(Newspapers of Missouri)

Jackson County: Independence

The Saints’ Herald
1922-1999 Articles

RLDS Stone Church, Independence (early 1920s)

1860-1871 (OH/IL)   1872-1881 (IL)   1882-1886 (IA)   1887-1899 (IA)   1900-1921 (IA)

Jan 27 '32  |  Aug 15 '33  |  Jan 15 '35
Jan 22 '35  |  Jan 28 '36  |  Sep 02 '44
Sep 09 '44  |  Jun 26 '50  |  Jan 01 '61
Mar 06 '61  |  May 01 '62  |  Aug 01 '62
Sep 01 '65  |  Sep 01 '77  |  Nov 01 '82
Jun 01 '92

Old Newspapers Index   |   Misc. Missouri papers

All published text and praphics excerpts provided on this page are
© by The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints


Volume  79                                     January  27, 1932                                       Number  4

Old Fable Linking "Book of Mormon" With
"Manuscript Found" by Solomon Spaulding
Bobs Up Again


Periodically when material for the mills of journalism runs low, some enterprising reporter resurrects and refurbishes the ancient tale that the Manuscript Found was the source of the Book of Mormon. Just as the farmer's cows would break out of the back pasture in midsummer when the grass became short, so the hungry scribbler for the press goes to this subject. And just as regularly the wardens of truth must get out and herd the enthusiastic strays back to the limits of veracity.

The following articles are, first, a letter from S. A. Burgess, Church Historian, to the Herald Editors, and second, a letter from the same writer to the Editor of the Kansas City Star. These letters will sufficiently explain and introduce themselves to the reader.

Editor, Saints' Herald.
Dear Brother:

A number of people have called our attention to the article on the Solomon Spaulding Manuscript Found in the Kansas City Star of January 4, 1932. This was also published in the Daily Dispatch of Moline, Illinois, January 9, and very likely was published in other newspapers across the country.

There have been many answers pointing out the weaknesses of the case by members of the church from 1839 on, and especially a more recent answer was the publication of the Manuscript Found in 1885 by the Herald Publishing House. This was done through the courtesy of President Fairchild, who permitted an authenticated copy to be made and introduced with several letters giving a clear statement of its history.

But, as indicated, the best analysis is that by President Fairchild himself. He shows repeatedly that he is not at all favorable to the church of Jesus Christ or the Book of Mormon, but he also shows the careful analysis of the student. I believe that we published the whole of his address in our Journal of History, Volume 17, April, 1924. It may be that the inclosed will be sufficient for the present.

Respectfully yours,            
S. A. BURGESS.     

Editors, Kansas City, Star.

In your issue of January 4, 1932, there appears on the editorial page an article entitled "Say a Tavern Keeper Inspired Mormon Bible." In this article there are a number of small errors, as well as the whole statement being quite improbable.

This article says that Spaulding did his writing while at Amity keeping a tavern. All previous accounts and biographies of his have agreed that his "Manuscript Found" was prepared at Conneaut, Ohio, prior to 1812, that he removed to Pittsburgh or vicinity in 1812 and at that time placed the manuscript with Patterson. A year or two later he removed to Amity, but took the manuscript with him. There he died in 1816.

It is very interesting to note the way in which this story has grown since it was first published by E. D. Howe in 1834. It has been answered many times but probably the fairest statement, because entirely impartial and written by one by no means favorable to the Book of Mormon, is that of President James H. Fairchild of Oberlin College. We would like to see this whole paper of his republished in the Star and would gladly furnish you a copy if you wish. It appears as Tract No. 77 of the Western Reserve Historical Society. It is a paper read before the society on March 23, 1886, and published by the Western Historical Society in Volume III. We offer you here a brief resume with a few extracts. In his introduction President Fairchild states:

The question whether or not the Book of Mormon is based upon a manuscript of Spaulding is intrinsically of little importance. It required only a very moderate degree of literary ability and invention to produce the book, and several of the original leaders of the fanaticism must have been adequate to the work. It is perhaps, impossible at this day to prove or disprove the Spaulding theory. (Page 187.)

In the next pages there is a brief biography of Spaulding, the testimony of the Patterson's testimony of 1834 and that offered in 1842, also that of Mrs. Spaulding (Mrs. Davison by second marriage) in 1834, then her statement in 1839, and remarks: "This seems to be a great enlargement of memory or of knowledge since 1834, and it is difficult to read the extended and elaborate statement without reaching the conclusion that Mrs. Spaulding-Davison had very little to do with it." (Page 193.)

Next he gives in a scholarly way a statement that Mr. L. L. Rice bought out the Howe Printing shop in 1839 and that while visiting Mr. Rice, in a search for some anti-slavery tracts, they found an old manuscript certified to by D. P. Hurlbut as being that of Solomon Spaulding. A fragment of a letter with the manuscript bears the date of January, 1812. After giving a description of the manuscript he says: "The manuscript has no resemblance to the 'Book of Mormon,' except in some very general features. There is not a name or an incident common to the two. It is not written in the solemn Scripture style." (Page 194.) This manuscript clearly was not the basis of the book.

Was there another manuscript, which Spaulding was accustomed to read to his neighbors, out of which the Book of Mormon grew, under the hand of Sidney Rigdon or Joseph Smith, or both? If we could accept without misgiving the testimony of the eight witnesses, brought forward in Howe's book, we should be obliged to accept the fact of another manuscript. We are to remember that twenty-two years or more had elapsed since they had heard the manuscript read; and before they began to recall their remembrances they had read or heard the Book of Mormon, and also the suggestion that the book had its origin in the manuscript of Spaulding. What effect these things had upon the exactness of their memory is a matter of doubt. No one was present to cross-question, and Hurlbut and Howe were intent upon finding the testimony to support their theory. In its more general features the present manuscript fulfills the requirements of the Manuscript Found. It purports to have been taken from an artificial cave in a mound, and thus was naturally called the Manuscript Found. It sets forth the coming of a colony from the eastern continent, and is an account of the aboriginal inhabitants of the country, suggested by the mounds and earthworks in the vicinity of the author, and was written to explain the origin of these works... Of the eight witnesses brought forward by Howe, five are careful to except the "religious matter" of the Book of Mormon, as not contained in the manuscript of Spaulding, and the theory is that this matter was interpolated by Sidney Rigdon, or some other man who expanded the manuscript into the book. This strikes me as an important circumstance. The Book of Mormon is permeated in every page and paragraph with religious and Scriptural ideas. It is first and foremost a religious book, and the contrast between it and the supposed manuscript must have been very striking to have led five of these witnesses to call this difference to mind and mention it, after the lapse of twenty years and more. The other three witnesses are careful to say that the Book of Mormon, in its "historical parts," is derived from the Spaulding manuscript, thus implying the same exception expressed by the others. Now it is difficult -- almost impossible, to believe that the religious sentiments of the Book of Mormon were wrought into interpolation. They are of the original tissue and substance of the document, and a man as self-reliant and smart as Sidney Rigdon, with a superabundant gift of tongue and every form of utterance, would never have accepted the servile task. There could have been no motive to it, nor could the blundering syntax of the Book of Mormon have come from Rigdon's hand. He had the gift of speech which would have made the style distasteful and impossible to him. The minuter features of the testimony of these witnesses are obviously of more weight in their bearing upon the probability of another manuscript. When they speak of the Scriptural style of the manuscript, the frequent recurrence of the expression, "and it came to pass," the names recalled, "Nephi," "Lehi," and others, the remembrance seems too definite to be called in question. But it must be remembered 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, and it would not be unnatural or improbable that such an illusion should be propagated among Spaulding's old neighbors at Conneaut. This view must, of course, be purely hypothetical, and could have little force against the positive testimony. (Pages 196-198.)

Comment is then made on the attempt to support the testimony by following the manuscript through Patterson's office and the story that it came into the hands of Sidney Rigdon. He then comments:

This would be interesting if true; but there seems no ground to dispute the positive testimony of Rigdon's brothers that he was never a printer, and never lived in Pittsburgh at all until 1822, eight years after Spaulding left, and then was there as pastor of a Baptist church. Rigdon sent from Nauvoo, in 1839, to the Boston Journal [sic], an indignant denial of the statement of Mrs. Spaulding-Davison, already referred to. A sentence or two from this denial will be sufficient:
"It is only necessary to say, in relation to the whole story about Spaulding's writings being in the hands of Mr. Patterson, who was at Pittsburgh, and who is said to have kept a printing office, etc., etc., is the most base of lies, without even the shadow of truth.... If I were to say that I ever hears of the Rev. Solomon Spaulding and his hopeful wife until D. P. Hurlbut wrote his lie about me, I should be a liar like unto themselves."

The claim in reference to Rigdon's connection with the Spaulding manuscript seems to become more and more definite with every new statement of the case, and without any addition to the evidence. Mrs. Ellen E. Dickinson, a grand-niece of Mrs. Solomon Spaulding, in her "New Light on Mormonism," recently published, finds it easy to put imaginings in the place of facts, in her statements in reference to Rigdon, as follows:
"At an early age he was a printer by trade, and is known to have been in Conneaut, Ohio, at the time Spaulding read his "Manuscript Found" to his neighbors,... and it is easy to believe the report that he followed or preceded Spaulding to Pittsburgh, knowing all his plans, in order to obtain his manuscript, or copy it, while it was in Patterson's printing house -- an easy thing to do, as the fact of the manuscript being left carelessly in the office for months, is not questionable." -- p. 47.

Over against these fancies are the facts given in the testimony of Rigdon's brothers, published by Rev. Robert Patterson, of Pittsburgh, that when Spaulding was reading his manuscript to his neighbors in Conneaut, Rigdon was a boy seventeen or eighteen years of age, on his father's farm in Allegheny county, Pennsylvania; that he never was a printer, and did not live in Pittsburgh until 1822, six years after Spaulding's death.

These are only a few extracts. There are further statements as illustration of the facility with which a shadowy tradition becomes definite "history." There does not appear to be any evidence that Smith and Rigdon had any acquaintance until after the publication of this book. He also discusses the later story of there being two manuscripts, points out its weakness and advises his hearers to wait until such second manuscript is produced and authenticated.

We do not doubt that the tavern still stands and do not question that Mr. Spaulding died at that place in 1816. But the story that his writings were the basis of the Book of Mormon is highly improbable.

In the interest of fairness we respectfully request that you call particular attention to this critical examination by President Fairchild as was given to the original partisan account.

Respectfully submitted,
              S. A. BURGESS,

Note 1: It seems rather odd, that the best Elder Burgess could come up with as a conclusion to his reporting was that "the story" of Mr. Spalding's "writings were the basis of the Book of Mormon is highly improbable." Improbable things now and then prove to be true, nevertheless. One might suppose that the RLDS leaders of 1932 could refute the Kansas City Star with more potent conclusions than the non-definitive, early views of James H. Fairchild. Fairchild later modified those initial views to include the possibility that some Spalding manuscript that he had not yet seen could have indeed formed "the basis of the Book of Mormon."

Note 2: Elder Burgess also quotes this comment: "This seems to be a great enlargement of memory or of knowledge since 1834, and it is difficult to read the extended and elaborate statement without reaching the conclusion that Mrs. Spaulding-Davison had very little to do with it." Published documentary evidence shows that Spalding's widow had a great deal "to do with" her "extended statement" of 1839, and that she gave it to people she trusted, in relaxed circumstances and gave its transcript her signature of approval -- while the information she provided for the 1834 book was given under strained circumstances, to a stranger, and paraphrased by that stranger without her signature of approval. No wonder the content of the 1839 interview was a "great enlargement" over the words previously attributed to the widow!

Note 3: As to the claim that Rigdon never lived in Pittsburgh, prior to 1822, he lived on the outskirts of the city all through his youth and early adulthood. He could visit the city and return home, walking, all in a day. His name appears on early letter-waiting lists of the Pittsburgh Post Office, along with those of his neighbors and that of Solomon Spalding. Although he was not a printer, Rev. Robert Patterson, Sr., who contacted by Spalding, to publish his book, knew Rigdon and implied that he had some association with the printing office Patterson used in his publishing efforts, though not until after Spalding's 1816 death. Local memories in the Pittsburgh area recall the youthful Rigdon as a tanner (or, perhaps at first as an tanner's helper), who prepared the fine leather used in book-bindings. The major local market for book-binding leather would have been the Patterson bindery, when Rigdon was learning tanning and Solomon Spalding was yet alive.

Note 4: The Spalding family preserved memories that Solomon Spalding had met the young Rigdon in the Pittsburgh area. Since their names both appear on 1816 letter lists, this does not seem improbable. Also, young Sidney Rigdon had an aunt and Rigdon cousins living in Spalding's little hamlet, previous to Spalding's death. The Spaldings certainly knew the Rigdons -- perhaps even Sidney Rigdon himself -- when they lived in Amity, Pennsylvania. It seems rather obvious that Elder Burgess was not at all interested in tracking down this sort of information and giving it a "critical examination," as it might have weakened his "highly improbable" argument.


Volume  80                                     August  15, 1933                                       Number  33


By S. A. Burgess, Church Historian.

It is most interesting to note how many post graduate students are taking some phase of our church history for the theme of their final dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy or Master of Arts. Of recent years a number of people have been continually at work on such theses; as one finished one phase, another person has begun a new theme or period of the history. In the spring of 1930 George Arbaugh came to Independence to seek material for such a thesis. The week that he had to spend here was very inadequate to examine the material we have on his subject; though his mind was entirely made up and certain erroneous conclusions already reached on such subjects as the early church history. Joseph Smith, jr., and the Reorganization. He would accept no data from us on these subjects, but for a year following his visit we continued to hunt up old records and pamphlets for him concerning the factions which arose after 1844.

Naturally the first part of his thesis is taken up with Joseph Smith, jr., and the Book of Mormon. We should not be too harsh in our criticism of him, perhaps. Of course he had to get his Ph. D. degree and, equally necessary from his point of view, he must discredit Joseph Smith. So he adopted the theory of the Solomon Spaulding Romance as the basis of the Book of Mormon, which he considers the first revelation of Mormonism. Accordingly, Sidney Rigdon is supposed to have stolen the manuscript from Spaulding and from it to have written the Book of Mormon. In fact for nearly all the revelations to the early church, Rigdon is presented as the "angel" and the real source of inspiration, Joseph Smith, as a mere figurehead.

