- Dale R. Broadhurst's  SPALDING  RESEARCH  PROJECT -

The Dale R. Broadhurst
"Spalding Papers"

Paper #04: The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon

For discussion of a related topic see: "Another Spalding Fragment" page 1 & page 2

Special Note: This paper has not yet been fully adapted to proper
web-document format. Check back later for an updated version.


The Coming Forth of

The Book of Mormon

in relation to

The Oberlin Spalding Manuscript

Spalding Research Project
Working Paper No. 04

Dale R. Broadhurst
Methodist Theological School in Ohio
August 1980

Rev. 3: January 1999 (e-text)


- 01 -


That there are close similarities in the Joseph Smith account of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon records and the Introduction and first chapter of the Oberlin Spalding manuscript has long been recognized among students of the so called Spalding theory as an undeniable fact. As recently as 1977 one noted Mormon scholar wrote: "there are unmistakeable parallels in Spalding's introduction and Joseph Smith's early experiences." This statement echoes the earlier comments of LDS writers John H. Evans and B. H. Roberts. But although the parallels were known and occsionally commented upon in certain Mormon scholarly circles, no one had ever made a detailed catalogue of these oddities until I began work on my current report. While my list is not exhaustive, I believe it serves as a useful introduction to the major similarities in the two accounts.

The Spalding quotations are taken from my electronic combination of the 1885 and 1886 printed editions -- a compilation which has been critically compared with my transcript of his holograph story on file in the at Oberlin College Archives. This electronic text uses the original manuscript's pagination but standardizes spelling and orthography so as to be useful for concordance purposes. The Book of Mormon citations come from the 1830 Palmyra edition, which is currently available both on-line and as a reproduction hard-cover book. The Joseph Smith history is taken from his personal accounts as published in various numbers of the Times & Seasons newspaper in 1842. Reference has not been made to any of the extant manuscript source documents for that history, however. The wording found in those manuscripts may occasionally differ slightly from that of the 1842 published text. A few secondary sources have also been quoted where the information they provide appears to be helpful in clarifying details related in or assumed by accounts from the three primary documents already mentioned.

In presenting the parallel quotations which follow I have edited the texts for brevity and clarity. For the entire quotation in context the reader should refer back to the original sources (The Smith History was first serialized in the Times & Seasons beginning on March 15, 1842; the text of the Oberlin Spalding Manuscript was published by BYU Press in 1996). Anyone reading these these sets of quotations will soon see the quite evident similarities in theme and vocabulary as the occur throughout the tabulation. However, to further facilitate this comparison I have used colored type to highlight identical or nearly identical wording in the parallal accounts.

No doubt most readers will find it a remarkable oddity that two supposedly independent and unrelated accounts provided by men who apparently never met or exchanged ideas should contain such a lengthy catalog of similarities. This oddity is rendered even more remarkable by the fact that the parallel events are told in much the same phraseology and as occurring in almost the exact same order. Furthermore, there appears to be no other contemporary accounts published in English which duplicate even so much as a quarter of the textual parallels common to the Spalding and Mormon story segments considered here. Though the Spalding story has never been credited as being anything other than an uneven work of somewhat satirical fiction, the Smith account and The Book of Mormon story are accepted as true and sacred history by several millions of people. In fact, many believers within the restoration churches put a trust in the literal validity of the Smith and Book of Mormon accounts which transcends their more conditional belief in the reports of secular scientists and historians. When an obscure unpublished piece of early American fiction can be shown to contain so many of the same thematic and vocabulary elements as are found in the Latter Day Saint stories, that fact in itself deserves some serious investigation and at least some attempt in the way of explanation. Did these parallels arise purely by chance? Are they merely examples of thematic affinities shared with many other examples of literature? Given the fact that Spalding has, independent of this particular set of parallels, been credited by some witnesses as having inadvertently contributed text to the Book of Mormon, perhaps we should attempt to answer some of these kinds of questions. The following list is presented as a first step in this process of elucidation and explanation.

- 02 -

Notes on the Third Revision

The short tabulation and accompanying comments I've assembled here follows the text of my Second Revision in all but a few minor cases. In constructing the presentation as a web-document I have added some graphics as well as on-line navigational helps and links to related digitized materials resident elsewhere on the web. I have also modified or extended my comments in some cases and have inserted a few additional parallels or sub-parallels to the list. Generally I've tried to keep the various list segments on the same pages as they appeared in the previous revision and to retain as much of that presentation's formatting as possible. I have made no attempt to identify additions to and corrections of my previous revision, so I'll refer readers who wish to consult that version of the tabulation to my collections of papers on file at the University of Utah's Marriott Library, Manuscripts Section of Special Collections, and at the Oberlin College Archives.

