Soon after the publication of the Book of Mormon, a rumor surfaced that the book was based on a story by one Solomon Spaulding. This theory remained unverified, since the manuscript of the unpublished story (known as the Manuscript Found) could not be located.
Eventually, the manuscript was located, and published. It soon became evident that there was very little correlation between the Manuscript Found and the story of the Book of Mormon.
There are, however, some interesting parallels between Joseph Smith's story of the finding of the gold plates, and the beginning of Spaulding's manuscript. Reproduced here some excerpts from the start of Spauldings manuscript. (Asterisks in the text indicate places where the handwritten manuscript was illegible.)
Near the west Bank of the Coneaught River there are the remains of an ancient fort. As I was walking and forming various conjectures respecting the character situation and numbers of those people who far exceeded the present race of Indians in works of art & inginuety I hapned to tread on a flat Stone. This was at a small distance from the fort: & it lay on the top of a small mound of Earth exactly horizontal--The face of it had a singular appearance I discovered a number of characters which appeared to me to be letter--but so much effaced by the ravages of time, that I could not read the inscription.
With the assistance of a leaver I raised the Stone--But you may easily conjecture my astonishment when I discovered that its ends and sides rested on Stones & that it was designed as a cover to an artificial cave.--I found on examining that its Sides were lined with * * * built in a connical form with * * * down--& that it was about eight feet deep--Determined to investigate the design of this extraordinary work of antiquity--I prepared myself with necessary requisites for that purpose and descended to the Bottom of the cave--Observing one side to be perpendicular nearly three feet from the bottom, I began to inspect that part with accuracy; Here I noticed a big flat Stone fixed in the form of a doar.
I immediately tore it down & Lo a cavity within the wall presented itself--it being about three feet in diameter from side to side and about two feet high. Within this cavity I found an earthan Box with a cover which shut it perfectly tite--The Box was two feet in length one & half in breadth & one and three inches in diameter. My mind filled with awful sensations which crowded fast upon me would hardly permit my hands to remove this venerable deposit but curiosity soon gained the ascendancy & the box was taken & raised to open * * *
When I had removed the cover I found that it contained twenty eight sheets of parchment. & that when * * * * * * appeared to be manuscripts written in an eligant hand with Roman Letters & in the Latin Language. They were written on a variety of Subjects.
But the Roll which principally attracted my attention contained a history of the authors life & that part of America which extends along the great Lakes & the waters of the Missisippy. Extracts of the most interesting and important matters contined in this Roll I take the liberty to publish--
[Gentle Reader tread lightly on the ashes of the venerable dead--Thou must know that this country was once inhabited by great & powerful nations considerably civilized & skilled in the arts of war, and that on ground where thou now treadest many [and hard fou] a bloody Battle hath been faught--& heroes by the thousand [have been] made to bite the dust.]
An Epitomy of the Authors life & of his arival in America
As it is possible that in some future age this part of the Earth will be inhabited by Europians & a history of its present inhabitants will be a valuable acquisition I propose to write one & deposit it in a box secured * * * * so that the ravages of time will have effect upon it.
Compare this with Joseph's History, as contained in the Pearl of Great Price
1:51 Convenient to the village of Manchester, Ontario county,
New York, stands a hill of considerable size, and the most
elevated of any in the neighborhood. On the west side of this
hill, not far from the top, under a stone of considerable size,
lay the plates, deposited in a stone box. This stone was thick
and rounding in the middle on the upper side, and thinner towards
the edges, so that the middle part of it was visible above the
ground, but the edge all around was covered with earth.
1:52 Having removed the earth, I obtained a lever, which I got fixed under the edge of the stone, and with a little exertion raised it up. I looked in, and there indeed did I behold the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate, as stated by the messenger. The box in which they lay was formed by laying stones together in some kind of cement. In the bottom of the box were laid two stones crossways of the box, and on these stones lay the plates and the other things with them.
When we examine the two stories, we find the following list of parallels -
|The manuscript was located in an alcove in a carved stone chamber.||The gold plates were found in a stone box.|
|The chamber was covered with a flat stone which was moved with the aid of a lever.||The stone box was covered with a flat stone which was moved with the aid of a lever.|
|The manuscript was written in an ancient language, Latin||The plates contained an ancient language - Reformed Egyptian.|
|The manuscript contained the story of a Roman from the Old World, blown off course to the New World.||The plates contained the history of a group of Jews who escaped from the Old World to the New in a ship.|
|The author of the Latin manuscript hid the manuscript in a box in the earth for future generations to find.||One of the last Nephites (Moroni) hid the gold plates in a box in the earth for the benefit of future generations.|
|Claims that the ancient inhabitants of the continent reached a state of high civilisation, and fought many bloody battles.||The BoM is a history of the ancient inhabitants of the continent, who reached a high state of civilisation and fought many bloody battles.|
|The finder of the manuscript published a translation, the Manuscript Found.||Joseph Smith published a translation of the gold plates, the Book of Mormon.|
Obviously, it is impossible to say for certain that Solomon's story planted a seed in Joseph's fertile young mind. It has been pointed out, for example, that both Joseph Smith's and Spaulding's stories are just two of many such tales which abounded at the time. During Smith's time, the New England area was abuzz with speculation as to the origin of the Native Americans, and tales of finds of lost manuscripts and buried treasure were common.
It is, however, no less plausible than suggesting that a stone stela from Izapa contains a scene from the Book of Mormon.
Contents Copyright 1997 Curt van den Heuvel
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