- Dale R. Broadhurst's SPALDING RESEARCH PROJECT -
The Dale R. Broadhurst "Spalding Papers"
"It is impossible to describe the horror of the bloody scene... the blood & carnage"
A Commentary on M. D. Bown's "One Hundred Similarities"
Dale R. Broadhurst
Revision 0c: October 1998
Editorial and Bibliographic Information
Of making many books there is no end,
and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
ONE HUNDRED SIMILARITIES BETWEEN
THE BOOK OF MORMON
THE SPAULDING MANUSCRIPT
by M. D. Bown
( c. 1938, Brigham Young Univ. )
All my additions to Bown's original paper are shown in blue.
Numbers in square brackets are Bown's original pagination.
-- Dale R. Broadhurst --
pp. 01-06: Bown's Introduction
pp. 07-42: Bown's Spalding / Book of Mormon Similarities
pp. 07-12: Bown's Parallels 01-14, With Comment Added
01. Both are accounts of early inhabitants of America
12-15: Bown's Parallels 15-24, With Comment Added
15. The departure of a small party from the Old World
pp. 15-22: Bown's Parallels 25-47, With Comment Added
25. There were many tribes or races of people
pp. 22-26: Bown's Parallels 48-59, With Comment Added
48. The people had furnaces
pp. 27-34: Bown's Parallels 60-78, With Comment Added
60. They had priests and high priestspp. 34-42: Bown's Parallels 79-99, With Comment Added
79. There were two dominent, but contrasting races or tribes
pp. 42-43: Bown's Footnotes (combined as endnotes)
pp. 43-45: Proper Names in the Spaulding Manuscript
[ pp. 01 to 06 ]
With the discovery and publication of the long-lost romance written by Solomon Spaulding and variously titled "Manuscript Story," "Manuscript Found," etc., supporters of the notion that Joseph Smith copied the BOOK OF MORMON from that story were forced to invent new explanations of the alleged relationship between the two works. On the other hand, Mormons delightedly hailed the discovery as positive vindication of their contention that the BOOK OF MORMON was a translation of divine aid, of records made by Israelite ancestors of the modern Indians.
Acceptance of the conclusion that the two works are entirely dissimilar, with "not one sentence, one incident, or one proper name common to both," 1 has been surprisingly easy, not only for Mormons, but for most anti-Mormons as well. And at the same time, it is rather puzzling, for there are many similarities and major parallels which have somehow escaped the attention of the writers. 2 It may be that when the readers of the Spaulding manuscript discovered that it was by no means what they had hoped, or feared, as the case might be, the dissimilarities loomed so huge that few gave the matter a second thought. Disappointed anti-Mormons turned their weapons elsewhere, while Mormons thankfully assumed that the old plagiarism charge was effectively silenced and have generally forgotten the entire controversy.
One might suppose that in a study of this type that there should exist a number of parallels between the two works, and when these had all been located, no additions could be made. This is only very broadly true, unfortunately, and has caused much difficulty throughout. What shall one consider as a genuine parallel? Reynolds 3 cites as a dissimilarity that the Roman party landed on the east coast of the American continent, while the Nephites landed on the west coast. Is it legitimate to use the fact that both landed on the American continent as an item of similarity? Again, the Mormon record was alleged to have been written in "reformed Egyptian," the Spaulding tale in Latin. Is it legitimate to cite that both records required translation as an item of similarity? As a matter of fact, most of the parallels itemized are of this nature -- two variations of exactly the same general idea, the same incident, or the same type of circumstance -- and this has been regarded as sufficient reason for including many items.
A second group of parallels includes those that are scarcely peculiar to both works and are relatively trivial in themselves, but in the aggregate, it is felt, approach significance. Thus is listed the fact that both records mention many rivers and bodies of water -- obviously trivial -- and should one also mention that there were wives, families, marriages, eating by the people, that night followed day, and the like? No fixed rule has been followed in these instances; most of this type have not been included, and perhaps many that were could well have been omitted. Still a third group of similarities might have been included, that is, those based upon an "absence of mention." For example, it is obviously witless to cite that neither work mentions railroads, but what shall we say to the fact that both works are, for example, exceedingly vague as to topography and geography, both frequently leave a character "in mid-air," introduce people without any antecedent history, were originally written without verse division, and the like? None of this type have been included.
