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Debunking the Spaulding Manuscript Theory

In part 5 of my Sidney Rigdon series, I wrote that I thought I was done writing about Sidney Rigdon.  But alas, I have been given a challenge to refute the Spaulding Manuscript theory by Doug G, so it looks like I’m temporarily back to talking about Sidney Rigdon.

I just finished a book called Sidney Rigdon:  Portrait of Religious Excess, by Richard Van Wagoner.  Chapter 11 is called Book of Mormon Authorship, and deals directly with the issue of whether Sidney Rigdon is the true author of the Book of Mormon, rather than Joseph Smith.  In my previous post about Unconventional Book of Mormon Geography Theories, Doug G made a comment claiming that the Book of Mormon is related to the Solomon Spaulding Manuscript, so I want to address this theory.

Lest anyone think my quotes are from apologetic sources, let me discuss them.  My quotes are going to come from two books: (1) the Sidney Rigdon book (which I’ll abbreviate SR) and (2) No Man Knows My History, by Fawn Brodie (which I’ll abbreviate NM).  While Fawn Brodie was excommunicated for her book (thus increasing her stature in the eyes of skeptics), few people know much about Van Wagoner.  Van Wagoner’s book has received many awards, but has been criticized by FARMS for being “fundamentally, not simply tangentially, defective.”  Any book criticized by FARMS often gives skeptics (like Doug G) reason to like the book.  Neither book is not apologetic in nature.  Both books greatly discount the Spalding Manuscript theory.  Here is a short bio of the author, Richard Van Wagoner, found at the publisher’s website.

“Richard S. Van Wagoner, M.S., Brigham Young University, is a clinical audiologist and Lehi city historian. He is the author of Lehi: Portraits of a Utah Town, Mormon Polygamy: A History, and Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess; and the co-author of A Book of Mormons. He has been published in Brigham Young University Studies, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Sunstone, Utah Historical Quarterly, and Utah Holiday, and has won awards from the Dialogue Foundation, John Whitmer Historical Association, and the Mormon History Association. He is a contributor to The Prophet Puzzle: Interpretive Essays on Joseph Smith.”

What is the Spaulding Manuscript?

Solomon Spaulding was born in 1761 in Connecticut, and graduated from Dartmouth College (NH) in 1785.  He was a minister for the Congregational Church in New York, and later became a Presbyterian.  In 1809, he moved to Ohio and wrote a historical novel, narrated by a Roman sailor named Fabius who was shipwrecked in ancient America.  The book was never published, and he died in 1816.  After several changes of ownership (including the RLDS church), the manuscript has been donated to Oberlin College in Ohio, where it currently resides.  You may view the manuscript here.

What is the theory?

What is quite interesting to me is that this theory dates back to literally 1831, and Rigdon has always denied the theory.  According to NM page 68,

The theory ran as follows:  The Book of Mormon was a plagiarism of an old manuscript by one Solomon Spaulding, which Sidney Rigdon somehow secured from a printing house in Pittsburgh.  After adding much religious matter to the story, Rigdon determined to publish it as a newly discovered history of the American Indian.  Hearing of a young necromancer Joseph smith, three hundred miles away in New York State, he visited him secretly and persuaded him to enact a fraudulent representation of its discovery.  Then nine months after the book’s publication Smith’s missionaries went to Ohio and the pastor pretended to be converted to the new church.

Through the years the “Spaulding theory” collected supporting affidavits as a ship does barnacles, until it became so laden with evidence that the casual reader was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the accumulation.  The theory requires a careful analysis because it has been so widely accepted.  The documentary evidence on both sides is so burdensome, however, that I have relegated it to an appendix.

Similarities

There are some interesting similarities between the two books, which I will highlight below.  Footnote 22 on SR page 140 says,

Spaulding’s fictitious narrative described in a shipload of Romans in the days of Constantine who were blown off course during a voyage to the British Isles.  They safely reached the east coast of North America, after which one of them, Fabius, began writing a history of their activities.

Spaulding’s introduction is nearly identical to the Joseph Smith story.  While out for a mid-day stroll, wrote Spalding, he “hap[pen]ed to tread on a flat Stone” with a badly worn inscription.  “With the assistance of a leaver I raised the Stone…[and found] that it was designed as a cover to an artificial cave.”  Descending to the bottom, he discovered “a big flat Stone fixed in the form of a do[o]r.”  Moving the obstacle he saw an earthen box within which were “eight sheets of parchment”  Written on the pages “in an elegant hand with Roman Letters & in the Latin Language” was “a history of the author[‘]s life & that part of America which extends along the great Lakes & the waters of the Mississippy.”

If Spalding’s and Smith’s recounting have a common antecedent, it seems to be the Masonic “Legend of Enoch.”  In this saga, Enoch, the seventh patriarch, the son of Jared, and great-grandfather of Noah, according to Masonic tradition, became disgusted with wickedness surrounding him.  Fleeing to the “solitude and secrecy of Mount Moriah” he became engaged in prayer and contemplation.  Here the Shekinah (sacred presence) appeared to him with instruction to preserve the wisdom of the antediluvians to their posterity….”

NM page 449 addresses other obvious similarities.  (I have changed the formatting to highlight the similarities, but the following is an exact quote from the NM book.)

There were certain similarities between the book of Mormon which, though not sufficient to justify the thesis of common authorship, might have given rise to the conviction of Spaulding’s neighbors that one was a plagiarism of the other.

  • Both were said to come out of the earth;
  • Both were stories of colonists sailing from the Old World to the New;
  • Both explained the earthworks and mounds common to western New York and Ohio as a result of savage wars.
  • John Miller had spoken of the “humorous passages” in Spaulding’s work, which would certainly apply to the “Manuscript Story,” but not the utterly humorless Book of Mormon.
  • Other features, like the scriptural style,
  • the expression “it came to pass,”
  • and the proper names, seem too definite to be questioned.

But it should be remembers, as President Fairchild pointed out in his analysis of the problem, that “the Book of Mormon was fresh in their minds, and their recollections of the ‘Manuscript Found’ were very remote and dim.  That under the pressure of suggestion of Hurlbut and Howe, they should put the ideas at hand in place of those remote and forgotten, and imagine that they remembered what they had recently read, would be only ordinary example of the frailty of memory.”

How did the theory come about?

During 1830 and 1831, Mormon missionary work in Ohio flourished, including converts Sidney Rigdon, Orson Hyde, Orson Pratt, and Parley P Pratt (who were members of Rigdon’s Baptist congregation.)  When Sidney announced his conversion during his Baptist services and some 100 members of his congregation soon joined, there was much consternation among the members of his congregation who felt Sidney was badly deceived.  According to SR page 132,

Mormonism’s success in Ohio, particularly among Sidney’s Reformed Baptists, spelled conspiracy in some peoples eyes.  While eleven of Smith’s friends and relatives signed affidavits that they had examined the gold plates and seen the angel who delivered them to the prophet, many did not accept this supernatural explanation.  To cynics it seemed improbable that a semi-literate farm boy could author a literary work so intricate in plot and steeped in biblical lore as the Book of Mormon.

The logical explanation for the holy book was that Smith must have collaborated behind the scenes with someone better educated and more sophisticated.  A former school teacher, Oliver Cowdery, Smith’s major copyist during the project, was considerably better schooled than his prophet-cousin.  Cowdery was touted in the press as co-author of the Book of Mormon in the 25 November 1830 Cleveland Herald.  But as soon as Sidney made his late 1830 trip to New York to meet Smith, rumors surfaced that he, not Cowdery, was the mastermind behind the new scripture.

The earliest New York publication linking Rigdon with Book of Mormon authorship was the 1 September 1831 issue of the New York Courier and Enquirer, reprinted in the 29 October 1831 Hillsborough Gazette (Ohio)….’There is no doubt but the ex-parson from Ohio {Rigdon} is the author of the book which was recently printed and published in Palmyra, and passes for the new Bible.’

SR Page 134 talks about a Methodist minister from Jamestown, NY who had converted to Mormonism.  His name was Doctor Philastus Hurlburt (and there are many alternate spellings of his name.)  Hurlburt was sent on a mission to Pennsylvania, but was excommunicated for an obscene comment to a young woman.  Stung by what he viewed as mistreatment, he sought revenge.  Hurlburt learned that Solomon Spaulding had authored

a romantic historical fiction that like the Book of Mormon contained an account of an early immigration to America.  Hurlburt returned to Kirtland and announced a lecture on what he called “Anti-Mormonism.”  To this group he recounted his travels to Pennsylvania where “he had learned that one Mr. Spaulding had written a romance, and the probability was, that it had, by some means, fallen into the hands of Sidney Rigdon, and that he had converted it into the Book of Mormon.

With financing of Rigdon’s old Baptist friends, Hurlburt learned that Spaulding’s widow lived in Monson, Massachusetts.  On Dec 20, 1831, the Wayne Sentinel published,

“The original manuscript of the Book was written some thirty years since, by a respectable clergyman, now deceased, whose name we are not permitted to give.  It was designed to be published as a romance, but the work has been superadded by some modern hand-believed to be the notorious Rigdon.  These particulars have been derived by Dr. Hurlburt from the widow of the author of the original manuscript.”

Evidence that the Spaulding Manuscript is not the Source of the Book of Mormon

Spaulding’s widow, Matilda Davison, gave the manuscript to Hurlburt.  NM page 144,

Now to his bitter chagrin he found that the long chase had been vain; for while the romance did concern the ancestors of the Indians, its resemblance to the Book of Mormon ended there.  None of the names found in one could be identified in the other;  the many battles which each described showed not the slightest similarity with those of the other, and Spaulding’s prose style, which aped the eighteenth-century British sentimental novelists, differed from the style of the Mormon Bible as much as Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded different from the New Testament.

(The manuscript Hurlburt found was published by the Reorganized Church in Lamoni, Iowa in 1885 under the title The Manuscript Found).  Continuing on,

Hurlburt knew, however, that he had a keg of powder even without the manuscript.  He boldly exhibited his affidavits in Kirtland, lectured in the surrounding towns, and arranged to publish the documents in book form with the assistance of Eber D. Howe.  The lectures caused a furor.

The appendix in NM page 447 gives additional insight into the manuscript.

She [Spaulding’s widow] gave permission to examine the Spaulding’s papers in the attic of a farmhouse in Otsego County, New York; but he found there only one manuscript, which was clearly not the source for the Book of Mormon.  This was a romance supposedly translated from twenty-one rolls of parchment covered with Latin, found in a cave on the banks of the Conneaut Creek.  It was written in modern English and was about 45,000 words long, one sixth the length of the Book of Mormon.  It was an adventure story of some Romans sailing to Britain long before the Christian era, who had been blown to America during a violent storm.

Hurlburt’s  Downfall/ED Howe takes over Issue

Hurlburt at some point confronted Smith.  SR Page 136,

Smith and Rigdon were quick to defend the Mormon cause.  And at some point in the passion of a heated exchange, Hurlburt publicly threatened that he would “wash his hands” in the prophet’s blood.  In January 1834, Smith filed a legal complaint bringing Hurlburt to trial on 1 April.  The court found him guilty, fined him $200, and ordered him to keep the peace for 6 months.

The notoriety surrounding Hurlbut, compounded by an embarrassing incident when his wife was discovered in bed with Judge Orris Clapp, tarnished his image.  He sold his research to Eber D. Howe, editor of the Painesville Telegraph, who held a long-term grudge against Mormonism for converting his wife and daughter.

On Nov 28, 1834, The Painesville Telegraph contained the first advertisement of Howe’s book Mormonism Unvailed. It was one of the first published books attributing Rigdon as the real author of the Book of Mormon.   SR page 136,

While Howe admitted he had Spalding’s manuscript, it was obvious that the former minister’s work, a secular text, was not the source for the Book of Mormon, a lofty religious tome, although the introduction, ethnological assumptions, and mystical lore were undeniably similar.  To explain the enigmatic gaps in genre and plot, Howe wrote that his witnesses claimed Spalding had “altered his first plan of writing, by going farther back with dates, and writing in the old scripture style, in order that it might appear more ancient.”

Howe further purported that through some unspecified means, Rigdon must have secured this hypothetical second, revised manuscript while he was living in Pittsburgh.  He concluded: “We, therefore, must hold out Sidney Rigdon to the world as being the original ‘author and proprietor’ of the whole Mormon conspiracy, until further light is elicited upon the lost writings of Solomon Spaulding.”

Other Manuscripts?

NM page 447-8 discusses the possibility of other manuscripts, and discounts them.

She [Spaulding’s widow] told him that “Spaulding had a great variety of manuscripts” and recollected that one was entitled the “Manuscript Found,” but its contents she “had no distinct knowledge.”  During the two years she had lived in Pittsburgh, Spaulding had taken the manuscript to the office of Patterson and Lambdin, she said, but whether or not it had been returned was uncertain.

She gave Hurlbut permission to examine Spaulding’s papers in the attic of a farmhouse in Otswego, New York; but he found there only one manuscript, which was clearly not the source of the Book of Mormon.

….

Hurlbut showed this manuscript to Spaulding’s neighbors, who, he said, recognized it as Spaulding’s, but stated that it was not the “Manuscript Found.”  Spaulding “had altered his first plan of writing, but going farther back with dates and writing in the Old Scripture style, in order that it might appear more ancient.”  This surmise may have been true, though there was no signed statement swearing to it.  But it seems more likely that these witnesses had so come to identify the Book of Mormon with the Spaulding manuscript that they could not concede having made an error without admitting to a case of memory substitution which they did not themselves recognize.

It is significant that five of Hurlbut’s witnesses were careful to except the “religious” matter of the Book of Mormon as not contained in the Spaulding manuscript, and the others stated that “the historical parts” were derived from the Spaulding story.  The narrative Hurlbut found had no religious matter whatever, but the Book of Mormon was permeated with religious ideas.  It was first and foremost a religious book.  The theology could not have been wrought by interpolation, since practically every historical event was motivated either by Satan or the Lord.

NM Page449,

Hurlbut, at least, was certain that Spaulding had written a second manuscript.  Eber D. Howe, Hurlbut’s collaborator, now wrote to Robert Patterson, the Pittsburgh printer mentioned by Spaulding’s widow.  He replied “that he had no recollection of any manuscript being brought there for publication, neither would he have been likely to have seen it, as the business of printing was conducted wholly by Lambdin at that time.”

Disappointed in this source, and unable to get any confirming evidence from Joseph’s neighbors in western New York, Hurlbut had to be content with insinuating that Sidney Rigdon, who had once lived in Pittsburgh, was somehow responsible for getting the Spaulding manuscript into Joseph Smith’s hands.

If, on the other hand, Hurlbut was right and there were actually two Spaulding manuscripts, one might reasonably expect similarities between the Book of Mormon and the extant manuscripts, since the latter was full of unmistakable literary mannerisms of the kind that are more easily acquired than shed.  Spaulding was heir to all the florid sentiment and grandiose rhetoric of the English Gothic romance.  He used all the stereotyped patterns-villainy versus innocent maidenhood, thwarted love, and heroic valor-thickly encrusted with the tradition of the noble savage.  The Book of Mormon had but one scant reference to a love affair, and its rhythmical, monotonous style bore no resemblance to the cheap clichés and purple metaphors abounding in the Spaulding story.

Where was Rigdon between 1809 and 1830?

NM Page 449-51

Many writers, however, still believed that a second Spaulding manuscript was the true source of the Book of Mormon, and labored indefatigably to prove it.

If the evidence pointing to the existence of a second Spaulding manuscript is dubious, the affidavits trying to prove that Rigdon stole it, or copied it, are all unconvincing and frequently preposterous.

First there is no evidence that Rigdon ever lived in Pittsburgh until 1822, when he became pastor of the First Baptist Church.  Robert Patterson, Jr., son of the Pittsburgh printer, conducted an exhaustive research among the old settlers of the vicinity to try to establish the truth of the Spaulding theory.  This was in 1882, sixty-six years after Spaulding’s death.  Many were familiar with the theory and believed it, he said, but few could give first-hand information.  Rigdon’s brother-in-law, not a Mormon, and Isaac King, and old neighbor, swore to him that Rigdon did not go to Pittsburgh before 1822.  Mrs. Lambdin, widow of Patterson’s partner, denied any knowledge of Rigdon, as did Robert P. DuBois, who had worked in the printing shop between 1818 and 1820.

One woman, who had worked as a mail clerk in Patterson’s office between 1811 and 1816, stated that she knew Rigdon and that he was an intimate friend of Lambdin’s but this was clearly untrue as evidenced by the statement of Lambdin’s widow that she had never heard of Rigdon….

Brodie rejects other affidavits from this point on.  NM Page 453,

The tenuous chain of evidence accumulated to support the Spaulding-Rigdon theory breaks altogether when it tries to prove that Rigdon met Joseph Smith before 1830.

….

Rigdon’s life between 1826 and 1829 has been carefully documented from non-Mormon sources.  It is clear from the following chronology that he was a busy and successful preacher and one of the leading figures of the Campbellite movement in Ohio.  Until August 1830, when he broke with Alexander Campbell over the question of introducing communism into the Campbellite Church, he was one of the four key men of that church.  It cannot be held that Rigdon rewrote the Spaulding manuscript before 1827, since the anti-Masonry permeating the book clearly stemmed from the Morgan excitement beginning late in 1826.

Brodie then lists all the known funerals, marriages, and other meetings of Rigdon between 1826 and 1830, along with gaps of information where his whereabouts are unknown.  It fails to show a link between Smith and Rigdon prior to Dec 1830.

Rigdon’s Side of the Story

Sidney Rigdon was born in 1793 near St. Clair Township, Pennsylvania.  He was the son of a farmer, who did not want Sidney to become a preacher.  However, Sidney eventually made the acquaintance of Alexander Campbell, leader of the Campbellite movement, a subset of the Reformed Baptist Movement.  (Campbell’s group later became the Disciples of Christ.)  Rigdon eventually established a congregation in Ohio.  He was known as a great orator, and held many religious debates with ministers in the surrounding area.  SR Page 55,

Publication of the “Golden Bible”, as people were calling it, had been recounted in several Western Reserve and New York newspapers as early as 1827, when Joseph Smith began working on the book.  There can be little doubt that Rigdon, an enthusiastic reader of newspapers, was aware of the book before it was placed in his hands.  Orson Hyde, a ministerial apprentice who lived for some time in Rigdon’s Mentor, Ohio home and who would later be associated with him in Mormonism, wrote that about 1827 “some vague reports came in the newspapers, that a ‘golden bible’ had been dug out of a rock in the State of New York.  It was treated, however, as a hoax.  But on reading the report, I remarked as follows-‘who knows but this gold bible may break up all our religion, and change its features and bearing?'”

Parley P Pratt learned of the Book of Mormon on a boat stop on the Erie Canal.  His conversion on Sept 1, 1830 is well-documented in the movie, How Rare a Possession, put out by the church.  Pratt was hopeful that Rigdon would receive that message, and arrived with Oliver Cowdery.  SR Page 58,

Rigdon at first spurned them and “felt very much prejudiced at their assertions.”  “He had one Bible,” he said, “which he believed was a revelation from God and with which he pretended to have some acquaintance; but with respect to the book they had presented him, he must say that he had considerable doubt.”  (Times and Seasons, 15 Aug 1843)

“You brought truth to me,” Pratt responded, “I now ask you as a friend to read this for my sake” (Deseret News 21 Apr 1879). Waving aside further argument, Rigdon replied, “No, young gentlemen, you must not argue with me on the subject; but I will read your book, and see what claim it has upon my faith, and will endeavor to ascertain whether it be a revelation from God or not.”  (Times and Seasons, 15 Aug 1843)

His first reaction that night was unfavorable.  Matthew Clapp, who replaced Rigdon as minister of the Mentor Disciple congregation, wrote in 1831 that when Rigdon first read the book he “partly condemned it-but two days afterwards, was heard to confess his conviction of its truth.”  (Western Reserve Chronicle 3 Mar 1831).  Rigdon’s daughter Nancy, in an 1884 interview, recalled that when Pratt and Cowdery gave her father the book, he “read it and examined it for about an hour and then threw it down, and said he did not believe a word of it.”  Another reported that he initially pronounced it a “silly fabrication.”  But he kept reading, apparently all night.

The next day, Rigdon had changed his mind about the book.  He allowed Pratt and Cowdery to preach to his congregation.  Afterwards, Rigdon promised to finish reading the book.  As Rigdon talked with Cowdery regarding Joseph Smith, Cowdery remarked that Smith had “hardly a common school education,” to which Rigdon replied, “if that was all the education he had, he never wrote the book.”  SR Page 62,

One day in early to mid-November 1830 (probably the 7th) Rigdon called to assembly a large congregation of his friends and neighbors in the Methodist church at Kirtland…

Rigdon was baptized by Oliver Cowdery, and 30 other people joined with him. SR Page 63,

While Rigdon’s Kirtland following joined the Mormon fold, his Mentor congregation resisted.  They were furious at his defection.

As a result of his conversion, the congregation evicted him from the partially completed home owned by the congregation.  SR Page 71,

Although he had found in Mormonism a religion to match his manner, Sidney had not yet met the Mormon Prophet.  Possibly to satisfy some remaining doubts, particularly  those of his wife, who “wished him to go to Palmyra to see Joseph Smith,” he went to Manchester, New York, along with Edward Partridge, a Painesville hatter and one of Rigdon’s Reformed Baptist followers.

When Rigdon and Partridge arrived at the Smith home in mid-December, the prophet was not there but was visiting his parents in Waterloo…When they arrived in Kingdon that evening, the prophet was conducting a religious service.  Partridge, after listening to him, requested immediate baptism.  Joseph Smith recommended the immersion be delayed until the fatigued Partridge had rested, and the next day, 11 December, Smith baptized him in nearby Seneca Lake.”

Rigdon and others’ denials

SR Page 133,

(1) During the spring of 1833 or 1834, while visiting the home of Samuel Baker near New Portage, Ohio, Rigdon stated in the presence of a large gathering that he was aware some in the neighborhood had accused him of being the instigator of the Book of Mormon.  Standing in the doorway to address the audience in the yard, he held up a Book of Mormon and said:

‘I testify in the presence of this congregation, and before God and all the Holy Angels up yonder, (pointing toward heaven), before whom I expect to give account at the judgement day, that I never saw a sentence of the Book of Mormon.  I never penned a sentence in the Book of Mormon. I never knew that there was such a book in existence as the Book of Mormon, until it was presented to me by Parley P. Pratt, in the form that it now is.’

(2) On his deathbed with an interview to his son Wickliffe, “I found him as ever in declaring that he himself had nothing whatever to do in writing the book, and that Joseph Smith received it from an angel.  On his dying bed he made the same declaration to a Methodist minister…. My mother has also told me that Father had nothing to do with the writing of the book, and that she positively knew that he had never seen it until Parley P. Pratt came to our home with it.

(3) Nancy R. Ellis, Rigdon’s most anti-Mormon offspring, recalled in an 1884 interview the arrival of the missionaries to her Mentor, Ohio home when she was eight years old:  “I saw them hand him the book, and I am positive as can be that he never saw it before…. She further stated that her father in the last years of his life called his family together and told them, as sure as there was a God in heaven, he never had anything to do in getting up the book of Mormon, and never saw any such thing as a manuscript written by Solomon Spaulding.”

(4) Former apostle William McClellin (who was excommunicated in 1838) said regarding Rigdon, “He never heard of the work of Smith & Cowdery, until C[owdery] and P[arley] P Pratt brought the book to him in Mentor, O[hio].  True enough, I have but little confidence in S. Rigdon, but I know he was more the tool of J. Smith than his teacher and director.  He was docile in J.S. hands to my knowledge.

