Dear Reverend Father,
(To the editor of the Precis Historiques, Brussels)
The Book of M0rmon, like the KOran, is a tissue of contradictory plagiarisms and absurd inventions. The whole is interlarded with passages from the Bible. It has been proved that the portion given as historical is merely a plagiary of a romance of Solomon Spalding whose manuscript had been stolen by Smith. Spalding had written, under the title of The Discovered Manuscript, a romance on the-origin of the American Indians. He died before publishing it. After his death his widow removed to New York and Smith is known to have worked near her house. Some time after the publication of the Book of Mormon she discovered the loss of her husband's manuscript. Many of Spalding's relatives and friends detected The Discovered Manuscript slightly altered, in Smith's book. Spalding had been in the habit of reading long passages from his novel; the singularity of the facts, names and style, which was biblical, had so struck them that they did not forget it. Now, the Book of Mormon had the same characteristics, the same strange names, the same incredible facts, the same style. John Spalding the author's brother, thus expresses himself on the point:
" My brother's book was entitled The Discovered Manuscript, It was an historical novel on the first inhabitants of America. Its object was to show that the American Indians were descended from the Jews, or the lost tribes. There was a detailed description of their voyage, by land and sea, from their departure from Jerusalem to their arrival in America, under the orders of Nephi and Lehi. I have recently read the Book of Mormon. To my great astonishment I have found almost the same historical matters, the same names, etc., such as they were in my brother's writings."
Many other persons, who knew Solomon Spalding well, and who for the most part knew nothing of Joseph Smith, gave similar testimony under oath. The Book of Mormon probably derives its name from one of the chapters of this novel. A descendant of Lehi obtained the plates of gold, brass, etc., on which the prophets had engraved the history of the voyages and wars of their race, and this descendant was called Mormon. He abridged this history, and gave it to his son Moroni. The latter, having added a sketch of the history of Jared, inclosed all in a box, which he buried on a hill, A. D. 400. Smith, declaring himself chosen to give this wonderful book to the world, pretended to have received the gift of understanding and translating it. He did not write this translation himself, but dictated it. During the dictation he was concealed behind a curtain made of a bed-quilt, for the plates were so sacred that he did not even permit his secretary to gaze on them. To give a still higher idea of his golden bible, he explained the title after his own fashion. According to him, the word Mormon comes from the Egyptian man, signifying good, and the English word more; so that Mormon means Better!
Fr. Pierre-Jean de Smet, S.J.
University of St. Louis, Jan. 19, 1858
Link (here) to read the full letter.
Mormonism from a Catholic perspective (here) , (here) , (here) , (here) and (here)
Catholicism from a Mormon perspective (here) , (here) , (here) and (here)