Dale R. Broadhurst
December, 1998


- 03 -


  01. Date of the Finding of the Ancient Records

Spalding Account Mormon Account
c. 1811
(various historical accounts)
from 1823 to 1827
T&S III:707, 772

Comment 01-1:
In both accounts the purported ancient records of the extinct civilized inhabitants of the Americas were discovered within the first two decades of the 19th century. Smith's experience was a three part effort extending over a 36 month period. Spalding's fictionalized experience has no date but it is loosely based upon some actual events during his residence in Ohio (1809-12).

02. Place of the Finding of the Ancient Records

Spalding Account Mormon Account
"Near the west bank of the
Coneaught River there are the
remains of an ancient fort."
"Convenient to the village of
Manchester stands a hill of
considerable size."
T&S III:771

Comment 02-1:
The accounts for the finding of these ancient records begin by providing the position of the discovery spots in relation to known geographic locations: the "Coneaught River" (Conneaut Creek) in Ohio and the village of Manchester in New York. As is frequently the case for the Spalding story's phraseology, the wording he uses here closely parallels a passage in the Book of Mormon:

"Near the west bank of the
Coneaught River..."
"near the bank of the river..."
"on the west of the river Sidon"

Comment 02-2:
Both discoveries of ancient records took place within a few years of each other, in the first decades of the 19th century; also, both discoveries purportedly occurred within about 200 miles of each other, amidst the "mound-builder" hills on the southern shore of the Great Lakes. Considering the vast reaches of this planet and the millenia of recorded history, the two discoveries of ancient records happened in practically the same place (in terms of time and space). In order to better visualize this uncanny correspondence, see the figure provided below.

03. The Exact Location

Spalding Account Mormon Account
"on the top of a small mound"
"on the west side of this hill not
far from the top"
T&S III:771

Comment 03-1:
Both writers find records at or near the top of a hill. Spalding's mound was either a tumulus atop "Fort Hill" (across the creek from the old Conneaut cemetery) or an ancient burial mound near the hill. Spalding wrote the Oberlin story following his excavation of just such a mound near his cabin on Conneaut Creek. Fort Hill is remnant of alluvial conglomerate isolated from neighboring bluffs by erosion. The Hill Cumorah is a conglomerate moraine left by retreating glacial ice. Smith probably regarded the Hill Cumorah to be either an artificial tumulus or a natural mound that had once been mined to produce secret interior chambers. Spalding also related a tale of a similar interior chamber in his fictionalized hill or mound (see Item No. 07).

Comment 03-2:
Both Fort Hill and the Hill Cumorah are real geographical prominences of roughly similar proportions. Both were located somewhat away from early settlements and each had at least some tree cover prior to the arrival of American settlers. Both may be climbed rather easily and both provide good views of the surrounding countryside. Although some Mormon writers in recent years have attempted to disassociate the New York Hill Cumorah from its Book of Mormon namesake, Latter Day Saints have traditionally regarded the place as having been associated with ancient events in the lives of an extinct civilized people of Old World origins. Although the upper portion of Fort Hill is now thought to be a product of the Hopewell Amerind culture, early settlers in Conneaut speculated that it was a structure built by extinct civilized people of Old World origins.

  - 04 -

04. The Finder of the Ancient Records

Spalding Account Mormon Account
"As I was walking"
"I arrived there"
T&S III:771

Comment 04-1:
Both narrations are first person descriptions of the events as told by the record finders themselves. Both sets of records were found by "Yankees," men of European descent born in the New England. Both Spalding and Smith say their respective discoveries occured when each finder was walking up a hill in the countryside. The lone Spalding appears to have been contemplating the ruins left by the ancient inhabitants of Conneaut, and wondering about their history. Smith (who was also alone at this point in his story) was probably having similar thoughts, for he had just been told by an angelic messenger of "the former inhabitants of this continent" (T&S III:753). Likewise, Spalding's fictional alter-ego of former times wonders much about "the ancestors of those... that possess this continent" (MS:033).

