March 31, 2010

Spaulding Manuscript and the Book of Mormon: A New Parallel

Last year a new study purported to reveal the real author(s) of the Book of Mormon. The study seeks to use some impressive statistics to resurrect an old theory that has been put to rest many times before. For several decades in the late 19th century the chief suspect was Solomon Spaulding, whose manuscript was said to be pilfered by Sidney Rigdon and used to help create the Book of Mormon.

The theory was pretty much definitively put to rest when Spaulding's manuscript was discovered and bore practically no resemblance to the Book of Mormon.1 A full response to the recent wordprint study is forthcoming.2 In the meantime, I wanted to post a fascinating parallel between the Book of Mormon and the Spaulding manuscript that (to my knowledge) has been overlooked by critics and apologists alike. This should come in handy for people uninterested in plowing through all of the old research on the Spaulding story.

The striking parallel is found during the mud sliding race in Spaulding's manuscript:

In making this decent, six young women & five young men by a surprizing dexterity in whirling their bodies as they dcended cleared themselvs from the quagmire—The rest as their turns came plunged in & came out most wofully muded to the great diversion of the Spectators. The incident which excited the most meriment hapned when the last pa[ir] decended. by an unlucky spring to clear himself from the quagmire he brot his body along side of the declevity & roled his whole length into the midst of the quagmire where he lay his whole length in an horizontal position on his back neither heels up or head up, but horizontally—soft & easy—but alas when one unlucky event happens another follows close on the heal.—the fair, plump corpulant Damsel, his affectionate sweetheart came instantly, sliding with great velocity—she saw the woful position of her beloved—she wished him no harm—she raised her feet this bro't the center of gravity directly over the center of his head—here she rested a moment—his head sunk—she sunk after him his heels kicked against the wind like Jeshuran waked fat—but not a word from his lips—but his ideas came in quick succession—tho't he, what a disgrace to die here in the mud under the pressure of my sweet heart—however his time for such reflections were short—the tender hearted maid collecting all her agility in one effort dismounted & found herself on dry land i[n—] instant—not a moment to be lost; she seized her lover by one leg & draged him from the mud—a curious figure, extending about six feet six inches on the ground,—all bismeared from head to foot, spiting—puffing, panting & strugling for breath.—Poor man, the whole multitude laughing at thy calamity, shouting, rediculing—none to give thee consolation but thy loving & simpithetic partner in misfortune—
    Upon my soul, exclaims droll Tom—Stern formost—that bouncing Lass ought to have the highest prize for draging her ship from the mud—She was cleaning the filth from his face.3
My friend tried to determine which part of the Book of Mormon this race influenced, but couldn't find the words "mud," "merriment," "bouncing," "lass," "quagmire," "gravity," "woefully," "velocity," "corpulent," or "damsel" in the Book of Mormon. He did, however, find the word "sunk," so he determined that this portion of the Spalding manuscript was most likely rewritten as Alma 19:13-14!

For a more detailed look at the Spaulding theory see the FAIR wiki, including the useful and comprehensive footnotes with plenty of other sources.

I wrote a brief blog post when that study came out. See "A New Book of Mormon Wordprint Analysis," 8 December 2008. I'm no expert in math and statistical analysis, so I await more rigorous responses.

This selection is from the GospeLink version of Manuscript Found here, subscription required. It can also be found in the RLDS edition of "Manuscript Found" published in 1885 found here, from where I borrowed the image seen above. Like most books of that era it has a ridiculously long title: The "Manuscript Found" or "Manuscript Story" of the Late Solomon Spaulding; From a Verbatim Copy of the Original Now in the Care of Pres. James H. Fairchild of Oberlin College, Ohio Including Correspondence Touching the Manuscript, Its Preservation and Transmission Until it Came Into the Hands of the Publishers, The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Lamoni, Iowa (1885), pp. 26-27.


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