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Soon after the Book of Mormon was published, Joseph Smith was accused of having used an unpublished manuscript written by the Reverend Solomon Spaulding (also spelled Spalding) of Conneaut, Ohio, as the text for his book. The controversy began in 1833, when D. Philastus Hurlbut, a former Mormon, attempted to expose the Mormons by showing that the leading features of the Book of Mormon were conceived by Spaulding. Rumors in northeastern Ohio and northwestern Pennsylvania had it that friends and relatives of Spaulding in that area had noticed a resemblance between the Book of Mormon and Spaulding's manuscript (Deseret Evening News, Jan. 16, 1878).
Since Hurlbut's accusations, many attempts have been made to prove or disprove the Book of Mormon- Spaulding Manuscript Theory. There was no textual evidence to work with until 1884 when the manuscript Hurlbut had obtained in 1834 was rediscovered in Hawaii, by L. L. Rice, and subsequently delivered to Oberlin College in Ohio for safekeeping. The finding of the manuscript sent shock waves through the Mormon world. Leaders of both the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints rushed to obtain and publish copies of the manuscript in order to disprove any connection between it and the Book of Mormon. Over the years, many scholars have studied the printed editions of the manuscript in attempts to connect it and the Book Mormon.
In the Mormon-owned Deseret Evening News, March 23, 1885, the third president of Oberlin College, James H. Fairchild, is quoted as having compared the manuscript with the Book of Mormon and
then stating that he "could detect no resemblance between the two" and that "the only resemblance is in the fact that both profess to set forth the history of lost tribes."
In a letter to President Fairchild, L. L. Rice, the finder of the manuscript, said: "I have been looking over the Book of Mormon, and it seems to me incredible that Spaulding could have been the author of it." 1
In a letter to the editor of the Deseret Evening News, dated May 11, 1885, and printed by that paper July 14, 1885, Joseph F. Smith Sr., sixth president of the Mormon Church, [quoting L.L. Rice] stated that Spaulding's manuscript had been "carefully examined and compared with the Book of Mormon" and "declared without similarity in name, incident, purpose, or fact." He concluded: "There is not one word nor sentence in it common with the Book of Mormon. The only possibie resemblance is: They both proport to give an account of American Indians."
An objective study of the Spaulding manuscript's possible relationship to the Book of Mormon requires that the student be well acquainted with the Book of Mormon and yet be open-minded enough to acknowledge similarities. Messrs. Fairchild and Rice may not have been knowledgeable Book of Mormon students. At least, they failed to cite obvious similarities.
Since few people have had the necessary qualifications to examine the Spaulding manuscript for its possible relationship to the Book of Mormon, little responsible research has been done on story likenesses. However, the following writers have reported their findings regarding these similarities. In 1902, J. E. Mahaffey, expanding on the work of Theodore Schroeder, listed twenty-one parallels between the Book of Mormon and Spaulding's manuscript. A few years later, T. C. Smith, Charles A. Shook, and George B. Arbaugh also found many similarities. In the mid-1930's, M. D. Bown found and listed one hundred similarities. The differences in the number of parallels recognized by these writers may indicate the degree of understanding each had of the two texts and the time each spent in looking for similarities.
Commenting on the Spaulding problem, in The Improvement Era, October 1959, Mormon apologist Hugh Nibley wrote:
The fundamental rule of the comparative method is, that if things resemble each other there must be some connection between them, and the closer the resemblance the closer the connection. For example, if anyone were to argue that the Book of Mormon was obviously stolen
1 L. L. Rice letter, Jan. 30, 1885, original in Fairchild Correspondence File at Oberlin College
from Solomon Spaulding's Manuscript Story (the document now at Oberlin College) because the word 'and' is found to occur frequently in both texts, we would simply laugh at him. If he brought forth as evidence the fact that kings are mentioned in both books, he might not appear quite so ridiculous . . . Recently' a Protestant minister pointed to seventy-five resemblances between the Book of Mormon and the Manuscript Story; None of them alone is worth anything, but his position is that there are so many that taken altogether they must be significant. The trouble is that it would be very easy to find seventy-five equally good parallels between the Book of Mormon and any other book you can name. As an actual example, to prove that the Book of Mormon and the Manuscript Story are related, this investigator shrewdly notes that in both books "men arise and make addresses, both books pronounce woe unto wicked mortals, both mention milk, in both adultery was a crime, both had counsellors," etc. What kind of "parallels" are these? Seventy-five or seven hundred fifty, it is all the same -- such stuff adds up to nothing.
In his statement, Nibley acknowledges that the fundamental rule of the comparative method is that the degree of resemblance indicates the degree of the connection. Unfortunately he does not follow up on those story resemblances that would meet his own standards for a high degree of similarity.
In The Spaulding Theory Then and Now, printed in Dialogue, Autumn 1977, Mormon scholar Lester Bush concludes his work on the Spaulding theory by saying: "One can expect that new variants (of the theory) will, like the influenza, emerge every now and then." While his research on the subject was masterful [and he acknowledged certain parallels in the stories of the coming forth of the two works], his comments also failed to [mention the many] similarities between the Spaulding manuscript and the Book of Mormon. [Rex C. Reeve, Jr., in his 1996 introduction to Kent P. Jackson's Manuscript Found, at least admits the existence of textual similarities; however, he confines his comments to a few trivial parallels which any Mormon apologist would find totally non-threatening.]
At the risk of being categorized as yet another student of the subject with a "new variant" of the theory, I offer the results of my study. Perhaps my findings will stimulate others to seriously pursue the authorship of the Book of Mormon by renewing investigation of the Spaulding theory.
