Question: Would alterations in a different handwriting to the stolen 116 pages of Book of Mormon manuscript have been readily apparent?

Table of Contents

Question: Would alterations in a different handwriting to the stolen 116 pages of Book of Mormon manuscript have been readily apparent?

This perspective ignores the fact that it would have been a simple matter to publish Joseph's purported translation with alterations

One critical website has claimed that the story is "nonsensical" because any changes made to the transcript would be noticeable.[1] This perspective ignores the fact that it would have been a simple matter to publish Joseph's purported translation with alterations, and then either "lose" or conveniently destroy the original manuscript.

A local paper was happy to plagiarize the Book of Mormon text before it was even published and print excerpts in the newspaper. The Smiths had to use the threat of legal action to get him to stop.[2] This demonstrates that finding a publisher to broadcast at least some altered text--enough to discredit Joseph--would not have been difficult.

Something somewhat similar actually happened with the Spalding manuscript: the manuscript was found, but was hidden by those wishing to discredit Joseph

Something somewhat similar actually happened with the Spalding manuscript--the manuscript was found, but was hidden by those wishing to discredit Joseph. His critics simply requested affidavits from people who claimed to have read the manuscript, and who testified that it matched the Book of Mormon. This was the dominant critical theory for explaining the Book of Mormon until the Spalding manuscript was found, disproving the theory. How much better to have people (like Lucy Harris) who could publish what they claimed and would swear were Joseph's actual words from the original translation?

If this story is so "nonsensical," then why did none of Joseph's friends, allies, or family find it suspicious at the time? Like many critics' theories, this one requires everyone involved except Joseph to be complete dunces. They obviously found the possibility plausible, which suggests that if we do not, we are missing something about how they saw things. It is possible that an alteration that would not stand up to 21st century forensics might be far more persuasive to many in a rural 19th century audience, crippling the Restoration before it began.

Notes

  1. MormonThink.com website (as of 8 May 2012). Page: http://mormonthink.com/lost116web.htm
  2. "Prior to the publication of the book some pages of the manuscript were published by Abner Cole, an ex-justice of the peace, who published the Palmyra Reflector under the name Obadiah Dogberry. On December 29, 1829, Dogberry published the present Chapter 1 of First Nephi and the first the verses of Chapter 2. The issues of January 13, and 22, 1830, published more the Book of Mormon text, but Smith threatened to take Cole to court for violation of copyright and Cole ran no more of the excerpts." - Leonard J. Arrington, "Mormonism: From Its New York Beginnings," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 13 no. 3, 125.