Matthew P. Roper
"The Mythical 'Manuscript Found'"
FARMS Review XVII:2 pp. 7-140
Provo, UT: FARMS, Summer 2005
THE FARMS REVIEW
Volume 17 º Number 2 º 2005
Neal A. Maxwell Institute Institute for Religious Scholarship
Brigham Young University
[ vii ]
xi Editor's Introduction, "Not So Easily Dismissed: Some Facts for Which Counterexplanations of the Book of Mormon Will Need to Account,"
by Daniel C. Peterson
Book of Mormon
001 Brown, S. Kent. Voices from the Dust: Book of Mormon Insights
(Ray L. Huntington, "Reading Between the Lines: Book of Mormon Insights
from S. Kent Brown")
007 Cowdrey, Wayne L., Howard A. Davis, and Arthur Vanick.
Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon? The Spalding Enigma
(Matthew Roper, "The Mythical 'Manuscript Found'")
141 Duke, James T. The Literary Masterpiece Called the Book of Mormon
(Richard Dilworth Rust, "The Book of Mormon as Literature")
145 Kramer, Joel P., and Scott R. Johnson.
The Bible vs. the Book of Mormon (film)
(Brant A. Gardner, "Behind the Mask, Behind the Curtain: Uncovering the Illusion"
197 Potter, George, and Richard Wellington. Lehi in the Wilderness
(Jeffrey R. Chadwick, "The Wrong Place for Lehi's Trail and the Valley
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Critics, supporters, and inquirers not infrequently speak of "the FARMS view" of this or that issue connected with the Book of Mormon and related matters. It is important to understand, however, that, on the whole, there is no single FARMS point of view....
In This Issue
One of the most surprising developments of recent years has been the reappearance in certain circles, yet again, of the theory that the Book of Mormon derives from a manuscript romance written by one Solomon Spalding.... the gradual abandonment of the Spalding theory [ran] between roughly 1901 and the publication of Fawn Brodie's No Man Knows My History in 1945....
Wayne Cowdrey and Howard Davis... are now back again after the passage of nearly thirty years. Assisted by a new fellow laborer, Arthur Vanick, they offer the world part deux of their never-fully-dead campaign: Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon? The Spalding Enigma....
Matthew Roper examines this latest incarnation of the Spalding theory at considerable length and finds it as unconvincing as it has always been. Advocates of the Spalding theory of the origin of the Book of Mormon believe that the book's historical portions derive from a hypothetical second Spalding manuscript -- the first, when recovered, having fundamentally failed to live up to their hopes. The religious content of the Book of Mormon, they say, was grafted onto an essentially secular historical novel.... [however] The Book of Mormon's religious content is indissolubly linked with its historical narrative....
Fortunately, it [the manuscript in question] was rediscovered (in Hawaii!) in 1884, and devotees of Solomon Spalding as the real author of Mormonism's eponymous scripture have since labored mightily to convince others that there had to have been a second manuscript (Deutero-Spalding, if you will) that, surely, must have been the source for the Book of Mormon....
(remainder of Introduction not transcribed, due to
(Note: The following outline was
copied from the Mormon Studies web-site
on June 1, 2006. It was not a part of the original FARMS Review hard-copy or web publications.)
I. Overview of the Spalding-Rigdon Theory 007-010
A. The Spalding authorship claims 007
II. Mormonism Unvailed - the 1834 Eber D. Howe Book
A. Purpose and Authorship of the 1834 Book 011-14
III. The Two Spalding Manuscripts Claims: Fact or Fabrication?
A. Spalding's writings described by former associates 016-20
IV. Hurlbut: A Man, a Legend, a Way of Life: A Bad Character?
A. Hurlbut joins and is cut off from the Mormons 052-64
V. Beyond the Reach of D. P. Hurlbut's Influence
A. Spalding Family Testimony 084-86
VI. Questions of the Alleged Authors' Style and Ability
A. The Joseph Smith Enigma 092-96
VII. Theories Implicating Sidney Rigdon:
A. Early BoM critics didn't claim Rigdon as author 100-02
VIII. The Little Known Oliver Cowdery
A. Was young Oliver Cowdery a journeyman printer? 123-28
IX. Other Enigmas: Errors and Misperceptions
A. Readers may be Misled by Authors' Statements 130-33
X. The Reviewer's Conclusion & Appendix
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In 1834, relying on testimony gathered by one Doctor Philastus Hurlbut (a former Mormon who had been excommunicated from the church for immoral behavior), E. D. Howe suggested that the Book of Mormon was based on an unpublished novel called "Manuscript Found," written by a former minister named Solomon Spalding.  In statements collected by Hurlbut, eight former neighbors of Spalding said they remembered elements of his story that resembled the historical portions of the Book of Mormon. Some said they recalled names shared by Spalding's earlier tale and the Book of Mormon. Others claimed that the historical narrative of both stories was the same with the exception of the religious material in the Book of Mormon. Howe suggested that, by some means, Sidney Rigdon, a former Campbellite preacher in Ohio and Pennsylvania who had joined the church in November 1830, had obtained a copy of "Manuscript Found" years before and had used it as the basis for the Book of Mormon, to which he also added religious material. Rigdon, Howe argued, must have conspired with Joseph Smith to pass the Book of Mormon off as
 Solomon Spalding's name is sometimes spelled Spaulding.