In his 1867 Sketches of the Alumni of Dartmouth College, Reverend George T. Chapman, D. D., of Cambridge, Mass., wrote:
Solomon Spaulding A. M. was born at Ashford, Connecticut in 1761 and died at Amity, Washington Co. Pennsylvania at age 55. In youth, he was a soldier in the Revolutionary army and leaving it, read law with Judge Zephaniah Swift of Windham, Ct.; but on change of religious
views sought the ministry and entered the sophomore class at Dart. at the age of 21. Graduating there, he studied divinity and became a licentiate of the Windham, Ct., Cong. Association, Oct, 9, 1787; preached 8 or 10 years and, being in this time ordained an evangelist, received several offers to settle that were declined owing to ill health. In 1795, he was married, and soon after went into business with his brother, Josiah, at Cherry Valley, N.Y., but both removed the store to Richfield, N.Y. in 1799. Here they purchased large tracts of land in Pa. and Ohio, to superintend, which Solomon moved to Salem, Ohio, but the war of 1812 deranged their plans and caused great losses.
In this study, I used a copy of the Solomon Spaulding manuscript printed in 1910 by the Millenial Star office in Liverpool, England. I refer to it throughout as either "Spaulding's manuscript" or "Manuscript Story." The [LDS] 1950 edition of the Book of Mormon was used, and reference is made to the individual books within its text,
The Spaulding manuscript has no title, but the words "Manuscript Story" were hand-scribed on the brown paper wrapper that covered the manuscript when it was found in 1884. The 1833 witnesses spoke of a Spaulding manuscript called "Manuscript Found." Spaulding was known to have written more than one manuscript, and it is not known whether Manuscript Story and Manuscript Found are two different works or one and the same. [Some of] his contemporaries testified that Spaulding had revised his first work, going back further in time, using the old scripture style, and calling the new story"Manuscript Found."2
2 E. D. Howe (ed.), Mormonism Unvailed, 1834, p. 278.
Manuscript Story was written by Solomon Spaulding about 1812, eighteen years before the Book of Mormon was published. When Mr. Spaulding died in 1816, his widow took the trunk containing his manuscripts with her to Onondaga County, New York, where she lived for a short time with her brother, William H. Sabine. In 1820, Mrs. Spaulding married a Mr. Davison of Hartwick, Ostego County, New York. The Spaulding writings were then taken to Hartwick, where they remained until late 1833.3
Joseph Smith Jr. was born to Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith, December 23, 1805, in Sharon, Windsor County, Vermont. When he was about nine years of age, he moved with his family to Palmyra, Ontario County, New York. Four years later, the family moved to Manchester in the same county.
In October 1825, at age twenty, Joseph hired out to and lived with Josiah Stoal [or Stowell] of Chenango County, New York. He worked for Mr. Stoal until the time of his marriage to Emma Hale in January 1827. During this two-year period, Joseph was known to have traveled about considerably in Broome and Chenango Counties.4
In 1826, Smith was brought to trial at Bainbridge, Chenango County, for illegal use of his seer stone, 5 While (at the time of this writing) it is not known that Smith's travel took him to Hartwick, New York, it is certain that he was in the adjoining county, within a few miles of the trunk that contained Spaulding's writings. It was during this 1827 time period that Smith claimed to have received the ancient Nephite records that later became the Book of Mormon.6
The possibility exists that the Joseph Smith, Sr. family members were not strangers to Solomon Spaulding. During the time the Smith family lived in Sharon, Vermont, Solomon Spaulding's cousin, Ruben Spaulding, also lived there. Ruben was a deacon in the Sharon Congregational Church for forty-two years and was the justice of the peace for fifty years.7 His children would have been contemporaries of Joseph Smith, Sr.'s children, Alvin, Hyrum, and Joseph Smith, Jr.
3 George Reynolds, Myth of Manuscript Found, 1883, p. 11.
4 History of the Church, vol. 1, pp. 2, 17.
5 "New Evidences and New Difficulties," BYU Studies, Winter, 1972.
6 History of the Church, vol. 1, p. 18.
7 Samuel J. Spalding, Spalding MemoriaI, 1st ed. (1873) pp. 158-159.
Charles Warren Spalding, Spalding MemoriaI, 2nd ed. (1897) pp. 159, 252.
Sharon, Vermont, was a small community and it would have been almost impossible for the two families not to have had some association during those years. It is also likely that, while attending nearby Dartmouth College, Solomon Spaulding made visits to his uncle Ruben's home in Sharon and became acquainted with the Joseph Smith family.
Both the Spaulding and Book of Mormon stories attempt to answer questions as to the origin of today's American Indians and of the mound builder cultures that preceded them. This question of Indian origins was the subject of numerous writers prior to the publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830. In his View of the Hebrews, published in 1823 in New York [revised 2nd ed. 1825], Ethan Smith quoted many early writers who speculated that the first Americans were originally the Lost Tribes of Israel. Other writers had speculated that they were descended from the builders of the Tower of Babel or some other Old World people.
In 1812, Governor DeWitt Clinton gave a lecture before the Historical Society of New York. After discussing in detail the aboriginal monuments that abound as evidence of a great nation of peoples that lived and perished in western New York, he concluded by saying: "Why have we no history of such a nation as must have inhabited this part of the world? Probably if a knowledge of these ancient people is ever obtained, it will be derived from inscription on stone or metals, which have withstood the rust of time." It was commonly speculated in those days that, since the American Indians were not civilized and the mound builders had left monuments indicating they were civilized, the Indians must have destroyed the more civilized people.
In the past, research on Spaulding's writings has been hampered by many false claims and incomplete studies. Research on any theory should follow a reasonable conjecture until it can be seen whether or not it qualifies as a working hypothesis. If it does, then the research that follows should be as objective and unbiased as possible until the hypothesis is proven right or wrong.
To make an objective comparison of the Book of Mormon and Spaulding's Manuscript Story, the student should not only consider the story resemblances but also the style of writing, the use of the English language, the themes used in developing story plots, and the story outlines, before coming to any conclusion as to the similarities in the works in question.
