedekiah, and founded a new colony, it would not have been so incongruous. But to represent God as inspiring a devout Jew and a prophet, such as Lehi and Nephi are represented by Smith, with a resolution to forsake Jerusalem and God's own house, and to depart from the land which God swore to their fathers so long as they were obedient; and to guide by a miracle and to bless by prodigies a good man in forsaking God's covenant and worship - is so monstrous an error, that language fails to afford a name for it. It is to make God violate his own covenants, and set at nought his own promises, and to convert his own curses into blessings. Excision from the commonwealth of Israel, and banishment from Jerusalem and the temple, were the greatest curses the law of Moses knew. But Smith makes a good and pious Jew the subject of this curse, and sends him off into the inhospitable wilderness, disinherits him in Canaan, and makes him more happy in forsaking the institutions of Moses, more intelligent in the wilderness, and more prosperous in adversity, than even the Jews in their best days, in the best of lands, and under the best of all governments!!! The imposter was too ignorant of the history of the Jews and the nature of the covenants of promise, to have even alluded to them in his book, if he had not supposed that he had the plates of Moses in his own keeping, as he had his 'molten plates' of Nephi. To separate a family from the nation of Israel, was to accumulate all the curses of the law upon that family. - Deut. xxix.21.
Israel was the promised land for the Jewish people. The god of the Old Testament never would have commanded a righteous Jew to forsake it. According to the Old Testament, there can be only one Temple, the one in Jerusalem. The temple in the New World is not legitimate. Jews who were exiled from Jerusalem were not able to worship, yet this difficulty is never mentioned in the Book of Mormon.
Smith makes his pious hero Nephi, 600 years before the Messiah began to preach, and disclose these secrets concerning the calling of the Gentiles, and the blessings flowing through the Messiah to Jews and Gentiles, which Paul says were hid for ages and generations, 'which in these ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto us the holy Apostles and prophets, by the spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs and of the same body and partakers of his promise in Christ by the Gospel.' Smith makes Nephi express every truth found in the writings of the Apostles concerning the calling and blessing of the Gentiles, and even quotes the 11th chapter of Romans, and many other passages before he had a son grown in the wilderness able to aim an arrow at a deer. Paul says these things were secrets and unknown until his time; but Smith makes Nephi say the same things 600 years before Paul was converted.
The Book of Mormon quotes from the Old Testament quite a bit which is explained by Nephi's taking the Hebrew record with him when he fled Jerusalem. When Jesus appears to the Nephites, he says a lot of the same things he said in the Gospels. However, there's no explanation for why Nephi borrows ideas and quotes from Paul's epistle to the Romans hundreds of years before it was written. Compare Romans with Jacob from the Book of Mormon:
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! (Romans 11:33)
Behold, great and marvelous are the works of the Lord. How unsearchable are the depths of the mysteries of him; and it is impossible that man should find out all his ways. (Jacob 4:8)
Also in Romans 11, Paul compares gentiles joining the Israelite faith to branches being grafted onto an olive tree. Nephi uses the same comparison:
And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree...For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? (Romans 11:17,24,33 )
Yea, even my father spake much concerning the Gentiles, and also concerning the house of Israel, that they should be compared like unto an olive-tree, whose branches should be broken off and should be scattered upon all the face of the earth...And after the house of Israel should be scattered they should be gathered together again; or, in fine, after the Gentiles had received the fulness of the Gospel, the natural branches of the olive-tree, or the remnants of the house of Israel, should be grafted in. (1 Nephi 10:12,14)
Campbell goes on to point out that the Book of Mormon addresses issues which, coincidentally, were important during Joseph Smith's lifetime:
This prophet Smith, through his stone spectacles, wrote on the plates of Nephi, in his book of Mormon, every error and almost every truth discussed in N. York for the last ten years. He decides all the great controversies - infant baptism, ordination, the trinity, regeneration, repentance, justification, the fall of man, the atonement, transubstantiation, fasting, penance, church government, religious experience, the call to the ministry, the general resurrection, eternal punishment, who may baptize, and even the question of freemasonry, republican government, and the rights of man. All these topics are repeatedly alluded to. How much more benevolent and intelligent this American Apostle, than were the holy twelve, and Paul to assist them!!! He prophesied of all these topics, and of the apostacy, and infallibly decided, by his authority, every question. How easy to prophecy of the past or of the present time!!
