Monday, July 25, 2011

Captain Kidd's Golden Bible?

Ron Huggins wrote an interesting paper several years ago arguing that the Gold Plates/Moroni story evolved from Joseph Smith's activities searching for Captain Kidd's treasure. Although I reserve judgement over the persuasiveness of this argument (I have my own thesis that I am working on), I found a couple things that strengthen Huggins' position. As you may remember, I found a map of the Cumoros Islands with the names of Comore and Meroni *predating* the publication of the Book of Mormon.

Another discovery comes from treasure lore of Captain Kidd burying not merely treasure, but a Bible. In Washington Irving’s short story “Kidd The Pirate,” published in Tales of a Traveler (New York, 1825) we read the following “old song”:

My name is Captain Kidd,
As I sailed, as I sailed—
I had the Bible in my hand,
As I sailed, as I sailed,
And I buried it in the sand
As I sailed.—
Irving writes, “[Kidd] gained the Devil’s good graces by burying the Bible.” (214)

According to Ellen E. Dickinson, Joseph Smith was reported to have memorized a song very similar to this:

It is said that Joseph at an early age could read, but not write; and when quite young committed these lines to memory from the story of Captain Kidd, the notorious pirate, which seemed to give him great pleasure,

My name was Robert Kidd
As I sailed, as I sailed;
And most wickedly I did
As I sailed, as I sailed.
Although Huggins cites Dickinson's report (p. 37), he does not mention the stanza Washington Irving quotes. It seems probable that young Joseph's song included a stanza of Kidd's buried Bible.

Found this rendition of the song online: