Mother Goose and the Book of Mormon

05.14.2014 | Blair Hodges

The Book of Mormon became fodder for newspaper gossip columnists months before it came off the press. An 1829 issue of the Wayne Sentinel newspaper printed the “Golden Bible’s” title page as a “curiosity,” noting that those who’d heard of the forthcoming translation expected a “gross imposition and a grosser superstition.” ((See the Wayne Sentinel, June 26, 1829.))

Much more whimsical than those harsh words was a reference made on the title page of an 1833 edition of Mother Goose’s Melodies. It traced the origin of its own rhyming tales to “the same stone box which hold [sic] the Golden Plates of the Book of Mormon.” ((The best scan of the book is available on archive.org; or see the scan and transcription here on the Harold B. Lee Library’s website.))

While publications like the Wayne Sentinel and the Mother Goose book treated the Book of Mormon with contempt or levity, hundreds of other seekers—and then thousands, and now millions—have seen something sacred there. In order to gain a better appreciation of the Book of Mormon, readers might consider the varied reactions it has received from the time of its first publication to the present. ((For an excellent “biography” of the Book of Mormon that treats this theme, see Paul C. Gutjahr, The Book of Mormon: A Biography (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2012).)) The Maxwell Institute’s Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies has gathered over 600 published references to the Book of Mormon—positive and negative—from 1829 to 1844 in order to help people better understand the context of the book’s coming forth. The collection, called Nineteenth-Century Publications about the Book of Mormon (1829-1844), was published on the Harold B. Lee Library website in 2008. ((See “Maxwell Institute Announces Valuable New Research Tool,” Insights 28/3 (2008); Matthew Roper, “Early Publications on the Book of Mormon,” Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 18/2 (2009): 38–51.)) The site was recently updated to eliminate a few glitches, making this an opportune time to dig in to this invaluable resource.