Evidently, then, one might extend the list of parallels well-nigh indefinitely -- or attenuate it to near zero, depending upon the notion of what constituted "similarity" one preferred to adopt. And this, no doubt, would depend considerably upon one's personal prejudices, difficult to obviate where religious beliefs are concerned. Under the circumstances, the present writer has been very generous in listing similarities, depending largely in direct quotation, item for item, with only a minimum of comment, preferring others to be the judges as to whether the suggested parallels represent true similarities or not.
In a sense, any judgment as to whether Joseph Smith was guilty of plagiarism or not is a question for the courts, and it would be very interesting, no doubt, to analyze court decisions in copyright cases with the view of determining how similar two works must be in order to establish copyright infringement. But in the present case, Spaulding's unpublished manuscript under common law becomes "dedicated to the people," or what amounts to public property, and copyright infringement can never be tested. Spaulding's romance antedated the BOOK OF MORMON by about twenty years, but even so, similarity does not establish plagiarism of one or the other, for both might have been copied from a third manuscript. Certainty can never be established. If the similarities are sufficient one might hold that Joseph Smith must have read the Spaulding tale, even though there was no supplementary evidence that he did so. Or one might attempt to show that the manuscript was never available to Joseph Smith, and therefore any similarities that do exist are accidental. Again, one might argue that Joseph Smith had heard much of the story Spaulding had written in conversations with people familiar with it, such as, for example, while Smith was working in Onondaga Valley, New York, about 1823. Or again, both writers may have been merely reflecting the current traditions, legends, and speculations concerning the early American inhabitants, writing in terms of their own patterns of experience and thinking. Still again, one might contend that since Joseph Smith translated the BOOK OF MORMON from plates engraved fourteen hundred years before Spaulding was born, it is quite impossible that there could be any but accidental similarities between the two works. And so it goes -- the possibilities are well-nigh endless. In any event, one might murmur to those dubious of the authenticity of Smith's work" "Oh ye of little faith!" For after all, on the basis of faith, the position of Joseph Smith and his followers, as with all features of religion, is ultimately impregnable. If one has faith that the BOOK OF MORMON is [the] divine word of God, what difference does it make that it might be similar to one or forty other works? Be that as it may, the present writer holds no brief for any speculation, his task being simply one of presenting a number of apparent similarities and parallels between the published "Manuscript Story" written by Solomon Spaulding and a current edition of the BOOK OF MORMON.
This study has grown out of a minor paper on the so-called Spaulding theory of the origin of the BOOK OF MORMON prepared for a university class during the winter of 1935. A few similarities between the two works were collected at that time, and continued interest resulted in further extending the comparison during the summer of 1935. Subsequently several new items were added, but not until the summer of 1937 was there a systematic comparison made; the present paper being based upon a careful reading of the entire BOOK OF MORMON (Plus re-reading of many parts) and several readings of the Spaulding story. I have used almost all the parallels suggested by other writers, particularly George B. Arbaugh and John Henry Evans, some eleven or twelve items in all came from these sources. Practically all the material had been collected before the very useful BOOK OF MORMON CONCORDANCE (prepared by George Reynolds) was available, but it has been an invaluable aid in checking and extending citations, as well as suggesting additional items of similarity. In a very real sense, however, Professor M. Wilford Poulson has made this study possible, and I am indebted to him not only for its inception but for continued guidance and encouragement. The errors of omission and commission are, however, my own.
M. D. Bown
1Publisher's Preface to Spaulding's "Manuscript Story," Liverpool: Millennial Star Office, 1910, 116pp.
2E.g.: George Reynolds ("The Myth of the 'Manuscript Found'". Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor, 1883, p. 49). B.H. Roberts (NEW WITNESSES FOR GOD, volume 3, p. 377), and Robert C. Webb (THE CASE AGAINST MORMONISM, N.Y.: L.L. Walton, 1915, p. 53) are Mormons who find no similarity. John Henry Evans (ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF MORMONISM, Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1915, p. 102) notes a few similarities. George B. Arbaugh (REVELATION IN MORMONISM, Chicago: University of Chicago, 1932), however, observed that there are "striking resemblances" between the two stories, listing some nineteen items, all of which are included in this paper. (Cf. pp. 17-18 of his book.)
3Reynolds, op. cit p, 52. He entitles a chapter "Utter Disagreement of the Two Histories" (pp. 45-54), pointing out many instances which from his point of view are dissimilarities, since he apparently demands exact agreement. All of these are actually but two variations of identical incidents and in this paper are included as items of similarity.
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