The creation of the Book of Mormon was a simple process. First, Sidney Rigdon was motivated to start a new religion and decided to base this new religion’s authoritative text on a historical fiction manuscript about the ancient Americas entitled “The Book of Mormon” written by Solomon Spaulding (died in 1816) who had a similar writing style to his classmate Ethan Smith (who lived in the same town as Oliver Cowdery) who wrote “View of the Hebrews” in 1823 which served as source material for Sidney’s future revisions of the manuscript. Sidney stole the Spaulding manuscript, used “View of the Hebrews,” “the Late War,” “the Golden Pot,” “the Koran,” “the Pilgrim’s Progress,” “the Wonders of Nature,” and many other written works to modify the text and then decided to have someone else print the manuscript and start his new religion for him and so that he could join it later. He sought out Joseph Smith who claimed to see angels, used seer stones, and had been relating stories to his family about the ancient Americas since he was 14. Sidney convinced Joseph to pretend to be a prophet who could translate ancient gold plates because Sidney decided it would be more believable that the manuscript were produced by a convicted con-man rather than if it were to come through him and he added Joseph’s stories of gold plates and seer stones into the Spaulding manuscript to make it consistent with Joseph’s hokey back-story. Joseph then convinced his family that he had found gold plates and would translate them by hiring the village idiot Martin Harris to write down what Joseph dictated from the manuscript by putting a rock in a hat, cutting a hole in the hat so he could see through and then hid the modified 500+ page Spaulding manuscript between his legs or under a table so he could dictate 30 words at a time and pretend like he was receiving visions from a magic rock because this would be the best way to prove to the world he was a prophet. Harris then lost 116 pages of the manuscript and Joseph couldn’t reproduce them because he would burn a page of the Spaulding manuscript every time he finished dictating a page so that no one would be able to trace the Book of Mormon to the original source. Joseph then waited a year for Sidney to write a new beginning to the Book of Mormon based on the manuscript that he stole from Spaulding who was classmates with Ethan Smith who wrote “View of the Hebrews” who lived in the same town as Oliver Cowdery who Sidney and Joseph eventually sought out to be a replacement scribe because of his knowledge of Ethan Smith who was the source for Sidney’s modifications (and Joseph had also checked out “View of the Hebrews” from his local library). Joseph then began the process of dictating again but not before Joseph further modified the manuscript so it couldn’t be traced back to someone smart like Sydney or Spaulding, so he included grammatical errors such as a superfluous “a” before verbs (i.e., “he was a walking”) and incorrectly using “was” for plural subjects (i.e., “they was”) and also included stories such as the vision of the tree of life which matches a dream had by Joseph Smith Sr. and 19th century treasure-seeker folklore about evil spirits who could move buried treasures to avoid detection. After dictating the Book of Mormon in front of dozens of witnesses (who claimed he had no manuscripts) from a hat with a hole in it to read a manuscript hidden under a table or between his legs which he had modified from a manuscript written by Spaulding who was influenced by his classmate Ethan Smith and which was revised by Sidney, Joseph, and Oliver, Joseph found eight or nine more village idiots to use the psychological concept of “the power of suggestion” to convince them they saw gold plates that never existed. Joseph then tried to betray Sidney by selling the copyright for money, but when no one would buy it he decided to print it and go back to Sidney’s original plan and started his own church which Sidney joined 9 months later and gave Sidney power as his adviser so Sidney could eventually obtain his goal of running the church after Joseph was inevitably martyred.
(Yes, this essay is critical of the many theories critics have come up with to explain the origin of the Book of Mormon)