What’s This Mormon Thing?

Hostile Anti-Mormon posts subject to editing or deletion

Solomon Spaulding, The B of Mormon – Joseph Smith was Functionally Illiterate

Posted by JLFuller on August 4, 2008

Joseph Smith Jr could not have written the B of M nor could he have used Spaulding as the basis for it. He was functionally illiterate. He didn’t have the skills. I think even most anti-Mormons gave up on that years ago – but you never know. So, just in case there are people who don’t know we landed on the moon in 1969, that Dwight D. Eisenhower is no longer president and the Soviet Union collapsed, here is a brief quote from Lance D. Chase that gives the history.   

“The Spaulding Manuscript is a fictional story about a group of Romans who, while sailing to England early in the fourth century A.D., were blown off course and landed in eastern North America. One of them kept a record of their experiences among eastern and midwestern American Indian tribes. The 175-page manuscript was first published as a 115-page monograph in 1885, some seventy years after the death of its author, Solomon Spaulding (sometimes spelled Spalding). The only known manuscript was lost from 1839 until its discovery in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1884. It was promptly published by both the Latter-day Saints and Reorganized Latter Day Saint churches to refute the theory of some critics that it had served as an original source document for the Book of Mormon, supposedly supplied to Joseph Smith by Sidney Rigdon.” http://farms.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=51&chapid=445 

Anyone who has read or is otherwise familiar with the Joseph Smith Jr. story should recognize he could not have written or created a work as sophisticated as The Book of Mormon or The Pearl Of Great Price nor could he have edited the Inspired Edition of bible. And just as he could not have written the B of M he could not have used the Spaulding manuscript as the basis for the B of M. Smith was not competant to do either given with his skill level. He had what is considered today to be an inadequate education. He was, in fact, functionally illiterate. I invite readers to go to The Joseph Smith Papers Project and read some of his own hand written journals and other writings. What is presented was written almost ten years after the B of M was written – all this is after he had been tutored and was a more experienced writer – even then he never met a punctuation mark he liked. I think you will see that what I say is correct. Certainly the LDS Church has said for years that in his youth his lack of education made it impossible for him to create such a work. The implication is that he had some help. 

Some commentators have agreed. But they suggest the help he received was from his Church associates such as Martin Harris or Sidney Rigdon both of whom held responsible positions in the nascent Church. What they do not say is that both of these men left the Church over disagreements with Smith and denounced him. But neither ever renounced* their previous testimonies about where the Book of Mormon came from or that it was translated by Joseph Smith in the manner he and they always claimed. That is, the Book of Mormon was presented to Joseph by an angel of the Lord on gold and brass plates and that Joseph translated them using the methods he described. 

*I have not found any secular source claiming these men ever renounced their stories about the origins of the B of M. If anyone has such information I would like to see it. 

Go to the Oberlin College website to see what they have to say about the Spaulding Manuscript. It is in thier library.




35 Responses to “Solomon Spaulding, The B of Mormon – Joseph Smith was Functionally Illiterate”

  1. What does it mean to be a christian? My 2 Cents! “Being a Christian is about choosing Jesus and deciding to do something incredibly daring with your life.” Rev. Michael Cypert

  2. JLFuller said

    Amen Brother.

  3. JLFuller said

    Thanks for visiting MormonThing.com. I went to your site http://www.orthodoxcatholic.page.tl and read your front piece and of course, disagree with your assessment of just when our denomination originated. You would have been disappointed if I didn’t. I would like to make one correction to your comment about Joseph Smith authoring our denomination. We, like you, believe our theology originated it its current form with Jesus Christ. We also believe the priesthood (the authority to act in God’s name) is eternal and has no beginning. It was had by Adam, all the prophets, apostles and many others on earth and before that Jesus Christ and God the Father in the pre-mortal existence. In fact it is accurate to say that the priesthood is the way God governs the universe. It was Joseph Smith who restored the gospel to the way Christ originated it and the early Church practiced it. Joseph was not the originator. This is why we claim it is the restored Gospel. I know you have a different way of looking at it but I just wanted to clarify our view so you at least know how we view our history. Thanks again for stopping by.