Early view of "Fort Hill" on the banks of Conneaut Creek in Ohio

05. Discovery of the Stone

Spalding Account Mormon Account
"I happened to tred on
a flat stone... exactly horizontal"
"under a stone
of considerable size"
T&S III:771

Comment 05-1:
Both writers draw their readers' attention to an ancient stone lying horizontal with the surface of the mound or hill they had surmounted. It is the detection of this singular object which leads both Smith and Spalding to eventually discover ancient records buried beneath the slab. In Spalding's case the stone mentioned in his story was perhaps the fictionalized counterpart of an actual inscribed stone of unknown origin discovered near by Conneaut by the first pioneers entering that place.

06. Lifting of the Stone

Spalding Account Mormon Account
"With the assistance of a lever
I raised the stone"
"I obtained a lever which
I got fixed under... the stone
and... raised it up"
T&S III:771

Comment 06-1:
Both writers draw their readers' attention to an ancient stone lying horizontal with the surface of the mound or hill they had surmounted. It is the detection of this singular object which leads both Smith and Spalding to eventually discover ancient records buried beneath the slab. In Spalding's case the stone mentioned in his story was perhaps the fictionalized counterpart of an actual inscribed stone of unknown origin discovered near by Conneaut by the first pioneers entering that place.

Comment 06-2:
Both narrators are struck by a need to determine what is under the slab found on the wilderness elevation. Both quickly locate a lever (perhaps a sturdy branch) and use it to pry up and remove the strange stone away from its age-old resting place. In both cases the stone must have been too heavy or too tightly lodged to have been lifted with the fingers. Both accounts indicate that the heavy stone cover had been put in place by human hands in ancient times and that the narrator is the first person to look under the stone for a long long time.

Cross-section of an early mound excavation, showing cavities within the hill

07. Under the Stone

Spalding Account Mormon Account
"its ends and sides rested on
stones... an artificial cave... its
sides were lined with stones"
"The box . . . was formed by laying
stones together"
T&S III:771

Comment 07-1:
Under this heavy stone each author found a man-made cavity in the earth. This cavity was apparently rectangular in both cases; that is to say, beneath each slab was a cubical of empty space. In both accounts this opening was lined with cut stones, probably slabs made of the same rock as was the cover to the cavity.

Comment 07-2:
In the Spalding account this stone-lined cavity was a vertical entryway into a man-made chamber hidden within the hill. Smith's much smaller cubical was not totally empty: it was the actual repository for the ancient records and other artifacts. The idea that some or all of the Nephite records were at one time deposited deeper within the hill (as was Spalding's trove of records) was common one among the early Saints. As already stated, Smith may have thought of the Hill Cumorah as being an artificial mound concealing interior chambers containing additional records, the sword of Laban, etc. But due to erosion (LDS Messenger & Advocate Vol. II: [1834] pp. 196.) or human design, any original entrance to the hill's hollowed-out interior was lost and only an isolated interior chamber remains. This artificial cave within the hill is filled with ancient writings (Journal of Discourses Vol. 19, [1878] p. 36).

Comment 07-3:
The two narrators differ beyond their respective descriptions of the cavity beneath the slab. While Smith remains above ground and eventually recovers his ancient records by simply reaching into the open stone box, the fictionalized Spalding has to enter the hill and venture into its hidden interior chamber before he can recover his ancient records. In this interior chamber he finds a second cover-stone. After Spalding makes this second discovery the words of the two narrations converge briefly, but this is soon followed by Spalding activities unparalleled in Smith's account. Smith himself undergoes further experiences that are missing from the Spalding narration; only after the passage of four years in his life do the two stories fully converge once again.

Comment 07-4:
In 1986 Dan Vogel (on page 19 of his Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon...) pointed out the similarity of Thomas Ashe's 1808 account of finding "a stone-lined vault" in the Ohio Valley with Spalding's own fictional discovery story. Vogel did not mention the further parallel of Ashe's finding what he supposed to be writing in the form of "characters" on metalic objects during his Indian mound excavation. While Spalding may have been influenced by Ashe's account when it came time for him to write of his own descent into an underground vault containing an ancient record, it is just as likely that he had in mind some elements of a similar descent and discovery as related in the initiation ritual of the masonic Royal Arch degree. In the early 1800s the details of this ritual were still a closely guarded secret, in the very few Royal Arch chapters just then being introduced into the Americas from Europe. How Spalding might have been informed of these particular "descent and discovery" story elements (which culminate in the uncovering of an inscribed golden plate and/or two ancient temple entry-way pillars) remains unknown.

