Commentary on M. D. Bown's

Book of Mormon / Spalding MS Parallels

Numbers 15-24
(Full Commentary)


Dale R. Broadhurst

Revision 0a: September, 1998

Editorial and Bibliographic Information

Go Back to Introduction & Index  [ pp. 01 to 06 ]

[ p. 07 ]


Between Spaulding's "Manuscript Story"

and the Book of Mormon

Specific and single similarities have been isolated, listed separately, and numbered, with the paralleling citations from each work following. Whenever possible, direct quotations have been made. Only when necessary has discussion been utilized, and here care has been taken that the duplicating references are amply and accurately recorded -- but even so, errors no doubt will appear. This method of listing parallels is cumbersome perhaps, and has involved exceeding labor in preparation; but it seems to have the merit of providing direct comparison between the two works with a minimum of vagueness.

"MS" refers to Solomon Spaulding's "Manuscript Story," the edition used being published at the Millennial Star Office, Liverpool, England, 1910, 116 pages. "BM" refers to the BOOK OF MORMON, and the edition used was published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, 1920, 522pp.

Please Read These Notes First:

1. All additions to Bown's original paper are shown in blue.
2. Commentary here as a summary; For full commentary follow the links.
3. The Commentator's Personal Ratings of Bown's Parallels:
    *      poor parallel or not a parallel: should have been dropped
  **      fair parallel: may have errors or inconsistencies
 ***    solid parallel: generally correct with useful information
****   significant parallel: may indicate an inter-textual relationship

Some On-line Textual Resources:

1. Search the Book of Mormon:  LDS and RLDS texts (side-by-side scrolling comparison)
2. Search the Book of Mormon:  Current LDS edition (includes phrase search)
3. Search the Book of Mormon:  1830 edition (includes concordance functions)

4. Search the Spalding MS:  Special e-text version (includes concordance functions)
5. Search the Spalding MS:  Special e-text (side-by-side with 1830 Book of Alma)
6. Search the Spalding MS:  LDS 1910 edition (the edition used in Bown's citations)
7. Read Holley's book:  Book of Mormon: A Closer Look (Spalding / BoM Comparisons)

8. Search the Bible:  King James version (includes Apocrypha & concordance functions)

9. Search Ethan Smith's Book:  View of the Hebrews (includes concordance functions)


Go Back to: Parallels 01-14  [ pp. 07 to 11 ]

[ pp. 12 to 15 ]

15. Both works include an account of the departure of a small party from the Old World.

Full comments on item #15:

Both the Roman and Lehite parties of God-fearing men and women departed from an Old World capital city, little knowing what adventures awaited them. Both were sent on their way by high authority and both at first had fair sailing. There are several other sub-paralles linking the two groups, and the list could be lengthened by inclusion of commonalities both shared with the Jaredites.

Like the Lehites, Spalding's Roman party did not depart directly for the New World, but neither did they wander for years, like the Lehites, before departing on the final leg of their unplanned journey. Bown's parallel could be enlarged by adding some of the other specifics regarding each party. Both were commanded to leave on a journey by a high authority (God / Emperor); both carried with them numerous goods useful for colonization in an unknown land; both parties included women of child-bearing age; both were composed of believers in the Judeo-Christian God; both began their great journeys after passing through known foreign lands; etc.

Adding such sub-parallels merely to strengthen one's debating position on whether or not the Book of Mormon is a "true" book would probably be counter-productive; for each parallel cited an "unparallel" could be summoned up to match it. But, for our purposes of identifying and understanding the works' similarities for their own sake, this seemingly petty enlargement of parallels may eventually be put to some creditworthy use.


16. The people crossed the ocean in a sailing vessel.

Full comments on item #16:

Presumably the two vessels were of comparable size and construction. Fabius' ship was no doubt the product of a Roman shipyard; while Lehi's craft was a home-made production, similar in origin (if not design and size) to Noah's ark. Given the divine intervention in Lehi's case, it hardly seems worthwhile to raise the point that ships of those days were not constructed with the thought of crossing an Ocean. True ocean-going ships would have been rare or non-existent at this time, although some ships did sail beyond the Mediterranean and Arabian seas. Later, true ocean-going vessels were developed for crossing the open Atlantic and Indian oceans.

