Debunking the Spaulding Theory

May 4, 2009
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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.  Andrew Ainsworth did a post in February 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.

Lest anyone think my quotes are from apologetic sources, let me discuss them.  My quotes are going to come from two books. (1) Sidney Rigdon:  Portrait of Religious Excess, by Richard Van Wagoner (which I’ll abbreviate SR).  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.  (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 apologetic in nature.  Both books greatly discount the Spalding Manuscript theory.

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.  NM page 449 addresses the 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.

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 people’s 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.

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

Besides the fact that the Spaulding manuscript is just one-sixth the size of the Book of Mormon (meaning Joseph and Sidney needed to come up with much new material), 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.

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.

Where was Rigdon between 1809 and 1830?

Rigdon never met Spaulding (who died in 1816.)  NM Page 449-51

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.  By this time, the Book of Mormon had already been published.

Rigdon and others’ denials

SR Page 133-4,

(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 on page 137, “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.”

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.  (I know this is a long post, but a longer version is found here.)  Comments?

134 Responses to Debunking the Spaulding Theory

  1. May 4, 2009 at 4:40 am

    Okay, showing my ignorance here, but has any reputable source been expounding any version of the Spaulding theory in the past decade? I’m remembering a news story some years back where the handwriting on the Spaulding manuscript was compared to that of the unknown scribe in the BoM manuscripts, and Susan and Gerald Tanner were among those invited to participate. They made it clear that it was obvious to a non-expert that there was no similarity between Spaulding’s handwriting and anything on the BoM manuscripts, and that they didn’t seem to put any weight behind the Spaulding theories at all.

    I’m not saying that nobody is talking Spaulding, but I can’t recall anybody even trying to present evidence that addresses the flaws in the theory mentioned here — and it’s not the first time those flaws have been pointed out. Am I missing something?

  2. Dan
    May 4, 2009 at 6:00 am

    so I’ve never read the Spaulding Manuscript. I’m reading it now, the copy from Oberlin College. I’m stunned by this beginning paragraph.

    “As it is possible that in some future age this part of the Earth will be inhabited by Europians [sp] & a history of its present inhabitants would be a valuable acquisition I proceed to write one & deposit it in a box – - – so that the ravages of time will have no effect upon it that you may know the author I will give a succint [sp] account of his life and of the cause of his arival [sp] which I have extracted from a manuscript which will be deposited with this history.”

    Doesn’t that just sound odd for someone to write 2000 years ago? Or even 1500 years ago? A Roman soldier could judge well enough that the European barbarians would some day get to the Americas? That implies a certain amount of knowledge about the future that is highly unlikely for a Roman soldier.

    Furthermore on page 16, the manuscript says:

    “After being driven five days with incridable [sp] velocity before the furious wind the storm abated in its violance [sp]. But still the strong wind blew strong in the strong as I now believe in the same direction…The wind blowing westwardly, & the presumption was that it had been blowing in that direction during the whole storm.

    Really? Winds from Europe blow westward toward the Americas? That just doesn’t make any sense. The winds blow EASTWARD from the Americas to Europe, which is probably why it actually took so long for European ships to finally discover the American continents. It is highly unlikely that this ship had drifted southward enough to catch the currents off the African coast that push toward the Caribbean. That’s the only way a boat can drift across the Atlantic and reach America. This story has him starting as he was journeying to BRITAIN!. Can a boat drift from anywhere north of Morocco toward the Americas? Not at all.

    It’s funny but as I read the first part of the story, I can’t help but be reminded of the game Settlers II. A fun game where you are a Roman ship landing on an unknown coast, and you’ve got to, well, settle.

    This Spaulding Manuscript has been the biggest threat against the credibility to the Book of Mormon? Really?

  3. MH
    May 4, 2009 at 7:27 am

    Blain and Dan,

    As I said in my post, the purpose of this post was to address Doug G’s comment. I don’t want to speak for Doug (and hope he’ll come), but it seems he felt the Spaulding Theory had some credibility. You can decide if Doug’s opinion can be considered credible or not. Blain, I did not know the Tanners had refuted this. Do you have a reference? I’d love to see that. I will also note that there are plenty of internet websites promoting the Spaulding Theory, so even if credible scholars aren’t promoting it, that doesn’t prohibit hobbyists from promoting it, and convincing non-scholars of the validity of the theory.

    Dan, that is interesting about the wind currents. Firetag, were you aware of that for your Atlantic crossing theory? Dan, so are you saying that Columbus followed the Southern water currents, as opposed to the Northern wind currents (because the wind blows the wrong direction)?

    I think it is important to remember that Spaulding always claimed to be writing a novel, so if he got some facts wrong about the wind, he was writing just barely 180 years ago. Apparently as part of the novel, he claimed it was written much earlier, and as a novelistic tool, he found it buried. But the things he wrote should be considered only 200 years old, not 2000 years old.

  4. Dan
    May 4, 2009 at 7:46 am

    MH,

    If you look at the seventh slide in this presentation they’ll show that most of the ships to the Caribbean went south to catch the current, which flowed westwardly off Africa. The slide shows the three main currents of the North Atlantic. There is a current pushing south along the African coast. There is a current moving from Africa toward the Americas, and there is of course, the Gulf Stream, which moves very quickly, I might add, along the Eastern Atlantic Coast and back up to northern Europe. You can see that the excursions heading back to Europe are to the north of the excursions to the Caribbean.

    I realize that Spaulding was writing a novel, so he can make things up like a Roman soldier guessing that the Barbarians he would have known would some day become so powerful as to be able to traverse the Atlantic. I’m just saying that upon the very first initial glances on the Spaulding Manuscript and already there are problems with any attempt to correlate the two. When you read the Book of Mormon, at first glance, you have absolutely no idea where events take place, except Jerusalem. That’s the way one would write when not having the knowledge of what the future holds. There is a slim possibility that Mormon got a glimpse of the modern world (though I don’t recall him ever saying that; his son Moroni does state that he saw our modern world). But from Mormon’s writing (or if we are to claim Joseph Smith a fraud, from Joseph Smith’s writing), there is no indication that Mormon has any clue of the kind of people would be reading his opus upon its discovery.

    If someone is going to try and claim a comparison, to the level of plagiarism, then there has to be actual comparisons. I haven’t read more than the first few pages so far of Spaulding’s Manuscript, but what I have read, I’m not impressed at all of any comparison. The anti-Mormon propaganda being what it has been (loud and obnoxious), I expected far more eerie correlations. I’m frankly disappointed.

  5. Dan
    May 4, 2009 at 7:55 am

    I guess what I’m saying is that the laws of science work within the framework of the Book of Mormon, which would be the case if the book was not fiction. In fictional accounts, the laws of science are generally skirted mostly because the author simply doesn’t take into account such things as wind/ocean currents. In accounts written or compiled by people to show real events happening, it is much harder to spot inconsistencies within the laws of science. Because the writer does his best to describe what actually took place, rather than something made up in his mind.

  6. May 4, 2009 at 8:17 am

    Dan, thanks for the link! (I’ll add it to my collection.) I am curious how the Pilgrims landed at Plimouth, Mass. Do you have any info there? (Were their ships more modern than previous explorers, making a northern route more possible?)

    I think the reason why Spaulding Theory never goes away, As Faun Brodie notes, is it that for those not trained in history, it is an incredible amount of information. The sheer volume of affidavits leads one not trained as she is, to conclude “where smoke is, there must be fire.”

  7. Kari
    May 4, 2009 at 8:48 am

    Dan asks: Doesn’t that just sound odd for someone to write 2000 years ago? Or even 1500 years ago?

    Not any more odd than reading that horses and elephants lived somewhere in the Americas 2000 years ago.

    This Spaulding Manuscript has been the biggest threat against the credibility to the Book of Mormon? Really?

    No, the biggest threat is the inane internal silliness, like horses and elephants, curelom and cumom, wars that kill thousands more than ever could have been produced from such a small group, and traveling with animals in a stopped up ship that rotated freely in the ocean. All examples of the framework of the Book of Mormon not working within the laws of science.

    But yet believers are willing to overlook these things because of their certainty that the Book of Mormon is true. Just like those who are certain the Spaulding Manuscript is the source of the Book of Mormon are willing to overlook the inconsistencies of their position.

  8. Cowboy
    May 4, 2009 at 9:47 am

    Dan:

    In The Book of Mormon Nephi saw our day, or rather Joseph Smith’s day. He saw some of the reformation, he saw the discovery of America, he saw the colonization of America, and he saw the Restoration in America. A prevailing criticism against The Book of Mormon is that it seems to be theologically concerned with the contemporary issues of Joseph’s day, infant baptism for example. This criticism lends to the idea that the Nephites were predicting the future rather than focusing on their immediate issues.

  9. Dan
    May 4, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Kari,

    Stranger things have been found in the ancient Americas.

    As for saying the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction that was plagiarized off Spaulding’s Manuscript, I can only judge based on the first couple of pages that I’ve read of Spaulding’s Manuscript so far. There just ain’t no comparison to this point. The first and most important difference is that Spaulding makes no effort at making Fabius into anyone particularly special who happened to get lost at sea. Whereas Joseph Smith makes Nephi into a prophet with a mission from God who builds a ship for a stated purpose at finding a land far off. Nephi WANTS to find the Americas. Fabius STUMBLES upon the Americas. In terms of plagiarism, at least on the first few pages, there just ain’t none. I promise to read the rest of Spaulding’s Manuscript. I’m curious where he goes with his tale (and to see if the creators of Settlers II borrowed heavily from his story).

  10. Holden Caulfield
    May 4, 2009 at 10:32 am

    RE:#2 “This Spaulding Manuscript has been the biggest threat against the credibility to the Book of Mormon? Really?”

    I assume you mean other than the fanciful way it came about, the lack of external proof and the book itself.

  11. May 4, 2009 at 10:43 am

    Kari, I am interested if you believe that Joseph simply authored the BoM (as in fiction), or if you have another theory as to authorship of the BoM. I’m curious if there are other theories better accepted than the Spaulding Theory. Cowboy referenced Alexander Campbell’s theory, which I mentioned in the conclusion. If I were to accept such a theory, I would probably be more inclined to view Campbell’s supposition as more reasonable, than the Spaulding theory at this point.

    On another note, did you follow the Unconventional BoM post? Would that better explain elephants, or is that inane silliness too?

  12. Cowboy
    May 4, 2009 at 10:56 am

    Those horses existed over 10,000 years ago and stood 4.5 feet tall.

    The introduction to Manuscript Found:

    Near the west Bank of the Coneaught River there are
    the remains of an ancient fort. As I was walking and
    forming various conjectures respecting the character situation
    and numbers of those people who far exceeded the present race
    of Indians in works of art & inginuety I hapned to tread on a
    flat Stone. This was at a small distance from the fort : & it
    lay on the top of a small mound of Earth exactly horizontal
    The face of it had a singular appearance I discovered a
    number of characters which appeared to me to be letters but
    so much effaced by the ravages of time, that I could not read
    the inscription. With the assistance of a leaver I raised the
    Stone But you may easily conjecture my astonishment when
    I discovered that its ends and sides rested on Stones & that it
    was designed as a cover to an artificial cave. I found on ex-
    amining that its Sides were lined with * * * built in a
    connical form with * * * down & that it was about
    eight feet deep Determined to investigate the design of this
    extraordinary work of antiquity I prepared myself with
    necessary requisites for that purpose and decended to the
    Bottom of the cave Observing one side to be perpendicular

    You can debate whether or not The Book of Mormon was plagarized from this book, but you cannot debate the obvious similarities. I have read most of Manuscript Found, and would agree that this book bears little resemblance to The Book of Mormon. There are however laced through the narrative, words, subjects, and themes which give some creedance to the possibility that the person who wrote Manuscript Found also contributed to The Book of Mormon. This short story in the introduction about finding the cave (note that Olivery Cowdrey and Brigham Young both tell stories of Joseph also locating a cave filled with writings near cummorah, NY), locating an unusual rock, and removing that rock by the aid of a lever, has always struck me as a little too coincidental. Again, short of a Christian themed story relating to the American Indians, there is little in the subject matter to draw parallel to The Book of Mormon, and I recognize this, but I don’t think it completely discounts possible corellations.

  13. May 4, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Yes, Cowboy, I tried to highlight that obvious similarity in my post. I guess the biggest problem I have with the idea that Joseph plagiarized from so many sources that the Spaulding Theory, Grant Palmer, the Tanners, and Alexander Campbell suggest, is that it would have required the kind of research that Dan Brown used to create The Da Vinci Code, and I just don’t believe he had the time, education, or inclination to conduct so much research. After all, if the Spaulding Manuscript was used, Joseph still had to come up with 5/6 of new material, and write it in a biblical narrative. As Brodie notes, there is no good evidence supporting a meeting between Joseph and Sidney Rigdon prior to Dec 1830, at which time the BoM had already been published.

  14. Dan
    May 4, 2009 at 11:20 am

    so Cowboy, let me get this straight. There are few, if any, correlations between the actual stories (the Book of Mormon, and Spaulding’s story), but because both “found” their artifacts in caves of sorts, there must be some correlation? In a time and age (the early 1800s) when a lot of strange things happened in upstate New York (Joseph wasn’t the only one who apparently found magical stones), could something like this not be simply nothing but coincidence?

    There may be some similarities, but count them and compare them to the discrepancies and what kind of picture do you get?

  15. Cowboy
    May 4, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Dan:

    If you will go back and re-read my comments, as well as MH’s response you will see that based on the textual evidence there is enough substantial justification for raising the question. The problem, as MH points out, is that it is highly unlikely that Joseph Smith can be accredited as the books author (though not I’m comfortable with the old “uneducated farm boy” line), I think the task was probably bigger than he was. At this point if you are going to take the Spaulding theory serious than you generally have to account for it’s other half, Rigdon. As far as we know Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith did not meet prior to 1830, so there’s the problem. The problem is not that the story of discovering the cave undereath a boulder which was raised by a lever, is so easily dismissed as coincidence, particularly given the wording. In other words Dan, the discrepancies that you note only apply if we are taking a strict position on the Spaulding-Rigdon theory, where Manuscript Found is the actual source for The Book of Mormon. They do not apply when Manuscript Found points to Solomon Spaulding as a possible source.

    MH:

    You seem to know a lot about this. I read some remarks about six months ago that I have meant to research, though I have not tried that hard as of yet. So far my efforts have not turned anything up, but perhaps you have some insight here. Someone mentioned that Sidney Rigdon, somewhere around 1815, was a near neighbor of Oliver Cowdrey and his family in Vermont. Do you know anything about this?

  16. May 4, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    Cowboy, I don’t have my copy of Fawn Brodie’s book with me at the moment, but I’ll check it when I get home to verify. From memory, I don’t recall seeing Rigdon anywhere near Vermont in 1815. As far as I know, the Spaulding theory tries to tie Sidney to Spaulding first, not Cowdery. There is no reliable evidence to suggest that Rigdon ever came in contact with the Spaulding manuscript until at least 1822, and even that evidence is quite dubious, because the printer’s wife (Lambdin) knew nothing of Rigdon until at least 1822. So, even if there was a meeting with Cowdery in 1815, Rigdon couldn’t have possibly had the manuscript at that date, so any purported meeting between Rigdon and Cowdery would have been inconsequential as far at the Spaulding Theory is concerned. (Your internet assertion could be one of the “barnacles” that Brodie referenced.)

  17. May 4, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    Dan,
    Only miracles are coincidences. However, when they serve to prove religion wrong, then coincidences have more to them than just coincidence.

  18. Cowboy
    May 4, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    (Your internet assertion could be one of the “barnacles” that Brodie referenced.)