  - 05 -

08. The Cover Stone (second iteration)

Spalding Account Mormon Account
"Here I noticed a big flat stone
fixed in the form of a door"
"under a stone of considerable size"
T&S III:771

Comment 08-1:
Spalding goes through a second removal of a second stone slab. The narrative he provides is unclear as to whether the second cover stone was set horizontally or vertically, but the latter appears to be the more likely supposition, as the slab was "in the form of a door." Removing the second stone, he uncovers "a cavity," presumably set within the wall something like a modern wall-safe. Within this space he finds a record box.

Spalding's hidden box was evidently made of baked clay -- Smith's box was of stone

09. The Record Box

Spalding Account Mormon Account
"I found an earthen box
with a cover which shut
it perfectly tight. The box was
two feet in length"
"The box in which they lay
was formed by laying stones
together in some kind of cement"
T&S III:771

Comment 09-1:
Spalding's fictional box was apparenly made of fired clay and would have presented an interior appearance somewhat similar to Smith's cemented stone box. Spalding does not say whether his record box was initially free-standing or was set into the floor of the wall cavity. Like Smith's record box, the Spalding record box had a top cover which tightly sealed its insides and their contents from the outer world.

Comment 09-2:
Both record boxes were of similar size; though Spalding's was removable and was more shallow than Smith's. If we picture Spalding's hillock as eventually eroding away somewhat, that process might leave a record box with a ground-level cover exposed to searching eyes rather similar to the one found in Smith's story (LDS Messenger & Advocate Vol. II: [1834] pp. 196). And underneath both thusly exposed cover stones, were the sets of ancient records, preserved for ages in their water-tight containers.

  - 06 -

10. Inside the Box

Spalding Account Mormon Account
"I found that it contained 28
(rolls) of parchment"
"I looked in and there
indeed did I behold the plates"
T&S III:771

Comment 10-1:
Both Spalding and Smith found the records of the extinct civilized inhabitants of the Americas within sealed record boxes secreted in the ground by the authors or editors of those same ancient records. Moroni had left his own account, along with his compilation of ancient history and divine scriptures to be uncovered specifically by the descendants of Europeans who would one day come to the Americas. Spalding's Fabius also left his own account, along with his compilation of ancient history and divine scriptures to be uncovered specifically by the descendants of Europeans who would one day come to the Americas. Although Spalding does not exactly say that Fabius was the last of his race (as was Moroni) his Romans must have disappeared at about the time his death, leaving no known descendants in the Americas.

Comment 10-2:
Spalding's ancient records were written upon parchment, while Smith's were engraved upon metal plates. At first thought this difference might appear to be of such a magnitude as to disallow any parallel between the writing material used for the two different records. However we should keep in mind the fact that Moroni buried not only his own writings but those he had inherited from past hands. Although Moroni's deposit and that of Fabius were put in the ground during roughly the same time period, most of Moroni's records were older than Fabius' Latin scrolls. Had Fabius buried writings as old as the the "brass plates" of Laban and "small plates" of Nephi he might also have opted for more durable metal plates for his ancient records. Even in Spalding's day both parchment and metal plates had been recovered from the ancient burial mounds of the Ohio Valley (or so it was claimed). Either material was a logical medium for the recording of the antique record, but Moroni's was the better-lasting of the two.

Later embellishments of Smith's discovery added a sword, breastplate and huge spectacles

11. Removal of the Ancient Records

Spalding Account Mormon Account
"My mind filled with awful
sensations which crowded fast
upon me (and) would hardly
permit my hands to remove this
venerable deposit"
"I made an attempt to take them out
but was forbidden (by Nephi)
T&S III:771

"immediately I was seized upon by some
power which entirely overcame me"
T&S III:748

Comment 11-1:
Spalding's attempt to take the records from the ground is hindered by "awful sensations" which almost overpowered him. In Smith's story an angel forbid him to take the records the first time he made the attempt. In his previous account of a vision of heavenly personages Smith was temporarily hindered by awful power, much as the fictionalized Spalding was. Oliver Cowdery tells how these interfering sensations came upon Smith again when he attempted to take the ancient record: "On attempting to take possession of the record a shock was produced upon his system, by an invisible power which deprived him, in a measure, of his natural strength." (LDS Messenger & Advocate Vol. II: [1834] pp. 196). In November of 1834 Eber D. Howe retold the story: "He (Smith) again opened the box, and saw in it the book, and attempted to take it out, but was hindered" (Mormonism Unvailed p. 242). Despite the hindrance of Spalding's "awful sensations" and Smith's "power" or "shock, both men eventually remove the records from the ground. Spalding removes his record box from the hidden chamber and opens it above ground, just like Smith opens his box in the open air.

