(Note: This article is a condensed version of chapter four of my book Refuting The Critics: Evidences of the Book Of Mormon's Authenticity, Horizon Publishers, 1993. The full version, along with all references, can be found therein.)



Michael T. Griffith
@All Rights Reserved

In 1983, Vernal Holley published a 45-page booklet entitled Book Of Mormon Authorship: A Closer Look. Holley believes that most of the Book of Mormon was plagiarized from Solomon Spaulding's 1812 novel, Manuscript Story. Holley claims that his booklet is "a comprehensive study of the similarities" between the Nephite record and Manuscript Story.

The idea that the Book of Mormon is based on Spaulding's fictitious work has come to be known as the Spaulding theory. This theory has been so thoroughly discredited that even most modern anti-Mormons reject it (most, but not all). Holley's work is the most ambitious modern attempt to resurrect the Spaulding theory. Some anti-LDS critics view Holley's booklet as a valid defense of the theory. What follows is an analysis of some of the errors and weaknesses in Holley's pamphlet.


The Missing Connection

One of the biggest weaknesses of the Spaulding theory is the total lack of any hard evidence connecting Joseph Smith with Spaulding's Manuscript Story. Holley's booklet contains no such evidence. In fact, the proponents of the Spaulding theory have never been able to produce one shred of evidence that Joseph Smith read or even heard of Spaulding's novel before translating and publishing the Book of Mormon.

Ancient Evidence

Nowhere in his booklet does Holley attempt to deal with the huge amount of ancient evidence of the Book of Mormon's authenticity.

It has been demonstrated that the Nephite record contains numerous ancient Near Eastern and Mesoamerican cultural and linguistic elements, almost all of which were discovered long after the book was published. Moreover, significant progress has been made in identifying the actual lands, and even some of the cities, of the Book of Mormon. Such books as Nibley's An Approach to the Book of Mormon and Noel B. Reynolds' Book Mormon Authorship: New Light on Ancient Origins document the ancient Near Eastern evidence, while works like Sorenson's An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon and Joseph Allen's Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon credibly establish the Book of Mormon in its ancient Mesoamerican environment.

Avoiding A Major Hurdle

One of the most thorough refutations of the Spaulding theory ever published is Lester Bush's 29-page article, "The Spaulding Theory Then and Now," which appeared in the Autumn 1977 issue of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. Bush's article has been reprinted by Mormon Miscellaneous and by the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies. Bush's refutation has been called "the definitive history of the rise and demise of the idea that the Spaulding manuscript was a source for the Book of Mormon ." How does Holley approach this major hurdle to any attempt to resurrect the Spaulding theory? With one sentence he dismisses Bush's entire study because it "failed to cite similarities between Spaulding's manuscript and the Book of Mormon" (7). In short, Holley dodges it.

In any event, Bush does not bother to discuss the alleged "similarities" between the two texts because, among other things, he destroys the Spaulding theory's very historical foundations.


Holley's Methodology

Holley's approach to the Book of Mormon is very similar, if not identical, to an approach employed by many of the more radical Bible critics in their efforts to disprove the Bible's authenticity.

This approach consists of doing something like the following:

1. You suggest that a particular book in the Bible was written in a later period than the one in which the book itself claims or indicates it was written.

2. You produce parallels between the biblical book and sources from the proposed later period.

3. You present your parallels as proof that the biblical book was written during the later period and that the author (or authors) of the biblical book plagiarized from, or were dependent on, your later sources.

4. You completely ignore or only superficially deal with the evidence of the biblical book's authenticity.

This technique has been recognized and discredited in the field of Bible criticism. It is just as misleading and false when used by Holley in this context.

Proper Testing

It is a widely recognized fact that the best, most conclusive way to test an alleged ancient document is to consider it in the light of the origin and background claimed for it. If the text passes that test, there is really no need to look farther, since historical forgery is virtually impossible. This is the same test that responsible scholars have used to test the Bible. And yet Holley, like virtually all other anti-Mormons, fails to test the Book of Mormon in this manner. Why? More will be said about proper testing in the next chapter.


General Comments

Holley's alleged similarities between the Book of Mormon and Manuscript Story (Holley 1041) can be divided into three general groups: (A) those that are simply invalid; (B) those that are extremely general in nature; and (C) those that can be matched with equally close or closer parallels from ancient Near Eastern and/or Mesoamerican sources.

Many of Holley's parallels are so general that they could also be found in dozens of other books from all over the world. Moreover, a number of his alleged similarities, such as those concerning "Stolen Daughters" and "The Last Great Battle," are based on misrepresentations of the Book of Mormon and/or Spaulding's Manuscript Story (hereafter cited as MS).

Finding the Records

Under the heading of "Finding the Records," Holley claims there are "conspicuous parallels" between Spaulding's MS account of the finding of some ancient records and Joseph Smith's account of finding the metal plates upon which the Book of Mormon was written (11-12).

Holley points out that the records mentioned in MS were found in a box in a cave on the top of a mound near Spaulding's home and that access to the case was gained by using a lever to lift the heavy stone cover away from the cave's opening. All of this is supposed to closely parallel Joseph Smith's discovery of the Book of Mormon because the Nephite plates were found in an ancient stone box which was buried in a hill near Joseph's home and because Joseph used a large stick as a lever to move a stone of considerable size that covered the box.