Conclusion

SR page 137.

The weight of scholarly studies since Fawn Brodie’s seminal 1945 No Man Knows My History biography of Joseph Smith has all but eliminated the Spalding theory and Rigdon’s complicity.  The earliest Book of Mormon critic, Rigdon’s former mentor Alexander Campbell, opined in 1831 that Joseph Smith profoundly affected by the Salvationist Christianity of nineteenth-century Protestant America, was, in fact, the author of the work.

NM page 455-6

Alexander Campbell, who knew Rigdon intimately, described his conversion to Mormonism with great regret in the Millennial Harbinger, attributing it to his nervous spasms and swooning and to his passionate belief in the imminent gathering of Israel.  But of the authorship of the Book of Mormon he wrote bluntly:  “It is as certainly Smith’s fabrication as Satan is the father of lies or darkness is the offspring of night.”

Andrew Ainsworth did a post on the Curious Case of Solomon Spaulding, which talks more about the legal aspects of proving plagiarism.  Andrew is a lawyer, and I found his perspective interesting.

So, I’m sure there are people out there who believe the Book of Mormon is fiction.  However, I believe the Spaulding Theory has been thoroughly discredited by these two authors.  Comments?

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53 comments on “Debunking the Spaulding Manuscript Theory

  1. While nobody commented on my blog, there is some debate going on over at Mormon Matters. Check it out at http://mormonmatters.org/2009/05/04/debunking-the-spaulding-theory

  2. Source of the Book of Mormon Hill Cumorah or Dartmouth College?

    Introduction (Margie presentation Part 1) This paper contains extracts from a book that we are in process of writing. We will start with our initial interest in studying the origins of the Book of Mormon. As most know, one of the early theories for its origin was that it was plagiarized from a novel written by Solomon Spaulding where Sidney Rigdon added his Christian theology to this secular novel. Hearing of Joseph Smith’s reputation as a treasure seeker, he then gave it to him to claim he had found it inscribed on ancient plates. These plates he subsequently translated.. In her book ‘No Man Knows My History’ Fawn Brodie noted that the theology was so intricately entwined in the text that this thesis was not possible.i Our interest started to see if this indeed was the case. In a first attempt, using a disposable copy of the Book of Mormon we took a red pencil and deleted the Christology in the book of Ether. Surprisingly a coherent secular novel of migration without any need for stitching sentences remained. Approximately one third of the material had been erased in this exercise. The rest of the book was more challenging and so we decided to start with an electronic version of the Book of Mormon. However we did not want to use a later edited version and we did not have access to the printer’s manuscript. (Slide 1) We therefore started with photographed pages of an 1830 first edition. We enlarged them and printed them on legal size sheets of paper to retain a one to one page correlation, and then scanned each page with an optical character recognition (OCR) program to convert them to a Mircrosoft document. This process was time consuming as the old hand set type had some peculiar challenges for the optical character recognition program. All “h’s” had a curved stem and the program recognized them all as “b’s”. All “m’s” scanned as two separate letters “i” and ” n” etc. During this word by word correcting we decided to incorporate several additional details into the computer files. (slide 2). The first was to accomplish our first objective and highlight in yellow all the material that could be classified as Christian theology Next we decided to identify all the material taken directly from the Bible. This we did by changing the color of the text to blue and adding the actual reference in red italics for a paraphrased quote and bold red italics for a direct quote. This is shown in this sample page. We also started to insert in red italicized text, comments on some of the anachronisms and anomalies. We continue to add to these notes with references to supplement our comments.

    (slide 3) In addition to these codes we also added a purple highlight to all references that could be considered informative for anyone interested in the geography described in the stories in the book. (slide 4) This resulted in a side study of geographies and we have added as an appendix the map of the area that we consider the most likely source for the writer of the Book of Mormon to construct his narrative. This map is a copy from the paper by Vernal Holley who also came to the same conclusion that we did. One of the reasons for preferring this location rather than the more popular MesoAmerican geography is that in the Book of Mormon there is not a single reference to a stone building. The references are to mounds, earthworks and wooden palisades, all of which are abundant in the land by the Great Lakes. We note that since we believe that the Book of Mormon story is not historical, then there is no need for a direct correlation between this area and the stories of the sea migration. An author of fiction is only confined by his imagination not a absolute location.

    After this process we extracted all the yellow highlighted Christian theology and set it into a separate folder in files titled by each book. The interesting result from this exercise was that the rest of the Book of Mormon survived like the book of Ether. What remained was a coherent secular novel of a migration from Jerusalem with only a need for less than a dozen short stitching sentences to make a fully readable text. Like the story of the exodus from the Tower of Babel, the material from the Lehi migration consisted of about one third Christology and two thirds secular narrative. If the process was as the Spaulding Theory describes then this file is a good approximation of this lost novel “Manuscript Found”. We might add at this point that during all this process of preparing the electronic copy of the 1830 Book of Mormon and extracting the Christology we encountered a lot of material that pointed to a possible and what we think is a more compelling source for the Book of Mormon. This is noted in our title.

    All these files are contained on the CD that will be included with the hard copy of the book we are writing.

    In extracting the Christian theology from the text we had a concise source from which to analyze this material. (slide 5) We therefore took each segment of the yellow highlighted material and applied a code to each sentence to identify its subject. As noted in this slide the codes we used were such as Salvation, Faith, Godhead, Baptism, Sin, etc.

    (Slide 6) The next task was to reshuffle the material to consolidate all the sentences under the same code. A typical page from these files is shown in this slide. The next and continuing task is to summarize the material under each code. (slide 7). An example is shown in this slide where we have summarized all the material under the title of godhead. We will address these theology issue towards the end of the paper.

    The players surrounding the writing of the Book of Mormon. Ron presentation (Part 2)

    One of the observations that we noted in our studies is the number of interconnections between a relatively small group of people. Even the widow of William Morgan who disappeared while writing his expose on freemasonry which surely influenced the Book of Mormon’s aversion for secret societies, shows up in Nauvoo as one of Joseph Smith’s plural wives. Then there is the connection between the discovery of the Detroit manuscripts and Lucy Smith’s brother and its connections with Dr. Mitchill and Professor Anthon. Also there is the strange fact that Hyram Smith was sent to Moors academy which was an adjunct of Dartmouth College. Certainly this is unexpected from the Smith’s poor and near destitute living conditions. But maybe more understandable when realizing that Lucy’s brother sent his son to the same school and quite likely influenced the enrollment of Hyram. It was this factor of the connection between Hyram and Dartmouth that started our search for Book of Mormon origins. Added to Hyrum’s connection we also will note some of the other players in this rather select group which surround the origins of the Book of Mormon. Ethan Smith who wrote “View of the Hebrews” which B.H. Roberts suggests might have served as a source for much of the material in the Book of Mormon, was a Dartmouth graduate. He also was the pastor of the church that Oliver Cowdrey’s family joined. While Ethan had graduated long before Hyram attended the school, his son Lyndon was a classmate of Hyram’s. And then Solomon Spaulding was also a Dartmouth graduate and his distant nephew Eli Spaulding was also a classmate of Hyrum. One of the first things that we note is the origin of Dartmouth College which we think sowed seeds of the Book of Mormon stories. It started with the creation of Moors Academy by Eliazar Wheelock in 1754. It was envisioned as an Indian Charity School to teach some young native Americans Christianity and thus have them go out into their tribes and spread the gospel message. In 1770 he sought to expand the school and sent to England to get a charter for such an institution from King George. He got the charter and also significant funds from the earl of Dartmouth after whom he named the new college. Moors academy was retained as a preparatory school for future Dartmouth students. We cannot rehearse all the details of the material in the book that we are writing, but in the time available would like to share some of the highlights. First we note some of the peripheral connections to the Book of Mormon. Its origins cannot be separated from the story of the first vision. It is one of the primary witnessing tools of the LDS outreach. However, the current story is a product of considerable editing and rewrite. The earliest telling of the first vision is by Joseph Smith himself. He writes that his motivation for retiring to the grove was that he felt remorse and concern for his immortal soul. He does not mention his perplexity as to which church he should join. In his experience he saw a light brighter than the noon day sun and he was assured that he was forgiven.ii We feel that it is more than just coincidence that prior to Joseph recalling this event, a student at Dartmouth also reported that he had felt remorse and concern over the fate of his immortal soul and retired to the woods to pray. There he saw a light brighter than the noon day sun and was assured of his forgiveness. He reported this on campus and Wheelock wrote to his sister that it resulted in one of the greatest revival experiences at the school. The young man was Levi Spaulding a classmate of Hyrum and a son of Solomon Spaulding’s relative. Levi went on to become a missionary to India where he spent the rest of his life promoting the cause of Christianity.

    While some might dismiss the traditional Solomon Spaulding connection we note that in the one novel of Solomon Spaulding that has survived, his introductory chapter of the novel tells how he found a buried stone box and when he obtained a lever and had pried the lid off, found manuscripts written in a foreign language which he translated and discovered it to be a record about ancient Americans. We think that it is doubtful if Hyram or Joseph ever read this novel, but it is certainly possible that Hyram had heard of the story from Levi Spaulding. This especially since it is reported from Dartmouth records that Lyndon Smith, Ethan Smith’s son, also a fellow classmate brought some of his father’s writings to school and they were warmly received by the staff and pupils.

    From the records of Eliazar Wheelock, John Smith, Solomon Spaulding and Ethan Smith it is obvious that interest in the native Americans and speculation about them being descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel were prevalent on the Dartmouth campus.

    The next connection we suggest is found in the writing of Lucy Smith where she relates that on many occasions and possibly as early as 1821 – 22 the family sat around the fire in the evenings and listened to young Joseph relate stories about the ancient Americans. Apologists for the historicity of the official stories suggests that he obtained this information from the angelic visions prior to obtaining the gold plates. Much of this material however can be suggested as coming from Dartmouth via Hyrum. It is noted that Hyram spent many hours with Joseph while Joseph was recuperating from the surgery on his leg. While many argue that Joseph was unschooled, it should be noted that Hyram went on to become a school teacher and in charge of hiring teachers for the school district. In fact it was Hyrum that hired Oliver Cowdrey, a third cousin, to be the school teacher in the Manchester school. It is unthinkable that he did not spend time tutoring his younger brother.

    Margie presentation (Part 3)

    Along with a source for the first vision, and the method of finding hidden record there is also the incursion of the Masonic organization on the Dartmouth campus. The indications are that at first the Masons also proselyted the students and one cannot ignore the Masonic foundational myths of Hiram Abiff. Once again there are too many parallels between it and the stories about and within the Book of Mormon to suggest mere coincidence.

    A synopsis of the Masonic myth is that Enoch, one of the patriarchs was 25 years old when he received his prophetic call and had a vision where he was taken up onto a mountain called Moriah. In this vision he saw a vault for sacred treasures, like a holy ark. In it Enoch saw a gold plate containing unknown engravings and symbols. He also saw the Sacred name of God, which had been lost to all mankind, and he was told to preserve this knowledge. He then saw in a vision that a flood would come to destroy all mankind and it was his duty to preserve this Sacred Mystery. He placed two pillars inside the hill along with the treasure of the gold plate: One of marble upon which were written in Egyptian hieroglyphics the events connected with the tower of Babel. and one of brass, which contained the history of creation. This brass pillar had a metal ball on its top, within which were contained maps, and directions of the world. The ball also acted as a kind of oracle. Enoch then placed a stone lid, or slab, over the cavity into the hill and prophesied that after the flood an Israelite would discover the Sacred buried treasure. After the flood, a great king, named Solomon, came to power and desired to build a Sacred Temple. Solomon and his builders, the Masons, while excavating for the temple at Mount Moriah, discovered the sacred treasure. After three attempts to obtain the treasure, they were finally successful. But, three wicked men intervened and committed a horrible crime. They attempted to force one of one of the faithful Masons who had discovered the treasure, Hiram Abif: or Hiram, the widow’s son, to reveal the hiding place. He would not reveal his knowledge and therefore they killed him. While being slain, Hiram, with uplifted hands, cried out, “Oh Lord, My God, is there no help for the widow’s son?” This has since become a Masonic distress call. Then three loyal Masons, seeking revenge, pursued the three evil ones. And one of the three faithful Masons overtook one of the villains. He was asleep with his dagger at his side. He slew the villain with his own knife by cutting off his head. The recovered treasures became part of the temple treasury. It consisted of the brass records, the gold plate, the metal ball, a breast plate and the urim and thummim.iii At this time, we only wish to draw attention to the way the treasures were hidden and the required three attempts to recover the gold plates. It is interesting to note that the plates were hidden in a cavity covered with a stone lid. Also we note the items identified are buried with the gold plates, the breastplate and the Urim and Thummin. In the official church history these are later called translators or spectacles. Once again we can find the source of much of the descriptions of the origins of the Book of Mormon in stories coming from the Dartmouth College campus most likely relayed to Joseph via his brother Hyram.

    Eliazar Wheelock appointed John Smith a professor at Dartmouth College to develop the theology curriculum. John Smith, similarly saw connections between the Lost Tribes and the Native American Indians. While Wheelock believed that the Ten Lost Tribes came to the Americas via a Bering strait ice bridge, John Smith added that since there was evidence that ancient Canaanites migrated to West Africa by sea, that it was not impossible, with favorable winds, for these ancient Hebrews to have sailed to the New World. Certainly an interesting piece of information that could have been transmitted to Joseph by Hyram.

    The Detroit Manuscript Ron Presentation (Part 4)

    The Dartmouth connection is not the only grouping of players. There was the rather strange find of what was called the Detroit Manuscript. This was an old manuscript found by Colonel Abraham Edwards in March of 1823 as he was remodeling a house he owned in Detroit. It consisted of three to four hundred manuscript pages bound together. It was reported in the Detroit Gazette that “The characters in which it is written are unknown; they are neither Hebrew, Greek, nor Saxon, and the only parts that are intelligible, were a few Latin quotations written in the margins.”iv Colonel Edwards asked a Dr. Mitchill to evaluate the unknown writings and if possible to translate them. However it was reported in the papers that he was unsuccessful.

    Subsequent attempts at a much later date to decipher the text led to Professors of the Georgetown College. They determined that the characters were a form of Irish shorthand, and the subject of the pages that they were provided spoke of the reasons for withholding the cup from the laity in the Catholic Church, and giving them only the bread, in administering the Eucharist. Unfortunately the Detroit manuscripts have disappeared like the golden plates and thus are not available for scrutiny. It is suspected that they might have burned in a fire in Dr. Mitchill’s home. However, unlike the golden plates they were examined by numerous linguistic scholars and there are comments concerning their nature and possible origins. Dr. Stout in his analysis had surmised that these marks could well be a kind of ancient Irish shorthand known as Tironean. He writes in his paper on the topic that Tironean script bears considerable similarity to the ‘charactors’ on the surviving copy claimed to be taken from the gold plates. (slide 8).

    Any similarity is of little concern unless there is some kind of connection between the finding of the Detroit manuscript by Col. Edwards and Joseph Smith. The connection is very interesting. First, Edward’s business partner was a Mr Steven Mack, the brother of Lucy Mack, Joseph Smith’s mother. This relationship was not only familial but Lucy had been remanded to the care of her brother when their mother nearly died. She spent years with her older brother until she married Joseph Smith Sr. Indeed when they were married, her brother Steven and his business partner between them gave her a dowry of one thousand dollars which was a small fortune in those times. There is little of record of actual visits between her brother and Lucy’s family. However, one of the postulates concerning Hyrum’s selection to attend Moors Academy is that Steven Mack’s son was also attending the academy at this time. Hyrum’s attendance was thus not a sheer chance selection of a child from an indigent family, but most likely due to his uncle’s influence. It would appear very unlikely that the Smith family did not hear about the Detroit manuscript through Steven Mack. It is more likely that they saw copies of the strange markings in the text.

    There is yet another unexpected co incidence and that is that Dr. Mitchill was chosen by Col. Edwards to try to interpret the strange writings of the Detroit manuscript. The same Dr. Mitchill who was the first choice for Martin Harris to ask for an opinion regards the copy of the markings from the Gold plates. The church story focuses on Professor Anthon. However, Anthon wrote that Dr. Mitchill was the one who referred Martin Harris to bring the paper with the ‘caractors’ to him. In the official history of the church it is implied that Martin Harris originated the idea of taking the ‘caractors’ to the learned men to translate. However in her family history Lucy Smith states that Joseph had a vision instructing that Martin Harris should make the journey.

    The development of the Christian theology in the Book of Mormon. But maybe first we should note some theology which surprisingly is NOT contained in the Book of Mormon.

    The claim is made in the opening pages that the prime purpose of obtaining the brass plates was to preserve a record of their Israelite heritage and in particular the Mosaic Law. However one searches in vain throughout the Book of Mormon for references to specific practice of the Law of Moses. There is no circumcision, no food laws, no cleanliness code, no observance of any of the feasts, not even the Passover. There is no mention of the many kinds of offerings such as trespass offerings, meat offerings, drink offerings, grain offerings, wave offerings and peace offerings. There is none of the prohibitions to avoid wearing mixed fibers or planting different crops in the same field. No designation of clean and unclean animals. There are only two references to sacrifices and neithert conforms to the Mosaic Law. There are mentions of Baptisms, confessions of belief in Christ’s name, falling to the ground as being slain in the spirit and attending churches in abundance, even anachronistic mention of meeting in synagogues, but no observance of the Mosaic Law.

    A final note on the indications of a developing theology. Many scholars believe that when the 116 pages of the book of Lehi were lost that Joseph did not start all over at the beginning with the writing of the books of I and II Nephi etc. but rather continued with the book of Mosiah

    Joseph received a revelation in the summer of 1828 with a solution for the problem of the missing pages. This revelation implies that the lost book of Lehi was a more secular story of their migration and would be replaced with the story from Nephi which contained more of the gospel. Thus the book of Mosiah is the beginning of the serious introduction of Christian theology that is contained in the Book of Mormon. Therefore we might be able to follow a historical development of the theology starting with the discourse of king Benjamin. In summary the story tells that all the people were gathered before the Temple in tents and king Benjamin had a tower built so he could speak to the multitude. King Benjamin starts with a long preamble and then introduces his main reason for calling them together. He introduces this part of his speech with the statement “the things which I shall tell you, are made known unto me, by an Angel from God.” King Benjamin then begins to tell of future events which parallel the New Testament stories which we are aware will be written a little over two hundred years later in the Old World. The important statement that he makes is “for salvation cometh to none such, except it be through repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

    At this point we would like to refer back to Section 10 in the Doctrine and Covenants (section 3 RLDS) and compare the requirement for salvation and the ‘true gospel’ noted in its message. In addition to the issue of the lost pages it speaks of the formation of a true church among the Nephite/Lamanites which would also be restored in the latter days. The revelation continues and in verse 62 states … Yea and I will also bring to light my gospel which was ministered unto them and they shall not deny that which you (Joseph Smith) have received but they shall build up and bring to light the true points of my doctrine; yea, and the only doctrine which is in me; and this I do, that I may establish my gospel, that there may not be so much contention; The revelation ends with these words “Behold this is my doctrine, whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me the same is my church. Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, therefore he is not of my church.” The theology presented by king Benjamin is congruous with the theology of the 1828 revelation.

    This theology does not involve any baptismal requirement He repeats several times that “only through repentance and faith on the name of the Lord God Omnipotent can one become blameless”. Thus in spite of the repeated emphasis on the need for baptism in the rest of the Book of Mormon, the theology starts with a typical Methodist approach to salvation.

    As a final note, besides the Orthodox Christian theology found in the pages of the Book of Mormon there is also an overarching millennialism. This is noted by Wesley P Walters in his PhD thesis where he lists the many parallels in the Book of Mormon to the millennial message of Ethan Smith in his book “View of the Hebrews”.

    There are even more parallels between the View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon listed in parallel columns in the book “Joseph Smith and the Origins of the Book of Mormon” by David Persuitte.ix This once again suggesting the Dartmouth College influence via Ethan Smith.

    This paper was presented at restoration Studies Symposium 2008

  3. Margie, that was really long–it’ll take me some time to fully digest. Do you have the presentation you could email me? I’d be real interested to see the slides. (My email is mormon heretic at gmail dot com, if you don’t mind sending it.)

    I haven’t read your whole post, but let me just say that it is interesting that you think you’ve developed the “Lost Manuscript.” As I’m sure you’re well aware, Fawn Brodie greatly discounted the idea that a Lost Manuscript ever existed.

  4. MH:

    I have been studying the origin of the Book of Mormon for several years now. Margie’s post agrees with my research findings.

    I started out on the same page as Brodie but have come to find that her scholarship (with regard to a possible Spalding connection) was lacking.

    As just one example in the Brodie quotes you list above she claims that:
    “The narrative Hurlbut found had no religious matter whatever, but the Book of Mormon was permeated with religious ideas.”