Comment 11-2:
After uncontrollable delays caused by very strange and upsetting experiences, the narrators eventually take the long-buried records into their hands and remove them from the record box. This delay is much longer in Smith's case, but finally, just like Spalding, he is able to look upon the written contents and determine just what it is that he has obtained. Spalding finds no sword and no interpreting device in his box. All he takes home are the records themselves.

  - 07 -

12. Format and Language of the Records

Spalding Account Mormon Account
"written in (an) eligant hand
with Roman letters and
in the Latin language"

"characters... represent words...
A Sacred Roll... is preserved
among the records... deposited
under the care of a priest"

"the art of expressing ideas by
certain marks or characters"
"I make a record of my proceedings
in... the language of my father...
the language of the Egyptians"
T&S III:771

"(the plates) were filled with
engravings, in Egyptian characters" BoM:538

"we have written this record...
in the characters... reformed
T&S III:707

Comment 12-1:
Both ancient accounts were combinations of histories and scriptures set down in pre-Columbian America. Although these antique histories and scriptures had been written in the Americas, neither set was written in a native American script or language. Rather, both were written in a dead language of the Mediterranean Basin, not previously known to be used in pre-Columbian America. Both Fabius and Moroni wrote works intended for future Americans, but in the language of their fathers; thus, they both buried accounts which the intended discoverers would be unable to read in their own mother tongue.

Comment 12-2:
Fabius' compilation was written in Latin, but he had taken its previously written portions from sources materials composed in characters which were perhaps somewhat similar to those used by Moroni. Moroni, in turn had translated some source materials composed in Jaredite characters. Spalding never tells his readers where his ancient characters originated, but they must have been brought from Asia or the Middle East by his great teacher Lobaska. Since Fabius gives a detailed description of how these characters were used to write down "records" like the ancient scriptures of America, it is not improbable to suppose that he preserved some samples or transcripts of those glyphs among the contents of his scrolls.

Comment 12-3:
On MS pages 051 and 052 Spalding has his writer, Fabius, tell how the ancient Americans wrote their characters in vertical columns. Prior to the publication of the Book of Mormon early convert Martin Harris is said to obtained from translator Joseph Smith a transcript of some Nephite characters which were also written in vertical columns. Mormon historians remain unsure whether the details of this account are accurate or not. But if Harris did have such a vertical aligned transcript that fact would probably indicate that some or all of the characters reported to have been inscribed on the Nephites also were written in columns. Although there is no special evidence to support such speculation, Spalding may have prepared at one time or another a similar sample of his fictional characters. Such a sample, transferred to a copper engraving plate or two, would have been practically indistinguishable from the outward appearance of the purported Nephite plates. Polished copper plates of this description could have passed for golden artifacts when viewed from a distance or in subdued light.

13. A Translation Needed

Spalding Account Mormon Account
"To publish a translation...
the translator who wishes..."
MS:004 & 005
"Through the medium of the Urim
and Thummim I translated the
record by the gift, and power of God"
T&S III:707

Comment 13-1:
The use of a dead language by the original scribes of the records presented peculiar problems both to Smith and to Spalding. The fictionalized Spalding might rely on his advanced education to translate Latin into English, but even a clergyman trained at Dartmouth would have encountered problems in decyphering idiomatic Latin set down in the days of Constantine. Spalding had no easy task in front of him and a bit of the same divine providence evident as various points in his story would have been a great help to him as he set about his translating work. Smith, on the other hand, appears to have had recourse to a variety of processes which can only be called supernatural or magical.