Of course, anyone familiar with the entire account of the discovery of the Book of Mormon plates will quickly recognize the forced and incomplete nature of Holley's parallels.

To begin with, Joseph Smith did not find the Book of Mormon plates in a cave. Moreover, that the Nephite plates were found in a stone box that was buried in a hill near Joseph's home, and that the Prophet used a large stick as a lever to move a large stone to get to the plates, are only four minor, incidental parts of the account of the discovery of the golden plates.

The discovery of the Book of Mormon plates resulted from faith, prayer, repentance, angelic visitations, visions, Joseph's desire to know the truth, the involvement of Joseph's family, and much more. Where can any of these elements be found in Spaulding's account of the finding of some ancient records? Where in Spaulding's account can anything be found to compare to the glorious appearance of the angel Moroni to the Prophet Joseph Smith? Where in Spaulding's account is there anything to compare to the inspiring message Moroni delivered to Joseph to prepare him to obtain and translate the Book of Mormon? Nowhere. These are significant differences, yet Holley passes over them in complete silence.

In addition, Holley fails to mention the fact that the record which Spaulding said he discovered (i.e., MS) was a parchment written in Latin, and that Spaulding said he found it in an earthen box, whereas the Book of Mormon was found in a stone box and was a metal-plated text written in a form of ancient Egyptian.

Holley claims that both "finding-the-records" accounts tell of "some supernatural difficulty encountered in removing the record from the box" (11). However, Spaulding does not mention encountering any supernatural difficulty in obtaining his record. Rather, he merely indicates that at first he was momentarily afraid to remove the record. He says absolutely nothing about his fear being supernaturally induced. Spaulding goes on to add that his curiosity soon overcame his fear and that he removed the "venerable deposit."

Misrepresenting An LDS Scholar

In his zeal to find another "parallel" between Spaulding's and Joseph Smith's accounts of finding ancient records, Holley misrepresents the late Mormon scholar Francis W. Kirkham. According to Holley, Kirkham said that Joseph Smith told Thurlow Weed, publisher of the Rochester Telegraph, that the Book of Mormon had been found in a cave (11). However, Kirkharn made no such representation. The reference Holley gives for this claim is Kirkham's excellent book, A New Witness for Christ in America: The Book of Mormon. But when one examines what Kirkharn actually said, it becomes obvious that Holley's assertion is incorrect. Kirkham merely pointed out that in Ellen Dickinson's anti-Mormon book, New Light on Mormonism, Thurlow Weed was quoted as saying that Joseph Smith had told him that he, Joseph Smith, had found the Book of Mormon in a cave (Kirkham 1960:127-128). In addition, one only needs to read the rest of Kirkham's book to see that Kirkham placed absolutely no credence in Weed's statement.

Ocean Crossings

Holley sees parallels between the Book of Mormon and MS accounts of transoceanic crossings (12). Holley points out that both accounts speak of coming by ship from the Old World to the New; that both accounts have their authors (the prophet Nephi in the Book of Mormon and Fabius in MS) saying they came from good families; that both accounts speak of making provision for their voyages; that both accounts record that a sea storm was encountered on the way over; that both accounts mention the number of days their ships were driven by the storm (although Holley acknowledges that the number of days in the two records is different); that both accounts mention the sea voyagers' fear of perishing at sea because of the storm; that both accounts claim heavenly deliverance from the storm; and that both accounts claim the voyagers were divinely assisted in coming to the New World.

What kinds of "parallels" are these? How many ships have encountered storms while traveling on the ocean? How many sea travelers have feared for their lives during a severe storm at sea? How many sailors have believed that God had a hand in helping them during their voyages? How many sea voyagers have come from good families? How many ship crews have kept track of the number of days spent at sea? The answer to each of these questions is . . . thousands! And what ship's crew wouldn't make provisions for a transoceanic voyage?

Christopher Columbus sailed across the Atlantic Ocean en route to the New World. He encountered sea storms, and he firmly believed he was guided and assisted by God on the journey. Therefore, using Holley's line of reasoning, one could just as plausibly maintain that Spaulding's sea-voyage account in MS was plagiarized from Columbus's writings!

Holley overlooks the glaring dissimilarities between the Book of Mormon and MS sea-voyage accounts. For instance, Holley fails to note that the two accounts speak of coming from two entirely different parts of the Old World; that the Book of Mormon voyagers (the prophet Lehi's party in this case) crossed the Pacific Ocean, while Spaulding's voyagers crossed the Atlantic; that the Book of Mormon travelers left the Old World hundreds of years before Spaulding's voyagers departed; that the Book of Mormon and MS voyagers left the Old World for entirely different reasons and under wholly different circumstances; that Lehi's party encountered a sea storm because some of them were disobeying God; and that the Book of Mormon and MS voyagers landed in two drastically different places in the New World--Lehi's group landed on the Pacific Coast of Mesoamerica while the party in MS landed on the Atlantic Coast of North America.