He makes no attempt to present evidence, merely states his conclusions for which he gives many references. To analyse all these references would take a large volume. On the other hand the arguments have been fully answered a number of times in the past. To make the case alleged by this theory requires proof: 1. That there was another manuscript not the manuscript found by L. L. Rice, though that bore clear identifying marks and notes, and names of witnesses. This proof has failed for many opposers of the church. It seems to depend upon assertion and then repetition, and grows wonderfully with the years.

2. That Sidney Rigdon had access to the manuscript. Here again the story grows through repetition, though the Rigdon family and the historical records refute the possibility of such access.

3. That Rigdon did steal it.

4. That Rigdon knew Joseph Smith from 1823 to 1829.

5. That Rigdon wrote the Book of Mormon.

Here is offered a line of testimony which would seem somewhat convincing if all other facts are ignored and if we overlook the suspicious tendency of memories to become clearer after fifty years and after many reputations of the tale. As we trace the development of these stories for a century we can see how from imagination they proceeded to supposition, then assertion became affirmation. This improved memory is not of things that have occurred but of past suggestion and discussion.

Hurlbut and Howe made every effort to prove this theory in 1834. But their proof was inadequate. So the story grew, and finally nearly eighty years later there is published a letter, alleged to have been written by one Saunders in 1827, who says he was introduced to Sidney Rigdon in 1827. That looks valid until we note that it was written sixty years after the event, that efforts had been made some years before to get Saunders to make such a statement, and that if such an introduction then occurred, Saunders was at the advanced age of seven or eight years.

In spite of many statements to the contrary, this is a thin attempt to refute the fact that Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon had never met, therefore could not possibly have become closely associated before December, 1830.

Mr. Arbaugh's manner of argument is well illustrated by his attempt to show that Rigdon was present with Joseph Smith at critical times in Palmyra. A search of the records has shown that Rigdon was regularly in Ohio for the several years in question. Church records, marriage data and other court records all point to a continuous activity and residence in that state. Arbaugh attempts to answer this evidence by stating, "It would be possible with a fast team or stage coach to make a trip in five days, so if we can find fifteen days not accounted for it would give time for a trip there and back and a few days in Palmyra." If it is physically possible for Rigdon to get there our author assumes that he did go there. Since we have legitimately shown that Rigdon was regularly engaged elsewhere, it would seem to the logical mind that the burden of proof lies with the opponent, to show positive evidence that he was present at Palmyra at such intervals. But Mr. Arbaugh demands that we must show just where Rigdon was for days so closely together as to preclude the possibility of his making a trip to New York or to eastern Pennsylvania. If there remains a physical possibility that Rigdon could have made the trip, he assumes that he did go and work with Joseph Smith throughout these years, regardless of all evidence to the contrary. The whole story is an assumption of fact, the "proof" lacks conviction except for one who first makes his decision, then ignores all that does not uphold his theory.

Some objections to the Spaulding Romance story are countered by the statement that only one eighth of the Book of Mormon is claimed to have been derived from the Spaulding manuscript; that all this remaining seven eighths is Rigdon's story. But if Rigdon could write seven parts, why should he bother with the Spaulding source for the other part. Would he not logically have been equal to the whole product?

Though the church has told a consistent story for years, while her opponents have changed with every wind and become remarkably more detailed in their statements the farther they get from the scent; Mr. Arbaugh asks one to believe that all witnesses who do not accept or confirm the Spaulding theory simply are liars and that the story is the start of the church, told so consistently by so many witnesses, is pure fiction. But we do thank him for his unqualified rejection (in the appendix) of all other theories, including specifically Riley's hypothesis of paranoia, and fits and Prince's peculiarly ingenious names theory. These are other students who have earned their degrees by digging up new theories as to the origin of the Latter Day Restoration movement. These two men and others reject Mr. Arbaugh's Spaulding theory. Soon, if this process keeps up, every new theory will be disproved by a majority of writers and only the strong original story will be left.

The author refuses to be concerned with our ideas of what constitutes revelation, and so he accuses us of inconsistency in not accepting the Book of Abraham...

The church with its liberality of "no creed" takes men of many minds, but its teaching is clear as to the right of every man to approach the throne of Grace and to receive for himself. It is a wonderful idea, but one which Mr. Arbaugh has not glimpsed. So he has not written of revelation among the Mormons with any philosophical understanding of what that idea means.

Well he had to get his degree, but one wonders that a University will grant a degree on such a basis.

Note: Elder Burgess here asks this interesting question: "... only one eighth of the Book of Mormon is claimed to have been derived from the Spaulding manuscript... But if Rigdon could write seven parts, why should he bother with the Spaulding source for the other part. Would he not logically have been equal to the whole product?" Such an argument ignores the evidence showing that Sidney Rigdon would have first been exposed to the Spalding pseudo-history of the American Indians when Sidney was still a youngster and probably incapable of writing such a detailed fictional narrative. If early testimony is true, then Rigdon obtained the story as a young man and was fascinated by its contents. At about the same time, Rigdon became a convert to the religious reforms of Alexander Campbell. One source says that Spalding revised his manuscript while living in the home of Campbell's friend, within a few miles of Campbell's first congregation. It is possible that Spalding incorporated some thinly-veiled Campbellism (or satire of Campbellism) into his writings before Rigdon was able to obtain them. If Rigdon, (a stated early believer in the Israelite-Indian claims) had Spalding's pseudo-history in his possession at the time he began to question Campbell's ecclesiastical authority, he might have begun editing and revising the Spalding writings, to correspond with his own views, before he ever decided to get them published as divine revelation. In fact, Rigdon may have first obtained access to Spalding's story while working in the capacity of a part-time manuscript proof-reader for a Pittsburgh printer, and his wholesale revision of "Manuscript Found" could have been a later continuation of his initial proofing corrections.


Volume  80                                     January  15, 1935                                       Number ?

The Memoirs
President Joseph Smith



Orson  Pratt

Orson Pratt was a smaller man than his brother Parley -- quick, alert, active, pleasant-mannered, and perhaps one of the brainiest men that ever accepted Latter Day Saintism during the first years of the church's existence. He became a voluminous writer, and was an eloquent preacher whom I heard more or less frequently in Nauvoo. I remember meeting him occasionally and of calling on him at his house, where I also met his wife Sarah... a relation here of some circumstances connected with one of my later visits to Salt Lake City, might be of interest, since they have to do with my memories of the wife of Orson Pratt.

I was visiting the home of a retired physician named [Joseph M.] Benedict, a man who had obeyed the gospel in New Jersey, had gone to Utah, and, perceiving the errors that had crept into the doctrines, had retained a nominal membership only with the church there. In conversation with him and his wife, I mentioned Elder Orson Pratt, then deceased, and asked them if they knew the woman who was his wife when he lived in Nauvoo, and whether or not she were still living.

They said, "Why, yes; she lives with some sons of hers only about two blocks from here, and we know her well."

For certain reasons which I believed to be good, I was desirous of having a talk with Mrs. Pratt, whom I had known at Nauvoo. So I asked Doctor Benedict if he would go with me to call upon her. He consented to do so, and after lunch we repaired to the house and I was presented to the lady.

(To be continued.)

Notes: (forthcoming)


Volume  80                                     January  22, 1935                                       Number ?

The Memoirs
President Joseph Smith


Chapter 4 continued --

In the chat which ensued I asked her if she remembered her husband's having received a copy of the New Inspired Translation of the Scriptures. She said she did; that he came home one day quite elated over the receipt of the book, but that there was nothing about it to indicate from whom it had come. She related how, right after supper, they had sat down together, he with the Inspired Version, and she with the King James' turning to such passages as he directed and together they had examined it most thoroughly, reading and comparing, until a late hour. Finally at two o'clock in the morning, he laid the book aside with a sigh, and said:

"Sarah, these men have done their work honestly! This translation is just as it was left by the Prophet Joseph in 1833. I could quickly have detected it had they tampered with or altered what he wrote. I am delighted with it, and I thank God I have received this copy!"

Mrs. Pratt then told me the pitiful sequel to his happiness. She said that the next Sunday, as he preached to his congregation in the Ward meeting house, he told them about the book he had received, that he had carefully examined it, and wanted to testify that the Inspired Translation published by the Reorganized Church had been correctly done and was exactly as the Prophet Joseph had left it.

As they went out of the meeting house Mrs. Pratt told her husband she feared he had made a mistake in thus mentioning the book publicly and praising it so highly, for she had a feeling he might have to take back what he had said, should President Young hear of it.

Sure enough! On the Tuesday following Elder Pratt received a summary notice to report forthwith at the President's office. He did so, and as he entered, President Young greeted him with: "Orson, where is that Inspired Translation?"

"At my house," he answered.

Then Brigham, pointing out the window, said, "You see that horse and buggy out there? You take it and go home and get that book at once, and bring it back here!"

Orson did as he was commanded, and returning, proferred the book to Mr. Young, but that gentleman refused to touch it. Putting his hands behind his back, as if it were polluted, he said snappishly, "Hand it to Bishop Preston there!"

Then he proceeded to give Elder Pratt a severe lecture, asking him how dared he go into the pulpit and defend that book as he had done on the Sunday before. He ordered him to go back onto that very stand, at the same place and before the same people, and retract everything he had said about it....

The latter part of my conversation with her revolved around the matters I had had particularly in mind when I sought the interview. I asked her, "Sister Pratt, will you allow me to ask you some rather personal and delicate questions?"

"You may ask me any questions proper for a lady to hear and answer," she replied.

I assured her I would use no language a lady should not hear and did not wish to ask any improper question or one she might not answer in the presence of Dr. Benedict who was with me. But I told her I felt there were some which referred to my father and herself which only she could answer.

I asked her to consider the circumstances in which I was placed. I was the son of the Prophet; had been baptized by him; was a member, though a young one, at the time of his death, and thought that I had understood, in part at least, the principles the church taught and believed. But following his death certain things were said about him, his teaching and practice, which were at variance with what I had known and believed about him and about the doctrines he presented. Naturally I wanted to know the truth about these matters, for I assured her I would much rather meet here in this life whatever of truth might be revealed about those things, even though it were adverse to what I believed to be his character, than to wait until after I had passed to the other side and there be confronted with it and compelled to alter my position should such revealment prove I had been in error.

She told me to proceed and the following conversation took place.

"Did you know my father in Nauvoo?"

"Yes, I knew him well."

"Were you acquainted with his general deportment in society, especially towards women?"


"Did you ever know him to be guilty of any inpropriety in speech or conduct towards women in society or elsewhere?"

"No, sir, never. Your father was always a gentleman, and I never heard any language from him or saw any conduct of his that was not proper and respectful."

"Did he ever visit you or at your house?"

"He did."

"Did he ever at such times or at any other time or place make improper overtures to you, or proposals of an improper nature -- begging your pardon for the apparent indelicacy of this question?"

To this Mrs. Pratt replied, quietly but firmly, "No, Joseph; your father never said an improper word to me in his life. He knew better."

"Sister Pratt, it has been frequently told that he behaved improperly in your presence, and I have been told that I dare not come to you and and ask you about your relations with him, for fear you would tell me things which would be unwelcome to me."

"You need have no such fear," she repeated. "Your father was never guilty of an action or proposal of an improper nature in my house, towards me, or in my presence, at any time or place. There is no truth in the reports that have been circulated about him in this regard. He was always the Christian gentleman, and a noble man."

That I thanked Mrs. Pratt very warmly for her testimony in these matters my readers may be very sure. I had constantly heard it charged that my father had been guilty of improper conduct toward Elder Pratt's wife, and I had long before made up my mind that if I ever had an opportunity I would find out the truth from her. The result was very gratifying to me, especially as she had made her short, clear-cut statements freely, just as I have recorded, in the presence of Dr. Benedict.

It may be added that mingled with my pleasure was a degree of astonishment that such stories as had been told about her and her relations with Father should have gotten out and been so widely circulated and yet never met with a public refutation from her. However, I expressed my appreciation of her kind reception and her statements, and at the close of our interview, which lasted about an hour and a half, left her with good wishes.

Doctor Benedict and I passed from her presence into the street in a silence which was not broken until we had gone some distance. Then suddenly he stopped, pulled off his hat, looked all around carefully, and raising his hand emphatically, said:

"My God! What damned liars these people are! Here for years I have been told that your father had Mrs. Pratt for one of his spiritual wives and was guilty of improper relations with her. Now I hear from her own lips, in unmistakable language, that it was not true. What liars! What liars!"

Not a great while after this, just how long I do not know, Mrs. Pratt passed "over the river." I was glad that before she died I had her testimony, and that it had proved, as had been proved many times before, that such charges made against my father were untrue.

In 1891, when the prosecution of the suit brought against the "Hedrickites" for possession of the Temple Lot in Independence, persons were put upon the witness stand in Salt Lake City in an effort to convict my father of having taught and practiced polygamy, the attempt signally failed, as was clearly stated in his decision on the case by Judge John F. Phillips, before whom the suit was tried. Throughout all these years, before and after that suit, I have conscientiously traced statements made by various individuals inculpating my father in this wrongdoing, and in every instance I have failed to find evidence worthy to be called proof. It strikes me now, as it has for many, many years, that honorable men and women should absolve me from blame for pursuing the course I have taken, in steadfastly refusing to believe, simply because persons entangled in the evil meshes wished to involve him in their wrongdoing, that my father was a bad man and responsible for doctrines which he himself pronounced to be "false and corrupt."

Note 1: The above mentioned interview between RLDS President Joseph Smith III and Sarah M. Pratt occurred in Salt Lake City during the year 1885. A few months thereafter, in May of 1886, Sarah was interviewed again upon one of the topics she had discussed with Joseph Smith III; this time her interviewer was the German investigator of early Mormonism, Wilhelm R. von Wymetal, who had been consulting Sarah in the preparation of his 1886 book, Mormon Portraits. A transcript of this second interview was published while Sarah's recollection of her original interview with Joseph Smith III was no doubt still fresh in her mind. In von Wymetal's recording of the second interview, Sarah is quoted as saying: "Joseph Smith, the son of the prophet, and president of the re-organized Mormon church, paid me a visit, and I had a long talk with him. I saw that he was not inclined to believe the truth about his father, so I said to him: '...When Bennett came to Nauvoo, Joseph brought him to my house... He knew that Joseph had his plans set on me; Joseph made no secret of them before Bennett, and went so far in his impudence as to make propositions to me in the presence of Bennett... the most intimate friend of Joseph for a time... You should bear in mind that Joseph did not think of a marriage or sealing ceremony for many years. He used to state to his intended victims, as he did to me: 'God does not care if we have a good time, if only other people do not know it.' ... If any woman, like me, opposed his wishes, he used to say: 'Be silent, or I shall ruin your character... In his endeavors to ruin my character Joseph went so far as to publish an extra-sheet containing affidavits against my reputation. When this sheet was brought to me I discovered to my astonishment the names of two people on it, man and wife, with whom I had boarded for a certain time.... I found the wife and said to her rather excitedly: 'What does it all mean?' She began to sob. 'It is not my fault,' said she. 'Hyrum Smith came to our house, with the affidavits all written out, and forced us to sign them. 'Joseph and the church must be saved'... so we signed the papers.'"