    Given the total lack of supporting evidence, I’ve kind of had the same thoughts. What interested me in the matter was that it would have networked these people much earlier and differently than we thought. So far it seems to be a dead end.

  19. May 4, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Cowboy’s position is similar to those who insist that Christ never existed and is just a construct of Paul importing Mithras into the Jewish context. Once you cast things so loosely, you can pretty much make anything into anything.

    Though the saddest experience I had in that regards was someone who accepted the LDS Church as debunked and then accepted similar arguments to leave Christ. Consistent, but it led her down a very sorry road.

    Though, now that I think about it, I am reminded of the copyright cases I tried (and won). Or the guy who insisted that Lucas had stolen the ideas from Star Wars from him.

    Heck, this blog obviously steals all of its material from BCC and T&S if you take the comparison net and apply it loosely enough.

  20. May 4, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Its funny you mention Star Wars Stephen. I once read a blog post that showed excactly where George Lucas stole the idea from Lord of the Rings. A nephew that has to go on a quest, led by an wise old man against a distant but powerfull evil force that can use supernatural powers to see and feel his enemies who has to go into the heart of the enemy power to destroy him etc.

    When you get broad enough you can make anything a copy of anything. Thats why its the details and the differences that matter more.

  21. Dan
    May 4, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Cowboy,

    I clearly haven’t studied the era as much as you or MH. I can’t get into the particulars as much as you have. I’ll end my thoughts here. I’ll read the rest of Spaulding’s Manuscript out of interest. Out of all that I have researched, I’m not impressed with the attacks on the Book of Mormon.

  22. May 4, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    For me, the Smoking Gun for the disbelief in the Spaulding Theory is the fact that no rough draft in his handwriting was ever found. Surely anyone who wrote novels back then would have hundreds (probably thousands) of pages of rough draft left over by the time it was all finished. In addition, he would have had a collection of notes left over from all his research on Hebrew names and writing styles. Nothing in Spaulding’s handwriting has ever been found having anything to do with the Book of Mormon. Nothing at all. The only chance the antis ever had was the original “Manuscript Found.” Once it was “discovered” and found to have nothing to do with the Book of Mormon, the rest of the hearsay floating around can be boiled down to nothing more than urban legend.

  23. Cowboy
    May 4, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    51 Convenient to the village of Manchester, Ontario county, New York, stands a hill of considerable size, and the most elevated of any in the neighborhood. On the west side of this hill, not far from the top, under a stone of considerable size, lay the plates, deposited in a stone box. This stone was thick and rounding in the middle on the upper side, and thinner towards the edges, so that the middle part of it was visible above the ground, but the edge all around was covered with earth.
    52 Having removed the earth, I obtained a lever, which I got fixed under the edge of the stone, and with a little exertion raised it up. I looked in, and there indeed did I behold the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate, as stated by the messenger. The box in which they lay was formed by laying stones together in some kind of cement. In the bottom of the box were laid two stones crossways of the box, and on these stones lay the plates and the other things with them.

    “…I hapned to tread on a
    flat Stone. This was at a small distance from the fort : & it
    lay on the top of a small mound of Earth exactly horizontal
    The face of it had a singular appearance I discovered a
    number of characters which appeared to me to be letters but
    so much effaced by the ravages of time, that I could not read
    the inscription. With the assistance of a leaver I raised the
    Stone But you may easily conjecture my astonishment when
    I discovered that its ends and sides rested on Stones & that it
    was designed as a cover to an artificial cave.”

    I will admit that there are holes in parts of the theory, but this similarity has always stuck with me. Is it possible that that we are dealing with coincidence here? Sure it is. If the point of this topic is to suggest that the traditional Spaulding-Rigdon theory is bogus, then perhaps I have misunderstood and will agree. If the point is to address Bookf of Mormon authorship more broadly, then this little similarity, among others (A View of the Hebrews – where there is a Cowdrey connection) at least demonstrates that many of the stories addressed in The Book of Mormon, both in the book itself as well as the stories surrounding it’s comming forth, are not unique or without precedent.

  24. Cowboy
    May 4, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    Dan:

    Fair enough, I can respect that.

  25. May 4, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Cowboy, I guess the problem I have is when we start to accumulate theories on top of each other. When we start to accumulate theories, such as View of the Hebrews, on top of the Spaulding Theory, and keep adding layers, we are adding a complexity comparable to a Dan Brown novel. Now some people may argue that Joseph Smith is as good an author as Dan Brown, but I think that’s a real stretch. (Frankly, I found Dan Brown’s novels much more interesting and exciting to read than the Book of Mormon. And when you check Dan Brown’s facts, he is fast and loose with many.) Kari, do you think Smith is as good an author as Brown?

  26. Kari
    May 4, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    MH,

    I read through some, but not all of the 306 comments in the Unconventional BoM Geography post. But frankly, I find BoM geography theories inane as well. If Joseph Smith, who “translated” (which really shouldn’t be called translated at all) the BoM said it was the story of the inhabitants of the Americas, who better to state the setting. And, in my opinion, JS taught that it was the story of the ancestors of all the Native Americans, not just some, or that it occurred in some limited geography. So in order to have a theory other than the hemispheric model you must say that the man who claimed to be a the prophet of the restoration and received the BoM directly from God, through a seerstone, was wrong. If you or other Mormon scholars are willing to say that, then how can anybody be wrong if they say the prophet is wrong?

    One of the points of my original comment to Dan was that people can explain their pet theories any way they want, and it may sound strange to others, but often no more strange (or inane) than many of the things of your pet theory (or belief). Believing that the Spaulding manuscript is the source of the BoM is no more strange than believe the stuff in the BoM. My personal belief/theory in how the BoM came into being is irrelevant.

  27. May 4, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Kari,

    You came in here blowing a lot of steam to all the “inane” people, so I think you should be willing to state your position, (and be subject to ridicule) rather than state “My personal belief/theory in how the BoM came into being is irrelevant.”

    I’m not trying to pick a fight, but I would urge you to be a little more tactful. If you want to call others’ pet theories as inane, then you ought to be willing to show your intellectual superiority and show us your inane theory as well, so that others can ridicule your beliefs.

    All I’m really trying to say it that you should be more tactful in your disagreement. It’s easy to shoot fish in a barrel, but you should also take your turn getting shot at. Perhaps your inane comments would be less hostile if you want to set yourself up as an expert.

  28. Cowboy
    May 4, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    I don’t have a concrete and systematic theory as to exactly how The Book of Mormon came into being. Suffice it to say that given I don’t accept a divine premise for Church origins, I tend to discount divine/historical origins for The Book of Mormon. To be clear however, I am open to possibilities, including the possibility that I may be wrong. I also understand that most people here do believe it is divine, and I also recognize that many of those who believe are highly intelligent and rationale – so please no more attempts to try and qualify me, let’s just talk about the discussion topic. Stephen, for what it is worth, inspite of your experience with your friend there are probably more examples of those who have left the Church while remaining Christian, particularly given that competing Christian groups lead the charge on “Mormon Awareness”. Your observation of me while drawing parallel to your friend came just a sentence before your anecdotal “Star Wars” criticism of my observations by drawing parallel between The Book of Mormon and Manuscript Found.

    MH

    As for stacking theories, I agree that this approach can be problematic. At the same time, Kari’s observation of our willingness to be loose with our theories on Book of Mormon geography while remaining rigid on Book of Mormon authorship, was a valid point. As I stated above, I don’t have a step by step theory or explanation for The Book of Mormon, but there is enough evidence to show that the story as Joseph told it is not the exclusive possibility as we sometimes like to suggest. I understand that this will be a somewhat unsatisfactory answer, and would not pass as a scholarly position – suffice it to say it is a big task to try and piece together history, the geography debates clearly attest to this.

  29. May 4, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Thanks for your comments, even the non-believers, putting the Book of Mormon through the meat grinder is one of my favorites. I can tell all of you have done your homework before you started flapping your lips, and that is very rare when it comes to this subject. The closest example of putting the Book of Mormon through the meat grinder is the Kennedy Assasination. All the different theories, yet they all seem to contradict each other. And you rarely, if ever, find someone who says, “The Kennedy Assasination? Oh yeah, I beleive in a single-shooter, Oswald, from the building. No CIA, no Mafia, no French snipers, no grassy knoll, no conspiracy. Just one assasin with one old Italian rifle.” Ever notice you hardly ever hear from that guy? I have objectively attacked the Book of Mormon from every possible angle, but I am that guy when it comes to the Book of Mormon: Joseph Smith, Angel Moroni, Golden Plates. This theory actually makes more sense to me then some big labyrinth of conspirators and con-men.

  30. May 4, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Cowboy, I respect your position. People often ridicule religious folks for not having all the answers (like elephants, or even the Creation). As long as they are tactful, as you have been, then I’ll allow some latitude for you believing that the BoM is not divine and that you don’t have all the answers for authorship.

    However, when people such as Kari start throwing insults like “inane”, then I start to bristle. If Kari wants to call something inane, then Kari ought to come up with a non-inane answer. “My Personal belief is irrelevant” is a copout, and completely unfair. If Kari is not willing to come up with all the answers, then Kari’s comments are inane as well.

    The Golden Rule goes a long way.

  31. May 4, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    #19:
    Though the saddest experience I had in that regards was someone who accepted the LDS Church as debunked and then accepted similar arguments to leave Christ. Consistent, but it led her down a very sorry road.

    Stephen, I’m not sure why you feel this person’s post-LDS departure from christianity is a “very sorry road.” For many, the only plausible understanding of Jesus of Nazareth is that which the LDS church provides. If one concludes that LDS-ism is not supportable, why would it be a “good” thing for them to adopt what they (and likely, most faithful LDS) see as a much less plausible version of christianity? IMO, departure from christianity is the truly “common sense” response of any thinking person who rejects Mormonism or LDS-ism.

  32. Kari
    May 4, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    MH,

    I think you should go back and re-read my original post. Despite your assertion, I never called anyone inane. The phrase was “inane internal silliness of the Book of Mormon.” And I also referred to theories of BoM geography as inane as well. Never called anyone inane. Good god, get the chip off your shoulder.

    My personal belief is irrelevant to the discussion. The discussion at hand concerns the Spaulding manuscript. Again, my point was that to dismiss the Spaulding manuscript because it sounds odd or is in opposition to current scientific knowledge, as Dan did, is no different than to dismiss the BoM because of the things in it that sound odd or are in opposition to current scientific knowledge. It’s the odd stuff and the inconsistency of the BoM that is a bigger challenge to the authenticity of the BoM than the Spaulding manuscript. And in the end, those that are certain of the authenticity of the BoM are not likely to be swayed by the arguments of those proposing the Spaulding manuscript as the source of the BoM. Just as those who believe the Spaulding manuscript is the source (of which I am not one, btw) are not likely to be swayed by your original post or subsequent comments dismissing this theory.

    Could I have been more tactful? Yes. But really, you should read a little closer before making baseless accusations.

    Let me again state clearly, I didn’t call anyone inane. I didn’t call the Spaulding manuscript theory of the origin of the BoM inane. I called the some of the contents of the BoM inane, and listed the things I find in the BoM to be so. And I called the presence of various theories of BoM geography inane as well (although I wasn’t as clear as I should have been there), for reasons I felt I elucidated. I can clarify further with regards to BoM geography but that would be more of a threadjack.

  33. May 4, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    I just now finished Rough Stone Rolling, several years behind everyone else. To me the most credible evidence comes from Emma Hale Smith’s testimony. She knew her husband well, and saw the process of translation, even working as a scribe for parts. She said at the time that he couldn’t compose a coherent thank-you note. There’s no way he made it up himself. And the other theories about origin don’t hold water, as we see here. She maintained that the Book of Mormon was divinely inspired for her whole life. Even after Joseph died and she had distanced herself from the church due to how much she had suffered. Why would she lie? It really makes no sense.

    Obviously, people who have a priori decided that no divine origin is possible are going to search for some alternate theory, but to me the only theory that makes any sense is divine origin.

  34. Cowboy
    May 4, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    The trouble I have with Emma Smith is that she is on record saying that she was not aware that Joseph practiced polygamy. By all accounts she did, and yet she appears to have lied about it. Why? I don’t know, but that makes for a shaky witness at best.

  35. hawkgrrrl
    May 4, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    “By all accounts she did, and yet she appears to have lied about it. Why? I don’t know, but that makes for a shaky witness at best.” She has two great motives to lie about it: 1) psychologically it put her over the brink, and 2) she wanted it to die with Joseph. It was an added bonus that she got to stick it to BY in the process since he was very anti-Emma.

    But as to her BOM witness, she’s not a terrible witness. I think OC is a stronger witness, personally.

  36. Imperfection
    May 4, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    To those who accept a divine origin to the BoM, no fact or theory to the contrary will ever be sound. Such is the power of magical thinking. To those who view Joseph as a man, and the story of Mormonism as a human story, the Spaulding theory provides context to the ideas that were in circulation at the time. View of the Hebrews provides similar context. View Joseph as a very talented story teller, and the origins of Mormonism become a fascinating, but still very human story.

    Joseph didn’t need to plagiarize Spaulding, he had a very imaginative mind, and a very rich frontier culture to draw from–assuming, of course, the divine option turns out to be wrong.

  37. Holden Caulfield
    May 4, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    “Even after Joseph died and she had distanced herself from the church due to how much she had suffered. Why would she lie?”

    I don’t know. Why did she lie about polygamy?

  38. May 4, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    Kari,

    I think you still lack sensitivity. “inane internal silliness of the Book of Mormon” and “I called the some of the contents of the BoM inane” is not showing respect. I would think that you should understand that referring to any holy book (Koran, Bible, etc) as inane is going to rile up some people, and surely shows a lack of respect.

    If you want to split hairs, I didn’t call you inane either, only your comments.

    If I said, “your beliefs are inane”, I don’t think you’d take kindly to that–that’s pretty much the same thing you’ve said. (And I wouldn’t have specifically called you inane either.) You’re entitled your your opinion about the BoM, but you shouldn’t be surprised when people take offense to your lack of respect and tact. I think your personal beliefs are quite relevant to the conversation, if you are so quick to dismiss inane elements of the BoM.

    Ok, I’ve said my peace, and you’ve said yours, so I’m certainly willing to let this issue drop. If you want to add to the 300 comments on the BoM theory, go ahead and comment there, and I’d be happy to respectfully discuss them over there. Or you can save your comments for the future, as I have another geography theory post promised (to Ed) and planned for in a week or two from now.

  39. May 4, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    Imperfection (and others), is Joseph as talented of a story teller as Dan Brown?

    Holden, Hawkgrrrl in 35 answered your question.

  40. Imperfection
    May 4, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    39. Dan Brown is a novelist (I and even use that term with reservation). Joseph was a *story teller* which is a dying art in today’s world. Different things.

  41. May 4, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    Why would [Emma Smith] lie? It really makes no sense.

    I think it makes a lot of sense. I can think of three reasons offhand. 1) She might have lied to support her husband and her son. (She left “the” Church, after all, not all LDS churches.) Maybe she was in on the con with Joseph. Why would she confess and take on that shame, when her son could claim the right to lead a church if she kept silent? 2) Or, rather than lying, she might have believed things that she suspected weren’t true because they were psychologically easier. If you suffered years of hardship because of your husband, culminating in his murder, would you rather believe it was because he was a great man or because he was a lifelong grifter whose cons finally caught up with him? 3) Or, Joseph was such a skilled conman that he even fooled his wife.

    I’m not arguing that any of those happened. I just think they’re all plausible explanations (although the third one may be less so, unless Emma was unusually gullible).