    This is simply innacurate. In fact Spalding’s manuscript had entire sections dealing with “religious matter” as shown in the following exerpts of an outline of the manuscript produced by Dale Broadhurst: [note: misspellings in Spalding orginal]

    ( http://solomonspalding.com/SRP/SRPpap08.htm#pg05a )

    c. Christianity practiced in ancient America 015:02b-015:08
    As we all professed 015:02b
    The next thing to be done was to …… 015:03
    minister to lead our devotions every morning 015:07
    & evening & on the Lords day. — 015:08

    2. A Deliwan Religious Festival 022:01-029:14

    a. initial preparations 022:01-023:01

    They held festivals at stated times, which 022:01
    varied in the manner of conducting …… 022:02
    enter the circle and are tied [——–es] 022:23
    The speaker then extended his hands & spoke 023:01

    b. the religious speaker’s address 023:02-025:02

    Hail ye favorite children of the great & good 023:02
    Spirit, who resides in the sun, who is …… 023:03
    He then proclaimed, let the sacred pile 025:01
    be erected & the solemn sacrifice performed. 025:02

    c. atonement sacramental ordinance 025:03-026:13a

    Instantly about one hundred men came for- 025:03
    ward with small dry wood & bundles of dry …… 025:04
    their vociferation the sound of their voices improved by tenfold con[-] 026:12
    fusion. 026:13a

    Chap. VI 050:08
    Discription of the Learning & customs Religion …… 050:09

    c. Ohian civil and religious records; scriptures; and teachers 052:13-053:13

    A. Spalding’s Observations on Religion’s Societal Role 055:15-056:03

    Relion. VII. 055:15
    —————-
    In every nation there is some kind of Relion …… 055:16
    policy of all goverments to encourage & 056:02
    protect some kind of Religion. 056:03

    B. Spalding’s Comments on Ohian Religion 056:04-056:15a

    in examining the religious sistem sentiments & precepts which 056:04
    are believed & practised thro’out this exten …… 056:05
    ous cerimonies. It expresses them to this 056:14
    effect. 056:15a

    C. Ohian Scriptural Extracts: Theology and Anthropology 056:15b-058:03a

    1. The Good and Evil Beings; Fall and Salvation of Human Beings 056:15b-057:15a

    “There is an inteligent omnipotent 056:15b
    Being, who is self existant & infinitely good …… 056:16
    happy after death — afte[r] his soul quits his body
    Death desolves the connection — 057:15a

    2. Metaphysiscs: Death and the Afterlife 057:15b-058:03a

    Etherial 057:15b
    Bodies are prepared for the souls of the …… 057:16
    etherial bodies & they arise quik to the abodes 058:02
    of delight & glory: 058:03a

    3. Various Commandments from Ohian Scripture 058:03b-061:22

    a. against cruelty, theft, and lust 058:03b-058:10
    Now O man attend to thy 058:03b
    duty & thou shalt escape the portion of the …… 058:04
    body from the contamination of lust — & remem- 058:09
    ber that the seduction of thy neighbors wife would be a great crime. – 058:10

    b. on plural marriage and its regulation [deleted] 058:11-058:22

    Let thy citizens be numbered once in two 058:11
    years — & if the young women, who are fit …… 058:12
    shall spend his time equally with each 058:21
    one — 058:22

    c. on conduct among friends and in families 058:23-059:23

    Be grateful for all favours & forsake not thy 058:23
    friend in adversity. Treat with kindness …… 058:24
    hast an opportunity to manifest the disposi- releif will be pleasing to thy maker & an 059:22
    tion of thy heart — expression of thy gratituge 059:23

    d. on retribution for the wicked and hospitality for strangers 059:24-060:10

    Envious & malicious souls are almost incurably 059:24
    contaminated with that hellish poison which …… 059:25
    departs he may bless the[e] & go on his way 060:09
    rejoicing. — 060:10

    e. against idleness and sloth 060:11-060:21

    Industry will Say not to thyself I will 060:11
    indulge in inactivity & idleness & lie upon the …… 060:12
    plenty shall suply the wants of thy family 060:20
    & thy reputation shall be respectable. 060:21

    f. on bodily cleanliness [partly deleted] 060:22-061:06

    But I behold a being in human form, from 060:22
    whom I turn away with disgust & abhorrance. …… 060:23
    But from a dirty filthy mortal 061:05
    we turn with disgust & abhorrance 061:06

    g. on the divine institution of the state and civil defense 061:07-061:22

    As the great author of being our existence is bene- 061:07
    volent to all his ofspring so it …… 061:08
    will be celebrated on the plains of 061:21
    glory. — 061:22

    4. Commandments on Religious Observance and Worship 062:01-064:07

    a. on the relationship between God and humankind; worship 062:01-063:02

    But the vision now expands & directs 062:01
    our comtemplation to fix on his attri[-] ……
    therefore bound to confess our faults 063:01
    & implore forgivness — 063:02

    b. on religious organization and the priesthood 063:03-063:21

    Now that you may know & keep all these 063:03
    things which were made known …… 063:04
    Mercy has banished them into shades 063:20
    of forgetfulness. — 063:21

    c. admonition to obey the commandments and gain God’s favor 063:22-064:07
    Be attentive O man to the words of 063:22
    truth which have been recorded & …… 063:23
    faces brighten with the cheering benign 064:06
    beams of cheerfulness. — 064:07

    Lobaska’s Religious Reformation in Sciota 070:02b-071:02
    a. a new scriptural religion; the pretense of divine revelation 070:02b-070:18a

    But 070:02b
    not willing to stop here the benevolent mind …… 070:03
    to have with the second son of the great 070:17
    & good Being — 070:18a

    b. reception of his religious fabrications 070:18b-071:02

    the people did not long 070:18b
    hisitate, but received as sacred & divine …… 070:19
    which would promote the happiness of man 071:01
    kind in this world. 071:02

    d. Lobaska’s fabricated priesthood established 087:17-088:08

    In order that the priests & instructors of learning may know &
    perform their duty 087:17
    for the benefit of civilization, morality & religion, Lam …… 087:18
    shall be denied the priviledge of their instructions — & 088:07
    shall be subjected to the ridecule & contempt of the people. — 088:08

    a. spirits of the slain rise to their heavenly rewards 151:12b-151:16a

    …………….

    How Brodie concludes that there is no religious material in Spalding’s extant manuscript is a mystery, but it quite obviously shows that her conclusions are highly questionable at best.

    One other clear example of Brodie getting it wrong is this:

    “First there is no evidence that Rigdon ever lived in Pittsburgh until 1822, when he became pastor of the First Baptist Church.”

    –Rigdon did not have to *live* in Pittsburgh to go there on a regular basis.

    “Rigdon’s brother-in-law, not a Mormon, and Isaac King, and old neighbor, swore to him that Rigdon did not go to Pittsburgh before 1822.”

    –This testimony has been refuted by hard evidence (as I will explain in a moment).

    “Mrs. Lambdin, widow of Patterson’s partner, denied any knowledge of Rigdon,”

    –which is to be expected since she was married to Lambdin *after* Rigdon’s close association with her future husband had ended. (By the time she was interviewed, he had died).

    “as did Robert P. DuBois, who had worked in the printing shop between 1818 and 1820.”

    –which is to be expected since the window of time when Rigdon could have purloined a Spalding manuscript was *prior to* 1818 or after 1822.

    One of Brodie’s most egregious mistakes is the following:

    “One woman, who had worked as a mail clerk in Patterson’s office between 1811 and 1816,”

    –this conclusively shows that Brodie did not properly do her homework. Rebecca Eichbaum was the daughter of the Pittsburgh postmaster and then she had the good fortune of marrying the man who would take her father’s position upon his retirement. So she was in a position to know who came and went at the Pittsburgh post office–she was *not* a “mail clerk in Patterson’s office” as Brodie erroneously reports!

    “…stated that she knew Rigdon and that he was an intimate friend of Lambdin’s but this was clearly untrue as evidenced by the statement of Lambdin’s widow that she had never heard of Rigdon….”

    Wrong again! This is clearly NOT untrue as evidenced by the fact that Lambdin’s widow had no knowledge of Rigdon since his association with her husband was over by the time she married him! In fact Rebecca Eichbaum’s testimony was recently corroborated by hard evidence in the form of an 1816 mail-waiting notice published in a Pittsburgh newspaper with both Sidney Rigdon’s name on it as well as Solomon Spaldings!

    Ooops!

    Clearly Brodie’s conclusions were premature to say the least.

    In fact, after looking into this (Spalding Theory) for over a year now, I have come to the conclusion that pretty much all of Brodie’s criticisms can be adequately answered and that the Spalding Theory explains the known data better than any other possible production theory for the Book of Mormon.

  5. Roger, thanks for stopping by. Different people will come to different conclusions. Brodie clearly stated that many of the witnesses offered contradictory testimony. A judge has to decide who is most credible. She decided who she felt was credible; it sounds like you disagree. Apparently most of the witnesses had some sort of axe to grind. Even if we accept your premise that Rigdon got the book from Lambdin somehow, Brodie has shown Rigdon’s whereabouts at the time he would have offered the manuscript to Joseph, and it does not seem convincing that Rigdon somehow squirreled the book to Joseph.

    I have a question for you. I’m sure you’ve heard of The DaVinci Code. While it is a religious book, would you put it on par with the Bible? I’m guessing you would not. While DaVinci Code deals much with religious events, it does not attempt to portray itself as a text that people should follow. It does not attempt to lay down ethical laws like the 10 Commandments, or Sermon on the Mount. Frankly, it does not fit in the same class as the Bible.

    Here’s my disclaimer–I have not actually read Spaulding’s manuscript. I’m going off what others say. As I understand it, the story talks of a Roman blown off course to the Americas. You seem to have pointed out some religious aspects in the book, but I would conjecture to say that it is not even as religious as DaVinci Code. There is no Sermon on the Mount, 10 Commandments, sermons on charity, baptism, grace or anything like it. The parts you mention are not written in scriptural form, but seem or narrative. It does not appear to me that the book is claiming any sermons, but these passages are part of a plot.

    Perhaps I am mistaken–feel free to correct me. But from what I understand, it is as scriptural to the BoM as DaVinci Code is Biblical (that is to say, not much similarity.)

  6. Okay… apparently I don’t know how to make italics or bold, so I will just do the best I can…

    MH:

    Roger, thanks for stopping by. Different people will come to different conclusions. Brodie clearly stated that many of the witnesses offered contradictory testimony.

    –Brodie stated several things that simply don’t add up if one really begins to look into the facts. I don’t see many contradictions–perhaps none if one understands the context–whereas there is a whole lot of agreement… in fact so much so that Brodie then complained that the testimonies actually sounded *too* similar! So which is it?

    A judge has to decide who is most credible. She decided who she felt was credible; it sounds like you disagree. Apparently most of the witnesses had some sort of axe to grind.

    –Not so. I challenge you to show me an example of a pro-Spalding witness who had “an axe to grind.” Instead the typical argument is that the man who gathered the principle affidavits was the person with the axe to grind. (D.P. Hurlbut) He was *indeed* a disgruntled ex-Mormon who did in fact have it in for Joseph Smith. So the question is, did he so influence the testimonies as to render them unreliable? Brodie thinks so. I strongly disagree.

    Even if we accept your premise that Rigdon got the book from Lambdin somehow,

    –It’s not *my* premise. It was a premise developed by people who were in a position to know something about it. People who knew Spalding, Lambdin and Rigdon.

    Brodie has shown Rigdon’s whereabouts at the time he would have offered the manuscript to Joseph,

    –Really?! That’s news to me! You might want to check your facts on that. Where, for example, was Rigdon during majority of the summer and fall of 1826? Where was Joseph Smith during that time? Where was Rigdon in the spring of 1823? We have a pretty good idea where Smith was on Sept 21-22, 1827, but where was Rigdon? The truth is there are considerable gaps in both of their itineraries.

    and it does not seem convincing that Rigdon somehow squirreled the book to Joseph.

    –why not? Rigdon could *not* have introduced the Book on his own. Even as it was, people were making a connection (whether right or wrong) between him and the BOM. So if Rigdon *would have* introduced the BOM on his own, there would be no Mormonism today and we would not be having this discussion.

    I have a question for you. I’m sure you’ve heard of The DaVinci Code. While it is a religious book, would you put it on par with the Bible? I’m guessing you would not.

    –Correct.

    While DaVinci Code deals much with religious events, it does not attempt to portray itself as a text that people should follow. It does not attempt to lay down ethical laws like the 10 Commandments, or Sermon on the Mount. Frankly, it does not fit in the same class as the Bible.

    Here’s my disclaimer–I have not actually read Spaulding’s manuscript. I’m going off what others say. As I understand it, the story talks of a Roman blown off course to the Americas. You seem to have pointed out some religious aspects in the book,

    –correct. A *lot* of religious material in a manuscript Brodie erroneously described as *devoid of* religious matter!

    but I would conjecture to say that it is not even as religious as DaVinci Code.

    –That is subjective. Who is to say how much religious material is “a lot”? The point is, Brodie said there wasn’t *any* religious matter in Spalding’s EXTANT manuscript and she was flat wrong about that. Her larger point then–that Spalding wouldn’t have written a ms that could have been used as the basis for the BOM because his EXTANT ms didn’t have *any* religious matter–simply falls flat.

    There is no Sermon on the Mount, 10 Commandments, sermons on charity, baptism, grace or anything like it. The parts you mention are not written in scriptural form, but seem or narrative. It does not appear to me that the book is claiming any sermons, but these passages are part of a plot.

    –Which, again, overlooking the subjectivity, still does nothing to throw doubt on the S/R (Spalding/Rigdon) authorship claims since the S/R theory does not have Rigdon copying from Spalding’s EXTANT ms but, rather, from a different (non-extant) Spalding ms. Certainly one of the weaknesses of the S/R theory is that the non-extant ms is *in fact* non-extant… but there is a quite rational explanation for that, (JS would have destroyed it after making use of it) and the fact is that IF that ms *were* extant, S/R would no longer be a theory but a fact. –Either that or it would be disproven, but I highly doubt that. The way most criticisms go is that the EXTANT Spalding ms is the ONLY ms that Spalding wrote on the topic of ancient migration from the old world to the new. But there are too many details that work against that hypothesis, and the witnesses themselves say there was more than one.

    Perhaps I am mistaken–feel free to correct me. But from what I understand, it is as scriptural to the BoM as DaVinci Code is Biblical (that is to say, not much similarity.)

    –Again, the point is irrelevant because S/R advocates do not claim that the EXTANT Spalding ms is the one that was used by Rigdon. Rather it was a ms written *by the same author* using *a similar premise* as the one used by Rigdon. But the earliest witnesses referenced BOTH ms’s and they themselves claimed that the one we now have was NOT the one purloined by Rigdon.

    From Judge Aron Wright

    I once anticipated reading his writings in print, but little expected to see them in a new Bible. Spalding had many other manuscripts, which I expect to see when Smith translates his other plate. — Aron Wright, 1834

    From Spalding’s widow:
    “But our enquiries did not terminate here. Our next object was to ascertain, if possible, the disposition Spalding made of his manuscripts. For this purpose, a messenger was despatched to look up the widow of Spalding, who was found residing in Massachusetts. From her we learned that Spalding resided in Pittsburgh, about two years, when he removed to the township of Amity, Washington Co. Pa. where he lived about two years, and died in 1816. His widow then removed to Onondaga county, N. Y., married again, and lived in Otsego county, and subsequently removed to Massachusetts. She states that Spalding had a great variety of manuscripts, and recollects that one was entitled the “Manuscript Found,” but of its contents she has now no distinct knowledge. While they lived in Pittsburgh, she thinks it was once taken to the printing office of Patterson & Lambdin; but whether it was ever brought back to the house again, she is quite uncertain: if it was, however, it was then with his other writings, in a trunk which she had left in Otsego county, N.Y.

    -E. D. Howe, Mormonism Unveiled, 287-288
    http://solomonspalding.com/docs/1834howf.htm#pg231

    Note that Spaldings’ widow states that he had “a great variety of manuscripts.”

    And Howe himself comments on the two ms’s:

    The trunk referred to by the widow, was subsequently examined, and found to contain only a single M. S. book, in Spalding’s hand-writing, containing about one quire of paper. This is a romance, purporting to have been translated from the Latin, found on 24 rolls of parchment in a cave, on the banks of the Conneaut Creek, but written in modern style, and giving a fabulous account of a ship’s being driven upon the American coast, while proceeding from Rome to Britain, a short time previous to the Christian era, this country then being inhabited by the Indians. This old M. S. has been shown to several of the foregoing witnesses, who recognise it as Spalding’s, he having told them that he had altered his first plan of writing, by going farther back with dates, and writing in the old scripture style, in order that it might appear more ancient. They say that it bears no resemblance to the “Manuscript Found.”

    –From your quotation of Brodie above:
    Hurlbut showed this manuscript to Spaulding’s neighbors, who, he said, recognized it as Spaulding’s, but stated that it was not the “Manuscript Found.” Spaulding “had altered his first plan of writing, but going farther back with dates and writing in the Old Scripture style, in order that it might appear more ancient.” This surmise may have been true, though there was no signed statement swearing to it. But it seems more likely that these witnesses had so come to identify the Book of Mormon with the Spaulding manuscript that they could not concede having made an error without admitting to a case of memory substitution which they did not themselves recognize.

    –This is another extremely weak conclusion by Brodie. She somehow credits Hurlbut with implanting false memories into the brains of virtually ALL 8 of his Conneaut witnesses such that–according to Brodie’s theory–they FALSELY remembered names they had actually never read or heard read from Spalding’s ms! The way Brodie phrases this makes it sound ‘plausible’ but when one actually thinks about what she’s suggesting, it sounds ridiculous. Not only that, but one would also have to believe that Hurlbut was an amazingly lucky fellow since unsolicited witnesses (he had virtually no control over) would continue to come out of the woodwork for the next 50+ years IN SUPPORT of the testimony he had gathered back in 1834!

    Furthermore, none of his witnesses ever claimed that Hurlbut had put words in their mouths or implanted false memories in their brains or coersed their statements in any way. So they were either ALL lying, or they ALL were majorly susceptible to Hurlbut’s alleged power of suggestion, or….. by george, *maybe* they were actually telling the truth!

    –There’s more where this came from but I am out of time for now. In any event, I’m not trying to ruffle feathers here, but I have personally become satisfied that all of Brodie’s criticisms fall flat when one considers the whole of the evidence with an open mind. For whatever reason, Brodie did not WANT to believe in a Spalding connection. Yet, if memory serves me correctly she was still open to the idea of Smith plagiarizing from View of the Hebrews… ?

    I might ask what is your opinion on that? Do you see evidence that Smith (or somebody) plagiarized from VOTH?

    All the best!

  7. Roger, html works but you use > and < instead of []

    I feel like I've already argued this over at Mormon Matters. Frankly, I'm a little tired of the subject–it's too bad you didn't join in on this conversation sooner. There was a guy there (Doug G) who wanted to stack multiple theories on top of each other to prove that Joseph plagiarized the BoM. It all sounds so conspiratorial. Doug believed "Smith (or somebody) plagiarized from VOTH", but I think that conspiratorial reasoning sounds just like those who believe that NASA faked the Apollo Moon landing. Yes, there are conspiracy theorists who think they can prove it, but it doesn't seem to add up with all the people involved. I don't think it's fair to start stacking View of the Hebrews on top of a non-existent Spaulding Manuscript.

    Ok, let's go with your theory that Spaulding squirreled away this lost manuscript which Joseph destroyed. What is Sidney's motivation to participate? He was the more talented preacher, much older, and respected. Joseph was known as a treasure digger, a conniver, and he eloped with his wife because Emma's father didn't even like Joseph. Why would a respected Baptist preacher put his faith in someone of Joseph's questionable character?

    Sidney was fanatical about religion, but he never was known to lie or steal. It seems completely out of character to me (based on the biography by Van Wagoner I mentioned above), for Sidney to be part of such a massive deception. Sidney had periods of disaffection with Joseph as early as about 1832 (disfellowshipped as I recall), and as late as 1844 when Joseph tried to marry Nancy Rigdon, and Joseph tried to get Sidney fired from the post office (see my other posts on Sidney.) With Joseph having a reputation as a scoundrel, it would have been easy for Sidney to discredit Joseph many times. With all the documented bad times between Joseph and Sidney, Sidney stuck by his story through the end of his life. I've never heard a compelling argument as to why Sidney would participate in such a conspiracy. Sidney was known as an honest man–much more honest than Joseph. Yes Sidney had his faults, but stealing and lying was never known as in his nature.

    I have only briefly studied the connections of View of the Hebrews (VH). I believe a stronger case could be made for a VH connection to Joseph than a non-existent Spaulding Manuscript.

  8. MH:

    Cool! Thanks for that info, I can now maybe produce a little more readable response.

    I feel like I’ve already argued this over at Mormon Matters. Frankly, I’m a little tired of the subject–it’s too bad you didn’t join in on this conversation sooner.

    Well if you’re bored or tired with the subject I don’t have to keep posting here. I am researching the subject so I find it very interesting. In short, if you can show that S/R is not a credible theory, I am interested in that. However, what I have found is that most people who discount S/R do so on the same basis as Brodie or even using her logic–as you did here–and I believe that Brodie’s logic is highly flawed. If I am correct about that, then where does that leave us?


    There was a guy there (Doug G) who wanted to stack multiple theories on top of each other to prove that Joseph plagiarized the BoM. It all sounds so conspiratorial. Doug believed “Smith (or somebody) plagiarized from VOTH”, but I think that conspiratorial reasoning sounds just like those who believe that NASA faked the Apollo Moon landing.

    Why? I really don’t think that is a fair analogy at all. The fact is the majority of the earliest Mormon critics (those who did not accept the official explanation of how the BOM came to be) accepted a connection between Rigdon and the BOM. These were people who were there–not people like us who are removed from the events by a century and a half. Many of these people knew Joseph Smith as well as Sidney Rigdon. TO THEM it made sense that Rigdon was the mastermind behind this. But Rigdon passionately denied living in Pittsburgh before 1822. Well, like I pointed out earlier, BIG DEAL! He didn’t have to live there in order to go there frequently. That is basic. And yet that is the kind of stuff we find as we look into this. If you look at Rigdon’s denials, they are ambiguous enough to make it look as though he’s denying it, when in actuality he’s playing semantic games.

    And while it all may appear to be something akin to a fake-lunar landing conspiracy, the fact remains that hard evidence (only discovered a few years ago) now confirms the testimony of those who claim Rigdon DID visit Pittsburgh prior to 1822 and shows that he was indeed lying. Now couple that with the parallels that DO exist between the EXTANT Spalding ms and the BOM as well as Smith’s 1838 discovery narrative, and with the fact that the Spalding witnesses are indeed credible, and, at least in my opinion, that moves this conspiracy theory to something much more solid than those who deny a lunar landing. In my opinion there is no comparison–at least if we are willing to be honest about the facts.

    Yes, there are conspiracy theorists who think they can prove it, but it doesn’t seem to add up with all the people involved. I don’t think it’s fair to start stacking View of the Hebrews on top of a non-existent Spaulding Manuscript.

    Who’s stacking anything on top of anything? Either the parallels that exist between VOTH and the BOM are meaningful or they are mere coincidence. I see no other explanation. I suggest that any normal, objective viewer would note that, by george, there does indeed seem to be an inordinate amount of “similarities” between VOTH and the BOM. Even B. H. Roberts admitted that! So what are we to do with that? Well, if it’s not coincidence, then somebody intentionally plagiarized in order to produce those sections of the BOM. I’ve had discussions with LDS apologists who recognize evidence of plagiarism of the KJB in the BOM. So then that concession is an admission that the eyewitness testimony (that has Joseph merely dictating every word off the LED display as he gazes into the seer stone) is not reliable–at least in some instances. So, if you’re going to admit that at least some sections of the BOM were indeed produced through plagiarism, then you need to explain why you would allow for the possibility of plagiarism from virtually any source EXCEPT the ONE source people who were in a much better position than we are were already associating with the BOM since nearly the beginning of Mormonism?


    Ok, let’s go with your theory that Spaulding squirreled away this lost manuscript which Joseph destroyed.

    But this is a mischaracterization. Spalding didn’t “squirrel” anything away. He took it to a publisher in the hopes of getting it published. But the publisher didn’t find it all that impressive and so he wanted Spalding to put in a substantial amount of money in order to publish it. But Spalding was broke and deeply in debt. He had no money and was hoping to make money from the sale of the book. That’s why it just sat there. And in 1816 Spalding’s health went down hill to point where he died, still in debt and his dream of becoming a published author unfulfilled. At that point, put yourself in Rigdon’s shoes–he’s a lover of books, is interested in the topic and realizes the guy who wrote the thing can’t ever do anything with it…. what’s the harm in doctoring it up and making something good out of it?


    What is Sidney’s motivation to participate? He was the more talented preacher, much older, and respected. Joseph was known as a treasure digger, a conniver, and he eloped with his wife because Emma’s father didn’t even like Joseph. Why would a respected Baptist preacher put his faith in someone of Joseph’s questionable character?

    Either you haven’t read Van Waggoner all that closely or you’re simply overstating Rigdon’s standing with his peers. Rigdon WAS respected as an eloquent (if not passionate) speaker, but he was NOT well respected by his fellow clergy members. He was not even very well respected among the Mormons except perhaps at the beginning. –certainly NOT by 1844.

    And Joseph was EXACTLY the type of person Rigdon needed. As I said earlier, Rigdon knew that if he attempted to bring forth an embellished Spalding ms as though it were a new Bible (as a catalyst to usher in the glorious millenium), he would have been far too easily discovered. Mormonism never would have happened. Smith would have continued with his treasure hunting–not with developing a new religion. Mormonism exists today because the right people were involved in the beginning. Look at the earliest accounts of the discovery…. it’s a Golden Bible with emphasis on the treasure aspect. The religious nature only comes later.

    Sidney was fanatical about religion, but he never was known to lie or steal.

