Friday, March 28, 2014

On Socio-Economic context of the Spaulding Theories

When reading through the theories about the origin of the Book of Mormon, and their defenders and detractors, be it the divine inspiration or the knavish romance re-working theory, one is struck by the pervasive patterns of socio-economic concern. The story of the origin of the Book of Mormon is riddled with financial insecurity.

  • Spaulding attempts to finish his romance to pay of his debts and operates a tavern in Conneaut in the meantime to support himself. 
  • Pratt sells his belongings to afford passage on the journey to Palmyra, to the point of requiring reclothing by Emma Smith and her lady friends before heading off to Ohio and converting the Indians and Sidney Rigdon's congregation.
  • Howe and Hurlbutt are not beyond selling out, possibly to the Mormons, at the earliest opportunity, despite their apparent incentive to expose the Mormon fraud.
  • Even wealthy farmer Martin Harris expects to do well financially with the Golden Bible publishing project.
The dark hand that stalks the forests of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Missouri is neither the Devil's nor God's but Poverty's. 

Maybe intertwined with this background is the notion of the social networks of trust and believability that are transacted with accusations and responses (the "card" of Sidney Rigdon) that are published in newspapers (the undisturbed grave of Alvin Smith). The honesty of a man, the veracity of his dealings, are as important to defend as his homestead. [Thus the odium of the river card shark.] 

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