Authorship of the Book of Mormon
The first edition of the Book of Mormon was released in the year A.D. 1830. Controversy surrounds the authorship, beginning with how it was published. On the title page of the original version, Joseph Smith is listed as “Author and Proprietor” when he registered the first edition in New York. If the Book of Mormon was indeed inspired by the Holy Spirit, why did Smith claim to be the author? Mormon apologists contend that the copyright laws in New York, where the Book of Mormon was produced, stated that one must list himself as such in order to prevent plagiarism. However, a careful study will reveal that the law actually states, “Author” or “Proprietor” was sufficient. (Bracha)
Further, this law certainly did not apply to the printed testimony of eleven witnesses who attested that Smith was both Author and Proprietor in the early edition of the book. Present day editions have deleted those testimonies. Eventually “Author and Proprietor” was replaced with “Translator” on the title page a few years later. So which is it? There is a vast difference between the role of an author and that of a translator. Why not just simply identify himself as “Translator,” which was legal to do? If Smith was the author then it ceases to be divine. If he was not, why did the eleven witnesses say differently? How can they be trusted? When a sworn testimony is changed, it becomes invalid or questionable at best. Three other assumed witnesses would be added: Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris.
More controversy would follow the authorship by way of a man named Solomon Spalding. Spalding was ordained a Congregationalist preacher in 1787 and later tried his hand at writing novels in the early 1800’s. He was never successful, but in 1816 he wrote an unpublished historical romance about the lost civilization of the mound builders of North America titled Manuscript Found. It was authored fourteen years before the Book of Mormon was released. Its plot and character names are almost identical with the ones found in the Book of Mormon. Because of this many accused Smith of plagiarism, and using Spalding’s work as the theme of the Book of Mormon.
Those in defense of the Book of Mormon have always stood firm that it was nothing more than an attempt to discredit the Book of Mormon. For years the LDS Church was successful in dismantling most of the dispute. However, those who knew Spalding launched their own investigation claiming he was the source. Unfortunately, Spalding died before he had an opportunity to defend his work.
In 1976 three men, Wayne L. Cowdrey, Howard Davis, and Arthur Vanick wrote a book titled Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon? They exposed the original manuscript and had a handwriting analysis performed to see if the original copy of the Book of Mormon matched the original handwritten draft by Spalding. Many pages were confirmed as Spalding’s, written verbatim into the Book of Mormon. Names, plots, and places were a match. There were also some significant persons who came forward to confirm the allegations.
John Spalding, brother of Solomon Spalding, attested,
He then told me he had been writing a book, which he intended to have printed, the avails of which he thought would enable him to pay all his debts. The book was entitled the “Manuscript Found,” of which he read to me many passages. — It was an historical romance of the first settlers of America, endeavoring to show that the American Indians are the descendants of the Jews, or the lost tribes. It gave a detailed account of their journey from Jerusalem, by land and sea, till they arrived in America, under the command of NEPHI and LEHI. They afterwards had quarrels and contentions, and separated into two distinct nations, one of which he denominated Nephites and the other Lamanites…I have recently read the Book of Mormon, and to my great surprize I find nearly the same historical matter, names, &c. as they were in my brother’s writings. I well remember that he wrote in the old style, and commenced about every sentence with “and it came to pass,” or “now it came to pass,” the same as in the Book of Mormon, and according to the best of my recollection and belief, it is the same as my brother Solomon wrote, with the exception of the religious matter. — By what means it has fallen into the hands of Joseph Smith, Jr. I am unable to determine (Howe 279-280)
Martha Spalding, the sister-in-law of Solomon, declared,
I was personally acquainted with Solomon Spalding, about twenty years ago. I was at his house a short time before he left Conneaut; he was then writing a historical novel founded upon the first settlers of America. He represented them as an enlightened and warlike people. He had for many years contended that the aborigines of America were the descendants of some of the lost tribes of Israel, and this idea he carried out in the book in question. — The lapse of time which has intervened, prevents my recollecting but few of the leading incidents of his writings; but the names of Nephi and Lehi are yet fresh in my memory, as being the principal heroes of his tale. They were officers of the company which first came off from Jerusalem. He gave a particular account of their journey by land and sea, till they arrived in America, after which, disputes arose between the chiefs, which caused them to separate into different lands, one of which was called Lamanites and the other Nephites. Between these were recounted tremendous battles, which frequently covered the ground with the slain; and their being buried in large heaps was the cause of the numerous mounds in the country. — Some of these people he represented as being very large. I have read the Book of Mormon, which has brought fresh to my recollection the writings of Solomon Spalding; and I have no manner of doubt that the historical part of it, is the same that I read and heard read, more than 20 years ago. The old, obsolete style, and the phrases of “and it came to pass,” &c. are the same. (Howe, Mormonism Unveiled 280-281)