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a divinely revealed book of ancient American scripture as part of a moneymaking scheme.  Subsequent variants of this hypothesis have been published from time to time. 
Once the standard critic's explanation of the Book of Mormon, the Spalding (or Spalding-Rigdon) theory has fallen on hard times. The first significant blow to this explanation came with the rediscovery in 1884 of an original Spalding manuscript known today as "Manuscript Story."  In 1833, Hurlbut borrowed the manuscript from Spalding's widow and entrusted it to Howe. In his book, Howe briefly described the document but, finding it did not support his theory, argued that the Book of Mormon was based upon a now lost second manuscript on ancient America. After 1834, "Manuscript Story" was either lost, misplaced, or knowingly suppressed. The recovery of this Spalding manuscript in 1884 and its subsequent publication did much to undermine confidence in the Spalding theory, even among critics, since the manuscript did not seem consistent with the statements published by Howe. Another blow to the theory came in 1945 when Fawn Brodie published her popular biography of Joseph Smith,  in which she rejected the Spalding theory and crafted an alternative theory similar to that
 E. D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed: or, a faithful account of that singular imposition and delusion, from its rise to the present time. With sketches of the characters of its propagators, and a full detail of the manner in which the famous Golden Bible was brought before the world. To which are added, inquiries into the probability that the historical part of the said Bible was written by one Solomon Spalding, more than twenty years ago, and by him intended to have been published as a romance (Painesville, OH: By the Author, 1834), 278-90.
 For a brief overview, see Lester E. Bush Jr., "The Spalding Theory Then and Now," Dialogue 10/4 (1977): 40-69.
 The "Manuscript Found" or "Manuscript Story," of the Late Rev. Solomon Spaulding... (Lamoni, IA: Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 1885). The first Latter-day Saint edition was published as The "Manuscript Found": Manuscript Story (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1886). The most recent publication of this manuscript is Solomon Spaulding, Manuscript Found: The Complete Original "Spaulding Manuscript," ed. Kent P. Jackson (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1996). When quoting from Manuscript Story, I will reference this more recent edition.
 Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, 2nd ed., rev. and enl. (New York: Knopf, 1993). Brodie's book was originally published in 1945. See Louis Midgley, "F. M. Brodie -- 'The Fasting Hermit and Very Saint of Ignorance': A Biographer and Her Legend," FARMS Review of Books 8/2 (1996): 147-230.
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advanced by Alexander Campbell in 1831. In Campbell's view, Joseph Smith stood alone as the author of a fictional Book of Mormon. Like Campbell, Brodie argued that the Book of Mormon was a product of Joseph Smith's imagination and creative ability and that common and popular ideas and sources would have supplied all that was necessary for him to create such a book. Subsequently, most critics of the Book of Mormon have followed some variant of Brodie's thesis. But in more recent years, as the Internet has opened up an additional venue for the dissemination of "information," the Spalding theory has made a modest comeback. Spalding advocates such as Dale Broadhurst have taken advantage of the Internet to provide a forum for similarly disposed critics of the Book of Mormon. 
Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon? The Spalding Enigma (hereafter referred to as The Spalding Enigma) is the latest attempt to breathe new life into the Spalding theory. Its authors, Wayne L. Cowdrey, Howard A. Davis, and Arthur Vanick, have produced previous works on the subject,  always contending, as they do in the present work, that other critics such as Brodie have wrongly dismissed the Spalding theory as a viable naturalistic explanation. Oddly, though, they seem to place the blame for neglect of the Spalding theory on Latter-day Saints. "Few are aware," they lament, "of a fascinating body of evidence that has continued to accumulate over the years and, despite efforts by pro-Mormon scholars to deny or dismiss it, has grown to such proportion that it now poses a significant challenge to history itself" (p. 17). According to the authors, these obstructionists include "Brodie and other pro-Mormon writers" (p. 49). This is an odd statement. Though nominally a Latter-day Saint at the time she wrote her book, Fawn Brodie had become an atheist several years before, it appeared. She was excommunicated shortly after the publication of her book, and it can by no means be described as "pro-Mormon." Such
 There is, however, little in the way of quality control on "publications" on the Internet.
 See Howard A. Davis, Donald R. Scales, and Wayne L. Cowdrey, with Gretchen Passantino, Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon? (Santa Ana, CA: Vision House, 1977); and Wayne L. Cowdrey, Howard A. Davis, Hugh L. O'Neal, and Arthur Vanick, The Spaulding Enigma: Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon? (2000), CD-ROM.