  42. May 4, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    I think OC is a stronger witness, personally.

    I don’t think Oliver is a strong witness either. He found himself virtually unemployable because of his association with the Book of Mormon. Suppose he knew the BOM isn’t what it’s supposed to be. In that case, it seems to me that Oliver only had three choices in life: continue to assert his belief in the BOM and be ostracized as an honest religious nut, deny the BOM and be ostracized as a religious conman, or go back to the Mormons and face some humiliation but at least have a community and be able to make a living. He went back to the Mormons.

    That’s one possible scenario. He might also have believed in the things he said happened, but been deceived by Joseph Smith. Or, everything may have happened just as he said. I don’t claim to know. But I don’t think Oliver’s testimony is particularly strong evidence, because, like Emma, he had great incentive to stick with it even if it wasn’t true.

  43. Cowboy
    May 4, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Again, Emma is on record denying polygamy. She may have had her reasons, and they may even be reasonable if we actually knew what they were. I get the impression like Kuri and Hawkgrrrl that they were personal. That being said, she cannot serve as a credible witness for the purposes of settling an argument.

  44. Doug G.
    May 4, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    MH,
    I need some time to answer your OP. Sorry, some of us work for a living. :)

    Just for the record, if you go back and read the thread where we discussed this, I was the first to admit that the Rigdon authorship idea was just a theory with some very interesting parallels. I’m certainly not hanging my hat on it as you seem to imply. More to come…

  45. May 4, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    IMO, departure from Christianity is the truly “common sense” response of any thinking person who rejects Mormonism or LDS-ism.

    That may be, but it saddens me to see anyone lose faith in Christ.

  46. May 4, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    Cowboy,

    I looked up No Man Knows My History, and Fawn Brodie is completely silent on the issue of Rigdon being in Vermont in 1815. She has a table on pages 454-455 listing 59 marriages, meetings, funerals, etc that Rigdon was known to attend between Nov 2, 1826 and his baptism by Oliver Cowdery on Nov 14, 1830. (Rigdon met Joseph in December 1830.) Brodie seems pretty convinced that Rigdon did not go to Pittsburgh until 1822. Brodie talks about several affidavits placing Rigdon in in the printing office in Pittsburgh between 1811 and 1816, but those affidavits are contradicted by Patterson & Lambdin (the printers), who Brodie views as more reliable witnesses.

    Van Wagoner gives a slightly more detailed accounting of Rigdon, but makes no mention of Rigdon in Vermont either. Apparently, Rigdon’s father, William, moved to St Clair Township, Pennsylvania in 1793. There is circumstantial evidence to believe that William Rigdon joined the St Peters Baptist church there, and Sidney was baptized 31 May 1817 in the St Peters Baptist church at age 24. Van Wagoner makes no mention of Vermont or the Cowderys during this time period. It seems the family spent Sidney’s entire life up to that point in St Clair Township, PA. Rigdon did become a Baptist preacher and move to Pittsburgh in 1822, but the printers deny giving/selling the manuscript to Rigdon.

    Van Wagoner goes into great detail about Sidney’s association with Alexander Campbell, who helped Sidney become a pastor in the Campbellite movement. Sidney first met Campbell in August 1817, and met him on other occasions. Evidently in 1821 in Ohio, (SR page 23)

    Rigdon and Bentley, their senses afire, returned to Warren intending to set the Western Reserve [Ohio] ablaze with their replenished religious conviction. They had assured Campbell “a candid hearing on the part of the uncommitted community, and an immediate access to the ears of the Baptist churches within the sphere of their influence.”

    The book then details Campbell’s mentoring Sidney to become a pastor for the Baptist church. Sidney then became a pastor in Kirtland, Ohio. When Sidney converted to Mormonism in 1830, this explains why Kirtland became the headquarters of the church. Since many of Sidney’s congregation joined in Kirtland, it quickly became the center of Mormonism.

  47. May 5, 2009 at 2:15 am

    3 — http://www.utlm.org/newsletters/no39.htm#SPALDING is the closest I can find.

    Spaulding theory won’t go away until someone puts a stake through its heart — no amount of iron-clad refutation has done it to date. But the only folks trying to promote it are people looking for an easy way of rejecting the Book of Mormon, afaict.

    I’ve been particularly interested this time through the BoM how the text has nuances that early (and not-so-early) readers misread with no apparent attempt by Joseph or anybody else to correct those understanding by pulling them back to the text. I’m also noticing how the world of the Book of Mormon is really dissimilar to any history Joseph would have had access to from which to base the story were it fictional. The sophistication required to develop this kind of story is quite high, and there are very few authors capable of pulling that off.

    Mind, aside from the “word of God” part, I don’t have a solid answer about what the Book of Mormon is. I don’t accept the “primary ancestor of American Indians” reasoning, and have other issues with the way the narrative develops. But it’s not “The Book of Mormon, a Comprehensive History of the Western Hemisphere 600 BCE – 400 CE,” it’s “The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ,” and it teaches me how to be a better person.

  48. vikingz2000
    May 5, 2009 at 2:36 am

    Grant Palmer’s book, An Insiders View certainly postulates some very tenable arguments that the BofM is a plagiarized work.

    What are your thoughts on this (if indeed you have read his book)?

  49. May 5, 2009 at 6:06 am

    I’ve been particularly interested this time through the BoM how the text has nuances that early (and not-so-early) readers misread with no apparent attempt by Joseph or anybody else to correct those understanding by pulling them back to the text

    Many of those are fascinating. I need to do another post in the deconstructing series.

  50. May 5, 2009 at 8:10 am

    Vikingz,

    It’s been a while since I read Grant Palmer’s book. From memory, it seems to me he had a similar view of Alexander Campbell by claiming that current Protestant thought influenced the Book of Mormon, though I do remember Palmer did go into quite some detail on View of the Hebrews.

    Campbell’s view holds more water than any plagiarism allegations, IMO. Van Wagoner seems to hold a similar position. I’ll have to review Palmer’s book again.

    I have to agree with much of Blain in 47. (Thanks for the link.)

  51. Cowboy
    May 5, 2009 at 9:17 am

    Thanks, MH.

  52. May 5, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Aboz and Doug G, I’m sure you’ve probably got more important things to do than read my post, but I am curious what you think.

  53. Doug G.
    May 5, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    MH,

    OK, here goes…

    To be clear, let me restate that I don’t hold the Rigdon connection as anything more than a theory. If the Jocker’s word print study hadn’t added a certain amount of scientific evidence to the theory, I would have dismissed the idea of Sydney writing the BoM, just as you have done. I know, I know, you guys feel like the study was invalid because Stanford researchers didn’t use enough control group authors or JS himself as a possible contributor to make the study valid. I’m not educated enough about NSC methodology to determine for myself whether or not Stanford University actually let something get through peer review with as many problems as you’re assuming. I believe your criticism of the study puts you in a dangerous situation as further work will most certainly be done with many more authors included.

    According to the paper put out by Criddle defending the study, adding more authors will not significantly change its outcome, although they’re happy to do it. So MH, how are you going to explain the 93 chapters in the BoM with Rigdon’s word print? Remember, we’re not dealing with apologetics here; we’re talking about very well respected professors writing a peer reviewed paper from an un-bias position. (Matthew Jocker’s credentials are impeccable.)

    You used two books written by un-friendly sources to support your claim of discrediting the Rigdon/Spaulding theory. If you actually believe these folks were reputable historians worthy of your respect in sifting through the details here, why don’t you believe anything else they researched and documented? They were both convinced that JS wrote the book with information available in his own back yard. As Grant Palmer noted in his book, (An Insider’s View…) most of the sermons given by Mosiah, King Benjamin, Abinadi, Alma (both father and son) and so on were very close matches to Methodist camp meeting sermons and the doctrines were aligned with the Campbellite movement. They also note that more than 80% of the book can be explained with sources available to JS within 100 miles of his home.

    There is nothing new presented in the book that wasn’t known before 1826. As historians have pointed out, many people in JS time believed the Indians were one of the lost ten tribes and came to America after the scattering. BH Roberts was shocked to find so many similarities between “View of the Hebrews” and the BoM that he begged the quorum of the twelve to give him some kind of explanation. Even the story of the tree of life was taken from Joseph Smith Sr. vision as reported by Lucy Mack Smith. So your comment about good historians not making the mistake of believing Rigdon could have written the BoM because of “X”, when good historians have also concluded that the book most certainly is 19th century fiction, doesn’t make sense to me. Perhaps you can help me with that contradiction?

    If you read about the Kinderhook plates in the “History of the Church”, you will find a very well detailed argument discrediting the three guys who claimed to have made the plates. In the end, good science proved that the arguments were wrong and the plates were indeed fake. Eventually the BoM will suffer the same fate… (Just my prediction and not worth an argument from you good folks.)

    Just two more points. I find it fascinating that JS took many months working with his “seer stone” to translate the Egyptian papyrus into just five chapters in the “Book of Abraham”. But the task of translating the gold plates into hundreds of chapters took just over 90 days. This inconsistency points directly at JS reading off a manuscript or dictating to a scribe a story that was already worked out as opposed to translating. Secondly, the inclusion of Nahom is almost a dead giveaway that he was working with someone with a good education and access to one of several maps available at the time with the local pinpointed.

    Conclusion- I don’t know if SR provided the manuscript for the BoM or not. The evidence would seem to point at someone helping JS with the effort. If I were SR and I wanted to start my own brand of Christianity based on new scripture, I would need a front man to pull it off. If he did do it, he would have been very careful not to leave a paper trail for investigators then or now to uncover. Also, if reforming Christianity had been your lifetime work and you had actually managed to pull off the fraud, I doubt very seriously you would confess your deceit on your death bed. Why would you sabotage something you were that proud of and that had worked so well in changing people’s beliefs to the way you believed God actually worked? Remember, even after leaving the church and becoming a leader in another religion, he still upheld the BoM as divine.

    As usual, just my opinion and worth what you’re paying for it…

  54. MH
    May 5, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    Doug,

    One of the things I find frustrating is when people change the subject. In the Unconventional post, you specifically asked about the Spaulding Theory, and I said I would post on the Spaulding Theory. Now you’re talking about Joker’s word print study (which I’m not familiar with), View of the Hebrews, the Kinderhook plates, and the Book of Abraham.

    As we’ve said on this thread, it’s not really fair to start stacking theories on top of each other. You asked about Spaulding, I’d like to stick with Spaulding. Just as with the JFK assassination, when we start pulling in KGB, Cuban, Nixon, Johnson, and Mafia theories to dismiss the single shooter, it clouds the issue, and the different theories aren’t really related to each other. We should take a theory and stick with it. I guess what I wanted to find out was do you think Brodie and Van Wagoner’s research is valid, or are you unconvinced in their research? Are you still a proponent of the Spaulding Theory by itself? (It sounds to me that you prefer to stack theories together, so that when one is dismissed, you can say, “yeah but….”)

    And Aboz, did I finally write something you found agreement with?

  55. May 6, 2009 at 8:10 am

    MH,

    The Jocker, et al., paper is about the Spaulding theory. It found a high relative likelihood that Spaulding, Rigdon, and Oliver Cowdery were the principle authors of the Book of Mormon, with Rigdon playing an especially large role. While I think the paper does appear to have serious flaws, it may have breathed new life into the Spaulding theory, as Doug suggested.

  56. MH
    May 6, 2009 at 8:35 am

    Kuri,

    Thanks for the link. I notice it was published on Dec 6, 2008, so it is a pretty new article (5 months old today), which probably explains why I had not heard of it. I’ll check it out. Doug gave an interesting perspective on it. I’m no expert on wordprint studies either, so I appreciate Doug’s attempt to try to give both sides of the story there.

  57. FireTag
    May 6, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    Of course, if before you do the wordprint study, you really have a lot of evidence against contact between Spaulding, Rigdon, and Smith prior to publication of the Book of Mormon — you have to wonder why you wouldn’t include Spaulding and Rigdon in the CONTROL GROUP a priori.

    Givens (page 160). gives a summary of a number of wordprint studies that reach opposite conclusions than Jokker. Don’t expect a quick resolution, or place a bet on which way it will go. As much as scientists try to fight the tendency, we do become wedded to our preconceived biases, and it is only through debate by opposing schools of thought that scientific consensus emerges. The debate sometimes goes on for decades.

  58. Doug G.
    May 6, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    Kuri, Thank you.

    MH,

    Everything in my post is about the Spaulding theory. I made each of my points to show the problems with your rejection of the Spaulding theory.

    I started with the Jocker’s study to show that there is scientific evidence for Rigdon and Spaulding’s contribution to the BoM. That’s paragraph 1 and 2 and 3.

    Paragraph 4 was meant to show that people like Rigdon certainly had enough information available to write such a book.

    Paragraph 5 was my effort to show that carefully studied history from a bias perspective will always yield the desired results. In other words, your historians have no better case against the Spaulding authorship theory then the ones who wrote the defense of the Kinderhook plates, and yet they were dead wrong. Your two historians have a bias about JS writing the book himself…

    Paragraph 6 was my attempt to show when we actually have something tangible (like the Egyptian writings on the papyrus) the use of the “seer stone” took many months to produce just five chapters of text. Therefore, it’s logical to conclude that running off several hundred chapters in just three months must have been accomplished with a pre-prepared script. That gives merit to either the Spaulding/Rigdon idea or the possibility that JS himself already figured out the story line and was ready to get it on paper.

    My concluding paragraph speaks for itself about why I believe the Rigdon/Spaulding theory has some merit.

    I don’t know what to conclude from your rather rude assessment of what I wrote. Could you really have missed all my points that completely or did you just give my post a quick read looking to tear it apart? I also asked you several questions throughout my post that would seem fair for you to consider answering.

  59. FireTag
    May 6, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    Doug G:

    Your paragraph 6 does raise an interesting point. As one who believes that the translation of the Book of Mormon stands on different spiritual ground than the translation of the Book of Abraham, I can easily cite the differences in translation time as confirmation of MY pre-existing bias.

    That bias is that God wasn’t helping in the translation of the latter, because anything Joseph was seeing correctly from God wasn’t coming as a property of seer stone, plate, or papyrus. In fact, since fragments of the latter exist, and there are professionals who dispute the translation, a belief in the Book of Abraham rests more purely on a belief in Joseph’s Smith personal revelation regarding the Book.

    In fact, I wonder why someone who thought he was participating in a fraud would bother to try to translate the papyrus in the first place.

  60. Cowboy
    May 6, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    MH:

    Just a comment about “stacking theories” as you call it. I think you need to recognize that their is a differece between story telling and theorizing. There is little concensus on the Kennedy assassintation (Don’t worry, I’m not changing topics here), who do dunnit, etc. If we become to strict on a “stacking theories” policy, then really we are left with only one option – Oswald did it. That may or may not be correct, but failing to consider alternatives limits discovery. The same goes with this debate, there are a number of factors which do give some credibility to a loose spaulding correlation. There is the now popular NSC paper out of Stanford, there is the Dartmouth (Hiram Smith, Ethan Smith, Dr. Mitchell). There are the literary precedents, including the fact the A View of the Hebrews was written by Ethan Smith, a relative (I think cousin) of Joseph Smith Sr, Ethan Smith was also the pastor of the Church that Oliver Cowdrey and family attended for years. All of this begs the question, and opens the door for reasonable postulation and research. The problem with “stacking theories” is that it often becomes less of a science and more of an art, which in the case of history can be a recipe for absurdity. I guess what I am saying is that there is some room to juxtapose ideas here, we just have to be a little careful.