Note 2: The incident referred to by Sarah's words, "Joseph... went so far... as to make propositions to me," was first reported by John C. Bennett, in the July 15, 1832 issue of the Illinois Sangamo Journal: "Joe proposed to me to go to Ramus... we started from his house... and returned to... Nauvoo, about dusk... We then proceeded to the house where Mrs. Pratt resided, and Joe commenced discourse as follows: 'Sister Pratt, the Lord has given you to me as one of my spiritual wives. I have the blessings of Jacob granted me, as he granted holy men of old, and I have long looked upon you with favor, and hope you will not deny me.' She replied: '... I have one good husband, and that is enough for me.' ... Mrs. Pratt in a conversation with Mrs. Goddard, wife of Stephen H. Goddard, said, 'Sister Goddard, Joseph is a corrupt man; I know it, for he made an attempt upon me.' Three times afterwards he tried to convince Mrs. Pratt of the propriety of his doctrine..." There is nothing in Bennett's 1842 account, or in Sarah's 1886 account, to indicate that Joseph Smith, Jr. "behaved improperly" or made his "proposal" in explicitly vulgar or indecent language. Rather, according to these accounts, Smith's impropriety was of an implicit nature and couched in words of popular piety and revealed religion -- perhaps including words to the effect of "God does not care if we have a good time." This latter precept echoes the opening words of the "proposal" Smith reportedly made to Miss Nancy Rigdon, also in 1842: "Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it, and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God. But we cannot keep all the commandments without first knowing them, and we cannot expect to know all, or more than we now know unless we comply with or keep those we have already received. That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another."

note 3: Richard S. van Wagoner, in his Summer 1986 Dialogue article, "Sarah M. Pratt: The Shaping of An Apostate," relegated the 1885 Joseph Smith III interview report to a single paragraph of no great import, but the 1885 account was commented upon in greater detail by Charles Millard Turner, in his 1985 dissertation, "Joseph Smith III and the Mormons of Utah." There Turner says: "On June 16, 1885 Joseph Smith III left Omaha for Salt Lake City.... during his stay in Salt Lake City, Joseph Smith III called upon Sarah Pratt... After some time, Joseph broached the subject... whether the rumors were true that his father had made sexual advances to her. She denied that he had... This source [both Joseph Smith III and von Wymetal] must be used with caution due to its bias and uncertain methods of transcription and documentation. Assuming that both Joseph Smith III's and Wyl's [Wymetal's] accounts record parts of the actual conversation, a reconciliation between them can be affected as follows: (1) Both Joseph Smith III and Sarah Pratt gave one-sided accounts, recalling those aspects of the conversation supporting their own biases. (2) Sarah Pratt denied that she ever became a plural wife of Joseph Smith, because in fact she stoutly resisted such advances. (3) Joseph Smith III dismissed as rumor, gossip, innuendo, or hearsay all of Sarah Pratt's stories which were not based on her personal observation. (4) Joseph Smith III's questions were framed carefully to elicit only those pieces of information which bolstered his "case." (5) For a variety of other reasons Sarah Pratt did not tell him everything she knew... One aspect, however, of Joseph Smith III's account cannot be reconciled with other statements of Sarah Pratt, viz., '...your father never said an improper word to me in his life... was never guilty of an action or proposal of an improper nature... towards me, or in my presence, at any time or place.' This statement in Joseph's Memoirs probably represents a lapse of memory based upon Sarah Pratt's statement that she had never been a plural wife of Joseph Smith, Jr."

note 4: Charles Millard Turner's statement, that the old sources "must be used with caution" because of "uncertain methods of transcription and documentation," is no doubt a valid one. In her Nov. 6, 1934 Saints' Herald article, "Concerning My Father's Memoirs," Mary A. Smith Anderson stated that she "took in the task of editing and arranging for publication" the doctated recollections of her late father, beginning in 1927, thirteen years after his death. Mary was thus not able to directly consult with her father when she did her "editing and arranging. However, Mary did not have access to the original dictated notes, which had first been "taken in shorthand" and later "transcribed" upon "typewritten sheets." How well the typewritten words recorded Joseph Smith III's original dictation, nobody can say at this late date. However, even if it may be conceded that the original shorthand copy, the typewritten transcript, and Mary's edited results well convey Joseph Smith III's, that the old man's recollections were totally reliable. Mary hints this fact, by admitting, "People who read these memories and who know personally about some particular incident therein described, may possibly discover some slight discepancy..." One such "slight discepancy" can perhaps be found in Mary's narration of Brigham Young receiving the RLDS Joseph Smith Bible from Orson Pratt, for there Brigham is made to say, "Orson, where is that Inspired Translation?" At the time that book was published, it was referred to as the "New Translation." Sarah's calling it the "New Inspired Translation" in 1885 is a possibility; Brigham's calling it the "Inspired Translation," during the late 1860s or early 1870s is a palpable anachronism -- and, if Mary A. Smith Anderson is faulty at that point in her narration, it is likely that the Memoirs is faulty in other places as well. Did Sarah M. Pratt say precisely the same words that are credited to her in the Memoirs? Perhaps not.


Volume  83                                     January  28, 1936                                       Number  2

The Memoirs
President Joseph Smith


...Another incident that occurred at this conference may also be noted. On a night between sessions I had a dream or vision, in which I saw three men at a table, apparently an ordinary table in a business office. They seemed to be attentively considering something lying on it before them. Unnoticed, I drew near to learn what held their interest, and saw a manuscript which evidently they had been reading. It was lying with its outer sheets uppermost, on which were clearly written the words, "Manuscript Story." They were followed by what appeared to be an affidavit, to which three names were signed. I comprehended that they were the names of the witnesses used by Doctor D. P. Hurlbut in the book he wrote, published by E. D. Howe, of Painesville, Ohio, in which the "Spaulding theory" of the origin of the Book of Mormon was set forth.

When I awoke in the morning, I found myself in considerable elation of spirit, the dream or vision still vividly with me in memory. Overtaking Brother E. L. Kelley on our way to the conference session, I linked my arm with his. As we walked along, I told him what I had witnessed in the night, and stated that I firmly believed that a writing would come to light purporting to be that manuscript story, and that along with it would be a paper signed by individuals identifying it as the one written by Solomon Spalding, from which, according to Hurlbut's claims, the Book of Mormon had been evolved.

Whatever may have been the source of this dream or vision that had come to me, the facts are that it was followed in 1885 by the discovery of the very manuscript described. It was found in possession of Mr. L:. L. Rice, of Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, where it had long been lodged among some papers he had obtained from E. D. Howe when he purchased the printing plant used in publishing the paper at Painesville. In the form of a certificate it did indeed bear the signatures I had seen in my dream. The story of its discovery in the far-off Pacific island has often been published and repeated among us, and the church has been permitted to print a copy of the manuscript, which it keeps on sale at its office of publication....

Note 1: The "conference" President Smith mentions in this article was the one held in April 1884 at Stewartsville, Missouri. President Smith recalled the events of that conference many years later, recording them during the second week of October, 1913, not long before his death.

Note 2: While Smith may have indeed experienced the dream he here relates, the details of that experience cannot be compared too closely with the actual discovery of the Spalding manuscript in Honolulu during the summer of 1884. The 1884 RLDS General Conference followed the conclusion of famous Braden-Kelley debate at Kirtland, Ohio after the passage of only four weeks. During the weeks just prior to the 1884 Conference, Smith would have naturally been reviewing the arguments debated at Kirtland, prominent among which were the Spalding authorship claims for the Book of Mormon. Given these circumstances, it is not unreasonable to assume that Smith's mind was more than a little excited by the recent debate over Spalding's manuscripts and related matters. His having a dream about these things at that time does not seem to have been particularly unusual.

Note 3: The actual "Roman" story Spalding manuscript discovered in Honolulu that year was indeed found in a wrapper marked "Manuscript Story." However, that name does not appear on any page of the document itself and it is uncertain just who wrote that inscription upon its wrapper. The name, as given by Smith, is not too different from the often referred to Spalding title: "Manuscript Found." It is likely that this was the title Smith dreamed about, as it was cited numerous times during the Braden-Kelley Debate. The "Roman" story holograph does not contain "an affidavit" with "signatures" following such a title, on its "outer sheets," or elsewhere within its pages. What it does have is a rude certificate, entirely in the handwriting of D. P. Hurlbut, scrawled upon the final page of the manuscript. That entry does refer to three of the "Conneaut witnesses" as well as "others" -- but these names are not signatures. Thus, while Smith quite possibly had an experience he interpreted as being a predictive "vision," most of the elements of that experience can be explained by other than supernatural causes.

Note 4: Finally, while the leaders of the RLDS Church were elated by the 1884 discovery in Honolulu and by their subsequent opportunity to publish a Solomon Spalding holograph, there is no reason to think that these events were particularly providential. No conclusive proof exists to demonstrate that the Honolulu document is the frequently mentioned "Manuscript Found" and the publication of the Honolulu document in no way proves that Solomon Spalding did not write a story upon which the Book of Mormon was based. Within a century of Smith's dream the top RLDS leaders outgrew their old beliefs in a Nephite origin for the Book of Mormon and in the 21st Century the Community of Christ does not find itself much impacted either by Smith's strange experience of 1884, nor by his publishing the Honolulu manuscript upon the Church press in the following year.


Volume  91                                   September  2, 1944                                     Number  36

Copyright © 1944 by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

By Evan A. Fry

8. Who Wrote the Book of Mormon?

Everyone loves a good mystery -- a story which challenges the imagination and the intellect with a problem that requires the mustering of all the facts, and a reasoning from those facts to a conclusion that will stand up in court. We ask you to follow through with us this evening while we unravel what seems at first glance to be an insoluble and hopelessly tangled mystery, and present our conclusion, hoping that it will stand up in the court of your mind, and of public opinion. The mystery to be solved is, Who Wrote the Book of Mormon?

...Was Solomon Spaulding (sometimes Spalding) the original source of the idea? There is no doubt that Spaulding wrote an admittedly fictitious romance, purporting to have been translated from a Latin manuscript found on parchment at the bottom of an artificial cave near Conneaut, Ohio. This story purportedly traced the origin of the Indians to the ten lost tribes, but dealt with the wars and happenings of only a small part of them in the neighborhood of Ohio. But did this story furnish the basis for the Book of Mormon?

Solomon Spaulding was born in 1761, graduated from Dartmouth College in 1785, was ordained to the ministry, but before his death left the ministry, and in his later years became almost an infidel. The year 1809 found him in Cherry Valley, New York, simultaneously teaching in an academy, and running a mercantile business. The business failed, and he moved to New Salem, now called Conneaut, Ohio, where with Henry Lake he established an iron foundry. That venture also failed, and in 1812, his health gone, he moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A year or two later he moved to Amity, Pennsylvania, where he died of consumption in 1816. His widow married a Mr. Davison, and ended her days in Massachusetts.

It was during his residence at Conneaut prior to 1812, that Spaulding wrote his romance story, reading it chapter by chapter as he wrote, to neighbors, relatives, and friends. Shortly after his removal to Pittsburgh, he offered it to Robert Patterson, newspaper owner and printer, for publication. Some authors say that Mr. Patterson refused to print it because it was of such poor quality; others say that Patterson wanted to print it, but Spaulding did not think the story worth it. The mystery boils down to this, however: What happened to that manuscript after it was delivered to Mr. Patterson?

The anti-Mormon writers have many stories to account for its disappearance. Mr. Beadle, in Mysteries and Crimes of Mormonism, page 31, says "what became of that copy of the manuscript is not known." Bruce Kinney in his book, Mormonism, the Islam of America, page 55, says that there were two manuscripts, an original and a revised, and adds, "Members of the Spaulding family testify to this," but cites no names or documentary sources. Beadle thinks that Mrs. Spaulding had a second copy which was stolen from a trunk in 1825, while Joseph Smith was digging a well next door, but also fails to cite any witnesses or documentary evidence. Mrs. Spaulding in 1834 declared to Mr. Hurlbut that "her husband had a variety of manuscripts, one of which was entitled Manuscript Found, but of its contents she had no distinct remembrance: she thought it was once taken to Patterson's printing office in Pittsburgh, and whether it was ever returned to the house again she was quite uncertain. If it was returned it must be with other manuscripts in a trunk which she left in Otsego, N. Y." Note that throughout this account the manuscript is always referred to in the singular as a and never as they. But in a letter to the Boston Recorder published over her signature, in May, 1839 (see pages 41-44, Smucker's History of the Mormons) she says, "At length the manuscript was returned to its author, and soon after we removed to Amity, Washington county, Pa., where Mr. S. deceased in 1816. The manuscript then fell into my hands and was carefully preserved. It has frequently been examined by my daughter, Mrs. McKenstry, of Monson, Mass., with whom I now reside, and by other friends." Note that again the manuscript is always referred to in the singular, as it.

The supposition upon which all enemies of Mormonism base their claim that Rigdon in some manner either stole or copied the manuscript while it was in the hands of the printer Patterson. The facts of Rigdon's early life easily disprove that theory. He was born in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, February 19, 1793. When he was seventeen years of age his father died, but the young man continued to operate the farm for his mother until about 1818. During his twenty-fifth year he joined a new religious society called the Regular Baptists, and went to live with a clergyman of that faith, who prepared him for the ministry. In March, 1819 he received a license to preach, and definitely forsook farming. June 12, 1820 he married and settled in Trumble County, Ohio, where in November of 1821, the First Baptist Church of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, found him, and invited him to the pastorate. He accepted and moved to Pittsburgh in February of 1822.

