Many Critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have claimed that Joseph Smith used a manuscript written by Solomon Spalding as the basis for the Book of Mormon. In making this claim, these Critics have resorted to the wrongful use of parallels in historic analysis, thus undermining their credibility as serious, and objective, analyzers of history and religion. In fact, Fawn Brodie, an avowed critic of the LDS Church, in her book, "No Man Knows my History", gives several good reasons why she thinks the theory has no basis.
The theory was originally given credance by "Doctor" Philastus Hurlbut who collected affidavits from residents of Ohio who had heard Spaulding read his manuscript and they thought the Book of Mormon sounded similar. When Spalding's manuscript was shown to them, they could see that there were major differences, so then they claimed that Spalding wrote a later manuscript. Spalding's manuscript was lost for many years. When it was found and published in 1884 it was obvious that the only way the theory could be maintained was to maintain that there was a second manuscript.
Dr. Walter Martin, another avowed critic of the LDS Church, takes the Spaulding theory one step further. He was so convinced that the Spalding manuscript was the source of the Book of Mormon that he has supported the outlandish effort to prove that an unknown scribe of the Book of Mormon was actually Spalding. His assertion will also be dealt with below.
I will review the theory in 8 areas:
It can clearly be seen that the affidavits were written by Hurlbut, since the style is the same throughout. It may be noted also that although five out of the eight had heard Spaulding's story only once, there was a surprising uniformity in the details they remembered after twenty-two years. Six recalled the names Nephi, Lamanite, etc.; six held that the manuscript described the Indians as descendants of the lost ten tribes; four mentioned that the great wars caused the erection of the Indian mounds; and four noted the ancient scriptural style. The very tightness with which Hurlbut here was implementing his theory rouses an immediate suspicion that he did a little judicious prompting. (Brodie 1963, 423-4)
The most striking aspect of the early claims unquestionably related to the proper names. Here, however, the coincidence of memory was even more suspect. Of some 300 potential names, Hurlbut's witnesses all used the same handful of specific examples. Most cited "Nephi" and "Lehi." Two witnesses (John and Martha Spalding) added "Nephites" and "Lamanites," and only three additional names were mentioned even once-"Laban," "Zarahemla" and "Moroni," (The last two by the witness who remembered the humorous passages). Despite the elapsed decades, all recalled identical spellings for these odd-sounding names, spellings which matched exactly those found in the Book of Mormon. A corollary claim that Spalding wrote in a "scripture style" was illustrated with the same unanimity. Everyone who recalled specific wording cited "and it came to pass," with "now it came to pass" a distant second. Not surprisingly, nearly everyone acknowledged that his memory had been refreshed by a recent reading of the Book of Mormon.(Bush 1977, 44)
The Mormons replied with books and pamphlets of their own, such as Parley P. Pratt's Mormonism Unveiled in 1838 and Benjamin Winchester's The Origin of the Spaulding Story in 1840. Winchester quoted another of Spaulding's neighbors, one Jackson, who had read Spaulding's manuscript and maintained "that there was no agreement between them; for, said he, Mr. Spaulding's manuscript was a very small work, in the form of a novel, saying not one word about the children of Israel, but professed to give an account of a race of people who originated from the Romans, which Mr. Spaulding said he had translated from a Latin parchment that he had found." (Brodie 1963, 427)
And an early historian of western New York, writing in 1851, said: "It is believed by all those best acquainted with the Smith family and most conversant with all the Gold Bible movements, that there is no foundation for the statement that the original manuscript was written by a Mr. Spaulding of Ohio." (Brodie 1963, 430)
Brodie comments, "This surmise may have been true, though there was no signed statement swearing to it. But it seems more likely that these witnesses had so come to identify the Book of Mormon with the Spaulding manuscript that they could not concede having made an error without admitting to a case of memory substitution which they did not themselves recognize." (Brodie 1963, 424-425)
Two people closely associated with Spaulding in Pennsylvania have supplied affidavits about the similarities between his manuscript and the Book of Mormon. They made some latter statements which are suspect because they greatly enlarged their memory of the manuscript. However, if we ignore those statements and stick with what they first reported we can be more sure that they are not influenced by continued association with the Book of Mormon and the Spaulding controversy. First of all from Joseph Miller who spent "spent many evenings in the Spalding home (tavern), often listening to the retired preacher read his novel." (Cowdrey, Davis, Scales 1977, 67)
These papers were detached sheets of foolscap. He said he wrote the papers as a novel. He called it the "Manuscript Found," or "The Lost Manuscript Found." He said he wrote it to pass away the time when he was unwell; and after it was written he thought he would publish it as a novel, as a means to support his family.Here we have Mr. Miller relating to us his strongest recollection of what he remembered was in both the Book of Mormon and the Spalding manuscript. And what is that? That the Amlekites marked themselves with a red mark. If we found the real Spalding manuscript we would expect to find a passage somewhere that describes a warring people that marked themselves with a red. Redick McKee who also lived in Amity, Pennsylvania had a similar remembrance about the Spalding manuscript.