    As far as the stealing aspect goes, I don’t know. But as far as the lying aspect goes, we have documented evidence that he did (as I mentioned above). Not only that, but do YOU consider his post-Nauvoo revelations to be valid? Was Sidney Rigdon truly hearing from God when he claimed God wanted him–not Brigham Young–to be the head of the church? If you don’t accept Rigdon’s post-Nauvoo revelations as valid, then how can you claim he never lied? Not only that, but it’s a perfect analogy to the BOM… he’s lying for the Lord in BOTH cases.

    It seems completely out of character to me (based on the biography by Van Wagoner I mentioned above), for Sidney to be part of such a massive deception.

    I suggest you re-read chapter 24 and the subsequent chapters. Note especially things like the middle of page 355:

    Moreover, he continued, “I have sat and laughed in my sleeve at the proceedings of the Twelve this evening, for they have been fulfilling in this last act, the vision I had at Pittsburg[h]. I knew you would withdraw fellowship from me, I knew you would oppose me, in all my movements. It was all shown to me in the vision before I left Pittsburg[h}.

    But of course, even those who believed God indeed communicated to Mormon leaders did not accept this “vision” of Rigdon’s as being true! And that is just one small example. Rigdon was constantly receiving “revelation” instructing houses to be built for him, or establishing him as a prophet, seer, etc.

    Here is a small example of how Orson Hyde portrayed Rigdon’s character in 1845:
    Here is now a curious case before us. Mr. Rigdon testified here on Sunday, the 4th of August last, before some thousands of witnesses, that the same men who, he says, tried to seduce his daughter, is a true martyr, has ascended to heaven, and holds the keys of the kingdom. Mr. R. said also that God had revealed to him in Pittsburgh, that the kingdom must be built up to that same man who, he now says, tried to seduce his daughter. If one portion of Mr. Rigdon’s testimony is true; and I feel to endorse it as truth: that Joseph holds the keys of the kingdom; I think he and Miss Nancy both will have rather hard work to get by him into the kingdom, inasmuch as they tell these hard stories about him. Shame on such miserable trash! I am sick, Mr. President, of dwelling upon such wicked inconsistencies. But as I have been appointed to deliver this address, I am resolved to endure to the end. Can you! (Cries of yes! yes!!)

    Can Mr. Rigdon believe that Joseph Smith ever tried to seduce his daughter? Can he believe that he ever tried to get her for a spiritual wife? If he really believes this of Mr. Smith, how could he propose to build up the kingdom to him, unless he fellowshipped such abominable works? But if Mr. Smith had tried to get Miss Nancy for a carnal wife he might probably have been successful. I do not however think Mr. Rigdon believes any such thing of Joseph Smith. But because he was rejected as the leader of this people, he now seeks to destroy us by the most cruel slanders — the most wicked misrepresentations and the foulest calumnies that ever proceeded from disappointed ambition.

    http://www.sidneyrigdon.com/Hyd1845A.htm#Hyde27a

    Sidney had periods of disaffection with Joseph as early as about 1832 (disfellowshipped as I recall), and as late as 1844 when Joseph tried to marry Nancy Rigdon, and Joseph tried to get Sidney fired from the post office (see my other posts on Sidney.) With Joseph having a reputation as a scoundrel, it would have been easy for Sidney to discredit Joseph many times. With all the documented bad times between Joseph and Sidney, Sidney stuck by his story through the end of his life.

    Not really. You are aware, no doubt, that Rigdon attempted to take over the church at least 3 times before Joseph’s death? And then again, he made a passionate attempt to take over when Joseph was killed?

    Note this sentence from Van Wagoner:

    As the remaining three decades of his life would prove, Rigdon was seldom content after 1844. Racked by poverty, poor health, and mental instability, he spent much of his dotage studying on his own cloud-encircled peak the ineffable secrets of God. But his soul’s melody was the lamentation of a religious expatriate, continually pricked by a burning hatred for Brigham Young. Wickliffe Rigdon wrote that the 1844 rejection by the Twelve and their followers deeply hurt his father, who believed he had, “done more to establish the Church” than anyone else and should have been rewarded with its leadership.

    VW-p 359

    If you truly study Rigdon, I don’t see how you can come to the conclusion that this was a humble, sincere and honest individual. At best he was deluded into believing he really did receive grandiose visions and revelations from God on a regular basis (that just happened to single him out for greatness). At worst, he was as comfortable putting words in God’s mouth as you and I are at posting online.

    I’ve never heard a compelling argument as to why Sidney would participate in such a conspiracy. Sidney was known as an honest man–much more honest than Joseph. Yes Sidney had his faults, but stealing and lying was never known as in his nature.

    All I can say is that if you really believe that, then we simply have a fundamental disagreement. Again, how do YOU interpret Rigdon’s post Nauvoo revelations?

    I have only briefly studied the connections of View of the Hebrews (VH). I believe a stronger case could be made for a VH connection to Joseph than a non-existent Spaulding Manuscript.

    Yes, critics make a lot of hay out of the fact that MF (Manuscript Found) is in fact missing. As I stated earlier, if it wasn’t, I think that in itself would close the case, S/R then being proven.

    Let me ask you this…. how do you account for the parallels that exist between Joseph Smith’s 1838 discovery narrative (how he allegedly found the BOM) and Solomon Spalding’s pre-1816 account of how he–Spalding–discovered the ancient writing he also claimed to translate?

    See here for more info:

    http://solomonspalding.com/SRP/SRPpap04.htm

    Are these parallels merely coincidence?

    If so, isn’t it just a little odd that an account written by Joseph Smith in 1838 would JUST HAPPEN to contain some remarkable similarities to an account written by the guy people had already been associating with Smith and Mormonism since at least 1833?

    All the best!

    Roger

  9. All I can say is that if you really believe that, then we simply have a fundamental disagreement.

    I agree whole-heartedly with that statement. If you’re looking for conspiracies, you’re going to find them. I don’t see these coincidences as compelling. I’ve already posted on the coincidences of Nahom–I’m sure you don’t find those compelling. We’re both biased here–I have believer’s bias, you have non-believer’s bias. I wish we could take off our lenses, but it is impossible to look at these things dispassionately. I’m sure we both feel we’re objective here. (If you could only understand what I’m saying….we both are thinking.) :)

    Again, how do YOU interpret Rigdon’s post Nauvoo revelations?

    Let’s pull out your quote above:

    VW-p 359

    As the remaining three decades of his life would prove, Rigdon was seldom content after 1844. Racked by poverty, poor health, and mental instability, he spent much of his dotage studying on his own cloud-encircled peak the ineffable secrets of God.

    Mentally unstable–yes, liar–no, thief–no. Let’s not forget that Sidney participated in the revelation of D&C 76–the 3 degrees of Glory, so he was familiar with revelation. I’ve stated in my polygamy posts that I believe Joseph was deceived regarding polygamy. I certainly believe Sidney was deceived in his own revelations as well.

    Let’s look at a real life case. The FBI was convinced (as was the public at large) that Richard Jewel was the Olympic bomber in Atlanta–until they figured out it was Eric Rudolph. Steven Hatfill was the anthrax killer–until Bruce Ivins turned out to be the real culprit. You’re welcome to believe your theory, but I think you’re just as mistaken as the FBI was.

    Coincidence is not evidence. I encourage you to read Andrew Ainsworth’s post about proving plagiarism from a legal perspective. It’s tough enough to prove plagiarism when you have an existing manuscript. When you have to rely on an imaginary one, it is impossible.

  10. MH:

    I agree whole-heartedly with that statement. If you’re looking for conspiracies, you’re going to find them.

    While that may be true, I wasn’t looking for S/R. I was looking for the best explanation for the BOM. I considered the official version back in 2001 when visited by LDS missionaries. But during my investigation–which included information the missionaries were not disclosing–it did not take long to figure out that they were painting an incomplete picture of Joseph Smith. With regard to the BOM, I learned there were problems with anachronisms, poor grammar (1830 version) in a text that was allegedly provided by and corrected by God, plagiarism, a complete lack of BOM geography (when in fact there should be an abundance–this too fits in quite nicely with S/R, which actually does give a geographical context to the BOM in the great lakes region), DNA forced changes to doctrine and, recently, a key word change in the BOM introduction, etc. I therefore concluded the BOM is not a translation from an ancient text. That left me with: Joseph Smith must have produced it… which I held to for several years, following Brodie’s, Vogel’s, Metcalf’s, etc. reasoning without doing much further investigation. However, a little over a year ago I started looking into S/R to see if it had any merit. The more I learned, the more it became clear that it not only had merit, it also explained the entirety of the data much better than either of the two other main competing production theories (official version, Smith-alone).

    I don’t see these coincidences as compelling. I’ve already posted on the coincidences of Nahom–I’m sure you don’t find those compelling. We’re both biased here–I have believer’s bias, you have non-believer’s bias. I wish we could take off our lenses, but it is impossible to look at these things dispassionately. I’m sure we both feel we’re objective here. (If you could only understand what I’m saying–we both are thinking.)

    I think that’s a fair statement except that whatever “bias” I may bring to the discussion it is not based on a need for Joseph Smith to be a prophet. I do not have ties to the church so there is nothing for me to lose if Smith was not who he claimed to be–other than, sure, I admit, it would be wonderful if he really had spoken with Jesus, God and angels. So, my point is that my “bias” as a critic does not “care” whether Smith produced the BOM on his own or whether it was a conspiracy… all I am interested in is which explanation best explains what is known about the coming forth of the BOM.

    Mentally unstable–yes, liar–no, thief–no.

    Well this is your blog so I don’t wish to be too disagreeable here, but, with all due respect, even your own founding prophet disagrees with you. As to the theif part,

    1. I don’t know how you can confidently make that determination
    2. I don’t know why you think it is relevant to this discussion unless you are claiming he would not have “stolen” Spalding’s ms… ?

    As to the liar part,

    There is hard evidence that at the very least he was being purposely deceptive in his no-Pittsburgh prior to 1822 denials. Rigdon paints a scenario in which it would have been physically impossible for him to have purloined a ms from a Patterson print-shop/bookstore because the implication of his statement is that he was never there prior to 1822… but, as it turns out, we have concrete evidence that he was receiving mail there on a fairly regular basis. This is a clear example of being conciously deceptive. Maybe that doesn’t amount to a “lie” in your book, but it does in mine.

    In addition to that, you don’t need my opinion, just look at what all the “bretheren” were saying about Rigdon after June 1844.

    He may indeed have been so deluded as to actually believe he wasn’t “lying.” I can’t speak to Rigdon’s frame of mind, which, you are correct, seems to indicate deep delusion–but I can and do point to his statements and show how they do not square with the facts. If you don’t want to think of that as “lying” that’s your prerogative, but is is clear that Rigdon made (many) pronoucements as though he had heard from God about something when–even you (as an LDS) have to admit–he clearly did not. This supports the premise of the S/R theory and certainly does not help the other two.

    Let’s not forget that Sidney participated in the revelation of D&C 76–the 3 degrees of Glory, so he was familiar with revelation. I’ve stated in my polygamy posts that I believe Joseph was deceived regarding polygamy. I certainly believe Sidney was deceived in his own revelations as well.

    Well if you admit that Joseph was “deceived” in regard to polygamy, then I am at a loss to comprehend how you can accept that he wasn’t deceived about everything else? Was he deceived when he produced scripture he claimed was a divine translation from Egyptian but that Egyptologists said came from the Book of Breathings? Was he deceived about the Kirtland Anti-Bank? Was he deceived about the Salem, MS treasure find? Was he deceived about selling the BOM copyright in Canada? Was he deceived when he promised 14 year-old Helen Mar Kimball eternal salvation for her and her family if she consented to become another one of his wives? As I’m sure you know, this sort of thing goes on and on. Why would you continually come to the conclusion that poor Joseph was deceived as opposed to doing the deceiving?

    Let’s look at a real life case. The FBI was convinced (as was the public at large) that Richard Jewel was the Olympic bomber in Atlanta–until they figured out it was Eric Rudolph. Steven Hatfill was the anthrax killer–until Bruce Ivins turned out to be the real culprit. You’re welcome to beleive your theory, but I think you’re just as mistaken as the FBI was.

    Coincidence is not evidence. I encourage you to read Andrew Ainsworth’s post about proving plagiarism from a legal perspective. It’s tough enough to prove plagiarism when you have an existing manuscript. When you have to rely on an imaginary one, it is impossible.

    First, I note that Joseph Smith was placed into a legal context in 1826 and lost.

    Second, proving something in a legal context is–for good reason–much more difficult than establishing something in the real world. (Do you believe O.J. was innocent?) Nevertheless, if the competing BOM production theories were “put on trial” and forced to “prove” their respective cases, I dare say the official version would lose hands down, which would then leave Smith-alone (ala Brodie, Vogel, etc) to slug it out with S/R (ala Howe, Whittsit, Patterson, Broadhurst, Vanick, etc). I am confident–given equally talented advocates–that S/R would win because, again, the known data fit better into an S/R perspective.

    As to this:
    When you have to rely on an imaginary one, it is impossible.

    As I noted earlier, yes, certainly the fact that MF is not “found” but missing is indeed a weakness–much like missing plates is a major weakness. However, unlike the official version, S/R in fact DOES have a manuscript written by the same author using a very similar premise. So similar, in fact, that LDS and RLDS apologists want to believe IT IS the same ms and that there never was another. Hmmm. That creates an interesting set of problems….

    In the first place that is what allows you to confidently label MF “imaginary.” Well if you, Brodie, Vogel, etc. are correct about that, then RS (the Roman Story–which is name Dale Broadhurt prefers to call the extant Spalding ms) had to have been the one Spalding submitted to the Pattersons for publication. But that is highly problematic since RS is in no condition to be submitted for publication. It is disjointed, is riddled with errors (such as switching names), and is not even complete(!) ending in mid-paragraph with no conclusion. Furthermore, a couple of the witnesses casually mention that Spalding wrote MF on “detached sheets of Foolscap.” Foolscap was a very distinct kind of paper with a watermark logo… RS is not written on Foolscap. RS (the extant Spalding ms) cannot be the one submitted for publication. Couple that with credible witnesses who flatly state that RS is not the ms that was used to produce the BOM and you are left with solid reason to conclude that MF is not “imaginary.”

    All the best!

  11. Roger, I realize my perspective on things is not typical, which is why I embrace the heretic moniker. Many people find my opinions are a cross between faithful and faithless. Faithful people find me heretical and too worldly, faithless people find me too apologetic. I know the church is big into “it’s all true or it’s all false.” Frankly, I don’t buy that.

    I think there are lots of things that are partially true. Heroes (biblical or not) have flaws. Lincoln was a racist (at least on today’s standards) who freed slaves. Jefferson said “all men are created equal”, yet owned slaves. George Washington offered alcohol for votes. Does that make them completely good or completely bad? No, it makes them paradoxical humans full of weaknesses.

    Biblical heroes such as Abraham practiced polygamy. I have major problems with the Prophet Abraham, who sent his wife and son to die in the desert. He also tried to kill his own son, in some crazy act of obedience. Circumcision is a crazy pagan practice, adopted by Abraham. I believe Abraham was deceived on many things, but he was also a prophet. Check out my post on Abraham. Joshua commit genocide–I call it Joshua’s Unholy War. Yet I still take him as a prophet. Do you? Jacob cheated Esau out of his blessing. Are you 100% comfortable with all the Biblical prophets? The 10 sons of Israel tried to kill Joseph, but decided to simply sell him into slavery and pretend he was dead. Why do we hold up these 10 tribes as God’s chosen people in the Bible?

    I wonder if you’ve researched the origins of the Bible as much as you have the BoM. I think you would also find my perspective unorthodox on the Bible as well. You realize we have no original manuscripts, right? We have no idea who wrote the Bible. I accept flawed prophets. Check out these:

    Did Moses Copy Hammurabi’s 10 Commandments?
    The Documentary Hypothesis
    How do we define Scripture?
    Why are the 12 tribes of Israel important?

    You are starting to delve into several other issues I’ve already addressed. You might want to see my opinion on:

    The Kirtland Banking crisis
    My Perspective on Polygamy
    Bushman’s perspective on Polygamy
    Nahom
    Prophetic Infallibility

    (Just an FYI, this many links normally trips my spam filter, but since I’m the admin, I can rescue them.)

  12. MH:

    I wonder if you’ve researched the origins of the Bible as much as you have the BoM. I think you would also find my perspective unorthodox on the Bible as well. You realize we have no original manuscripts, right? We have no idea who wrote the Bible.

    Actually no, I haven’t. I have done some limited research, but probably not as much as I have done on the BOM. That is primarily because I am interested in the origin of the BOM and my time is limited. I will likely do more research on the origin of the Bible some time down the road, but for now my limited focus is on the BOM.

    While it may be technically correct that “we have no idea who wrote the Bible” we do, however, have a pretty decent idea that Jesus of Nazareth was a real person. In addition, we can visit Isreal, Egypt, Syria, Arabia, Persia (Iran), Babylonia (Iraq), etc. even to this day. There is a bona-fide back-drop to the Biblical narrative. The same cannot be said for the BOM–unless one considers the very real possibility that a Spalding ms does indeed underly BOM geography and one begins to take notice of the similarities in place names between certain BOM locations and place names in the Great Lakes region.

    As far as no originals to the Biblical books… the John fragment may be an original. However finding originals to the Biblical texts is neither likely nor important. We KNOW that there are indeed ancient copies. No one disputes that Isaiah, for example, was written a really long time ago (certainly before Christ). Therefore the ancient nature of the text is not in dispute. Certainly some of the content may be, but at least we know it’s ancient. Again, the same thing cannot be said for the BOM. In fact, all indications are that it is NOT ancient, but rather a product of the 19th century.

    As to my delving into other areas, that was in response to your (surprising) admission that “Joseph was deceived” about polygamy. Certainly that is indeed a heretical position for a Latter-day Saint to take. Of course, I agree with you, but I’m a critic! I seriously wonder how you can reconcile that belief with the official LDS teaching on polygamy?

    D & C 132?

    61 And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood— if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else.

    How could Joseph have been “deceived” on this and yet it remains a part of your scripture? If Joseph was deceived about polygamy, just think of what a mess his “error” has caused?! With all due respect, I don’t see Joseph as being deceived about polygamy, rather, Joseph doing the deceiving. If Joseph was deceived about polygamy then it would appear that prophets can indeed lead the flock astray… seriously so. If Joseph was deceived about polygamy but was still a prophet… then what’s the point of having prophets?

    Anyway, this is getting off on a side-issue. I don’t want to bog-down your blog.

    You posted an argument contra Spalding Theory via Brodie’s logic. Most faithful LDS wouldn’t admit to reading Brodie so that’s something of a paradox right there. And yet you appeal to Brodie as a means of discounting the S/R theory. My point is that Brodie’s conclusions are not valid because her research into S/R is incomplete and in some major ways simply erroneous.

    If you want to accept the BOM as an ancient text because of a personal witness, that’s entirely up to you. But when you discount a BOM production theory based on Brodie’s logic, that’s when I become interested in the discussion.

    All the best!

  13. Roger,

    I am not surprised that you haven’t studied the origins of the Bible. Stick around–you may learn some stuff. I frequently post on Biblical topics as well. I recently found a Yale University course which says that the Creation story is a plagiarism of a Babylonian Tale about Gilgamesh. Noah’s story is another plagiarism of a Babylonian Tale. Since you seem to be so focused on plagiarism, I think you ought to study the origins of the Bible–there’s plenty of plagiarism there as well. There are some who believe the Exodus story is an invented story and really the Canaanites and Israelites are the same people. The Canaanites are rich, Israelites are poor, and the Battle of Jericho is really a story about class warfare. I posted recently on an allegation that the Law of Moses in Exodus is a plagiarism of Hammurabi’s Code, which dates from a time 400 years prior to Moses.

    As for Jesus, there are many from Harvard who either question Jesus as a historical figure, or believe that the Bible stories are greatly embellished. Many believe the miracles of Jesus turning water to wine, feeding the thousands, or Jesus walking on water are plagiarism from stories about Julius Ceasar who did many of the same things. John Dominic Crossan, a former Catholic priest and one of the founders of The Jesus Seminar said it is likely that Jesus was never removed from the cross, but his body was left there for weeks to rot and decompose. The Romans usually left bodies to decompose on a cross as a warning to others. He said it is likely dogs scattered Jesus’ bones.

    There are ancient Christian Gnostics dating from the 2nd century who believed Jesus was never resurrected, believed Jesus escaped form the Cross (which is a belief held by Muslims as well), believed Jesus was not divine, believed the resurrection didn’t matter, but that Jesus real purpose was to spread the Word of God. They don’t believe in the virgin birth, believe Joseph was Jesus real father, and that Christians have either invented many tales about Jesus, or copied from Greco-Roman-Egyptian myths about other characters.

    We need to understand that when Constantine came to power he accepted the Catholic/Orthodox teachings of Jesus, and then persecuted the Gnostics and Marcionites nearly to extinction, though they were able to survive to around the 7th-8th century. (I posted already on Marcionites.) So, if we are to accept the Bible, we have to recognize Constantine’s imprints on it.

    If you’re such a plagiarism aficionado, don’t you think it would be wise to study some of these plagiarism allegations in the Bible too?

    I will also say that even if one ignores the plagiarism allegations in the Bible, there are plenty of prophets in the Bible who don’t meet modern-day morality. If you want to discuss polygamy, I welcome you to post on one of my polygamy posts rather than here. You’ll find that my position on polygamy is that Biblical as well as Mormon polygamy practices are wrong. I have major problems with both. Ironically, I feel like you don’t seem to care about Biblical polygamy–at least you don’t have the condemnation for Solomon, Abraham, or David, as you do for Joseph Smith. That seems inconsistent, IMO. If you read D&C 132, Joseph specifically appeals to Solomon, Abraham, and David as a precedent. In my mind that’s a bad precedent, and I condemn all Biblical polygamy as wrong-headed. I don’t beleive God ever wanted Abraham to marry Sarah and Hagar, David to marry Bath-Sheba and Mikal (or his other wives), or Solomon to have 300 concubines and 700 wives, or Jacob/Israel to marry Jacob and Leah. It’s all wrong. If you don’t condemn biblical polygamy, I don’t see how you can condemn Mormon polygamy, since the Mormon practice appeals specifically to Biblical precedent.

    As for Brodie, I wrote this post with a different audience in mind. I had just finished the Van Wagoner book. A disaffected Mormon friend of mine seemed to support the Spaulding Theory. Since he seemed to like Brodie, I thought Brodie would appeal to him. Van Wagoner had also mentioned Brodie’s work. My original idea was to quote from Van Wagoner (who highly discounts the Spaulding Theory), but when I realized he was really referencing Brodie, I decided to read the appendix on Spaulding from Brodie for this post. So, I felt like Brodie might be a good person for this disaffected Mormon friend of mine.

    The funny thing is, Brodie is seen an anti-Mormon, and is generally discredited in Mormon circles as having bad scholarship. Now I’m hearing from you that you don’t like Brodie either. Honestly, Brodie is on my “to read” list–I’ve only read the appendix on Spaulding for her book No Man Knows My History. So, if you don’t trust Brodie’s Spaulding conclusions, do you agree with Mormons that her scholarship is generally poor and not worth reading? Perhaps I shouldn’t waste my time with Brodie at all if the pro-Mormons and anti-Mormons agree that her scholarship is generally of poor quality.

  14. MH:

    Actually I think the Gilgamesh tale is the one that parallels Noah not Adam–at least if my memory serves me corectly, but perhaps there is a creation account in it as well. Certainly the Gilgameth epic was recorded before Genesis, but in terms of the oral traditions underlying them, it is impossible to know which one came first, so to emphatically state that the Genesis account is a plagiarism of Gilgamesh, I think is overreaching. Also, it’s not that I haven’t studied Biblical orgins, just that I haven’t studied it as much as I have BOM origins, and as I stated, the reason for that is that I am simply, at the moment, more interested in trying to figure out which BOM production theory is most likely. (Sort of like figuring out a mystery). I am open to looking into allegations of plagiarism within the Bible as well, but again, my interest at this point lies more with BOM origins than Biblical origins.