In his comments on the subject Holley notes that "In each story, after 'provision' is made for the voyage, the travelers set said." An examination of the use of the word "provision" shows that it used frequently in both works in the same way (and with the same idiomatic pecularities in certain instances).


17. A great storm arose.

Full comments on item #17:

No good tale of the crossing of the unknown seas would be complete without at least one good, rip-roaring storm to heighten the suspense and open otherwise unavailable opportunities for the writer and the story characters alike. So, we almost expect this in the Spalding romance. The appearance of the tremendous storm serves a number of purposes for Spalding, the chief of which is that it propels his ship across the wide Atlantic without subjecting him to recounting the monotonous weeks of a real sailing voyage.

The great storms encountered in the Nephite and Jaredite crossings may not be told to heighten suspense, but they do accomplish some of the same purposes for the narrative as does Spalding's. In all three stories the reader senses God's directing presence in both the storm and its aftermath. I'll speak more of this in my comments regarding Bown's items 20-22.

Having noted that storms at sea are an inevitable story element (from the adventures of Odysseus, Aeneas, and Jonah, to St. Paul's travels and Shakespeare's "The Tempest"), we might think that this parallel is weakened by its frequent occurrence in literature. There is, however, some common phraseology which actually strengthens the parallel. Spalding says "A tremendous STORM AROSE;" and the record on the small plates of Nephi says "there AROSE A great STORM." Spalding says the storm "drove us . . . after being DRIVEN . . . before the furious wind" and Nephi's text says "we were DRIVEN back upon the waters." The Jaredite record speaks of its voyagers as being "IN THE MIDST OF THE sea," their going forth across the "RAGING DEEP," and their being "DRIVEN forth before the wind." Spalding's voyagers were "DRIVEN" "INTO THE MIDST OF THE boundless Ocean . . . THE RAGING DEEP." Obviously all three accounts share a good deal of common vocabulary at this point in their stories.


18. The voyagers became frightened, and were lost.

Full comments on item #18:

The common phraseology continues with Spalding's "THEY KNEW NOT" and "DARKNESS had spread her sable mantle over THE FACE OF THE RAGING DEEP." Nephi uses the same "THEY KNEW NOT" and the brother of Jared fears crossing the "RAGING DEEP in DARKNESS." Spalding probably derived some of his wording from Lucan's The Civil War. Book V of that classical work speaks of sailors being "TOSSED" upon "THE RAGING DEEP . . . THE FURIOUS SEA" and their offering of "INCESSANT PRAYERS." Spalding has his sailors offering "INCESSANT SUPPLICATIONS" while being blown by "THE FURIOUS WIND." Lucan also speaks of "THE WIND," "WAVES," and "THE SEA." This same combination of words appears in the Book of Ether, where the voyagers "were TOSSED upon the WAVES of THE SEA before THE WIND. The Jaredite record says this tempest made "A FURIOUS WIND BLOW upon THE FACE OF THE waters.

The common occurrence of such a word constellation would not be unexpected in any number of stories about stormy ocean crossings. Shakespeare uses the same words in his Pericles, Prince of Tyre (Act II, Scene I), where he says: "For now the WIND begins to BLOW; Thunder above and DEEPS below, Make such unquiet, that the ship should house him safe is wreck'd and split; And he, good prince, having all lost, By WAVES from coast to coast is TOST." The bard of Avon ends this bit of poetry with a couplet decrying the hazard of a "WATERY GRAVE." We shall soon encounter variations of this same term in both Spalding's tale and in the Book of Mormon text.

Spalding probably picked up his "sable mantle" terminology from Edmund Spenser's play, "The Faerie Queene." In Book I, Canto XI of that production Spencer speaks of a personified "NIGHT, Who with HER SABLE MANTLE gan to shade THE FACE OF EARTH." Spalding more closely copies Spenser later in his romance when he tells the reader: "DARKNESS spread itself over THE FACE OF the EARTH."