Some time since, a copy of the book of Mormon came into my hands. My son read it for me, as I have a nervous shaking of the head that prevents me from reading. I noticed several passages which I recollect having heard Mr. Spaulding read from his "Manuscript." One passage on the 148th page (the copy I have is published by J. 0. Wright & Co., New York) I remember distinctly. He speaks of a battle, and says the Amalekites had marked themselves with red on the foreheads to distinguish them from the Nephites. The thought of being marked on the "forehead with red was so strange, it fixed itself in my memory. This together with other passages I remember to have heard Mr. Spaulding read from his "Manuscript."
Those who knew Mr. Spaulding will soon all be gone, and I among the rest. I write that what I knew may become a matter of history; and that it may prevent people from being led into Mormonism, that most seductive delusion of the devil. From what I know of Mr. Spaulding's "Manuscript" and the book of Mormon, I firmly believe that Joseph Smith, by some means, got possession of Mr. Spaulding's "Manuscript," and possibly made some changes in it and called it the "Book of Mormon." (Cowdrey, Davis, Scales 1977, 67-69)
I recollect quite well Mr. Spalding spending much time in writing on sheets of paper torn out of an 0ld book, what purported to be a veritable history of the nations or tribes, who inhabited Canaan when, or before that country was invaded by the Israelites under Joshua. He described with great particularity, their numbers, customs, modes of life, their wars, strategems, victories, and defeats, &c. His style was flowing and grammatical, though gaunt and abrupt; very like the story of the ' Maccabees" and other apochryphal books in the old bibles. He called it "Lost History Found," -- "Lost Manuscript," or some such name; not disguising that it was wholly a work of the imagination, written to amuse himself, and without any immediate view to publication. I read, or heard him read, many wonderful and amusing passages from different parts of his professed historical records; aud was struck with the minutences of his details, and the apparent truthfulness and sincerity of the author. Defoe's veritable Robinson Crusoe, was not more reliable! I have an indistinct recollection of the passage referred to by Mr. Miller, about the Amelekites making a cross with red paint on their foreheads to distinguish them from enemies in the confusion of battle, but the manuscript was full of equally ludicrous descriptions. After my removal to Wheeling in 1818, 1 understood, that Mr. Spalding had died, and his widow had resorted to her friends in northern Ohio, or western New York. She would naturally take the manuscript with her. Now it was in northern Ohio, probably in Lake or Ashtabula county, that the first Mormon prophet, or imposter Jo. Smith lived, and published what he called the "Book of Mormon," or the "Mormon Bible." It is quite probable therefore, that with some alterations, the "Book of Mormon was in fact the "Lost Book," or "Lost History Found," of my old landlord, Solomon Spalding, of Amity, Washington County, Pennsylvania. (Cowdrey, Davis, Scales 1977, 77-78)Here again we have a witness and the best detail he can remember about the Spalding manuscript was "making a cross with red paint on their foreheads." These two witnesses would definitely have heard the correct Spalding manuscript, but their affidavits don't have the benefit of judicious prompting from someone like Hurlbut.
The writings of Solomon Spalding, proved by Aaron Wright, Oliver Smith, John N. Miller and others. The testimonies of the above gentlemen are now in my possession. D. P. Hurlbut (Spalding 1885, 9)The critics of the Book of Mormon have maintained that this manuscript was not the "second" manuscript which is more similar to the Book of Mormon. But we can examine the contents. Does it contain the information that Miller and M'Kee remembered in Pennsylvania? We find the following in chapter III of the published Spalding Manuscript: "Their clothing consisted of skins dressed with the hair on, but in warm weather only the middle part of their bodies were incumbered with any covering. The one half of the head of the men were shaved & painted with red and the one half of the face was painted with black." This manuscript has the very characteristic required by the actual Spalding manuscript.