    As to Biblical polygamy, I agree with you, and the kicker is, I think God does too. I am aware that there is one verse in relation to David that can be interpreted as God “giving” Saul’s wives to David, but I do not think it has to be interpreted that way. My opinion is that God tolerated polygamy but that it certainly was not his ideal… otherwise I would think he would have created multiple wives for Adam. So I wholeheartedly agree with you that God did not want Abraham to marry Hagar, etc. But you are certainly out on a bit of a limb there when it comes to LDS doctrine… I think you should just make the leap and come on over to Evangelicalism. LOL.

    With regard to this:


    If you don’t condemn biblical polygamy, I don’t see how you can condemn Mormon polygamy, since the Mormon practice appeals specifically to Biblical precedent.

    As you can see, I join you (sort of) in condemning “Biblical” polygamy, in that I think God tolerated it like I think he tolerates divorce… it’s certainly not his ideal. But there is a world of difference between “Biblical” polygamy where one man marries more than one virgin and Joseph Smith’s brand of polygamy and polyandry. I don’t so much condemn Joseph for polygamy per-se (although I, like you, don’t like it) but Joseph’s particular version of it. He married other men’s wives, pressured reluctant teenagers into plural marriages, lied about it publically and, I believe in the early years he wasn’t even bothering with marriages but was simply having affairs. What I find particularly offense, however, is his promise to Helen Mar that if she marries him it will ensure her salvation as well as that of her family. I find that particularly egregious.

    With regard to Brodie, it’s not that I don’t like her, just that I think she was a mediocre scholar. She certainly broke new ground in her day with NMKMH but her biography tends to be more of a psycho-biography where she spends a lot of time psychoanalyzing Joseph Smith as opposed to objective reporting. Mormons don’t like it because she takes the attitude of a high-minded, educated, elite who’s sort of looking down at the simple, superstitious 19th century, farm-boy sympathetically and almost nostalgically but at the same time with a ‘no serious person could possibly believe this nonsense’ attitude. I would still recommend that you read it though. It’s pretty much a must read. She devotes an entire appendix to “refuting” the Spalding Theory, but again, I think pretty much all her objections have adequate answers. Of course, she was not aware of the mail-waiting notice since that was only discovered recently. But I do think she was biased against Spalding from the get-go and did not objectively look at the evidence as a consequence.

    In the end, if we are to go with Brodie’s premise… I would have to conclude either that Joseph Smith was something of a wonder-kid or there really was an angel and golden plates. The only other option is that Oliver contributed a lot more than we are led to believe. Smith may have been a wonder-kid, but it sure doesn’t look that way. Just consider the descriptions of how Joseph dictated revelations… slowly, methodically, painfully one slow word after another, and juxtapose that with how quickly the BOM came together after the 116 page loss. It certainly implies that the bulk of the work was produced out of view somewhere.

    The problem always comes down to: who do you want to believe? As I am sure you well know not everyone is trustworthy all the time, and in this case, you have testimony that contradicts the testimony of other witnesses and then even contradicts itself. I’m reading Grant Palmer’s An Insiders’ View of Mormon Origins and am finding it very interesting reading… especially given that Palmer is LDS. I’m also reading Mormon Apocrapha and there is an essay there by Vogel who points out how the testimony of Martin Harris and David Whitmer was inconcistent and contradictory.

    I guess that’s what makes it a challenge!

    I am reading the thread you list above and may post there when I finish.

    All the best!

  15. Roger:

    John Hamer, who, by the way, does NOT believe in the historicity of the Book of Mormon, has a post on By Common Consent at “http://bycommonconsent.com/2009/07/18/the-spaulding-fable/” which shows what you really have to believe to buy the Spaulding theory. Let that be my contribution to this discussion.

    Then, if you resolve that to your satisfaction, you can come back with your explanation of how ANY combination of scholars in the early 19th Century could match what is known in the early 21st. Asking whether Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, or Spauding wrote the book of Mormon is like asking which of the three stooges was the smart one — Larry, Moe, or Curly.

    If the Book is true, none of them was smart enough. If the Book is false, none were smart enough to fake it convincingly. So authorship is simply irrelevant.

    Read the Book. You can then either accept it or stop wasting years of your life denouncing something you regard as an obvious fraud.

  16. FireTag:

    I have seen John’s cute, oversimplification of the Spalding Theory and was ready to interact with him at Mormon Discussions, but for whatever reason he apparently did not want to discuss it in that forum… maybe it had something to with the fact that the theory’s leading advocate, Dale Broadhurst, was posting on that thread…

    http://www.mormondiscussions.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=9793&sid=dbc756384bb9cec13cca8f550baf5c5f&start=0

    Suffice it to say, what I have found is that critics of S/R pretty much always oversimplify what S/R actually postulates in order to more easily “refute” it. Strawmen are much easier to confront than reality.

    As to reading the BOM, I have. Some sections more than others. I even prayed about it and asked God to show me if it is true. He led me to information about how it came to be and other information about the character of Joseph Smith.

    As to the complexity vs capability question, I think all three major explanations are possible, but only one is most likely. In other words, it may be true that Joseph Smith was visited by an angel and actually participated in a divine translation through the gift and power of God. But for a host of reasons I think that explanation is very unlikely to be the real explanation. Similarly, it may be true that Joseph Smith somehow put it all together using mostly his own creativity, but when one considers the evidence (such as the fact that Joseph’s known dictated revelations were extremely slow or the obvious evidence of plagiarism of the KJB or the obvious plagiarism in his other works, ie. Josephus – Book of Abraham) this too becomes a fairly unlikely scenario–although certainly more likely than the divine explanation.

    But when one takes a good, honest, fair look at how the evidence meshes with what S/R actually postulates, things begin to make a lot of sense. Nearly everything begins to have a reasonable explanation.

    John’s piece–while cute and creative–suffers from the same types of oversimplifications that Brodie’s logic does. I was prepared to discuss this with John, but apparently he wasn’t interested. I note that the thread you linked to is locked. If he would be willing to join us at Mormon Discussions, I’m sure we could have a wonderful dialogue about it.

    All the best!

  17. Roger:

    If you are confident that the Book is wrong, I’ll repeat the question, “Why bother?” Figuring out the WAY in which the BofM is non-historical is a minor point compared to the debate about WHETHER the BofM is non-historical. Spaulding is interesting only if you regard it as more likely than all of the other non-historical theories. So I’m curious as to whether you believe that to be so.

    I don’t think anyone is afraid of confronting the reality of what isn’t even the leading opposing theory of non-historicity. The debate has moved on to other non-historical theories, and that is where most of the debaters wish to spend their time.

  18. FT:

    If you are confident that the Book is wrong, I’ll repeat the question, “Why bother?” Figuring out the WAY in which the BofM is non-historical is a minor point compared to the debate about WHETHER the BofM is non-historical.

    So if I think the BOM is not historical, and I think the evidence supporting a Spalding/Rigdon connection is more compelling than for a Smith-alone scenario I should just let it go? I might return the question… why? Apparently because you think I shouldn’t be interested in the topic?

    Spaulding is interesting only if you regard it as more likely than all of the other non-historical theories.

    I don’t think I quite agree with that. Even if it’s not true, I would still find the S/R theory to be interesting. I thought it was interesting even while I was still a Smith-alone advocate.

    So I’m curious as to whether you believe that to be so.

    I thought I was pretty obvious in my previous posts, but, yes, I have come to accept that the S/R theory is closer to the truth than the other main competing theories.

    I don’t think anyone is afraid of confronting the reality of what isn’t even the leading opposing theory of non-historicity.

    I never stated that anyone was afraid. What I stated was that for whatever reason, John did not choose to keep posting on that thread and to my knowledge has not even returned to the site since then. I do not know his reasons.

    The debate has moved on to other non-historical theories, and that is where most of the debaters wish to spend their time.

    I see. Could you maybe list two or three of them? Because best as I can tell there are basically two choices… Joseph Smith alone or some form of conspiracy.

  19. Wow, so much to catch up on. I’ll leave the polygamy discussions for the polygamy post. I think we have much in common there.

    As for your interest in BoM origins, not Bible origins, well, I can’t make you interested in something you’re not interested in. However, when you seem more interested in an academic study of BoM, but a faith study of Bible, it seems a little unbalanced, IMO. I would think that many of the techniques your using to study the BoM apply to the Bible as well. If you’re not willing to entertain these criticisms for the Bible, then I don’t think you should be willing to entertain them for the BoM either. It seems like an inconsistent methodology, and not exactly unbiased, IMO.

    Your position on Brodie doesn’t seem consistent either. On the one hand you call her a “must read”, yet you call her a “mediocre scholar” who is not an “objective reporter.” Why is a mediocre scholar a must read? If she’s not objective in regards to Spaulding, why should I regard her as objective regarding Smith?

    I am also curious on your position on Biblical Literalism. I did a post recently on this. Where do you stand?

  20. “View of the Hebrews” by Ethan Smith (no relation to Joseph) is generally considered the leading candidate by most modern critics for a 19th Century theory. But the real debate is how any 19th Century authorship accounts for 20th Century discoveries of structures in the BofM like Chiasmus, of which there are eloquently long examples; or how, since Joseph clearly thought the Book applied to North America, there should be any fit AT ALL with the Olmec/Mayan civilizations, etc.

    It is as if you’re aware of a historical debate, but never speak of the literary, archeological, or other scientific debates going on in other disciplines in parallel.

    If you produced a document signed in Joseph Smith’s blood saying he forged the BofM, you’d still need to devise a credible scientific theory as to how JS or SR or the entire faculty of all American universities in the 1820’s did the deed before a judge would accept the plea.

    I’m not sure you appreciate just how primitive the best science of 200 years ago was compared to today. Mayan civilization was unrecognized. Darwin hadn’t written Origin of Species. Ice ages were unknown. The theory of volcanism, mountain building and connections between continents has gone through TWO complete paradigm shifts. I was not kidding about Larry, Moe, and Curly. You would have regarded the BEST minds of the 19th Century as very sharp, but woefully ignorant of things that we take for granted. So the debate isn’t about finding conspiracy; its about finding any conspirators smart enough or a conspiracy extensive enough to have carried out the crime.

    But my question “why” wasn’t meant to be rhetorical. I have been approached by LDS missionaries as well as missionaries of numerous faiths dozens of times over the years. I can’t imagine having the emotional involvement to try and prove any of them wrong to their advocates once I decided that they WERE wrong. I would only invest that kind of involvement in the study of my own faith, so I am genuinely trying to understand where you are coming from.

  21. MH:

    As for your interest in BoM origins, not Bible origins, well, I can’t make you interested in something you’re not interested in.

    Again, you seem to be missing the point… it’s not that I am UNinterested, it’s that my time is quite limited… I have a business to run, two kids and a home all (rightfully) demanding time. They are my priorities. So whatever I choose to study in my free time, is limited.

    However, when you seem more interested in an academic study of BoM, but a faith study of Bible, it seems a little unbalanced, IMO. I would think that many of the techniques your using to study the BoM apply to the Bible as well. If you’re not willing to entertain these criticisms for the Bible, then I don’t think you should be willing to entertain them for the BoM either. It seems like an inconsistent methodology, and not exactly unbiased, IMO.

    Nobody is “unbiased.” I’m content with and quite open about mine.

    Your position on Brodie doesn’t seem consistent either. On the one hand you call her a “must read”, yet you call her a “mediocre scholar” who is not an “objective reporter.” Why is a mediocre scholar a must read?

    Because her work was groundbreaking in its day and because so many people still talk about her and quote her…. ummm, like yourself! Perhaps you should read her for no other reason than that.


    If she’s not objective in regards to Spaulding, why should I regard her as objective regarding Smith?

    Whether someone is being “objective” about something is itself subjective. My opinion is that Brodie took more time on the non-Spalding related portion of her research and it is therefore better. But it is still a psycho-biography, so take it for what it’s worth.

    I am also curious on your position on Biblical Literalism. I did a post recently on this. Where do you stand?

    Used to be one. Not so much anymore.

  22. FT:

    “View of the Hebrews” by Ethan Smith (no relation to Joseph) is generally considered the leading candidate by most modern critics for a 19th Century theory.

    So who borrowed from it? Joseph? Oliver? Both of them?

    But the real debate is how any 19th Century authorship accounts for 20th Century discoveries of structures in the BofM like Chiasmus, of which there are eloquently long examples;

    Its an interesting question, and I am not an expert, but I have heard that there are also chiasms in the D & C… I suppose you would directly attribute that to God, but people like Vogel & Brodie are not at liberty to do so. I tend to think the argument is overblown and that either Rigdon or Spalding could have introduced them through Biblical imitation… either wittingly or unwittingly.

    or how, since Joseph clearly thought the Book applied to North America, there should be any fit AT ALL with the Olmec/Mayan civilizations, etc.

    Again, I think that’s overblown. Can you positively identify a Mayan or Olmec city with a BOM city?

    It is as if you’re aware of a historical debate, but never speak of the literary, archeological, or other scientific debates going on in other disciplines in parallel.

    Sorry I don’t get your point.

    If you produced a document signed in Joseph Smith’s blood saying he forged the BofM, you’d still need to devise a credible scientific theory as to how JS or SR or the entire faculty of all American universities in the 1820’s did the deed before a judge would accept the plea.

    I disagree. As it is most judges that I am aware of reject the official version of how the BOM came to be even without a confession by Joseph Smith.

    I’m not sure you appreciate just how primitive the best science of 200 years ago was compared to today. Mayan civilization was unrecognized. Darwin hadn’t written Origin of Species. Ice ages were unknown. The theory of volcanism, mountain building and connections between continents has gone through TWO complete paradigm shifts. I was not kidding about Larry, Moe, and Curly. You would have regarded the BEST minds of the 19th Century as very sharp, but woefully ignorant of things that we take for granted. So the debate isn’t about finding conspiracy; its about finding any conspirators smart enough or a conspiracy extensive enough to have carried out the crime.

    If these arguments are correct, then why do secular scientists in general, reject the BOM as true history? Why do LDS scholars like Thomas Murphy and Simon Southerton reject the BOM as historical based on evidence they gleaned from their respective areas of expertise?

    But my question “why” wasn’t meant to be rhetorical.

    Nor was mine:
    So if I think the BOM is not historical, and I think the evidence supporting a Spalding/Rigdon connection is more compelling than for a Smith-alone scenario I should just let it go? I might return the question–why? Apparently because you think I shouldn’t be interested in the topic?

    I am genuinely trying to understand where you are coming from.

    I don’t know you from Adam so forgive me if it appears as though you are not genuinely trying to understand where I am coming from (with regard to my acceptance of S/R), but rather, you seem to be probing for something you might be able to characterize as inconsisent about my approach, thinking, methodology, etc. etc. I’ve had enough online discussions to see the red flags. In all candor, given that I don’t know you from Adam, I really don’t care whether you think I’m being consistent or not or how you might choose to characterize my methodology, approach or whatever. I also realize that–given that I have been so frank here–your reaction will more than likely be to deny that you had any intention of heading down that road–if you are adept at conversations like this, you would, no doubt, add a touch of righteous indignation to cap it off.

    If I have totally misread you, my apologies, but like I said, I’ve had a few online discussions and have seen the tactic employed one too many times.

    You’ll note that MH’s initial post was an attempt based mainly on Brodie to discredit the S/R theory and you’ll further note that I responded directly to the assertions made in that post. There was nothing in MH’s post indicating that people who disagree with the assertions therein and choose to respond with logical reasons will need to undergo a probing investigation as to their methods and motives or “where they are coming from.” So are we still talking about S/R, or is this conversation now about “where I am coming from” in relation to my interest in the topic of the original post?

  23. Roger,

    A minor point of clarification–I’m a little farther in the Yale course. Galgamesh is a Babylonian epic tale similar to both the story of Adam and Eve, as well as Noah.

    What do you make of Sidney, Alexander Campbell, William McClellin, and Nancy Rigdon’s denials of the Spaulding Theory?

    Also, have you read Richard Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling or Terryl Givens By the Hand of Mormon

  24. MH:

    Having difficulty posting. I am going to try breaking up my post….

    A minor point of clarification–I’m a little farther in the Yale course. Galgamesh is a Babylonian epic tale similar to both the story of Adam and Eve, as well as Noah.

    Interesting. I was not aware of there being a creation account in there as well. The story originated as a Sumerian tale, somewhere around the time of Abraham:

    The Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from Ancient Mesopotamia and is among the earliest known works of literary writings. Scholars believe that it originated as a series of Sumerian legends and poems about the mythological hero-king Gilgamesh, which were gathered into a longer Akkadian poem much later; the most complete version existing today is preserved on 12 clay tablets in the library collection of the 7th century BCE Assyrian king Ashurbanipal.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epic_of_Gilgamesh

    So again, difficult to say which oral tradition came first.

  25. …part 2…

    What do you make of Sidney, Alexander Campbell, William McClellin, and Nancy Rigdon’s denials of the Spaulding Theory?

    I put zero stock in Sidney’s denials considering even his LDS peers indicated he was dishonest. You don’t have to dig very far for quotes like this one from Jedediah Grant in 1844:

    Although it has been admitted that Mr. Rigdon was a man of talents, endowed with an extraordinary gift for public speaking, yet the conviction forces itself upon the mind, leading to the conclusion, that his conscience must have been very elastic, as early at least as the year 1831, otherwise he never would have taken the unwarrantable course which he evidently did take; it will be seen that his conscientiousness was of a peculiar kind, when he spoke in the name of the most high God to satisfy his vain ambition, no marvel that the Lord Almighty suffered the Prince of the power of the air to buffet him severely; indeed it was a crime of no small magnitude, Prophets in by-gone days under other circumstances, have atoned for the same crime by a dissolution of spirit and body.

    http://www.signaturebookslibrary.org/rigdon/conclusion.htm

    I find it interesting that an early LDS GA, Jedediah Grant was accusing Rigdon of doing exactly what the S/R theory accuses him of doing… namely speaking “in the name of the most high God to satisfy his vain ambition.”

    Or this: (bold mine)

    And if we can judge from his own mouth, according to the testimony given on his trial, we would suppose that Lucifer, who made war in heaven, was its author; and that it had been handed down unto the present day, and with it Elder Rigdon has unlocked his heart, and portrayed before our eyes what was in it. What was it? Hear it, all ye Latter-day Saints! Listen O earth! and judge the fruits of this key. He threatens to turn traitor, publish against the church in public journals, intimating that he would bring a mob upon the church, stir up the world against the saints, and bring distress upon them, &c. Times and Seasons, Vol. v. p. 650–653. This ought to be a sufficient reason for any true-hearted Latter-day Saint to turn away from him with disgust, and treat all such men and principles according to their desert, which is, to let them entirely alone; for there is not a more despicable principle ever existed in heaven, earth, or hell, than to prove a traitor to our God, our cause, and our friends, and bring distress upon the innocent, and that too by turning against the very cause that a man has spent a portion of his life to build up, and declared, while in the faith, that it was true and righteous; for in all such cases there is entirely a misrepresentation of truth and facts, in order to accomplish the intended evil, while a true statement of facts would advance the cause. — Jedediah Grant, 1844

    http://www.signaturebookslibrary.org/rigdon/part5.htm#excommunication

    Sounds like Grant doesn’t share your “honest man” opinion of Rigdon. Why should I?

  26. …part 3…

    Beyond that, what do you make of his 1844 confession to James Jeffery in St. Louis?

    ” Forty years ago I was in business in St. Louis. The Mormons then had their temple in Nauvoo Illinois. I had business transactions with them. I knew Sidney Rigdon. He acted as general manager of the business of the Mormons (with me). Rigdon told me several times in his conversations with me, that there was in the printing office with which he was connected in Ohio,a MS of the Rev. Spaulding, tracing the origin of the Indians from the lost tribes of Israel. This MS was in the office several years. He was familiar with it. Spaulding wanted it published but had not the means to pay for printing. He (Rigdon) and Joe Smith used to look over the MS and read it on Sundays, Rigdon said Smith took the MS and said “I’ll print it,” and went off to Palmyra NewYork.”

    What do you make of Rigdon’s claim to know the contents of the sealed portion of The Book of Mormon? Rigdon claimed that it: (from Broadhurst and Criddle, bold mine)

    contained an account of the history of Zion, including prophecies of the Old Testament prophets, and an account of Joseph in Egypt. He also described the remnant of Joseph account as a kind of on-going revelation, that was unfolding with the destruction of the Smith family (VanWagoner, 1994). That would be consistent with The Spalding-Rigdon Theory in which Rigdon presumably updated and revised Spalding’s “scriptures”. Rigdon’s 1868 letter poses a dilemma for those who dismiss the Spalding-Rigdon Theory. Either an untranslated portion of The Book of Mormon existed or it did not. If no untranslated portionexisted, why did Rigdon claim that it did? What does this indicate about Rigdon’s willingness to deceive in order to obtain and retain a following? Does this mean that he lied? If he lied in this case, why should any weight be placed on his denials of having participated in the creation of The Book of Mormon? On the other hand, if an untranslated record did exist, how would Rigdon know its contents if he had nothing to do with the fabrication of The Book of Mormon?

    http://sidneyrigdon.com/criddle/rigdon1.htm

    In my opinion the above questions are poignant and deserve serious consideration.

    As to Campbell, he changed his mind and adopted the S/R theory:

    “Since reading Mormonism Unveiled we have had but little doubt that Sidney Rigdon is the leading conjurer in this diabolical affair; and that the widow of Solomon Spaulding, if found, could give some authentic and satisfactory information on the subject of the Book of Mormon — so far at least as the romance of Mr. Spaulding, the real basis of the fraud, was concerned. – A. Campbell, 1839

    http://www.solomonspalding.com/docs2/1942Kirk.htm

    The William McClellin quote that you are probably referencing in Van Wagoner is nothing more than McClellin’s opinion. I see no substance behind it. Beyond that, McClellin decided that J.J. Strang was a real prophet… I doubt if you agree with William McClellin on that.

    Nancy Rigdon was not above lying to protect her father:

    We then asked her: “When did you first hear of polygamy in Nauvoo?”

    She said she never heard of it while they lived in Nauvoo.

    “Did you know any person while you lived in Nauvoo who was married to more than one wife,
    or had more than one wife at the same time?”

    Answer: “I did not.”

    When did you first hear of the so-called revelation on polygamy?

    Answer: “I never heard of it until after we came to Pittsburg, and some time after;
    I could not say just how long.”

    Did you not hear talk that there was such a thing while you lived in Nauvoo?

    “I never did.”

    When did you first hear about sealing?

    “I heard about this first about the year 1842. I believe it was in this year.”

    How old were you at this time?

    “I was born in the year 1822.”

    What was this sealing, and what was the object of it?

    “I can not say that I ever understood it fully. Can not give the object.”

    Was it a state of marriage and did it contemplate living together as husband and wife?

    “I never so understood it.”

    Commenting on the above, Dale Broadhurst wrote:

    What trash! — Nancy knew nothing of the charges of LDS polygamy, published almost weekly in the nearby Warsaw newspaper — and in 1842-44, refuted almost weekly in the Nauvoo newspapers?

    Nancy never heard of John C. Bennett — nor his 1842 book — nor his disclosures of LDS secret polygamy — nor the continual refutations in the Nauvoo newspapers.