Comment 13-2:
The result in both accounts was a hand-written English manuscript. This manuscript was comprised of sets of folios or booklets formed from folded leaves of paper and stitched along their back seams. Although preserving many curious (often unique) words and names from the forgotten past, both translations were set down in the American idiom of the early 19th century. Both translated records contain many archaic terms and forms common to the Authorized (King James) Bible, though this is less the case for Spalding. In both manuscripts there are unusual words like strewed, burthens, adieu, massacre, watery, whispers me, etc. which generally appear strangely out-of-place in their supposedly ancient contexts. Both contain measurements which are not otherwise known to have been used in pre-Columbian America, and some that are entirely unknown from ancient times. Both tell of a horse-riding, iron-age people whose vocabulary often sounds more like that of the early American frontier than something from Imperial Rome, pre-exilic Israel, or an Egypt of the Pharaohs. Both records preserve otherwise unknown scriptures that make use of pious archaic English terms. However, neither record limits itself so exclusively to such language as might be mistaken for phraseology set down by scriptural translators from even a century before their translations. In short, each sounds more like a work written in imitation of ancient writings partly rendered in archaic English than like any previously translated true ancient writings.

Smith's translation breastplate and spectacles

  - 08 -

14. A Personal History

Spalding Account Mormon Account
"the roll... contained
a history of the author's life"

"I will give a succint
account of his life "
"An account of Lehi and...
"the account of Nephi"
BoM:005 (argument superscription)

"I shall make an account of my
proceedings . . . an account of
mine own life"

Comment 14-1:
After Smith and Spalding translate their respective records each can see that he holds in his hands the personal history of an ancient scribe who sailed to the Americas from the Old World. This personal history introduces each "account" but there are also many other things in both the record sets.

15. Multiple Histories and Complex Compilations

Spalding Account Mormon Account
"a history of...
that part of America"

"a history of its... inhabitants"
"an account of the former
inhabitants of this continent"
T&S III:753

"the history of this people"

Comment 15-1:
In addition to containing a personal history of the scribe who introduces the records, they also contain the secular and sacred histories of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas. Both works often began their chapters with argument superscriptions (saying "an account of...") introducing the reader to the history which follows. Besides narrative chronicles both accounts also include sections of scriptural laws, prophetic utterances, and the words of God -- along with exhortations, commentaries, personal letters, genealogical information, etc.

Spalding's record told of Sciotans & Kentucks -- Smith's told of Lamanites & Nephites

16. The Records are an Abridgment

Spalding Account Mormon Account
"Extracts of the most interesting"
and important matters contained
in this roll"
"Behold I make an abridgement of the record"

"I write a small abridgement"

"plates on which were engraved an
abridgement of the records"
T&S III:707

Comment 16-1:
The records found by Smith and Spalding are complex collections of a variety of ancient writings, both sacred and secular. The Roman Fabius is the presumed writer/editor of all the 28 rolls recovered by the fictionalized Spalding. At least one of those rolls (Fabius' history) contains material largely selected from earlier pre-Columbian writings and oral traditions. Spalding then provides "extracts" from the record(s) compiled by Fabius. Nephi and Mormon compiled and abridged most of the Nephite text. These selections, along with some additional abridgment performed by Moroni, complete the "unsealed" portion of the Nephite records. While Smith apparently did not eliminate from his translation any of those materials which he found in the unsealed records, he functioned as an involuntary shortner of the Book of Mormon by withholding from the public the sealed plates her recovered from the Hill Cumorah.

  - 09 -

17. The Future Audience

Spalding Account Mormon Account
"in some future age this part...
will be inhabited by Europeans
and a history of its present
inhabitants . . . would be...
valuable . . ." I (proceed) to write"
one and deposit it in a box"
"I write... things that... may be
of worth
. . . in some future day"

"a record of my people . . . be
brought forth at some future day""

"these things shall be hid up
to come forth unto the Gentiles"

Comment 17-1:
Spalding put these words into the mouth of the record compiler Fabius, who writes for a future people who will come to the Americas. In contrast, the Nephite scribes write primarily for the American Indians (the Lamanites), but also for the future Jew and Gentile. The American "Gentiles" who are meant to bring forth the Book of Mormon in Joseph Smith's day came primarily from Europe, so they closely parallel the "Europeans" for whom Fabius leaves his record. Both Fabius and Moroni write in America at about the same time and both foresee that their writings will be of special value to future generations. Though the Spalding manuscript text breaks off before the end of his story, it is entirely probable that Fabius, like Moroni, was among the last civilized Christian inhabitants of the ancient Americas. And, like Moroni, he took it upon himself to record and "deposit" (cf. "hid up") the history of his own other extinct American peoples.