  4. the Learned Hand said

    This is a very interesting subject. Google books has much to add to the puzzle.

    Books published as early as 1834 discount the origins of the book of mormon and place Solomon Spalding as the true author.






    These are contemporary books which discredit the origin of the book of mormon.

  5. JLFuller said

    What puzzel? Oberlin College has the Spaulding manuscript and it is nothing like the B of M. Spaulding’s story is about lost Romans. This is gobbeldygook and was de-bunked decades ago. The B of M stands as a testament of Jesus Christ.

  6. the Learned Hand said

    Ah, time erases all footprints in the sand… thank goodness for google books.

    Who is to say that the “Spaulding manuscript” that was found is authentic.

    the path of the Mormon Church is cast in stone. No one will ever admit otherwise, but the evidence is overwhleming……

    Mrs. Solomon Spaulding states in “The Family Magazine, Volume VII” , published 1840 on pages 38 and 39:

    “…Sidney Rigdon, who has figured so largely in the history of the Mormons was at this time connected with the printing office of Mr. Patterson as is well known in that region and as Rigdon himself has frequently stated. Here he had ample opportunity to become acquainted with Mr. Spaulding’s manuscript and to copy it if he chose. It was a matter of notoriety and interest to all who were connected with the printing establishment. At length the manuscript was returned to its author and we removed to Amity, Washington County, Pa., where Mr Spaulding deceased in 1816. The manuscript then fell into my hands and was carefully preserved. It has frequently beem examined by my daughter, Mrs. McKenstry of Monson, Mass., with whom I now reside, and by other friends. After the “Book of Mormon” came out, a copy of it was taken to New Salem, the place of Mr. Spaulding’s former residence and the very place where the “Manuscript Found” was written.

    A woman preacher appopinted a meeting there (New Salem) and in the meeting read and repeated copious extracts from the “Book of Mormon.” The historical part was immediately recognized by all the older inhabitants as the identical work of Mr. Spaulding in which they had been so deeply interested years before. Mr. John Spaulding was present, who is an emmently pious man and recognized perfectly the work of his brother. He was amazed and afflicted, that it should have been perverted to so wicked a purpose. His grief found a vent in a flood of tears and he arose on the spot and expressed in the meeting his deep sorrow and regreat that the writings of his sainted brother should be used for a purspoe so vile and shocking. The excitement in New Salem became so great that the inhabitants had a meeting, and deputed Dr. Philastus Hurlbut, one of their number, to repair to this place, and to obtain from me the original manuscript of Mr. Spaulding for the purpose of comparing it to the Mormon Biblem to satisfy their own minds, and to prevent their friends and others from embracing an error so delusive. This was in the year 1834. Dr. Hurlbut brought with him an introduction and request for the manuscript signed by Messrs. Henry Lake, Aaron Wright, and others, with all whom I was acquainted, as they were my neighbors when I resided in New Salem. I am sure that nothing could grieve my husband more, were he living, than the use which has been made of his work.

    The air of antiquity which was thrown about the composition, doubtless suggested the idea of converting it to purposes of delusion. Thus an historical romance, with the addition of a few pious expressions and extracts from the sacred scriptures, has been construed into a new Bible, and palmed off upon a company of poor deluded fanatics, as divine. I have given the previous brief narration, that this work of deception and wickedness may be searched to the foundation, and its author exposed to the contempt and execation he so justly deserves.

    Matilda Davison.

    Reverend Solomon Spaulding was the first husband of the narrator of the above history. Since his decease, she has been married to a second husband by the name of Davson. She is now residing in this place, is a woman of irreproachable character, and an humble Christian, and her testimony is worthy of implicit confidence

    A. Ely, D.D., Pastor Cong. Church in Monson.
    D.R. Austin, Princ. Of the Monson Academy.
    Monsom Mass. April 1, 1839. “

  7. the Learned Hand said

    Sorry about the typos….

  8. JLFuller said

    Hand, there isn’t anything to the story – no matter how much you might want it to be different. Have you ever read the Book of Mormon (skimming doesn’t count)?

