Evidence Against Mormonism: Origin of The Book of Mormon

Here we have a post from Steve Benson on the origins of the book of mormon. It is further evidence against the Mormon church. Here is the post:

Stephen Van Eck, in his article, “The Book of Mormon: One Too Many M’s,” writes that Oliver Cowdery admitted to his law firm colleague, Judge W. Lang, that the Book of Mormon was a hoax, manufactured from Solomon Spaulding’s unpublished novel, “Manuscript Found”:

” . . . W. Lang, whose law firm the excommunicated Oliver Cowdery joined . . . wrote, ‘The plates were never translated and could not be, and were never intended to be.’ (This suggests that Cowdery still believed that there were actually plates.)

“‘What is claimed to be a translation is “The Manuscript Found” worked over by C.’ (Cowdery) ‘He was the best scholar among them.’. . . .

“‘Rigdon got the original at the job printing office in Pittsburgh . . . Without going into detail or disclosing a confidential word, I can say to you that I do know, as well as can now be known, that C. revised the manuscript and that Smith and Rigdon approved of it before it became the Book of Mormon.’

Eck concludes from Lang’s confession the following:

“Apparently Cowdery had admitted the hoax to Lang, but took all the credit for it.

“This is not consistent with Cowdery being the servile follower of Smith that he had been. Had Cowdery given Smith the completed manuscript, furthermore, losing the first 116 pages of the dictated ‘translation’ would have scarcely been a problem. Cowdery, despite his apparent boasting to Lang, can be considered a collaborator at best, but a conspirator at least.”


Lang made the above-mentioned claim that Cowdery had knowingly participated in the Book of Mormon production hoax in letter Lang wrote to Thomas Gregg of Hamilton, Illinois in 1881.

Below are relevant, expanded excerpts from text of Lang’s letter to Gregg:

“TIFFIN, O., NOV. 5, 1881.

“DEAR SIR: — Your note of the 1st inst. I found upon my desk when I returned home this evening and I hasten to answer. Once for all I desire to be strictly understood when I say to you that I cannot violate any confidence of a friend though he be dead.

“This I will say that Mr. Cowdery never spoke of his connection with the Mormons to anybody except to me. We were intimate friends.

“The plates were never translated and could not be, were never intended to be. What is claimed to be a translation is the ‘Manuscript Found’ worked over by C. [Cowdery] He was the best scholar amongst them. Rigdon got the original at the job printing office in Pittsburgh as I have stated.

“I often expressed my objection to the frequent repetition of ‘And it came to pass’ to Mr. Cowdery and said that a true scholar ought to have avoided that, which only provoked a gentle smile from C.

“Without going into detail or disclosing a confided word, I say to you that I do know, as well as can now be known, that C. revised the ‘Manuscript’and Smith and Rigdon approved of it before it became the ‘Book of Mormon.’ I have no knowledge of what became of the original. Never heard C. say as to that.”

(quoted in Charles A. Schook, “The True Origin of The Book of Mormon” [Cincinnati, Ohio: The Standard Publishing Co., 1914], pp. 56-57); for the full text of the letter, see: http://solomonspalding.com/docs2/1914Shk1.htm#pgvii)

UPDATE: 8/4/2009

About a year after I published the above on this blog, I submitted it to reddit. As a result of the renewed interest, I came across the following from Craig Criddle, who has done some recent research into the Book of Mormon’s Origins. Everything above this update is from Steve Benson, everything below it is from “Craig C” at exmormon.org :

The probability is high that Cowdery was a co-conspirator in the production of the Book of Mormon.

The Stanford text analysis of the Book of Mormon implicated Cowdery:

“Our results indicate that likely nineteenth century contributors were Solomon Spalding, a writer of historical fantasies; Sidney Rigdon, an eloquent but perhaps unstable preacher; and Oliver Cowdery, a schoolteacher with editing experience. Our findings support the hypothesis that Rigdon was the main architect of the Book of Mormon and are consistent with historical evidence suggesting that he fabricated the book by adding theology to the unpublished writings of Spalding (then deceased)..”


Besides the testimony of Lang there are the comments of Lorenzo Saunders, a neighbor of the Smith’s, in 1885 and 1887 implicating both Oliver Cowdery and Sidney Rigdon in the production of the Book of Mormon.

In his 1885 statement, Saunders said:

“As respecting Oliver Cowdery, he came from Kirtland in the summer of 1826 and was about there [i.e. the Smith’s farm] until fall and took a school in the district where the Smiths lived and the next summer he was missing and I didn’t see him until fall and he came back and took our school in the district where we lived and taught about a week and went to the schoolboard and wanted the board to let him off and they did and he went to Smith and went to writing the Book of Mormon and wrote all winter. The Mormons say it wasn’t wrote there but I say it was because I was there. I saw Sidney Rigdon in the spring of 1827, about the middle of March. I went to Smiths to eat maple sugar, and I saw five or six men standing in a group and there was one among them better dressed than the rest and I asked Harrison Smith who he was and he said his name was Sidney Rigdon, a friend of Joseph’s from Pennsylvania.