Holley admits that from Fabius's introduction the Spaulding account proceeds immediately to its sea-voyage narrative, whereas the Book of Mormon's transoceanic crossing is preceded by the account of the adventures of Lehi's group in the Arabian desert. However, Holley fails to inform his readers of the significance of this difference. The Nephite account of the travels and adventures of Lehi's party is lengthy and detailed. It tells of visions, brass plates, intrigue, courage, several trips back and forth to and from the Jerusalem area, a confrontation with a wealthy Jewish aristocrat, a murder attempt, contention within Lehi's family, the appearance of a divinely provided device known as the Liahona to help Lehi's party reach the Red Sea, the swearing of an oath, and much more. None of these things can be found in Spaulding's sea-voyage account. Moreover, it has been convincingly shown that the Nephite record's account of Lehi's party in the Arabian desert contains numerous ancient Near Eastern elements about which no one in Joseph Smith's day could have known (Nibley 1976:25-114; England; more will be said about this in the next chapter).

Furthermore, the Book of Mormon speaks of three groups of people coming by ship from the Old World to the New. Interestingly, several ancient Meso-and South American texts also speak of transoceanic crossings to the New World. One Mesoamerican document, the Annals of the Cakchiquels, which didn't become generally available until 1953, even tells of a people coming from "across the sea" to a place called "Tulan," which means "abundant" or "bountiful ." One of the regions spoken of in the Book of Mormon is called the "land Bountiful" (Sorenson 1955; Jakeman 1963:178-179).

Savage Natives

Regarding "savage natives," Holley says the following:

Spaulding continues his description of the savage natives, saying that they wore skins only on the middle parts of their bodies, shaved their heads and painted them red, and used slings and bows and arrows. The Book of Mormon says the savage Lamanites wore skins about their loins, shaved their heads and painted them red, and used slings and bows and arrows (MS 11; Alma 3:4-5). (13)

Once again, Holley has avoided dealing with significant differences. The sling and the bow and the arrow were not the only weapons used by the Lamanites: They also used the javelin, the cimiter, and the ax, and they wore armor during battle. Moreover, the Lamanites were not always savages. There were periods when they were quite civilized. And, the Lamanites lived in Mesoamerica, whereas Spaulding located his "savages" in the north-eastern part of the United States.

Additionally, during the Book of Mormon period, or in Spaulding's and Joseph Smith's day, one could have gone to many parts of the New World and found "savage natives" who wore skins, whose heads were shaved and painted with all sorts of colors, and who possessed all kinds of weapons. Such conquerors and explorers as Captain Cook, Christopher Columbus, Francisco Pizzaro, and Hernando Cortez all encountered such natives. Does this mean that Spaulding plagiarized from the writings of these men? For that matter, numerous eighteenth-century American pioneers encountered similar natives. Does this therefore prove that Spaulding borrowed from American pioneer accounts?

Using Holley's loose criteria for establishing "conspicuous parallels," one could easily find such "parallels" between the Bible and dozens of other books from all over the ancient Near East, and then pronounce the Bible to be the product of plagiarism.

Lobaska And Christ In The Book of Mormon

Holley claims that Spaulding's account of an odd character named Lobaska bears a "striking resemblance" to the Book of Mormon's account of Christ's ministry among the Nephites (16-17) . Holley calls Lobaska a "divine reformer."

In Spaulding's MS, we are told the following about Lobaska: He appeared in the city of Golanga. Nobody knew where he was born. When he entered Golanga, he was accompanied by his wife and four sons, the eldest of whom was eighteen years old. Lobaska would lecture the people on moral and scientific subjects. His teachings helped the people advance morally and culturally. He united two warring kingdoms under one government. He was generally considered to be inspired. He supported his family "in affluence." He lived among the "Ohons" for at least three years. He "managed an ignorant people as he pleased." At times he would advise the Ohon king. On occasion Lobaska would go flying through the air and then slowly come back down to earth. During these flights extraordinary wisdom and knowledge were communicated to him. His system of theology was written on a scroll. This system was said to have been revealed to him during interviews he had had with "the second son of the great and good Being." Once Lobaska suggested to the Ohon king that the war between the Ohons and the Kentucks could be brought to a conclusion by using a little "stratagem." He also told the king to "call immediately into the field an army of three thousand men, provide two hundred shovels and mathooks and five hundred wheelbarrows and one hundred axes.

The following is a partial list of the differences between Christ in the Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 11-28) and Spaulding's Lobaska:

1. Christ proclaimed Himself to be the Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh and the Savior of the world. Lobaska made no such claims for himself.

2. Christ appeared to Jaredite and Nephite prophets in His preexistent state. Lobaska did no such thing.

3. Christ's visit to the Nephites was predicted by prophets of God. MS doesn't even claim to discuss prophets, and nobody knew about Lobaska until he migrated to Golanga.

4. Christ's visit to the Nephites was also preceded by signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth. No sign or wonder of any kind preceded Lobaska's arrival to Golanga.

5. When Christ visited the Nephites, He did so as a glorified, resurrected being, and He was introduced to the people by none other than God the Father, who told the Nephites, "Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name--hear ye him" (3 Nephi 11.7). Lobaska came as a mortal man, and nothing like the Father's introduction of Christ was ever done for him.

6. There is a significant amount of historical evidence of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon's account of Christ's visit to the Nephites (Sorenson 1985:326-330; Allen l970; 1989: 159-168). Needless to say, there is no such evidence for Spaulding's purely fictional account of Lobaska.