  9. JLFuller said

    Let me take little more time. I should not have dismissed your point out of hand. Sidney Rigdon was excommunicated from the church. He harbored a great animosity for Joseph. But in spite of all the bad things Rigdon said, he never denied how the B of M came into existence. Rigdon was formerly a Baptist preacher. In fact of all the eleven witnesses to the B of M, several either left voluntarily or were ex’d but none ever denied what they had seen. If it was a hoax somebody would have spilled the beans. The Book of Mormon is in fact just as Joseph Smith said.

  10. William Schmitt said

    Sorry Jeff, but the theory is still being kicked around, and more. I’m not as interested in attacking your church as you might think since I no longer go to church. But a glib dismissal of the Spaulding theory will not make it go away. Anyone who has actually read the Oberlain manuscript would see an almost exact parallel between how the story begins and Joseph’s testimony about how he found the plates. The Oberlain story talks about a group of ancient people who are blown off course and land in America- gee, no parallel there at all. They leave a record buried in the earth that some guy digs up hundreds of years later- nope, no parallel there either. As you know, those who investigate the theory do not claim that the manuscript in Oberlain College is the one Smith/Rigdon used, indeed if such a thing happened one would not expect to find the original copy at all. And yes, I have read the Book of Mormon, and more than skimmed it. I wonder if J.S. ever read it though. Could you tell me some of his favorite passages? Which ones did he preach from? I’ve read a lot of his early writings and it is hard to find any such references. Strange if the story went the way he said. He did quote extensively from the Bible. Sorry for the long post.

  11. JLFuller said

    Read what you will into it but no recognized expert in the subject matter beleives the two are linked. Sorry, but this is a crack pot idea that was debunked a hundred years ago and no legitimate researcher agrees with you. But I do appreciate your stopping by.

  12. JLFuller said

    One more thing – poorly educated and self taught religious “experts” who have no recognized research history have no any weight in these matters. That means some pastor of some church that has a two year degree from some bible college no one ever heard of are particularly included in the ranks of the uneducated and self taught. At the top of the list are TV religionists.

    If you ever come across someone with an advanced degree from a recognized world class university who thinks there is merit in the Spaulding theory then I might look at what he/she says. Until and unless that happens, only those trained in and recognized as legitimate researchers have any weight. Setting a high standard is the only way to separate out the gobbledygook. I am not attacking these people, but just recognizing who knows what they are talking about from those who do not

  13. JLFuller said

    I appreciate other people’s opinions and read them al. But they are best used as a marker of how well the subject matter has been digested. If we read such stories as Spaulding in many places and the consensus is it has merit then it deserves another look. But the Spaulding theory died a long time ago and is only resurrected occasionally. No one takes it seriously.

  14. William Schmitt said

    Thanks for your reply Jeff. In your private response you were a little more polite. Actually, it is a good technique to simply dismiss everything you disagree with because the people involved don’t have a degree you agree with. Can you point to one person who isn’t involved with the Mormon church, from any University in the world, who doesn’t think Joseph Smith’s story is a crackpot story? One non-Mormon, part of any University in the world, who thinks the Nephites really existed? It’s unfortunately the same response others take towards your church, they dismiss their credentials because they believe. It’s a weak argument.

  15. JLFuller said

    Book of Mormon detractors don’t commment on faith, they comment on the things that can’t be proven with scientific methodologies. Disproving faith is an exercize in futility. But in LDS theology, faith is the subject matter. So, in Spaulding, is there any evidence one way or another that ties Smith to Spaulding? Nothing you or anyone else has said indicates so. In fact there is no methodolgy I am aware of that does that.

    Getting back to what other non-LDS scholars have said about the B of M, chiasmas, unconscious language patterns, distinctive styles of the B of M prophets writings, and other literary devices found in the OT, apochraphal, Book of Mormon (Nephi) and early Christian literature seem to indicate the writers may have come from similar schools. These devices are highly sophisticated techniques found in graduate level literature programs at the university level. They were far beyond any of the early Mormon principles. Joseph had three years of formal schooling. To answer your question about who else has studied these phenominon – I have no idea. Maybe you can tell us of some.