Let us recall for you that Spaulding came to Pittsburgh in 1812, and submitted his manuscript not long after his arrival. In that year Sidney Rigdon was only nineteen years old, and still on his mother's farm according to the records of the family. But the anti-Mormon writers are quite certain that he was employed in the printing office of Patterson, and stole the manuscript to exploit its money making possibilities. They cannot explain how a man who was never in Pittsburgh until 1822, and never worked as a printer, could have stolen a manuscript in 1812 from a Pittsburgh printer by whom he was employed as a compositor. Some ingenious explanations are offered -- that Patterson never returned the manuscript as Mrs. Spaulding says he did -- that Rigdon stole it after 1822, while he was pastor of the Baptist church and working part time at the printer's trade. The fact that Mr. Rigdon took an almost extinct congregation, and in four years [sic] built it up to the largest one [sic] in Pittsburgh, rather belies the fact that he ever had time to work in a printing office. He himself specifically denied that he was ever a printer, or that he ever [sic] knew Patterson, in a letter from Nauvoo, Illinois, dated May 27, 1839, and published in the next issue of the Boston Journal [sic] (Smucker, History of the Mormons, page 45).

It is fairly easy to trace this story if one knows where and how to look. In 1833, Doctor (which was a name, and not a title) Philastus Hurlbut was expelled from the church by Joseph Smith on proved charges of gross immorality. He vowed revenge, and set about to make good his promise, writing a book to expose Mormonism. About the turn of the year he joined forces with Mr. E. D. Howe, editor and publisher of the Painesville Telegraph, of Painesville, Ohio. After some editions and changes, the book finally appeared under Howe's name, with the title, Mormonism Unveiled. It contained the charges that the Book of Mormon was taken from the Spaulding manuscript, and printed on pages 278 to 287 the sworn testimony of even witnesses to that effect, plus the unsigned statement of an eighth witness.

It is quite significant that the style and verbiage of all eight of their testimonies are so similar as to suggest to the careful observer that they were all written, or at least influenced by the same person. It is also significant that five of the eight say that the two books are identical, "except for the religious matter," or words to that effect, while the other three are careful to stipulate that it is the historical matter that is identical. If you are familiar with the Book of Mormon at all, you will see at once the reasonableness and truthfulness of the following comment from a man not a believer in any kind of Mormonism. After studying both the Book of Mormon and the Spaulding Manuscript, he said, "The Book of Mormon is permeated is permeated in every page and paragraph with religious and scriptural ideas. It is first and foremost a religious book; and the contrast between it and the supposed manuscript must have been very striking to have led five of these witnesses to call this difference to mind and mention it, after the lapse of twenty years and more." 2

But now let us trace this manuscript step by step, citing authorities insofar as we can for each conclusion or statement of fact. We have established that the manuscript was written about 1812, and submitted that year to Mr. Patterson. In 1834 Mr. Hurlbut visited Mrs. Spaulding in Massachusetts, with a request from Mr. Howe [sic] that he be allowed to examine the manuscript so that he could use material from it in his book against the Mormons. Mrs. Spalding told Mr. Hurlbut at that time that her husband had a number of manuscripts, but only one entitled Manuscript Found; that she could not remember much of its contents; that she was not sure that it was still in her possession, but that if it was, it was in an old trunk at her cousin's in Otsego county, New York. (See Saints' Herald, August 21, 1918 page 820, quoting Fairchild in Op. Cit.)

At this interview, she gave Mr. Hurlbut permission to search the old trunk at her cousin's, which Hurlbut did. He found not several manuscripts, but only one. It was Mr. Spaulding's romance of the Indians of New York and Ohio. He delivered this manuscript to Mr. E. D. Howe, at Painesville. Obviously it was not what Howe wanted. He included a very brief and highly inaccurate description of it in his book, Mormonism Unveiled (page 288) but never published the manuscript or any portion of it. His failure to publish it argues just one thing. If publication of it could have proved that the Book of Mormon was taken from the Solomon Spaulding romance, Howe, with his implacable hatred for the Mormons, would have published it at any cost. The fact that he did not publish it, and treated it very sketchily in his book, proves to my satisfaction at least that a complete publication of the Spaulding story would have exposed the utter absurdity of a belief in any connection between the two books.

In the winter of 1839-40 Mr. Howe sold out his newspaper, presses, type, manuscript, and stock to a Mr. L. L. Rice, who for a number of years had been the state printer for Ohio. Subsequent wanderings brought Mr. Rice to Honolulu, where he was visited in 1885 by James H. Fairchild, president of Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio. Mr. Fairchild and his school had a special interest in old documents bearing on the abolitionist movement in Ohio, and knowing Mr. Rice's former connection as newspaper editor and printer, Fairchild suggested that he might have some valuable manuscripts that should be preserved in the Oberlin College library. Mr. Rice agreed to look through his effects, and though he discovered no anti-slavery documents of importance, he did discover a manuscript of about 175 pages, small quatro, which proved to be Solomon Spaulding's fictitious tale, written to while away the tedious hours of a dying consumptive. Endorsed on the manuscript were these words, "The writings of Solomon Spaulding proved by Aron (sic) Wright, Oliver Smith, John N. Miller, and others. The testimonies of the above gentlemen are now in my possession." Signed D. P. Hurlbut. These three men mentioned were three of the eight witnesses used by Hurlbut and Howe in their book, to prove that the Spaulding Romance and the Book of Mormon were the same -- which fact has great weight in establishing that this was in fact the manuscript which Hurlbut procured in 1834 from Mrs. Spaulding's trunk, and which Rice had unknowingly had in his possession some 46 years. The manuscript was subsequently given to Oberlin College by Mr. Rice, where it remains to this day.

Later in the same year Bishop E. L. Kelley, of the Reorganized Church, visited Oberlin College, and made a verbatim copy of the celebrated manuscript, complete with corrections, strike-outs, erasures, mis-spellings, etc., which was published by the church under the title, Manuscript Found. It bears not the slightest resemblance to the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is a work of some 800 pages, the Spaulding work is less than 150 pages, smaller in size and printed in larger type. There is not a name, or a place, or a historical event in the two books that is even similar, let alone identical. Much fun has been poked by skeptics at the so-called clumsy style of the Book of Mormon, but compared to the miserable spelling, atrocious grammar, and stupid construction of the Spaulding Manuscript, the Book of Mormon is a model of correct English. The Book of Mormon as Professor Fairchild said, is saturated through and through in every paragraph, with lofty religious concepts. Take the religion out of it and you would have little left. The Spaulding Manuscript betrays quite clearly the atheistic [leanings] of the author's declining days. The Book of Mormon teaches monogamy, in the marriage relation, and denounces polygamy; the Spaulding romance advocates polygamy in cases where women exceed the men in the population, until the excess is absorbed. The Book of Mormon covers a sweep of two continents -- both North and South America, the Spaulding story is confined to the great lakes region of Ohio and New York. About the only point of similarity is that both books are about Indians, and that both books claim for them a Jewish origin -- and that is only half truth, so far as the Book of Mormon is concerned.

So much for the Spaulding manuscript. But there is one more line of deduction which proves that the Book of Mormon could not have been derived from it. All those who make this claim are unanimous in declaring that Sidney Rigdon wrote the Book of Mormon and attempting to connect him with the Spaulding manuscript. The facts of history are plain and undeniable. The Book of Mormon was in print at least eight months before Rigdon ever heard of it, or saw a copy of it. We established in the beginning of this talk that the Book of Mormon was printed in March of 1830. In November of 1830, four missionaries, including Parley Pratt and Oliver Cowdery, arrived in Mentor, Ohio, from upper New York state, where the new church had been organized, bearing copies of the Book of Mormon. They introduced the book to Rigdon for the first time and baptized him on November 14, 1830. Mr. Pratt testifies to this in his autobiography and in a letter to the New Era November 27, 1839.

But, say some, there was collusion between Rigdon and Joseph Smith, which was kept secret and denied. Then Rigdon pretended to receive conversion and was baptized. Rigdon was a busy man -- a successful minister -- and it is not hard to trace his movements from 1826 to December, 1830, by official documents, marriage certificates, baptism, funerals, engagements for protracted meetings, etc. In the Church History, volume I, page 146 to 151, there is a list of forty incidents and dates between November 2, 1826 and December, 1830. Obviously we have not time to bring them to you in detail here. After June 1827, the longest interval of time left unaccounted for by these official documents, is about two months and a half. By no stretch of the imagination could Rigdon have sneaked away from his home in Pittsburgh or in Ohio, made the slow and arduous journey to upper New York, written an eight hundred page book, and returned to his home in any such length of time. We are forced to believe that what Pratt says is true -- that he was not acquainted with Joseph Smith and had never heard of the Book of Mormon, until the finished book was presented to him some eight months after its publication.

Now you have the facts for yourself -- or as many as we have had time and space to bring you. You must draw your own conclusion. In the light of this evidence. Who do you think wrote the Book of Mormon?

1 Prof. James H. Fairchild, president Oberlin College, in Western Reserve Historical Society, Vol. 3, pages 185-200, Tract No. 77, March 23, 1886. Quoted on page 820 Saints Herald August 22, 1918.

2 James H. Fairchild, president of Oberlin College, Op. Cit/

Note 1: Elder Fry quotes J. H. Beadle in regard to the report that Smith stole a Spalding manuscript in 1825. Beadle's exact words are: "Mrs. Spaulding had another complete copy; but in the year 1825, while residing in Ontario Co., N.Y., next door to a man named Stroude, for whom Joe Smith was then digging a well, that copy also was lost." This is a most unlikely story, as Beadle provides no source for his allegation and no explanation of how a Spalding manuscript came into the possession of Mr. "Stroude." A variation on this story has Smith stealing the manuscript while digging a well for a cousin of Josiah Stowell, who reportedly lived in Hartwick, Otsego, Co., NY. Early land records of Hartwick do show that there was a Stowell residence adjacent to the Jerome Clark property in that village, perhaps as early as 1825. Joseph Smith, jr. reportedly operated his treasure seeking scheme in the early 1820s as far east as Otego Creek, which enters the upper reaches of the Susquehanna Rive at Oneonta, Otsego Co., N. Y. Hartwick is situated on Otego Creek, just north of Mt. Vision. Rumors of Smith having once conducted money digging near Mt. Vision have not yet been confirmed by any documentary evidence.

Note 2: Elder Fry says: " the anti-Mormon writers... cannot explain how a man who was never in Pittsburgh until 1822, and never worked as a printer, could have stolen a manuscript in 1812 from a Pittsburgh printer by whom he was employed as a compositor." He may be technically correct in what he says, but this line of reasoning overlooks entirely the evidence of Rigdon having been in Pittsburgh before 1822. Since Rigdon lived within walking distance of Pittsburgh as a boy and as a young man, it seems unlikely that he never visited that place prior to 1822. Indeed, his own son, John Wycliffe Rigdon, says: "Sidney Rigdon went to study Theology under a Baptist minister by the name of Peters. In 1819 he obtained a license to preach & went to Pittsburgh & preached here a short time." Two Mormons who lived near Sidney Rigdon's boyhood home (and who later became members of his splinter group church) say: "in the winter of 1818 and '19 he went to Beaver Co., Pa., where he studied divinity with a Baptist preacher by the name of Clark, and was licensed to preach by the Conoquenessing Church (time not recollected) and went from there to Warren, Ohio, and was ordained a regular Baptist preacher, and returned to Pittsburgh in the winter of 1821 and '22, and took the care of the First Regular Baptist Church." If this latter statement can be trusted, Rigdon returned to Pittsburgh in 1821-22, having resided there at least briefly prior to that time. So, it seems that his "first advent" in Pittsburgh came nearer to 1819 than to 1822.

Note 3: Even the year 1819 is probably far too late a date for Sidney Rigdon's "first advent" in Pittsburgh. He seems to have walked into town as early as 1816, to pick up his mail at the little post office there. In fact, the mail clerk from those early days recalled his coming in to pick up his letters now and then. Although Sidney Rigdon may have not occupied a residence in Pittsburgh until mid-1819, he almost certainly frequented the place several years before that time. At some point in his early life Sidney Rigdon was trained in the tanning business and became a currier, that is, a tradesman who prepares fine leather such as the leather used in book-bindings. It is more likely that the young Rigdon's "connection" with the Patterson brothers of Pittsburgh came through his ties to their book bindery than with any of their printing work. On the other hand, Rigdon's early friendship with Robert Patterson's ward, Jonathan Harrison Lambdin, would have put Rigdon in a position where he might have legitimately been called upon (or himself offered) to make a clean copy of Spalding's manuscript for the press. As this work of Spalding's was never published, Rigdon could have later recovered the printer's copy of the Spalding manuscript from J. H. Lambdin when the latter was operating the business on this own and Rigdon was a Baptist preacher in Pittsburgh (c. 1823).

Note 4: Elder Fry says that the "Book of Mormon was in print at least eight months before Rigdon ever heard of it," but he gives no proof for this statement. On the contrary, Rigdon's most recent biographer said in 1994: "There can be little doubt that Rigdon... was aware of the book before it was placed in his hands." Besides that, several of Rigdon's pre-Mormon associates in Ohio heard of the "Golden Bible" story long before Rigdon's supposed conversion in Oct. 1830. Reportedly, among those several associates were Orson Hyde, Eliza R. Snow, Adamson Bentley, Walter Scott, Alexander Campbell, and Darwin Atwater. See the local newspaper for Rigdon's area (which now and then mentioned him by name), issue of Sept. 22, 1829 for one such early news report about Joseph Smith, Jr.

Note 5: Speaking of Rigdon's whereabouts in relation to Joseph Smith, jr. before the fall of 1830, Elder Fry says: "After June 1827, the longest interval of time left unaccounted for... is about two months and a half. By no stretch of the imagination could Rigdon have sneaked away from his home... made the slow and arduous journey to upper New York, written an eight hundred page book, and returned to his home in any such length of time." Fry does not say what might have been possible had Rigdon already made his editorial redactions of Spalding's writings before his taking such a journey to New York.


Volume  91                                   September  9, 1944                                     Number  37

Copyright © 1944 by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

By Evan A. Fry

9. Sidney Rigdon and the Book of Mormon

In our last presentation, we traced for you the story of the Solomon Spaulding manuscript, which was written by Spaulding about 1812, submitted to Robert Patterson, a Pittsburgh printer a short time after, returned to Spaulding before 1814, and taken by him to Amity, Pennsylvania, where he died in 1816. We showed then that his widow kept the manuscript in her possession until "Doctor" Hurlbut called on her in 1834, and borrowed it to take to Mr. E. D. Howe, who was about to publish the book he and Hurlbut had written together, called Mormonism Unveiled. The story published in this book, and sworn to by eight witnesses, was that the Book of Mormon was a copy of the contents of Spaulding's manuscript; but though Howe had the manuscript in his possession, he did not publish a single extract from it -- which after all would have been the best way of proving plagiarism, if any existed. We traced the manuscript for you into the hands of Mr. L. L. Rice, who bought Howe's printing establishment and operated it for several years. Forty-six years later, in Honolulu, Mr. Fairchild, president of Oberlin College, of Oberlin, Ohio, visited Mr. Rice in Honolulu in quest of any anti-slavery documents he might still have in his possession. In Mr. Rice's trunk was found the Spaulding Manuscript, certified as the original by a notation on the first [sic] page in the handwriting of "Doctor" Hurlbut, and attested by three of the eight witnesses whose affidavits had been published in Howe's book. That manuscript now is preserved in the library of Oberlin College an exact copy of it was published by the church in 1885, under the title, Manuscript Found.