Fond ParentsThis letter's placement within the manuscript firmly establishes that the part of the manuscript which comes after this was written after 1812. This in combination with the witnesses from Pennsylvania confirms that there was only one Spalding manuscript. This manuscript bears only a slight resemblance to the Book of Mormon. Mr. Rice commented on this manuscript:
I have received two letters the 10th jan 1812 the last mentioned Mr. Kings dismission from you, which no doubt is great trial to you Christian Minister is great loss to any to any people - - - - teaches us the uncertainty of all sublinary enjoyments & where to place our better trust & happiness (Spalding 1885, 105)
This Manuscript does not purport to be "a story of the Indians formerly occupying this continent'" but is a history of the wars between the Indians of Ohio and Kentucky, and their progress in civilization, &c. It is certain that this Manuscript is not the origin of the Mormon Bible, whatever some other manuscript may have been. The only similarity between them, is, in the manner in which each purports to have been found -- one in a cave on Conneaut Creek -- the other in a hill in Ontario county, New York. There is no similarity of style between them. As I told Mr. Deming, I should as soon think the Book of Revelations was written by the author of Don Quixotte, as that the writer of this Manuscript was the author of the Book of Mormon. (Spalding 1885, 7)
From Henry W. Silver: "Based upon that examination, it is my conclusion that the handwriting of the twelve pages from I Nephi of the Book of Mormon (the unknown scribe) is definitely not the same as that of Solomon Spaulding." (Brown 1984, 20)Gerald Tanner, a Mormon critic also viewed the original documents and stated, "After looking carefully at the revelation [D&C 56], I became convinced that it was probably written by the same scribe who wrote the 12 contested pages in the Book of Mormon manuscript. Both manuscripts in turn differed from Spalding's work in important features." (Brown 1984, 32)
From Howard C. Doudler: "As I stated in my report dated March 4, 1977 of some writing similarities and letter charateristics appeared both in the manuscript and the Book of Mormon. I now contribute these similarities to the writing style of that century. I have found writing and letter dis-similarities that are unexplainable and are not attributed to individual writing variations of the same writer. It is my conclusion the handwriting in the name of Solomon Spalding is NOT the author of the unidentified pages, listed as Q-1 thru Q-9 in this report of the Book of Mormon" (Brown 1984, 37)
The Spalding theory will probably never die. It has no basis in fact and will be discarded by anyone who seriously examines the issue. Fawn Brodie made a study of the theory and concluded that it had no basis. She listed the whereabouts of Sidney Rigdon during the period before the Book of Mormon was published. But, because she didn't account for every single month, some authors have used this as a pretense to give the theory some life. I am including the following appendix from Brodie's book, No Man Knows My History.
THE SPAULDING-RIGDON THEORY
THE SPAULDING RIGDON theory of the authorship of the Book of Mormon is based on a heterogeneous assortment of letters and affidavits collected between 1833 and 1900. When heaped together without regard to chronology, as in Charles A. Shook's True Origin of the Book of Mormon, and without any consideration of the character of either Joseph Smith or Sidney Rigdon, they seem impressive. But the theory is based first of all on the untenable assumption that Joseph Smith had neither the wit nor the learning to write the Book of Mormon, and it disregards the fact that the style of the Book of Mormon is identical with that of the Mormon prophet's later writings, such as the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price, but is completely alien to the turgid rhetoric of Rigdon's sermons.
Protagonists of the theory do not explain why, if Rigdon wrote the Book of Mormon, he was content to let Joseph Smith found the Mormon Church and hold absolute dominion over it throughout the years, so secure in his position that he several times threatened Rigdon with excommunication when Rigdon opposed his policies. But most important, there is no good evidence to show that Rigdon and Smith ever met before Rigdon's conversion late in 1830.There is, on the contrary, abundant proof that between September 1827and June 1829, when the Book of Mormon was being written, Rigdon was a successful Campbellite preacher in northern Ohio, who if conniving secretly with Joseph Smith, three hundred miles east, was so accomplished a deceiver that none of his intimate friends ever entertained the slightest suspicion of it.
The Spaulding theory was not born until 1833, four years after the Book of Mormon was completed. In June 1833 Philastus Hurlbut was excommunicated from the Mormon Church in Kirtland, Ohio. Shortly afterward he learned that some citizens of Conneaut, Ohio, had detected in the Book of Mormon a resemblance to an old manuscript written more than twenty years earlier by Solomon Spaulding, a Dartmouth College graduate and ex-preacher, who had hoped to publish it and solve his financial embarrassments. Huribut interviewed these people in August and September 1833. They told him that Spaulding, now deceased, had lived in Conneaut from 1809 to 1812, and that he had written a historical novel about the American abcrigines from which he had occasionally read them extracts. Spaulding had moved to Pennsylvania, where he died in 1816.