John N. Miller, an employee of Solomon Spalding in 1811 asserted,
I have recently examined the Book of Mormon, and find in it the writings of Solomon Spalding, from beginning to end, but mixed up with scripture and other religious matter, which I did not meet with in the “Manuscript Found.” Many of the passages in the Mormon Book are verbatim from Spalding, and others in part. The names of Nephi, Lehi, Moroni, and in fact all the principal names, are bro’t fresh to my recollection, by the Gold Bible. When Spalding divested his history of its fabulous names, by a verbal explanation, he landed his people near the Straits of Darien, which I am very confident he called Zarahemla, they were marched about that country for a length of time, in which wars and great blood shed ensued, he brought them across North America in a north east direction. (Howe, Mormonism Unveiled 283)
In 1833 Aaron Wright, a Justice of the Peace in Conneaut, affirmed,
I first became acquainted with Solomon Spalding in 1808 or 9, when he commenced building a forge on Conneaut creek. When at his house, one day, he showed and read to me a history he was writing, of the lost tribes of Israel, purporting that they were the first settlers of America, and that the Indians were their decendants. Upon this subject we had frequent conversations. He traced their journey from Jerusalem to America, as it is given in the Book of Mormon, excepting the religious matter. The historical part of the Book of Mormon, I know to be the same as I read and heard read from the writings of Spalding, more than twenty years ago; the names more especially are the same without any alteration. He told me his object was to account for all the fortifications, &c. to be found in this country, and said that in time it would be fully believed by all, except learned men and historians. I once anticipated reading his writings in print, but little expected to see them in a new Bible. Spalding had many other manuscripts, which I expect to see when Smith translates his other plate. In conclusion, I will observe, that the names of, and most of the historical part of the Book of Mormon, were as familiar to me before I read it, as most modern history. If it is not Spalding’s writing, it is the same as he wrote; and if Smith was inspired, I think it was by the same spirit that Spalding was, which he confessed to be the love of money. (Howe, Mormonism Unveiled 284)
Spalding’s work was not the only text that was copied. There are also over forty plagiarisms that Smith lifted directly from the King James Version of the Bible. These are not just similar passages of content, but are verbatim. They are blatant duplicated passages, yet taken out of their original context. Consider that the translators of KJV were not inspired, nor did any of them claim to be such. Smith on the other hand was adamant that he was inspired when he translated the Book of Mormon from “reformed Egyptian” contained in the “gold plates” to English.
The Book of Mormon allegedly covers a historical period from 600 B.C. to A.D. 421. It quotes directly from the KJV that was translated in A.D. 1611. Only one of two conclusions can be made from this. Either the KJV translators copied from the Book of Mormon or the Book of Mormon copied from the KJV translators. Since the Book of Mormon would come into existence 200 years after the KJV was translated, the first theory can be eliminated. Mormon apologists claim that God gave the same revelation in the Book of Mormon as He did in Palestine. Smith held his position of being an inspired translator, and that God was using him to translate directly from “reformed Egyptian” to English. But why would God help him translate it into King James English? That was not the language in Palestine. It was also not the language in the 1830’s in America.
Newsroom, a website for LDS resources, lists itself as the official resource for news media, opinion leaders, and the public. The website states, “It [Book of Mormon] has been described as the “keystone” of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. From the beginning, Church members have accepted it as scripture. This does not mean the Book of Mormon replaces the Bible as scripture for members of the Church.” (www.mormonnewsroom.org) Perhaps it does not replace it because it attempts to duplicate it. How peculiar it is that the Bible does not contain one passage verifying any historical evidence in the Book of Mormon, yet the Book of Mormon is full of Bible content. The reason is that if the Bible is true, then there is no room for Mormon doctrine or history.