7. Christ called twelve apostles to guide His church among the Nephites. Lobaska never called any apostles.

8. Christ instituted the Sacrament among the Nephites and partook of it with His disciples. Lobaska never even mentioned the Sacrament.

9. Christ gave a full explanation of John 10:16 and expounded on the importance of the words of Isaiah. Lobaska never even mentioned a single biblical book or author.

10. Christ healed the sick and blessed little children while among the Nephites, as He had done in the Old World. Lobaska never blessed or healed anyone.

11. At one point when Christ was blessing some little children, the heavens opened and angels descended in the midst of a glorious light. Nothing like this ever happened to or around Lobaska.

12. Christ taught the importance of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins. Lobaska never even mentioned baptism.

13. Christ spoke of the glorious destiny of repentant Gentiles. Lobaska never mentioned the subject.

14. Christ uttered many inspired prophecies about the gathering of Israel. Lobaska never said a word about the house of Israel.

15. Christ gave His disciples the authority to baptize and to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost. Lobaska never gave anyone any such authority, nor did he ever claim to possess it.

16. Christ taught that He would visit the lost tribes of the house of Israel. Lobaska never mentioned the lost tribes.

17. Christ prayed to God the Father and taught the people to do the same. MS does not state that Lobaska prayed to God the Father. Nor does it assert that Lobaska taught the people about praying to Heavenly Father.

18. Christ spoke of the New Jerusalem. Lobaska did not mention it.

19. Christ promised to return to usher in the Millennium. Lobaska made no such promise.

Many more differences could be cited. Suffice it to say that the numerous significant differences between Christ and Lobaska far outweigh the few, superficial similarities between them.


Book of Mormon Geography

Holley's analysis of the geography of the Nephite record (3141) is simply not to be taken seriously. While ignoring all serious research on the subject, and while disregarding the internal geographical picture presented in the Book of Mormon itself, Holley suggests that the book's land area was located in the north-eastern part of the United States and in the south-eastern part of Canada!

Holley goes even farther, though, and suggests that the Book of Mormon's sea east was Lake Ontario; that the sea west was Lake Erie; and that the narrow neck of land was in southern Ontario. Such suggestions simply cannot be taken seriously. For more information on the problems with Holley's Book of Mormon geography, I would refer the reader to L. Ara Norwood's analysis of it. Norwood points out numerous glaring errors in Holley's reconstruction (84-87).

There is no disagreement among serious Book of Mormon scholars that the book's lands and cities were located in Mesoamerica. Mesoamerica is the only place in the New World where all of the major geographical features described in the Nephite record can be found; it is also the only area with the appropriate topography, climate, and ancient culture (Sorenson 1985; Palmer 1981; Allen 1989; Hauck).

The Narrow Neck Of Land

The vast majority of knowledgeable students of the Nephite record believe that the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in is Mesoamerica is the narrow neck of land spoken of in the book. Holley claims that this isthmus could not be the narrow neck of land (32). According to Holley, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, which is about 130 miles across, is too wide to have been the narrow neck of land separating the sea east from the sea west because Alma 22:32 states it was only a day and half's journey from "the east unto the west sea."

However, some Book of Mormon scholars do not interpret Alma's statement the same way Holley does. They note that Alma does not say a day and half's journey from the east sea to the west sea, but from "the east to the west sea." Therefore, they reason the journey may have been from some strategic point within the narrow neck to the west sea. That such could be the case is seemingly supported by another passage, Helaman 4:7, in which the order of phrasing is reversed: "And they [the Nephites] did fortify against the Lamanites, from the west sea, even unto the east; it being a day's journey for a Nephite, on the line which they had fortified and stationed their armies to defend their north country."

The view that Alma was referring to the distance from some strategic point or line in the narrow neck to the west sea appears to be receive additional support from a fuller consideration of Alma's statement: "And now, it was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea . . . "

David Palmer suggests that this defensive line extended from the Pacific Ocean (the sea west) to the continental divide:

It is hypothesized that this defensive line stretched from the Pacific Ocean to the continental divide. Fortifications between the ocean and the mountains would have served as a barrier preventing movement along the narrow coastal plain towards the isthmus [of Tehuantepec] from Guatemala. (31) 

Sorenson has shown that Alma 22:32 is actually a good indication that the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is the narrow neck of land even if one assumes that Alma was referring to the distance across the entire narrow neck (1985 :16-17) . There is also the fact that in Book of Mormon times the isthmus was not as wide as it is now (Jakeman 1957:10) . In any event, there are several good reasons for identifying the Isthmus of Tehuantepec as the narrow neck of land. When all of the Book of Mormon's requirements for the narrow neck are considered the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is the only plausible location.

Name Comparisons

Holley compares some Book of Mormon place names with modern place names in the region of Spaulding's MS setting (3940) . According to Holley, the Book of Mormon place names which he presents are "either identical or similar to the modern names listed." As with his treatment of the Nephite record's geography, it is hard to take Holley's work here seriously. Holley does not appear to understand how Semitic and Egyptian names were formed; nor does he seem to appreciate the complexities and proper methods of making name comparisons.