I saw him in the Fall of 1827 on the road between where I lived and Palmyra, with Joseph. I was with a man by the name of Ingersol. They talked together and when he went on I asked Ingersol who he was and he said it was Rigdon. Then in the summer of 1828 I saw him at Samuel Lawrence’s just before harvest. I was cutting corn for Lawrence and went to dinner and he took dinner with us and when dinner was over they went into another room and I didn’t see him again till he came to Palmyra to preach. You wanted to know how Smith acted about it. The next morning after he claimed to have got plates he came to our house and said he had got the plates and what a struggle he had in getting home with them. Two men tackled him and he fought and knocked them both down and made his escape and secured the plates and had them safe and secure. He showed his thumb where he bruised it in fighting those men.

After [he] went from the house, my mother says ‘What a liar Joseph Smith is; he lies every word he says; I know he lies because he looks so guilty; he can’t see out of his eyes; how dare [he] tell such a lie as that.’ The time he claimed to have taken the plates from the hill was on the 22 day of September, in 1827, and I went on the next Sunday following with five or six other ones and we hunted the side hill by course [i.e. “in a search pattern”] and could not find no place where the ground had been broke. There was a large hole where the money diggers had dug a year or two before, but no fresh dirt. There never was such a hole; there never was any plates taken out of that hill nor any other hill in country, was in Wayne county. It is all a lie. No, sir, I never saw the plates nor no one else. He had an old glass box [i.e. a box used for holding plates or panes of glass] with a tile in it, about 7×8 inches, and that was the gold plates[;] and Martin Harris didn’t know a gold plate from a brick at this time.

Smith and Rigdon had an intimacy but it was very secret and still and there was a mediator between them and that was Cowdery. The manuscript was stolen by Rigdon and modelled over by him and then handed over to Cowdery and he copied them and Smith sat behind the curtain and handed them out to Cowdery and as fast as Cowdery copied them, they was handed over to Martin Harris and he took them to Egbert Granden [sic], the one who printed them, and Gilbert set the type.”

Lorenzo Saunders, Letter to Thomas Gregg, 28 January 1885
, Charles A. Shook, The True Origin of the Book of Mormon (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Co., 1914, p. 132-33). Cited in: Dan Vogel, ed., Early Mormon Documents, 3 vols. (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1996-2000, 3:177-79.

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28 Responses to “Evidence Against Mormonism: Origin of The Book of Mormon”

  1. Snielsen Says:

    Keep the arguments going…. old arguments… poorly researched…

    If you’re going to use Oliver Cowdery to discredit the LDS Church-

    A. Do your own research (Not everything that comes from Steve Benson’s mouth is true)

    B. Also refer readers/researchers/the curious—— to the statements that Oliver Cowdery made ON THE DAY THAT HE DIED in a conversation with David Whitmer. That he (Oliver) was indeed a witness of the Angel that showed him (and three other witnesses) the Gold Plates and that the work was verily true… I would add that Oliver came back to the Church, to be baptized after leaving it for 10 years. He came with no aspirations of leadership, etc…..

    Why would Oliver Cowdery, a fairly educated man, join a fraudulent organization after having so much conflict with it’s previous leadership????

  2. measure76 Says:

    Well, apparently his status as a former mormon made it impossible for him to find long-term employment in the real world. So he thinks hey, if I go back with the mormons, I might be able to capitalize on my status as a witness, and former apostle.

    Yeah, Benson did the research, but he sourced it quite well.

  3. measure76 Says:

    I should also point out that the mormon responses to these arguments are just as old, and even more poorly researched. If you look at my “Five Questions” post, you’ll see five questions that Mormons’ only recourse to is to “Pray about it”

    More evidence that the Mormons have to IGNORE the evidence to believe in the church.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    I find it interesting that you suggest that Oliver Cowdery still believed there were plates. Why would he still retain that to be a truth if he believed Joseph Smith Jr. to be a fraud, and had already been excommunicated?

  5. measure76 Says:

    That is an interesting point, and I’ve seen it discussed, even at the link posted at the top of this article. It’s possible that there was a plan to create a set of plates.

    It’s also possible that Joseph had convinced Oliver that there were a set of plates, though as Oliver notes above, there was never an intention or plan to make a translation from a set of plates.

  6. measure76 Says:

    I want to add, it’s quite obvious there were no actual plates. So there has to be a rational explanation for Cowdery’s remarks.