While the Book of Mormon contains much more religious material than the Spaulding text, the outlines of the two stories are essentially the same. Each record was found in exactly the same way; was
written for the same purpose; tells the story of the same ancient American inhabitants; has the same sea voyage; has light- and dark-skinned people; tells of the same arts and sciences; has a comparable Christian theology; presents a white Godperson; involves the use of seer stones; and tells of a war of extermination between two nations whose people were once brothers. The final battle in each story is fought on a hill. I also find a remarkable similarity in the literary style of the two works.
It seems improbable to me that two writers, living less than one hundred fifty miles apart in the northeastern part of the United States, during the same early nineteenth century time period, could produce writings so much alike, unless there was some borrowing one from the other or dependence upon a common source.
Finding the Records
There are conspicuous parallels between Spaulding's Manuscript Story account of
the finding of the ancient records and the personal account of finding the Book of Mormon records told by Joseph Smith. Spaulding says the records were found in a box in an artificial cave, on the top of a mound near his home. Access to the cave was gained by using a "lever" to lift the "heavy stone" cover away from the cave opening. Joseph Smith claimed that he found the records in a stone box buried in the ground near the top of a hill not far from his home and that he gained access to them by using a "lever" to lift a "stone of considerable size" that covered the box. In his New Witness for Christ in America, Francis W Kirkham said that Joseph Smith told Thurlow Weed the publisher of the Rochester Telegraph, that the "gold Bible" had been found in a cave.
In his Mormonism Unveiled, E. D. Howe gives a statement written by Peter Ingersoll, a neighbor of Smith's, in which he testifies that Smith told him that he "had heard about a history found in Canada, called the golden Bible." Since Smith claimed to have found the historical records near his New York home, this statement has been disregarded by most readers; but, in my study of the Book of Mormon geography, discussed later in this report, I found reason to believe that Hill Cumorah (also called Ramah) of the Book of Mormon was actually located in Canada.
Both of the recovered records were said to contain an abridged history of the extinct inhabitants of ancient America. Both stories describe the construction of the depository in a mound or hill; both identify the ancient Old World language used in the record; both tell of some supernatural difficulty encountered in removing the record from the box; and, in each case, the finder of the record makes a translation of the abridged record
Spaulding's account of the finding of the records is [given] in the opening pages of his Manucript Story. The account of the Book of Mormon record discovery was given by Joseph Smith, jr. in his personal history (Pearl of Great Price p. 53).
In both stories, it is acknowledged that the writer is taking his abridgment from other pre-existing civil and sacred records (Manuscript Story pp. 2-4; Book of Mormon Title Page). Both accounts state that the abridgement will be buried along with the original so that it will not be destroyed and will come forth In a future age when the Europeans [or] "gentiles" inhabit this land (Manuscript Story pp. 3-4; I Nephi 13:35). Each author makes a statement about the truthfulness of his work and urges the reader to peruse the translated volume with a pure heart (Manuscript Story pp. 2-3; Moroni 10:4).
When the above parallels are examined, they appear to be much more than the "milk" and "adultery" ridiculed by Nibley as vague similarities in the two accounts. When Nibley's rule "the closer the resemblance, the closer the connection" is applied to the above similarities, the investigator has obvious cause to take a closer look at the authorship question.
The Sea Voyage
The first ancient author for each record, (Nephi in the Book of Mormon and Fabius in Manuscript Story) begins his story by introducing himself in a short personal history. Each says he comes from a good family in the ancient Old World and that he had an excellent education for those times (Manuscript Story p. 4; 1 Nephi 19).
The Spaulding account proceeds immediately to a narrative of a sea voyage; the Book of Mormon account first tells stories of the Lehites and their travels in the wilderness before they sail. When the Book of Mormon account reaches the Lehites' sea voyage, it again closely resembles the Spaulding story.
In each story, after "provision" is made for the voyage; the travelers set sail. Eventually, a great "storm arose" and the voyagers became lost at sea. Not knowing which way to steer, they became frightened lest they be buried in a "watery" grave [or a "watery" tomb]. Both parties then prayed to God for deliverance [and then were delivered]. Both mention the number of days (four and five) they were "driven" out of control by the storm (Manuscript Story pp. 4-5;
1 Nephi 18:8-15).
Some of these parallels might be thought by some to be common to many accounts of sea voyages. But [the parallelism takes on more significance] when we add to [it] the facts that both sailing parties were nearly the same size, that each party had aboard about the same number of women, who were or who became wives of the men aboard each ship, and that both parties sailed to the unknown New World under divine guidance. 8
8 In Spaulding's story, a "voice from on high" assured the Christian voyagers that they would be "guided by gentle winds" to a safe landing. In the Book of Mormon the Lehites [later Christians] received divine guidance through a special compass prepared for them by God.
The Promised Land
In the Spaulding account, the voyagers land in America and find it infested with "wild beasts." They appoint ruling judges; believe in Christ; have all things in common; and counsel each other that they should not intermarry with the "copper colored" savages; but, if they should, their children would be "fair and . . . white." They build a Christian church in ancient America [along with the beginnings of a priesthood]. (Manuscript Story pp. 7-11).
In the Nephite account, the Lehites find "wild beasts" in the forest; [come to] believe in Christ and build a Christian temple in ancient America; eventually appoint ruling judges; and, at one time in their subsequent development, have all things in common. They are counseled not to intermarry with their dark-skinned brethren, but instead of the possibility of the savages becoming "fair and white," (as in Spaulding's story) the Book of Mormon people originally were "white and fair" and those who intermarried were changed by the Lord into a dark-skinned, loathsome people (1 Nephi 18:25; 2 Nephi 5:16, 21-23; 3 Nephi 26:19).
It is important at this point to call attention to the fact that the Book of Mormon concepts concerning the dark- and light-colored people are exactly opposite to those in Spaulding's story. Spaulding has descendants of dark-skinned people turning "fair and white" while the Book of Mormon writer has descendants of "white and fair" people turning dark. Many of the parallels between the Book of Mormon and Spaulding's Manuscript Story are typified by a similar reversal of conceptual word order.