19. The storm continued many days.

Full comments on item #19:

From the comments I've already provided we can see that the terrible storm is essentially the same in all three records (Roman, Nephite, and Jaredite), both in its attributes and in its effect upon the voyagers' ship. Spalding's Romans and Lehi's shipmates endured the monster tempest for about the same length of time. In both cases the furious winds drove the little vessels to their eventual landings much more quickly than would have the usual winds encountered in Atlantic crossings.

Mormon tradition and scholarship has decided that Lehi's party crossed the Pacific Ocean in order to make its landing in the Promised Land. Bown's item #23 addresses this supposed fact, but the text itself nowhere makes such a statement. What little we have of the story, from the small plates of Nephi, says that the Lehites were "driven back" from their original course and that Nephi had to make use of their special compass to chart a new course across the waves. The Lehites, like Spalding's Romans, may well have crossed the Atlantic Ocean rather than the Pacific.


20. They prayed to God for the storm to cease.

Full comments on item #20:

Spalding here introduces the subject of Christian religious practice for the first time in his romance. We might expect the Roman mariners and passengers to offer prayers to their natives deities, or perhaps to Constantine's Unconquered Sun, but they all apparently were supporters of the newly-approved imperial faith. Since Spalding no longer professed the Christian faith at the time he wrote his story, he probably introduced the prayers as a story element intended to add further suspense and verisimilitude to his ocean crossing. He himself did not believe in the intended effect of such prayers, but he expected a good share of his readers to accept their miraculous outcome.

In the midst of their oceanic storm the Jaredites "did cry unto the Lord . . . and when night came they DID NOT CEASE to praise the Lord." Spalding's travelers likewise offered "INCESSANT" prayers to the same God. In the case of the Lehites, only Nephi appears to have offered the prayers of supplication. Perhaps Jacob, Joseph, and Nephi's wife joined him in the prayers, but the rest of the voyagers appear to have done little more than repent of their prior bad handling of Nephi.

His parents were deathly ill at the time and could not join him in his prayers. In fact, they "were about to be brought down to lie low in the dust . . . they were near to be cast with sorrow into A WATERY GRAVE." This Nephite catachresis almost matches Spalding's own mixed metaphors when he speaks of his wind-tossed voyagers being near "the insatiable jaws of A WATERY TOMB." The Shakespearean antecedent of Spalding's salty burial terminology can be found among my comments for Bown's item #18. Where these untypically seafaring Israelites came up with such a term, I have no idea. At any rate, the prayers were answered: The Romans escaped their WATERY TOMB and the Lehites were rescued from their WATERY GRAVE.


21. Then the storm ceased.

Full comments on item #21:

Bown here offers little in the way of a parallel. All storms cease. But the reader understands, in each of the three stories, that the cessation of the storm comes through divine intervention. Nephi's tempest appears to have ended almost immediately after he finished his prayers; while Fabius' party appear to have won the sympathy of even a Miltonic "Old Ocean" before their five days of "cries and lamentations" reached the ears of the Lord. Here we encounter the first of many Spalding absurd overstatements and gross exaggerations which are more laughable than believable. Was the ex-clergyman presenting a parody of Christian prayer or was he offering a hint of his own disbelief in the validity of such religious practice? I suspect he was foisting both of these intentions upon his readers and expecting that only the occasional atheist or deist would appreciate his awkward attempt at subtle, anti-religious humor.


22. They sailed further several days and then landed.

Full comments on item #22:

Bown again offers little substance in drawing this parallel. After five days of being caught up in the storm the Romans find themselves safe and sound in calmer waters but continue their "cries and lamentations," which were so great and terrific that they defied description. This sad state of affairs is ended by nothing less than a revelation from God! Five days later Fabius' party enters the Delaware estuary and sails for perhaps another day or so before anchoring the ship offshore from an Indian village located in the general vicinity of today's Wilmington.