    Nancy never heard of William Law and his break with Joseph Smith over polygamy? She
    may plead that her family was on their way to Pennsylvania, when the Nauvoo Expositor was published and Joe Smith was assassinated — But Sidney drug her back again to Nauvoo, where talk about Elder Law’s polygamy charges were still being published in the Nauvoo papers, along with frequent refutations.

    Nancy never heard of vile accusations made against Sarah Pratt, in the Nauvoo newspapers, because Sister Pratt had been brave enough to fend off Joe Smith’s sexual advances and tell people about Nauvoo polygamy?

    Nancy was unaware that her own name and reputation were being linked with propaganda against Sarah Pratt, in the Nauvoo papers — and that her own reputation was only salvaged by her father writing a declaration in support of Joe Smith?

    Nancy was unaware that Smith had hit upon her, and that she had only proven her innocence in alleged false allegations against Joe Smith, when she produced his famous seduction letter?

    Nancy was unaware that Orson Hyde was branding her a woman of ill repute, in LDS publications, after she had repulsed Joe Smith’s lecherous attempts to deprive her of her virginity?

    Nope —– not a word of any of that!!!

    http://www.mormondiscussions.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=9793&p=259703&hilit=nancy+rigdon#p259703

    I am inclined to agree with Dale.

    Also, have you read Richard Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling or Terryl Givens By the Hand of Mormon?

    I am about 1/3 through Bushman but stopped because I own it and I recently checked out a Palmer book and a Vogel book from the library with a limited time before I have to return them. Read most of Givens, but it was a while back.

    MH, I asked your opinion on the parallels between RS (Manuscript Story, Oberlin Ms or Spalding’s extant ms–whatever you want to call it) and Joseph Smith’s 1838 discovery narrative. If you answered, I missed it:

    Let me ask you this: how do you account for the parallels that exist between Joseph Smith’s 1838 discovery narrative (how he allegedly found the BOM) and Solomon Spalding’s pre-1816 account of how he–Spalding–discovered the ancient writing he also claimed to translate?

    See here for more info:

    http://solomonspalding.com/SRP/SRPpap04.htm

    Are these parallels merely coincidence?

    If so, isn’t it just a little odd that an account written by Joseph Smith in 1838 would JUST HAPPEN to contain some remarkable similarities to an account written by the guy people had already been associating with Smith and Mormonism since at least 1833?

    This is one of the things I honestly don’t get. Why are S/R critics so quick to blow this off as though it is nothing? Anyone who reads the two accounts can see similarities. Sure there are differences, but that is to be expected. Even the chronology is similar… if there is no connection between Spalding and Smith, these similarities are just plain weird. If there is a connection, then this is obviously evidence of it. But the really weird thing is that people had ALREADY been associating Spalding with Smith at the time Smith wrote his narrative! How do you explain that?

    All the best!

  27. Roger, You’ve inspired me to download “Manuscript Found” from Oberlin College so I can read first hand how similar this book is to the Book of Mormon. It’s 162 pages, so I can’t read it tonight, but I hope to have it done in a few days. I look forward to deciding if the religious passages you mentioned above are a significant portion of the book.

    I must say you’re much more well-researched (and less inflammatory) than Doug was (though it seems Doug and I did come to a mutual respect in the end). I have to say that your rebuttal of Nancy Rigdon was very interesting. I find it hard to believe she denied knowledge of polygamy, especially since it’s pretty well documented in Van Wagoner’s book that Joseph asked her to be a polygamist wife.

    I’ve yet to find a source that Campbell embraced the Spaulding Theory. I know you’ve got your website, but I don’t view that as a neutral source. Could you direct me to a more neutral source? As for Jedidiah Grant’s character witness against Rigdon, I view that as simply a power struggle between the LDS and the Rigdonites. I know that both sides said terrible things about each other, so I don’t consider Rigdon, Young, or Grant as unbiased judges of character of each other following the death of Joseph Smith. Rigdon and Young were both vying for leadership of the church, and said many inflammatory things about each other. Followers took sides, and I think that post 1844 comments by either side are to be judged as sour grapes.

    I find it funny that you are quoting Mormons to make your point, and I am quoting Mormon apostates or non-members to make mine. Certainly there are a large number of witnesses and experts who disagree on the validity of this theory. I think you’ll agree with that statement.

    You might want to read pages 88-94 of Rough Stone Rolling, which documents several other theories which question the validity of the Book of Mormon, some of which seem more plausible than the Spaulding Theory. Bushman makes the following statements on page 91,

    “The downfall of the Spaulding theory began in 1884 when “Manuscript Found”–still never published and subsequently lost–turned up in the hands of James Fairchild, president of Oberlin College.

    Fairchild concluded that the theory did not hold water.

    The fall of the Spaulding Theory turned critical scholarship in a new direction.”

    Page 92 goes into some of the other theories FireTag mentioned above, mostly dealing with archaeology and DNA. Fell free to read the quotes above in context–I’m just pulling key sentences that are interspersed on the page. You’re welcome to disagree with Bushman, but with his credentials, I don’t think you can call him a “mediocre scholar” like Brodie. (I know I disagree with Bushman on some of the polygamy stuff, but he makes some good points which I referenced on my Bushman Polygamy post.)

    I am really curious why this theory interests you so much. I don’t understand your fascination with the Spalding Theory, at the seeming neglect of other Biblical topics. I remember hearing a Mormon explain that after he had deconstructed many other Christian religions, he deconstructed Mormonism as well. He ended up mostly agnostic/atheist. I guess I don’t understand why you are so fascinated with the Spaulding Theory, while not seeming to care as greatly about the Documentary Hypothesis, Hammurabi’s Code, Source Q for the Gospels, the Virgin birth compared to Isis, turning water to wine like Ceaser, etc. It seems to me to be very similar types of analysis.

    I guess I would feel your arguments were more consistent if you said that the Bible was a plagiarism of these other sources as well. Yes, you say you care about Bible origins, but you don’t seem to care as much. From your comments, I gather you are an Evangelical–though that term is very vague to me–I never understand why people just don’t come out and say, “I’m a Pentecostal/Baptist/Presbyterian”, whatever. As an Evangelical, it would seem very logical to me that you would put this kind of effort into Biblical origins too. I just don’t understand why you are so adamant about the BoM, but not about the Bible. I feel like if you put this much effort into the Bible–a book Evangelicals claim is so important to study–you’d probably come to the same conclusion: The Bible is a plagiarism of many pagan tales. Certainly Bart Ehrmann, a former Evangelical, current atheist, and professor of Biblical Studies at UNC makes a similar claim.

    It seems you and I share an interest in Mormon studies, as well as other religious topics. I’ve posted here on Judaism, Islam, Catholicism, and Eastern Orthodoxy, so I can understand your desire to learn about Mormonism–I desire to learn about these other religions as well. But I wouldn’t dream of posting on a Jewish blog and essentially saying, “Passover is a fraud–Moses never existed, there is no evidence for the Exodus, God never parted the Red Sea….” That would be highly presumptuous, don’t you think? Likewise, I’d never go to a Catholic website and tell them the papacy is a bunch of crap–there were 3 popes simultaneously, they started the Crusades so they would quit warring with each other, Catholics attacked the Christians at Constantinople during a Crusade, the popes slept with nuns, etc. I wouldn’t tell Eastern Orthodoxy that their belief in deification is a corruption of Mormon Exaltation, I wouldn’t tell a Muslim that Mohamed was a polygamist, his marriages to teenage girls were all wrong, and the Koran was made up.

    I think this is what FireTag was getting at when he was asking where you are coming from. It seems you haven’t studied origins of Christianity nearly as much as the BoM, yet you seem so sure of your conclusions on Spaulding Theory. To me your evidence sounds eerily similar to attacks on Christianity or Judaism by atheists. I doubt those arguments hold much water with you, so why does the Spaulding Theory hold water? We’ve already outlined conflicting witnesses–you are so sure that you can explain your side in support of Spaulding–but you seem to fail to apply this same scrutiny to Evangelical beliefs. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m as comfortable with BoM origins as Biblical origins. Both have questionable authorship, and could be based on less than Holy origins (such as Spalding or pagan myths).

    To me, these coincidences you mention are similar in nature to the coincidences of Jesus turning water to wine, as Julius Ceasar did. John Domonic Crossan of The Jesus Seminar said that in the 1st century, miracle workers were a dime a dozen. What struck the mind of a Roman as unbelievable, was not the idea that Jesus did miracles, but that a Jewish peasant was able to perform miracles–such an idea (a Jewish peasant miracle worker) was unbelievable–not the miracles themselves.

    To answer your question, how do you account for the parallels that exist between Joseph Smith’s 1838 discovery narrative (how he allegedly found the BOM) and Solomon Spalding’s pre-1816 account of how he–Spalding–discovered the ancient writing he also claimed to translate?

    There are obvious similarities. At this point, you seem to be getting into the multiple First Vision accounts. Different people have different answers to these parallels you seem to be suggesting. You seem to be saying that Smith’s account of getting the plates was sourced from Spalding. Grant Palmer says that Smith was confronting a crisis in 1838 due to the Kirtland Banking crisis, and invented the story to bolster his claim as a prophet, with the mass excommunications of apostles who questioned his authority. Bushman takes the position that Joseph was really reticent in his earlier accounts of the First Vision, and left out many details because he considered them sacred. It could be a combination of factors–frankly, I can see all three influencing Joseph. I guess it’s a factor to consider when evaluating the First Vision.

    But in my mind, this is no different than Gilgamesh building an ark for the flood, sending birds out to find land, and offering sacrifice to the pagan gods, which is similar to the story of Noah. Coincidence? Maybe yes, maybe no. Maybe Gilgamesh did influence the Noah story. But if you’re going to come down hard on the side of plagiarism with Spalding, then you’ve got to come down hard on the side plagiarism with Gilgamesh, or you’re inconsistent. The techniques are very similar in analyzing authorship.

    I’m only 5 classes into the Yale course now, but they ask some really hard questions about Biblical authorship. There are those who say the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) wasn’t written until the 3rd or 4th century BC. Others place it farther back. Why is an evangelical more concerned with BoM authorship, than Bible authorship? That seems like backwards priorities to me. Yes, I get that you BoM interests you, and you have limited time. The Koran interests me–perhaps I’ll read it someday, but I doubt I’ll be telling a Muslim why it’s all wrong.

  28. MH:

    I’ve yet to find a source that Campbell embraced the Spaulding Theory. I know you’ve got your website, but I don’t view that as a neutral source. Could you direct me to a more neutral source?

    Campbell himself reprinted Spalding’s widow’s testimony from the Boston Recorder in his Millenial Harbinger. That is where the quote I listed cam from. See here:

    http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/texts/acampbell/mh1839/ROTMB.HTM

    I find it funny that you are quoting Mormons to make your point, and I am quoting Mormon apostates or non-members to make mine. Certainly there are a large number of witnesses and experts who disagree on the validity of this theory. I think you’ll agree with that statement.

    Yes, it is ironic, isn’t it?! LOL

    Fairchild concluded that the theory did not hold water.

    Both Fairchild and Rice later concluded that they had been too hasty in their initial reaction to the re-discovery of Spalding’s Roman Story. It is annoying that THAT side of the story never gets told. Instead, S/R critics always seem to quote their initial reaction.

    I am really curious why this theory interests you so much. I don’t understand your fascination with the Spalding Theory, at the seeming neglect of other Biblical topics.

    Again, I’m not sure why my interest in the topic is relevant? Everybody has interests… my son enjoys Tom Clancy novels (when he’s not playing video games), my wife likes romance novels… etc. etc…. why must someone defend their interests? Obviously, even though you don’t agree with it, you were interested in the topic enough to post a denunciation of it… why are you interested in it?

    I guess I would feel your arguments were more consistent if you said that the Bible was a plagiarism of these other sources as well. Yes, you say you care about Bible origins, but you don’t seem to care as much.

    I’ve already explained this several times now. We may just have to leave it with you not understanding where I’m coming from. As to the consistency or lack thereof of what I am presenting, here, by all means, check it out for yourself and if you find any major flaws or inconsistencies, let me know. I am only a recent “convert” to the S/R theory, and I am still researching it, so if it has major holes in it, I want to know about them. What I have discovered so far, however, leads me to conclude that what have been touted as major holes really aren’t.


    From your comments, I gather you are an Evangelical–though that term is very vague to me–I never understand why people just don’t come out and say, “I’m a Pentecostal/Baptist/Presbyterian”, whatever.

    Yes, Evangelical is a pretty broad term. I use it primarily because I have a wide background having been raised in a Pentecostal church but then gravitating more toward traditional churches as an adult. My wife and I have moved around quite a lot and as a consequence we have attended a number of different churches… everything from Assembly of God to Berean Fundamental (quite a difference). Interestingly, we now attend a Lutheran church, but we have also attended Nazarene and Baptist. So… Evangelical is just easier to say! LOL

    As an Evangelical, it would seem very logical to me that you would put this kind of effort into Biblical origins too.

    Until very recently I have been satisfied that the Bible passes the same kind of scrutiny that the BOM fails. I am still not convinced it doesn’t. Let me clarify… there is no question in my mind that the Bible is genuinely ancient and that the BOM is not. Therefore the two are in completely separate categories. However, I have recently come to view Genesis (for example) as at least partially allegorical. This does have implications for the New Testament, admittedly, and I am only beginning to ponder what those implications mean. Having arrived at that rather uncertain point pretty much in the middle of a more intense study of Mormon origins (which itself was promtped by a visit from LDS missionaries in 2001) I have not given the topic nearly the amount of study it rightly deserves to come to a definite conclusion one way or the other at this point. In short, I did not come to any definite conclusions about Mormon origins until after I had done a lot of study on the topic (although I will say it quickly became apparent to me that Joseph Smith was not who he claimed to be and subsequent study has born that out). Once I concluded that the BOM was not what it claimed to be, then I assumed that scholars like Brodie and Vogel knew what they were talking about in terms of any Spalding connection. In fact, I was not exposed to much material on Spalding primarily because these and other scholars dismiss it and therefore do not mention it much–other than to present a case against it. If you read Brodie–without tempering it with Broadhurst–then it’s easy to side with Brodie–especially if you’re a JS skeptic to begin with.

    I just don’t understand why you are so adamant about the BoM, but not about the Bible.

    Hopefully I have explained it a little better above. In short, my interest in Mormonism was prompted by a visit from LDS missionaries. I told them I was a Christian (naively) thinking upon hearing that they would say “Okay, thanks, we’ll be on our way.” Instead they said they were Christians too and that they believed the same Bible I did and in the same God I did and the same Jesus I did and they just had some additional revelation and that if that revelation also came from God, wouldn’t I want to know about it?

    How could I argue with that? Of course if Joseph Smith really heard from God, then, sure, I’d want to know about it. So, I am a case of the LDS missionary program really backfiring on itself. You wonder, why I am so interested? Ask the missionaries.

    I feel like if you put this much effort into the Bible–a book Evangelicals claim is so important to study–you’d probably come to the same conclusion: The Bible is a plagiarism of many pagan tales. Certainly Bart Ehrmann, a former Evangelical, current atheist, and professor of Biblical Studies at UNC makes a similar claim.

    I have one of Erhman’s books and I found it to be a pretty good read. His arguments certainly make logical sense, although I do think he simply (and too easily) discounts any role God might have played in bringing the Biblical books together. He thinks Pauline doctrine became “orthodoxy” primarily because might makes right, but, IMO, that completely ignores the possibility that God was actually directing things. But again, I need to study more before I pronounce Erhman’s views flawed. Also, I don’t get that Ehrman is an atheist from his writing–unless he recently moved in that direction. He seems more agnostic to me.

    But I wouldn’t dream of posting on a Jewish blog and essentially saying, “Passover is a fraud–Moses never existed, there is no evidence for the Exodus, God never parted the Red Sea. That would be highly presumptuous, don’t you think? Likewise, I’d never go to a Catholic website and tell them the papacy is a bunch of crap–there were 3 popes simultaneously, they started the Crusades so they would quit warring with each other, Catholics attacked the Christians at Constantinople during a Crusade, the popes slept with nuns, etc. I wouldn’t tell Eastern Orthodoxy that their belief in deification is a corruption of Mormon Exaltation, I wouldn’t tell a Muslim that Mohamed was a polygamist, his marriages to teenage girls were all wrong, and the Koran was made up.

    I think this is what FireTag was getting at when he was asking where you are coming from.

    This is pretty strong.

    You made a post attacking S/R primarily with Brodie and opened it up for discussion. Given that your name is “Mormon Heretic” and slogan is “stuff they don’t talk about in Sunday School”, I felt pretty safe in assuming you were really interested in hearing any comments–even rebuttals if done respectfully–on the topic you posted on. This is your blog, however, and it appears as though I may be close to wearing out my welcome. I don’t wish to cause angst so now might be an appropriate time to bow out while grace may still be an option.

    I have linked you to the Mormon Discussions board. I have no affiliation with it except that I post there a lot and really enjoy the discussion. If you are serious about challenging the S/R point of view, I would encourage you to post this topic there and see what happens. I know Dale B. has recently had some medical issues and may not be posting for a while, but if you want to give S/R a fair hearing, that is a good place to start.

    In the meantime, as Jacob might say, I bid you adeiu and…

    All the best!

  29. Roger, perhaps I am misinterpreting you. If one subscribes to the Spalding theory, what actions would you expect from them?

    (All the quoting me is unnecessary–I know what I said. I must say that I find it tedious to read when you do this, and I don’t always agree with how you chop up my statements, as it seems to split up my full message. On a side note, I think this topic has the most words per comment of any post in the history of this blog, though my Priesthood Ban and Joshua’s Unholy War posts had some long comments as well.)

    You’ve obviously done a great deal of research on this–more so than me. You seem to have rebuttals for every witness. I have to wonder why Bushman did not to agree with your conclusions over Campbell. I’d be surprised Bushman or Brodie was unaware of the Millenial Harbinger. I know you can’t speak for them, but doesn’t their omission of Campbell’s publication strike you as a bit odd? Do you think it was an intentional/unintentional oversight, or do you think they question the conclusion that Campbell openly endorsed the Spalding Theory?

    I must say that if one looks strictly at the conspiracy side of this theory, you bring a compelling argument. You seem well-prepared to handle contradictory witnesses, and are more studied than I am concerning these witnesses. I’m impressed.

    It seems to me that the Spalding Theory relies on innuendo and conspiracy to make its case (ie, Sidney must have been in Pittsburg, must have stolen the manuscript, and sneaked it to Joseph somehow). Certainly the web of testimony you present compells an honest person to look at the conflicting testimony.

    The biggest flaws in the theory are the lack of the “true” manuscript, and the Oberlin document. Unfortunately for advocates of the theory, this “true” manuscript doesn’t exist (allegedly burned by a Mormon)–the “smoking gun” is missing. From what I understand, only die-hard advocates of the theory see all the similarities in the Oberlin College manuscript and the BoM. Not even you believe the Oberlin manuscript is the source of the plagiarism, though advocates and critics agree there are some parallels between the BoM and Oberlin manuscript. (I printed out several pages of the manuscript at work today, but left it there so I didn’t get to read it tonight. I’ll definitely read it over the weekend.) But it seems to me that Brodie and Bushman have it right when they say that most people then and now who read the Oberlin document dismiss the idea that the Oberlin Manuscript is the source of the BoM.

    You seem to have made a big point that the Bible is ancient, while the BoM is not. Ok, I see this to a point, but just because something is ancient doesn’t make it true. An obvious example is the worship of the ancient Zues. If Moses copied the Law from Hammurabi rather than received the Law by revelation, doesn’t that have huge implications on the entire Bible? If ancient gnostics believed Jesus was not divine, doesn’t that have big implications as well? Could it be that Christianity overemphasizes Jesus, and the Muslim position that Jesus is a prophet, rather than the Son of God is more accurate?

    From a strictly logical perspective, the virgin birth (and Jesus half-divine/half-human nature) is a pretty irrational position. Humans have always told myths. Isn’t it more logical that even if there was a person named Jesus of Nazareth, the Bible we have today tells us of a more mythical Jesus than the real Jesus? We have no real evidence he was resurrected, just conflicting testimony. (Even Matthew tells us that some people believed his body was stolen–isn’t that a more plausible explanation than resurrection?)

    What role does faith play in Biblical or BoM origins?

    I am curious to know how you think you would react if you came to the conclusion that the Bible was simply a more ancient plagiarism, similar to the BoM.

    Thanks for the offer on Mormon Discussions. I don’t have the same level of interest as you on this theory. I have enjoyed our dialogue, but I have plenty of other topics more interesting to me than this theory, and I’d rather devote my time to those topics. I’m an admin on a couple other Mormon-themed blogs, and I keep myself plenty busy. I have a Balaam topic planned shortly, which you may or may not find interesting.

  30. MH:

    Sorry for quoting you. I’m used to forum discussions and that’s pretty much the norm there–probably to avoid confusion over what part of a quote one is refering to.

    Sorry, but I don’t understand your first question.

    As to Brodie and Bushman, you are right, I can’t speak to their reasons but it is certainly true that for the most part the quotes they DO print support their point of view. I suppose we’re all guilty of that.

    Sorry but I have to quote this:
    I must say that if one looks strictly at the conspiracy side of this theory, you bring a compelling argument. You seem well-prepared to handle contradictory witnesses, and are more studied than I am concerning these witnesses. I’m impressed.

    I appreciate that but honestly it is not me, it is mostly Dale Broadhurst, Art Vanick, Howard Davis and Wayne Cowdery. These are the most prominent modern proponents of S/R, but the thing is, if you go back to the earliest days of Mormonism, nearly every critic accepted S/R. When the Oberlin ms was rediscoverd in 1884 and the RLDS published it under the title of “The Manuscript Found” and then painted it as though it has nothing in common with the BOM, it did its intended damage. But a few die-hards still took the time to take a look at the parallels and came to the conclusion that there was something there.

    The thing is, yes, you are correct, the weakest part of the theory is that there is no smoking gun… Manuscript Found is not found but missing. But, again, the ms we DO have is written by the same author using a similar premise and we do see parallels. These parallels are either coincidence or they mean something. After a while you start getting too many coincidences for it all to just be one big coincidence–at least in my opinion. You read Margie’s post on the Dartmouth connections, right? I did not know Margie until I read that post, but I was so impressed I tracked her down and contacted her. The Dartmouth “coincidences” are wierd in themselves… all these supposedly non-connected people all attending Dartmouth at one point or another… Hyrum Smith, Solomon Spalding and Ethan Smith and then others from their extended families… and then we see that the idea of the lost tribes being the ancestors of the Indians was heavily promoted at Dartmouth and Ethan writes his book on that subject and so does Spalding and then the BOM comes along… just way too many coincidences.

    And then you learn that there’s still more… check this out… scroll down until you see Book of Mormon geography…. are the place names in the great lakes region similar to Book of Mormon names by coincidence?

    http://www.solomonspalding.com/docs2/vernP3.htm

    As to ancient vs true, of course I agree that just because something is ancient doesn’t make it true, but–at least in my opinion–the BOM doesn’t even get started since it’s obviously not ancient but claims to be so. At least the Bible can’t be ruled out from the get-go.

    Yes, it could be true that orthodox Christianity overemphasizes Jesus. That is one of the things I want to look into in the future. Right now I am not finished with the Spalding thing though. I feel like there is more out there. I am working to see if there are any pre-Dec, 1830 links between Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon. I think there may be some.

    Yes, it could be true that the resurrection is a myth, but then I would want to know why so many disciples were willing to die for what they surely knew to be a myth? Mass delusion?