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statements raise the question of how well Cowdrey, Davis, and Vanick know the playing field. While faithful Latter-day Saints have always defended the Book of Mormon and been critical of all naturalistic theories, it has been critics of Mormonism who have been primarily responsible for the acceptance (and then rejection) of the Spalding theory. The reason is that Latter-day Saints already have an explanation for the Book of Mormon, and so the quest for a plausible naturalistic alternative is an unbeliever's affair. Why, one must ask, have most recent critics of the Book of Mormon rejected the Spalding theory? In my view, Cowdrey, Davis, and Vanick have not dealt effectively with the most important objections to it.
I will first provide some historical background for the publication of E. D. Howe's Mormonism Unvailed, the book that made the Spalding theory famous. I will then examine evidence for and against the claim that "Manuscript Story" (the document once in Howe's possession) and "Manuscript Found" (the document described by Spalding's neighbors as being the source for the Book of Mormon) are, as Spalding proponents have often maintained, separate and distinct works. The facts, in my opinion, do not support Spalding advocates on this crucial point. I will also review other major difficulties in accepting the Spalding theory, including, among other concerns, the character of Philastus Hurlbut, who is at the very center of the case for it. I will cite, where appropriate, relevant criticisms of the theory from both Latter-day Saints and non-Latter-day Saints. Finally, I will examine what is offered as evidence that Sidney Rigdon and Oliver Cowdery were part of a conspiracy in which Rigdon obtained and possibly altered a copy of Spalding's unpublished "Manuscript Found."
Mormonism UnvailedLatter-day Saints began to gather in Kirtland, Ohio, during the first part of 1831. However, some residents of the nearby town of Painesville were not pleased by what they saw of the new religious movement. Notable among these was Eber D. Howe, editor of the local newspaper and, eventually, at least the nominal author of the very first
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Questions of Style and AbilityThe Joseph Smith Enigma
It is also highly unlikely that Joseph Smith, let alone Solomon Spalding, was capable of writing anything like the Book of Mormon. In 1948, James Black wrote:
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Early Conspiracy Theories Implicating Sidney RigdonThe earliest newspaper accounts attributed the Book of Mormon entirely to Joseph Smith. They often also picture it as part of Joseph's moneymaking scheme. That Smith alone was responsible for the contents of the Book of Mormon was emphatically stated by Alexander Campbell in 1831: "There never was a book more evidently written by one set of fingers, nor more certainly conceived in one cranium since the first book appeared in the human language, than this same book. If I could swear to any man's voice, face, or person, assuming different names, I could swear that this book was written by one man. And as Joseph Smith is a very ignorant man and is called the author on the title page, I cannot doubt for a single moment but that he is the sole author and proprietor of it." 
Fawn Brodie adopted Campbell's 1831 position. The tendency of most late twentieth-century critics of the Book of Mormon has been to advance some version of this explanation. But months before Campbell made his 1831 statement, other critics of the Book of Mormon began to express doubts that Smith alone could have been responsible for its production. Oliver Cowdery and other missionaries passed through Ohio and testified of the Book of Mormon; some wondered if Oliver might possess the requisite abilities: "The only opinion we have of the origin of this Golden Bible is, that Mr. Cowdry and Mr. Smith, the reputed author, have taken the old Bible to keep up a train of circumstances, and by altering names and language have produced the string of jargon called the 'Book of Mormon,' with the intention of making money by the sale of their Books; and being aware that they would not sell unless an excitement and curiosity could be raised in the public mind."  In early January 1831, gossipmonger Abner Cole, who edited the Palmyra Reflector, expressed impatience with the quality of information available on the origin of the Book of Mormon. Unable to accept the Prophet's account of its coming forth, he was anxious to provide another. "We have long been waiting, with considerable anxiety, to see some of our
 Campbell, "Delusions," 7 February 1831 93, emphasis added and deleted.
 "The Golden Bible," Cleveland Herald, 25 November 1830; reprinted in the Ashtabula Journal, 4 December 1830.
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contemporaries attempt to explain the immediate causes, which produced that anomoly in religion and literature, which has most strikingly excited the curiosity of our friends at a distance, generally known under the cognomen of the Book of Mormon, or the Gold Bible. The few notices heretofore given in the public prints," Cole lamented, "are quite vague and uncertain, and throw but a faint light on the subject."  In order to satisfy the demand of his readership, Cole wrote a series of articles placing Joseph Smith in the mold of a "juggler," "false prophet," and "money digger." Cole also claimed that a locally notorious "vagabond fortune-teller by the name of Walters" had once been an associate of Joseph Smith and others in money-digging. He further noted that some local residents were of the opinion that it was Walters who "first suggested to Smith the idea of finding a book." 
