Subject: Book of Mormon historicity, Spaulding and other intriguing sources for the "most perfect book on the face of the earth"
Date: Oct 28 13:38
Author: steve benson

For those of you interested in some recent, intriquing and innovative research on possible 19th-century origins of the Book of Mormon, please check out a couple of articles by a local Arizona exMo friend of mine, Tom Donofrio.

(By way of background, Tom is a temple-married RM, formerly employed by the Church, who had his name removed earlier this year).

Donofrio's research into parallelisms between the writings of early frontier American Revolutionary historians, the sermons of American clerics of the same general era and the plot lines and word choice/patterns of the Book of Mormon text are--I think--startling and compelling.

Donofrio's first article is entitled "Early American Influences in the Book of Mormon," which you can read at:

His second, "Book of Mormon Tories," is found at:


In a related vein, back in September 1993, my wife, Mary Ann, and I flew up to Salt Lake City for a personal one-on-one meeting with Dallin Oaks and Neal Maxwell.

We were still members of the Mormon Church at the point, but our faith was steadily eroding, due to our own studies of Book of Mormon historicity and other matters.

During our personal research, one small pamphlet, in particular, had served to prompt a lot of faith-challenging questions.

It was authored by Vernal Holley, entitled "Book of Mormon Authorship: A Closer Look."

Holley's premise was that the so-called "Manuscript Found" novel by Solomon Spaulding may have served as a significant source of material for the inventors of the Book of Mormon.

After Mary Ann and I read Holley's case, we were both quite troubled.

To us, the similarities seemed obvious, numerous and beyond coincedence.

Mary Ann subsequently took a 50-cent paperback copy of the Book of Mormon--along with Spaulding's manuscript, maps of the Great Lakes regions of the US and a box of colored pencils--and began her own Seminary-like exercise in cross-referencing.

She also used both the Old and New Testaments as guides, as she commenced to examine similarities between all three sources and the Book of Mormon text.

It was a project that took her weeks, often running late into the night.

By the time she was finished, she literally had a Book of Many Colors.

I would come home in the evening and find the living room table covered from end to end with her source materials, notes and study guides--with her in the middle of it all, intently plowing through it.

One night, as I walked through the front door, she looked up and, with tears in her eyes, said simply, "Stephen, it's not true."

I, too, had come to my own conclusions about the alleged "historicity" of the Book of Mormon, having determined that it, along with the Church bearing its name, were most likely man-made creations.

But Mary Ann and I wanted to give the Church one last chance to explain itself.

So we made up a list of what we regarded as some of our most serious questions that we wished to pose to leading Church authorities.

My father (Mark Benson) agreed to facilitate a meeting with Neal Maxwell.

At my father's request, I faxed to him a copy of our questions, which he went down and retrieved at a local Salt Lake Kwik Kopy.

He then passed them on to Neal Maxwell, who agreed to meet with us, after first reviewing the questions.

Mary Ann and I then flew up to SLC, where we were picked up at the airport by my father and driven directly to Maxwell's office in the Church Office Building.

Upon arriving, Maxwell informed us that he had invited Oaks to participate in the meeting because, Maxwell said, Oaks might have some expertise that Maxwell himself lacked in certain areas of discussion.

The meeting went on for several hours and covered a wide variety of topics.

For the purposes of this post, however, I will concentrate on only what was discussed concerning the Book of Mormon.

Mary Ann took out her small paperback copy of the Book of Mormon (the one highlighted by dozens of color-coded cross references) and presented it to Oaks and Maxwell as Exhibit A.

She told them that it seemed obvious to her that Spaulding and the Bible served as source material for the creation of the Book of Mormon.

As Mary Ann made her case, Oaks sat across from us with his eyes narrowed, a frown frozen on his face and looking very lawyerly. (Mary Ann was to later tell me that she thought he looked "evil").

Oaks took Mary Ann's copy of the Book of Mormon, quickly thumbed through it without closely examining the highlighted sections, then asked her to cite examples of what she thought were plagiarisms.

Mary Ann pointed out one, to which Oaks responded by saying it could be explained by the common vernacular of the day.

So, Mary Ann pointed out another one.

This time, Oaks said, "That's better."

Oaks then looked at us and said the following (as near as I can recall; Mary Ann and I made a record of our meeting immediately upon returning to Arizona that same day):

"The Book of Mormon is like your marriage. You don't throw out your marriage just because, say, 5 percent of it isn't perfect."