We mention all this because it has a great bearing on the life of the man we are going to discuss. Sidney Rigdon is the man named by all the anti-Mormon literature as the one who stole the manuscript of Solomon Spaulding, and from it concocted the Book of Mormon. We pointed out to you last week that Spaulding left Pittsburgh in 1814, while Rigdon never was in Pittsburgh until 1822; that at the time the manuscript was in the hands of Patterson, the Pittsburgh printer, Rigdon was still on his mother's farm, charged with the responsibility of making the family living after his father's death. But there is more to the story of Sidney Rigdon. He is one of those rare characters whose life is human for its foibles and weaknesses but who nevertheless is an outstanding, noteworthy and exemplary character. We do not intend to give you a complete and chronological history of his life, but to select such incidents as will show him as the man he was -- a gifted orator and a leader of men -- a man of supremely high principles and devotion to what he believed was right -- a man of simple tastes and democratic feeling -- a man who loved justice and virtue -- a man who was not afraid to think along new lines that other men were too lazy or too bigoted to explore.

Sidney Rigdon was born February 19, 1795, the youngest son of Thomas and Nancy Rigdon. When Sidney was only seventeen, his father died, leaving him with much of the care of the farm. He continued on the farm with his mother until he was twenty six, but in his twenty-fifth year made the step that changed much of the future course of his life by uniting with the Regular Baptists. He abandoned farming in his twenty-sixth year, and went to live with a minister of his chosen denomination, the Reverend Andrew Clark, who trained him for the ministry. March, 1819 he was licensed to preach by the Regular Baptists, and two months later moved to Trumbull County, Ohio, where he took up his residence with another Baptist minister, Adamson Bentley, later marrying Bentley's wife's sister. In company with Bentley and other Baptist ministers, he helped organize on August 30, 1820, the Mahoning Baptist Association -- a group of ministers who met for doctrinal and other discussions, and mutual improvement and criticism in pulpit delivery and public speaking.

While active members of the Mahoning Baptist Association, Bentley and Rigdon, now brothers-in-law, heard through other Baptist ministers of one Alexander Campbell. Some doctrinal views expressed by him in debate with a Mr. Walker excited their attention and curiosity and they made it a point to visit Mr. Campbell at his home in Bethany, West Virginia. The result was an association which continued from that date (1821) until Rigdon accepted the Book of Mormon in 1830. Bentley, Rigdon, Campbell, and a Mr. Walter Clark [sic] who was introduced to the group a little later in Pittsburgh, became the leaders of the new "Reformed Baptist" movement, which grew into the "Disciples" or "Campbellite" church. They found themselves in disagreement with the "Regular Baptists" over many points of doctrine.

Alexander Campbell had for some time been watching the First Baptist Church of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Its membership had fallen off to almost nothing; its pastor had left; it was torn by doctrinal dissension; and Campbell thought it was ripe for rejuvenation and reform. He was instrumental in having the congregation issue a call to Sidney Rigdon in November of 1821; and in February of 1822, Rigdon moved to Pittsburgh and assumed the pastorate, which he held for more than two years. He built up the congregation until it became the largest in Pittsburgh. His unorthodox doctrinal beliefs, coupled with a remarkable power of oratory, made him the town's most popular preacher. His salary increased in keeping with his popularity. But he found himself more and more at variance with the doctrines which he was expected to preach, until he could endure the situation no longer. He consulted with his wife, who agreed to follow him whatever happened, and with her consent he resigned his pastorate, and turned to manual labor in a tannery to earn a living. He worked at this humble task for two years, finding that the people who had once courted his favor now snubbed him because of his humble workman's clothing and his honestly callused hands.

In 1826 he moved to Bainbridge, Ohio, intending to take up other work. But his former fame had preceded him and he began to receive numerous calls to preach, first one place and then another. He built up large and lively congregations at Bainbridge, at nearby Mantua, and finally at Mentor, Ohio, where he accepted the pastorate of the Baptist church. He seemed to find freedom there to preach pretty much as he pleased, giving nominal adherence still to the Baptist faith, but continuing to associate with Campbell, Bentley, and Scott, in the "Reformed" group. The people of Mentor occupied one of the richest, most prosperous sections of Ohio. At first they were skeptical and suspicious of him; they heaped persecution upon him; but at the end of eight months he had downed all opposition, and his church was flourishing. It is characteristic of the man that although his parish was quite wealthy, he and his wife lived in a small frame house, hardly big enough for their large family without any complaint or any request to the congregation for a better one. But the congregation saw his need, bought a fine farm, and let contracts for a new house and suitable farm buildings to be erected thereon.

But Rigdon was not to enjoy these gifts. It was just at this point that something else happened to turn the whole course of his life. Up in New York state, the Book of Mormon had been printed in March 1830, and the new church organized with Joseph Smith and five other members on April 6. One of the first converts to the church was Parley P. Pratt, who had been acquainted with Rigdon in a ministerial capacity several years before. Pratt was one of the first four missionaries sent out by this infant church; and as their journey lay towards what was then the "western part" of the country, in Ohio, it was natural that his thoughts should turn to this old acquaintance whose original thinking and courageous oratory had made such an impression upon him. Accordingly, Pratt and his three companions found Sidney Rigdon at Mentor. So eager were they to have Rigdon accept the Book of Mormon that they wanted to do all the talking. But Rigdon said, "No, young gentleman, you must not argue with me on the subject; but I will read your book, and see what claim it has upon my faith, and will endeavor to ascertain whether it be a revelation from God or not." That was highly characteristic of the man -- always willing to examine new truth, but unwilling to be pushed into acceptance of it.

Sidney Rigdon deliberated for two weeks; reading the book carefully, consulting his wife about the seriousness of the step he was about to take, praying for Divine light and guidance. He was also willing to give his congregation the same privilege of free examination and thought which he desired for himself. He therefore granted the request of Parley Pratt and Oliver Cowdery to preach in his church, and attended their services, where he advised his people to listen and weigh carefully what was said, lest they reject truth. At the end of that time, he knew what he wanted to do, but he hesitated about asking his wife to leave the comparative security they now enjoyed, and again become impoverished outcasts for conscience sake. Again his wife took her place beside him, encouraging him to do as he felt best and right. Accordingly he and his wife and some twenty of his congregation were baptized on November 14, 1830, by Pratt and Cowdery.

May we pause here a moment to point out briefly that the Book of Mormon was all in the hands of the printer in August of 1829; was printed in March of 1830; and that Sidney Rigdon saw his first copy approximately November 1, 1830 -- or about seven months after it was in print. Because of his activities with various Baptist associations, and with Alexander Campbell, he has left many records of his whereabouts on certain dates between 1826 and 1830 -- so many records that it would have been impossible for him to have contacted Joseph Smith and entered into collusion with him to write the Book of Mormon anywhere during that period, as the enemies of Mormonism claim.

Immediately after his baptism, Sidney Rigdon was ordained an elder, and started to preach the new gospel, which after all was very much like the thing he had been preaching for several years. In December 1830, he visited Joseph Smith in New York, and acted as his scribe or secretary for some time. On August 3, 1831, we find him in Independence, with Joseph Smith, selecting and dedicating a site for a temple. March 18, 1833 he was ordained first counselor to the President of the church, Joseph Smith, and presided over the church in Kirtland while Joseph Smith was absent in Missouri. It was he who offered the dedicatory prayer for the temple which was built at Kirtland. He was active in the church during its migrations to Independence, its flight to Clay County, to Ray and Caldwell Counties, and finally to Nauvoo, Illinois. He was mobbed and beaten until his life was despaired of; he was once condemned to be shot, but saved by laudable and completely legal insubordination and disobedience to orders on the part of General Alexander Doniphan, of the Missouri State Militia. He served some time in Liberty jail with other leaders of the church, as a part of the persecution of the church.

The October conference of 1843 found him in Nauvoo, living in a humble frame house in a city where everybody else was building handsome brick dwellings, in somewhat poor health, and partially estranged from Joseph Smith. Smith expressed some dissatisfaction with him as counselor because of his inactivity, but these differences were reconciled, and the conference sustained him in his office, where he served faithfully until the death of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in 1844. After this tragedy, Rigdon tried to assert his claim as rightful leader of the church, since he was the only remaining member of the First Presidency, but he was refused the opportunity to present his views to the church by Brigham Young, who had seized control, and later an ex parte proceeding of the Quorum of Twelve, led by Brigham Young, and purporting to act for the church, expelled him from fellowship with them.

Rigdon then retired to his old home, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he published for about a year and half what he called a "revival" of the old Messenger and Advocate, which he had once helped publish for the church in Kirtland, Ohio. In these columns, he set forth his views on church government, denouncing the action of the men who had disfellowshipped him, and bringing serious charges against some of their moral and doctrinal teachings. He died at Friendship, New York, July 14, 1876 -- still affirming his belief in the message of Joseph Smith, and testifying to his dying day that his first knowledge of the Book of Mormon was had on the day Pratt handed him a copy, in November 1830. So lived and died a noble man, one who followed his God and his conscience at a great cost, and left a great spiritual heritage to all who have come after.

Note: Elder Fry's laudatory biographical sketch of Sidney Rigdon is taken, for the most part, from the 1843 account published in the Times & Seasons. While that original history was no doubt supplied directly to the newspaper by Rigdon himself, it cannot be trusted as being a full and accurate record of the man's early years.


Volume  97                                   June  26, 1950                                     Number  26

Copyright © 1950 by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

The Spaulding Story


When we discover newspaper or magazine articles about Solomon Spaulding and his manuscripts we at once are prepared to see a re-telling of the claims set up by E. D. Howe. From two of our members, Brother Casimir Nikel of Cleveland, Ohio, and Sister Anna B. Rasey of Painesville, Ohio, we have received copies of an article published on March 5 last in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Much to our gratification we find that Miss Grace Goulder, the writer, has given what I would call judicial consideration to the issues of fact raised from the beginning as to the correctness of the Howe theory -- one he advanced even after he had been advised that it was not tenable, according to Miss Goulder's article.

Because of some special features. such as the references to Professor Kirke L. Cowdery, a nephew of Oliver Cowdery, we a pleased to give space to this article, permission having been granted by the publishers of the Plain Dealer and Miss Goulder:


Old Manuscript by Conneaut Pastor, Which Mormons Resented,
Now Rests Behind Locked Doors in Oberlin College Library.


In the dignified and inviting library of Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio, the most famous volume is a battered manuscript that has been the cause of bitter controversy for more than a century. Kept securely behind locked doors, this is a novel written about 1810 by Rev. Solomon Spaulding, Conneaut, Ohio. For years it has been tagged by non-Mormons as the basis of the Book of Mormon, a claim violently denied by all followers of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

It is an innocent-appearing document, without a title, the difficult script faded almost to illegibility. The Oberlin Library has had it bound carefully in fine leather, and prefers that the many persons who come to study it use the photostatic copy. Looking at it, one is amazed that it could have stirred such heated invectives and such ardent advocates. Sermons, books, quantities of paper and ink, as well as hours of earnest scholarly research have been expended on it alike by the Later Day Saints themselves and by "Gentiles" -- the Mormon name for a;; outside their sect.

For all this probing searchlight, mystery still clings alluringly to the old pages, and people like myself always are turning up asking to see it -- while I was handling it, a long distance telephone call came in to Librarian Julian S. Fowler, its custodian, from a man in Philadelphia who was planning a special trip to Oberlin to study it. Mr. Fowler, like most of those who have gone into the story in late years, believes with the Mormons, that it could not have been the inspiration for their Book of Mormon, their "bible" that Joseph Smith insisted had come to him from golden tablets he found buried in the 1820s in Palmyra, New York.

Such sober disclaimers cannot rob the book of its fascinating history, its long connection with the Mormons and the points of resemblance between it and the Mormon work. Though originating along Conneaut Creek, which Author Spaulding spells "Coneaught," Oberlin College obtained the manuscript 75 years later in Honolulu. The college's president, James H. Fairchild, was visiting L. L. Rice, a former Painesville and Oberlin resident. They were sorting out Rice's papers, searching for anti-slavery material when they came upon a package containing about 175 loose pages, labeled "Writings of Solomon Spaulding." Rice had not realized he had the work. Spaulding's name was famous, made so by a Painesville newspaper man, E. D. Howe, whose plant, it happened, Rice had bought. In 1835 Howe wrote an anti-Mormon book, its main argument being that the foundation for the Book of Mormon was not the golden plates as Joseph Smith claimed, but an unpublished novel by Spaulding. Howe based his statements on testimony of neighbors who swore that Spaulding had read many passages of his book to them, which were similar to the Book of Mormon which came out later.

Spaulding had died in 1816, and Howe made contact with Spaulding's widow, hoping to locate that manuscript. She did send him one of her husband's manuscripts, which Howe, when he examined it, realized did not resemble the Book of Mormon closely enough to be THE work he sought. That one, he concluded was lost, and he went ahead and put out his book anyway. It received wide attention, since it bolstered the strong trends of Mormon persecution developing in Ohio at that time. Fairchild and Rice knew all this, and concluded they had come upon the missing Spaulding writing that Howe had looked for. Mews dispatches gave the story wide circulation, calling the old novel the "Manuscript Found."

Closer scrutiny of the quarto convinced President Fairchild that it differed too radically in style and subject matter to have been the basis for the Mormon work. But no matter. The name, Manuscript Found, persisted, probably because actually there are some startling points of resemblance. Spaulding, much interested in Indian and Mound Builder lore, confides to the reader that he "discovered" the original text in a golden box hidden deep in a tunnel which he stumbled upon when excavating a mound near his home. (Joseph Smith had found his plates buried, too.) The writing was in Latin -- Smith's tablets were in what he termed "reformed" Egyptian hieroglyphics. The tale is about a Roman, Fabius, living in the time of the Emperor Constantine. Fabius, Spaulding imparts, hid the chronicle that recounts the Roman's experiences with the Indians after he and his companions landed here in a storm -- their destination had been Great Britain. The Book of Mormon is about Christ's coming, after his resurrection, to bring the gospel to the American Indians, the record of those events preserved for 400 years in golden plates that a descendant of those aborigines, one Mormon, handed down to his son (later known as) the angel Moroni. It was Moroni who hid the plates near Joseph Smith's home in New York State, and led him them in a vision.... Beyond these points the similarity ends. The so-called Manuscript Found is not written in the biblical language of the Book of Mormon and has none of the characters that appear in it.