    Sorry again, but I have to quote this because it’s a great question:

    What role does faith play in Biblical or BoM origins?

    In my opinion faith plays a legitimate role in Biblical origins but a misguided one in BOM origins for the reason I stated above… the BOM fails from the start since it claims to be ancient but–at least in my opinion–is not, whereas the Bible is demonstrably ancient… so much so that people take that part for granted. Faith then is allowed a plausible framework from which to function legimately in regards to the Bible.

    Ultimately–for me–everything does indeed come down to the resurrection. I agree with Paul who claimed that if Jesus did not rise from the dead then those of us who place our faith in him are among men most to be pitied. So if I found out the Bible did indeed suffer from the same kinds of problems I see in the BOM, it would certainly negatively impact my faith in Christ, but, again, ultimately the resurrection is what is most important. If that did not happen then I could see myself becoming an agnostic.

    I have enjoyed this discussion as well. I have found you to be very cordial and open-minded. Please accept my apologies if I came across too forcefully… I tend to be direct and consequently would probably not make a good diplomat!

    Hopefully I’ve at least given you a little something to chew on!

    All the Best!

  31. Roger:

    The similarity of place names is definitely random. That can be demonstrated by looking at a thread somewhere in the archives here (and on Mormon Matters) about the Malay theory. You’ll see that you can find names like Moroni in the Pacific basin. You can find similar place names in the Mid East. You can find similar place names everywhere, which means basically that human languages produce similar sounding place names with some probability pretty much everywhere.

    That’s the same argument you correctly make about trying to identify Nephite names with any city. It tests nothing, either for those you use it “pro” or “con”. You’re running into the same argument with your “similarities” to Spauding’s manuscripts.

    Human beings are notoriously bad at estimating how “coincidental” things are. There is a whole literature on that subject having nothing to do with the Book of Mormon. It basically says that, unless employing sound statistics, people see coincidences or evidence according to their pre-existing bias.

    Even fine, wonderfully objective fellows like me! :D

  32. FT:

    Sure you can find similarities scattered all over… but clustered in one general geographic area that also happens to be the same geographic area in which Joseph Smith, Ethan Smith & Solomon Spalding lived and roamed?

    What I see happening far too often to be coincidence is that critics of S/R are constantly claiming everything is just coincidence. LOL

  33. One geographic area? Look at your maps. I grew up in Detroit. In an age of autos and interstates I never got to Pittsburg until I was 25, and I was living in New York City at the time.

    Precisely what I mean by having no idea how likely an event SHOULD be. Your maps cover, what, 500 miles by 500 miles (not looking at them at the moment)? Do a bunch of random samples of 250000 square miles and show a statistically meaningful result.

    Lehi? With about 20 consonants and 5 vowels in English, how many two sylable names can you make in English that don’t sound something like Lehi? A few thousand?

    Well how many two syllable place names are there in 250,000 square miles? What is the probability that none of them will sound like Lehi? How many prominent names are there in the Book of Mormon — dozens to hundreds.

    It’s like the old bar bet. Because people know that its hard to draw a set poker hand dealing 5 cards, they assume it must be very hard to draw 5 set hands by dealing 25 cards. In fact, the odds are something like 4-1 IN FAVOR of drawing 5 set hands.

    And while I had one grandpa who was an elder and spanked me for playing cards, I had another grandpa who was only too happy to see to my poker education. However, the rumors that he actually KEPT my allowance are totally unfounded.

  34. FT:

    One geographic area? Look at your maps. I grew up in Detroit. In an age of autos and interstates I never got to Pittsburg until I was 25, and I was living in New York City at the time.

    Your personal experience doesn’t matter. What matters is whether Spalding could look on a map in his day and develop a loose geographical setting for his fictional novel, changing the names a bit to give the impression of antiquity.

    And while I had one grandpa who was an elder and spanked me for playing cards, I had another grandpa who was only too happy to see to my poker education. However, the rumors that he actually KEPT my allowance are totally unfounded.

    Are you sure? Maybe he owes you a substantial sum and you’re not even aware of it. LOL

    You argue with statistics… if my feet are on fire and my head is in ice, statistically I’m okay. The point is, as Holley points out, there are a good number of BOM place names that are remarkably similar to actual place names in the great lakes region. That the area encompasses a lot of square miles is completely irrelevant. I can look on a current map of the U.S. and come up with variations of cities such as Helena – Helanthem, Bismark – Obiskarm, Lexington – Lexianton, Tampa – Tumpah and Charleston – Chorsianston without ever having been to any of those locations. Spalding could easily have done the same in his day.

    All the best!

  35. Roger, I have to quote this because I find it so ironic.

    These parallels are either coincidence or they mean something. After a while you start getting too many coincidences for it all to just be one big coincidence–at least in my opinion.

    I recently attended a Mormon History Conference at BYU. BYU Historian Ronald Esplin was there, and addressed some aspects of Mormon history. Esplin is deeply involved in the Joseph Smith Papers project, with which you may be familiar–they just published Volume 2 this week. One of the large financiers was the late Larry Miller, who owned the Utah Jazz and several auto dealerships. Esplin quoted Larry Miller as saying practically the same quote above: how many coincidences does it take before it’s not a coincidence that the Book of Mormon is true? I guess it all depends on perspective.

    I think you answered my 1st question toward the end when you said you’d probably be agnostic if you were convinced the Bible was a plagiarism. I expect that the reasons you commented here in support of the Spalding Theory is to get me to move away from Mormonism. Please correct me if my assumptions are wrong. Otherwise, why do you care what I think? I don’t believe you are arguing simply for the sake of argument. Do you believe that a person can still be a good Mormon and believe the BoM is a plagiarism of Spalding?

    When I come across certain Bible believers (Evangelicals more than Catholics or other Protestants), it seems to me that they try so hard to prove the BoM is false, or Joseph Smith was a sinner. It seems to me that the natural action for a Mormon would be to walk away from Mormonism if they took the position that the BoM is false. You seem to take that position with the Bible. So, while I may have spoken strongly in comment 29 about the Exodus, papacy, Koran, and deification, do you really think your comments wouldn’t “cause angst”? I mean I don’t think you’d turn into an agnostic without angst, would you?

    As far as I understand, Margie Miller is still a faithful member of the Community of Christ (RLDS) in spite of the fact that she believes in the Spalding Theory. Would you consider this a normal reaction? Would you think that I might continue to be an active, good Mormon and believe in the Spalding Theory? You’ve already stated that you’d become agnostic if the Bible was a plagiarism. I would expect that you would consider it a natural reaction to disbelieve in Mormonism if one subscribes to the Spalding Theory. Am I making a false assumption here?

    In my mind, the biggest problem I have with a Bible believer is their appeal to reason to prove the BoM false, but they refuse to apply this appeal to reason to the Bible. It’s inconsistent. If you are going to apply reasons such as the Spalding Theory to the Book of Mormon, you’ve got to apply Gilgamesh, Hammurabi, or the Documentary Hypothesis to the Bible. Yet Evangelicals don’t seem to recognize or acknowledge this inconsistency.

    I brought home the Oberlin manuscript and I will be reading it this weekend. I really want to do a Balaam post, but I may post on Oberlin instead. I can’t wait to see all these parallels you posted, and I’ll get to see if Bushman/Brodie are right or wrong. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I think most people who subscribe to the Spalding Theory have never read the Oberlin document. (I’m pretty sure Doug hasn’t read the Oberlin manuscript.) If the Oberlin manuscript were so convincing, there would be no need for this lost manuscript to be part of the theory, would it?

    In my mind, the Spalding Theory cloaks itself as a plagiarism theory, yet appeals more to conspiracy theory than it does true plagiarism. The plagiarism from Oberlin doesn’t wash with the BoM, so that’s why a “burned” manuscript must be the true source. From a conspiracy perspective, burning the manuscript is all part of the theory and makes perfect sense. From a plagiarism claim, that’s a pretty big hill to overcome (perhaps Mt Everest), which is why Bushman highlights some of the other theories as more problematic.

    I don’t know if you saw my Malay post, but if we’re talking coincidences here, Ralph Olsen shows the coincidences of place names in Malaysia to make his case that the BoM took place in Asia. On the one hand, Olsen’s theory takes care of all the anachronisms: silk, horses, elephants, chariots, DNA, etc. On the other hand, he introduces some other problems, namely, (1) how did the plates get to NY, and (2) how come Joseph thought the BoM was in America, not Asia? Check out this map, and my other post describing the theory in more detail. If coincidences is all it takes to prove a theory, then Olsen’s theory is every bit as legitimate as the Spalding Theory.

  36. Yes you can find name variations on cities for any group of names whether real or made up. Precisely to the point. Therefore it means nothing to find names in the Book of Mormon that sort of sound like names anywhere on the planet. Whether or not the Book of Mormon were divine in origin, that’s still what you’d EXPECT to see.

    Yes. I am arguing with statistics. You don’t. Start, if you want your arguments to be taken more seriously by scholars.

  37. I should also point out that Margie is quite consistent in her belief. She doesn’t think Jesus was divine, nor that he was ressurected. Nor does she expect to be.

    She stays in the Community of Christ, according to what she’s said on other blogs, because it gives her a platform in the clergy to work for social justice that she would not otherwise have.

  38. MH:

    I expect that the reasons you commented here in support of the Spalding Theory is to get me to move away from Mormonism. Please correct me if my assumptions are wrong.

    Yes, actually, your assumptions are wrong. You posted an argument contra S/R using Brodie’s logic. I am interested in the topic and only happened upon your blog because I was looking for Dartmouth connections and Margie’s post hit high up on google. Once I read your post, I decided to respond. It’s pretty much as simple as that.

    Otherwise, why do you care what I think?,

    Other than you seem to be a nice person and apparently–despite your screen name–still a Latter-day Saint, it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference to me what you choose to do with the information I am providing. In other words, the choice is totally up to you. I do “care” insofar as I am convinced Joseph Smith was not the prophet he claimed to be and if I were a Latter-day Saint I would want to know one way or the other. But I’ve found that LDS tend to follow their own personal witness much more than any facts or historical testimony I can provide anyway, so I am not expecting you to leave Mormonism or convert to Evangelicalism or anything like that.

    I don’t believe you are arguing simply for the sake of argument.

    Correct. I was responding to what I believe are incomplete and even erroneous assertions against the S/R theory, mainly by Brodie.

    Do you believe that a person can still be a good Mormon and believe the BoM is a plagiarism of Spalding?

    Having never been a “good Mormon” I am probably not the best person to ask. But, from the outside looking in… no, probably not. I imagine that is why the S/R theory illicits such a passionate response from faithful LDS. Apparently it is possible to believe that the book is not ancient but that Joseph was still somehow inspired and therefore the BOM can still be taken as scripture… So, perhaps if this is true, then the Smith-alone theory is not as threatening to faithful LDS as the Spalding theory seems to be. I don’t know. All I know is that, from my perspective, the S/R theory has merit and when I confront serious S/R critics I have yet to find a solid case against S/R–other than the usual: where’s your smoking gun? (Nevermind the fact that there are no golden plates either).

    But again, it’s not my intent to ruffle feathers here. Apparently it is too late for that since by all indications I already have. As I said, you have been cordial and I don’t want to wear out my welcome. But here’s my dilemma… when you keep posting things like this:

    The plagiarism from Oberlin doesn’t wash with the BoM, so that’s why a “burned” manuscript must be the true source. From a conspiracy perspective, burning the manuscript is all part of the theory and makes perfect sense. From a plagiarism claim, that’s a pretty big hill to overcome (perhaps Mt Everest), which is why Bushman highlights some of the other theories as more problematic.

    …I find it difficult not to respond since, in my opinion, the above is a mischaracterization. It may be, that you are not really interested in understanding what theory actually postulates. I don’t know. Maybe you are content to latch on to assertions like the one above as though it really is a true representation of the S/R theory because it’s easier to refute than what S/R actually postulates. Again, I don’t know. As I said, at least maybe I’ve given you something to chew on.

    Oh, btw, I looked over the Asia map and I have to say the cities don’t even sound the same. Do you really think a proposed BOM map in Asia with place names that don’t sound anything like BOM names “is every bit as legitimate as the Spalding Theory”? I have no idea what Olsen suggests but for it even to have any merit he would have to say that the names don’t need to match since they originate in another language, but then virtually any place in the world could qualify! One wonders how he gets around the fact that the plates were allegedly discovered in North America and it was allegedly “an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 1:34) One wonders how Zelph could have been killed on American soil during the final battle if the BOM really took place in Asia?! It boggles the mind.

    The S/R theory makes sense because credible witnesses were associating Spalding with the BOM since at least 1833–a mere three years after BOM publication (in fact there is evidence that people were making this association with Spalding as early as 1832 and people were associating Rigdon with BOM production as early as 1831). Brodie dismisses those witnesses as being sincere but suffering from a case of false memories implanted by the devious Hurlbut. For a host of reasons, I see this as nothing short of absurd. The point, however, is that S/R starts with very early witness statements from people who legitmately knew Spalding and connected him to the BOM. If those witnesses are not credible, then the whole theory has no legs to stand on. Ever since Brodie people have tried to discredit the witnesses but, in my opinion, the arguments against the witnesses simply fail.

    Now if I am right about that, then what we have is credible witnesses who claim there is a connection between Spalding and the BOM…. if there were no additional supporting evidence, it would all end right there… but the fact is, there are parallels even between Spalding’s known ms and the BOM as well as Joseph Smith’s 1838 discovery narrative, and there are clustered parallels between BOM place names and legitimate names in the great lakes region. Maybe it’s all just coincidence, but I don’t think so… Utah Jazz notwithstanding.

    All the best!

  39. Hi, I stumbled across this discussion, and would like to direct interested readers to an essay that i have posted on-line. The essay “Sidney Rigdon: Creating the Book of Mormon” was first posted in 2005. I have now corrected and updated it. The revised version is posted at the website http://sidneyrigdon.com/criddle/rigdon1.htm.

    For those interested, there is also a peer-reviewed authorship attribution study available at this site: http://llc.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/23/4/465

  40. Roger, thanks for correcting my assumptions.

    Maybe you are content to latch on to assertions like the one above as though it really is a true representation of the S/R theory because it’s easier to refute than what S/R actually postulates. I’m not sure what you mean by latching on–That paragraph in question is my original thought. I’d like to know what you view as my mischaracterization of the theory. Feel free to correct me, as I didn’t understand what specifically you had a problem with. Perhaps I should go sentence by sentence.

    “The plagiarism from Oberlin doesn’t wash with the BoM, so that’s why a “burned” manuscript must be the true source.”

    From comment 31, “Not even you believe the Oberlin manuscript is the source of the plagiarism”. From comment 37, “If the Oberlin manuscript were so convincing, there would be no need for this lost manuscript to be part of the theory, would it?” Margie Miller is the one who claimed in comment #1 the missing manuscript was burned at Dr Mitchill’s home, Unfortunately the Detroit manuscripts have disappeared like the golden plates and thus are not available for scrutiny. It is suspected that they might have burned in a fire in Dr. Mitchill’s home. I never heard a rebuttal from you of any of these comments, and I don’t see a problem with this assertion.

    From a conspiracy perspective, burning the manuscript is all part of the theory and makes perfect sense.

    In the original post, I quoted Van Wagoner who said, “Mormonism’s success in Ohio, particularly among Sidney’s Reformed Baptists, spelled conspiracy in some peoples eyes.” Van Wagoner also quoted ED Howe saying “[Howe] concluded: “We, therefore, must hold out Sidney Rigdon to the world as being the original ‘author and proprietor’ of the whole Mormon conspiracy, until further light is elicited upon the lost writings of Solomon Spaulding.” Any problem here?

    From a plagiarism claim, that’s a pretty big hill to overcome (perhaps Mt Everest), which is why Bushman highlights some of the other theories as more problematic.

    I wrote that sentence before reading Craig Criddle’s essay today. The link he provided above says, “The weakest points of the Spalding-Rigdon Theory are:

    (1) The Spalding manuscript that contemporary witnesses described as similar to The Book of Mormon — a document ironically named “Manuscript Found” — is missing. Its absence can be compared to the absence of a murder weapon in a murder case. In such cases, circumstantial evidence can often still secure a conviction, but it is an uphill battle. I find it funny that we practically used the same choice of words: “big hill” vs “uphill.” Coincidence? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) :)

    Craig–welcome. I didn’t read your whole essay–I’ve got plenty of other topics I’m interested in, and frankly have spent way more time on this topic than I had anticipated. For me, it’s old news–I posted this originally back in April. But I did a quick browse of your introduction to see if I had mischaracterized anything. I don’t think so. What do you think? The oxford link requires a subscription, so I wasn’t able to view it. I will say that someone over at Mormon Matters referred to the Jokker wordprint study. Frankly, it is out of my expertise, so I can’t really comment intelligently on it. I do know that FAIR and/or FARMS took exception to the methodology. Once again, this is out of my realm of expertise, so I frankly didn’t understand their reasons for rejecting the study.

    Finally, I want to mention a word about witnesses, which Craig mentioned in #4 on his essay. A friend of mine said he had a law school class in which one of the professors described how unreliable witnesses can be in court cases. The professor pretty much stated that nearly all witnesses are unreliable. My friend thought the assertion was crazy, until he had a personal experience.

    My friend (who I’ll call Mike), drove somewhere with his kids at night. He needed to go to the store, but the kids fell asleep. He didn’t want to wake them, and made the poor decision to leave the car locked and running with the heat on for the kids, and went into the store and get the item. Mike said he was only in the store for about 5 minutes when he heard a page from a police officer looking for him. He knew why.

    The case was dismissed before trial because of conflicting witness testimony. One witness stated that the kids had no shoes and no coat, while another said the kids wore shoes and had coats. The prosecuting attorney wouldn’t pursue the case, because of this conflicting testimony. I don’t know how long the entire case lasted, but I would estimate months. My friend Mike said that he now agreed with the professor he had previously disputed. These witnesses in Mike’s case only had months (at most) to “misremember” the facts (to quote Roger Clemens). As Craig mentioned on his essay,

    “(4) Some of the testimony cited in support of the Spalding-Rigdon theory came many years after the alleged incidents and can be questioned on the grounds of memory fallibility. These are lightly shaded dots. Other pieces of evidence can be questioned on other grounds, such as bias. Where I am aware of such issues, I will address them in this and the companion essay. The fact that some pieces of evidence have more uncertainty than others when they are analyzed in isolation does not change the evidentiary value of the more certain evidence nor does it negate the value of lightly shaded dots when they are internally consistent and numerous and when they provide clues for additional investigation.

    I’ve already mentioned the blog post by Andrew Ainsworth (a lawyer) who describes how hard it is to prove plagiarism. See http://mormonmatters.org/2009/02/02/the-curious-case-of-solomon-spaulding/

    As I recall, even Dan Brown was accused of plagiarism for his book “The DaVinci Code”. I’m pretty sure Dan even admitted to reading the book in question. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_brown#Copyright_infringement_cases

    Let me quote from Wikipedia:

    In August 2005, Brown won a court case in New York against author Lewis Perdue over charges of plagiarism, on the basis of claimed similarity between The Da Vinci Code and his novels, The Da Vinci Legacy (1983) and Daughter of God (2000). Judge George Daniels said, in part: “A reasonable average lay observer would not conclude that The Da Vinci Code is substantially similar to Daughter of God”.[28]

    In April 2006, Brown won a copyright infringement case brought by authors Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, who claimed that Brown stole ideas from their 1982 pseudohistory book Holy Blood Holy Grail for his 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code. It was in the book Holy Blood Holy Grail that Baigent, Leigh, and co-author Henry Lincoln had advanced the theory that Jesus and Mary Magdalene married and had a child and that the bloodline continues to this day. Brown even alluded to the two authors’ names in his book. Leigh Teabing, a lead character in both the novel and the film, uses Leigh’s name as the first name, and anagrammatically derives his last name from Baigent’s. Mr Justice Peter Smith found in Brown’s favor in the case, and as a private amusement, embedded his own Smithy code in the written judgment.[29]

    On March 28, 2007, Brown’s publisher, Random House, won an appeal copyright infringement case. The Court of Appeal of England and Wales rejected the efforts from Baigent and Leigh, who became liable for paying legal expenses of nearly $6 million USD.[30] A contributing factor for the outcome of the case is that these authors presented their work as nonfiction. Fiction writers often draw upon nonfiction resources for content research.

    I find this is highly relevant to the Spaulding Theory.

  41. Finally, one last point. Thanks FireTag on more background of Margie Miller. I certainly respect her for choosing to be consistent in her analysis of the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

  42. MH:

    Uh-oh… now you’ve attracted the big leagues! I did not email Craig… honest. LOL.

    I do have a question for you Craig, if you return… what do you think of Margie’s post on the Dartmouth “coincidences”?

    MH, when I wrote: “Maybe you are content to latch on to assertions like the one above as though it really is a true representation of the S/R theory because it’s easier to refute than what S/R actually postulates.” …I think it came out a little more harsh than I meant for it to. Like I said, sometimes I’m too direct. There probably are better ways of putting it… in short, I don’t know if you’re getting annoyed with my posting here (and if so I can pack up and go home) or if you sincerely want to come to understand what you’re really up against when you criticize S/R… sheesh, that wasn’t too diplomatic either, was it?! LOL

    Maybe the best thing to do is simply explain what I meant by a mischaracterization… first, I didn’t mean to imply that you are purposely mischaracterizing anything. I don’t think you are… instead I think you’re getting a lot of your information from Brodie (or other hostile-to-S/R-sources) and drawing flawed conclusions from it.

    Here’s what you said:
    “The plagiarism from Oberlin doesn’t wash with the BoM, so that’s why a “burned” manuscript must be the true source.”

    First flaw… no one ever claimed that the BOM is or ever was a plagiarism from the OM. The main mischaracterization I am constantly running into is that all the witnesses claimed there was only one Spalding ms UNTIL the OM was re-discovered in 1884 and THEN everybody changed their tune because the OM obviously doesn’t have anything to do with the BOM. I will contest the latter erroneous assertion in a moment. As to the former, the fact is way back in 1833 Judge Aron Wright plainly stated that Spalding had many manuscripts. So the idea that Hurlbut, Howe and everyone else were forced to change their tune upon the 1834 discovery of the extant Spalding ms (that the LDS and RLDS mis-label “The Manuscript Found”) is simply not accurate… it is a mischaracterization.

    But it is CERTAINLY a mischaracterization that has gotten a lot of milage!

    Second flaw… even though no one ever claimed that the BOM is or ever was a plagiarism from the OM, there are indeed parallels. The parallels are not as obvious as are the parallels between the BOM and the KJVB (for example), but there are indeed parallels which are either coincidental or they mean something.

    From a conspiracy perspective, burning the manuscript is all part of the theory and makes perfect sense.

    I don’t have a problem with either conspiracy or burning the ms. In fact, if S/R is true, then, yes, it had to be a conspiracy. It is not necessary to claim that Smith destroyed the ms however. It is certainly a possibility, but it’s also possible that Rigdon destroyed the original Spalding ms before Smith ever saw it. It’s also possible that neither of them destroyed it. It may be that part of it was lost when the 116 pages were lost or it may be that it was retained throughout the process. I know one person who thinks it actually may be in one of the cornerstones of the Kirtland temple. (I think that’s a long-shot, myself.) So I have no problem with the ms being destroyed, but it is not necessary to the theory.

    Finally:
    From a plagiarism claim, that’s a pretty big hill to overcome (perhaps Mt Everest), which is why Bushman highlights some of the other theories as more problematic.