Cole did not claim that Walters wrote the Book of Mormon or supplied any of its contents, but rather that some of the locals believed that Walters might have "suggested" the idea to Joseph Smith. In an article published in March 1831, David Burnett suggested that there must have been "some person behind the curtain" for whom Joseph Smith was merely a suitable "tool," but he gave no indication as to who he thought that might be.  In another article, A. W. Benton thought Joseph Smith could only have produced a work like the Book of Mormon "by the help of others more skilled in the ways of iniquity than himself."  Fortunately for those anxiously seeking an alternative explanation for the Book of Mormon, a seemingly suitable candidate soon arrived on the scene. By late 1830, after the publication of the Book of Mormon, Sidney Rigdon, then a prominent Campbellite preacher from western Ohio, learned of the book and was baptized in Ohio. He then traveled to New York to meet Joseph Smith before returning to Kirtland, Ohio, where he would quickly become an important church leader.
 "Gold Bible," The Reflector, Palmyra, New York, 6 January 1831.
 "Gold Bible, No. 5," The Reflector, Palmyra, New York, 28 February 1831.
 David S. Burnett, "Something New. -- The Golden Bible," Evangelical Inquirer, Dayton, Ohio, March 1831, 218.
 A. W. Benton, "Mormonites," Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate (Utica, NY), 9 April 1831.
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In what appears to have been a mixture of fact, rumor, and speculation, James Gordon Bennett proposed that a preacher named "Henry Rangdon" may have been the chief conspirator in the Book of Mormon enterprise.  "Henry Rangdon" might have been a badly garbled reference to Sidney Rigdon. If so, Bennett's remark is the first setting out of a theory that has received wide circulation. It shows that some early critics wanted to link some more learned person to Book of Mormon origins and that Rigdon seemed a good candidate. In Mormonism Unvailed, Howe indicated that "an opinion has prevailed, to a considerable extent, that Rigdon has been the Iago, the prime mover, of the whole conspiracy. Of this, however, we have no positive proof; but many circumstances have carried a suspicious appearance; and further developments may establish the fact."  This was, of course, simply an opinion. There was little evidence to support it, but it is obvious in his writing that Howe and his supporters and those who backed Hurlbut desperately wanted to show that Rigdon was in some way responsible for the Book of Mormon. So when Hurlbut was employed in 1833 by Grandison Newell and other Ohio anti-Mormons to collect testimony on Spalding's manuscript, there was also the necessity of finding or forcing a connection to Rigdon. Whether or not Hurlbut found one is a key question.
In chapters 4-6 (pp. 99-193) of The Spalding Enigma, an attempt is made to outline Sidney Rigdon's supposed role as chief villain in the Spalding conspiracy. In this section the authors marshal what they consider evidence for Rigdon's presence in Pittsburgh in the years previous to his becoming a Campbellite minister. It was during this period that, they believe, Rigdon somehow must have learned of Spalding's "Manuscript Found" and that the first seeds of an eventual Gold Bible conspiracy were sown. They argue that the origins of this claim can be traced to Mr. and Mrs. Spalding, thus predating the actions of Hurlbut. "Although Rigdon had been publicly suspected as early as 1831 of having been a shady behind-the-scenes player in
 "Mormonism -- Religious Fanaticism -- Church and State Party," Morning Courier and New York Enquirer, 31 August 1831.
 Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 100, emphasis in original.
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the production of The Book of Mormon, by all indications it was the former Mrs. Spalding's testimony that first connected him with the removal of her late husband's manuscript from the Pattersons' shop" (p. 58). As evidence for this, the authors reference an article published in the Palmyra Wayne Sentinel on 20 December 1833.
Doct. P. Hurlbert, of Kirtland, Ohio, who has been engaged for some time in different parts of this state, but chiefly in this neighborhood, on behalf of his fellow-townsmen, in the pursuit of facts and information concerning the origin and design of the Book of Mormon, which, to the surprize of all in this region who know the character of the leaders in the bungling imposition, seems already to have gained multitudes of believers in various parts of the country, requests us to say, that he has succeeded in accomplishing the object of his mission, and that an authentic history of the whole affair will shortly be given to the public. The original manuscript of the Book was written some thirty years since, by a respectable clergyman, now deceased, whose name we are not permitted to give. It was designed to be published as a romance, but the author died soon after it was written; and hence the plan failed. The pretended religious character of the work has been superadded by some more modern hand -- believed to be the notorious Rigdon. These particulars have been derived by Dr. Hurlbert from the widow of the author of the original manuscript. 
Since the article attributes the connection of Rigdon and the manuscript to Spalding's widow, the authors claim that it was she and not Hurlbut who first suggested the link. There are, though, several problems with this claim. First of all, Davison is not speaking for herself. This is the Wayne Sentinel reporting what Hurlbut had "requested" them to print. So it is really thirdhand. Second, if reported accurately, the article would suggest that by late 1833 Davison had come to associate Rigdon with the Spalding manuscript; yet other questions remain. Did Davison
 "The Mormon Mystery Developed," Wayne Sentinel, Palmyra, New York (20 December 1833).