Particularly interested and well informed about the Spaulding manuscript is one Oberlin resident, Mrs. Kirke L. Cowdery, 184 Woodland Avenue. Her husband, until his death a few years ago, was a long-time French professor at the college. He was a grandnephew of Oliver Cowdery, by whose hand nearly all of the printer's copy of the Book of Mormon was written. Prof. Cowdery, from a line that never espoused Mormonism, spent much time in Mormon research, following the footsteps of the Cowderys and the Smiths from their birthplaces, both in Vermont, on through New York, Ohio, the Middle West, Utah, and the Southwest into every spot in this country where Mormonism flourished. Mrs. Cowdery accompanied him on these journeyings, which became a kind of hobby for them both.

I found her in the sunny bay window of her living room, surrounded by luxuriously blooming African violets and blue-flowered morning-glory vines climbing up the curtain. She showed me her husband's collection of Mormon papers, among these a deed from a local farmer, bearing Oliver Cowdery's signature for land given Joseph Smith where the Kirtland Temple now stands. Oliver, about Joseph's age, came under the "prophet's" spell when he went to teach school near Palmyra, and the two baptized each other, Oliver becoming the second convert. Oliver, along with Smith, was the only one permitted to see God in person in a blinding spectacle during temple dedication rituals -- this according to Smith's journal. Oliver broke with the prophet following the failure of the Mormon bank at Kirtland, but later rejoined the sect. His greatest fame rests on the fact that he is one of the Three Witnesses whose testimony that they saw the sacred tablets is carried in the front of every Book of Mormon -- a refutation of any claim for Spaulding.... How annoyed Oliver would have been to know that the queer old Spaulding document is getting all this care and attention in Oberlin's Library! -- Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 5, 1950.

Note: Kirke Lionel Cowdery (1866-1946) was the son of Oliver's nephew, Dyar Lamott Cowdery. The disposition of Kirke L. Cowdery's "collection of Mormon papers" remains unknown. Photographs of some of the original documents from his collection appear in Stanly R. Gunn's 1962 book Oliver Cowdery, Second Elder and Scribe. Some of Professor Cowdery's personal papers are on file in the Oberlin College Archives.


Volume  108                                   January  1, 1961                                     Number  1

Copyright © 1961 by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

Question  Time

Edited by Charles A. Davies, Church Historian

  • Question
    In church school class the "Spaulding manuscript" was mentioned. What is it, and if there is a manuscript, is it in the possession of the Reorganized Church? Is it available in printed form?

  • Answer
    The so-called Spaulding manuscript is a romance written by Reverend Solomon Spalding in 1761. He died in 1816 at the age of fifty-five. He was engaged in several secular occupations, mercantile and industrial, following a period as a minister and as a teacher. He had a leaning to literary work and when living in Conneaut, Ohio, wrote a story claiming to be a history of the wars between the Indians of Ohio and Kentucky. He appears to have shared his work with his neighbors as he wrote it, so that a number of people were able to pretend to have familiarity with the text. He hoped to reestablish his impaired financial position by publishing the story, but the publication did not materialize,

  • Later, opponents of the Book of Mormon were to accuse Joseph Smith of plagiarizing this work of Solomon Spalding, the accurate title of which was "The Manuscript Story."

    E. D. Howe of Painesville, Ohio, seems to have been the first to publish this accusation of plagiarism in his book, Mormonism Unveiled, in 1834. D. P. Hurlbut, an associate of Howe, joined in gathering stories to support this charge.

    Because the manuscript was not printed, the public had little chance of refuting the testimony of those who declared the Book of Mormon to be a copy, and for many years the story was used to discredit Joseph Smith.

    In 1884 a Mr. L. L. Rice discovered the Spalding story manuscript in a large collection of books and papers originally owned by Howe and sold in 1839-40. Howe had borrowed it and never returned it to the author. This in itself would indicate Howe's knowledge that his claim was false. The collection of material had by this time (1884) been transferred to Honolulu. Mr. Rice eventually deposited his find with Professor Fairchild for the library of Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio, where it is today.

    Later Mr. Rice was to write in a letter to Joseph Smith III, (March 28, 1885): "I am of the opinion that no one who reads this manuscript will give credit to the story that Solomon Spalding was in any wise the author of the Book of Mormon."

    In a letter to Joseph Smith III, dated May 14, 1885, Mr. Rice also said, "My opinion is from all I have seen and heard, that this is the only writing of Spalding."

    A letter to C. J. Hunt from Professor James H. Fairchild, Oberlin College, February 27, 1892, and now in the Reorganized Church archives states, "There is no reasonable basis for a claim that the Book of Mormon originated in this manuscript."

    Later the manuscript was made available for publication and the Reorganized Church published it in 1885. It is out of print now, but many copies are in private libraries as well as in the Church Historian's Office at the Auditorium in Independence, Missouri.

    No longer do informed people present the arguments invented by Hurlbut and Howe.

    Note 1: As is typical for RLDS apologists, Elder Davis quotes Rice and Fairchild where it suits his purposes, but suppresses the later statements of both gentlemen on the matter of the Oberlin manuscript. Rice, in his last statement regarding Spalding's writings and the Book of Mormon, said: "This testimony of Mr. [James A.] Briggs is entirely reliable. I was acquainted with all the members of the "self-constituted committee" of which he speaks. The mooted question now is what became of the Manuscript before the Committee, which they "compared chapter by chapter with the Mormon Bible," and found them to correspond so perfectly? Mr. Deming, already referred to, says that Dr. Hurlburt sold it to the Mormons for $400, with which he purchased the farm he occupied at Gibson's burgh, at the time he wrote to Mr. Patterson, as related by Mr. Briggs. My belief is, from the above and other testimony in my possession, that either Hurlburt or Howe sold it to the Mormons, who of course destroyed it, or put it out of the way." President Fairchild, in his last known statement on the subject, says to a former student of his, the Rev. J. D. Nutting: "With regard to the manuscript of Mr. Spaulding now in the Library of Oberlin College, I have never stated, and know of no one who can state, that it is the only manuscript which Spaulding wrote, or that it is certainly the one which has been supposed to be the original of the Book of Mormon. The discovery of this Ms. does not prove that there may not have been another, which became the basis of the Book of Mormon. The use which has been made of statements emanating from me as implying the contrary of the above is entirely unwarranted."

    Note 2: Elder Davis makes an interesting point when he says: "Howe had borrowed it [Spalding's Roman manuscript] and never returned it to the author. This in itself would indicate Howe's knowledge that his claim was false." According to D. P. Hurlbut's wife, Howe agreed to return that particular manuscript to its owner after Hurlbut gave it to him. The question must be asked, why didn't he? There is no record of Howe attempting to contact Spalding's widow, who was then the legal owner of the document. If Mr. Howe was so intent upon exposing Mormon origins (as reports from some persons say he was), then why didn't he contact the widow, return the useless Roman story, and question her more closely about her husband and his writings? It appears that E. D. Howe, after the first months of 1834, had little interest or desire in having any contact with Spalding's widow. Whether or not this strange action on his part indicates "Howe's knowledge that his claim was false" remains to be substantiated.


    Volume  108                                   March  6, 1961                                     Number  10

    Copyright © 1961 by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

    Authorship of the Book of Mormon

    The claims of Joseph are substantial, affirmative, and difficult to challenge.

    By Roy Weldon

    At least ten different theories have been advanced for the origin of the Book of Mormon. Historians, scholars of American literature, and anti-Mormon writers are baffled after one hundred and thirty years of investigation. All leads appear to have run out.

    I. Woodbridge Riley writes in his book The Founder of Mormonism (Putnam): "In spite of a continuous stream of conjecture, it is as yet impossible to pick out any special document as an original source of the Book of Mormon, In particular the commonly accepted Spaulding theory is insoluble from external evidence."

    Dr. Marcus Bach, claimed to be one of the foremost authorities on the lesser known religions in America, says:

    I paged through this American Bible wondering how many Protestants had ever seen a copy or read a verse out of any of the fifteen books. Wherever these auxiliary scriptures came from, whatever they were, they surpassed in magnitude and content my most extravagant expectations.... No Vermont school boy wrote this, and no Presbyterian preacher tinkered with these pages. (From Faith and My Friends by Marcus Bach, copyright 1951 by the Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., used by special permission of the publishers.)

    After a lecture in which I presented the Book of Mormon as having originated from an angelic messenger revealing to Joseph Smith the hiding place of a set of gold plates, a gentleman made this comment: "How wild can we get?"

    The critics are baffled. All the theories that have been advanced have culminated in dead-end streets, while the claim of Joseph Smith about an angel and gold plates is preposterous and unthinkable to them.

    Emmett S. Campton says:

    I can say that we found cities and settlements fitted into the accounts of cities and fortresses in the Book of Mormon in a way that could not be accidental... and journeys and religious observances exactly as described in the words of Joseph Smith. How do I explain it? The only explanation that seems possible to me -- for of course all the talk about the angel Moroni showing Smith how to read the golden plates is nonsense -- is that some traveler must have studied these ruins carefully, must have seen them in a much better state of preservation than we have seen them, and that Smith, in some way, got hold of his writings, or talked with him, and made his discoveries the basis of the pseudo Bible.

    The psychological approach to the Book of Mormon's production, from whatever angle you wish to survey it, is entirely against its spurious production. I agree with J. N. Washburn when he says:

    If Joseph Smith invented those few lines of characters which are existent, and suggested to be the basis of the Anthon affair, would he have been so utterly foolish as to send them to the leading authority of his time? If he had the intelligence to write the least chapter in the Book of Mormon, he must certainly have had enough to avoid doing the one thing most likely to destroy any hope he might have had of deceiving anyone.... Certainly he would not have sent his fake inscriptions to a linguist.

    No Compromise

    There is no middle ground upon which to stand when one ponders the claims of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. Either it is what it claims to be or it is not.

    P. Meinhold expresses the popular reaction to its claims: "To expect anyone to believe in the existence of gold plates... is in spite of the witnesses, simply preposterous."

    The Book of Mormon has been criticized for its declaration, "The natural man is an enemy to God." (Mosiah 1:119), but it would nevertheless appear that modern man as well as ancient man has little natural inclination to give the least hearing to any proposition having angels or divine claims connected with it.

    If we dismiss Joseph Smith's account of the origin of the Book of Mormon we are confronted with the necessity of accounting for it in some other way. Concerning those who have tried to explain it, John Widstoe says: "Hundreds of books and pamphlets by the learned and unlearned have been written about it but without coming to a consensus of opinion concerning its origin."

    Some writers have changed their theories: "Alexander Campbell declared Joseph Smith to be the author. After the Spaulding theory appeared he abandoned his first position in favor of the Spaulding theory."

    If Campbell were still alive he would have to change horses again.

    The Spaulding theory has been exploded; the lost Spaulding manuscript has been found and is on deposit at Oberlin College, Ohio. President Fairchild of that college wrote:

    The theory of the origin of the Book of Mormon in the traditional manuscript of Solomon Spaulding will probably have to be relinquished.... Mr. Rice, myself, and others compared it with the Book of Mormon, and could detect no resemblance between the two, in general or in detail. There seems to be no name or incident common to the two. The solemn style of the Book of Mormon, in imitation of the English Scriptures, does not appear in the manuscript.

    The Encyclopedia Britannia now says:

    It was a contention of the early anti-Mormons, now however discredited, that the Book of Mormon as published by Smith was rewritten with few changes from an unpublished romance, The Manuscript Found, written before 1812 by Solomon Spaulding, a minister. -- Volume 18, p. 843.

    The Sidney Rigdon Theory

    The National Encyclopedia of American Biography now says:

    Most candid authorities now agree that the evidence adduced for Rigdon's duplicity in the matter is of no conclusive nature. Even Stenhouse admits that those who knew him before he was a Mormon spoke of him in such a manner as leaves no room to doubt Rigdon's own sincerity in the Mormon faith and his total ignorance of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon until after that book was published.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia says:

    The missionaries proceeded to Northern Ohio, then almost a wilderness, where Pratt presented to his former pastor, Sidney Rigdon, a copy of the Book of Mormon... Up to that time Rigdon had never seen the book, which he was accused of helping Smith to write.

    Surely no modern man of letters or scholarly attainments had anything to do with writing the Book of Mormon, because no learned man would have stuck his neck out on such incredible claims as were in the Book of Mormon in 1830...

    Notes: (forthcoming)


    Volume  109                                   May  1, 1962                                      Number  9

    Copyright © 1962 by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

    Spiritual  Marriage

    Spiritual wifery -- a historic survey of this peculiar doctrine.

    By Charles A. Davies

    Editor's Note: Members of our church have long been concerned about the questions treated here. Brother Davies gives his personal views after considerable research.

    A philosopher once said, "A little learning is a dangerous thing, drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring" (Pope).

    Though like many aphorisms this may be interpreted in a too sweeping sense, to the extent that it emphasizes the importance of knowing enough to be in a position to render intelligent opinion, it is true. This comment certainly applies to many popular ideas which are accepted without sufficient thought or examination of all the relevant facts. In these days of deliberate manipulation of ideas to serve an end, it is most important to be factually informed. It has always been so, but never has the art of propaganda received such attention as in the ideological war of today. It is true that if people had a wider knowledge of history many lessons would be learned, thus preventing the repetition of errors. Many statements are often accepted as true which, if their sources were checked, would not have been given credence; and many figures of the past have been accused and defended upon less knowledge than would seem to justify the conclusions reached. It is necessary then to broaden the base of our historical facts, that judgment be not rendered hastily or prematurely.

    The Stand of the Reorganized Church

    This has been true of a number of false concepts about the Latter Day Saint movement that have dogged the church throughout its existence and particularly with regard to the Nauvoo period. For instance, when Nauvoo is mentioned, the ideas of polygamy, spiritual wifery, and celestial marriage come into focus. The Reorganized Church is sensitive to any charges that the legitimate movement, and in particular the prophet, was involved in any immoral activities. It need not be sensitive about the fact that its members were encouraged to think and study in a wide field (Doctrine and Covenants 85:11-13, 21), and if in the process some gave attention to deviating and unsound lines, the fact should receive due consideration.