    Saying the plates existed, with no evidence to back it up, is not rational.

  7. JLFuller Says:


  8. measure76 Says:

    Not sure what your point is, there?

    Even if the spaulding manuscript wan’t the basis for the BoM, which your link doesn’t really prove…

    You’re still left with the problem of where the BoM DID come from. Since angels don’t actually go around handing out scripture to convicted conmen, like Joseph Smith was at the time, or anyone else for that matter, your link doesn’t get us any closer to the actual BoM origins, as far as I can tell.

  9. JLFuller Says:

    It really happened the way Joseph said. Sorry if it offends you but that’s the way it goes. Prove otherwise.

  10. measure76 Says:

    LOL. Prove otherwise? I’m sorry, dramatic claims demand dramatic evidence. I am not making a dramatic claim when I say angels don’t hand out scripture to conmen.

    You, in saying it happened the way Joe said it happened, are making a dramatic claim. Where is your dramatic evidence?

  11. measure76 Says:

    I should also make a bit of an object lesson for my readers.

    Here, JLFuller is asking us to ignore all evidence in favor of his testimony.

    It is as if I were to tell you that “I KNOW the sky is green”. Now, you could go examine the evidence, but what I’m asking you to do is pray about it instead. I know that GOD will give you the same answer he has given me.

    As absurd as that is, JL is asking us to do the same thing to the Book of Mormon. Since JL says it really happened “The way Joseph Says it did”, we have to accept that on faith, instead of examining the evidence.

    I think it is quite clear to anyone who really examines the evidence that the BoM is a fraud.

    Recently, I’ve been reading this article: http://www.mormonstudies.com/criddle/rigdon.htm

    Really great research into how we got the BoM in the first place. Of course, in the post above, Cowdery tries to take credit. A good question is whether Cowdery even really knew where the BoM came from.

  12. JLFuller Says:

    We offer the proof but apparantly you don’t want to try it. But the offer remains open. Read the B of M with an open mind and with real intent to know if it is true, having faith in Christ that He will confirm its truthfulness to you.

  13. measure76 Says:

    JLFuller, The evidence that the church is false is overly abundant, but you refuse to see it.

    No amount of scripture study or prayer will make the evidence that the church is a fraud go away.

    Also, If you have been reading my blog lately, you’ll see that I HAVE read the Book, prayed about it, and received a spiritual confirmation of it’s truthfulness. I now believe that confirmation to be self-created. I believe if you pray about anything, even a falsehood, with great desire for it to be true, you will self-create your own confirmation. It is the church that lies and says that the confirmation comes from a GOD.

    • Anonymous Says:

      Thank you for the attempt, though. I get annoyed with people who are just out to attack Mormons, without having actually sought the truth.

      I came to the same conclusion about the confirmation when I became familiar with trances, mass hysteria, the Straussberg (sp?) dancing epidemic, and such. Studying anthropology and psychology will do that.

      Evidence for the Book of Mormon only shows that Joseph Smith needed help to create it. There is more than one alternative explanation.

      • measure76 Says:

        I would only submit that if you believe one of the ‘alternate explanations’ is ‘GOD DID IT’…. you’re nuts.

  14. JLFuller Says:

    In a bishops interview we are asked if we are living the principles of the Gospel. That is, praying, paying a full tithing, attending our meetings, living a chaste life if unmarried, observing God sanctioned sexual behavior within the bounds of marriage between one man and one woman, observing the sanctity of the Sabbath, reading the scriptures daily, regular temple worship for those with a recommend and so forth. Yet I have yet to talk with anyone who espouses your point of view who kept the vows they made with God when they entered the waters of baptism and received confirmation and took upon themselves Temple covenants.

    The very manifestations of the Holy Ghost that we so regularly need are based on how well we live the promises we make to God. When we make these covenants we essentially agree to live by a higher standard than others do. We chose to rise above the normal human understanding of things and seek to understand God by changing the natural man. We acknowledge that the natural man is an enemy to God and promise to work towards being a more holy person and desire to be a Son of God in the biblical sense Paul talks about – that is, more Christ like. When we break our covenants we give up the right to the companionship of the Holy Ghost. In fact I suggest we regress to a point of no promise. In essence we loose our faith.

    We lose it for a variety of reasons but I suggest it is mostly due to sexually inappropriate behavior brought on by pornography and other worldly pursuits, adhering to worldly ideas and rejecting the counsel of the prophet and apostles. We kind of go our own way. One really devastating thing I see among some members is a commitment to the “intellectual honesty” meme. My reasoning is based on twenty five years experience working with dysfunctional people on a professional basis. These people got into trouble because they came to a place where they felt entitled to their behavior and believed they could get away with what ever they wanted to do. They bought off on the big lie.