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volunteer the idea about Rigdon herself or was it first suggested to her in her interview with Hurlbut? Or is it possible that others first suggested Rigdon's involvement even before Hurlbut arrived?
In 1880, Matilda Spalding McKinstry recalled the events leading up to her mother's 1839 letter as follows:
We heard, not long after she came to live with me -- I do not remember just how long, -- something of Mormonism, and the report that it had been taken from my father's "Manuscript Found"; and then came to us direct an account of the Mormon meeting at Conneaut, Ohio, and that, on one occasion when the Mormon Bible was read there in public, my father's brother, John Spaulding, Mr. Lake, and many other persons who were present, at once recognized its similarity to "The Manuscript Found," which they had heard read years before by my father in the same town. There was a great deal of talk and a great deal published at this time about Mormonism all over the country. I believe it was in 1834 that a man named Hurlburt came to my house at Monson to see my mother, who told us that he had been sent by a committee to procure the "Manuscript Found," written by the Reverend Solomon Spaulding, so as to compare it with the Mormon Bible. He presented a letter to my mother from my uncle, William H. Sabine, of Onondaga Valley, in which he requested her to loan this manuscript to Hurlburt, as he (my uncle) was desirous "to uproot" (as he expressed it) "this Mormon fraud." Hurlburt represented that he had been a convert to Mormonism, but had given it up, and through the "Manuscript Found" wished to expose its wickedness. My mother was careful to have me with her in all the conversations she had with Hurlburt, who spent a day at my house. She did not like his appearance and mistrusted his motives; but, having great respect for her brother's wishes and opinions, she reluctantly consented to his request. 
 Matilda Spalding McKinstry's statement, 3 April 1880, in "The Book of Mormon," Scribner's Monthly 20/4 (August 1880): 615.
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The chronology of events described by McKinstry is informative. First, she says they heard something about Mormonism and "the report that it had been taken from my father's 'Manuscript Found.'" Then, after the initial report, "came to us direct an account of the Mormon meeting at Conneaut, Ohio." After they heard these initial reports, then Hurlbut visited their home with a letter from her uncle, William Sabine, asking Spalding's elderly widow to lend Hurlbut the manuscript in order to uproot the Mormon fraud. McKinstry's 1880 statement suggests that by late 1833 Davison and her daughter had already become familiar with reports suggesting this relationship and that they had been told by relatives and others in whom they had confidence that there was a connection between Rigdon and the Spalding manuscript and that they should give Hurlbut their support. This raises the question as to whether the idea of connecting Rigdon with Spalding's manuscript did not originate with Davison but was first suggested by others.
In his 1855 statement, Josiah Spalding stated that some time after his brother's widow had moved to Connecticut she spoke of a man who was employed with a printer in Pittsburgh who expressed an interest in her husband's manuscript and that this man "was afterwards known to be a leading Mormon," although he could not recall the name of the person to whom she referred.  Certainly, by late 1833 Davison had come to believe that Rigdon was involved, but since Josiah did not say when she said this, it is impossible to know whether it was before 1833 or after that time when her views connecting Rigdon to the Spalding manuscript are documented.
The only other evidence that Davison may have expressed such a view earlier than 1833 comes from a late statement by Ann Treadwell Redfield, who claimed to have lived with Sabine from 1818 to November 1819, while Davison and her daughter lived there. In 1880, Redfield claimed that Davison had once told her that she believed Sidney Rigdon must have made a copy of her late husband's manuscript "while
 Josiah Spalding statement, 6 January 1855, in Spalding, Spalding Memorial, 161-62.
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it was in Patterson's printing-office, in Pittsburg."  Redfield said she never saw Spalding's widow after "her marriage to Mr. Davison of Hartwick," and so this could be taken as evidence that Davison saw a Rigdon connection by that time. Assuming that Redfield was not prevaricating, it is also possible that after the passage of sixty-two years she may have confused some earlier discussion about the manuscript in 1819 with published reports or rumors of Davison's 1839 letter in the press that received wide circulation at that time.
The Spalding Enigma contains another set of later statements suggesting that Solomon Spalding told former neighbors in Amity, Pennsylvania, that Rigdon may have copied or stolen his manuscript. These include testimony from Joseph Miller Sr. and Redick McKee (pp. 122-27). Miller made statements in 1869 and 1879 and two in 1882. In the 1879 and 1882 statements, Miller explains that Spalding told him before his death that Sidney Rigdon had worked in the printing office where his manuscript was taken and that he thought that Rigdon had stolen it. In his earliest statement in 1869, however, Miller makes no mention of this, "From what I know of Mr. Spalding's Manuscript and The Book of Mormon, I firmly believe that Joseph Smith, by some means, got possession of Mr. Spalding's Manuscript, and possibly made some changes in it and called it The Book of Mormon."  There is no mention of Rigdon or his involvement with the Pittsburgh printer, nor is there any suggestion that Spalding said Rigdon had stolen it. Redick McKee also gave statements in 1869, 1879, and 1886. In the 1879 and 1886 statements McKee says that Spalding had spoken of Rigdon as an employee or as being in some way associated with Patterson's printing business. Spalding told him that Patterson had lost the manuscript while it was at the printer, causing Spalding to be suspicious that Rigdon was responsible. However, the claim of both
 Ann Treadwell Redfield statement, 17 June 1880, in Dickinson, New Light on Mormonism, 241-42. Treadwell said she remembered hearing Mrs. Spalding talk about her late husband's manuscript, but it is not entirely clear from the statement if her comments about the widow's beliefs about Rigdon came from conversations with the widow in 1818-19 or from things she learned or heard from Sabine.