From Solomon Spaulding's brother, John, Hurlbut obtained an affidavit, of which the significant portion read as follows:
I made him a visit [in 1813)... and found that he had failed, and was considerably involved in debt. He told me that he had been writing a book, which he intended to have printed, the avails of which he thought would enable him to pay all his debts. The book was entitled the "Manuscript Pound," of which he read to me many passages. It was an historical romance of the first settlers of America, endeavoring to show that the American Indians are the descendants of the Jews, or the lost tribes. It gave a detailed account of their journey from Jerusalem, by land and sea, till they arrived in America, under the command of NEPHI and LEHI. They afterwards had quarrels and contentions, and separated into two distinct nations, one of which he denominated Nephites and the other Lamanites. Cruel and bloody wars ensued, in which great multitudes were slain. They buried their dead in large heaps, which caused the mounds so com\mon in this country. Their arts, sciences and civilization were brought 'into view, in order to account for all the curious antiquities, found various parts of North and South America. I have recently read the Book of Mormon, and to my great surprise I find nearly the same historical matter, names, etc. as they were in my brother's writings. I well remember that he wrote in the old style, and commenced about every other sentence with "and it came to pass" or "now it came to pass;' the same as in the Book of Mormon, and according to the best of my recollection and belief, it is the same as my brother Solomon wrote, with the exception of the religious matter. By what means it has fallen into the hands of Joseph Smith, Jr. I am unable to determine. JOHN SPAULDINGMartha, wife of John Spaulding, corroborated her husband's account:
I was personally acquainted with Solomon Spaulding, about twenty years ago. It was at his house a short time before he left Conneaut; he was then writing a historical novel founded upon the first settlers of America. He represented them as an enlightened and warlike people. He had for many years contended that the aborigines of America were the descendants of some of the lost tribes of Israel, and this idea he carried out in the book in question. The lapse of time which has intervened, prevents my recollecting but few of the leading incidents of his writings; but the names of Nephi, and Lehi are yet fresh in my' memory, as being the principal heroes of his tale. They were officers of the company which first came off from Jerusalem. He gave a particular account of their journey by land and sea, till they arrived in America, after which, disputes arose between the chiefs, which caused them to separate into different bands, one of which was called Lamanites and the other Nephites. Between these were recounted tremendous battles, which frequently covered the ground with the slain; and their being buried in large heaps was the cause of the numerous mounds in the country. Some of these people he represented as being very large. I have read the hook of Mormon, which has brought fresh to my recollection the writings of Solomon Spaulding; and I have no manner of doubt that the historical part of it, is the same that I read and heard read, more than twenty years ago. The old obsolete style, and the phrases of "and it came to pass," etc., are the same. MARTHA SPAULDINGSix of Spaulding's neighbors made additional statements, of which the most important extracts are given below:
I formed a co-partnership with Solomon Spaulding for the purpose of rebuilding a forge. . . . He very frequently read to me from a manuscript which he was writing, which was entitled the "Manuscript Found.". . . This book represented the American Indians as the descendants of the lost tribes, gave an account of their leaving Jerusalem, their contentions and wars, which were many and great. One time, when he was reading to me the tragic account of Laban, I pointed out to him what I considered an inconsistency, which he promised to correct; but by referring to the Book of Mormon, I find to my surprise that it stands there just as he read it to me then. Some months ago I borrowed the Golden Bible. . . . I was astonished to find the same passages in it that Spaulding had read to me more than twenty years before, from his "Manuscript Found." Since that time, I have more fully examined the said Golden Bible, and have no hesitation in saying that the historical part of it is principally, if not wholly taken from the "Manuscript Found." I well recollect telling Mr. Spaulding that the so frequent use of the words "And it came to pass," "Now it came to pass," rendered it ridiculous. HENRY LAKEThe following is from the unsigned statement of Artemus Cunningham:
I boarded and lodged in the family of said Spaulding for several months. I was soon introduced to the manuscripts of Spaulding, and perused them as often as I had leisure. He had written two or three books or pamphlets, on different subjects; but that which more particularly drew my attention, was one which he called the "Manuscript Found." From this he would frequently read some humorous passages to the company present. It purported to be the history of the first settlement of America, before discovered by Columbus. He brought them off from Jerusalem, under their leaders, detailing their travels by land and water, their manners, customs, laws, wars, etc. He said that he designed it as an historical novel. . . . I have recently examined the Book of Mormon, and find in it the writings of Solcmon Spaulding, from beginning to end, but mixed up with Scripture and other religious matter, which I did not meet with in the "Manuscript Found." Many of the passages in the Mormon book are verbatim from Spaulding, and others in part. The names of Nephi, Lehi, Moroni, and in fact all the principal names are brought fresh to my recollection by the Gold Bible. When Spaulding divested his history of its fabulous names, by a verbal explanation, he landed his people near the Straits of Darien, which I am very confident he called Zarahemla. They were marched about the country for a length of time, in which great wars and great bloodshed ensued, he brought them across North America in a northeast direction. JOHN N. MILLER