Spaulding continues his description of the savage natives, saying that they wore skins only on the middle parts of their bodies; shaved their heads and painted them red; and used slings and bows and arrows. The Book of Mormon says the savage Lamanites wore skins about their loins; shaved their heads and painted them red; and used slings and bows and arrows (Manuscript Story p. 11; Alma 3:4-5).
Next in the Spaulding manuscript comes a remarkable account of the natives' religion. "Their ceremonies were . . . different from any that were ever practiced." They were "dressed and ornamented in the highest fashion." According to Spaulding, when the people assembled, their leader in worship mounted a stage, extended his hands, addressed his people, and spoke of them as the "favorite children of the Great and Good Spirit" (Manuscript Story pp. 11-12).
The Book of Mormon tells a similar story. Its Zoramites "did worship after a manner which Alma and his brethren had never beheld." They "ornamented" themselves with "costly apparel" and gathered together in their synagogue. The worshiper mounted a high stand, stretched forth his hands towards heaven, and spoke of the great God as being a spirit who "hast elected us to be thy holy children . . . a chosen and a holy people" (Alma 31:13-28).
The Solar System
The Spaulding story has more to say about the religious practices of the natives; then says the revolutions of the planets in our solar system display the "wisdom of its (the solar system's) Almighty Architect" (Manuscript Story p. 16). In the chapter just preceding the Zoramite story, the Book of Mormon says that the revolutions of the planets "do witness that there is a Supreme Creator" (Alma 30:44). Incidentally, the knowledge that the planets revolve about the sun rather than about the earth was not popularized until 1543 A.D. There is no historical evidence that either the ancient Romans or the ancient Jews understood and taught this Copernican astronomy, yet both texts make the same error.
In the Spaulding account, the "little society" of Roman colonists was trying to find a way back to Europe by traveling westward, knowing that the earth was round and that eventually they might return to their homeland. (This part of the account ignores the fact that such knowledge would have pre-dated Columbus.) Part of their group set out to explore the possible route and to seek other nations of people. They were accompanied by an "interpreter" to help in case they encountered unknown languages. Traveling to the other side of a mountain, they found a new people, who took them before their king. That ruler "asked a number of very pertinent questions and received answers to his satisfaction." Having succeeded in the purpose of this journey, the party then returned to the Roman colony (Manuscript Story pp. 18-19).
The Nephite account says Ammon took a "small party" of men and wandered in the wilderness looking for some of their people, who had left Zarahemla previously to find their original homeland. Ammon's party passed a hill, then came down into the land of Nephi. They were brought before the king and "commanded that they should answer the questions which he should ask them." Ammon then answered the questions the king asked. The king later asked if Ammon could "interpret" unknown languages. Ammon and his party eventually returned to the land of Zarahemla in company with the king and his subjects (Mosiah 7:8, 8:6).
In this parallel, we find some small differences and reversals in the two accounts. The mountain in Spaulding's story becomes a hill in the Book of Mormon. Instead of finding the king friendly, the Book of Mormon travelers find a hostile king who later becomes friendly. Instead of taking an interpreter to the king, Ammon takes the king back with him to the interpreter.
When Spaulding's Roman colonists migrated inland they encountered a people known as the "Ohons," who lived on the "banks of the Ohio River" in a "great city called Owhahon" (Manuscript Story p. 20). When the Book of Mormon Nephites first migrated inland, they came upon a civilization who called themselves the
"people of Zarahemla," who lived on the "banks of a river" in the "great city of Zarahemla" (Omni 1:4; cf. George Reynolds, Concordance of the Book of Mormon, p. 849).
In Manuscript Story, Spaulding describes the culture of the Ohon people. He tells of their dress, the crops they raised (including American corn and Old World wheat), and of [their] having domesticated mammoths and horses. He also tells of building a "forge," the working of iron and lead, the making of steel tools, and of keeping civil and sacred records (Manuscript Story pp. 22; 23, 26, 35)
The Book of Mormon tells of the crops the people raised (including American corn and Old World wheat), and of [their] having domesticated elephants and horses. In an earlier part of the book, Nephi says they made a "bellows;" refined "all manner of ore;" made steel tools; and that their records were both civil and sacred (Mosiah 9:9; Ether 9:19; 1 Nephi 17:9-16; Jacob 1: 2-4).
Both authors make the mistake of saying that wheat was grown in ancient America. While there is extensive evidence for the ancient development and spread of maize cultivation in the Americas, there is no archeological evidence supporting wheat cultivation: [stratified remains of ancient maize pollen are found throughout late pre-columbian sites; wheat pollen is totally lacking]. If a grain as useful as wheat had ever been cultivated in ancient America, its use undoubtedly would have been continued by the Indians along with maize. Similar mistakes are made in reference to modern horses, domesticated elephants or mammoths, and the use of steel in ancient America.
The Spaulding account tells of the learning of the Ohons, saying that these Americans had "characters" representing words as did the people of "Egypt or Chaldea." It goes on to say: "They generally wrote on parchment and beginning at the right wrote from the top to the bottom, placing each character directly under the preceding one" (Manuscript Story p. 25).
The abridger of the Nephite record says: ". . . we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us reformed Egyptian" (Mormon 9:32). Professor Charles Anthon of Columbia University described the Book of Mormon characters given to him by Martin Harris, for translation, as being arranged in columns, like the Chinese mode of writing." 9
In both stories, the people were governed by kings who passed their kingdoms on to their sons. They both say that, in the times between wars, trade or commerce took place between nations (Manuscript Story pp. 43, 40; Mosiah 6:3, 24:7). Both accounts mention a system of taxation (Manuscript Story p. 44; Mosiah 11:3) and large, domesticated animals that are unknown today (Manuscript Story p. 18; Ether 9:19).