Be that as it may, if Holley would ask us to believe that the origin of the Book of Mormon's place names is established by his list of comparable place names from the Nephite record and from the area of MS's setting, then he should first explain the significance of the following list of comparable place and proper names from the Book of Mormon and from the ancient Near East and Mesoamerica. I have compiled this list from the works of Nibley (1976a: 230-242; 1952:27-30), R. F. Smith (1973:64-67), Jakeman (1963:178-179), and Allen (1989:3641).

Book of Mormon Names and Names from Ancient Near East/Mesoamerica

Book of Mormon Name

Ancient Near Eastern/Mesoamerican Name


Aha (Egyptian)


Alma (Semitic)


Ammon (Egyptian)


Ammunira (Egyptian)


Hem (Egyptian)


Heramon (Egyptian) (Note: Semitic "l" is frequently written "r" in Egyptian)


Hmn (Egyptian)


Kherihor (Egyptian)


Cumen (Mesoamerican)


Laman and Lamin (Semitic). Lamanai (Mesoamerican)


Lacanha (Mesoamerican)

Land Bountiful

Tulan/Tullan = Place of Abundance or Bountiful (Mesoamerican)


Lehi (Semitic)


Manti-Mankhi (Egyptian)


Merianton and Meriamon (Egyptian)


Mr-mn (Egyptian)


Nehem (Semitic)


Nehi, Nehri, and Nfy (Egyptian)


Paanchi (Egyptian)


Paheran (Egyptian)


Pakamen (Egyptian)


Paks and Pach-qs (Egyptian)


Sam Tawi (Egyptian)


Shisur and Shisar (Semitic)


Xul (Mesoamerican)


Zmn-hare (Egyptian)


Zenekh (Egyptian)

In attacking the Book of Mormon on a linguistic basis, Holley has collided head-on with one of the most impressive bodies of evidence of the authenticity of the Nephite record. The Book of Mormon is plastered with ancient Semitic and Egyptian language characteristics. Scholars have also begun to recognize in the Nephite text certain linguistic features found in ancient Mesoamerica. Joseph Smith could not possibly have known about any of these traits. The parallels listed above are but a fraction of the evidence in this area. Let's take a moment and see what additional evidence there is in this regard. Wrote Hugh Nibley:

There is in the Book of Mormon within one important family a group of names beginning with Pa-. They are peculiar names and can be matched exactly in Egyptian. Names beginning with Pa- are by far the most common type in late Egyptian history ....

There is a marked tendency for Egyptian and Hebrew names in the Book of Mormon to turn up in the Elephantine region of Upper Egypt ....

The most frequent "theophoric" element by far in the Book of Mormon names is Ammon. The same is true of late Egyptian names. The commonest formative element in the Book of Mormon names is the combination Mor-, Mr-; in Egyptian the same holds true.

Egyptian names are usually compound and formed according to certain rules. Book of Mormon names are mostly compound and follow the same rules of formation.

Mimation (ending with -m) predominated in Jaredite names, nunation (ending with -n) in Nephite and Lamanite names. This is strictly in keeping with the development of languages in the Old World, where mimation was everywhere succeeded by nunation around 2,000 B.C....

A large proportion of Book of Mormon names end in -iah and -ihah. The same ending is peculiar to Palestinian names of Lehi's time but not of other times.

The names in the Book of Mormon that are neither Egyptian nor Hebrew are Arabic, Hittite (Hurrian) or Greek. This is strictly in keeping with the purported origin of the book ....

The absence of "Baal-" names [in the Book of Mormon] (that is names compounded with the theophoric Baal element), is entirely in keeping with recent discoveries regarding common names the Palestine of Lehi's day. (1976a:231-232)

Dr. Joseph Allen writes:

The "HA" ending is common both in the Maya language and in proper names and cities in the Book of Mormon. For example, the names NEPHI(HAH), MORONI(HAH), AND AMMONI(HAH) all display the "HA" sound. Compare these names with Maya place names, such as XEL(HA), BALAM(HA), ALTUN(HA), PULSI(HA), etc....

A name that begins with CO or KO is rather common [in the Nephite record] and is also evident in the Maya language. The Book of Mormon names (CO)hor, (KO)rihor, (CO)rianton, and (CO)riantumr all begin with the "CO" sound. Driving from Chichen Itza to Cancun, in the Yucatan, a person travels through the town of CO-COM, a word that not only manifests the beginning sound of "CO" but also the word "COM," which is the name of a Jaredite king. (1989:37, 39)


Helaman 12:15 states, "for surely it is the earth that moveth and not the sun" (cf. Alma 30:44). MS states that the planets revolve around the sun. Holley believes the Book of Mormon's statements about the earth rotating around the sun are anachronisms. According to Holley:

The knowledge that the planets revolve about the sun rather than the earth was not popularized until 1543 A.D. There is no historical evidence that either the ancient Romans or the ancient Jews understood this Copernican astronomy, yet both texts [the Book of Mormon and MS] make the same error. (14)

In actuality, the Book of Mormon does not speak of the orbits of other planets; it refers only to the earth's revolving around the sun. While the Nephites may very well have known that the planets in our solar system revolve around the sun, this is not explicitly stated in the Nephite text.

