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1787 and later tried his hand at writing novels in the early 1800’s. He was never successful, but in 1816 he wrote an unpublished historical romance about the lost civilization of the mound builders of North America titled Manuscript Found.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.