I am looking forward to the next General Conference when Apostle Oaks will stand before the assembled faithful and tell them that, although (pick a number, any number) 5 percent or so of the Book of Mormon may be plagiarized, the rest of it is darn pretty good.

Subject: Fascinating. Thank you. I asked many questions of Church leaders throught my years
Date: Oct 28 13:54
Author: sonoflds

in the Church and, what struck me over time, was that no one EVER had an answer beyond something like Dallin Oak's response to your wife. They always boardered on a non-sequitur. It just astonished me that they really know nothing. They were masters at controlling the members, but couldn't respond to genuine questions. Answers were always very similar to Hinckley's infamous appearance on Larry King. My approach, as a TBM, was always altruistic as I just wanted to build on my knowledge of the Church. However, many times, I wanted to ask, "what's that got to do with anything?"

Subject: Great story. Is this really all they can offer?
Date: Oct 28 13:58
Author: sg

What bothers me so much about the BoM is the ugliness of the writing. I just can't read it.

I can't recall ever reading it all. I may have in Seminary or as part of an MIA requirment, but I can't be sure. I remember trying to read, but did I ever finish it? I'm not sure. It's almost unreadable IMO.

I guess I wasn't a very "good" TBM or maybe I was more typical than one supposes. There was a recent thread about this--many TBMs probably haven't really read it, I'd hazard.

Anyway, it's one of the main thing that allowed me to let go of the morg. I can NOT accept that God talks this way.

But back to Oaks and Maxwell. This is all they can offer? "Okay, maybe it's not perfect, but, hey, that's life."? These guys are ridiculous!

Subject: The 5 percent theory... Thats the best he could come up with ???
Date: Oct 28 14:11
Author: Saucie

He puts the L in Lame. I can't believe it..!!! It just proves my theory that they use whatever works to keep the corporation going... Thanks for Sharing that.

Subject: Of course Oaks and Maxwell would deny the fraud. After all
Date: Oct 28 14:16
Author: MoNoMo

the church pays them big bucks to keep covering up the lie upon which the church is based on. I find it hard to believe that these two clowns actually believe the church to be true but then again it doesn't surprise me as their egos are pretty much swollen.

Thank you Steve for the insight and a warm "Hello" from Mike Rivers. (I work with the dude.)

Subject: Re: Maxwell's defense of the Book of Mormon
Date: Oct 28 14:26
Author: steve benson

During a subsequent follow-up meeting in September 1993 with Oaks and Maxwell in SLC, Maxwell showed me a copy of what he said was one of the original transcribed pages of the Book of Mormon (I do not recall who was the scribe).

It was a densely-packed, uninterrupted bit of writing, without punctuation or verse, as I recall.

Maxwell asserted this was proof of the divine origin of the Book of Mormon, having sprung uninhibited in a divinely-inspired stream from the Prophet Joseph.

(Put in words I can understand, the same effect one witnesses from those speaking under the influence of hippie drugs).

Subject: Re: Maxwell's defense of the Book of Mormon
Date: Oct 28 14:34
Steve Benson

I also recall Maxwell arguing that the Book of Mormon translation was divinely inspired because, he said, judging from how excruciatingly long it took Japanese translators employed by the Church to rework the Book of Mormon text from English into their native tongue, it would have had to have been miraculous for Joseph Smith to have produced the thing in a mere matter of weeks.

Subject: History will tell
Date: Oct 28 14:45
Author: sg

The fact that you're here demonstrates how persuasive you found their "evidence."

Subject: Re: History will tell
Date: Oct 28 14:56
Author: steve benson


Subject: Of course, the logical conclusion is precisely the opposite of that argued by Maxwell
Date: Oct 28 15:49
Author: Nick

Someone doing a translation - especially one of "scripture" - in which the result must match the source as closely as possible, not only literally, but in more subtle ways, has a much harder job than someone who only needs to incorporate key elements (and in plagiarism, the less exact the match, the better) from other texts in the same language!

So I would certainly expect the Japanese translators to spend much more time on producing the BofM in Japanese, than was required by JS and his collaborators, who had Spalding, the KJV Bible, Joseph's (and his father's) own imagined tales, etc. - all in English - to produce the BofM in its original, sloppy, ungrammatical, English form.

