The Grandin Press, The Book of Mormon, Abner Cole and the Internet

In 1829,  24-year old Joseph Smith walked into the red brick print shop of E. B. Grandin in Palmyra, New York with a manuscript copy of The Book of Mormon. That tiny press would print the first edition of a volume of holy scripture that has been revered by millions as the sacred word of God.

At the same time, in the same print shop on the same printing press,  one Abner Cole was printing the first anti-Mormon newspaper articles. He even stole copyrighted material (namely the Book of Mormon) and printed it without permission. He did this in an attempt to spoil the anticipation for the Book of Mormon and to try and ruin the market for the book before it was even printed. Oliver Cowdery, Hyrum Smith, and Joseph Smith each confronted him about his violation of copyright and Abner Cole stopped.

Thinking about this little known story, I decided that although times have changed a lot since then many things remain the same.

We have the Internet which, like Grandin’s Press, can be used to publish sacred scripture and truth or be used to publish anti-Mormon vitriol and hate. Anti-Mormons have even gone so far as to publish copyrighted and sacred material online  (such as the temple ordinances)  in order to deter people from further investigating the truth.

Of course, I think Joseph, Hryum, and Oliver were right to confront Abner Cole. So, shouldn’t we also confront those who are using the Internet to tear down the kingdom of God? I think we should. The trick is how do we do it? A lot has been said about that. Let me just say that truth is its own best advocate. The best thing we can do is “speak the truth in love.” That is, we speak up to be heard, but do it in a way that is not contentious or that puts others down. But above all, let’s speak up!

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3 thoughts on “The Grandin Press, The Book of Mormon, Abner Cole and the Internet

  1. Your wrong. Under the fair use doctrine of the U.S. copyright statute, it is permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports. There are no legal rules permitting the use of a specific number of words, a certain number of musical notes, or percentage of a work. Whether a particular use qualifies as fair use depends on all the circumstances. See FL 102, Fair Use, and Circular 21, Reproductions of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians.

  2. Could you explain specifically what I am wrong about? (It’s “You’re” and not “your,” by the way). I am sure that Fair Use (which did not even exist in 1829, by the way) does not give someone the right to leak the stolen contents of a yet-to-be-published book in a newspaper. Nor does it give the right to copy verbatim the entire temple ceremonies and publish them online. So, once again, could you explain where I am wrong?

  3. The original Temple Ceremonies from the 1800’s aren’t under copyright anymore, so those would be legal to publish. While the current Temple Ceremony may be “copyrighted” in principle, I think it would have to actually be registered in order for the Church to take action against someone publishing it, and in order to register it a copy would have to be filed. I don’t think the Church wants to do that, so they just choose to ignore the illicit copies floating around. Maybe the Church could try to categorize it as a “trade secret”? I’m sure the Scientologists face the same issue with the release of their secret OT levels, and they haven’t seemed to be able to stop their dissemination either.

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