18. A Carefully Hidden Record

Spalding Account Mormon Account
"a history... would be...
valuable... I (proceed) to write
one and deposit it in a box...
so that the ravages of time
will have no effect upon it"
Ammaron had deposited the
records... that they might
not be destroyed"

"write an abridgement of...
history... to hide it up in the
earth and that it should come
forth... in the last days"
T&S III:708

Comment 18-1:
Both the Roman scribe and the Nephite recorder "deposits" his records in sealed boxes in the earth, so that they might remain safe until the day in which they are meant to be brought forth unto the new inhabitants of the continent. Neither scribe trusts any other means of preservation but both expect that their writings will survive to be read at some time in the future. Actually, with the divine protection extended to the Nephite plates after Ammoron's day, they might have been expected to have easily survived in any out of the way location. In their case the hiding is also intended to keep their contents out of the hands of those for whom they were not intended.

  - 10 -

19. A Word to the Reader

Spalding Account Mormon Account
"gentle reader... thy future
existance entreats thee to peruse
this volume with a clear head,
a pure heart"
"when ye shall read these
things... ask God...
with a sincere heart"

"and to the reader
I bid farewell"

Comment 19-1:
These are just a few examples of the many "asides" in which the original writer or editor addresses his future readers. In some cases these comments to the reader make textual clarifications or point out certain transitions in the narrative; in other cases they may a gem of wisdom or extend some special advice. At one point in each of the two works the final editor addresses the reader to express concern about how that reader will view the validity of the records and how their message might affect his life for the better. Both ask the reader to maintain a "pure" or "sincere" heart as he considers the message of the book. Spalding hints that this sincere consideration will change the course of the reader's life (perhaps even his after-life). Moroni is hopeful that the reader will prayerfully ask God for confirmation of the records' importance and truthfulness. These two requests from the editor or not perfect parallels, but in both cases the future spiritual welfare of the reader appears to be at stake, depending upon how he receives the advice extended to him.

20. A Bedroom Vision

Spalding Account Mormon Account
"(Spalding?) dreamed that he
himself... opened a great
mound... found a written
history... respecting the civilized
people... This story suggested . . .
(his) writing a novel"
1855 Josiah Spalding Letter
"I had retired... for the night
...a personage appeared at my
bedside standing in the air . . .
He called me by name, and said
...there was a book deposited
written upon gold plates, giving an
account of the former inhabitants"
T&S III 749, 753

Comment 20-1:
This possible common element in the two accounts is rather different from the rest that appear in this tabulation, in that the information shown here did not come from Solomon Spalding. Instead, his brother Josiah once wrote in a letter that Solomon had spoken to him of a visionary dream concerning a buried record of the ancient inhabitants of Ohio. Josiah was unsure of the details related to him by his brother and in looking over Josiah's retelling of the dream it is difficult for the reader to determine whether there was only one dream or two. If there was only one dream spoken of by Solomon, it was that of another person. If there were two dreams, the second was the experience of "he himself" (presumably Spalding). Whatever the facts of the matter may have been, a visionary dream may have inspired Solomon Spalding to excavate one of the burial mounds located near his house on Conneaut Creek and that excavation, coupled with the buried history seen in the dream, helped inspire some of the storyline for the Oberlin manuscript. There would be a parallel between Spalding's experience and Joseph Smith's encounter with the angelic messenger in his bedroom only if we understand the latter event as having been a vision or a visionary dream.

  - 11 -

21. Part of the Record Kept Back

Spalding Account Mormon Account
"should this attempt to
throw off the veil... meet
the approbation of the public,
I shall then (issue)... a more
minute publication"
"the volume was something near six
inches in thickness, a part of which
was sealed" (to come forth only at a
future time when humankind is
ready to read their content)
T&S: III:707

Comment 21-1:
Here Spalding was clearly toying with the idea that his writings might indeed be successfully published and received by the curious 19th century audience who would wish to know more of the ancient civilization which had occupied this continent before them. If this became the case, the Rev. Solomon Spalding was ready to fabricate additional histories, scriptures, and romances to gratify his readers and to supply himself with a future income. As with the elements referred to in item 20, the parallel here with Smith's account is a bit forced. Outside of an initial preoccupation with the selling of the printed copies of the Nephite revelation, Joseph Smith did not seem to be seeking a continual personal gain from the sales of his translations and other writings. The major common element for item 21 is that both Smith and the fictionalized Spalding said that they recovered more of the original records than they translated for publication purposes.