I first became acquainted with Solomon Spaulding in 1809 or 10, when he commenced building a forge on Conneaut Creek. When at his house, one day, he showed and read to me a history he was writing of the lost tribes of Israel, purporting that they were the first settlers of America, and that the Indians were their descendants. Upon this subject we had frequent conversations. He traced their journey from Jerusalem to America, as it is given in the Book of Mormon, excepting the religious matter. The historical part of the Book of Mormon, I know to be the same as I read and heard read from the writings of Spaulding, more than twenty years ago; the names more especially are the same without any alteration. . . . Spaulding had many other manuscripts, which I expect to see when Smith translates his other plate. In conclusion, I will observe, that the names of, and most of the historical part of the Book of Mormon, were as familiar to me before I read it as most modern history. AARON WRIGHT
All his leisure hours were occupied in writing a historical novel, founded upon the first settlers of this country. He said he intended to trace their journey from Jerusalem, by land and sea, till their arrival in America, give an account of their arts, sciences, civilization, wars and contentions. In this way, he would give a satisfactory account of all of the old mounds, so common to this country. During the time he was at my house, I read and heard read one hundred pages or more. Nephi and Lehi were by him represented as leading characters, when they first started for America. Their main object was to escape the judgments which they supposed were coming upon the old world. But no religious matter was introduced as I now recollect. . . When I heard the historical part of it [the Book of Mormon] related, I at once said it was the writings of old Solomon Spaulding. Soon after, I obtained the book, and on reading it, found much of it the same as Spaulding had written, more than twenty years before. OLIVER SMITH
I have lately read the Book of Mormon, and believe it to be the same as Spaulding wrote, except the religious part. He told me that he intended to get his writings published in Pittsburgh. NAHUM HOWARD
Before showing me his manuscripts, he went into a verbal relation of its outlines, saying that it was a fabulous or romantic history of the first settlement of this country, and as it purported to have been a record found buried in the earth, or in a cave, he had adopted the ancient or scripture style of writing. He then presented his manuscripts, when we sat down and spent a good share of the night in reading them, and conversing upon them. I well remember the name of Nephi, which appeared to be the principal hero of the story. The frequent repetition of the phrase, "I Nephi," I recollect as distinctly as though it was hut yesterday, although the general features of the story have passed from my memory, through the lapse of 22 years. He ~attempted to account for the numerous antiquities which are found upon this continent, and remarked that, after this generation had passed away, his account of the first inhabitants of America would be considered as authentic as any other history. The Mormon Bible I have partially examined, and am fully of the opinion that Solomon Spaulding had written its outlines before he left Conneaut.*It can clearly be seen that the affidavits were written by Hurlbut, since the style is the same throughout. It may be noted also that although five out of the eight had heard Spaulding's story only once, there was a surprising uniformity in the details they remembered after twenty-two years. Six recalled the names Nephi, Lamanite, etc.; six hcld that the manuscript described the Indians as descendants of the lost ten tribes; four mentioned that the great wars caused the erection of the Indian mounds; and four noted the ancient scriptural style. The very tightness with which Huribut here was implementing his theory rouses an immediate suspicion that he did a little judicious prompting.
However, the affidavits were arresting, and Huribut knew it. He visited Spaulding's widow in Massachusetts and offered her half the profits for permission to publish the manuscript. She told him that "Spaulding had a great variety of manuscripts" and recollected that one was entitled the "Manuscript Found," but of its contents she "had no distinct knowledge." During the two ears she had lived in Pittsburgh, Spaulding had taken the manuscript to the office of Patterson and Lambdin, she said but whether or not it had been returned was uncertain.
She gave Hurlbut permission to examine Spaulding's papers in the attic of a farmhouse in Otsego County, New York; but he found there only one manuscript, which was clearly not the source for the Book of Mormon. This was a romance supposedly translated from twenty-four rolls of parchment covered with Latin, found in a cave on the banks of Conneaut Creek. It was written in modern English and was about 45,000 words long, one sixth the length of the Book of Mormon. It was an adventure story of some Romans sailing to Britain before the Christian era, who had been blown to America during a violent storm.
Hurlbut showed this manuscript to Spaulding's neighbors, who, he said, recognized it as Spaulding's, but stated that it was not the "Manuscript Found." Spaulding "had altered his first plan of writing, by going farther back with dates and writing in the Old Scripture style, in order that it might appear more ancient." This surmise may have been true, though there was no signed statement swearing to it. But it seems more likely that these witnesses had so come to identify the Book of Mormon with the Spaulding manuscript that they could not concede having made an error without admitting to a case of memory substitution which they did not themselves recognize.
Hurlbut, at least, was certain that Spaulding had written a second manuscript. Eber D. Howe, Hurlbut's collaborator, now wrote to Robert Patterson, the Pittsburgh printer mentioned by Spaulding's widow. He replied "that he had no recollection of any manuscript being brought there for publication, neither would he have been likely to have seen it, as the business of printing was conducted wholly by Lambdin at that time." The partnership of Patterson and Lambdin had not in fact been formed until January 1, 1818, two years after Spaulding's death.
Disappointed in this source, and unable to get any confirming evidence from Joseph's neighbors in western New York, Hurlbut had to be content with insinuating that Sidney Rigdon, who had once lived in Pittsburgh, was somehow responsi ble for getting the Spaulding manuscript into Joseph Smith's hands.
