Book of Mormon/Authorship theories/Automatic writing

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

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Question: Could Joseph Smith have written the Book of Mormon through a process known as "automatic writing?"

Without a logical explanation of its source, some critics have turned to supernatural explanations that do not involve the divine as Joseph testified

At least one critic of the Book of Mormon attempts to explain the complexity of the book by suggesting that Joseph Smith wrote it using a process called "automatic writing" or "spirit writing." The person who proposes this idea, Scott Dunn, gives us the following definition of automatic writing:

“The ability to dictate or write material in a relatively rapid, seemingly effortless and fluent manner. Moreover, the practitioner of automatic writing does not consciously compose the material. Indeed, except for sometimes knowing a word or two moments in advance of writing or speaking, the individual is typically unaware of what the content of the writing will be.”

Mr. Dunn gives multiple examples of documented automatic writing experiences and correlates them with various facts surrounding the origins of the Book of Mormon. Some people write with just a pencil while others use objects such as stones or crystals to receive the text that is to be written. This information could lead one to draw the conclusion that the Book of Mormon’s origins are something other than divine.

Critics have come up empty handed after many attempts to refute the divinity of the Book of Mormon. The historical documentation and modern-day evaluations disprove the possibility that Joseph Smith wrote the book himself. Mr. Dunn explains this in his own paper: “Virtually all available historical evidence militates against the possibility of calculated fraud.” Without a logical explanation of its source, some critics have turned to supernatural explanations that do not involve the divine as Joseph testified. As people have tried to attribute the writing/translation of the Book of Mormon to something other than divine the accusations have been proven incorrect. This has lead to an increase in the complexity of the claims. Similarly, more complex research has been conducted to thwart the negative claims. The only claims left are those of supernatural origin, either the book is of God or the devil.

If one believes that Joseph Smith produced the Book of Mormon by way of divinely inspired automatic writing, Mr. Dunn gives us the following explanation:

“It may be, for example, that automatic writing is God's true means of giving revelations and translations (in the case of Joseph Smith) which has been counterfeited by Satan (in the cases of Jane Roberts, Pearl Curran, and others).”

One may ask why these other cases exist. In general, there are many examples of the adversary mimicking the ways of the Lord to deceive mankind. He knew that the Book of Mormon would be a great work in the hands of the Lord to bring about the salvation of many souls and to be the foundation for His restored church. It is not hard to believe that Satan would try to create similar stories to that of Joseph’s in an effort to discredit the work of the Lord.


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.

Robert A. Rees, "The Book of Mormon and Automatic Writing"

Robert A. Rees,  Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, (2006)
Having exhausted the more bizarre and byzantine explanations of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon (written by Joseph Smith, plagiarized from Solomon Spaulding or Ethan Smith, written by Oliver Cowdery or Sidney Rigdon, dictated under the spell of epileptic seizures, etc.), some naturalist critics have postulated what appears to be a more rational explanation2—it was the product of "automatic writing." That is, by some mysterious process, "psychic forces," "angelic voices," "discarnate personalities," "goddesses of wisdom," or other sources dictate a rapid and voluminous flow of words that somehow turns out to be coherent, inspiring, and often amazing in its brilliance and inclusion of esoteric facts, some of which may be beyond the author's knowledge. In this paper I examine the proposition that the Book of Mormon can be explained as a product of automatic writing.

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To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here

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