Did the Young Joseph Smith Study the Bible?
The Book of Mormon quotes whole chapters and hundreds more verses and phrases almost word for word from the King James Bible. For non-Mormons, this appears to prove that Joseph Smith either copied a lot of the Book of Mormon from the Bible or that he had memorized a lot of the Bible and quoted it from memory when he dictated the Book of Mormon.
Assuming for the sake of discussion that Joseph didn’t actually look at a Bible while he was dictating the Book of Mormon, could he have memorized whole chapters of the Bible at a time? Some Mormons think Joseph didn’t have enough education to do this, but there is evidence to show that he did. The Smith children studied the Bible at home as part of their limited education. Joseph once told his mother, Lucy Mack Smith, that he preferred spending hours in the woods alone with his Bible to listening to a revivalist preacher. Lucy, Joseph’s wife Emma, and other Mormons emphasized Joseph’s lack of formal education, but it was not at all uncommon in his day for farmers and other laborers to have read widely and memorized large portions of the Bible.
In his own handwritten account in 1832 of his first vision, Joseph makes it clear that he had studied at least the New Testament quite thoroughly as a child. He reports having applied himself “searching the Scriptures” between the ages of 12 and 15, not just reading the Bible but spending considerable time “pondering” what it said. Joseph also claimed to have “intimate acquaintance” with the teachings of the different denominations of Christianity.
Although we do not know all of the details as to how Joseph Smith produced the Book of Mormon—he was very secretive about it—the evidence shows that he could have memorized enough of the Bible at a time to be able to dictate chapters of the King James Bible into the Book of Mormon.
For a thorough and documented study on this question, see the article here.