Howe now purchased Hurlbut's affidavits for five hundred dollars and published them in his Mormonism Unvailed. At once the Mormons challenged Howe to produce the Spaulding manuscript, but he did not even produce the one Hurlbut had uncovered, which shortly disappeared. Some writers insinuated that Hurlbut had sold it to the Mormons for a fabulous sum; actually it lay buried in Howe's files, which were later inherited by L. L. Rice, who followed Howe as editor of the Painesville Telegraph. Rice eventually went to Honolulu and there discovered the manuscript among his papers. He forwarded it to Joseph H. Fairchild, president of Oberlin College, who placed it in the college library. The manuscript contained a certificate of its identity signed by Hurlbut, Wright, Miller, and others, and bore the penciled inscription "Manuscript Story" on the outside. Its discovery was jubilantly hailed by the Mormons, who held that the Spaulding theory was now proved groundless. The manuscript was first published by the Reorganized Church in Lamoni, Iowa, in 1885.
Many writers, however still believed that a second Spaulding manuscript was the true source of the Book of Mormon, and labored indefatigably to prove it. Before examining their evidence, it should be noted that if, as seems most likely, there was only one Spaulding manuscript, there were certain similarities between it and the Book of Mormon which, though not sufficient to justify the thesis of common authorship, might have given rise to the conviction of Spaulding's ncighbors that one was a plagiarism of the other. Both were said to have come from out of the earth; both were stories of colonists sailing from the Old World to the New; both explained the earthworks and mounds common to western New York and Ohio as the result of savage wars. John Miller had spoken of "humorous passages" in Spaulding's work, which would certainly apply to the "Manuscript Story," but not to the utterly humorless Book of Mormon.
Other features, like the scriptural style, the expression "it came to pass," and the proper names, seem too definite to be questioned. But it should be remembered, as President Fair-child pointed out in his analysis of the problem, that "the Book of Mormon was fresh in their minds, and their recollections of the 'Manuscript Found' were very remote and dim. That under the pressure and suggestion of Hurlbut and Howe, they should put the ideas at hand in place of those remote and forgotten, and imagine that they remembered what they had recently read, would be only an ordinary example of the frailty of memory.
It is significant that five of Hurlbut's witnesses were careful to except the "religious" matter of the Book of Mormon as not contained in the Spaulding manuscript, and the others stated that "the historical parts" were derived from the Spaulding story. The narrative Hurlbut found had no religious matter whatever, but the Book of Mormon was permeated with religious ideas. It was first and foremost a religious book. The theology could not have been wrought by interpolation, since practically every historical event was motivated either by Satan or the Lord.
If, on the other hand, Hurlbut was right and there were actually two Spaulding manuscripts, one might reasonably expect stylistic similarities between the Book of Mormon and the extant manuscript, since the latter was full of unmistakable literary mannerisms of the kind that are more easily acquired than shed. Spaulding was heir to all the florid sentiment and grandiose rhetoric of the English Gothic romance. He used all the stereotyped patterns - villainy versus innocent maidenhood, thwarted love, and heroic valor - thickly encrusted with the tradition of the noble savage. The Book of Mormon had but one scant reference to a love affair, and its rhythmical, monotonous style bore no resemblance to the cheap cliches' and purple metaphors abounding in the Spaulding story.
After the publication of Howe's book, affidavits popped up here and there, usually solicited by preachers anxious to discredit Joseph Smith. The Mormons replied with books and pamphlets of their own, such as Parley P. Pratt's Mormonism Unveiled in 1838 and Benjamin Winchester's The Origin of the Spaulding Story in 1840. Winchester quoted another of Spaulding's neighbors, one Jackson, who had read Spaulding's manuscript and maintained "that there was no agreement between them; for, said he, Mr. Spaulding's manuscript was a very small work, in the form of a novel, saying not one word about the children of Israel, but professed to give an account of a race of people who originated from the Romans, which Mr. Spaulding said he had translated from a Latin parchment that he had found."
Spaulding's widow was visited again in 1839, when she was seventy years old, by a preacher named D. R. Austin, who published her signed statement in the Boston Recorder on April 19 of that year. She showed an astonishing enlargement of memory over her previous statement to Hurlbut, relating that the historical romance written by her husband had been given to his "acquaintance and friend" Robert Patterson, who was "very much pleased with it" and promised to print it. She stated also that Sidney Rigdon was connected with the press at this time and had every opportunity to copy the manuscript.
Rigdon's angry denial was published in the Boston Recorder on May 27, 1839: "If I were to say that I ever heard of the Rev. Solomon Spaulding and his hopeful wife, until Dr. P. Hurlbut wrote his lie about me, I should be a liar like unto themselves. Why was not the testimony of Mr. Patterson obtained to give force to this shameful tale of lies? The only reason is, that he was not a fit tool for them to work with. . .
Two Mormons, Jesse and John Haven, now interviewed Spaulding's widow, who denied having written the letter and stated that Austin had merely asked her a few questions, taken notes, and apparently written the letter himself. Both Spaulding's widow and daughter admitted in this interview that the manuscript they knew was an "idolatrous" not a religious story.
