Book of Mormon/Authorship theories

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Book of Mormon Articles


Authorship of the Book of Mormon

Summary: Many critics assert that Joseph Smith created the Book of Mormon instead of translating it from ancient records. This article addresses various authorship critiques.


Plagiarism theories

Book of Mormon plagiarism theories usually assert that Joseph Smith or one of his associates wrote the Book of Mormon by plagiarizing works that were available at the time. Examples of this are the Spalding manuscript theory, the View of the Hebrews theory, and The Golden Pot theory.

Spalding manuscript

The Spalding Theory of Book of Mormon authorship


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View of the Hebrews

The View of the Hebrews theory of Book of Mormon authorship


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Golden Pot

Grant Palmer's "Golden Pot" theory related to the story of Moroni's visit

Summary: Former LDS Church Education System (CES) teacher Grant Palmer argues that Joseph Smith developed his story of visits by Moroni and the translation of a sacred book from The Golden Pot, a book by German author E.T.A. Hoffmann.


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Sidney Rigdon authorship

Critical theories that Sidney Rigdon was a Book of Mormon author or co-conspirator

Summary: Some claim that Sidney Rigdon authored the Book of Mormon, and conspired with Joseph Smith well ahead of time to compose it and start a religion.


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Copying the King James Bible

The Book of Mormon contains passages from the King James Bible

Summary: Critics of the Book of Mormon claim that major portions of it are copied, without attribution, from the Bible. They present this as evidence that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon by plagiarizing the Authorized ("King James") Version of the Bible.


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Creative fiction theories

Book of Mormon creative fiction theories usually assert that Joseph Smith created the Book of Mormon without secular assistance, such as through hallicinogneics, epilepsy, automatic writing, or oratory composition.

Automatic writing

Theories that the Book of Mormon essentially "wrote itself" with no help from Joseph Smith


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Epilepsy

Question: Could Joseph Smith have written the Book of Mormon under the influence of an "epileptic fit?"

The Book of Mormon was not started and completed in a single sitting

Some critics of the Book of Mormon have claimed that Joseph Smith wrote the book while under the influence of an "epileptic fit," thus perpetuating a fraud without knowing it. However, such a story is baseless and incongruent with any document of his life.

The Book of Mormon was not started and completed in a single sitting. Rather, the book was translated in many small segments over an extended period of time. These segments were started at will and with various people as the prophet's scribes. Not one of these scribes ever noted any seizure symptoms during any part of the translation process. There are no accounts by anybody concerning symptoms of epilepsy during the prophet's life.

To think that Joseph had multiple seizures, only when translating, at will for the various starting points of each new section, without any of the multiple scribes noticing or at any non-translating time in his life is preposterous. Even the author himself admits on page 437 of his own book that there is no direct evidence of epilepsy from the prophet's life.

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Mushrooms and other entheogenic substances

Brian C. Hales, "Visions, Mushrooms, Fungi, Cacti, and Toads: Joseph Smith’s Reported Use of Entheogens," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 38 (2020): 307-354

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Laying Down Heads

Laying Down Heads and Book of Mormon Authorship

Summary: Author William Davis argues that Joseph Smith created the text of the Book of Mormon by using a Methodist homiletic composition technique known as "laying down heads."


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Naturalistic Explanations of the Origin of the Book of Mormon: A Longitudinal Study

BYU Studies, "Naturalistic Explanations of the Origin of the Book of Mormon: A Longitudinal Study"

Brian C. Hales,  BYU Studies 58/3 (2019)
Joseph Smith and his followers declared the Book of Mormon’s supernatural origin—that it was a divinely inspired translation of an ancient-American record, acquired by Joseph through visions and the help of an angel. This explanation, however, was widely rejected by outsiders from the outset. Within weeks after the Book of Mormon’s first pages came off the press, critics promoted “naturalistic explanations”—so called because they are based on scientific observation or natural phenomena—that rejected the possibility of a divine, supernatural origin of the Book of Mormon. To varying degrees, these naturalistic theories continue to be perpetuated today. This article examines the most popular naturalistic explanations for the Book of Mormon longitudinally, which will enable readers to better understand them and why they have waxed and waned in popularity over time.

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