In any event, contrary to Holley's assertion, there is evidence that at least some ancient Jews knew that the earth and other planets revolve around the sun (Sperry 1967:172-174; Nibley 1981:13-14; Hunter 91-96; Athay). Furthermore, in the New World, some experts in ancient Mesoamerica knew that the earth rotates around the sun. They also knew with great precision how long it takes the earth to complete its orbit (Sorenson 1985:273).


A Note About The MS Text

I am using the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' reproduction of MS, which is a verbatim copy of the original. All MS page-number citations refer to this reproduction.

35 Differences

A number of differences between the Nephite record and Spaulding's novel have already been discussed. Thirty-five more dissimilarities between the two works will now be presented.

1. Fabius's group meant to sail to Great Britain, not to the New World, but was blown off course and landed in North America (14-17). None of the three Book of Mormon migratory groups came to the New World by accident, and none of them meant to sail to England.

2. Fabius wanted to travel to England because the Roman King Constantine told him to go there to deliver an important message to the general of the Roman army in that country (14). There is no hint of any of this in the Book. of Mormon. In the Nephite record, all three migratory groups were brought to the New World by God for reasons totally unrelated to Fabius's motives for wanting to go to Great Britain.

3. When the travelers in MS came to the New World, they were greeted by natives. Following this seaside welcome, Fabius's group was treated to an elaborate welcome party, which included a feast, whooping, and wild dancing (16-17). None of the three Book of Mormon groups experienced anything like this when they came to the New World.

4. One would expect "wigwams" to be mentioned in any book about the North American Indians. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that "wigwams" are not mentioned in the Book of Mormon, which is consistent with its Mesoamerican setting.

5. Frogs, toads, and snails are mentioned in MS (24) . None of these creatures is mentioned in the Book of Mormon.

6."Snow colored dogs" are mentioned in MS (24). The word "snow" does not even appear in the Nephite record.

7. It will be recalled that in his booklet Holley compares Spaulding's Fabius with the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi (3-4, 12) . MS's Fabius had no idea what would happen to his descendants of future generations (28). Nephi and other Book of Mormon prophets knew by revelation what would happen to their descendants.

8. Even after arriving in the New World, Fabius still wanted to return to Europe, which he called the "land of our nativity" (28, 30, 33). Nephi never expressed any desire to return to his homeland, Israel.

9. Nephi possessed the gifts of prophecy and revelation, and he uttered many inspired prophecies. Fabius claimed no such gifts and never uttered a single prophecy.

10. In MS, the men of one of the native tribes (the "Ohons") wore "shoes and long stockings, wide trousers, a waist coat and a garment with wide short sleeves, which came down to their knees, and in cold weather a cloak over the whole. The covering for the head was generally a kind of a cap, which ran up high and tapered to a point. This was generally made of fur skins and was ornamented with feathers" (34-35). Nowhere in the Book of Mormon will one find a single word about any such attire.

11. Elk are mentioned in MS (35). Elk are not mentioned in the Book of Mormon.

12. Such birds as the turkey and the goose are mentioned in MS (36). Neither bird is mentioned in the Nephite record.

13. Shovels are spoken of in MS (53). They are not mentioned in the Book of Mormon.

14. Indian feathers are repeatedly referred to in MS (34, 54, 56-57). Feathers are not mentioned in the Book of Mormon.

15. The peace treaty between Spaulding's Sciotans and the Kentucks included the following article: "any person may wear a blue feather in his cap, or any other feather that he pleases" (57) . No peace treaty in the Nephite text contains anything that remotely resembles this bizarre article.

16. The "Sciotan Constitution" stated that if the people refused to give a fair proportion of their wealth "for the support of the their priests . . . they shall be denied their instructions and shall be subjected to the ridicule and contempt of the people" (62). No such punishment for those who failed to "support" their priests is mentioned or implied in the Book of Mormon.

17. In the empires of Sciota and Kentuck, it was fashionable during small assemblies for the people to amuse themselves by "playing with pieces of parchment." This was called "Bird Play." Each piece of parchment was oval in form, and on each one was portrayed the likeness of a bird (68). There is no mention in the Nephite record of any game that resembles "Bird Play."

18. Concerning the courtship customs of the Sciotans and Kentucks, MS says the following: "When a young man wishes to settle himself in a family state he proclaims it by wearing a red feather in his cap. This is considered as an admonition to the young women who would not receive him for a husband to avoid his company, whereas those whose inclinations towards his are more favorable admit his attention. From this number he selects one as the object of his addresses. He obtains an interview and proposes courtship. If the proposition accords with her wishes, they then agree on a time when he shall make know the affair to her parents, whose approbation being obtained, he is then permitted to visit her ten times in sixty days. At the expiration of this time the bargain for matrimony must be finished'' (68-69) . None of this can be found in the Book of Mormon. The Nephite text does not address the specifics of courtship among its peoples.

19. In the empires of Sciota and Kentuck, adultery was punished by obliging the offender to wear a pair of elk horns on his shoulders for six days, and to walk through the city or village once a day, "at which times the boys are at liberty to pelt him with rotten eggs" (71). While the Book of Mormon condemns adultery as a serious sin, no such earthly punishment for the offense is mentioned therein.

