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Looking at Spalding & Collaborator Theories (Part 2 of 6)

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….

Brian Hales reviews the Spalding Conspiracy and other Collaborator Theories of Book of Mormon origins.

Don’t miss our previous conversation with Brian!

572: Reviewing Polygamy Criticisms

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First Vision Conflicts (Part 6 of 9)

Joseph Smith gave multiple accounts of his First Vision experience.  Some people find the differing accounts problematic, while others don’t think they are a big issue.  We’ll talk about these First Vision conflicts with historian Dan Vogel and discuss the different perspectives.

GT:  For some people, these First Vision conflicts are a big deal and they prove Mormonism isn’t true. And for other people, it’s like, what’s the big deal? Why is this an issue? So I guess my question is, where do you fit in there? I mean, in my mind, would it be inconsistent (and I’m a believer) to say, well, maybe he had something in 1820 or 1821, maybe it was a born again experience. Maybe he didn’t tell everything in that 1832 account, and then in 1838, he’s having these persecutions. Maybe he’s misremembering some things and going to 1824. To me, it’s not it’s not a testimony killer. I’ll put it that way. So number one, where do you fit among those two groups?

Dan:  Okay, so my goal is not to kill people’s testimony. I’m just a historian. This is how to look at the documents in a historically minded way.

GT:  Okay.

Dan:  Historians look for these kinds of things to show development. Now, some of the details you can write off as memory problems. But you can’t use faulty memory like Stephen Harper does, as an apologetic, to explain away contradictions. You might use faulty memory, like there’s false memory syndrome, where people can actually create false memories, trying to remember vague memories, and it works.

Dan:  I mean, an example would be the Spalding witnesses. They have vague memories about a manuscript in the past. We know that what they remembered was wrong. Because they could only remember what they had read in the book of Mormon, and nothing else. We know that the the Book of Mormon is not about the lost 10 tribes. That was a common misconception, but these witnesses that’s gotten into their memory somehow. It’s a vague story, they vaguely remember the names. The memories become sharper, the more they talk to each other. So we know from other methods that they were wrong. Okay. But we don’t use false memory syndrome to prove that they’re wrong. We use that as an explanation of how they got it wrong. Okay.

Dan:  So you can’t come up on Joseph Smith, and say, well, there’s these contradictions, and they can all be explained away by this false memory syndrome theory, or else you can never catch anyone making things up or prevaricating, on whatever issue. They could always say, it’s memory. A lot of politicians try that. But it’s not what historians do. It’s what apologists do.

GT:  Okay.

Dan:  So I’m not trying to kill people’s testimonies. That’s not my concern. I don’t care about that question. Okay. It’s not that I don’t care about your religion or anything. I don’t care about destroying people’s faith or anything. I’m just trying to get it close to what probably really happened as I can. That doesn’t mean that some people of faith can’t hang on to that faith, but it has to maybe evolve a little bit. I’m just trying to find the facts, and what probably the best evidence, the best scenario to explain the evidence. It’s not my job to figure out how people of faith, or to what to do with this. I, I could just point out the problem, and not the answer, maybe. So I think there is a way, there is a way to hang on as long as you want for people in different ways. It’s a very personal thing.

GT:  So you wouldn’t be opposed to somebody that says, Yeah, I think Joseph conflated maybe one or two visions here, conflated 1820 with 1824, and it’s not that big of a deal. Yeah, there’s some contradictions there. But it’s, you know, it’s a faulty memory, big deal.

Dan:  Well, I think he changed it on purpose to teach a lesson. He’s more concerned–he’s a charismatic leader. He’s not a historian. He could care less about history, facts, keeping the revelations pure as they were originally given. He doesn’t care about any of that. He is trying to get things done, motivate people to do things that they wouldn’t do without this motivation.

Check out our conversation….

Do you think First Vision conflicts are a testimony killer, or are they no big deal?

DOn’t miss our other conversations with Dan!

291 – 1835 Account of First Vision

290 – Making a Case for Melchizedek Priesthood in 1831?

289 – Methodist Visions

288 – Why “Pious Fraud” Ticks off Everyone

287 – Dan Vogel Was a McConkie Mormon!

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Daniel Stone on Forgotten Prophet

I’m excited to introduce Dr. Daniel Stone.  He has written the first biography of William Bickerton, Forgotten Latter Day Prophet.   William Bickerton was the prophet of the third largest Latter-Day Saint Church.  We’ll get to know more about Daniel in just a moment.

Daniel:  I’m Daniel Stone and I’m the author of William Bickerton – Forgotten Latter-day Prophet. I’m a Ph.D. candidate studying American religious history at Manchester Metropolitan University in England and yes, I am a Bickertonite.

….after I graduated with my masters, I started writing the book and I ended up finishing the book and I wanted to go on for my Ph.D. and I kind of had this dilemma personally because I thought, should I write the book first and then go for my doctorate or should I get my doctorate and then write the book? Because usually the traditional path is to get the doctorate and write the book.

But no one had ever written about William Bickerton. He is literally, it’s so rare to find an American religion, a rock that has never been unturned. And that’s William Bickerton. It’s unbelievable because now he started the third largest Latter-day Saint Church in the world. It’s called the Church of Jesus Christ. It’s in 23 countries. There are about 23,000 members and very few people have ever written about him and there’s never been one biography on him. So, I thought to myself, you know what? Let me try to write the book. I felt like I had a good enough grounding to do that. And then with the hopes of putting it out there and then maybe going for my doctorate because my fear was to get on a doctoral committee and I’ve heard horror stories sometimes we don’t like certain people on your doctoral committee and they make you put things in your dissertation that you don’t really want to do.

So I didn’t want to have to backtrack. So I thought, let me try to write a scholarly book. Thankfully Signature Books picked it up. They found it. I was only halfway through and they heard about it and they basically said, “Well, let’s see the book when it’s done.” Thankfully there were no major corrections. They just passed it open hand and it was peer reviewed so it was great. So then what ended up happening is I applied to grad school and I wanted to find a good advisor and I like to focus on Mormonism but I like to focus on Millennialism too within the American context and there’s a guy at Manchester Metropolitan named Andrew Crome who specifically focuses on Millennialism and he also does mostly English Millennialism, but he focuses with a little bit within America too. I’ll told him about what I was interested in and told them about Bickerton.

We will also talk about the Spalding Manuscript Theory.

Daniel: They’re somehow trying to connect Sidney Rigdon to Solomon Spalding because they’re from the same area and they just, people just thought it was more than a coincidence that Sidney Rigdon all of a sudden meets Joseph Smith in Ohio and he’s a Campbellite minister and that just so happens to believe in the gathering of Israel and communal living, you know, very similar. So, they’re like, oh no, Sidney Rigdon helped write it because according to a lot of the theories before they ended up finding the Solomon Spalding manuscript, decades later, I think it was in the 20th century, they found it. A lot of people were saying, “Oh, I remember Solomon Spalding, the manuscript. He wrote this novel and it talks about people coming from Israel or from the Middle East to come over to the United States. I remember names like Lehi and Nephi.” You have all these people saying, “Oh, I remember these words that are in the Book of Mormon.”

Well, we find out later that that’s not really the case. Solomon Spalding wrote this book. I believe it’s about Romans that get knocked off course and eventually land in the New World. So it’s kind of similar but not really. And Sidney Rigdon had nothing to do with the Spalding manuscript. But back then people really thought that was the case.

Check out our conversation…

Dr. Daniel Stone is the biographer of "William Bickerton - Forgotten Latter Day Prophet"
Dr. Daniel Stone is the biographer of “William Bickerton – Forgotten Latter Day Prophet”