  61. Doug G.
    May 6, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    Firetag,

    “That bias is that God wasn’t helping in the translation of the latter, because anything Joseph was seeing correctly from God wasn’t coming as a property of seer stone, plate, or papyrus. In fact, since fragments of the latter exist, and there are professionals who dispute the translation, a belief in the Book of Abraham rests more purely on a belief in Joseph’s Smith personal revelation regarding the Book.”

    I think what you really should be asking yourself why God was willing to help write the BoM through the seer stone, but not the Book of Abraham. (Bearing in mind that JS was claiming that he could translate with it.) For me, that’s just not the kind of God I can believe in.

    “In fact, I wonder why someone who thought he was participating in a fraud would bother to try to translate the papyrus in the first place.”

    Good question, although I think JS was under a certain amount of pressure from the members of the church when Chandler came through town with Egyptian writing on parchment. I’m sure they felt like translating it should be a piece of cake for the guy who translated an entire book written in some kind of Egyptian sublanguage. I also believe that Rigdon thought it was a great tool to expound some of his ideas about preexistence, being elite even before he was born, and other out of the box thinking that normal Christianity would have thought preposterous. I wouldn’t underestimate the sincerity of either JS or SR in feeling like the end justifies the means in bringing what they believed about God out for the world to see. Both knew that scripture was the only way to make new ideas stick. Don’t you find it interesting that with the exception of the BoM, most of the “Pearl of Great Price”, “D&C”, “Lectures on Faith” etc. were brought out with the help of SR? He had the brains and the ambition to become another reformer just like Campbell. If it turns out that he did write the BoM, he was far more successful then Campbell even dreamed of being in accomplishing his goal.

    MH doesn’t like it, but I won’t get pinned down to one certain theory about the BoM. I’m just not as ready as he is to throw Rigdon out as a possibility. Of course I’m open to other possibilities as well including JS writing it as inspired fiction with almost seven years to work on his story from the time he claimed to see Moroni to the publication of the book. JS was 24 years old when the BoM was completed. We’re not talking about an uneducated farm boy here. He had been studying religions and the bible for many years before becoming the proprietor of the BoM.

  62. MH
    May 7, 2009 at 12:15 am

    Doug,

    I tried to pick 2 authors more sympathetic to your view. If I had picked something from FARMS or FAIR, you would have dismissed it as biased. So, I pick two people who are skeptical of Smith, and they are still too pro-Mormon for you. Look, I don’t think every word out of Joseph was God-inspired, and I think Brodie and Van Wagoner make some arguments that I am sympathetic with. I think Brodie amd Van Wagoner are more neutral than either Hurlburt or FARMS, but apparently you only want to listen to people who support your view 100%.

    As I already stated, I knew nothing of the Jocker study, so I thought that was unrelated to the Spaulding theory. I stand corrected. My apologies. I’ll have to look into that before I can comment intelligently.

    Kinderhook plates, and Book of Abraham do not relate to authorship of the Book of Mormon, which is what the Spaulding theory is all about. E.D. Howe and Dr Hurlburt were looking for Manuscript Found, not View of the Hebrews, so View really is not related directly to the Spaulding Theory. IMO, those muddy the issues. I suppose the first 2 relate to the ability of Joseph Smith to translate, so that is tangentially related. But Spaulding did not write View of the Hebrews, so that is really another theory.

    Now, could a bunch of sources have influenced Joseph in translation? Yes. Does the Spaulding Theory alone account for everything? No. For one thing, it is 1/6 as long. If you want to say that Spaulding influenced Joseph, I am more comfortable with that assertion. However, to say Joseph plagiarized Spaulding is a bit over the top, IMO.

    Let’s look at your theory. For Joseph to have been able to view maps at Dartmouth (no evidence he visited NH), plagiarize both View of the Hebrews and Manuscript Found, incorporate Reformed Baptist preaching, know what was in Sidney Rigdon’s brain without meeting Sidney, change both manuscripts into KJV style, figure out Egyptian names (Pahoran, Paanchi), and figure out chiasmus before any modern scholars were aware of this literary device, requires Joseph to have done the kind of research that Dan Brown does. I do not believe Joseph is as smart as Dan Brown, he was not college educated like Dan Brown, and did not have the time to study all these various manuscripts that Dan Brown has, doing all this while treasure digging, farming, romancing and eloping with Emma. The only book that we know for sure Joseph read is the Bible. Yet you seem to want to think Joseph is every bit as good an author as Dan Brown. Emma said he couldn’t write a coherent letter when they first married, and you think he’s practically Dan Brown. Now, obviously Joseph grew in knowledge, but Dan Brown was 34 when he wrote Digital Fortress, his first novel. You really think that Joseph with 10 fewer years, no college eduation, could write something that intricate?

    Emma knew Joseph better than you. I’m sorry, but your theory just doesn’t add up to me from what I know about Joseph, even if he was smarter than the church and his contemporaries acknowledge. If Joseph had read so much material, why couldn’t he spell better? Have you seen letters Joseph wrote? Wouldn’t such a smart man be able to pick people who wouldn’t turn on him? If you think Joseph is as good of a writer as Dan Brown, you need to get a paper trial of evidence to show that he really did have access to all this material, rather than innuendo. In my opinion, the paper trail connecting Spaulding to Rigdon is weak and prior to Dec 1830, the trail between Rigdon to Smith is even weaker. Doug, Are you saying that Joseph is as good or better author and researcher as Dan Brown?

    Van Wagoner states that Sidney was always hungry for recognition. If Rigdon was the author, why didn’t he claim to find the plates and translate the BoM? Why is Rigdon second fiddle to Joseph all those years? Why would Sidney pretend to convert? According to the Spaulding timeline, Sidney would have needed to steal the manuscript prior to becoming a baptist preacher. Why did Sidney spend so much time becoming a Baptist preacher, when he seemingly was going to start his own religion anyway? Why would the educated Rigdon allow Smith to take all the credit, when Rigdon craved recognition so much?

    Doug, from previous conversations, I think you have a real axe to grind with the church, and you only want to tear it down. I don’t think you want to believe anymore, and this influences your admissibility of experts. I tried to pick some authors who were more neutral than the average apologist from FARMS. Brodie and Van Wagoner show Smith with all his warts. Smith is not whitewashed in their books. But apparently they are still unsatisfactory. I feel you don’t want to give anyone in the church any benefit of the doubt. I feel I am more willing than you to emphasize the good and bad of leaders. I feel you only want to emphasize bad. I don’t know what more you want me to do, except agree with you. Is that correct?

  63. May 7, 2009 at 11:51 am

    62 — Two small corrections in one. It’s Doctor Hurlbut, not Dr. Hurlburt. Doctor was his first name, not a title — he had no particular education to speak of, and nothing to earn him that title.

    I share your concern about jumping the track from “these ideas were available within 100 miles of Joseph” into “Joseph was capable of creating the BoM as a work of fiction in less than a year.” OSC’s analysis of the difficulty of getting the things right the BoM would have to as a piece of fiction makes a number of good points along those lines, and they’re not easily set aside.

    But the linch-pin of this argument remains solely a question of faith. No amount of theories or evidence is going to change that.

  64. MH
    May 7, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    Yes, Blain, sorry I didn’t make that clear–I abbreviated Doctor Hurlburt’s name, instead of wrote it out. I should have made that more clear. I don’t I understand your abbreviation of OSC.

    One other point I want to make. We all have biases. I have a bias that Joseph was inspired. Doug has a bias that Joseph is a fraud. If one operates from the bias the BoM is a work of fiction, then I think the plagiarism of the Bible is a pretty strong argument. Certainly Isaiah, Matthew, and John seem to have been plagiarized if one wants to make that case, instead of Joseph’s contention of a translation. However, the similarities between the BoM and the Spaulding manuscript are much more tenuous than Bible comparisons. If one is going to charge Joseph with plagiarism of Spaulding, it is much harder to prove Joseph plagiarized Spaulding, as Andrew Ainsworth mentioned in his blog post in Feb (which I referenced in the first paragraph of my post.)

    Therefore, IMO, to throw around the word plagiarism in relation to Spaulding and Ethan Smith, is a gross overstatement. Certainly when we compare the KJV to the BoM, the evidence of similarity of texts is overwhelmingly similar. However, when we make comparisons to Spaulding and Ethan Smith, the evidence is MUCH less convincing. Joseph Smith admits he had a KJV bible, but there is no reliable evidence connecting Joseph to the Spaulding Manuscript. In Brodie and Van Wagoner’s mind, there is only innuendo connecting Joseph to Spaulding that is far from convincing. (I haven’t studied Ethan’s Smith’s connections to Joseph to comment one way or the other.)

    If Rigdon was so intimately involved in this conspiracy, I also don’t understand why he would be motivated to get the Spaulding manuscript to Joseph in the first place. Why not simply invent the BoM himself? Certainly, Rigdon’s reputation as an educated minister would be much more believable than a seer-stone seeking, non-formally educated person like Joseph, don’t you think? As I quoted above, the people of Kirtland, Ohio in 1831

    “did not accept [Joseph's] 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.

    Yet to listen to Doug’s theory makes Joseph comparable to Dan Brown. I think that is a huge stretch. Doug has dismissed Emma as gullible, but she’s not the only one who questioned Joseph’s intelligence in putting together the BoM. Doug, how do you rationalize the fact that most people of Joseph’s day thought Joseph was intellectually incapable of putting together all the sources you are trying to attribute? Why would Joseph want to appear dumb to so many people?

  65. May 7, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    64 — Halfway there. There’s only one “r” in his name. It’s Hurlbut, not Hurlburt.

    OSC is Orson Scott Card, and I was referring to his essay “The Book of Mormon – Artifact or Artifice?”.

  66. MH
    May 7, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    I have found both spellings of Hurlbut and Hurlburt, as well as Spalding and Spaulding. It does not appear to be uniform.

  67. FireTag
    May 7, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    Doug:

    I hope I don’t start a budding conspiracy theory that I’ve hired you as a front man for the CofChrist. :>)

    It is precisely the position of the Community of Christ that Joseph overreached after the Book of Mormon and many of the early revelations. That’s the basis of the schism between us and the diverging canon of Scripture between us after 1844. The debate among CofChrist historians is the extent to which he led, fought, and/or succumbed to theological innovations which were not part of the church in 1830.

    I think “pressure from the membership” played a large role, but not in any covering of a fraud. Rather, like the Israelites in the wilderness after Egypt, people kept asking for signs and wonders as evidence of success in the face of persecution and hardship. And Joseph, having seen enough to know there was more than he’d been able to understand, struggled to find ways to piece the fragments together into a theological whole. LDS thinks he mostly succeeded. CofChrist fears he increasingly went off course and tried to regroup, both physically and theologically, around his son as successor.

    And here we stand, in the 21st Century, trying to respond to the light we have each been given and build Zion.

  68. Doug G.
    May 7, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    MH,

    Why are you so defensive about this? I have never tried to portray myself as trying to believe in the restoration as portrayed by the church. I am still a member for the sake of my family and nothing else. I didn’t realize that being a believer was a requirement for commenting in this board. Your attack on me is representative of someone who’s desperate. I guess that means I hit a nerve or two. Even Firetag, is willing to admit that at least the Book of Abraham was fraudulent. But you read my post and have a fit, like nothing I wrote has any merit at all. I’m going to try and answer your comments, but I realize up front that no amount of logic and common sense will help you see my points.

    “I tried to pick 2 authors more sympathetic to your view. If I had picked something from FARMS or FAIR, you would have dismissed it as biased. So, I pick two people who are skeptical of Smith, and they are still too pro-Mormon for you. Look, I don’t think every word out of Joseph was God-inspired, and I think Brodie and Van Wagoner make some arguments that I am sympathetic with. I think Brodie amd Van Wagoner are more neutral than either Hurlburt or FARMS, but apparently you only want to listen to people who support your view 100%.”

    Please show me where I said anything like what you wrote here? My whole point was that both authors were convinced that JS had everything he needed to write the book and therefore were biased by that belief. I asked you why you’re so willing to acknowledge there research on Rigdon/Spaulding but reject everything else they wrote. You didn’t answer my question, you just attacked.

    “Kinderhook plates, and Book of Abraham do not relate to authorship of the Book of Mormon, which is what the Spaulding theory is all about. E.D. Howe and Dr Hurlburt were looking for Manuscript Found, not View of the Hebrews, so View really is not related directly to the Spaulding Theory. IMO, those muddy the issues. I suppose the first 2 relate to the ability of Joseph Smith to translate, so that is tangentially related. But Spaulding did not write View of the Hebrews, so that is really another theory.”

    MH, go back and read my post again. The Kinderhook plates are a good example of how far folks like you are willing to go to defend a point. My only point here is to show that you could be wrong about Rigdon/Spaulding. Sorry if that one bothered you… I withdraw it… ”As for View of the Hebrews”, the fact that Rigdon, Spaulding, and Ethan Smith attended the same University is interesting to me. I don’t pretend to know what was going on at that school, but it would appear a lot of speculation was being discussed involving the origin of the American Indian. Ethan Smith’s book is a good example of what Rigdon may have believed in composing his manuscript if indeed his son’s claim of the family secret has any validity. It’s a piece of the puzzle that shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.

    “Now, could a bunch of sources have influenced Joseph in translation? Yes. Does the Spaulding Theory alone account for everything? No. For one thing, it is 1/6 as long. If you want to say that Spaulding influenced Joseph, I am more comfortable with that assertion. However, to say Joseph plagiarized Spaulding is a bit over the top, IMO”

    When did I ever even use the word plagiarized? Again, you’ve misquoted my post in an effort to make your point. First, we have no idea if Spaulding wrote “Manuscript Lost” as is supposed by those who espouse the theory. No one thinks that “Manuscript Found” was plagiarized for the BoM. Also, the theory doesn’t say that JS plagiarized Spaulding, it assumes Rigdon did.

    “Let’s look at your theory. For Joseph to have been able to view maps at Dartmouth (no evidence he visited NH), plagiarize both View of the Hebrews and Manuscript Found, incorporate Reformed Baptist preaching, know what was in Sidney Rigdon’s brain without meeting Sidney, change both manuscripts into KJV style, figure out Egyptian names (Pahoran, Paanchi), and figure out chiasmus before any modern scholars were aware of this literary device, requires Joseph to have done the kind of research that Dan Brown does. I do not believe Joseph is as smart as Dan Brown, he was not college educated like Dan Brown, and did not have the time to study all these various manuscripts that Dan Brown has, doing all this while treasure digging, farming, romancing and eloping with Emma. The only book that we know for sure Joseph read is the Bible. Yet you seem to want to think Joseph is every bit as good an author as Dan Brown. Emma said he couldn’t write a coherent letter when they first married, and you think he’s practically Dan Brown. Now, obviously Joseph grew in knowledge, but Dan Brown was 34 when he wrote Digital Fortress, his first novel. You really think that Joseph with 10 fewer years, no college eduation, could write something that intricate?”

    MH, I’m tempted not to even address this bit of nonsense, but for the sake of argument, I’ve read everything Dan Brown has written and I fully support your notion that JS is no Dan Brown. In-other-words, the BoM is not very well written nor particularly clever. So we’re in agreement of sorts… As for JS writing ability, perhaps you’ve forgotten about the scribe’s role in all of this. Oh let’s see…Oh yeah, Oliver C. was a school teacher…

    “Van Wagoner states that Sidney was always hungry for recognition. If Rigdon was the author, why didn’t he claim to find the plates and translate the BoM? Why is Rigdon second fiddle to Joseph all those years? Why would Sidney pretend to convert? According to the Spaulding timeline, Sidney would have needed to steal the manuscript prior to becoming a baptist preacher. Why did Sidney spend so much time becoming a Baptist preacher, when he seemingly was going to start his own religion anyway? Why would the educated Rigdon allow Smith to take all the credit, when Rigdon craved recognition so much?”