In the Spaulding story, their houses were "built of wood" and were "sufficiently spacious" with no "ornamental trumpery," and their "palaces" were built with splendor and beauty (Manuscript Story pp. 23-24).
9 Cited in Francis W. Kirkham's A New Witness for Christ in America, vol 1, p. 368.
The Book of Mormon's King Noah "built many elegant and spacious buildings; and
. . . ornamented them with fine work of wood" and "he also built him a spacious palace" (Mosiah 11:8-9).
In both Spaulding's Manuscript Story and the Book of Mormon, the story elements are the same in all of the above references -- different stories, but [made up of] the same story elements -- pointing to the possibility of both works having been written by the same author, or of the ideas of one author being used by another.
Chapter XII of Spaulding's story tells of the Ohons' religion. The similarities between the theological concepts described in this chapter and those given in an address by the Book of Mormon's King Benjamin are conspicuous. Both accounts present numerous religious teachings to the people that are nearly identical in meaning and are listed in each account in exactly the same order.
In Spaulding's story, the writer of the record says that he is taking the tenets of their theology from their scriptural "Sacred Roll." King Benjamin takes his theology from their scriptural "plates of brass" (Manuscript Story p. 26; Mosiah 1:3).
The Sacred Roll denounces immorality saying "the seduction of thy neighbor's wife would be a great crime," but says that polygamy is permissible "with the permission of the King" (Manuscript Story p. 29). In the Book of Mormon, Jacob denounces immorality the same way. He says: "but the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes." Then he goes on to say that polygamy is permissible if the Lord commands it (Jacob 2:23, 30).
Spaulding's people formed "assemblies" to hear a learned holy man; then a sacrifice for sin was commanded. The Book of Mormon people "assembled" to hear their great religious teacher; then they "took the firstlings of their flocks that they might offer sacrifice." Spaulding's exortation ends with, "Be attentive, O man, . . . and pay respect to all the commandments" (Manuscript Story pp. 31-32). King Benjamin's address ends with a warning to "observe the commandments of God . . . now, O man, remember and perish not" (Mosiah 2:3, 4:30).
All of Spaulding's chapter on religion was written in chiastic style. He presents one set of ideas, then gives the same ideas again in reverse order. This style of writing is also found throughout the Book of Mormon. More will be said about writing style later in this study.
The theological similarities noted above are presented in the same place in the story outlines in both works, suggesting that the Book of Mormon writer followed the Spaulding outline.
A Divine Reformer
At this point, the Spaulding story tells of a great religious leader called Lobaska, whose birthplace was unknown and who caused the two warring kingdoms to unite under one government.
There were many traditions concerning this person "which have the complexion of the miraculous." When he ascended into the air, "wisdom and knowledge was communicated to him." He "had a wonderful faculty to intermix some wise sayings," and "multitudes frequently assembled and importuned him to give them instruction." They "generally believed that he held conversation with celestial beings and always acted under the influence of divine inspiration." The people "received as sacred and divine truth every word which he taught them." "They forsook their old religion, which was a confused . . . medley of idoletry (sic)," and followed his teachings which were taken from the Sacred Roll (Manuscript Story pp. 32-36).
This account of the great Lobaska, in Spaulding's story, has a striking resemblance to the Book of Mormon story of Christ visiting America. Christ's teachings united two nations, the Nephites and the Lamanites, who had been warring for many years. He taught the "multitudes" from the sacred words of Isaiah (3 Nephi 16:17), which were originally recorded on a great roll (Isaiah 8: 1). They forsook their current religion (the law of Moses) to follow his teachings (3 Nephi 9:17-19).  In an earlier part of the Book of Mormon record, "Nephi did seek diligently to restore the Lamanites unto the true faith in God. But our labors were vain," they became "full of idolatry" (Enos 1:20).
After the visit of their divine teacher, the people of Spaulding's two empires, Sciota and Kentuck, who were related to each other and called each other "brothers" and "cousins," enjoyed a period of peace that lasted for a term of nearly five hundred years. During this time, their villages and cities were greatly enlarged, new settlements were formed in every part of the country, a great number of towns were built, and their population increased rapidly. They credited their prosperity and increase to their religion which presented powerful motives to restrain vice and impiety and encouraged virtue (Manuscript Story pp. 53-54).
The period of peace enjoyed by the Book of Mormon Nephite and Lamanite nations was similar to that of the Sciota and Kentuck empires. Peoples of these two nations were also related to each other, being descendants of brothers.  After Christ's visit to them, their peace lasted for three hundred and twenty years. "And the Lord did prosper them exceedingly in the land; yea insomuch that they did build cities again . . . The people had multiplied, insomuch that they were spread upon all the face of the land, and that they had become exceedingly rich,  because of their prosperity in Christ" (4 Nephi 1:48; also 1:7, 23).
To prevent "frequent bickerings, contentions and wars" from taking place, the great Lobaska divided the Ohons into two empires, "one on each side of the Ohio River" (Manuscript Story p. 43). In the Book of Mormon, after the long period of peace, a war began again between the Nephites and the Lamanites: "and . . . we did get the land of our inheritance divided." The Nephites were given the Land Northward and the Lamanites, the Land Southward (Mormon 2:28-29).
Lobaska formed a system of government designed to reform and civilize the Ohons. All controversies were heard by their judges, who held sittings annually, judged grievances, and determined punishment for oppression and injustice. Their "chiefs" met once each year to make laws for the good of the nation (Manuscript Story pp. 42-43). The Book of Mormon's Nephihah was appointed "chiefjudge" to judge and govern the people. He was given the power to enact and enforce laws according to the crimes of the people (Alma 4:16-17).
Spaulding's Lambon had the title of "high priest" and the office was handed down to each succeeding eldest male of his family (Manuscript Story p. 44). In the Book of Mormon, Alma was consecrated by his father to be "high priest" over the church of God (Alma 5:3). [King Mosiah exercised high priestly authority which he granted unto Alma; later Mosiah's son, Ammon, became a high priest. (Mosiah 25:19; Alma 30:20.]
