Journal of Book of Mormon Studies


Book of Mormon, Civilization, Economics


From 1830 to the present those who find it difficult to accept “angelic visitations in the age of railroads” have searched Joseph Smith’s nineteenth-century environment for sources of the subject matter of the Book of Mormon. For example, in 1990 Susan Curtis explains the economic subthemes of the book as Joseph Smith’s commentary on “market capitalism.” But the economic conditions of Joseph Smith’s time and place are not reflected in the Book of Mormon. Its economic descriptions are consistent with our vast knowledge of the economic conditions of the ancient Middle East and not inconsistent with the little known of the economics of Mesoamerica of the relevant time period. Those more comfortable with Joseph Smith as universal commentator on the issues of his day would be well advised to ignore economics or limit that topic to the Doctrine and Covenants. Those who accept him as translator of ancient scriptural documents can gain additional reassurance from the economics of the Book of Mormon.