 Joseph Miller Sr. statement, 26 March 1869, in the Washington Reporter, 8 April 1869; reprinted in Historical Magazine (August 1869): 68, emphasis added.
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neighbors that Spalding's manuscript was stolen is inconsistent with the claims of Spalding's widow and daughter that it was returned by Patterson to Spalding. And, again, none of this occurs in McKee's 1869 testimony, in which he says that Mrs. Spalding took the manuscript with her when she moved.  While some elements in the Miller and McKee statements might reflect genuine recollections of Spalding, the convenient additions in the later statements cast doubt upon the accuracy of their claims about Rigdon. It is thus likely that Spalding never said such a thing.
The authors note that Rigdon was apparently a lover of books and while growing up read all the histories he could get his hands on. They assert that the only place Rigdon could have found and read books to satisfy his appetite for learning was in Pittsburgh. But is that really the only possibility? Might he not have borrowed books from friends or neighbors? Convinced that Rigdon could only have gratified his supposed appetite for books in Pittsburgh, they further suggest that he must have frequented R & J Patterson's printing establishment. The implication is that anyone who passed through Pittsburgh or made an occasional visit there would have visited the place. Are such assumptions justified? Did every traveler through Pittsburgh stop at R&J Patterson's?
In 1879, Rebecca Eichbaum provided a statement to Spalding-theory proponent Robert Patterson Jr. Eichbaum was the daughter of John Johnston, a postmaster in Pittsburgh, and the wife of William Eichbaum, who continued to serve in that capacity after her father retired. William was postmaster from 1822 to 1833, but Rebecca assisted her father as a clerk from 1811 to 1816, before she married. There she was often involved in sorting and distributing mail. In her 1879 statement Rebecca Eichbaum said she remembered many of the people who came in to retrieve their mail. These included, she said, Robert and Joseph Patterson, J. Harrison Lambdin, Silas Engles, Sidney Rigdon, and Solomon Spalding. "I remember that there was an evident intimacy between Lambdin and Rigdon. They very often came
 Redick McKee statement, 14 April 1869, in Washington, Pennsylvania, Reporter, 21 April 1869.
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to the office together." She said that while she did not know "what position, if any, Rigdon filled in Patterson's store or printing office," she was confident that Rigdon "was frequently, if not constantly, there for a large part of the time when I was clerk in the post-office." She said she remembered that Engles once told her, "Rigdon was always hanging around the printing-office."  She was describing people and events that were supposed to have taken place over sixty years earlier.
Partial support for Eichbaum's statement has been found in a list of unclaimed letters that had been held at the Pittsburgh post office for more than thirty days. Such lists were compiled and published in several newspapers. After surveying a list of such letters in the Commonwealth and Statesmen newspapers, Cowdrey, Vanick, and Davis located references to letters being held for several persons of interest, including Solomon Spalding, John Spalding, and Sidney Rigdon. Letters for Solomon Spalding are dated 30 April and 31 October 1813 and 30 June 1816, and for John and Solomon Spalding on 31 January 1815. Letters for Sidney Rigdon were dated 30 June 1816 and 31 August and 31 October 1818. Letters so dated were listed as having been unclaimed for at least thirty days at the Pittsburgh post office. This evidence gives partial support for Eichbaum's claim to have seen both Sidney Rigdon and Solomon Spalding in the Pittsburgh post office during the period from 1811 to 1816, showing that Rigdon likely did visit the post office in Pittsburgh on occasion to retrieve his mail during the same time that Spalding did the same thing. But while the authors must be commended for a good piece of detective work, they greatly exaggerate the implications of the find:
The importance of this material cannot be overstated, for not only does it provide incontrovertible proof of Sidney Rigdon's presence in Pittsburgh well before 1821, but it places him there during the very time Solomon Spalding is known to have been involved with the Patterson brothers seeking publication of A Manuscript Found. At the same time, any question
 Rebecca J. Eichbaum statement, 18 September 1879, in Boyd Crumrine, ed., History of Washington County, Pennsylvania, with Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men (Philadelphia: Everts, 1882), 433.