Spaulding says of money: "It is therefore provided that certain small pieces of iron, stamped in a peculiar manner, shall be this circulating medium . . . Each piece according to its particular stamp shall have a certain value fixed upon it" (Manuscript Story pp. 44-45). The Book of Mormon says: "Now these are the names of the different pieces of gold, and of their silver, according to their value" (Alma 1 1:4). In the Spaulding story, the ["pieces" -- they are never called "coins" in either text] were made for the payment of the wages of their high councilors (judges). Care was to be taken, however, that no more money was given them "than an adequate compensation for their services," according to the law given by Lobaska (Manuscript Story p. 45). In the Book of Mormon story their [metalic pieces] were also made for the payment of the wages of judges. "Every man who was a judge of the law . . . should receive wages according to the time which they labored . . . and this is according to the law which was given" (Alma 11:1-3).
The tone of this part of Spaulding's story concerning the judges, rulers, and priests was that they were suspected of being dishonest insofar as compensation for their services was concerned. They were accused of "malconduct" and of being "offenders" of the law (Manuscript Story pp. 44-45). Dishonesty also existed among the Book of Mormon judges: "The foundation of the destruction of this people is beginning to be laid by the unrighteousness of your lawyers and your judges" (Alma 10:27, 11:20).
Notice that the above concepts of judges making laws, inherited succession of high priests, and the coining of money [especially] for payment of wages to corrupt judges are recorded in succession in both texts, suggesting that the earlier written Spaulding story served as an outline in the writing of the Book of Mormon.
During the long period of peace, Spaulding's people continued to "fortify their country in every part . . . provided a war should take place. Near every village or city they constructed forts or fortifications. Those were generally of an oval form. The ramparts, or walls
were formed of dirt. A deep canal or trench would likewise be formed. In addition to this they inserted a piece of timber on the top of the ramparts. These pieces were about seven feet in length from the ground to the top which was sharpened. The distance between each piece was about six inches, through which they could shoot their arrows against an enemy. A country thus fortified . . . might be well supposed as able to defend themselves against an invading enemy." (Manuscript Story pp. 54-55).
A similar story is told in the Book of Mormon. During a period of peace, "Moroni did not stop making preparations for war, or to defend his people against the Lamanites; for he caused that his armies should commence . . . in digging up heaps of earth round about all the cities . . . and upon the top of these ridges of earth he caused that there should be timbers, yea, works of timbers built up to the height of a man . . . And he caused that upon these works of timbers there should be a frame of pickets built upon the timbers round about . . . a he caused places of security to be built . . . that the stones and the arrows of the Lamanites could not hurt them . . . thus Moroni did prepare strongholds against the coming of their enemies . . ." (Alma 50:1-6).
The Spaulding account says: ". . . the Almighty is provoked to chastise them and to execute his vengeance in their overthrow and destruction" (Manuscript Story p. 55). The Nephite account says: ". . . the voice of the Lord came unto me saying: Vengeance is mine, and I will repay; and because this people repented not after I had delivered them, behold, they shall be cut off from the face of the earth" (Mormon 3:15).
In Spaulding's story, the war ending the long peace was caused by the seduction of the king's daughter, Lamesa, and her friend, Heliza. They were "stolen" and "carried off" by the young prince of Kentuck (Manuscript Story p. 69). In the Book of Mormon, a war was caused by the priests of King Noah, who "had stolen" and "did carry away" the daughters of the Lamanites (Mosiah 20:15-18). In both stories the seduced women married their seducers.
The terminology used to describe special people is the same in both records. Each had kings, queens, priests, rulers and teachers, holy prophets, high priests, holy men, chiefs, officers, captains, chief captains, priesthood, brethren, warriors, tribes, multitudes, little bands, judges, commanders, and different classes of people.
There were many different tribes of people in both stories. Spaulding had Deliwans, Ohons, Sciotans, Kentucks, and various tribes living near the Sciotan empire (Manuscript Story pp. 45-46). The Book of Mormon writer had Nephites, Lamanites, Mulekites, Lemuelites, Josephites, Ammonites,
Amalekites, Amlicites, Zoramites, Jaredites, etc. (Manuscript Story pp. 45-46; Book of Mormon, scattered throughout).
A Seer Stone
Spaulding's prophet [or seer], Hamack, possessed a transparent stone through which he could "behold the dark intrigues" of his enemies and " discover hidden treasures" (Manuscript Story p. 75). Gazalem, the Book of Mormon's servant of the Lord, was given a stone that shone in the dark,  through which he could "discover unto them the works of . . . (their enemies), yea, their secret works, their works of darkness" (Alma 37:23). In both stories, the works of darkness had originated in ancient times (Manuscript Story p. 74; 2 Nephi 26:22, Alma 37:21). Again it seems as though a single mind produced the story concepts, presented both in Spaulding's Manuscript Story and [in] the Book of Mormon.
Many of the war stories in the Book of Mormon contain tactical stratagems and descriptions of battles that are almost identical to Spaulding's battle narratives. In the Spaulding account, the war was fought to "avenge" their "country's wrongs," [Manuscript Story p. 79, 83]. In the Book of Mormon, "the war was waged to avenge" the "wrongs" [caused by] their enemies, [Alma 54:24; 61:6]. Warriors in both "died in the cause of their country and their God," [Manuscript Story p. 79, cf. Alma 56:11]. Both records develop the theme of a small band of young, daring "warriors," who were called "their sons" and who were "determined to conquer or die," [Manuscript Story p. 91, cf. Alma 56:17] in the defense of their country. The terms used to describe this [very large "small band"] of young warriors are similar in both works. In Spaulding, they are described as a "chosen band of warriors ," "my brave warriors," "my brave sons," "young heroes," "a band of about three thousand resolute warriors," a "small band of valiant citizens," and a "little band of desperate heroes" (Manuscript Story pp. 89, 90, 98, 100, 108). In the Book of Mormon, they are described as "two thousand stripling warriors," "my two thousand sons," "two thousand young men," "my little army," "my little band of two thousand," "young men valiant for courage," and "my little band (who) fought most desperately" (Book of Mormon: Alma Chapter 53 Heading [not in 1830 edition]; Alma 56:9,10, 33; 57:6; 53:20; 57:19).