  16. William Schmitt said

    This is a good example of selective arguments. I’ll have to look up specifics so I’m not misquoting, but those “phenomenon” are only put forth by Mormon academics. Nothing I’ve read by non-Mormon sources take it seriously. Now do they not take it seriously because they don’t have faith? There’s the rub. If you don’t believe everything you say is anti-Mormon. If you do believe you’re similarly dismissed by other academics. As you say, you can’t disprove faith. I had a similar discussion with an evangelical Southern Baptist who called me a “child of the Devil” because he thought I was arguing your side. You can’t win, you only discus. Appreciate your website. Quick question, which of the Southern Baptist core beliefs , the Trinity, Baptism by Faith, Eternal punishment in hell, etc. would one have to change by believing in the Book of Mormon? Thanks.

  17. JLFuller said

    My guess is that it has nothing to do with scholarship and everything to do with public perception and scholarly reputation. Nobody gets credit (or money) for studying a fringe subject. You asked “Which of the Southern Baptist core beliefs…would one have to change by believing in the Book of Mormon?” In reality you don’t need the B of M to address the tradition of Trinitarianism. The bible does a nice job of that. The B of M brings other things to the table that are more relevant I think. The bible tells you what happened, and the Book of Mormon tells you why.

    Baptism by faith is a back door way of finding priesthood authority where it doesn’t exist. The Catholics didn’t give authority to baptize when Martin Luther left the church. Neither were any of the other groups given authority when they broke away. And yet we are told that no man takes this authority on himself. So if the bible prescribes that authority is given to a man by one who has authority and no one gave that authority to the protesters, how do they get it? It seems they had to create another way of finding it. The best way seems to have been to deny it mattered.

    Eternal punishment is a matter of interpretation that can be adequately discussed just with the bible. Christ visiting the dead in Spirit Prison during the three days following his crucifixion presents two possibilities. First, He was there to do missionary work and the second He was there to taunt and ridicule as one responder suggests. I leave it to the reader to decide which is more Christ-like. The B of M supports the first. So if Christ was there to establish a missionary effort there must some reason to convert those who were non-believers or ever heard of Him. Also, it makes no sense that a loving God would create beings knowing in advance that they would be condemned to hell for eternity for something they had no knowledge of.

  18. “child of the Devil” is a slur or insult. You know from life experience calling someone a name is used when logic and reason fails. Now if he had said that was erroneous logic and analgous to Satanic teachings it would have been a different matter. He would have been attacking the argument and not the person. But he didn’t. That is just another reason why I have so little respect for Evangelical pastors. I have yet to hear from one who has any idea of just what he is talking about when it comes to LDS theology.

  19. William Schmitt said

    In your previous post you asked where the connection between Spaulding and Smith was. The first time you read the Spaulding manuscript you didn’t see Joseph Smith’s testimony in the opening segment? That told me there was a connection of some sort.

  20. JLFuller said

    Sorry, no.

  21. William Schmitt said

    Let me get this straight. A guy writes a story that begins with his main character using a lever to pry up a stone, under which he finds a box containing a written history of the former inhabitants of the land. The guy who is accused of plagiarizing his work writes that he used a lever to pry up a stone, under which he found a box that contained writings of the former inhabitants of the land, and you don’t see any similarities? OK.

  22. JLFuller said

    Joseph’s testamony is that he saw God the Father and Jesus Christ as two seperate and distinct beings. That is the begining of the story.

  23. JLFuller said

    Matthew B. Brown wrote as response that is a bit long but is inclusive of more info than I am familiar with. I apologize for its length. You can go to http://www.fairlds.org/Book_of_Mormon/Solomon_Spaulding_and_the_Book_of_Mormon.html#en3 to read all the footnotes.