    Rigdon could have gotten “Manuscript Lost“ anytime while attending Dartmouth College as its quite likely that the printer involved lost track of the document and Rigdon found it later as he frequented the office often. As for taking credit, I actually gave you more credit than that MH, but then again… If he didn’t use a front man like JS, anyone reading his book would have recognized all of his sermons in the writings and known it was a fraud. The only way to pull it off was with a cover.

    MH, you’ll forgive me this, but I find your approach and attacks to be one of someone desperately trying to convince himself as much as he’s trying to convince everyone else. Good luck with that…

  69. MH
    May 7, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    Doug,

    I’m a little surprised that you think I am attacking you. Yes, I disagree with your logic, but it seems you are the one getting offended here.

  70. MH
    May 7, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    Doug, I feel like we’re talking past each other. I’ll try to address some of your points, without getting too wordy or attacking.

    I never said that only believers can comment here. I have engaged plenty of non-believers, such as Andrew S and Cowboy. We pretty much live and let live. But you always want to seem to win the argument. If you’ll notice above, Cowboy said he didn’t have all the answers, and I don’t either. But Doug, when I talk to you, you dispute every single point, and won’t give an inch on anything. I feel like I’ve tried to accommodate some things (like KJV plagiarism.) Where have you tried to acknowledge anything I have said is correct?

    Doug, when did the Kinderhook plates become part of the Spaulding theory, and when did I say anything about the Kinderhook plates, other that state that they are not part of the Spaulding theory? Where have I defended Kinderhook plates?

    As I quoted Fawn Brodie above, “The theory ran as follows: The Book of Mormon was a plagiarism of an old manuscript by one Solomon Spaulding,…” No you didn’t use the word plagiarism, but that’s what the Spaulding theory says. You’ve expressed support for the Spaulding theory, which would seem to imply that you think the BoM is plagiarism. If that’s not your position, you certainly haven’t made that clear.

    For sake of brevity, I’ll stop here. I don’t think it is constructive to deconstruct every single comment.

  71. FireTag
    May 7, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    Doug:

    Please note that I said that the schism occurred because the CofChrist believed that the early church made serious theological errors because of Joseph’s overreaching. I specifically said that it had nothing to do with “fraud”.

  72. Aboz
    May 7, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    MH, since you seem to be interested in my opinion on this subject, since you asked about it on that other thread, as far as I can tell in this post, you have deduced correctly, that the Spaulding MS has been discredited. And believe it or not, I agree with you on that, which is why I didn’t post, because I had nothing spectacular to say. What I don’t know is whether you believe the book of Mormon is fiction. I believe it is historical, “anachronisms” and all. And I believe its not just historical. It is literally historical. I believe that the words in the Book of Mormon about its claims mean exactly what they say, horses, and steel swords and all. And I haven’t followed this thread much since the first, so I’ll give it some peeks and see if there is anything else to say.

  73. Aboz
    May 8, 2009 at 12:00 am

    “You can debate whether or not The Book of Mormon was plagarized from this book, but you cannot debate the obvious similarities. I have read most of Manuscript Found, and would agree that this book bears little resemblance to The Book of Mormon. There are however laced through the narrative, words, subjects, and themes which give some creedance to the possibility that the person who wrote Manuscript Found also contributed to The Book of Mormon.”

    No, actually you guys are missing the point. See, this is all because (1) The spalding Manuscript was meant to explain the Mound Builder culture and the mound builder myth that was build up in the 18th and 19th centuries in the United States culture. (see http://archaeology.about.com/od/lterms/g/lostraces.htm for example). And (2) The book of Mormon also explains the apparent lost race, and has ALL the themes from the mound builder myth in it. You can explain this one of two ways (1) the Book of Mormon is the product of the 19th century, or (2) there are lots of good guesses in the Mound Builder myth that turned out to be synchronistically the same as what really happened in history, as described in the Book of Mormon. Those who accept the historicity of the Book of Mormon must also accept the latter, because it is unavoidable if one accepts historicity, as I do.

  74. MH
    May 8, 2009 at 12:20 am

    Aboz, thanks for finally checking in. I just got a chuckle out of one of your comments on Andrew S’ post when you said you disagreed with most everything I wrote, so I wanted you to see that I could write something you would find less controversial. :) And I hope you’ll check in for my South American BoM theory too. In answer to your question, yes I do believe the BoM is historical, but I find current geography theories lacking and want to look at it more critically than most people.

    (I guess you’re quoting Cowboy.) Yes, the Spaulding Manuscript does try to explain the Mound Builders. I’m sure Spaulding had no idea that his unpublished manuscript would be the source for the theory which bears his name. I think he would be quite amused to learn of the controversy which has lasted nearly 200 years surrounding his seemingly (at the time) insignificant writings. While I know that Joseph believed the BoM explained the Mound builders, I think there are other explanations than the 2 simple solutions you propose. Aboz, just curious–are you a proponent of the Hemispheric Model as Joseph Smith was?

  75. Aboz
    May 8, 2009 at 8:38 am

    MH, I find it refreshing that you are a critical thinker, but I also think you mistake critical thinking sometimes with open-mindedness that ignores facts.
    No, I don’t believe in the Hemispheric model. I think all the old traditions should be thrown out the window. I’m a proponent of the Mesoamerica model as far as all the lands go except for Cumorah. With Cumorah, I’m real frustrated and consider myself an agnostic, where I don’t believe anyone really can argue for where Cumorah is and be convincing to anybody else. I don’t buy Sorenson and other’s explanation for Cumorah, and I don’t think that the New York people can convince anybody. I find their stuff especially unconvincing. I don’t care what Joseph Smith or Oliver Cowdery believed.

    Yes, there are other explanations, but that is my take.

  76. May 8, 2009 at 8:44 am

    Aboz, fair enough. We all ignore facts to support our thinking, and I think you’re just as guilty as I am. Thanks for the the answer.

  77. Aboz
    May 8, 2009 at 8:51 am

    MH, I think that you are wrong about me (surprise surprise). I think that I, in particular, do not deny evidence to support my thinking. On the other hand, I believe in evidence based belief. I follow the best evidence in my beliefs, and change my beliefs when more evidence is found that overturns what was previously thought to be the best evidence. I have no stake in what is truth, only that I want to know what is true. And so, if I’m wrong, and I eventually find out that what I believe to be so is incorrect, then you will find that I will instantly abandon what I believed in favor of what is newly found to be so.

  78. May 8, 2009 at 8:59 am

    Aboz, you just said, “I don’t care what Joseph Smith or Oliver Cowdery believed.”

  79. Aboz
    May 8, 2009 at 9:00 am

    Oh hey, MH, while I’m at it, since you previously explained why you call yourself Mormon Heretic, I thought I would explain the mystery behind the name Aboz. It is an anagram of Boaz, one of the pillars of Solomon’s temple. And also I’m the wizard of Boz, my mythical land of people who are rational thinkers that I hope will exist someday.

  80. May 8, 2009 at 9:02 am

    Wasn’t Boaz also the husband of Ruth?

  81. Aboz
    May 8, 2009 at 9:06 am

    yeah, that’s true, but my use of the name mostly centers on the symbolism behind the pillar, not the Ruth story, though I’m sure I could find something symbolic in that to apply to myself as well if I thought about it enough.

  82. Aboz
    May 8, 2009 at 9:09 am

    MH, you say, “Aboz, you just said, “I don’t care what Joseph Smith or Oliver Cowdery believed.””

    What’s your point? Are you saying that by saying that I’m denying facts? The best evidence is in archaeology and science, not in 19th century opinion from a farm boy and a schoolteacher.

  83. May 8, 2009 at 9:31 am

    Some would construe your points as “ignoring facts” when you discount Joseph Smith. I agree that the best evidence is archaeology and science. As I recall, on the Unconventional post, you placed much emphasis on what the Brethren thought, and you’re discounting 2 of the most important brethren. You can believe Meso if you want, but you have to discount the fact that Joseph didn’t believe your favorite Meso theory.

    My point once again is, we all ignore facts, which you so conveniently accused me of doing, yet you don’t see it in yourself. After all, you’re a “rational thinker”, while I use “open-mindedness that ignores facts.” Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

  84. Aboz
    May 8, 2009 at 9:47 am

    MH, I can tell I’m starting to waste time going in a new circle with you. Though I think I like you, I think you are probably the last person I care to prove anything to or fight with about this, or spend any more time on this point. I think you are misreading what I meant obviously. I care a lot about what they think, but I will selectively choose to believe what I will based on good thinking. I said I kept a skeptical eye wide open. That means THIS: I follow the brethren, and I don’t blindly believe what they teach. I seek after the Spirit in everything they teach. There is a big difference between seeking the spirit and just believing everything as a Lemming. I will discount anything that the Spirit doesn’t testify as true from anyone, or anything that contradicts the scriptures, from high or low regardless of the station of that person, as I am instructed to do so by Joseph Fielding Smith and Harold B. Lee.

  85. May 8, 2009 at 10:05 am

    Ok, I’ll jump off the merry-go-round too.

  86. Doug G.
    May 8, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    Sorry MH, I’m a little late to need here. I also don’t want to talk past you if possible.

    Everything I’ve wrote here was my poor attempt to get you to see that there is a possibility of the Rigdon/Spaulding theory being true. I’m not saying there’s a great chance of it; I’m just saying that the evidence against it is not air tight. As we both agree, JS probably didn’t write the book without help. You contend that the help came from God. I think it came from someone a bit more telestial. Rigdon certainly is a good candidate as can be seen by the number of people that have suspected his involvement from the very beginning. I’ve always said it’s just a theory and therefore not something I’m hanging my hat on.

    The biggest problem with the theory is the lack of evidence showing Rigdon meeting up with JS prior to 1830. If someone finds conclusive evidence that they were meeting earlier, the rest of the story fits pretty nicely. As the good folks at FAIR are quick to point out, lack of evidence is not evidence of lack. Therefore, neither you nor anyone else can dismiss this completely yet. I also did a quick look over at FAIR and found that they used your same arguments to dismiss the theory. They like to quote Brodie as well and make their case based on her research. So you really didn’t pick a different source to write your OP, you used the FAIR argument.

    You seem to like to take cheap shots at me. I call that attacking, you can call it what you like. Cowboy and others on this board are more politically correct then either you or me. Perhaps we could both take a lesson from him… (Let me know if you need a little beam remover over at your house, the mote in my eye is beginning to hurt a bit.) :)

  87. Ray
    May 8, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    I know I am risking a freezing of the fiery lake, :) but I agree with Doug’s last comment – ironically, for the same reason I believe it is impossible to dismiss the Book of Mormon as a historical record. We simply don’t know all the details, so we can’t make an absolute claim of certainty.

    I don’t think there is enough evidence of collaboration to justify using very many brain cells to contemplate the Spaulding Theory. My biggest reason is that Rigdon was a megalomaniac, and I just don’t see him as willing to perpetuate this type of fraud as a subordinate, unknown player. He got NOTHING out of it in the long run, and he would have had to have been both corrupt at heart and convinced of great reward. He was a bright, educated man and seems to have been sincere. I just don’t see it. I can grant the possibility that he might have converted partly out of a sense of being a leader in a growing movement, and he certainly tried to position himself as such more than once, but I just don’t see the type of person who would have concocted such a scheme.

    Add all the other issues, and I see the likelihood as extremely limited – and I mean extremely.

  88. May 8, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    Doug, I liked your tone much better this time. FWIW, I very rarely frequent FARMS or FAIR, so if I’m using the same arguments as FAIR, then that is news to me. I am in a book club, and we just read the Sidney Rigdon book, so that was fresh on my mind when you first brought up the Spaulding Theory. When I was preparing to write this post, I realized that Van Wagoner referenced Brodie, so I opened the index and read what she wrote about Spaulding, and found her analysis more compelling than Van Wagoner’s. I have Brodie’s book but haven’t read it cover to cover yet.

    Van Wagoner does mention that Rigdon had a strong dislike for infant baptism, and when he discovered that in the BoM, it was a key to his conversion. Rigdon also felt the Indians were descendants of the 10 tribes, and Rigdon was surprised to learn that was in the BoM as well. It is evident to me that we’ll never see eye to eye on this issue, so I guess I’ll live and let live.

    I don’t know if you’ve read the Sidney Rigdon book. When I try to look at the BoM as fiction, I can see the motivation for Joseph to misrepresent the BoM, but I really don’t understand why Sidney and Oliver Cowdery would support such a conspiracy. If they’re the real authors, not Joseph, I don’t understand why they would support Joseph after his death. Sidney did try a movement of his own, and did call Joseph a fallen prophet, but he always supported Joseph’s translation. Oliver was excommunicated by Joseph, and could have reacted in a similar fashion as John C Bennett, yet he never did. If I felt betrayed by Joseph, I’d have acted more like Bennett than Cowdery. If Cowdery had written the BoM, he would have had every reason to turn on Joseph, yet he did not.

    I think these theories fail to examine Cowdery and Rigdon’s motivations in such a fraud. Cowdery and Rigdon both had a rocky relationship with Joseph, and had plenty of opportunities to turn on their friend regarding authorship, yet they did not. While this isn’t evidence, it certainly adds a level of complexity to the plagiarism charge that I’ve never seen a satisfactory answer to. Everyone is so focused on Smith, that they seem to ignore the reasons why Cowdery and Rigdon would have participated in a fraud.

  89. Doug G.
    May 8, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    Ray and MH,

    I certainly understand your contention that any of the players here would have plenty of reasons to turn on JS. In reality, Oliver and Sydney both accused JS of being a fallen prophet and yet neither turned on the BoM. I can’t tell you what motivates people to do what they do. What I do know is that people are full of surprises and very unpredictable.

    In a past thread I talked at length about what my family went through because of a pedophile. You would think that the wife of this guy would have filed for divorce as soon as he was convicted. Despite overwhelming evidence, she still believes he’s a victim of a misunderstanding and testified at his sentencing hearing about how bad she needs him at home and why he shouldn’t serve time in prison. She went on to tell the judge that she’ll be waiting for him no-matter how long the state locks him up. Here’s my point, people seldom react the way I think they will react in new circumstances. I can’t figure why this woman is still supporting the man who perpetrated such hideous crimes on innocent children. She’s a very well educated school teacher who’s even been trained to recognize abused children in her school class and yet didn’t see it in her own home. Even now she waits for the parole board to set him free. It defies logic and friends and ward members are at a loss to understand why she’s still loyal to this guy.

    Apparently whoever did help JS with the BoM had his reasons to remain anonymous. Reasons you and I would probably never understand, but human nature is what it is. In other words, if studies eventually prove beyond reasonable doubt that Rigdon was the author and a link can be found to back up the meeting of the two prior to 1830, you’ll be just as perplexed as I am with the pedophiles wife as to why he didn’t blow the whistle.

    FWIW, I agree with Ray’s statement about not being able to dismiss the BoM as an historical record. To use his words though, “I see the likelihood as extremely limited- and I mean extremely.” I think that’s a fair statement from whichever side you see this from…

  90. FireTag
    May 9, 2009 at 8:20 am

    Doug:

    If you can reference that past thread, I’d like to read it if I may. Some personal history there in my family, too.

  91. May 9, 2009 at 9:10 am

    Firetag,

    The post was In Praise of Good Bishops. Doug starts telling the story in comment 15, but there are quite a few comments referencing Doug’s situation. I am quite sympathetic with Doug’s situation, and he brings up a good point in 89.

  92. Doug G.
    May 9, 2009 at 10:26 am

    Firetag,
    My actual story is in post #60 if you want to avoid reading all the “stuff” that got us to that.

