B. H. Roberts - Schroeder
on The Book of Mormon
Introduction to Articles
for SHIELDS Web Page
by Malin Jacobs
The most common non-LDS explanation for the Book of Mormon is the
so-called Spaulding Theory, of which there at least four variations. Anti-Mormon
lawyer Theodore Schroeder wrote a long article in which he attempted to demonstrate his
preferred version of the Spaulding Theory. This article appeared serially in four
issues of the AMERICAN HISTORICAL MAGAZINE in 1906 and 1907. Brigham. H.
Roberts, who was then the LDS church historian, read Schroeder's article and asked that
the AMERICAN HISTORICAL MAGAZINE publish his reply. This they did in four
issues during 1908 and 1909. Roberts' article is a point-by-point reply to Schroeder.
These two articles are virtually unknown today.
There are several reasons why these articles are important:
- Schroeder's article makes the best case I have ever seen for the
Spaulding Manuscript theory.
- Roberts' article thoroughly destroys Schroeder's case.
- As a result of Roberts' article, the AMERICAN HISTORICAL
MAGAZINE (renamed AMERICANA) asked Roberts to write a history of the LDS church
to be published serially in the magazine. Roberts agreed, the magazine publication
changed from bi-monthly to monthly, and Roberts' history appeared from late 1909 through
most of 1916. In the late 1920's Roberts was asked to write a multi-volume history
of the LDS church to be published in time for the centennial church conference in April,
1930. This Roberts did by editing his AMERICANA history and writing new material to
bring the history up-to-date from 1916 to 1930. That work is the six-volume Comprehensive
History Of The Church. Had Roberts not replied to Schroeder in 1908-1909, the Comprehensive
History might not have been written.
This series was subsequently published in B.H. Roberts' Defense
of the Faith and the Saints, Vol. 2, (The Deseret News, SLC, UT:1912), pp.
1-229. B.H. Roberts introduces the subject in these words (original spellings have
been retained in articles):
The following debate on the "Origin of the Book of
Mormon," came about in the following manner: The writer saw in the Salt Lake
Tribune two numbers of Mr. Schroeder's article and observing the general trend of the
argument felt that a prompt reply should appear in the same publication, that it might be
read by the same people who would read Mr. Schroeder's article. A letter was
accordingly addressed to the Tribune, to ascertain if that paper would publish a reply to
Mr. Schroeder. The Editor answered that the Tribune was reproducing the article from
the American Historical Magazine, published in New York, and that perhaps its publishers
would be pleased to receive a reply to Mr. Schroeder. If the publishers of the
Historical Magazine accepted such an article, the Tribune would then be willing to
reproduce it, if the Deseret News, the Mormon Church organ, would agree to publish Mr.
This suggested a too complicated arrangement to suit the writer,
hence he dropped the matter with the Tribune, and took it up with the publishers of the
American Magazine, who gave place to his answer to Mr. Schroeder in current numbers of
that publication, 1908-9. And the writer has heard nothing from the Tribune or Mr.
In the Schroeder article footnoting has been changed to endnotes for
readability, but kept with each original magazine issue.