[incomplete rough draft]
Solomon Spalding wrote a historical romance whose manuscript was preserved, and this manuscript is referred to by scholars as the “Oberlin Manuscript” to avoid confusion about the name of the story and a possible second manuscript which has never been found. Some claim that the Oberlin Manuscript was properly called “Manuscript Story—Conneaut Creek” but others that the Oberlin Manuscript was the story referred to as “Manuscript, Found”, the name by which it is sometimes published.[^solomon_spalding]
Parallels between two texts may be coincidental, indirect (e.g., both from a common source or loosely generated through a shared cultural milieu), or direct (one author having read and consciously or subconsciously pulling from verbiage or themes from the other). Generally, the more unlikely the shared similarity and the more precise the parallel, the more likely that some influence genuinely existed. If parallels are found copiously in the milieu, then it seems more reasonable to attribute the parallels to a shared milieu than to direct influence; however, distinguishing between indirect and shared cultural influence requires a fairly comprehensive appreciation of the milieu.
In this essay, I point out points of similarity between the Book of Mormon and the Oberlin Manscript (the 1885 publication by the RLDS Church1). An analysis of the significance of the parallels (e.g., do these suggest a common source, shared cultural influence, or are merely coincidences) is beyond the scope of this work.
- Present natives implied to be not so advanced “…and forming various conjectures respecting the character situation & numbers of those people who far exceeded the present Indians in works of art and inginuety” (pg 11)
- Lifted a stone lid (to a Cave) with a lever. (pg 11)
- Ancient records found in a box (earthen box with parchment, vs. stone box with golden plates) (pg 12)
- Former nations “great and powerful”, “considerably civilized” “skilled in
the arts of war”, many bloody Battles fought, heroes “by thousands” “bite the dust.” (pg 13):
Thou must know that this Country was once inhabited by great and powerful nations considerably civilized \& skilled in the arts of war, \& that on ground where thou now treadeat many a bloody Battle hath been fought, \& heroes by thousands have been made to bite the dust.
- Admonition to to regard the story as true (“But if any should pretend that the whole story is fictitious or fabulous”) (pg 13)
- Admonition to “peruse this volume with a clear head a pure heart and a candid mind” (pg 14)
Admonition to deposit record in a secure box to avoid ravages of time (pg 14):
As IT is possible that in some future age this part of the Earth will be inhabited by Europians & a his tory of its present inhabitants would be a valuable acquisition I proceed to write one & deposit it in a box secured - - - so that the ravages of time will have no effect upon it that you may know the author …
Introduced main character with name and learning (pg 14):
My name was is Fabius The family name I sustain is Fabius, being decended from the illustrious general of that name. I was born at Rome & received my education under the tuition of a very Learned Master.
- A tremendous storm arises and blows them back into the “midst” of the Ocean (pg 15): “when a tremendous storm arose & drove us into the midst of the boundless Ocean.”
- “How be exfrecated from the insatiable jaws of a watry tomb.” reminiscent of “the watery grave”. (pg 15)
- Praying fervently to be spared from the ocean storms (pg 15)
- “Let your sails be wide spread & the gentle winds will soon waft you into a safe harbor, a Country where you will find hospitality.” (pg 16) reminiscent of being driven to the promised land
- “tender mercies” (also in Bible) (pg 16)
- “spacious river”
- speaking of the natives “could scarce believe that they belonged to the human species.” (pg 18) remotely reminiscent of the way the Lamanites are described.
- land occupied by “savages & wild ferocious beasts” (pg 19)
- ceding of land to the group in need of land (pg 19)
- “appointed judges” (pg 19)
- pair off and take wives of their fellow travelers on their journey (pg 20)
- “let us keep aloof "from them & not embark in the same matrimonial "ship with them.” (pg 22) separation from the natives reminiscent to separation from Lamanites
- “inlighten their dark souls” (pg 22)
- “By continuing a different "people & prefering our customs, manners, religion "& arts & sciences & other things another Italy will "grow up in this wilderness, & we shall be celebrated "as the fathers of a great & happy nation."” (pg 22) A separate, more civilized nation
- “build a church in the in the midst of our vilage” (pg 23)
- “true to their engagements, ardent in their friendship, but to enimies implacable, cruel <fe bar barous in the extreme.” (pg 23)
- Their cloathing consisted of skins dressed with the hair on, but in warmi weather only the middle part of their bodies were incumbered with any covering.” (pg 23-24)
- “The one half of the head of the men was shaved & painted with red & the one half of the face was painted with black. The head was adorned with feathers of various kinds, & their ears & noses were adorned ornamented with rings” (pg 24) …