    MH,
    Thanks, sometimes you can be very generous… I think you wanted to say #69 as there is no #89.

  93. Cowboy
    May 9, 2009 at 10:59 am

    I have a hard time believing that Joseph was capable of creating the text, but where the Spaulding Rigond theory fails for me is that it almost makes Joseph out to be a puppet. Let’s not forget that he is the same man who had dozens of of people testifying in court that he possessed the ability to look into a rock and locate treasures hidden by the Indians and Spaniards. Perhaps, he got some help on the book, but I wouldn’t discount his leadership in organizing the whole process. Whether you believe Joseph was a Prophet, and or particularly that he was not, you cannot discount the fact that he really was the leader from the time the Church was organized until he was martyred. Yes he had counselors, but he called the shots from the beginning.

  94. Doug G.
    May 9, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    Cowboy,

    See, I think you are a general authority plant here. :)

    I agree with you. JS certainly was a leader, not a follower. I think many of the problems he and SR had throughout the time of their presidency were the result of Sydney underestimating Joseph’s charisma and ability to inspire loyalty in his followers.

    Let’s say your SR with a deep desire to reform Christianity. You really like Alexandra Campbell’s stuff, but you can see that just using the bible you’re never going to get many people to see the errors. You decide that without some new scriptures that more clearly make the case against infant baptism, the role of works and grace in salvation, Christ’s pre-mortal existence, and a host of other doctrines SR was partial to, you will never actually make a difference.

    You hear about a young man in upstate New York who claims to have seen an angle who is going to give him a gold bible written about the inhabitants of this land. You see this as the perfect opportunity to write your book using an obscure manuscript written by Spaulding that you found in a printers office as the plotline. As Spaulding is dead and given that the document was never published, you feel pretty safe in assuming that this story won’t be recognized. You meet with Smith secretly and explain that you can produce a translation of the record he’s been telling people about. He agrees to have you help him as he’s still not even sure if his vision was literal or not. (He hasn’t been very successful in finding buried treasure, even though everyone attests to his sincerity.) To keep things simple, you only give JS small parts of the manuscript at a time and instruct him to burn those pages as soon as the scribe has it down on paper. I suspect JS hides the manuscript in the sealed portion of the plates he’s made. (It’s obvious from historical accounts that he does have something weighing 50 pound or so, probably made out of brass.) Fearing that anyone seeing his creation would know they were made by him, he tells people they can’t see them at pain of death. When Martian Harris loses the first 116 pages, you convince SR to give you the rest of the document all at once and decide to not to burn anything else until the work is done. Work goes quickly once a new scribe is in place and you produce the record, then carefully burn the manuscript provided by SR.

    Smith sends missionary’s to Ohio, SR joints the church and is immediately promoted to one of the top positions even ahead of the three witnesses. He then goes to work helping JS write even more new scripture and eventually evolving even the nature of God in to what we believe today. He underestimated JS ability to give sermons and lead the people, but at the same time, the work is very successful and growing rapidly. Later JS will accuse SR of trying to have him killed and will present evidence in a conference of this diabolical plan. The members reject the idea and vote to leave him in as 1st counselor on the First Presidency despite JS telling them that he is washing his hands of him. (If we believe SR was truly sincere in wanting to radically change Christianity, I can’t imagine him throwing out years of work that is making progress just because he underestimated the farm boy.) In the end, SR tries to use the BoM as a Campbellite minister with little success and therefore is willing to let the church survive. At the end of his life, he’s satisfied that his contribution has made a difference even without his direct involvement in the waning years.

    What one must understand to make this all work is the ability of both of these men to believe that God works in mysterious ways and the end justifies the means. In-other-words, they are both sincere in believing that God is helping them despite some to the deception involved. They think He wants these truths restored and are determined to see it happen even though they have to employ some parlor tricks to pull it off.

    I know some of you and going to say that this is really the work of Dan Brown. I’ll just say this; this theory is much more believable to me then the rock and the hat thing you all are promoting. :)

  95. Ray
    May 9, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    “this theory is much more believable to me then the rock and the hat thing you all are promoting.”

    Doug, it’s up to each of us to believe what we will.

  96. May 9, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    I know my comment in 91 was confusing–my wife was rushing me out the door, and I wrote it quickly. Anyway, Doug’s comment in this post #89 about not knowing motivations of people is a good point. Sometimes people don’t react the way we expect.

    As for his theory in 94, in a criminal case they talk about means, motive, and opportunity to establish proof beyond a reasonable doubt. If I may, I want to try to analyze Doug’s proposition on those merits. Doug thinks it’s plausible that Rigdon had the means to pull it off. I see the lack of evidence of a meeting between Rigdon, Spaulding, the printers, and Smith as “reasonable doubt” that Rigdon had the means.

    Doug has outlined a motive for Rigdon. I think Rigdon would have had better motives to publish it himself, than to use a man of much more questionable history. Perhaps Rigdon didn’t know of Smith’s treasure digging, and just learned of the gold bible reports, but even those reports were pretty skeptical of the claim. It seems odd to me that Rigdon would entrust his manuscript to someone so dubious as Smith, but people do strange things. Let me say I have reasonable doubt of Rigdon’s motives to join a conspiracy.

    The opportunities of meeting all the characters needed to pull this off not only have plenty of reasonable doubt, but Brodie seems to doubt the possibilities that such meetings took place. Rigdon’s known whereabouts and Alexander Campbell’s testimony seem to rule out such meetings.

    Now, Doug could put together a similar scenario with the visit of Moroni. Certainly there are many reasonable doubts as to Joseph’s motives, opportunities, and means for the angel story. One has to decide where to put their faith. Should we put faith in Doug’s theory, which has plenty of reasonable doubts, or the angel story, which also has plenty of reasonable doubts? Apparently, reasonable people can still disagree as to which proposition is more unreasonable.

  97. Cowboy
    May 9, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Again, let’s not run with the assumption that Spaulding Rigdon theory requires Joseph Smith to be a patsy. If it were a conspiracy, then it was most likely a collaborative effort, otherwise it doesn’t really make sense as to why Sydney Rigdon didn’t just take the Prophet role.

  98. Doug G.
    May 9, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    Cowboy, I don’t think I said that. Collaborator is a better word for my theory above…

  99. May 9, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    I must agree with Cowboy. When reading about the Spaulding theory exclusively, it does seem to make Joseph a pawn, rather than a leader, and I think that’s a big problem.

    However, it seems to me that Doug has much looser definition. Rather than using the Howe/Hurlbut’s claim of plagiarism, Doug thinks the Spaulding manuscript a source of “inspiration” for the BoM. Using Doug’s definition of collaboration, rather than plagiarism, he makes Sidney, Oliver, Ethan Smith, Solomon Spaulding, the Bible, the Dartmouth library, and whatever influences we can dig up that may have crossed Joseph’s way. I’m going to attempt to portray Doug’s mind, and Doug, please correct me where I inaccurately reflect your thinking.

    In Doug’s view, it seems that Joseph is still the leader, but he drew upon a myriad of sources for his fictional Book of Mormon. I guess I can agree with this to some degree, and even accept that some outside influences may have influenced Joseph’s translation. But the fact of the matter is that Doug heaps some awfully great intellect upon Joseph, that Joseph’s contemporaries seem to disagree with sharply. I guess if I can accept some angelic visits, then Doug can accept some genius ability in Joseph. I guess that’s a fair trade.

    Even so, Doug’s characterizations to date seem to downplay the genius abilities of Joseph. Rather, Doug seems to imply that the real genius is Cowdery, Ethan Smith, Solomon Spaudling, and Sidney Rigdon. To me, this seems like a problem. Even if we are to accept Cowdery and Rigdon’s collaboration in the effort, then there are some puzzling questions still. In D&C 6:25 (received in 1829), Joseph receives a revelation that Oliver can collaborate in the translation.

    “25 And, behold, I grant unto you a gift, if you desire of me, to translate, even as my servant Joseph.

    Then in D&C 8:1, “1 Oliver Cowdery, verily, verily, I say unto you, that assuredly as the Lord liveth, who is your God and your Redeemer, even so surely shall you receive a knowledge of whatsoever things you shall ask in faith, with an honest heart, believing that you shall receive a knowledge concerning the engravings of old records, which are ancient, which contain those parts of my scripture of which has been spoken by the manifestation of my Spirit.

    Then in D&C 9, Oliver is rebuked because he did not study it out in his mind (the famous verses 8-9), yet Oliver is still promised to translate future records, (see 9:2) which he never does. Surely, Joseph was open to collaboration, and would have allowed Sidney the same opportunity. If Oliver and Sidney had a manuscript, it would have been relatively easy for them to assist in the translation–there is even a revelation making a much more convenient way for Doug’s theory. It would have been much easier to have Oliver and Sidney slip their manuscripts in at this point, then all the cloak and dagger stuff, IMO. They would have been prophets nearly equal in stature as Joseph, and who would pass up on that opportunity? Such a collaboration would have greatly amplified Rigdon’s future claims to the church presidency after Joseph’s death.

    Perhaps Rigdon and Cowdery realized that their writing wasn’t as good as Joseph’s story telling abilities, and they deferred to Joseph for plot? In such a case, then Joseph is still smarter than these much more educated men. I think that’s a big problem. This clearly positions Joseph as the brains of the outfit, which leaves Sidney and Oliver to lesser roles. Yet Doug’s theory tries to claim that school teacher Oliver and trained minister Rigdon are the smarter ones as he said in comment 68: “As for JS writing ability, perhaps you’ve forgotten about the scribe’s role in all of this. Oh let’s see…Oh yeah, Oliver C. was a school teacher Perhaps Joseph told the story, and Oliver corrected the grammar. Even still, I haven’t really heard Doug apply the genius title to Joseph just yet, but perhaps Doug is still working through the kinks of his theory (with my help.) :)

    I still don’t understand why Oliver wasn’t more of a collaborator, and was only a scribe in this. Clearly, Oliver had the motive, means, and opportunity to be a co-collaborator here. Why would he want his failures published in the 1833 Book of Commandments when he really had View of the Hebrews the whole time? I know people don’t always act rationally, but this is really strange. Oliver had it handed to him on a silver platter to collaborate.

  100. Doug G.
    May 10, 2009 at 9:27 am

    Thanks for the help with my theory MH! Here what I think you missed…

    I don’t think JS had anything to do with SR original manuscript for the BoM. The genius here was SR. He could have used the University library to research his subject, read “View of the Hebrews” (Ethan Smith was also at Dartmouth) and the Spaulding’s Manuscript, worked in a spiritual message for the story incorporating some of his pet peeve doctrines and sermons, and finished it all off before JS started working with Martin Harris. It may have been JS idea of using the seer stone as he had been doing with his “glass looking” to convince his scribes that he was actually translating. Therefore Martin, Oliver, and Emma were ignorant of the “parlor trick” and not part of the conspiracy.

    Something changed with the loss of the 116 pages. I’m not sure what happened there, but I think JS had to rework that part, perhaps on his own. He had the basic story line from the Rigdon, but had to work in this new take on the writings of Nephi-Words of Mormon.

    In any event, if I were writing new scripture, involving biblical settings, I would get my hands on everything I could describing the area and the peoples that would help me put together a believable history. To think that Rigdon wouldn’t do his due diligence in producing the document is not giving the educated man much credit.

    The weakness for me with my theory is SR wiliness to trust JS without knowing him well. I think he realized he couldn’t succeed without a front man, (too many people would recognize his own sermons in the writings) but trusting him would have been a huge leap of faith after so much work. As I’ve stated before, this is just a theory and I’m not married to it. I’m even willing to acknowledge that it could be the angle, but don’t kid yourself into thinking there is no other way for the BoM to be produced without angelic help. Obviously, there is…

  101. MH
    May 10, 2009 at 10:01 am

    Doug, so you’re willing to admit that an angel (not angle) was involved, and I’m willing to admit outside influences could have factored in the translation. Are we getting to a middle ground? (Is there a lake freezing in a really hot place?) :)

  102. Jeff Spector
    May 10, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Of course, to accept the conspiracy, one has to accept that the opening sections of the Doctrine and Covenants are all contrived to play to the translation scenario and to draw suspicion away from the collaboration theory. Then the conspirators would have to remain silent the remainder of their lives even as many of them were kicked out of the Church on pretty bad terms, mostly not to return. And in all this time, no documents are found which directly speak to this conspiracy.

    But, excellent detective work on the part of some, who probably also worked on the “Paul is Dead” investigation have pieced together myriads on unconnected facts, which implicate Joseph, Oliver, Sidney, Ethan Smith, Solomon Spaulding (Some, as unwitting co-conspirators) and others, as yet unnamed.

    My, my, it makes the Angel/translation story even more plausible by the minute.

  103. Cowboy
    May 10, 2009 at 11:39 am

    Now this is really starting to become a “who shot Kennedy” debate. The problem with conspiracy theories is that based on the limited information we have many of these theories would fit as compatable pieces to the puzzle, but they are unable to do so while disproving all other variables. In order to keep this scientific we need to reduce the equation into it’s simplest form, eliminate the variables, then solve. This equation has been on the eliminating variables stages since 1830.

  104. Doug G.
    May 10, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    MH,

    Thanks for the correction on angel (didn’t even pay attention). As I told Ray back in comment #89, it’s certainly a possibility that an angel was involved. I just think it’s highly unlikely…

    As Richard Bushman stated so well in his interview with John Delhin, “the evidence doesn’t force you to disbelieve JS”, but he certainly understands how it could. That’s really my whole point here. There are those that think the fact that we have the BoM is proof of its divine origin because no-man could have written it. That’s ridiculous as there are plenty of ways it could have been produced in the 19th century. Rigdon is just one of several possibilities. So yes, we can come to some middle ground here. It could have been delivered by an angel, it might have been collaboration between Smith and Rigdon, it could have been collaboration between Smith and Cowdrey, or it might have been JS working alone and doing research in his spare time at the local library. (I very much doubt the last one, but who knows.)

    To restate what you said, I will accept the possibility of the BoM being historical if you can accept the possibility that Rigdon could have wrote it. Now that would be middle ground… :)

    P.S. Have you seen the Broadway play “Wicked”? There is line at the end that I think is a classic. I don’t want to spoil the show, so if you’ve seen it you should understand why there are always other sides of the story. “Witches melting, some people will believe anything.”

  105. Doug G.
    May 10, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    I guess by putting out a theory of how the BoM could have been produced, I opened myself up to comments like Jeff’s. Perhaps we should take Cowboy’s advice and talk about all the reasons the BoM can’t be historical. Once we get that resolved we can start on figuring out how it came to be…

    MH, want to start a new thread? :)

  106. May 10, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    The Community of Christ is about to go through some real debate over the very issue of Book of Mormon historicity, so, although I have some strong opinions, I remain very interested in the debate here.

    I especially appreciate the reference in these pages to the paper by Orson Scott Card on what is REALLY involved in faking fictional accounts of another time and place. It was something I could only give examples about, but couldn’t have said so well.

    And Doug, on a personal note, I have every confidence you will come over to the other side — if only when you stand before the Lord and hear him say, “well done, good and faithful servant!” Seems to me you were faithful in your call to fatherhood and priesthood by saying no to the church when it was required to protect those whom you were called to protect. Your choice is to be honored.

  107. May 10, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Like Jeff and Cowboy, I obviously see some real problems with this whole conspiracy theory, and I am more inclined to believe the angel story. I doubt you’re interested in improving your theory, but I think there needs to be much stronger connections before you can count me as one of your believers. :)

    We did discuss several problems with BoM geography theories, so I feel that historical problems been addressed pretty well. Were you referring to something else?