    The purpose in clinging lightly to our covenants is not to force people into a way of thinking but rather to open up the pathway to heavenly communication. Not so man could dictate how to live but so that God could enter our lives and direct us. But all is hinged on us living the principles of the Gospel and rejecting the worldliness we see all around us. Worldliness is not normal for holy beings. It is normal for the natural man which is God’s enemy.

  15. JLFuller Says:

    Some are going to say that they can do all the things I mention above in any other faith. Of course others outside the Church can elevate themselves to a higher level of living and become more Christ like. But they can only go so far. No other faith has the authority to bind on earth and make it binding in heaven too. No one else can prepare people for a celestial existence. No one else has the authority of the priesthood. Only Christ has that authority and only the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has the Gospel in its fullness. If you reject this after having made the covenants of baptism and the additional covenants found within the temple I suggest you are in deep trouble. You don’t go back to a state of just not knowing as we see in the other non-members who don’t know. You have in fact rejected God. That is different than merely not knowing Him.

    Some say they left the Church because they found God as a member of something else. But when you examine their lives you see a completely different human being than they portray to the public. More of than not you see a public “Christian” and a worldly real person underneath. I have never found it to be otherwise. But then I have only worked with a few hundred members, former members and their families. I could be wrong. One caveat – being a member in name only does not automatically include a person in the ranks of those I talk about here.


  16. measure76 Says:

    JFuller, I’m not saying you can’t have what You define as spiritual experiences in the church.

    I do believe that they are self-induced, not induced by a GOD.

    However, no matter what spiritual experiences you might have, the evidence of that the church is false is still there for anyone to see. The spiritual experiences cannot make the evidence go away.

    They can help you to ignore the evidence, but they cannot make it disappear.

    The church does it’s best to make it go away by purchasing historical documents and hiding them in it’s archives where no one can see them… see the Mark Hoffman affair for a 1980’s example of that.

  17. measure76 Says:

    You are also falling into logical trap programmed into you by the church. You assume that if someone left the church, they must have sinned. On that note, GO TO HELL. We are all “Sinners” according to the mormon church, and you stating that I must be a sinner to have fallen away is just bullshit. Everyone who falls away, and everyone who stays in, is sinning, according to mormonism, and for you to say only the ones who fall away are sinners is hypocrisy at its fullest.

    It makes you feel better about your church, but it doesn’t help hide the evidence that the church is false.

  18. measure76 Says:

    Follow up: I know JLfuller won’t understand this, but he is revealing through his actions that the Mormon Church is indeed a Cult. One of the signs of any cult is this:

    There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.

    This is from a page that does not discuss mormonism in particular: http://www.rickross.com/warningsigns.html

    So really, JL is exhibiting a classic sign that he is involved in a cult, by slandering me and others for leaving it.

  19. weston Says:

    check out my mormon blog: {link removed}

  20. JLFuller Says:

    I went to your site. Although we share some sentiments, I disagree with the venom. If you are going to discuss issues I suggest you make them behavioral or theological and not personal attacks. If you use a name, provide the specifics of the difference not that you personally dislike the person. If you do so you put the administrators in some jeopardy for allowing such things. In countries, Britain is one I think, it is a crime to print such ad hominem attacks.

  21. JLFuller Says:

    One more thing- just like I edit out some posts that are over the top, most others do to. The link to your site has rightfully been removed by this blog’s owner.

  22. measure76 Says:

    JL is right. But here’s the thing. If you took the time to make an argument or a point, I likely would not have removed the links to your site. As you see I have left the links to JL’s site up, though I disagree with him sharply.

    But a simple link to a site I find repulsive, with no additional commentary… you’re just plugging your blog.

    If you’d like to contribute to the conversation here, feel free.

  23. JLFuller Says:

    Somethng is wrong with this picture. 76 agrees with me.

  24. sandrar Says:

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

  25. Anonymous Says:

    lol JL. I don’t know if I would call the Mormon church a cult, but the fact that 76 can agree with you shows that he is at least rational. I think of the church as more of a subculture, now.

    That is a welcome relief to the usual hate-filled rants of many atheists and theists alike whenever they argue.

    76, Mormons aren’t stupid for not seeing the evidence…usually. Belief-bias is a phenomenon common to all, where people usually first seek/see evidence that supports their view. So a Mormon searches for evidence, finds evidence for the BoM, and has his faith strengthened. The opposite is true as well. It is difficult to be objective.

    • measure76 Says:

      It is true that humans have historically had a hard time finding truth. However, in the last couple of centuries, something called the ‘scientific method’ has risen to prominence. This has provided a completely objective way to discover what really is true.

      It is by following the scientific method myself that I was able to go from believing mormon to apostate atheist.

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