Subject: Re: Of course, the logical conclusion is precisely the opposite of that argued by Maxwell
Date: Oct 28 15:58
Author: steve benson

exactly on point, my friend.

Subject: About translation speed
Date: Oct 28 16:06
Author: Jolimont

A professional translator using a word processor and on-line glossaries can do as much as 2000 words per day under ideal conditions. I think the BofM is 130000 words, so it would take 65 days of intense concentration to translate it, if using a computer, more in those days. Since nobody ever hired me to translate without a computer, I wouldn't know!

We know Joe was doing many other thhings besides his divine translation, so how he managed to do it in 30 something days is a puzzle. Unless of course he was dictating plagerized materials, or doing a stream of consciousness dictation. One thing is certain: he wasn't translating. I dare assert that one can make up 130000 words in 30 days without any trouble, don't you think?

Subject: Re: Maxwell's scribbly defense of the Book of Mormon
Date: Oct 28 16:16
Author: KJA

A piece of paper with stream-of-conscious type scribblings (no punctuation, etc.) seems more the result of a hallucinogenic trip than divine inspiration. Perhaps this IS evidence of the origin of BOM?!?

Subject: Marriage – 95% perfect
Date: Oct 28 14:25
Author: Bert

>> "The Book of Mormon is like your marriage. You don't throw out your marriage just because, say, 5 percent of it isn't perfect." <<

If the bad 5% was your spouse being unfaithful, lying to you and not admitting it, and not being willing to change, then I’d say its OK to throw it out.

Subject: This is very interesting.....
Date: Oct 28 14:35
Author: One Who Knows

When you take into account that the Tanners claim there is no connection. I myself I'm on the fence on this issue. What were the similarities between the two did your wife find? Did she also study "View of the Hebrews" or has her opinion on this changed at all?

Subject: Re: Assessing Book of Mormon roots, in a nutshell
Date: Oct 28 14:48
Author: steve benson

I tend to think the Tanners have been premature in their rejection of the Spaulding theory.

However, I think that plausible explanations for Book of Mormon origins do not unilaterally hinge on the Spaulding connection.

The Book of Mormon, in my opinion, is a hodge-podge of influences from a variety of early America sources, including the writings of historians Warren and Ramsey, as well as the sermons of Edwards and Whitefield, not to mention the storytellings of Ethan Smith's "View of the Hebrews" and a lot of borrowed language from the Old and New Testaments.

The Book of Mormon simply reflects the popular political and religious arguments of Smith's day, with a glob of King James Biblical jargon thrown in to make it sound scriptural.

There's nothing mysterious about it at all.

The Book of Mormon is a poorly-written, crude, unimaginative product of easily-identifiable plagiarism.

Other than that, I'd say it's pretty damn good.

Subject: I agree, there are many sources....
Date: Oct 28 14:56
Author: One Who Knows

You have Joseph Smith's own imagination (Proven by the book his own mother wrote on the subject) View of the Hebrews (Proven by B.H. Roberts) His father's dreams (Source the Tanners) Spaulding (I found one or two names used in both stories) Old and Testament (admitted by the LDS Church because they refer back to them when they come up) and the speakers you also brought up. It was very much a product of it's time. It was also one of the most horrible things I've ever read, and I thought that even as a member.

Subject: I have a question for you OT.......
Date: Oct 28 15:02
Author: One Who Knows

What is the story between you and Art Bell. A few years back I was listening to his program and he was outraged over a cartoon you did on him. Then he got mad again when you made him take the cartoon off his web site. He then asked for artwork from his listeners to post and a bunch of Mormons sent him a ton. I guessing they saw that as a chance to pay you back for leaving the Church. So what is the rest of the story?

Subject: Re: Oh, yeah, that Art Bell guy.
Date: Oct 28 15:14
Author: steve benson

After the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, I did a cartoon blaming, among other right-wing radio talk show hosts, Art Bell for fostering a nutty, anti-governmental, irresponsible sense of paranoia that feeds into the mindset of the McVeighs of the world.

Bell and I had a chat over the phone at my newspaper, he threatened to sue me for $100 million and made a lot of noise about it on the radio. I had a polite exchange with him on his program one night, trying to explain the basis for the cartoon. His loyal fans were apparently not placated, however.

I also took Bell to task for his goofy musings that ancient civilizations were supposedly responsible for constructing a human-like face on Mars--when in fact, what our spacecraft orbiters of the Red Planet were beaming back were nothing more than Martian landforms playing with shadows. (The cartoon I did showed Bozo the Clown's face on Mars, labeled "Art Bell."