  108. Doug G.
    May 10, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Firetag,

    Very kind words, thank you. Sorry to hear that you had to go through something similar. All the best to you and yours…

    MH,

    My suggestion was a little tongue and cheek. I don’t think I have another argument in me for that debate anyway. I agree with your statement about Jeff, but I don’t think Cowboy is a big proponent of the angel story. (Although he might be a trolling GA?!?!?!?)

    This is totally off the subject and is indicative of how poorly I can make my arguments even in my own home. My son, who will soon turn nineteen, just started the paperwork for his mission. He will be the fifth to serve out of seven. (I don’t know how I keep failing as a teacher… that mother of theirs…) Happy Mother’s Day to all the dedicated woman who make life so worth living!

  109. Ray
    May 10, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    Doug, that last paragraph is priceless. Thanks for giving me a good laugh today!

  110. Jeff Spector
    May 10, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    BTW, We also have to remember that Emma was a willing co-conspirator, who in the last days of her life gave a strong testimony to her son JS III about handling the plates through a linen tablecloth as well as participating in and witnessing the translation process. While that might have been the time to “come clean,” so to speak, she stuck to the story.

  111. Cowboy
    May 11, 2009 at 6:53 am

    Sorry, But Doug G is right, I haven’t come to the angel conclusion, which would make me a very unlikely GA. For what it is worth, we haven’t scratched the surface of this issue but without more evidence I don’t think we can. I also expect that as time moves forward finding that evidence will become all the more unlikely. Largely what will separate those who buy some version of the Spaulding Rigdon theory vs. those who will accept the “official” story of Book of Mormon origins is going to be an inclination to believe or disbelieve, or a revelation from God.

    Jeff:

    We have mentioned Emma in this discussion, the short response is that in the same interview you mention Emma is on record denying any knowledge or participation in Polygamy. By all accounts that seems to be incorrect, shall I say a lie, so her testimony to any effect should be taken with a grain of salt.

  112. Jeff Spector
    May 11, 2009 at 7:18 am

    Cowboy,

    “By all accounts that seems to be incorrect, shall I say a lie, so her testimony to any effect should be taken with a grain of salt.”

    You make an excellent point.

  113. May 11, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    You’ll have to bring Joseph III into the “conspiracy”, too. His statement was to the effect that he never believed his father was involved in polygamy, but if he ever found it to be a fact, it would not change his belief that the doctrine was wrong, BUT ALSO WOULD NOT CHANGE HIS OPINION OF THE DIVINITY OF THE WORK BEFORE POLYGAMY CAME IN.

    He himself testified of a personal revelation when asking God why he should not follow the Saints to Utah in which he said he was told “…because the light in which you stand is greater than theirs.”

    The evidence of Joseph Smith’s involvement in polygamy has grown over time, but in Emma Smith’s time was quite easy to disbelieve as coming from anti-Mormons or contending factional leaders within the church “spinning” history to match their post-Carthage actions.

  114. Doug G.
    May 11, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    Just a small point and then I’ll shut up…

    None of the scribes needed to be involved in the conspiracy. If you go back and read what I said about JS using the hat and the stone thing, you should be able to deduce that the propose for that methodology was to leave Martin, Emma, and Oliver in the dark with regards to him using the document Rigdon provided. Therefore, no big conspiracy or cover-up required by anyone besides JS and SR. If I didn’t make that point clear, then I missed the boat, as that’s the crutch of the argument. With only SR and JS in the loop, it becomes much more believable. As for the witnesses, I would refer you to Brodie’s explanation of JS ability to “help” people see visions with their “second sight”. I think Grant Palmer makes the same point in his book, “An Insider’s View…”.

    I’m being honest here; I don’t see why the theory I laid out in post #94 is so hard to believe. SR certainly had enough time to write the manuscript, recourses and information readily available at his fingertips, a good University education behind him or just in the process of being finished up, motive, desire, and a willing partner who needed to produce something based on the stories he’d been telling about the angel Moroni. This model is unlikely because…oh yea, no one can prove the two met before 1830. Well guess what, if I was trying to pull this off, I would have met with JS in secret too.

    Ok, now for the disclaimer, my theory is just a theory and therefore could easily be dead wrong, but I don’t think there are compelling reasons to throw it out just based on a lack of evidence. If we’re in that mode, then you must also throw out the entire BoM as there is a huge amount of missing evidence…

    Ray,

    Glad I could make your day… :)

  115. MH
    May 11, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    Doug,

    Your theory keeps changing. Earlier in comment 60 you said, “There are the literary precedents, including the fact the A View of the Hebrews was written by Ethan Smith, a relative (I think cousin) of Joseph Smith Sr, Ethan Smith was also the pastor of the Church that Oliver Cowdrey and family attended for years.” Your comment 53 also claims many other sources of evidence.

    Now you’re claiming only Rigdon is involved? I thought there was a connection with Oliver and Warren Cowdery for View of the Hebrews in Palmer’s book. And with Oliver as scribe, how can he not be part of the conspiracy? Honestly, I think I need to see your whole theory, because 94 doesn’t seem to include the Dartmouth Library, Kinderhook plates, Book of Abraham, and all the other things you claimed earlier. I’m sorry, but it’s really hard to follow where you’re going. And if Sidney is so involved, why is Oliver collaborating so much in D&C sections 6, 8, and 9 instead of Sidney?

    Perhaps we should put this to bed….My original intention was to talk only about the Spaulding Theory. I don’t mind going into Doug’s theory a little, since he inspired the post, but we’re really meandering now.

  116. Doug G.
    May 11, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    Come on MH; at least be fair with me. Cowboy wrote comment #60, not me. If you go back and just read MY comments on this thread, you will see where I have been very consistent with my theory. As it all revolves around SR and JS, I don’t think I’ve wondered off topic at all.

    Don’t give up though; I would like some constructive criticism of why my theory can’t work. Kind of like the game “Clue”. I think Col Mustard, (Rigdon) did it in his study with the pen. I would like you to show me the “card” for why my theory is unworkable.

    Want to play?

  117. May 11, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    Sorry Doug, I meant 61, though I see 58 is probably better. Really, I think I’ve given you plenty of constructive criticism, and you didn’t bother to address sec 6, 8, 9 even though I’ve asked it twice already. :)

    Miss Scarlett with the wrench in the kitchen. Case closed.

  118. Cowboy
    May 12, 2009 at 9:23 am

    There was a recent paper, forgive me I don’t recall who wrote it, which suggested that the curtain that was employed in the translation process was not always between Joseph and the scribe, but rather was used to cover the windows. There seems to be some strong indications that during much of the translation process Joseph was using his seer stone in a hat, and quite often the plates were not even being used. I mention this Doug because it put’s some holes into your theory which posits that all of the known scribes were unaware of duplicity on the part of Joseph Smith. Joseph could not have read a script in a hat, it would have been to dark, and frankly to difficult to smuggle past the curious likes of David Whitmer and Martin Harris while in the same room. There’s even the old story about either Harris or Martin changing Joseph’s Seer Stone with an “ordinary” rock, to test Joseph while he exited the room for a short period. If they were not accomplice to a fraud then we have to take that story at face value and assume Joseph was actually using a Seer Stone. This then reasonably requires one of two possible explanation; A) Joseph contrived The Book of Mormon through the Seer Stone under some sort of Satanic influence, just as the fundamentalist Christians claim he did; or B) He did infact translate it through the gift and power of God.

    To me it just seems more likely that if The Book of Mormon was a fraud, all or most of those who had a hands on interaction, that were responsible for it’s coming forth were likely involved in the hoax at some level or another. This group at minimum probably includes Oliver Cowdrey, Joseph Smith, probably emma, probably even Joseph Smith Sr and at least Hyrum. Given that Martin Harris and David Whitmer were the two more superstitious of the group, I might be able to concieve that mabey either one of them where totally unawares of the fraud. If I were to pin it on one of them I would probably guess Martin Harris, but not both. Finally, with a little creativity perhaps even Sidney Rigdon, but that would possibly also implicate Parley P. Pratt, since it was he who according to official history brought Rigdon into the Church. This is all conjecture however.

    Doug, to narrow it all down, the number of possible and compatable theories is the total number that we can all contrive plus one. The theories, while exciting to contrive, really don’t accomplish much of anything unless we demonstrate in a much more confined way how a specific theory should not only be plausible, but preferential to all others. That in short is the biggest problem with your theory.

  119. May 12, 2009 at 11:30 am

    There’s even the old story about either Harris or Martin changing Joseph’s Seer Stone with an “ordinary” rock, to test Joseph while he exited the room for a short period. If they were not accomplice to a fraud then we have to take that story at face value and assume Joseph was actually using a Seer Stone. This then reasonably requires one of two possible explanation; A) Joseph contrived The Book of Mormon through the Seer Stone under some sort of Satanic influence, just as the fundamentalist Christians claim he did; or B) He did infact translate it through the gift and power of God.

    Wait, why do we have to assume that Joseph had a genuine “seer stone”? All that story (if true) proves is that Joseph could tell his rock apart from the rock they substituted.

  120. Cowboy
    May 12, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Kuri:

    Just a quick question and response. Are you suggesting that Joseph could tell the difference because the “ordinary” rock lacked certain supernatural properties, ie revelation, or that perhaps Joseph could just look at the rock and see that it was not his Seer Stone?

    I considered that latter option, and looking back should have listed this possibility as a third option. In other words, yes they tried to fool him by swapping his stone, but when he saw it he immediately recognized that they switched it and were trying to trick him. Admittedly that possiblity does give greater sway to the notion that perhaps Joseph’s scribes were unaware of any fraud. Still if that is the case, we might consider how Joseph was able to smuggle a text past them while they wrote for him.

  121. May 12, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Are you suggesting that Joseph could tell the difference because the “ordinary” rock lacked certain supernatural properties, ie revelation, or that perhaps Joseph could just look at the rock and see that it was not his Seer Stone?

    Either of those is a possibility, of course, but the latter is far more likely under ordinary circumstances. (And, of course, the story itself might never have happened. It could be a lie told to bolster Joseph’s claims.)

    Still if that is the case, we might consider how Joseph was able to smuggle a text past them while they wrote for him.

    The idea that Joseph was reading a manuscript to his scribes works really well with the idea of “Joseph behind the curtain” and picking up every day exactly where he left off and so on, but it doesn’t work at all with “Joseph looking into his hat.” If he really spent most of the dictation time with his face in a hat, then I don’t see how he could have been reading a manuscript.

  122. Cowboy
    May 12, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Kuri:

    Thanks for your response, both of your comments are actually the points I was trying to make. If there was no curtain dividing the group, it is more likely that the fraud (assuming that divinity was not in play here) included all members who later on told fictitious stories to serve the agenda, such as Martin Harris switching Joseph’s Seer Stone with an ordinary rock.

  123. May 12, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    Of course, it’s also possible that Joseph produced the book almost entirely on his own and fooled some or all of even his closest associates. I lean towards that explanation, actually.

  124. Cowboy
    May 12, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    I suppose one theory is as good as the next, but I have a hard time believing that Joseph did this all on his own, especially without some kind of supporting text.

  125. May 12, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    I don’t find it difficult to believe. I guess I’ve just never been all that impressed by the Book of Mormon, even when I believed it was divine scripture.

  126. Doug G.
    May 12, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    Cowboy,

    I’ve heard lots of competing stories about how JS could have fooled the people that scribed for him. I don’t think he would have tried to put the manuscript in the hat. As you said, Martin or Oliver would have discovered the crib notes eventually. Just as a magician uses a diversion to cover what he’s really doing, I think JS must have had a method that allowed him to read from the script or recite from memory while he spoke to the scribe. Too make my point; I refer you to the fact that entire chapters were translated which match the KJV of the bible. Critics can even tell which particular printing JS was using based on the errors and italicized words. So how did he get so much of the bible into the text without reading out of it? Grant Palmer thinks he memorized each day’s translation before he and the scribe began. He asserts that Joseph may have had what equates to an almost photographic memory. In reality, he would have only had to memorize about five pages a day and his memorization didn’t need to be perfect as no-one would be checking on him.

    Just as I don’t believe David Copperfield makes things or people disappear because I don’t understand the trick, I’m not ready to throw out the theory because I haven’t been able to figure out JS trick. The fact that he had used the hat and the seer stone before to fool treasure seekers would lend some credence to his use of it to fool the scribes.

    MH,

    I haven’t responded to your comment about D&C 6, 8 and 9 because I didn’t see the problem as it equates to my theory. The fact that Oliver couldn’t get his divining rod to help him “see” the correct translation is a mystery to me. What am I missing?

  127. May 12, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    Doug, Why is Rigdon a conspirator, and Oliver is not in your theory?

    D&C 6, 8, and 9 refer to Oliver, who surely could have slipped in View of the Hebrews during the translation, yet Oliver apparently didn’t memorize the book as you claim Joseph did, nor did Oliver copy directly from his own manuscript. If this was the translation Oliver was supposed to do with or without a rod, surely Oliver “did not study it in his mind” or “study the manuscript” for the translation. This would have been a piece of cake for Oliver, yet mysteriously, Oliver failed in something so obvious for your theory.

    As I said in 99,

    Surely, Joseph was open to collaboration, and would have allowed Sidney the same opportunity. If Oliver and Sidney had a manuscript, it would have been relatively easy for them to assist in the translation–there is even a revelation making a much more convenient way for Doug’s theory. It would have been much easier to have Oliver and Sidney slip their manuscripts in at this point, then all the cloak and dagger stuff, IMO. They would have been prophets nearly equal in stature as Joseph, and who would pass up on that opportunity? Such a collaboration would have greatly amplified Rigdon’s future claims to the church presidency after Joseph’s death….Clearly, Oliver had the motive, means, and opportunity to be a co-collaborator here.

    In fact Oliver had a much greater opportunity than Rigdon. Yet Rigdon is a conspirator and Oliver is not?

    Why couldn’t Sidney have been a translator just as Oliver? Your thought that people would recognize his sermons strikes me as odd. Sidney didn’t believe in infant baptism. If that part of the BoM was Sidney’s work, surely people would have jumped all over that strange coincidence in Sidney’s beliefs. I guess I’m not buying your explanation that Sidney needed a front man. Oliver didn’t need a front man for getting View of the Hebrews into the BoM. To me, that is a big inconsistency in your theory.

  128. Doug G.
    May 12, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    MH,

    I think you’re confusing something someone else said with my theory again. As I stated, I don’t think Oliver was in on it. What I said earlier was that SR could have read “View of the Hebrews” and incorporated some of Ethan Smith’s ideas in his manuscript. I pointed out (in a previous thread) that both SR and Ethan Smith attended Dartmouth at the same time. Some have stated that they may have even been roommates once, but I haven’t been able to find good backing for that statement. My point is simply that SR would have done his due diligence in creating his manuscript and that would mean reading about the mound builders, looking at good maps, studying people like Ethan Smith’s writings as well as Spaulding’s and whatever else was available in 182X.

    Does that answer your concern about Oliver? In learning about Oliver’s struggles, I find it hard to imagine him being part of the deception. Rigdon is a whole other matter. He was focused and driven his entire life with little confusion about what he thought was right and why Christianity needed to change.