When Spaulding's daughter was seventy-four years old, she was interviewed, and stated that she remembered vividly hearing her father read his manuscript aloud, although she was only six years old at the time. "Some of the names that he mentioned while reading to these people I have never forgotten. They are as fresh to me as though I heard them yesterday. They were 'Mormon,' 'Maroni,' 'Lamenite,' 'Nephi.'" One is led to doubt the reliability of this memory, however, by another statement in this interview: "In that city [Pittsburgh] my father had an intimate friend named Patterson, and I frequently visited Mr. Patterson's library with him, and heard my father talk about books with him." Patterson, it will be remembered, denied knowing Spaulding at all.
Spaulding's daughter remembered seeing the manuscript in her father's trunk after his death, and stated that she had handled it and seen the names she had heard read to her at the age of six. She admitted, however, that she had not read it.
If the evidence pointing to the existence of a second Spaulding manuscript is dubious, the affidavits trying to prove that Rigdon stole it, or copied it, are all unconvincing and frequently preposterous.
First there is no evidence that Rigdon ever lived in Pittsburgh until 1822, when he became pastor of the First Baptist Church. Robert Patterson, Jr., son of the Pittsburgh printer, conducted an exhaustive research among the old settlers of the vicinity to try to establish the truth of the Spaulding theory. This was in 1882, sixty-six years after Spaulding's death. Many were familiar with the theory and believed it, he said, but few could give first-hand information. Rigdon's brother-in-law, not a Mormon, and Isaac King, an old neighbor, swore to him that Rigdon did not go to Pittsburgh before 1822. Mrs. Lambdin, widow of Patterson's partner, denied any knowledge of Rigdon, as did Robert P. DuBois, who had worked in the printing shop between 1818 and 1820.
One woman, who had worked as mail clerk in Patterson's office between 1811 and 1816, stated that she knew Rigdon and that he was an intimate friend of Lambdin's, but that this was clearly untrue is evidenced by the statement of Lambdin's widow that she had never heard of Rigdon. Another old settler claimed that Spaulding told him the manuscript had been spirited away and that Rigdon was suspect, but this statement is in conffict not only with the facts of Rigdon's life, but also with the accounts of Spaulding's wife and daughter, who made no mention of a lost manuscript and held that the "Manuscript Found" had been carefully preserved in the trunk.*
Patterson senior never left any statement that incriminated Rigdon, although the two men knew each other casually in Pittsburgh after 1822. In the 1870's and 1880's, when anti-Mormonism was most bitter in the United States, there was a great outcropping of affidavits such as those solicited by the younger Patterson. All were from citizens who vaguely remembered meeting Spaulding or Rigdon some fifty, sixty, or seventy years earlier. All are suspect because they corroborate only the details of the first handful of documents collected by Hurlbut and frequently use the very same language. Some are outright perjury.
James Jeifries wrote on January 20, 1884: "Forty years ago I was in business in St. Louis. . . . I knew Sidney Rigdon. He told me several times that there was in the office with which he was connected, in Ohio, a manuscript of the Reverend Spaulding, tracing the origin of the Indians from the lost tribes of Israel. The manuscript was in the office several years. He was familiar with it. Spaulding wanted it published, but had not the means to pay for the printing. He (Rigdon) said Joe (Joseph) Smith used to look over the manuscript and read it on Sundays. Rigdon said Smith took the manuscript and said, 'I'll print it,' and went off to Palmyra, New York." (Wyl: Mormon Portraits, p. 241) Forty years previous to 1884 would have been the year of Smith's assassination. Rigdon never lived in St. Louis, nor did Joseph Smith ever visit Ohio before 1831.
The tenuous chain of evidence accumulated to support the Spaulding-Rigdon theory breaks altogether when it tries to prove that Rigdon met Joseph Smith before 1830. There are ambiguous references to a "mysterious stranger" said to have visited the Smiths between 1827 and 1830. But only two men ever claimed that this was actually Rigdon. Abel Chase on May 2, 1879 (fifty-two years after the event) stated that in 1827
-- "as near as I can recollect" -- when he was a boy of twelve or thirteen, he saw a stranger at the Smith home who was said to be Rigdon. And Lorenzo Saunders on January 28, 1885 (fifty-eight years after the event) stated that he had seen him in the spring of 1827 and again in the summer of 1828.: Yet Saunders himself admitted his recollection came only after thirty years of puzzling over the matter and hunting for evidence. And it is highly probable that both men were actually remembering Rigdon's first appearance in Palmyra in late 1830. No other of Joseph's neighbors ever made any effort to connect the Ohio preacher with the Book of Mormon events. And an early historian of western New York, writing in 1851, said: "It is believed by all those best acquainted with the Smith family and most conversant with all the Gold Bible movements, that there is no foundation for the statement that the original manuscript was written by a Mr. Spaulding of Ohio."Rigdon's life between 1826 and 1829 has been carefully documented from non-Mormon sources. It is clear from the following chronology that he was a busy and successful preacher and one of the leading figures in the Campbellite movement in Ohio. Until August 1830, when he broke with Alexander Campbell over the question of introducing communism into the Campbellite Church, he was orie of the four key men of that church. It cannot be held that Rigdon rewrote the Spaulding manuscript before 1827, since the anti-Masonry permeating the book clearly stemmed from the Morgan excitement beginning late in 1826.