In both stories, night-time stratagems were developed and given special importance. Each tells of enemies caught off guard while they were "in a profound sleep" [or sleeping in a profound silence. (Manuscript Story p. 98; cf. Mosiah 24:19; Alma 55:16-17)]
In the Spaulding account, the remains of the dead were secured from "the voracious jaws of carniverous beasts" by "digging into the ground about three feet deep . . . they there deposited the bodies in it . . . and then placing others upon them until the whole were deposited, they then proceeded to throw dirt upon them, to raise over them a high mound" (Manuscript Story p. 95). A similar description is found in the Book of Mormon's story of Zoram. It reads: ". . . in one day it (the city) was left desolate; and the carcasses (of the dead) were mangled by . . . wild beasts . . . Nevertheless after many days their dead bodies were heaped up upon the face of the earth, and they were covered with a shallow covering" (Alma 16:10,11). [The "heaped up" Book of Mormon battlefield dead parallel Spaulding's "heaps" of battlefield dead (Manuscript Story p. 100).]
The Helaman War
In the battle for the city of Gamba in Spaulding's novel, a "band of about three thousand resolute warriors seized their arms, determined to risk their lives in defense of the city. The leader of this band was Lamock, the eldest son of Labanco" (Manuscript Story p. 100.)
In the Book of Mormon's Helaman war, a "band of two thousand" stripling warriors "have taken their weapons of war, and would that I (Helaman, the eldest son of Alma) should be their leader; and have come forth to defend our country" (Alma 57:6, 56:5).
In the Spaulding story, "Rambock marched his whole army towards the city of Gamba
. . . to enter the city through that passage and to fall upon the rear of the Kentucks . . . These heroes now found the war to rage both in front and rear . . . " (Manuscript Story pp. 100-101).
In the Book of Mormon, "Helaman did march at the head of these two thousand young men to the city of Judea . . . We were desirous, if they should pass by us to fall upon them in their rear, and thus bring them up in the rear at the same time they were met in the front" (Alma 56:9, 23).
The Spaulding warriors delayed their attack until morning to prevent the enemy from making their escape in the "darkness of the night . . . and as soon as the morning light appeared they marched a small distance to a hill . . . they beheld Hamboon's army marching towards them. He halted within about half a mile of the Sciotans . . . (then) ordered Hanock . . . (to) lie in ambush in their rear" (Manuscript Story pp.102-103).
In the Book of Mormon, Helaman's army marched at night, but "when the light of the morning came we saw the Lamanites upon us, and we did flee before them . . . they did not pursue us far before they halted . . . that they might catch us in their snare" (Alma 56:41-43).
Battle at Hill Riplah
The description of the battle at the hill Riplah between the Nephites and the Lamanites in the Book of Mormon is very similar to that of a battle between the Sciotans and the Kentucks in Manuscript Story.
"By using a little stratagem," Spaulding's Sciotans "marched down the river to a certain place where the army of the enemy must pass . . . At this place, the hill . . . came within less than a mile of the river." The Sciotans divided their forces and ambushed the enemy as they crossed the canal. Having compassion for the trapped enemy, Lobaska "conjured the Sciotans not to shed one drop of blood" (Manuscript Story pp. 37-39).
The Book of Mormon's Moroni [made the same defense] "by stratagem." After discovering which course the enemy would take, he divided his army, concealed them by a hill, then ambushed the Lamanites as they were crossing the river. After subduing the Lamanites, Moroni said: "We do not desire to be men of blood . . . we do not desire to slay you" (Alma 43:30-36; 44:1).
In both stories, the losing army is more than double the number of the winning army, but the warriors are so struck with "terror" by the ambush that they "throw down" their arms and surrender. Then, in both stories, the losing commander has a personal conversation with the opposing commander, asking him to "spare their lives," after which a treaty of peace is made and the losing warriors return to their own country (Manuscript Story pp. 38-39; cf. Alma 43:51, 44:15, 19). Warriors [among] the opposing nations in both stories were related -- being offspring of the same family -- and called each other "brother."
In the Spaulding story, a number of letters were exchanged between Hamboon, the Emperor of Kentuck, and Rambock, the Emperor of Sciota, about a crime committed by the Prince of Kentuck. The offense of the prince "outraged the authority of their government and the rights of their Empire" (Manuscript Story p. 71). In the Book of Mormon, a number of "epistles" were exchanged between Ammoron, the Lamanite king, and Moroni, the Nephite prophet and commander. Their correspondence concerned "their rights to the government" (Alma 54:24). The [sets of] letters in both texts are located in about the same [relative] place in each story outline.
In the Spaulding text, a Sciotian commander "fabricated stories that were calculated to arouse prejudice and resentment" among his people to incite them to make war with the Kentucks (Manuscript Story p. 74). The Lamanite King Ammoron used the same "fraud" to arouse his people to make war with the Nephites. Ammoron told his people that their fathers had been "robbed of their right to the government" (Alma 54:17; 55:1). In both stories, God was said to have been on the side of the defenders and in their correspondence both commanders became "angry" and threatened to make war (Manuscript Story pp. 76, 74; cf. Alma 54:9-10, 13).