    My belief about SR’s sermons and doctrines involve much more than just infant baptism. King Benjamin’s address was a very common theme for camp meetings. The role of works and faith as taught in the BoM was perfectly aligned with SR’s ideas about it. As some historians have noted, reading the BoM is like attending revival meetings in the 1820’s. The preaching is the same. So if SR were preaching talks like King Benjamin’s address including infant baptism, or Alma’s explanation of faith vs works, Ether’s pre-mortal Christ, and other doctrinally significant ideas that didn’t follow the main stream of Christian worship, then yes I believe he needed a third party to show that he didn’t contrive the whole thing to make people accept his new understanding of the scriptures. We are just talking theory here, so I’m not asking for you to believe it, I just don’t think it’s as easy to dismiss as you seem to be implying. People would ask themselves; what would be the chances of this Baptist minister finding the gold plates that just happened to back-up most of his unique views on the bible? Come on MH, you don’t think that would raise an eyebrow or two…

  129. May 13, 2009 at 1:49 am

    Doug, you quoted Grant Palmer in 53. Palmer believes that Oliver got View of the Hebrews, rather than Sidney Rigdon. On pages 59-60 Palmer states that Ethan Smith pastored the Congregational church that Cowdery’s family attended from 1821 to 1826 while Ethan was writing View of the Hebrews (1823).

    Ok, you’ve got another theory that it’s Rigdon, but that’s not what Palmer said. Sorry I’m so confused, but it sounds like you only believe about half of the thoeries you quote, so it is pretty hard to follow your thinking here. When you quote Spaulding Theory, I think you mean plagiarism, and when you quote Palmer, I think you mean Cowdery, not Rigdon. As such, sections 6, 8, 9 still stand, IMO.

    You’re claiming that Ethan Smith and Sidney Rigdon attended Dartmouth at the same time, but I can’t find any evidence that Sidney Rigdon attended Dartmouth at all. In fact, just the opposite. Sidney’s father wanted him to work on the farm, and wouldn’t allow him to go away to college. Once Sidney got out on his own, he met up with Alexander Campbell, and became a preacher through Campbell’s mentoring. Van Wagoner doesn’t mention Dartmouth at all, and I don’t believe Rigdon ever attended there. Perhaps you can find me a reference to prove me wrong.

    I did find a reference connecting Solomon Spaulding to Ethan Smith. “Ethan Smith, born in 1762 in Belchertown, Massachusetts, like Solomon Spalding was a graduate of Dartmouth College. Their education at the New Hampshire school overlapped for the year 1786-87.” See http://sidneyrigdon.com/RigHist/RigHist2.htm Are you mixing up your connections too?

    While it is interesting that Spalding and Ethan Smith attended the same school in 1787, Spalding finished his manuscript 23 years later in 1809, and Smith finished his 36 years later in 1823. I wouldn’t call that a strong connection for Rigdon to steal both manuscripts–certainly not from Dartmouth. (Is Nahom in Ethan or Spaulding’s books?) Cowdery’s connection is much stronger to Ethan Smith.

    So, it seems to me your theory would be more plausible if Cowdery was the source for View of the Hebrews, and that Cowdery was a co-conspirator too. Right? The Spaulding Theory makes no claims about View of the Hebrews, so I have a real hard time believing Rigdon got 2 manuscripts, especially when Cowdery’s connections to Ethan Smith are so much stronger than Rigdon’s.

    Can you provide references for contemporaries who saw Rigdon’s sermons in the BoM? I’m just not familiar with Rigdon’s sermons enough to make the connections you are making. I don’t believe the Spaulding theory makes these claims, and I know you use the Spaulding theory as a very loose basis for your theory, but I would think that contemporaries would make these connections if they were so obviously copied from Rigdon. Alexander Campbell probably knew Rigdon’s sermons better than anybody for 3 reasons: (1) he trained Rigdon, (2) he listened to Rigdon, (3) he debated Rigdon. If Campbell thought Rigdon had nothing to do with it, then that’s a pretty strong witness against your theory.

    (Minor correction–King Benjamin didn’t teach against infant baptism, Mormon did in his letter to Moroni at the very end of the BoM.)

  130. Cowboy
    May 13, 2009 at 10:37 am

    “The Spaulding Theory makes no claims about View of the Hebrews, so I have a real hard time believing Rigdon got 2 manuscripts, especially when Cowdery’s connections to Ethan Smith are so much stronger than Rigdon’s.”

    I think that sums it up pretty well for me. If Oliver Cowdrey was not part of the alleged fraud then he likely would have called bulls__t during the translation when he recognized the obvious Ethan Smith influence on what Joseph was “translating”. Part of what makes the whole official story so unbelievable is wide number of correlations that existed among these early figures in Church history. If we dismiss these correlations as coincidence then the official story actually becomes more likely from where I stand. Again Doug, can you show why your theory is more correct than the many other broader possibilities.

    Just a side note, memorizing five pages of text daily would be a pretty daunting task. If Joseph Smith was creative enough and insightful enough to accomplish what your claiming, wouldn’t he be smart enough to find a better (easier) way to accomplish this task. Reading behind a curtain, for example, becomes a much more reasonable solution.

  131. Doug G.
    May 13, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    MH,

    Let me just state that you’re reading things into my theory that I didn’t say or even infer. Again, if you go back and read MY posts from the beginning, I would challenge you to quote me and show where I’ve changed my theory or been inconsistent with it. I used things like the “Book of Abraham” and the “Kinderhook plates” to make points about translation methodologies and apologetics. This theory, which I freely admit is my own construction based on what I believe to be accurate facts from a host of different authors both pro and con, is unique to me.

    As for the problem with Oliver Cowdrey becoming suspicious in seeing “View of the Hebrews” in the BoM, I think just the opposite happened. I think he firmly believed Ethan Smith was right about the origin of the American Indians and therefore would have rejected the BoM had it not agreed with Ethan Smiths book. I’ve read “View of the Hebrews” and I didn’t find any evidence of plagiarism. Ethan Smith goes to great lengths to try and show the Indians had legends that supported his theory. He also used some archeological evidence. (Later scientist found much better explanations for his “evidences” which killed his book. It would be totally unknown today if it wasn’t for its similarity to the BoM.) Many of the ideas are the same, but they’re expressed in very different ways. Therefore, I reject the idea that Oliver would have had red flag go up while scribing for JS.

    As for Rigdon’s education, I know I read somewhere that he attended a seminary. I thought it was at Dartmouth, but I don’t seem to be able to produce the reference. If you google Alexandra Campbell and Sidney Rigdon you will find several articles detailing Campbell’s doctrines and Rigdons preaching before meeting Pratt. Critics maintain that in doctrinal areas where Rigdon disagreed with Campbell are strongly reinforced in the BoM. Grant Palmer stated in his interview with John Delhin, that the similarities between revival meetings in the 1800’s and sermons in the BoM was the first thing he noticed in researching a paper he was writing under the name Paul Pry. He goes on to state that members don’t realize that when they’re reading the BoM, they’re really participating in revival meetings by proxy.

    I don’t know if I can make the link between Ethan Smith and Rigdon. I think there is strong evidence that Ethan Smith knew Spaulding and therefore Spaulding could have incorporated Smith’s research into whichever manuscript you care to believe he produced. Proponents of the Spaulding connection claim he wrote another story after writing “Manuscript Found”. I don’t think he needed to for my theory to hold water. There are enough similarities between Spaulding’s known document and the BoM to allow Rigdon to put it all together and write his paper. For that matter, even if Rigdon didn’t attend Dartmouth, he certainly could have gotten a copy of Ethan Smith’s book. According to critics, most of the ministers believed the Indians were descendents of one of the lost tribes of Israel.

    I could go on and list all the similarities between Spaulding’s manuscript, “View of the Hebrews”, and the BoM. As all of you have the internet, I’ll encourage you to do that on your own and see of you reach the same conclusion I did. There almost certainly must be a link somewhere, because they all speak much the same story.

  132. Doug G.
    May 13, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    “I don’t know if I can make the link between Ethan Smith and Rigdon. I think there is strong evidence that Ethan Smith knew Spaulding and therefore Spaulding could have incorporated Smith’s research into whichever manuscript you care to believe he produced.”

    I said this backwards, I meant that Ethan Smith could have incorporated Spaulding’s writings and ideas in his book instead of the other way around…

    Ok, so I’m getting old…

  133. Roger
    September 21, 2009 at 1:58 am

    This is a very interesting thread. I am currently researching the Spalding Theory and I also made a few comments on another of MH’s threads on Spalding, from which he linked to this one…

    I have not read every word of every post on this thread, but most of it, so, sorry if I rehash old material….

    Clear back on #62 MH wrote:

    Let’s look at your theory. For Joseph to have been able to view maps at Dartmouth (no evidence he visited NH),

    As Margie Miller posted on the other thread, there are some amazing “coincidences” with regard to Dartmouth College and Moors Academy. Joseph Smith never attended a formal school (at least not to my knowledge) but his brother Hyrum did. Hyrum attended Moors, which was sort of a prep-school for Dartmouth. Coincidence? Probably not… since Joseph & Hyurm’s uncle (Soloman Mack) had a son attending Moors as well, and, no doubt, he recommended the school to his sister Lucy. (They were quite close). Interestingly enough, Solomon Spalding also attended Dartmouth as did Ethan Smith. Spalding was older, however, but may actually have been on campus with Ethan for one year while Spalding was studying for his Master’s degree–Ethan would have been a freshman. I am not sure whether Ethan attended Moors–which was part of the Dartmouth campus–but if he did, then there could have been overlap there as well.

    As Margie pointed out in her post on the other Spalding thread, there are still more “coincidences.” Hyrum, of course, was younger than Ethan and much Younger than Solomon Spalding, but he did in fact attend Moors/Dartmouth at the same time as Solomon’s nephew Eli Spalding and Ethan’s son Lyndon Smith! Coincidence? Ah, but it gets even more weird… as Margie points out:

    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.

    (BTW, Spalding is spelled both with and without the “u.” I don’t use the “u” since that is the way Solomon himself wrote it).

    Now if there is no Spalding connection to the BOM all that would certainly constitute some interesting coincidences, however, there is yet another element to this that ties it all together… namely a professor at Moors/Dartmouth named John Smith. (As far as I know, no relation to Joseph/Hyrum). This Prof. Smith, may be the common link between all these individuals and the idea that the American Indians are descended from one of the lost ten tribes of Isreal. John Smith was an advocate of this theory. I am currently looking into this connection, but I find it all just a little too coincidental.

    MH continues:
    plagiarize both View of the Hebrews and Manuscript Found,

    ..so we see then that this is too simplistic. As it usually is, real life is not so cut and dried. The S/R (Spalding/Rigdon) theory does not hold that Joseph Smith plagiarized “both View of the Hebrews and Manuscript Found.” Although that is a remote possibility, it is more likely that “View of the Hebrews” simply mirrors “Manuscript Found” since both authors attended Dartmouth and were students of John Smith. (As was Hyrum Smith). Of course this may ALSO explain the parallels between VOTH and the BOM –either via Hyrum to Joseph or via Spalding to Rigdon to Joseph or via Ethan to Oliver to Joseph.

    But the coincidences just keep on coming… Oliver Cowdery, who was a second cousin of Joseph Smith, attended a Congregationalist church in VT who’s pastor was none other than Ethan Smith. So it is certainly likely that Oliver–who was a part-time traveling book peddler–was familiar with VOTH.

    There are, then, mulitple ways for the basic premise of one of the lost ten tribes being the ancestors to the Indians finding its way into the BOM.

    MH continues:
    incorporate Reformed Baptist preaching, know what was in Sidney Rigdon’s brain without meeting Sidney,

    Again… too simplistic. S/R postulates that Rigdon himself would have done this, not Joseph Smith. Rigdon had ample opportunity–years worth–to embellish Spalding’s ms.


    change both manuscripts into KJV style,

    Again, not quite correct. The S/R theory maintains that Spalding himself altered the style of his earlier ms when he decided to start over, going back further in time and adopting the “old scripture style” of language. The earliest witnesses themselves attest to this. Either they were lying, or had false memories implanted by Hurlbut (which I suggest is absurd), or they were telling the truth.

    figure out Egyptian names (Pahoran, Paanchi), and figure out chiasmus before any modern scholars were aware of this literary device,

    Again… probably not attributable to Joseph Smith, but instead to the well educated Solomon Spalding or the well educated Sidney Rigdon.

    requires Joseph to have done the kind of research that Dan Brown does. I do not believe Joseph is as smart as Dan Brown, he was not college educated like Dan Brown, and did not have the time to study all these various manuscripts that Dan Brown has, doing all this while treasure digging, farming, romancing and eloping with Emma.

    The only book that we know for sure Joseph read is the Bible. Yet you seem to want to think Joseph is every bit as good an author as Dan Brown. Emma said he couldn’t write a coherent letter when they first married, and you think he’s practically Dan Brown. Now, obviously Joseph grew in knowledge, but Dan Brown was 34 when he wrote Digital Fortress, his first novel. You really think that Joseph with 10 fewer years, no college eduation, could write something that intricate?

    This actually supports the S/R theory. I agree with you.


    Emma knew Joseph better than you. I’m sorry, but your theory just doesn’t add up to me from what I know about Joseph, even if he was smarter than the church and his contemporaries acknowledge. If Joseph had read so much material, why couldn’t he spell better? Have you seen letters Joseph wrote? Wouldn’t such a smart man be able to pick people who wouldn’t turn on him? If you think Joseph is as good of a writer as Dan Brown, you need to get a paper trial of evidence to show that he really did have access to all this material, rather than innuendo.

    Again, still more reasons to conclude in favor of S/R rather than Smith-alone.

    In my opinion, the paper trail connecting Spaulding to Rigdon is weak

    In the first place, what kind of evidence would you EXPECT to find? I dare suggest that we are being unrealistic if we expect to find a written confession. On the other hand, how about witnesses who knew both of them and put the two together? We have exactly that, and up until just a few years ago we only had that. However I think it was in 2004 when a mail-waiting notice from an 1816 Pittsburgh newspaper was discovered that had BOTH Solomon Spalding’s name as well as Sidney Rigdon’s name on it telling them they had mail waiting at the Pittsburgh post office! This was a major piece of previously unknown documentary evidence IN SUPPORT OF the S/R authorship claims. Major, in that it corroborates the testimony of Rebecca Eichbaum who said that Rigdon used to come into the Pittsburgh post office regularly with his pal Lambdin (of the Patterson Bookstore/Print shop). It is also major in light of the fact that Sidney Rigdon passionately denied being in Pittsburgh prior to 1822 and we can now see that that is simply not true.

    Couple that with the findings of a recent word-print study done at Stanford whose authors, among other things, concluded that:

    The NSC results are consistent
    with the Spalding-Rigdon theory of authorship.
    Evidence supporting this conclusion includes the
    prominence of signals for Spalding and Rigdon;
    the presence of strong Spalding signals in sections
    of the Book of Mormon previously linked to
    Spalding; the presence of a dominant Rigdon
    signal in most theological sections, and a strong
    Spalding signal in the more secular, narrative sections.
    Our findings are consistent with historical
    scholarship indicating a central role for Rigdon in
    securing and modifying a now-missing Spalding
    manuscript. The high number of Spalding-Rigdon
    pairings in first and second place strongly suggests
    that Spalding and Rigdon were responsible for a
    large part of the text.

    Now of course this study is being scrutinized and criticized for ‘this and that’ alleged weakness, but the bottom line is–regardless of whether Joseph Smith was included or not–when they tested for signals from Rigdon and Spalding the test results could have come back low or even negative. The fact is this study could easily have made the S/R theory most doubtful…. try promoting an S/R theory in the face of a word-print study that comes back negative for Spalding and Rigdon! The point is, it did not. The results support S/R.

    So… we have a lot of elements all converging that lend support to the oldest non-divine theory for the production of the BOM there is. I think that is significant.

  134. Roger
    September 21, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Correction to the above post… I erroneously indicated that “Solomon” Mack was Lucy’s brother who had a son at Moors/Dartmouth. It was actually Steven Mack. I think there was a Solomon Mack, but the one who had a son at Dartmouth was Steven.

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