    This church neither believes in nor teaches spiritual marriage, or polygamy, but to simply deny these doctrines is not effective in helping others understand the mission of the church.

    That polygamy was being promulgated in Nauvoo is a historic fact. That it was promulgated by the prophet or accepted by the church is not true. That spiritual or celestial marriage was believed in by many, and that this relationship received undue attention in official quarters at one time is evidenced by the facts. But it is not factual that Joseph Smith sponsored immorality, even if error in theology or philosophy were to be proved.

    Having frankly faced this fact that the marriage question was receiving the inordinate attention of the Saints in Nauvoo, we must recognize that this was not peculiar to the Saints, and that because it was of current interest elsewhere in the United States in that period the Saints naturally gave attention to it, That many found they were theorizing along dangerous paths is certain. These drew back from accepting ideas that they found to be erroneous; and some either from ignorance or willful desire, chose to continue in a path which history records led them to Utah and other places. Among those who gave consideration to these unorthodox notions of marriage in the hereafter, which later proved to be leading in a wrong direction, was Joseph Smith himself; but evidence abounds that his conclusion was that true marriage was a monogamous relationship. His pronouncements at this point were unequivocal, especially in the last year of his life when he presented a document on marriage that was later to be distorted into the very thing he protested against. I refer to the Brigham Young document of 1852.

    Various statements of early leaders indicate Joseph Smith found himself deceived by his trusted associates both as to their denials that they were practicing immorality and as to some of their theories of marriage for eternity. He eventually realized that these studies had led to polygamy, which, he stated, if allowed to grow would drive the Saints from the States. He thereupon devised a plan in counsel with the stake president, William Marks, to stamp out the growing heresy and proposed to attack the matter in the high council and in open meeting. This he did not live long enough to do. To his credit he had always stated polygarhy to be an iniquity and took official action against the offenders.

    Definitions of Marriage Variants

    To see this matter in perspective we must consider it in a wider framework of relevant facts than has been customary. The following definitions will help:

    i. Polygamy is the practice of having two or more wives or husbands at the same time.

    2. Polygyny is the practice of having two or more wives at the same time.

    3. Polyandry is the practice of having two or more husbands at the same time.

    4. Spiritual marriage is marriage theoretically without physical relationship. It may be monogamous or polygamous, the bond of union being purely spiritual.

    5. Celestial marriage is marriage for the future state, involving the idea of the marriage relationship being continued in celestial glory.

    It is not my intention to give detailed treatment of all marriage variants but to show the background of the events that have been and still are of concern to many as related to the church in Nauvoo.

    To do this we must trace the historic origins of these notions or concepts, and for our purpose we need to go back to the early Christian church. In the New Testament there is considerable comment on marriage. According to the Gospels, Jesus made certain references which indicate that he treated marriage with great importance. He referred to the Mosaic attitude toward the law and sought to emphasize faithfulness and purity as a matter of spiritual and mental devoutness rather than as a matter of overt action (Matthew 5:30). It remains for Paul to state some principles in a more detailed way (I Corinthians 7).

    Wrong Interpretations

    Because of a failure to understand the background from which Paul made his pronouncements many people have missed and often wrongly emphasized his real intent. Both Christ and Paul spoke from a Judaistic background. Because of traditional interpretations of ancient scripture and due to certain non-Hebrew influences, the physical side of marriage was given a low status, and the concept that sexual relations were essentially impure led to an undue elevation of virginity. This no doubt is evidenced in the persistent belief that the transgression of Adam and Eve was in the area of sex. This is untenable, although many believe it today. The apostle Paul made a statement that reflects this concept of the lower status of marriage when he said, "It is better to marry than to burn" (I Corinthians 7:9, A.V.), thus interpreting marriage as the lesser of two evils (the word burn was often misinterpreted to mean being relegated to hell for immoral behavior). Actually a better translation of this particular verse says, "...than to be aflame with passion," (R.S.V.).

    Augustine, Jerome, and others of the early fathers carried the idea that celibacy was a more worthy state, and that marriage was a regrettable -- even if necessary -- institution in the period described as the Patristic age. The writings of the early church fathers reflect a continuing if not intense concern that the Christian marriage be seen in a true light in their writings. Through study of their works and ministry we come to appreciate the paths by which men attain to true knowledge and the bypaths by which they are often led into error. The Gnostic heresy and the dualistic doctrines involved illustrate this.

    In the earlier centuries of the Christian church this problem of the marriage relationship continued to be of concern. Jesus and Paul made certain basic statements which have led to much conjecture, but it is remarkable that Paul has been so misinterpreted as to be considered opposed to marriage in principle rather than for a major reason which appeared to him to be valid and reasonable at the time. Paul counseled against marriage for eschatological reasons -- he believed the end of the world was near; therefore, to contract relationships and produce children when there would soon be very troublous times (Luke 24) seemed most unwise to the apostle. He did not forbid marriage, but said earthly troubles would ensue (I Corinthians 7:9); this is often misinterpreted as problems of childbirth.

    The influence of the expectation of the Imminent end of the world continued to be powerful into the fifth century. Other rationalizations were advanced for celibacy, and an extreme elevation of the meaning and value of virginity (orignally including both sexes) became current. Jerome went so far as to say that marriage was justifiable only because it produced virgins. He remarked that children were to marriage as roses were to thorns, or gold from earth and pearls from shells (Jerome Epistle XXII 20).

    These unsound attitudes which were developed in the religious environment of Judaism and other influences were also thrown into bold relief, no doubt, by the sensuality of the ancient world of Greece and Rome, to whom Paul and the fathes addressed their epistles.

    From these concepts, which held physical marriage to be a less noble relationship developed the elevation of celibacy and virginity; they also resulted in an attempt to provide for the social benefits of close association with a partner of the opposite sex without the "sinful" relations classified as "carnal." This is the basis of so-called "spiritual marriage" or "spiritual wifery."

    Because of the modern novelist's treatment of the peculiar Utah church doctrirxes in the development of which "spiritual marriage" played a part, many people assume that it originatd with Mormonism. A little reading of the history of the early Christian church will dispel this idea. Spiritual marriage was advocated by Tertullian in the third century after Christ.

    This involved a man an woman living together in a strictly "spiritual" union, sharing life and home in all the normal ways of the married except that they were in matters of sex as brother and sister. This practice is said to be of great antiquity and to have signs of a pagan heritage. It is found in a number of forms in early Christianity -- in the female associates of religious hermits, the monastic orders of ancient Irish Christianity where monks and nuns lived in the same establishments, and housekeepers of ecclesiastical dignitaries.

    The Danger of Platonic Friendship

    It is a simple and short step from this kind of relationship to that of illicit association, but it must be conceded that, though misguided and unsound, the practice was not necessarily entered.into with deceitful or lustful intent; it was not polygamy, polyandry, or any of the other obnoxious variants of marriage. The problems of the so-called platonic friendships of two people of the opposite sex were intensified in the spiritual wife relationship. Society continued to regard claims of this nature with justifiable skepticism.

    The setting up of these relationships led to situations which were beyond the control of the participants and was eventually forbidden by the bishops. Tertulltan is on record as advocating a plurality of such wives (Exhortation to Chastity, Chapter 12). Later open scandal required firm action on the part of church authorities; therefore the "spiritual union" ceased to be an open and acceptable custom.

    It is not within the scope of this article to track the development of monasticism and celibacy further; I intend only to show that some problems which have continued to vex the various sects of the Christian church, are not peculiar to Mormonism or to the New World in general.

    There were experiments in marriage on the European continent and America in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and even earlier. Three major groups were the Pietists (Mucker) at Konigsberg, Prussia; the Princeites of Spaxton, England; and the Bible Communists of Massachusetts and New York.

    The revival of the question of the nature of marriage was to find a most important place in the new life on the American continent of the nineteenth century. The issues arose out of the same three considerations as those which concerned the early fathers; the sinfulness of physical relationships, the imminent expected return of the Lord, and the natural deduction as to the necessity of children or wisdom of procreation in the time of the end. Naturally, as also in the history of the early Christian church, many entered at first into so-called spiritual relationships with fanatical zeal only to find that they had taken on an unnatural burden which brought them to a degraded rather than an elevated state in matrimony.

    Among the groups of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century which promulgated unorthodox principles or entered into relationships out of harmony with the Christian standards of marriage were the Shakers, Perfectionists, Cochranites, Osgoodites, and the Oneida communities. Their teachings and practices varied from the celibacy of the Shakers to the free-love society of Father Noyes in Oneida.

    It is noteworthy also that in this same period other revolutionary developments of social concepts were significant. New notions of religious and political freedom were being experimerited with, and many communal settlements were established. Variations on the practice of all things common were much in evidence and extended to homes, wives, and children. Wherever communal living was evidenced the more traditional communities suspected the sex moral variants to be present also.

    "The Family"

    This was one reason that the Latter Day Saint communities were suspected. An early development in the Restoration movement was the attempt to set up a Zionic society in Kirtland, Ohio. Prior to this project and before his connection with the church, Sidney Rigdon had organized an economic experiment called "The Family." This was in the Disciples Church of which he was a pastor. Rigdon's joining the Latter Day Saint movement would not always be clearly distinguished in the popular mind from his previous affiliations, more particularly because the new church professed principles of Christian stewardships.

    There is no evidence that Rigdon's prior experiment was anything other than whaat was implied -- a brotherly (family) approach to material responsibility. It was this society that led to attributing to Sidney Rigdon the first seeds of the strange marriage doctrines that were to later plague the church, but the action of the 1835 Conference does not bear out this connection. It was concerning community stewardship principles that Rigdon differed with his previous fellow minister, Alexander Campbell, who vigorously condemned them. As a result Rigdon was ready for the Restoration teachings.

    There is evidence too that some missionary work was done among a sect of religionists who believed in "spiritual wifery," and though there is as yet no proof of any actual baptisms of any of these, there is good reason to believe there may have been some. Orson Hyde did missionary work in 1832 among a group known as Cochranites. These people were practicing "spiritual wifery," which Hyde was to describe in his journal as a "lustful doctrine," which he remarked had every indication of poligamy.

    Research into the doctrines and practices of this sect has revealed some amazing things -- secret rites and oaths in which the "Garden of Eden" was featured and dramatic performances of the first man and woman were engaged in. These people are of significance because of a reference to one of their number who left his legal wife after contracting spiritual marriage and migrated with his family west and was last heard of in a "community of primitive Mormon's." This kind of newcomer to a Latter Day Saint community would cause some confusion about the belief of the group concerning marriage. It would seem to require such definite action as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants ill, 1835 edition:

    Inasmuch as this Church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife; and one woman but one husband, except in the case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again. -- Paragraph 3.

    Be this as it may, the fact remains that these were moot questions among the early pioneers in the Western Reserve where the Latter Day Saint movement had its genesis. The stand of the early church was clear. Enemies without and within were not anxious to have the matter clear and promulgated accusations of immorality. It is not necessary to deny that the usual errors of human nature were often in evidence, but the church spoke in no uncertain terms as to its beliefs.

    With all the speculation and research into early Christian practices that were carried on in the early 1800's, marriage must have received its due share of attention; any researcher of the writings of the early Christian fathers would find record of conditions and arguments concerning marriage principles that have been referr'ed to earlier in this article. Many put these theories into practice in early American communities.

    If these matters were controversial in other groups, is it to be expected they were not current among the Latter Day Saints?

    There is very little record of this among the Saints except the document on marriage in 1835, but it is a matter of history that the doctrines akin to this did not die easily. Thee Oneida communities persisted into the last quarter of the nineteenth century until finally ending in the commercial venture resulting in what we know today as "Community Silver Plate."

    That this marriage variant reared its ugly head among the Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois, is an unpleasant fact of history, but if we are to see our movement in a factual way it is necessary to recognize this. The prophet Joseph Smith was not responsible for this deviation, but there is no denying that he unwisely trusted men with unworthy motives to a degree which enabled them to promulgate immoral precepts...

    (under construction)

    Notes: (forthcoming)


    Volume  109                                   August  1, 1962                                      Number  15

    Copyright © 1962 by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints


    The only significant similarity between Ethan Smith's work
    and the Book of Mormon is the assertion that American Indians
    are descended from the Hebrew people.

    By Charles A. Davies

    (under construction)

    Notes: (forthcoming)


    Volume  110                                    May  1, 1963                                      Number  9

    Copyright © 1963 by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

    Question  Time

    Edited by Charles A. Davies, Church Historian

  • Question
    Has Solomon Spaulding's Manuscript Found ever been published or copies made since it has been placed in Oberlin University?

  • Answer
    This work was discovered in 1883 [sic] and was published by the Reorganized Church at Lamoni, Iowa, in 1885. It is now out of print but is available in many public and private library collections. Inquiry among older members most likely will uncover a copy. I herewith print a letter which will be helpful:

    Oberlin College, Oberlin O.,    
    July 23, 1885.          

    I have this day delivered to Mr. E. L. Kelley a copy of the Manuscript of Solomon Spaulding, sent from Honolulu by Mr. L. L. Rice, to the Library of Oberlin College, for safe keeping, and now in my care. The copy was prepared at Mr. Kelley's request, under my supervision, and is, as I believe, an exact transcript of the original manuscript, including erasures, misspellings, &c.

    Jas. H. Fairchild,                        
    Prest. of Oberlin College.    

    Notes: (forthcoming)


    Volume  112                                   September  1, 1965                                     Number 17

    Copyright © 1965 by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

    Question  Time

    Edited by Charles A. Davies

    Q  What is the "Spaulding Manuscript?" Is it in any way connected with the Book of Mormon? Do the names contained in it and the story it tells coincide with the names and story of the Book of Mormon?

    A  The Spaulding Manuscript or Manuscript Found is a fiction work written by Solomon Spaulding in the 1820s [sic]. Opponents of the Book of Mormon accused Joseph Smith of plagiarizing Spaulding's romance and some endeavored to connect Sidney Rigdon with the alleged deception.

    On search, however, the manuscript could not be found. Testimony was given that it resembled the Book of Mormon in names and plot. This could be asserted by critics or denied by believers in the Book of Mormon, but the manuscript was not available for comparison and conclusive argument.