The wars that followed, in both stories, were fought to "avenge the wrongs" committed by the opposing nation. Both were "determined to conquer or die . . . in the cause of their country and their God" (Manuscript Story pp. 79, 86; cf. Alma 54:24, 56:17, 11)
The Last Great Battle
In the Spaulding's [penultimate] "the great battle of Geheno . . . near three hundred thousand" warriors fought in the battle. "Many valiant chiefs who commanded under their respective kings were overthrown." The losing army retreated until the warriors came to a "hill" and camped "where they had the advantage of the ground" (Manuscript Story pp. 90-91, 94).
In the Book of Mormon's "the great and tremendous battle at Cumorah," more than two hundred and thirty thousand warriors were killed along with their "chiefs." Their armies had retreated from city to city until they finally pitched their tents at the "hill Cumorah" where they "hoped to gain advantage over the Lamanites" (Mormon 6:4, 11-15; 8:2).
In the Manuscript Story account, the king of the Sciotans sent a letter to the king of the Kentucks informing him that war had been declared and that the Sciotans were about to exterminate "all the inhabitants of the empire of Kentuck." The Sciotans began to gather in all their armies from their respective kingdoms for [the] battle (Manuscript Story pp. 80-82). In the Book of Mormon, the king of the Lamanites sent an "epistle" to Mormon, the Nephite leader, informing him that they were preparing to come to battle against them. Mormon then gathered his armies together to prepare for battle (Mormon 3:4-5).
The armies of the Sciotans, who gathered for the "great battle" were led by their respective "chiefs." Habelon came with fifteen thousand warriors, Ulipoon with eighteen thousand, Numapoon with sixteen thousand, and Ramock with ten thousand. All of the Sciotan armies were under the command of Rambock, the "commander in chief," whose son, Moonrod, was also a commander (Manuscript Story pp. 81, 83, 100). The armies of the Book of Mormon Nephites, who gathered for the "great battle" were led by their respective "chiefs:" Gidgiddonah, Lamah, Gilgal, Limhah, Joneam, Camenihah Moronihah, Antionum, Shiblom, Shem, and Josh. Each chief came with ten thousand men. All of these armies were under the command of Mormon, whose son, Moroni, also commanded ten thousand men (Mormon 6:11-14).
Unfortunately, pages 133 and 134 of the original Spaulding manuscript are missing, but page 135 begins with "Habelon, King of Chiango, was the next proud chief who appeared." The statement suggests that the missing pages contained the names of other Sciotan chiefs who also led armies. Page 86 of the Millennial Star printing gives the total number of warriors in the Sciotan armies as being one hundred and fifty thousand. As many as thirteen Sciotan chiefs with eleven thousand five hundred men each may have participated in this battle of "extermination." These numbers approximate the number of armies and warriors described in the Book of Mormon account. In both stories, [some] escaped the great slaughter, but [many] were hunted down and destroyed (Manuscript Story p. 105; cf. Mormon 6:15).
Ulipoon, the cowardly Sciotan commander, deserted the Sciotan armies on the eve of a great battle, but later relented, [briefly] took command, and was "mortally wounded." After making a sorrowful dying statement about the war, "He spoke and deeply groaning, breathed no more" (Manuscript Story pp. 104-105). Mormon, the Nephite commander, also deserted his army on the eve of the great battle. He "utterly refused to go up against" his enemies, but later he "did repent of the oath which he had made" and again took command of his armies. Mormon also "fell (mortally) wounded" and made a sorrowful dying statement about the war (Mormon 3:16, 5:1, 6:16-22).
At the height of the battle, Hamboon, the commander of the losing army of Kentucks, "dispatched a messenger to Rambock, who agreed to an armistice for the term of two days," Mormon, the commander of the Nephite army, who also was losing the battle, "wrote
an epistle to the king of the Lamanites" asking him for time to gather his people at Cumorah for battle (Manuscript Story p. 95; cf. Mormon 6:2).
The writer of the [Manuscript Story] account describes the dead warriors as human bodies "widely strewn" on the field of battle, "mangled with the swords, spears, and arrows and besmeared with blood." The writer of the Nephite account says "they did fall upon my people with the sword and with the bow and with the arrow . . . and their flesh, and bones, and blood lay upon the face of the earth." Both accounts report that those slaughtered were of any age and either sex (Manuscript Story pp. 96-97; cf. Mormon 7:9, 15). Both accounts say that the conquering army entered the "villages" and burned the houses. Both say that those who escaped were hunted down and destroyed (Manuscript Story pp. 100-101; cf. Mormon 5:5-7).
After the great battle, Spaulding's story teller, who was [quoting] an eyewitness to the destruction, says "It is impossible to describe the horror of the bloody scene . . . the blood and carnage of so many brave warriors." The Nephite writer, who was an eye-witness to the destruction, says: "And it is impossible for the tongue to describe . . . the horrible scene of the blood and carnage . . . of the Nephite and of the Lamanites" (Manuscript Story p. 105; cf. Mormon 4:11).
Spaulding now tells a story of personal combat between two surrviving battle commanders: "Sambal . . . rushed upon him . . . and with his sword he struck Helicon's head from his body" (Manuscript Story p. 109). The Book of Mormon Jaredite commanders also meet in personal combat. They "fought again with the sword" and Coriantumr "smote off the head of Shiz" (Ether 15:29-30).
Sambal, the Sciotan commander, then challenges Elseon, another commander, to personal combat. "Sambal eager for revenge . . . sprang forward . . . raising his sword . . . but Elseon sprang back and Sambal's sword struck the ground with a prodigious force which broke in the middle." A Book of Mormon story relates a similar account of personal combat between opposing army commanders: "Zarahemna . . . being angry with Moroni . . . rushed forward that he might slay Moroni; but as he raised his sword . . . one of Moroni's soldiers smote it even to the earth, and it broke by the hilt" (Manuscript Story p. 110; cf. Alma 44:12).
Similarities to the battle segments in Spaulding's great battle of Geheno are found in Book of Mormon accounts of four different wars: two in the book of Alma, the great battle of Cumorah, and the last battle in the book of Ether.
last revised: May 12, 1999