    I don’t see why it would be the equivalent of “Mt Everest” to assert that somebody destroyed Manuscript Found? In fact, that you seem to think so makes me wonder if you truly understand what S/R postulates. In the first place, we are presenting plausible scenarios, which is what we are obligated to do, as opposed to definitively stating what happened. To assert that something may have happened one way or it is equally plausible to have happened another way does not make either possibility weaker… it simply makes the hypothesis more plausible since the outcome could have been achieved in more than one way.

    But–having said that–I think you’re setting up something of a false dichotomy. You’re juxtaposing “conspiracy” with “plagiarism” as though it is one or the other and that is simply not the case. S/R pretty much says it was both. And in fact, there likely are multiple layers of plagiarism. This is what gives the end result its complexity.

    Have you looked into the information on plagiarism provided by Tom Donofrio? You have to get a grasp for what he is asserting before it all comes together. In essence, Tom’s argument is that there is no question that plagiarism was occuring on a fairly regular basis in the early 1800s. In fact Tom has an example where one author frankly admits to copying from another and slightly rewording. Can’t remember off the top of my head, but I think it’s Ramsey admitting he’s copying from someone. The point is, you can look at THOSE parallels as a model, because WE KNOW they mean something, because the author admits it! Then he shows similar examples where the author doesn’t admit it but it sure looks like a duck. Finally, he shows the same phenomenon going on with Spalding IN HIS EXTANT ms (the one you downloaded) where Spalding obviously copies from Warren. Interestingly enough, the BOM also shows signs of an influence from Warren. So what do we have? Spalding very likely plagiarized Warren and, coincidentally, whoever wrote Alma probably did too.

    This is where Craig’s wp study comes in. I hope he will elaborate on this (and correct me if I’m not stating this accurately).

    In any event, that’s a long way of saying there are multiple layers of plagiarism in the final 1830 BOM text, beginning with Spalding plagiarizing pre-1816 sources, then Rigdon adapting and embellishing that and very likely adding more plagairism of his own from the KJB and other sources, and finally Cowdery and Smith adding in some of their own. This is what gives the impression of multiple authors because, there are indeed multiple authors, many of whom had no idea their writings would ever be amalgamated into a “Book of Mormon.”

    As to your assertions about how unreliable witnesses can be… the one thing S/R critics never seem to grasp is that the Spalding witnesses were not witnesses to a crime. There was no trauma involved. No courtroom. Just the opposite. They were having fun on an almost nightly basis. They wanted to participate in the activity! This is a very important but often neglected point. Listening to Spalding read from his ms was their entertainment. There were no cell phone distractions, no TV, no radio, no internet. Instead there was Spalding’s imginative novel that was providing an explanation for the mysterious Indian mounds and relics they saw around them every day. In short, they were INTO it on a repeated basis. To suggest that they couldn’t remember what they plainly state they “well remember” is, in my humble opinion, patently absurd.

    Finally… as to Dan Brown winning his cases, what does this really tell us, MH? It tells us more about the caliber of his attorneys than anything else. Does it mean that Brown WASN’T influenced by any of these sources? Not at all! He couldn’t NOT be familiar with them and still manage to allude “to the two authors’ names in his book”! You even state that Brwon admitted to reading the book! Think about what that implies when you try to relate it to Joseph Smith! In fact, I think I should just rest my case with that!

    The fact is, whether it’s hard to “prove” plagiarism or not, it either occured or didn’t and just because it’s hard to prove, doesn’t mean it never happened. What we have in the case of Spalding>Rigdon>Smith>Cowdery is evidence supporting the credible testimony of those who almost from the very beginning claimed there was indeed a connection.

    All the best!

  43. Roger,

    Judge Aron Wright plainly stated that Spalding had many manuscripts.

    So have any of these other manuscripts been found?

    “even though no one ever claimed that the BOM is or ever was a plagiarism from the OM, there are indeed parallels.”

    Ok, I could probably find parallels between Gilligan’s Island and the BoM if I wanted. I know some people have made the claim that Dr Suess does chiasmus as good as the BoM. I’m sure you think there is a mountain of evidence. You listed over 100 religious references in comment #3. I don’t understand your references, but I started reading the document.

    I will admit that Fabius and his gang did try to establish a church because they believed “in the religion of Jesus Christ we unanimously chose Trojanus, the mate of the ship, a pious good man to be our minister, to lead our devotions every morning & evening & on the Lords day” (page 19). (I’m in chapter 3 so far.)

    However, the Indians are characterized as (1) already living in America, (2) extremely uncivilized. This is a stark contrast to the beginning of the BoM where Nephi lands in an “uninhabited quarter”, and the Nephites are characterized as an advanced civilization working ore, building temples–not the primitives Spalding described which “appeared more lik [sic] a company of devils than human Beings.” (p 18)

    The religious material in the Oberlin document is nothing like the sermons and theology of the BoM. To make the claim that Spalding’s references to religion in the Oberlin document are similar to the BoM is like saying Dan Brown’s writing is like the Bible. Nobody would make that claim. I suspect that Brodie’s assertion that the Oberlin document was devoid of religious material was that religion played an inconsequential role in the Oberlin document, while religion is the purpose of the BoM. Certainly there is a stark contrast in the role of religion in the 2 books. After reading what Spalding wrote, I have a hard time believing he had a better manuscript along the lines of the BoM.

    “Listening to Spalding read from his ms was their entertainment.

    Frankly, I found the manuscript so far entertaining, especially his description of “healthy bucksom lassies” (p 20) that were unfortunately marooned with Fabius and his crew. I think there’s some definite parallels to Gilligan’s Island. Spalding’s women are more like Ginger, while Nephi’s women are more like Maryann. Instead of “rosy dames” (p 20), Nephi 17:2 says the women in their group were strong like the men: “our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong, yea, even like unto the men.” I suppose if the women are giving suck to their children, they are “healthy bucksom lassies”, though Nephi never used that terminology to describe the women. Fabius tells that “The young Lady who chose me for a partner was possessed of every attractive charm both of body & mind.” I couldn’t think of a similar parallel in the BoM.

    I think Fabius description of this unnamed woman sounds more like Song of Solomon: “We united heart & hand with the fairest prospect of enjoying every delight & gratification which are attendant on the connubial state” (p 20-21.) I can’t think of a connubial state in the BoM, unless we want to look at King Noah–yet King Noah was a bad guy in the BoM–and there still wasn’t a connubial state mentioned in reference to him.

    You misunderstand my Mt Everest comment. I was saying that it is impossible to claim plagiarism from a missing manuscript, not that the manuscript could have been destroyed. Certainly, it could have been destroyed. But the fact that there is no manuscript in existence makes the plagiarism claim impossible to verify. I know Margie thinks she’s created a manuscript, but this manuscript wasn’t written by Spaulding. If one believes that Smith plagiarized something, perhaps Margie’s manuscript is from some unnamed person–perhaps Oliver Cowdery, Ethan Smith, Sidney Rigdon, or John Doe. Until the “smoking gun” manuscript is found, it is impossible to make a plagiarism claim.

    We come from different perspectives on the Dan Brown case, but my point is that you can make a plagiarism claim all you want, but in a court of law to prove plagiarism “beyond a reasonable doubt” is a tall hill to climb, especially when the alleged source is missing. Whether it is Mt Everest or Blueberry Hill (where Fats Domino found his thrill) is obviously subjective, and I doubt we’ll see eye to eye on the size of the hill. Your threshold of proof is much lower than a criminal court of law, or even a civil court where Dan Brown was sued where the lower standard is “a preponderance of evidence”. Parallels between the DaVinci Code and any other book are mere parallels or coincidences in the eyes of the law. And you seem to reject this preponderance of evidence standard with regards to Gilgamesh or Hammurabi and the Bible.

    I suspect you’ve heard of Source Q, as the source of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Scholars have postulated that these 3 gospel writers relied on the same source for certain quotations of scripture, because certain quotes are identical in Greek. Some people have wondered if the gnostic Gospel of Thomas is this source Q, though it appears to me scholars don’t believe Thomas is source Q. Others speculate that Mark is the source, and Matthew and Luke borrowed from Mark. Until we can actually find a source Q, nobody will be able to conclusively prove Matthew, Mark, and Luke plagiarized source Q. The same goes for Spalding.

  44. MH:

    So have any of these other manuscripts been found?

    You got me on that one. Not sure. I know he wrote one for his daughter entitled: “The Frogs of Windham” but whether it is still extant or not I don’t know.

    You might try looking here:

    http://www.solomonspalding.com/docs/intro.htm

    I will admit that Fabius and his gang did try to establish a church because they believed “in the religion of Jesus Christ…

    Such an admission is enough to show that Brodie’s claim was simply wrong.

    while religion is the purpose of the BoM.

    Sure but, again, you have to understand that the claim IS NOT that Solomon Spalding wrote the BOM. Again, this goes back to what S/R truly postulates as opposed to the various caricatures. This is why Margie (and Ron) made a rough attempt at removing the religious material that was likely added by someone else (probably Rigdon, but also possibly Cowdery and Smith). If I understand her point, it is her belief that after doing so, a coherent and somewhat “secular” novel emerges. If she is correct about that, then this would be closer to the Spalding original than the current BOM is.

    If Craig stops back in, maybe he can briefly explain the clustering effect that Dale Broadhurst picked up on long before personal computers were used to identify the same phenomenon… especially in the latter portion of Alma. It is probably not technically correct to say it this way, but in layman’s terms it sure looks like Solomon Spalding is the underlying author of (at least) the latter 1/3 of Alma–that is if one starts making “word print” comparisons. This is what Dale B. noticed long ago and computers are now corroborating. Again, computer analysis could have cast considerable doubt on the S/R theory… but as Craig will tell you, it has done the opposite.

    You misunderstand my Mt Everest comment. I was saying that it is impossible to claim plagiarism from a missing manuscript, not that the manuscript could have been destroyed.

    Ah, yes, I did misunderstand. That makes much more sense. Technically it is not impossible to claim (as you point out in the theorized ‘Q’ text) but, yes, nearly impossible to prove.

    As I have readily conceded, the lack of the theorized MF is the biggest problem for S/R. Sort of like the lack of golden plates is a glaring problem for the official version. That’s pretty much obvious. Where the S/R theory starts getting points back from that initial weakness, however, is when one considers the testimony of the witnesses–which despite Brodie–is very credible, and when one considers the things I’ve already mentioned… like the fact that the OM cannot be the one Spalding submitted to the Pattersons for potential publication. If the ms you are reading was not the one submitted to the Pattersons, then there had to have been another–this coupled with later supporting evidence makes an appeal to plagiarism from a no longer extant ms quite plausible. Provable in court? Difficult to say, but I would say that if you took the three main competing BOM production theories to into some sort of legal context where the merits of each theory were presented and subject to cross examination, again, given equally talented advocates, I think S/R would ultimately prevail.

    My point is the BOM had have gotten here somehow. There has to be some explanation for it. Forgive me, but unless the judge is LDS, I don’t think the official version is going to go very far in court… like I said, missing plates is a pretty big problem (talk about Mt Everest! LOL) And as I said, while a missing ms is also a problem too, the rest of the evidence in support of S/R makes up for the weakness. And, as you well know, the Smith-alone theory is not without its share of weaknesses too. Where is the evidence that Joseph checked out and read all the material we see evidence for in the BOM? Certainly he had a Bible, but where did he get his knowledge of Campbellite doctrine or Anti-masonry? And how do we account for the apparent speed with which the final version of the BOM came together if the whole thing was dictated? Was Joseph a wonder-kid? Where is the evidence that he dictated later revelations at breakneck speed?

    So again, it’s fine to bring up the idea of subjecting S/R to the types of “burden of proof” we might see in a legal context so long as you’re also willing to put the other two main theories into the same context. If so, I think S/R hold’s its own.

    All the best!

  45. Let’s face it: miracles will never be considered valid proof of anything. Yet you’re not willing to throw out the Bible on the same merits of reason alone?

    How does Gilgamesh, Hammurabi, Documentary Hypothesis, Julius Ceasar miracles, Source Q, or God stack up in the list of probable theories as to who wrote the Bible?

    Do you really believe God created the earth, flooded the earth, wrote the 10 Commandments with his finger and gave them to Moses, tore down the walls of Jericho, sent the plagues to Egypt, allowed Jesus to walk on water, saved Jonah from the great fish, or parted the Red Sea? Surely these miracles are more improbable than an angel visiting Abraham, Moses, Mary, Hagar, Jacob, or Joseph Smith, aren’t they? Do you accept these biblical miracles?

  46. MH:

    With all due respect, you keep wanting to subject the S/R theory to the types of ‘burden of proof’ we might find in a courtroom (ie. things like “but my point is that you can make a plagiarism claim all you want, but in a court of law to prove plagiarism “beyond a reasonable doubt” is a tall hill to climb, especially when the alleged source is missing”) and when my response is, that’s fine so long as you are willing to subject the other two competing BOM production theories to the same standard of proof and cross examination, you suddenly switch the subject to questioning me about what I believe about the Bible.

    Why is that? What I believe or don’t believe about the Bible really has nothing to do with whether the S/R theory would come out on top in a courtroom situation where the three main BOM production theories were going head to head based on their merits and cross examination. The question is NOT whether the Bible is a legitimately ancient set of writings or not (because there is no question about that) but whether the BOM is. If the Bible was not at least an ancient compilation but instead was a nineteenth century production, I would not hesitate to agree that it was more than likely a plagiarism, that the miracles were contrived and that it should not be taken as authoritative. But that is not even a question for the Bible as even skeptics agree it’s legitimately ancient. Once that is established, then the debate can move on to whether or not there is evidence of plagiarism in the Bible or whether miracles could have occured, etc.

    The BOM is not even at that level. It’s status as a compilation of genuinely ancient writings is highly questionable from the get-go because there is no supporting evidence to that claim, and in fact the evidence we do find speaks against it (ie. Mayan cities are not BOM cities, there is no known example of reformed Egyptian, etc). Again, I’m not saying this to ruffle feathers, but that’s just reality, plain and simple.

    So again, what I believe or don’t believe about the Bible has zero impact on the merits of the S/R theory and how it stands up against the other two main theories.

    All the best!

  47. Roger, I keep bringing up the bible to show your inconsistencies in following logic. The fact that the Bible is ancient is irrelevent to the question of plagiarism. In 1000 years, the BoM will be an ancient document. So by your logic, it won’t be plagiarism anymore because it is ancient. Margie is consistent in her logic. Why aren’t you?

  48. MH:

    Wow, I guess we’re overloading the system… either that or maybe God is trying to tell one of us to shut up. (No doubt it’s me!) LOL.

    With regard to your last post, however… the title of this thread is: “Debunking the Spaulding Manuscript Theory.” I don’t see anything in that title indicating the topic was going to be “Roger’s alleged inconsistencies.” Suffice it to say that I do not see my logic as inconsistent, but whether it is or not is irrelevant to the topic of this thread. I have already answered this alleged inconsistency charge in posts 14, 16, 23, 24, 26, 30 & 32. That you keep bringing it up seems to indicate that you prefer searching for some fault in a Spalding advocate because he is a Spalding advocate over confronting what the Spalding theory actually postulates… or am I wrong in coming to that conclusion?

    The fact that the Bible is ancient is irrelevent to the question of plagiarism.

    In the first place, whether or not there is plagiarism in the Bible is irrelevant to the question of whether or not there is in the BOM. If, for example, Gilgamesh was copied by Moses (or whoever wrote Genesis) that does not mean that Joseph Smith or Sidney Rigdon or Solomon Spalding or Oliver Cowdery plagiarized any sources to create the BOM. Similarly, it also does not mean they didn’t. It is, therefore irrelevant. We can look for evidence in both cases, but concluding positive in one case does not imply we have to conclude it for the other… they are separate entities.

    In the second place, the ancient question IS relevant to both cases. If you could show convincing evidence that the Biblical books were fabricated in the 19th century and did not exist prior to that time, it would demonstrate that the Biblical accounts are not trustworthy on their face since they proclaim to tell stories about real persons in real historical contexts that occured long before the 19th century. Instead, since they do mention real historical settings and persons that we can verify–ie. Nebuchadnezzar, Ceasar Agustus, Darius, etc, etc, their historicity is plausible and the contexts are real. So the debate then moves on to one of content rather than context. As I already stated, this is simply not the case with the BOM. Context has not been established for even one BOM book and so whether the text is legitimately ancient becomes a critical question when evaluating the BOM. If it cannot even pass this test, then there is no point in going any further.

    In 1000 years, the BoM will be an ancient document. So by your logic, it won’t be plagiarism anymore because it is ancient.

    Nonsense. The Biblical narratives describe events taking place thousands of years ago. The contexts of most of those events have been verified. There really is an Egypt, Isreal, Babylon, Assyria, etc. etc. There really were Pharaohs, there really was a Nebuchadnezzar (in fact I have a picture of myself standing in front of walls he constructed). Now… was there really a fiery furnace where three Hebrews were thrown and not consumed? Who knows? That is a matter of faith. But the stories were written by legitimately ancient people. EVEN IF they plagairized other sources (which has not been established) they would still be plagiarizing other ancient sources and the alleged plagiarism would have to be evaluated with that understanding.

    But again, the question of plagiarism becomes critical to evaluating the BOM because the possible sources we are considering are 19th century sources! There is indeed a world of difference and I know you are smart enough to understand that. If, for example, Nephi plagairized from an Isaiah scroll he brought with him from Jerusalem, that is a huge difference from Joseph Smith (or Sidney Rigdon, etc.) producing what proclaims to be a translation of an ancient text but, instead, copying and embellishing material from the 19th century!

    All the best!

  49. Roger, at this point we’re repeating our arguments. While yes, this post is about the Spalding Theory, I think it is perfectly appropriate to look for weaknesses not only in the theory (missing manuscript), but also at your/my inconsistent logic. Certainly you think you’ve pointed out where you think I’m not saying what the theory actually says, and I’m pointing out where you’re inconsistent. I don’t see a problem with either of us pointing out the other’s bad logic, but you seem to.

    There are scholars who say the Old Testament was written anywhere between as late as the 3rd or 4th century BC to as early as 1200 BC. This would be at least 100-1000 years after the time of Moses, yet Moses is a considerable chunk. If we are generous, and assume the Bible was written in 1200 BC, that is still 2800 years after Adam. The time period between Lehi and Joseph Smith is 2400 years. Even if one concludes that Joseph faked a 2400 year old person named Lehi, the Bible has faked a 2800 person named Adam. Modifying your quote a bit, “the question of plagiarism becomes critical to evaluating the [Bible] because the possible sources we are considering are [13th or 3rd] century sources[, not 41st century sources]! (Assuming Adam lived in 4000 BC, which follows the Jewish calendar and seems supported by most Biblical scholars.)

    There is zero evidence for either Adam or Lehi, zero evidence for Noah or King Noah, zero evidence for Moses or Abinadi. There is zero evidence for a missing Spalding manuscript, zero evidence for golden plates. There is zero evidence for Jesus divinity, let alone Jesus. If you think that the logic of Spalding Theory proves the BoM is plagiarism from a non-existent manuscript, there is ample evidence to conclude the Bible plagiarism from non-existent and existing manuscripts as well. If Jesus is not divine, then by necessity, the BoM is a fake. This means Jesus never visited the Nephites, just as he never visited Paul.

    One must have faith in the Bible–as a historical record, it is terrible and filled with internal inconsistencies. While there are places we know in the Bible, there are plenty of places we don’t know. Where did Job live? Where is the Garden of Eden? We don’t even know where Mt Sinai is, and there is ample evidence what we call Mt Sinai today is not the actual Mt Sinai of Moses. Anything the Bible says prior to 700 BC is questionable, as well as many things after 700 BC. There is no evidence Christ was resurrected, we have no writings of his, we don’t have evidence of miracles. From an evidence standpoint, the Bible is very weak. Sure there are some insignificant things we know (where is Nazareth, or the Red Sea), but more things we don’t know (was Jesus divine, or was Moses a real person). Science and reason haven’t proved the Bible has meaning in your life, and never will. One must have faith in Biblical stories. I do, and I believe you do as well. I can’t prove Noah’s ark ever existed, you can’t prove that the ark of the covenant ever existed. Likewise, I can’t defend that the golden plates ever existed, and you can’t defend that Spalding had another manuscript. We can only conjecture, or have faith, none of which is satisfactory in a court of law, or the scientific community. I never tried to put the Bible or BoM in a courtroom–neither will hold up, nor will the Spalding theory.

    I’m ready to put this to whole topic to rest. Neither one of us making any headway with the other person. I would like to leave you with one last link, and would love to have you comment there. Please comment on this link about Nahom.

    You’re welcome to a rebuttal here, and you can have the last word on this topic. You’ve been a pleasant opponent, and I do hope you will comment on other topics here. (I’m spending so much time rebutting you, that I can’t seem to get my Balaam post done. I thought it was done yesterday, and then I accidentally erased it. :( )

  50. MH:

    I don’t see a problem with either of us pointing out the other’s bad logic, but you seem to.

    But what you’re pointing out–whether true or not–is irrelevant to what the S/R theory postulates. Craig, for example, is an atheist and accepts S/R (in fact he’s one of it’s prominent proponents). Are you saying the only way I could embrace S/R and still be consistent (in your opinion) is to become an atheist? Or do you think Craig’s views are inconsistent too?

    You also seem intent on attacking the authenticity of the Bible, which I find a bit strange since, as far as I know, LDS accept the authenticity of the Bible. I understand the need to return fire, since I am attacking the authenticity of the BOM, but aren’t you undermining your own beliefs at the same time? If, as you seem to believe, the Bible is full of plagiarisms, how does that help the case for the BOM? Apparently you acknowledge that it doesn’t help, but actually hurts when you write:

    If Jesus is not divine, then by necessity, the BoM is a fake. This means Jesus never visited the Nephites, just as he never visited Paul.

    So it seems strange that you would take a critical approach toward attacking S/R that you freely acknowledge simultaneously undermines your own position. You continue:

    One must have faith in Biblical stories. I do, and I believe you do as well.

    Sure I do, but if I were to discover that the charges you are making against the Bible are true, it would impact my faith. I do not want to have faith in something that is not true.

    I can’t prove Noah’s ark ever existed, you can’t prove that the ark of the covenant ever existed. Likewise, I can’t defend that the golden plates ever existed, and you can’t defend that Spalding had another manuscript.

    Actually I can, and, with evidence that IS admissable in court… it’s called testimonial evidence from credible eyewitnesses combined with other circumstantial evidence. This is one of the main reasons I DO think the S/R theory would hold up better than the other two competitors in a legal setting.

    I’m ready to put this to whole topic to rest. Neither one of us making any headway with the other person. I would like to leave you with one last link, and would love to have you comment there. Please comment on this link about Nahom.

    If NHM really were the BOM Nahom, then that would indeed be something. Needless to say, I don’t think it is and it cannot be conclusively shown that it is. What we actually find is NHM. Could it be? Possibly, but not very likely.

    You’re welcome to a rebuttal here, and you can have the last word on this topic. You’ve been a pleasant opponent, and I do hope you will comment on other topics here.

    As have you.

    (I’m spending so much time rebutting you, that I can’t seem to get my Balaam post done. I thought it was done yesterday, and then I accidentally erased it. )

    Sorry about that! I hate it when that happens and I can empathize because I have lost plenty of posts like that!

    I agree, we are both spinning our wheels at this point and not making progress. As I stated earlier, at the very least, at least maybe I’ve given you some new information to chew on. I likely will not post on other topics because I am researching S/R for the moment and want to keep my focus there as much as possible. If you come across any new and mortally wounding evidence against S/R, however, let me know!

    All the best!

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