    In 1885 [sic] Mr. L. L. Rice, then in Honolulu, discovered in his collection of old papers a faded manuscript of about 175 pages. It was wrapped in paper endorsed in Mr. Rice's [sic] handwriting, A Manuscript Story. It had been in Rice's possession unknown for forty years. The discovery came in 1885, and the manuscript was placed in the library of Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio. Examination and comparison showed no similarity to the Book of Mormon beyond the fact that it concerned the migration of Indian tribes. One similarity only was that the Spaulding work told in the introduction of its story of the finding of a record in a stone box in the earth.

    Since this information has come to light, few opponents have used the Spaulding work as an argument against the Book of Mormon. Later a position was taken that there was another manuscript which has not been found. This change of position could go on "infinitum" for if and when another manuscript were found and shown to be dissimilar, the argument could be unending and still another missing book postulated. The Reorganization obtained a copy of the manuscript and printed it in a number of editions. It is now out of print.

    Note 1: Elder Davies' answer to this question is particularly inept and misleading. Not only does Davies make several blunders in attempting to summarize the historical significance and situations of the reported "Manuscript Found," and the Spalding holograph discovered in Honolulu in 1884, but he misrepresents the known thematic parallels between the Honolulu document and the Book of Mormon story.

    Note 2: Elder Davies' allegation, that "later" the opponents of Mormonism took a position saying "that there was another manuscript which has not been found" is basically untrue. This assertion was made practically from the very beginning of the relating of the Spalding authorship claims. It is found in one document which pre-dates Howe's book by nearly a year; it is found in Howe's 1834 book; and it is found in various assertions of those same claims down through the year 1884 and well beyond that time. The manuscript attributed to Solomon Spalding which now resides in the Library of Congress ("Romance of Celes") might be taken as an example for what Davies' asserts could be an "unending" argument in the authorship claims. However, the discovery of that second manuscript in no way negated the original claims from 1833 and 1834.


    Volume  124                                   September 1977                                     Number  9

    Copyright © 1977 by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

    Beating Solomon Spaulding's Poor,
    Dead Horse One More Time

    In June 1833 Philastus Hurlbut was expelled from the church for unchristian conduct. He retaliated by inventing a legend (and evidence to support it) that Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon conspired prior to 1829 to use an unpublished manuscript of the late Solomon Spaulding as the basis for the Book of Mormon. Hurlbut's bogus evidence was published in 1834 by E. D. Howe, editor of the Painesville, Ohio Telegraph, a strongly anti-Mormon newspaper. 1

    The Spaulding-Rigdon legend of Book of Mormon authorship spread rapidly, so that by 1900 dozens of analysts had perpetuated it in public print. More responsible scholars since then, however, have thoroughly discredited the legend. The proofs rest on sound evidence that Rigdon could not have owned the Spaulding manuscript, and that he could not have met Joseph Smith until December 1830, when -- newly converted to the church -- he went to New York from Kirtland to see him for the first time.

    Now three California researchers, 2 backed financially by the noted anti-Mormon writer Walter Martin, 3 allege that twelve pages of the I Nephi portion of the original Book of Mormon manuscript in the Mormon archives at Salt Lake City, in hand-writing as yet not positively identified,4 contain Solomon Spaulding's handwriting. They have used original Spaulding papers on file at Oberlin College (Ohio) and photocopies of Mormon materials. To buttress their allegation they have claimed to have secured positive handwriting identifications from three highly touted experts. 5 They have told their story to the press convincingly enough to result in a rather wide circulation of their views, 6 and in urgent invitations by Mormon officials to the researchers, the handwriting experts, and the press to come to the Archives to examine the original materials for themselves. 7

    In a July 15 conversation with LDS Historian Leonard Arrington I learned that two of the three handwriting experts (Kaye and Silver) have finally seen the original materials, as has Cowdrey, and that both Kaye and Silver are preparing public statements designed to modify what the press has been writing in representation of their views, i. e., that the twelve-page segment in question was written by Spaulding,

    Three compelling evidences negate this latest handwriting hypothesis in support of the Spaulding theory. First, the pages before and after the disputed twelve pages clearly "belong" to those twelve pages in terms of lines, linear size, color, texture, and evidences of their having been previously sewn into the same book. Second the handwriting of these twelve pages matches positively the handwriting of the original manuscript for Section 56 of the Doctrine and Covenants (June 1831). Spaulding could not have written the 1831 manuscript, as he had died in 1816. Third, the handwriting at the top of the pages preceding the twelve-page segment are in the same hand as are the twelve pages in question. This links the total manuscript more closely than ever, ruling out the possibility of the interpolation of foreign (Spaulding) material from an earlier writing.

    The intent of this article has been to clarify the Spaulding-Rigdon legend and to show the remarkable complexity of the quest for historical knowledge. Would that dead horses were not so masochistic!

    Richard P. Howard,    
    Church Historian    

    1 Mormonism unvailed (sic) or a faithful account of that singular imposition and delusion from its rise to the present time... 1834.
    2 Howard A. Davis, Donald R. Scales, and Wayne L. Cowdrey.
    3 Author, The Rise of the Cults (1955)., and The Maze of Mormonism (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1962).
    4 Tentatively identified as the handwriting of Martin Harris.
    5 Howard C. Doulder, William Kaye, and Henry Silver, all from the Los Angeles area.
    6 Los Angeles Times, June 25m 1977, pp. 1, 12; Boston Sunday Globe, June 26, 1977, p. 47 (based on the L. A. Times account by Russell Chandler), Edward E. Plowman, "Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon," Christianity Today, July 8, 1977, 32-34; and Time Magazine, July 11, 1977, p. 69.
    7 The RLDS Church owns the printer's manuscript -- the complete text as published in 1830 -- a 466 page manuscript also used to produce the 1837 Kirtland edition. The Mormon church owns fragments of the "rough draft" original manuscript, which was largely destroyed by the elements during its long storage in the Nauvoo House cornerstone, 1841-1882.

    Note 1: Since that the writer effectively conveyed his point (i.e., "Spaulding could not have written the 1831 manuscript," etc.), it is somewhat surprising to see him disseminating several unwarranted allegations in his first two paragraphs. Available documentation does not indicate that D. P. Hurlbut was responsible for "inventing a legend and evidence to support it" in the case of the origin of the Spalding authorship claims. Rather, an old neighbor of Spalding's, Mr. Nehemiah King, first raised the issue in response to the preaching of Elders Orson Hyde and Samuel H. Smith in Conneaut township, Ashtabula Co., Ohio at the beginning of 1832. These authorship claims took on a life of their own and traveled by word of mouth to adjacent Erie County, Pennsylvania by the time Elder D. P. Hurlbut served his LDS mission there in the spring of 1833. As an educated historian the writer of the above article no doubt knew all of this; his suppressing this part of the story is indefensible.

    Note 2: The writer speaks of "sound evidence" and resultant "proofs" that "Rigdon could not have owned the Spaulding manuscript, and that he could not have met Joseph Smith until December 1830," however, he offers no citations in support of this. It is a difficult task in history to prove a negative assertion -- especially so when few widely known and accepted facts can be summoned forth from the distant past to uphold such a statement. Certainly Sidney Rigdon could have owned any number of Solomon Spalding manuscripts -- there is no proof that he did not. The careful student of history may say that the available trustworthy information fails to demonstrate that Rigdon did possess such writings, but he or she has no right to say "Rigdon could not have owned the Spaulding manuscript." Likewise, it may appear unlikely and difficult to imagine that Sidney Rigdon ever met Joseph Smith, Jr. prior to the end of 1830, but there is nothing in the historical record to make such a meeting a proven impossibility. The RLDS membership, trusting the Church leaders for accurate and dependable historical reporting, might be better served by religious journalism of a more prudent character.


    Volume  129                                   November  1, 1982                                     Number  21

    Copyright © 1982 by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

    Question  Time

    Q   What is the relationship between the Spaulding Manuscript and the Book of Mormon?

    A   The so-called Spaulding Manuscript is a romance written by Solomon Spaulding who died in 1816 at the age of fifty-five. He appears too have shared his work with some neighbors as he wrote it, and a number of people pretended to be familiar with the text.

    E. D. Howe of Painesville, Ohio was the first to say that this was the basis of the Book of Mormon. Because the manuscript was not published and was not available, at that time there was little that could be done. In 1884, however, L. L. Rice discovered the Spaulding story in a collection of books and papers originally owned by E. D. Howe and sold in 1839 or 1840. Howe had borrowed it from Mr. Spaulding and never returned it. This collection of material had by this time been transferred to Honolulu, but Mr. Rice eventually deposited it with Professor Fairchild for the Library of Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. To the best of my knowledge this is where the manuscript is today.

    In March of 1885, Mr. Rice wrote to Joseph Smith III stating, "I am of the opinion that no one who reads this manuscript will give credit to the story that Solomon Spaulding was in any wise the author of the Book of Mormon." In another letter written in May of 1885, Mr. Rice also said, "My opinion is from all I have seen and heard, that this is the only writing of Spaulding."

    Still later, in February of 1892, Professor Fairchild of Oberlin College wrote to C. J. Hunt stating, "There is no reasonable basis for a claim that the Book of Mormon originated in this manuscript."

    The manuscript was made available for publication, and the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints published it in 1885. It is out of print now. Informed people no longer accept the supposition that Solomon Spaulding's romance is the basis of the Book of Mormon.

    Cecil R. Ettinger    

    Note 1: Elder Ettinger's insipid response is practically the last known statement made "on the record" by an RLDS official, in regard to the old Spalding-Rigdon authorship claims for the Book of Mormon. This reply suffers from the effects of four generations of inbred RLDS apologetics. The writer has obviously simply browsed through one or two previous RLDS articles on the subject and parroted the same old "party line" as they did before him. In this watered-down bit of reporting the many old witnesses who once gave testimony regarding the contents of Spalding's writings merely "pretended to be familiar with the text." The writer is so ignorant of past church history that he makes E. D. Howe and Solomon Spalding contemporaries and has Spalding loan one of his manuscripts to Howe directly. And, as might be expected in any RLDS rehash of the party line, the depositing of the Spalding document found in Honolulu is alleged to be the end of the affair -- the implication being that Spalding definitely wrote nothing else besides this one poor, unfinished sketch of a story.

    Note 2: By calling upon the thread-worn statements of Rice and Fairchild, the RLDS reporter effectively manages to avoid giving any personal knowledge or witness in response to the Spalding-Rigdon authorship claims. No matter that neither Rice nor Fairchild could lay any claim to being experts in the affair; and no matter that both men subsequently gave statements allowing for the possibility or probability that another of Spalding writings served as the basis for the Book of Mormon.


    Volume  139                                   June  1, 1992                                     Number  06

    Copyright © 1992 by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

    Christian Witness of the Book of Mormon

    By Alan D. Tyree

    I would get a wide variety of answers if I were to ask what the Book of Mormon means to you...

    What are we to make of it? How are we to use it? ...

    With regard to the Book of Mormon, we have been growing up as a people, learning more about our church history, learning more about ancient American archaeology and anthropology, learning more about the internal qualities of the book itself as a piece of religious literature. To be true to ourselves and to God, it is necessary for us to be intellectually honest...

    Book of Mormon Origins

    ...Where did the book come from?... What are its origins? There are a number of theories concerning the origin of the Book of Mormon, none of which can be proved or disproved... These theories are not mutually exclusive.

    First is the concept that plenary revelation was the means by which the book was received...

    A second theory is that the revelation came by a fully conceptual means...

    A third theory is that the Book of Mormon was received, at least in part, by human authorship. This supposes that Joseph Smith was gifted and could have written the work himself. He possessed personal charisma that gave credence to his presentation of the new book of scripture. As original composition, it could have been the product of his own mind and of times in which speculation concerning the origins and history of ancient Americans was popular. It may or may not have been based on writings by others during that period.

    Fourth is the concept that the book resulted from Joseph Smith's giftedness as a clairvoyant...

    It may be that pluralism should be the stance of the church at the present time regarding the origins of the Book of Mormon. Because these theories are not mutually exclusive, they may each represent some part of the truth, were it fully known. Pluralism leaves the church relatively uncommitted to one theory while still exploring possibilities which might offer some viable explanation...

    Note 1: Alan D. Tyree's call for "pluralism" in explanations for the origin of the Book of Mormon (as the new "stance of the church") marked a radical departure from 132 years of Reorganite steadfastness as to the divine origin of the book. Gone is the old appeal to pre-Columbian artifacts; gone are the oft-told statements of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon; and gone is the personal testimony that the book is literally true. Of course this seemingly sudden break with past tradition did not spring full grown amongst the ranks of the RLDS leadership in 1992. It was a philosophical position long in the making, reflecting two or three generations of slow but steady drift away from the old Church pronouncements on this subject. Tyree gives the "product of his own mind" theory as only one of four possibilities, with the other three allowing for real Nephites, real golden plates, and mostly real truthfulness from the lips of the past top leaders of the Church. However, by his allowing option number three into his list of four "theories," Tyree effectively breaks away from all past RLDS apologetics. His counsel on this topic has never been overridden or rescinded by the top RLDS (now Community of Christ) leaders.

    Note 2: Although Tyree's option number three allows for the Book of Mormon possibly being "based on writings by others during that period," there seems to be little room here for an explanation that credits the text of the book to a source other than Joseph Smith, Jr. Thus, the Tyree "pluralism" might include RLDS who favored the notion that the writings of Rev. Ethan Smith were an influence upon the creative mind of Joseph Smith, Jr., but that same "pluralism" probably would not make room for members who promoted Sidney Rigdon as author or editor of the book. This apparent restriction in Tyree's new paradigm seemingly provides no room for the old Spalding-Rigdon authorship claims.

    Note 3: Tyree says that his concept of "Pluralism leaves the church relatively uncommitted to one theory while still exploring possibilities which might offer some viable explanation." Having said that much, he provides no philosophical or methodological suggestions as to how "the church" is to go about "exploring possibilities" other than the traditional explanation for the origin and coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Indeed, if Tyree's option number three were to be investigated with any sort of rigor, the results of such investigation might bring forth evidence of an early "cover-up" of Mormon origins by the very same leaders who first initiated the movement c. 1828-29. If there never were any Nephites and angelic messengers, then Joseph Smith lied to his followers about the very essence of his 1830 message and motivation in founding a church. No wonder that Tyree wedged the "product of his own mind" theory in between three more traditionally "faith-promoting" (and less problematic) explanations for Book of Mormon origins.

    Back to top of this page.

    Articles Page    |    Articles Index    |    History Vault
    Oliver's Bookshelf    |    Spalding Library    |    Mormon Classics

    last updated: July 31, 2006