    “When the Book of Mormon was first published in March of 1830 its detractors believed that it did not have a divine origin as claimed, but was an impious fraud perpetrated solely by the Prophet Joseph Smith (who was listed on the title page of the book-in accordance with federal copyright law-as the “author and proprietor”).1
    But in 1834 a new theory for the origin of the Book of Mormon was proposed by a man named Philastus Hurlbut.2 This theory postulated that Joseph Smith was too illiterate to have produced the Book of Mormon by himself and therefore must have received some assistance. This theory claimed that Sidney Rigdon wrote the religious parts of the Book of Mormon while the historical parts were plagiarized from an unpublished manuscript written in 1812 by Solomon Spaulding–Rigdon having secretly acquired the Spaulding document from a Pittsburgh printer named Jonathan H. Lambdin.3
    Philastus Hurlbut paid a visit to Spaulding’s widow and after being shown her husband’s unpublished document he took it with him to Eber D. Howe’s print shop in Painesville, Ohio-with a promise to the widow of future publication and a share in the profits. But when Hurlbut made a closer examination of the Spaulding manuscript he did not find the parallels to the Book of Mormon that he had hoped for4 and so he asserted that there must have been another manuscript written by Spaulding that was now “lost.”5
    When L.L. Rice bought the contents of Howe’s printing establishment in 1839 he unknowingly acquired the Spaulding manuscript and eventually transported it to Honolulu, Hawaii. Rice discovered the document in 1884 while searching through his collection of papers at the request of Oberlin College president James H. Fairchild. When Rice, Fairchild, and several others compared the Spaulding manuscript with the Book of Mormon they “could detect no resemblance between the two, in general or detail.” Fairchild concluded that “the theory of the origin of the Book of Mormon in the traditional manuscript of Solomon Spaulding will probably have to be relinquished.”6
    There are several other compelling reasons for relinquishing the Spaulding theory. In creating his conjecture Philastus Hurlbut ignored the fact that Sidney Rigdon never even saw a copy of the Book of Mormon until Parley P. Pratt personally gave him one after 15 October 1830.7 Emma Smith, the Prophet’s wife, declared that “no acquaintance was formed between Sidney Rigdon and the Smith family till after the Church was organized” and the Book of Mormon had already been published.8 Rigdon’s own assessment of the Spaulding theory was both direct and forceful. He called it “a moonshine story.” He protested that he didn’t even know of Solomon Spaulding’s existence until Hurlbut made his accusations public and he also said that the idea that he was somehow involved with the printing office in Pittsburgh where he allegedly acquired the Spaulding manuscript was “the most base of lies, without even the shadow of truth.”9
    One of the most damaging refutations of the Spaulding theory comes from Oliver Cowdery, who served as the principal scribe during the majority of the Book of Mormon’s translation. He forthrightly affirmed, “I wrote, with my own pen, the entire Book of Mormon (save a few pages), as it fell from the lips of the Prophet Joseph Smith, as he translated it by the gift and power of God . . . . Sidney Rigdon did not write it. Mr. Spaulding did not write it. I wrote it myself, as it fell from the lips of the Prophet.”10

  24. JLFuller said

    I appreciate your doggedness. It keeps me on my toes. You articlate your argument well with out being abusive.

  25. William Schmitt said

    Hey, if you are going to be an uneducated amateur you might as well be dogged. If I become abusive let me know, that’s not my intentions.
    My problem with Mr. Brown’s response is that it doesn’t answer what I brought up. First of all, there are two published accounts before 1834 that named both Spaulding and Rigdon as being behind the book. They do not mention each other though, but the accusation is older than 1834. I fully agree that Mr. Hurlbut’s motives should be taken into account. What I can’t agree with is the statement “When Rice, Fairchild, and several others compared the Spaulding manuscript with the Book of Mormon they “could detect no resemblance between the two, in general or detail.” First, it doesn’t deal with Joseph Smith’s testimony of how he got the book, which is a direct parallel with the opening of the Spaulding manuscript. And how can you say there is no resemblance in general between the two? The Spauding story is about finding a buried record of the former inhabitants of this continent who were blown off course and ended up here. The Book of Mormon tells the same GENERAL story. Nobody is claiming that they copied the Spauding manuscript word for word. There were certainly other influences that contributed to the finished product. And saying there are compelling reasons not to believe the theory because the ones who would be guilty if it was true said they didn’t do it is weak. There, how’s that for dogged? Sorry for the long response but it’s not easy keeping you on your toes.