20. For the third offense of adultery, the offender was to be covered with tar and feathers and exhibited as a spectacle for laughter and ridicule (71). Again, no such earthly punishment for adultery is mentioned in the Book of Mormon.

21. "Tomehauks" [sic], i.e., tomahawks, which were common among North American Indians, are mentioned in MS (125). Tomahawks are not mentioned in the Book or Mormon.

22. Temples are mentioned in the Book of Mormon (e.g 2 Nephi 5:16; Jacob 1:17; Alma 7:21; Helaman 4:24; 3 Nephi 11:1). Temples are not mentioned in MS.

23. The Book of Mormon emphasizes such saving principles as faith, baptism, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost (e.g., Alma 32; 2 Nephi 9:23-24; l Nephi l3:37; Jacob 6:8; Moroni 8:265-26). MS does not discuss any of these important principles.

24 . The Book of Mormon is full of inspired prophecies about the last days. MS does not claim to contain a single prophecy about anything.

25. The Book of Mormon contains an inspiring, complex, and horticulturally correct allegory likening Israel to a tame olive tree, and the Gentiles to a wild olive tree (Jacob 5; Vestal and Wallace 139-145) . Nothing resembling this allegory can be found in MS.

26. The Book of Mormon contains many teachings and prophecies about the House of Israel (e.g., 3 Nephi 5:21-26, 21:22-29; 2 Nephi 8:1-3, 29:1-2; Jacob 6:2; 1 Nephi 1:23-25). MS doesn't mention the House of Israel.

27. The Book of Mormon contains a beautiful sermon on faith by the prophet Alma (Alma 32). Nothing resembling Alma's sermon can be found in MS.

28. The divine Sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ, His role as our Savior, and the reality of His resurrection are the central themes of the Book of Mormon (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 222-258). Christ is scarcely even mentioned in MS.

29. The Book of Mormon recounts Christ's marvelous visit to the Nephites after His resurrection in the Old World (3 Nephi 11-28) . Again, MS scarcely even mentions Christ. It says nothing about any post-resurrection visit by the Savior to any part of the world.

30. The Book of Mormon contains many authentic, complex examples of an ancient Hebraic literary form known as chiasmus (Welch 1982:33-52; Reynolds 53-74).

Chiasmus is an inverted type of parallelism. A chiastic passage is one in which the second part is inverted and balanced against the first--in other words, a statement containing two or more parts followed by a restatement in reverse order.

Since there is no evidence that anyone in America understood chiasmus in 1830 (the year the Book of Mormon was published), the remarkable presence of complex chiasms in the book is strong evidence of the record's authenticity. No complex chiasms appear in MS.

Holley claims to have found chiasmus in MS (26-27), but none of his alleged chasms is authentic; all of them are forced and taken out of context.

There are several rules for identifying authentic chiastic passages (Welch 1982:39, 52; 1989). One, the center of the alleged chiastic passage must always be the turning point. Two, the identical ideas of the passage will often be distributed so as to occur at the beginning, middle, and end of the chiasm, but nowhere else. Three, there will often be a mixture of directly parallel and inverted parallel lines in the same unit. Four, the chiasm will be relatively self-evident, encompassing a complete literary unit within the text, and not forced upon a partial passage artificially. Five, a chiasm will generally not occur where other organizing schemes are present. Six, the chiasm should take into account every predominant word or thought in the unit, and similarly should not rely upon insignificant or dispensable parts of speech.

None of Holley's handful of alleged chasms satisfies even one of these chiastic requirements. MS does not contain authentic, complex chiasmus.

31. Another ancient literary form, known as epanalepsis, can also be found in the Book of Mormon (Childs) . Epanalepsis occurs when an author repeats certain words in the course of a lengthy sentence, to pick up a previous train of thought after a parenthetical aside or other diversion, repeating certain words to remind the reader of the original idea of the sentence. This technique is sometimes called "resumptive repetition." Ancient authors apparently found it useful to employ epanalepsis since they did not have the benefit of modern punctuation or paragraphing. The presence of epanalepsis in the Book of Mormon is yet another evidence of the record's authenticity. Epanalepsis does not appear in MS.

32. The Book of Mormon displays a knowledge of an ancient type of spatial organization known as cosmic urban symbolism (Olsen). Cosmic urban symbolism has been documented in several ancient civilizations. It first appeared in the ancient Near East. This symbolism was based on the belief that the perceived order of territorial environment, in its natural and built-up features, revealed the structure of a sacred universe. The epitome of this symbolic order was a capital city or ceremonial center, which would be viewed as a reduced version of the cosmos. The specific features of this ancient model of spatial organization can generally be expressed in terms of three principles: centripetality, cardinality, and inductance (Olsen 80-81).

The existence of cosmic urban symbolism was unknown in Europe and America at the time the Book of Mormon was published. Concerning cosmic urban symbolism in the Nephite record, Steven Olsen says the following:

Cosmic urban symbolism affects every aspect of society and culture in the Book of Mormon, from the universal to the mundane, from the immediate to the eternal. It provides a broadly based and compelling connection between the Book of Mormon and the civilizations of the ancient world. (92)

Cosmic urban symbolism does not appear in MS.

33. There are no names in the Book of Mormon beginning with the letters D, F, U, or W (Matthews 71). However, MS does contain names beginning with these letters, e.g., Droll Tom, Fabius, Ulipoon, and Wunapon (14, 19, 128, 133).