Comment 21-2:
Smith's account of a portion of the ancient American records being held back includes the information that he was forced to return both the sealed and unsealed plates to the angelic messenger, once he had completed his translation. This did not mean that Smith's role as a translator of ancient scriptures had ended. Other texts would pass through his hands and be rendered into English for his faithful Latter Day Saint followers. Spalding's additional texts are a matter of some confusion and conjecture. There were early reports publicizing the supposition that he had written whole manuscript stories other than the Oberlin romance. It is likely that some portion of the "Solomon Spalding" manuscript in the Library of Congress (titled "Romance of Celes) was a product of his pen, but the writing on its pages is not his penmanship and much of its prose was written or re-written after his death in 1816. So, unlike the several texts put forth by Smith, the certified writings of Spalding are limited to a single manuscript story and a few minor holographs

  - 12 -

Some Final Comments

Solomon Spalding and Joseph Smith both died in the first half of the 19th century and today practically nobody cares how writings that passed through their hands may or may not resemble each other. This entire subject might easily be relegated to the footnotes of a handful of experts on early American literature were it not for the fact that several million people on this planet today credit Joseph Smith with having brought forth a true historical record of otherwise unattested Isrealites who supposedly lived for centuries in the pre-Columbian Americas. And, although millions of people hold this conviction, still more millions do not -- and would not, even if presented with the collective testimonies of all Mormons on this particular matter. It is only for this reason that the parallels listed in this paper may hold some important information for future investigators of Mormon claims.

The faithful among the Saints have waited seventeen decades for the appearance of the "sealed" portion of the Nephite record. No doubt many of them wonder still what new revelations are contained in "The Book of Joseph" which accompanied the original documents conating Joseph Smith's "The Book of Abraham." The Kinderhook Plates announced by Illinois newspapers (including the Mormons') in Smith's day have yet to be translated to provide in English the record of the people of Ham. Also, a good portion of the Jaredite writings were passed over by Moroni in the second translation of their twenty-four golden plates. If the information in these scriptures has not already been made available in the first portion of Joseph Smith's translation of the Bible, the reader of the Book of Mormon cannot help but wonder about their final fate.

If there are indeed secret chambers in the Hill Cumorah containing a whole library of ancient Nephite writings, there has been little new light shown on that wondrous possibility for well over a century. Faithful Saints around the world await the coming forth of the records of the Ten Lost Tribes who appear to be (1) on the "isles of the sea," (2) in the frozen reaches of the far north, (3) scattered among the nations in the north, or (4) swept into space and in orbit around the earth. Spalding promised that he could issue new "ancient records" in the future and so did Smith. Despite his bringing forth scriptural material by Abraham, Enoch, Moses, and John the Baptist, Joseph Smith appears to have forgotten the importance of the untranslated Nephite works as time went on. A cynic versed in early Mormon history might well speculate that all the problems uncovered by the 1833-34 "Hurlbut affair" might account this shift in the Saints' attention from the Nephites and Lost Tribes to the Old World sons of the covenant, like Enoch, Abraham, and Moses.

Did Joseph Smith possess information about the Nephites which he decided to keep to himself after being accused in the press of stealing his golden bible from Solomon Spalding? The question remains unanswered and is no doubt unanswerable. All we can say for certain is that Joseph Smith eventually put forth his own history telling of the coming forth of The Book of Mormon. That history, as demonstrated in the 21 points discussed above, contains some accounts which sound remarkably like selections taken from a story written by Solomon Spalding. Other than the obvious conclusions offered by proponents of the multifaceted "Spalding theory," no explanation for these disturbing textual resemblances has ever been offered by the "experts" who study and report on early Mormonism.

Neither did Smith himself offer even so much as a word in explanation of the parallels. Perhaps he never even saw the Oberlin romance or any other Spalding manuscript brought back to Ohio and exhibited there in 1834 by D. P. Hurlbut. By the following year Hurlbut had vanished, what came to be called the Oberlin Spalding manuscript was lost and Smith dismissed the Ohio anti-Mormon crusade against him as a momentary distraction that he could soon forget. Curiously, when he printed his own history he added some final fuel to the irritating heat of the Spalding claims. The rest of his prophetic work he conducted in fields which seemingly bore no great resemblance to mental landscape and fictional musings of that obscure ex-preacher from Connecticut.

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