ACTIVITIES OF RIGDON, NOVEMBER 2, 1826-NOVEMBER 14,1830
|1826||November 2||Marriage of Smith and Giles (performed by Rigdon|
|December 13||Above marriage recorded.|
|1827||January||Held meeting at Mantua, Ohio.|
|February||Funeral of Hannah Tanner, Chester, Ohio.|
|March||Held meeting at Mentor, Ohio.|
|April||Held meeting at Mentor, Ohio.|
|(gap of possibly one month and half)|
|June 5||Marriage of Freeman and Waterman.|
|June 7||Above marriage recorded|
|June 15||baptized Thomas Clapp at Mentor, Ohio.|
|July 3||Marriage of Gray and Kerr|
|July 12||Above marriage recorded|
|August 10||Above marriage recorded.|
|August 23||Met with Mahoning Association, New Lisbon, Ohio.|
|(gap of one month and a half)|
|October 9||Marriage of Sherman and Methews.|
|October 20||At Minsiterial Council, Warren, Ohio.|
|November||Held meeting at New Lisbon, Ohio.|
|December 6||Marriage of Wait and Gunn|
|December 12||Above marriage recorded.|
|December 13||Marriage of Cottrell and Olds.|
|1828||January 8||Above marriage recorded|
|February 14||Marriage of Herrington and Corning.|
|March 31||Above marriage recorded.|
|March||Instructed theological class, Mentor, Ohio.|
|March||Visited Walter Scott at Warren, Ohio.|
|April||Conducted revival at Kirtland, Ohio.|
|May||Met Campbell at Shalersville, Ohio.|
|June||Baptized H. H. Clapp, Mentor, Ohio.|
|(gap of possibly two months)|
|August||At Association, Warren, Ohio.|
|September 7||Marriage of Dille and Kent,.|
|September 18||Marriage of Corning and Wilson|
|October 13||Above marriages recorded.|
|(gap of possibly two months and a hlf)|
|1829||January 1||Marriage of Churchill and Fosdick.|
|February 1||Marriage of Root and Tuttle.|
|February 12||Above marriages recorded.|
|March||Meeting at Mentor, Ohio.|
|April 12||Meeting at Kirtland, Ohio.|
|May||Baptized Lyman Wight.|
|(gap of possibly one month and a half)|
|July 1||Organized church at Perry, Ohio.|
|August||Baptized Mrs. Lyman Wight.|
|August 7||Met with church in Perry, Ohio.|
|August 13||Marriage of Strong and More.|
|September 14||Above marriage recorded.|
|September 14||Marriage of Atwater and Clapp.|
|September||Held meeting at Mentor, Ohio.|
|October 1||Marriage of Roberts and bates.|
|October 7||Last two marriages recorded.|
|October||At Perry, Ohio.|
|November||Held Meeting at Wite Hill, Ohio.|
|December 31||Marriage of Chandler and Johnson.|
|1830||January 12||Above marriage recorded.|
|(gap of possible two months)|
|March||At Mentor, Ohio.|
|(gap of two months)|
|June||At Mentor, Ohio.|
|July||Held meeting at Pleasant Valley, Ohio.|
|August||Met Campbell at Austintown, Ohio.|
|(gap of two and one half months)|
|November 4||Marriage of Wood and Cleaveland.|
|November 11||Above marriage recorded.|
|November 14||Rigdon baptized by Oliver Cowdery.|
The above chronology is a rearrangement of one compiled by the Reorganized Church and appearing in the Journal of History, Vol. III, pp. 16-20, with additional information from Hayden: Early History of the Disciples in the Western Reserve.
Alexander Campbell, who knew Rigdon intimately, described his conversion to Mormonism with great regret in the Millennial Harbinger, attributing it to his nervous spasms and swoonings and to his passionate belief in the imminent gathering of Israel. But of the authorship of the Book of Mormon he wrote bluntly: "It is as certainly Smith's fabrication as Satan is the father of lies or darkness is the offspring of night."
Rigdon denied the Spaulding story throughout his life. When his son John questioned him shortly before his death, he replied: "My son, I can swear before high heaven that what I have told you about the origin of that book is true. Your mother and sister, Mrs. Athalia Robinson, were present when that book was handed to me in Mentor, Ohio, and all I ever knew about the origin of that book was that Parley P. Pratt, Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith and the witnesses who claimed they saw the plates have told me, and in all my intimacy with Joseph Smith he never told me but one story, and that was that he found it engraved upon gold plates in a hill near Palmyra, New York, and that an angel had appeared to him and directed him where to find it. . . ."