Next, Campbell brings up the style in which the Book of Mormon is written:
The book professes to be written at intervals and by different persons during the long period of 1020 years. And yet for uniformity of style, there never was a book more evidently written by one set of fingers, nor more certainly conceived in one cranium since the first book appeared in human language, than this same book. If I could swear to any man's voice, face or person, assuming different names, I could swear that this book was written by one man. And as Joseph Smith is a very ignorant man and is called the author on the title page, I cannot doubt for a single moment that he is the sole author and proprietor of it. As a specimen of his style the reader will take the following samples - Page 4th. In his own preface: - 'The plates of which hath been spoken.' In the last page, 'the plates of which hath been spoken.' In the certificate signed by Cowdery and his two witnesses, he has the same idiom, 'which came from the tower of which hath been spoken;' page 16, 'we are a descendant of Joseph.' 'The virgin which thou seest is the mother of God.' 'Behold the Lamb of God the Eternal Father,' p. 25; 'Ye are like unto they,' 'and I saith unto them,' p.44. 'We did arrive to the promised land;' p.49, 'made mention upon the first plate,' p.50.
The main reason I stopped believing in the Book of Mormon myself was the fact that it was obviously written by a single person. Unlike the Bible, which is composed of many different writing styles, and presents many different theologies and schools of thought, the Book of Mormon is the same all the way through.
Nephi 2400 years ago hears the saying of a Pagan who lived 634 years after him - 'The God of nature suffers.' p.51. 'The righteous need not fear, for it is they which shall not be confounded.' p.58. Shakespeare was read by Nephi 2200 years before he was born - 'The silent grave from whence no traveller returns,' 61. 'Your own eternal welfare' was a phrase then common in America, p.62. 'Salvation is free' was then announced. 'That Jesus should rise from the dead' was repeatedly declared on this continent in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. And at the same time it was said, 'Messiah cometh in the fulness of time that he might redeem the children of men from the fall;' p.65. 'The fall' was frequently spoken of at the Isthmus of Darien 2400 years ago.
Actually, it wasn't Nephi, but rather the prophet Zenos who predictively quotes from Dionysius the Areopagite:
And all these things must surely come, saith the prophet Zenos. And the rocks of the earth must rend; and because of the groanings of the earth, many of the kings of the isles of the sea shall be wrought upon by the Spirit of God, to exclaim: The God of nature suffers. (1 Nephi 19:12)
“Either the God of nature is suffering, or the entire mechanism of the world is going to be destroyed to return to its ancient state of chaos!” is a quote from a letter to Polycarp attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite, a pagan convert of Paul's according to Acts 17:34. However, all the writings of Dionysius are actually forgeries from the fifth or sixth century. It seems the prophecy of Zenos is mistaken.
I'm not convinced that Nephi was quoting Shakespeare, although the wording is similar. 2 Nephi 1:14 has "the cold and silent grave, from whence no traveler can return" while Hamlet, Act III, Scene I has "The undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveler returns"
And the righteous need not fear, for they are those who shall not be confounded. But it is the kingdom of the devil, which shall be built up among the children of men, which kingdom is established among them which are in the flesh. (1 Nephi 22:22)
Campbell claims Nephi is quoting from someone else here, but I wasn't able to find the reference.
"Delusions" wasn't a detailed analysis of the Book of Mormon. In fact, it originally appeared as a newspaper article. Obviously, there are far more critical examinations of the Book of Mormon available today. For example, we know the Book of Mormon quotes from nearly all the books in the New Testament, not just Romans chapter 11. Despite its brevity, "Delusions" raised several questions about the Book of Mormon's authenticity which are still valid today.