Whiteness of the Driven Snow: An Evaluation of the Word Snow in the Book of Mormon by Ted Dee Stoddard


A careful examination of the background information associated with the expression “whiteness of the driven snow” results in several conclusions that are especially germane to any discussion about the New World setting for the Book of Mormon. The following list is not comprehensive but does lend support for Joseph Smith’s statement that he translated the Book of Mormon “by the gift and power of God”:

            1. “Whiteness of the driven snow” is not a weather-related expression that can be applied to the climate of the New World setting for the Book of Mormon. Although Nephi penned the expression while living in the New World, he experienced the vision of the tree of life while living in the Old World.

            2. When Lehi told his family about the tree-of-life vision he had experienced (see 1 Nephi 8), he very possibly used “whiteness of the driven snow” in describing the whiteness of the tree to his listeners. If so, such language was merely an extension of the environment and perceptions of Lehi while spending his life to that point in the vicinity of Jerusalem. Both Lehi and Nephi had comparable visions of the tree of life, and Nephi’s choice of words very likely was influenced by listening initially to his father’s account of the vision.

            3. Snowstorms are not an uncommon occurrence in the Holy Land, and Nephi very likely experienced snowstorms while living in the “land of Jerusalem.” Such personal experiences would have given him the insights to use the figurative, poetic language of “whiteness of the driven snow” in helping him employ the ultimate nuance of the meaning of whiteness associated with the Hebrew word sheleg as he recorded a comparable expression in reformed Egyptian in 1 Nephi 11:8 on the Small Plates of Nephi.

            4. Any Book of Mormon reader or scholar who attempts to use “driven snow” as geographic evidence for the New World setting of the Book of Mormon is guilty of shoddy, unscholarly research. Their approach to scholarship in such instances reflects either ignorance of the facts or intentional deception in distorting the facts.

            5. No justification of any kind is legitimate in maintaining that the expression “driven snow” supports a hypothesis that the New World events of the Book of Mormon took place in either the New York-Great Lakes region or the territories of Mesoamerica.

            6. When weather and climate are considered as external criteria for use in determining the New World setting for the Book of Mormon, what is not said about snow in the Book of Mormon is just as important, if not more important, than what is said. If the writers of the Book of Mormon had lived in the snowy territories of the New York-Great Lakes region, they probably would have used the word “snow” at some point in connection with the living conditions of the people.

            7. Joseph Smith either translated literally the expression “driven snow” from the Small Plates of Nephi or created the expression as an outgrowth of his environment, perceptions, and language while living in upstate New York. The reality of Nephi’s very likely experiencing or learning about “driven-snow snowstorms” in the “land of Jerusalem” from whence he came lends support to Joseph’s contention that he indeed translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God as he claimed rather than merely authored the book himself from the figments of his imagination.

Dr. Ted Dee Stoddard is Professor Emeritus of Management Communication in the Brigham Young University Marriott School of Management where he taught business writing throughout his academic career. While involved in academia, he published numerous books, articles, and other creative works. Following his retirement, he served for several years as editor for The Religious Educator (published by the BYU Religious Studies Center) and Mormon Historical Studies. He is the editor of Joseph Lovell Allen and Blake Joseph Allen’s book, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, 2nd ed. (Orem, UT: Book of Mormon Tours and Research Institute, 2008).

See #27