Ever since the Book of Mormon was first published, critics have tried to figure out its authorship. Did Joseph Smith plagiarize the book from other sources, such as Solomon Spaulding or other collaborators? Dr. Brian Hales tells more about these collaborator theories for Book of Mormon authorship.
Brian: I’ve isolated eight different theories that people have promoted, naturalists, as possibly explaining how Joseph created the Book of Mormon. We’ve heard about the Solomon Spalding theory. In 1812, a guy named Solomon Spalding wrote a manuscript, and he shared it with his friends and neighbors. He died two years later. Then, the Book of Mormon comes out in 1830. Well, some of those friends and neighbors said, “Hey, I remember this is the same story that Solomon Spalding told me.” Well, the manuscript was lost, so you couldn’t check the two. You had the Book of Mormon in your hand, but you only had the memory of these people. So, everybody jumped on this bandwagon. For 50 years, it was by far and away the most popular theory. But, then in 1884, they found the manuscript and compared the two.
GT: [They found it] in Hawaii, of all places.
Brian: Right. Well, they had it in 1834, but it wasn’t similar to the Book of Mormon.
GT: It was E.D. Howe that had it.
Brian: Right, and he knew there was huge dissimilarities, but it didn’t go along with the theory that he was promoting in his book. So, they just deep-sixed the thing, and it emerged 50 years later in Hawaii. I don’t know, I’m sure somebody has probably tried to trace that. It’s probably not too big a mystery.
GT: From what I understand, there was a newspaper in Pittsburgh, and then the assets got sold and it ended up in Hawaii, which is just a weird, weird story.
Brian: Well, I haven’t looked at it, but in 1884, when you compare the two, the names are different. There are some very general similarities on the fact that it’s a lost manuscript that’s found and there’s some talk about the origin of the Indians. But it’s about 50,000-51,000 words. The Book of Mormon is nearly 270,000. So, even if Joseph plagiarized every word, he’d still have to come up with 220,000 words on his own. So, to use it as a theory isn’t a real strong, real convincing interpretation.
GT: Well, I’d like to go in there because I do have a lot of very vocal people who still believe the Spalding manuscript is a legit theory. My response is, “Read it.”
Brian: Yeah, good point.
GT: It’s so stereotypically Indian. We talk about wigwams, and squaws, and delawanucks, and just very stereotypically Indian. Plus, it takes place, I believe, in the time of Constantine. So it’s off by about 1000 years, just the story plot. It begins when the Book of Mormon ends, basically. I’ve read it. It’s actually I think, unintentionally funny. It’s kind of like Gilligan’s Island version of the Book of Mormon, if you ask me.
Have you read “Manuscript Found”? Do you think that Joseph collaborated with others to produce the Book of Mormon? Check out our conversation….
Don’t miss our previous conversation with Brian!