34. The Book of Mormon was written by many ancient authors. Spaulding had his MS claim to be written by only one man, the Roman Fabius.

35. MS is not quite 150 pages in length and deals with a time span of no more than 700 years. The actual length of time covered by Fabius's narration is no more than 100 years. The Book of Mormon, on the other hand, is over 500 pages long and covers a time span of over 2,000 years.


What Are Wordprint Tests?

Basically, a computer wordprint test consists of determining the subconscious patterns of non-contextual word usage on the part of an author. We all use non-contextual words, like "the ' "and ' "of ' etc., in ways that uniquely characterize our writing. These patterns cannot be imitated. A computer wordprint test can identify these patterns in an author's writings. Scholars have used wordprint tests to detect ghost writers. No ghost writer has ever fooled a wordprint test. Wordprint tests have also been successfully used in cases where a book's authorship has been disputed. Studies have shown that wordprints can survive the translation process.

Book of Mormon Wordprint Tests

The first substantive wordprint tests done on the Book of Mormon were performed in 1980 by Wayne Larsen, Alvin Rencher, and Tim Layton, all of whom are experts in statistics. Utilizing computers, these scholars conducted three types of tests on the Nephite record: MANOVA (Multivariate Analysis of Variance), Cluster Analysis, and Discriminant Analysis. The three most important results of these tests were (1) that the Book of Mormon was written by many different authors, exactly as it claims; (2) that Joseph Smith did not write the Book of Mormon; and (3) that the wordprints of the Nephite writers and those of Solomon Spaulding do not match (Larsen, Rencher, and Layton; Larsen and Rencher).

Shortly after the Larsen-Rencher-Layton test results were published, a group of scientists, now known as the Berkeley Group, began their own wordprint project. This group was composed of several non-Mormon experts and one LDS scholar, John Hilton, an adjunct professor in the statistics department at Brigham Young University. The group's goals were to verify the accuracy of wordprinting and to check the results of the Larsen-Rencher-Layton results.

The tests conducted by the Berkeley Group were even more conservative and rigorous than those done by Larsen, Rencher, and Layton. They incorporated six points which were not used in earlier Book of Mormon wordprint studies, such as the development of a "wrap-around" word-group counting method to help break apart clusters of similar words, and the use of the earliest Book of Mormon manuscripts. The Berkeley Group compared the two Nephite authors who have the largest number of 5000-word texts, Nephi and Alma. The group selected and analyzed three independent writings of these two authors. The wordprints in these writings were also measured against the wordprints of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and Solomon Spaulding. After years of research and testing, a brief paper describing the Berkeley test results was published in 1987. A more detailed article on the results appeared in the Summer 1990 issue of Brigham Young University Studies. Like the Larsen-Rencher-Layton wordprint study, the Berkeley tests deal a fatal blow to the Spaulding theory; they also refute the idea that Joseph Smith was the author of the Nephite record a. Hilton) . I quote from Hilton's report on the Berkeley Group's test results:

By using a new wordprint measuring methodology which has been verified, we show that it is statistically indefensible to propose Joseph Smith or Oliver Cowdery or Solomon Spaulding as the author of the 30,000 words from the Book of Mormon manuscript texts attributed to Nephi and Alma. Additionally these two Book of Mormon writers have wordprints unique to themselves and measure statistically independent from each other in the same fashion that other uncontested authors do. Therefore, the Book of Mormon measures multiauthored, with authorship consistent to its own internal claims. (101)


Few people have studied the Spaulding theory more than Mormon historians Dean Jessee and Bruce Blummell. I will conclude by quoting some of their observations on the subject. Jessee:

The document [MS] bears no resemblance to the Book of Mormon that could not be found in many other books written in the same language. It is not written in the same style, nor are there common incidents or names....

The [Spaulding] theory was born in a spirit of rancor and animosity and was perpetuated chiefly by those who sought to lash back at Joseph Smith and Mormonism. The weight of scholarly studies in the field of Mormon history during the last thirty years has effectively rejected the Spaulding theory as a credible alternative to Joseph Smith's explanation for the origin of the Book of Mormon. (58)


The manuscript, entitled Manuscript Story . . . bears no relationship to the Book of Mormon in either style or content ....

The similarities between this manuscript and the Book of Mormon are general and superficial at best ....

The simplest and most accurate assumption about the origin of the Book of Mormon is that it is exactly what Joseph Smith said it was--an ancient work translated by the gift and power of God. (84-85)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Michael T. Griffith holds a Masterís degree in Theology from The Catholic Distance University, a Graduate Certificate in Ancient and Classical History from American Military University, a Bachelorís degree in Liberal Arts from Excelsior College, and two Associate in Applied Science degrees from the Community College of the Air Force.He also holds an Advanced Certificate of Civil War Studies and a Certificate of Civil War Studies from Carroll College.He is a graduate in Arabic and Hebrew of the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, and of the U.S. Air Force Technical Training School in San Angelo, Texas.In addition, he has completed an Advanced Hebrew program at Haifa University in Israel.He is the author of five books on Mormonism and ancient texts, including How Firm A Foundation, A Ready Reply, and One Lord, One Faith.