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of Mrs. Eichbaum's credibility is effectively laid aside by the fact that these new revelations firmly support her 1879 statement. (p. 137)
There are problems with this reasoning. First, although the letters show that both Spalding and Rigdon had unclaimed mail at the Pittsburgh post office (which is not really that surprising since Rigdon lived only a few miles away at the time), the letters do not show that the two ever met, nor do they provide support for Eichbaum's claim that Rigdon was intimately associated with Patterson's business before 1822. Eichbaum's important claims remain unsupported. Second, although some critics of the Spalding theory may have been wrong in claiming that Rigdon never went to Pittsburgh before 1822, Rigdon himself never denied visiting the place before 1822; he only denied that he resided there before that time. The most important question with the Eichbaum statement is not whether Rigdon visited Pittsburgh, but whether he was connected with R&J Patterson prior to 1822. That has not been demonstrated.
Red Herring or Wishful Thinking?
In 1839, in response to claims made by Matilda Davison that he had been closely associated with Patterson's Pittsburgh printing business at the time Spalding submitted his manuscript for consideration, Sidney Rigdon issued a strong statement denying any association with an alleged Spalding conspiracy. The authors argue that Rigdon lied in this statement about his past involvement with Patterson and that he therefore lacks credibility when denying knowledge of the Book of Mormon before his conversion in late 1830.
There was no man by the name of Patterson, during my residence at Pittsburgh, who had a printing office; what might have been before I lived there I know not. Mr. Robert Patterson, I was told, had owned a printing office before I lived in that city, but had been unfortunate in business, and failed before my residence there. This Mr. Patterson, who was a Presbyterian preacher, I had a very slight acquaintance with during my
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residence in Pittsburgh. He was then acting under an agency, in the book and stationery business, and was the owner of no property of any kind, printing office or anything else, during the time I resided in the city....
Cowdrey, Davis, and Vanick acknowledge evidence supporting Rigdon's claim not to have resided in Pittsburgh previous to 1822 (pp. 104-5), but, "of course, the question was not whether Rigdon had ever lived in the city, but whether he frequented it on a regular basis" (p. 104, emphasis in original). But since Rigdon only denied residence during that time, not visits, there is no evidence of deception.
In a brief history of Robert Patterson's printing activities (pp. 119-20), The Spalding Enigma notes that Reverend Robert Patterson Sr. (1773-1854) helped establish Patterson & Hopkins as a publisher and marketer of books on 14 June 1810. The connection with Hopkins was discontinued on 31 October 1812, at which time Robert's brother Joseph joined the venture and the name became R&J Patterson. Later, in January 1818, the business became R. Patterson & Lambdin, which lasted until February 1823, at which time the company collapsed. Robert Patterson then operated a small bookshop in town in association with Lambdin until Lambdin's death in 1825.
Cowdrey, Davis, and Vanick consider the Patterson & Lambdin incarnation to still be a "printing office" because it printed an almanac in 1822, although they do not say if this was before or after Rigdon's move to the city. Rigdon took up residence in Pittsburgh in 1822 and, while in Pittsburgh, preached in close vicinity to the book shop in 1823 and 1824. According to legal papers cited, Patterson & Lambdin did not officially collapse until February 1823. While Rigdon remembered that Patterson had a bookstore, he had no recollection of Patterson &
 Rigdon, "Communications," 8 June 1839.
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Lambdin having been a "printing office" during his residence. The authors suggest that, because Rigdon arrived in 1822, he must have been familiar with all this and therefore was lying when he claimed not to know a Patterson with a printing office during his Pittsburgh residence. They contend that Rigdon must have known about it when he resided in Pittsburgh and suggest, because Rigdon lived in Pittsburgh and preached there, that he had to have been familiar with these details and that he was being deliberately deceitful.
In her 1839 statement, Matilda Davison did not mention Patterson's first name. Following an argument posed by earlier Spalding researchers, Cowdrey, Davis, and Vanick cite several late statements suggesting that she may have been referring to Joseph Patterson rather than the older brother Robert and that it was this younger Patterson with whom Spalding actually met when submitting his manuscript for publication, rather than Robert. According to Cowdrey, Davis, and Vanick, if Spalding investigators had only been able to locate Joseph Patterson, he would have confirmed Rigdon's involvement with Patterson's business. They claim that Sidney Rigdon knew that it was Joseph and not Robert who knew about the Spalding manuscript. In order to mislead investigators, Rigdon presumably fingered Robert Patterson as a possible source of information rather than Joseph. This, the authors claim, was a red herring to distract attention from Joseph Patterson.