The Lehites, under Nephi's inspired guidance, come out of their four days of stormy passage, safe and sound, and apparently speedily reach the "promised land." All Nephi tells us is that after "the space of many days we did arrive." He does not tell us whether the count for those "many days" began with their Arabian embarkation or only the cessation of the storm.

The parallel that Bown misses altogether is that both sailing parties are being sent to the New World under divine guidance. This story element might be expected in a scriptural account; its introduction into the Spalding romance would have struck a good number of his intended readers as being nothing other than blasphemy. The introduction of God's fictional guidance and revelation into a Pilgrim's Progress, or a Paradise Lost, was marginally acceptible, for those stories were the great classics of the Christian religion, filled with wonderous, faith-promoting morality scenerios and inspirational allegory. In this day, Spalding's words from heaven would have only been acceptable in the context of true scripture, or in a fictional episode from some pagan Greco-Roman epic. Coming as they do, in a romance, they represent a remarkable example of religious parody and sarcastic commentary. It is no wonder that E. D. Howe referred to Spalding as being "inclined to infidelity."

Spalding not only introduces his first example of religious practice here, he does so with resounding flourish. His 4th century Christians are clearly still living in the days before the advent of what modern restorationists might term "the great apostasy." The Roman crew and passengers accept the human-voiced predictive revelation with "joy" and "full confidence," as though they were accustomed to experiencing miraculous events of divine communication. The possible parallels that might be drawn between this scene and events recorded in the Book of Mormon are well-nigh endless.


23. They landed on the American Continent.

Full comments on item #23:

The Romans arrive as castaways and long to return home; but the Lehites come as colonizers to a land prepared especially for them. The Book of Mormon does not specifically say that this "promised land" was the ancient Americas, but we can deduce that fact by reading the full story provided in the book.

See my comments on Bown's item #19 for a discussion of which ocean the Lehites crossed. If it was the Atlantic, perhaps we should consider seriously the claims for a Great Lakes based Book of Mormon Geography. If the Lehites first saw the "promised land" in this part of North America, they could also have come ashore somewhere near Fabius' Delaware anchorage. If we consider the possibility of a Great Lakes Geography, a more likely landing spot would have been at the end of the modern St. Lawrence River, on the northwestern shores of lake Ontario.

Regardless of where the Lehites landed in the Americas, they did not encounter Spalding's "Deliwan" Indians or any other native inhabitants. Nephi does not tell us whether there were Mulekites or a Jaredite remnant hiding out somewhere in the "promised land," but a conservative reading of the text would indicate there were no other occupants in the land which the Lord had prepared especially for the Israelite branch of Joseph.


24. There were many rivers and lakes in the land.

Full comments on item #24:

Bown makes a quick geographic leap in his thinking -- from the land first occupied by the Lehites as their divine inheritance, to the whole of the country so vaguely depicted in the Book of Mormon. Although many students of the book would confine its major events to a relatively small region, various portions of the vaguely described landscape might be located almost anywhere in the Americas.

Bown should have made this distinction and told us that Spalding's Great Lakes Geography has many rivers and lakes, while only bits and pieces of the Book of Mormon Geography match this description. While the Nephite record may speak of "many rivers" and certain "waters," it names only the River Sidon. There is no telling what its "waters" were (springs?, fountains?, pools?, waterfalls?) and its "seas" have only directional nomenclature. All of this presents a picture rather different from that depicted in Spalding's tale.

Part of the Book of Mormon Geography may indeed be centered in the Great Lakes region. If this is so, the parallel with Spalding's lakes and rivers would be an important one. But that matter remains unresolved and the true geographic parallel at this point is not particularly strong.

Commentary on M.D. Bown:  [Index]   [parallels 01-14]  < - >  [parallels 25-47]   [parallels 48-59]
[parallels 60-78]   [parallels 79-99]   [Bown's Notes]    [Names Index]   [Editorial & Bibliographic Info.]

The Spalding Studies Home Page:   [Introduction]   [Site Map & Index]   [Links]   [E-mail Site Host]

revision 0a: September, 1998