Bell originally posted the Bozo cartoon, in violation of copyright, and was eventually required to take it down.

Bell set up a page on his website for his followers to take their own cartoon shots at yours truly. (Hey, fair's fair). Some of their retorts were pretty funny.

A few apparently originated with Mormons, but not many, from what I could see.

God bless the First Amendment.

Subject: Re: Book of Mormon historicity, Spaulding and other intriguing sources for the "most perfect book on the face of the earth"
Date: Oct 28 15:23
Author: Tarma

Steve, did your wife ever publish what she found? Or is there a book out there at this point that combines all of the type of information that she found? I would definitely be interested in reading it.

Subject: Re: Book of Mormon historicity, Spaulding and other intriguing sources for the "most perfect book on the face of the earth"
Date: Oct 28 15:30
Author: steve benson

Nothing yet.
We are still awaiting further Bud Lite and knowledge.

Subject: Re: Book of Mormon historicity, Spaulding and other intriguing sources for the "most perfect book on the face of the earth"
Date: Oct 28 15:32
Author: steve benson

FYI, however, Brent Metcalf and Dan Vogel have just come out with a collection of devastating analyses of the Book of Mormon, including the latest on Lamanite DNA.

Contact Signature Books for info.

Subject: Re: Book of Mormon historicity, Spaulding and other intriguing sources for the "most perfect book on the face of the earth"
Date: Oct 28 15:56
Author: Bob

Steve...thanks for the info you always provide. My only question to Dallin Oaks would be: "If 95% of you marriage IS perfect and 95% of the BOM ISN'T perfect...which one do you throw out?

Subject: Spoken like a true lawyer!
Date: Oct 28 16:18
Author: Makurosu

So, how does Oaks figure that God borrowed 5% of the Book of Mormon from a Spaulding novel? That kind of thinking just leaves me stunned. How did these guys get to where they are? Mindboggling!

Is that the best explanation you can get for 10% of your income?

Subject: Re: Spoken like a true lawyer!
Date: Oct 28 18:04
Author: tanstaafl

HEY NOW!!! I resemble that remark. ;-)

But in my lawyerlike compulsion to find something to disagree with, I must point out that your "Is that the best explanation you can get for 10% of your income?" question misses the mark entirely. That is the best explanation you can get if you are 1) in the media and 2) a relative of a GA. For a measly 10% of your income, you don't get squat. ;-)

Subject: I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall
Date: Oct 28 16:25
Author: on the way out
Mail Address:

Steve thanks for what you posted. I would have loved to hear what they had to say about your questions. I wish you still had a copy of the questions you guys had that they addressed. We made our own list of questions and would have loved to hear what they had to say about it. I think that you offer a really unique perspective. The fact that they were willing to meet with you just amazes me. That would be like calling up Bill Gates and asking him for tech support when your windows system crashed and him actually meeting with you. AMAZING

Subject: Re: I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall
Date: Oct 28 16:32
Author: steve benson

We, in fact, still have the list of questions we posed to them--together with their "inspired" answers.

Will dribble them out, as the non-spirit moves.

Subject: So, isn't this an admission that at least 5% of the BoM is plagiarized? nt

Subject: Steve: You're an excellent read. What about the other topics?
Date: Oct 28 19:13
Author: Sarony
Mail Address:

As time permits, will you report on other topics you discussed with them?

Subject: Dallin Oaks on The Salamander Letter
Date: Oct 29 00:00
Author: Cattle Mutilator

From Dr. Shades website at:

In a classic example of the ludicrous lengths the leadership will go in the quest for damage control, Dallin H. Oaks, a Mormon apostle, even went so far as to claim that the Salamander Letter actually reaffirms Joseph Smith's prophetic claims(!) In the 1985 CES Doctrine and Covenants Symposium, he stated:

"One wonders why so many writers neglected to reveal to their readers that there is another meaning of 'salamander,' which may even have been the primary meaning. . . That meaning. . . is 'a mythical being thought to be able to live in fire'. . . A being that is able to live in fire is a good approximation of the description Joseph Smith gave of the Angel Moroni. . . the use of the words 'white salamander' and 'old spirit' seem understandable."

One wonders how Elder Oaks felt when he discovered that the entire letter was a mere fabrication.