  26. William Schmitt said

    I didn’t see your response about Joseph seeing the Father and the Son as two distinct beings as the beginning of the story. That’s a whole other kettle of fish.

  27. JLFuller said

    Regarding your Google books discovery, letme get at it obliquely. In government, where I grew up, we were admonished to take the issue in its entirey and make policy based on the what the central intent was and leave the fringe concerns out. In other words don’t base policy on the exceptions. That is a good rule to follow when researching a subject. The vaguaries of who wrote what when, their motivation and credibility have not been investigated. The mere existance of an old document with out a legitimate pedigree can’t be taken as significant. Anybody could have written anything for any reason.

    Now about Joseph finding the plates under a rock. He said he found them in a box under a rock if memory serves me. If you recall, the first fruits of archeology were just being researched in this time frame. Almost all documents were found in some kind of a hiding place and even in caves, tombs, graves and so forth. If I was writing the Spaulding manuscript I would be hard pressed to place my fictional documents in a library. Where else would you find a long lost North American manuscript? In fact there is only one place that makes sense if one was going to preserve such a thing and that would be a cave or underground in a place dug for that reason. Where else would you put it? How would a fictcious Roman preserve his record except underground? It is only logical. How else would God preserve His historical manuscript? The coincidence is just that – a coincidence.

  28. William Schmitt said

    Jeff- I’m not sure if you are answering me concerning the Google Books discovery, I don’t know what you are referring to. As to your explanation of the coincidence between the two stories- you might get by with that if the one person hadn’t been accused of stealing the story from the other one. The claim from the Latter Day Saints from the beginning was that there was no connection-even a general one between the two parties involved. Turns out that there is at least a “coincidence” between the two. Which is why I said in the beginning of this discussion that the theory was still kicking around-and there is a basis for it, even if you believe the basis is just a coincidence. In the end it will be nothing to you and to me it will be just one piece of many in the puzzle of why I don’t believe J.S. But I enjoyed the discussion. Take care.

  29. JLFuller said

    It is pure coincidence at best that a fiction writer concluded that the best way for the character in his book to preserve the account of his trip was to bury it. There were no other ways to presereve it. At the direction of Jesus Christ, the prophet Mormoni buries the record of his people in the ground also because there was no other way to preserve it. The plates were made of gold and brass. They would not have survived 1400 years in the hands of men. How else could he have preserved them?

    The name is Jack not Jeff.

  30. William Schmitt said

    I’m sorry Jack, I don’t know where I got the name Jeff from.

    I think you’re missing the point here. The similarities between the stories means (to some people)that J.S. account is just that-a story. Because he changed the names and dates doesn’t change that. I realize that this is not a convincing argument to you, your answers haven’t done a thing to convince me either. It’s just one item when taken with many, many others that points to a conclusion not to trust J.S. story.

  31. JLFuller said

    You have to stretch a lot to consider this coincidence as anything remotely plausible. It goes into fantasy.

  32. William Schmitt said

    I respectfully disagree

  33. kery said

    Olá William Schmitt , eu gostaria de fazer parte da igreja, mas moro em Póvoa de varzim, tem alguma igreja próxima??

  34. JLFuller said

    The rough Portugese translation is “Hello William Schmitt, I am interested in the church, but I live in Póvoa of varzim. Is there a church near me?”

    I don’t know which church Kery is interested in but I will provide Kery with information about the LDS Church. If you want to add information about yours too please feel free to add your response here.

  35. JLFuller said

    O Kery que A igreja de jesus cristo de cana última de Santos de Dia é achada em

    Povoa do Varzim Portugal
    Rua Bocal da Gandara
    Povoa do Varzim, Porto, Portugal
    Phone: 351-351-252626072

    Este e-mail está em resposta a sua pergunta em blog de Mormonthing solicitando mais informação sobre a Igreja. Se gostaria de, posso ter representantes da visita de Igreja você em sua casa. Seu número de telefone e endereço seriam necessitados. Contrariamente, pode contatar a Igreja no acima de endereço. Por favor perdoe minha tradução pobre de Portugese

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