Sidney Rigdon, of course, could have known that Joseph Patterson was the knowledgeable brother and that Spalding's involvement with Robert had been minimal. When he read Eber Howe's account of Doctor Hurlbut's unproductive interview with Robert Patterson, Rigdon knew no one was likely to get anything damaging out of "this Mr. Patterson" because the man did not know anything. Five years later, while formulating his reply to Mrs. Davison's statement, he noted her mention of a "Mr. Patterson," first name not given, and the idea struck him. Now that Jonathan Lambdin and Silas Engles were both dead, and as Robert Patterson's name had already been connected with the Spalding Enigma, here was an excellent opportunity to plant a very large red herring. "Why was
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not the testimony of Mr. Patterson obtained... for, if he were called on, he would testify to what I have here said," Rigdon thundered forth in righteous indignation -- knowing full well that his saccharine invitation was intended to lead his would-be critics down that well known garden path. Joseph Patterson had long since left Pittsburgh, and Robert had little to tell. (p. 151, emphasis in original)
According to The Spalding Enigma, this red herring "was a truly brilliant maneuver, for with it he successfully managed to mislead every effort to investigate the Spalding Enigma to date" (p. 121). In fact, it represents Sidney Rigdon's "strongest and most artful effort to mislead his public" (p. 165).
Where, however, is the evidence that Joseph Patterson, had he been located, would have supported this theory? Since there is no way of proving that Joseph Patterson knew Rigdon or that he would have confirmed the claims connecting him with Spalding, this is merely a convenient and unproven supposition.
Of course, one very good reason for Rigdon to mention Robert Patterson is that he knew Robert Patterson, if only slightly, and did not know Joseph Patterson. The authors seem to think that Rigdon should have known him since he lived in Pittsburgh. In the July 1839 issue of his periodical the Evangelist, Walter Scott, a former associate of both Rigdon and Alexander Campbell, reprinted the Davison letter with apparent approval, but was doubtful of the claimed connection between Rigdon and Patterson. Although Davison had not mentioned Patterson's first name, Scott also assumed, just as Rigdon did in his letter to the Quincy Whig, that she had made reference to Robert Patterson.
That Rigdon was ever connected with the printing office of Mr. Patterson or that this gentleman ever possessed a printing office in Pittsburgh, is unknown to me, although I lived there, and also know Mr. Patterson very well, who is a bookseller. But Rigdon was a Baptist minister in Pittsburgh, and I knew him to be perfectly known to Mr. Robert Patterson.
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Why is not Mr. Patterson's testimony adduced in this case? He is now in Pittsburgh, and can doubtless throw light upon this part of the narrative, which, to me at least, appears exceedingly doubtful, if not positively erroneous. The Lord willing, we shall see to this matter and report accordingly. 
Several elements of this statement are noteworthy in light of the authors' claims about Rigdon's alleged deception. First, like Rigdon, Reverend Scott also assumes that it is Robert Patterson to whom Davison refers. Second, like Rigdon, Scott also lived in Pittsburgh in the 1820s, but did not know if Patterson ever possessed a printing office, although he did know Robert Patterson more recently as a bookseller, just as Rigdon did. However, if Walter Scott could live in Pittsburgh for several years and not know whether or not Robert Patterson had a printing office, why must we assume that Rigdon must have known and hence that he was being dishonest? Third, like Rigdon, Scott suggests that someone should obtain testimony from Robert Patterson. Apparently, this suggestion was made by Scott in good faith. Why should we not conclude the same for Rigdon? Finally, he expresses serious doubt about the whole alleged connection between Patterson and Rigdon, which he considers "exceedingly doubtful, if not positively erroneous." So much for the authors' own red herring.
"The Iago" and "prime mover of the whole conspiracy" 
The portrayal of Rigdon in the Spalding theory does not explain why he would settle for second best to Joseph Smith. Rigdon is often described by those who knew him as talented, but egotistical and proud. As an early preacher in Ohio, he was offended when others took credit for his accomplishments.  Yet we are to believe that this is the same man who played second fiddle to the ignorant "money digger" from Palmyra. After all he had done, would he not
 Walter Scott, "The Mormon Bible," Evangelist of the True Gospel, n.s., 7/7 (1 July 1839): 160-61.
 Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 100, emphasis in original.
 F. Mark McKiernan, The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness: Sidney Rigdon, Religious Reformer 1793-1876 (Lawrence, KS: Coronado, 1971), 28.
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have chafed at the public rebukes that came from the Prophet in revelations and before the church? William McLellin, onetime apostle turned enemy, who believed Joseph Smith a fallen prophet, once summarized his view:
You seem to think S. Rigdon the bottom of all M[ormonism]. Many people know better. He never heard of the work of Smith & Cowdery until C[owdery] and P[arley] P. Pratt brought the Book to him in Mentor, O[hio]. True enough, I have but little confidence in S. Rigdon, but I know he was more the tool of J. Smith than his teacher and director. He was docile in J.S. hands to my knowledge. 
One anecdote from the Missouri experience illustrates this point. There was a Sunday morning when some of the brethren were camped at Adam-ondi-Ahman with the Prophet. It had rained the night before and it was very cold, so the Prophet encouraged the brethren to get up together and wrestle to raise their spirits and keep warm.
While the sport was at its height Sidney Rigdon, the mouthpiece of the Prophet, rushed into the ring, sword in hand, and said that he would not suffer a lot of men to break the Sabbath day in that manner. For a moment all were silent, then one of the brethren, with more presence of mind than the others, said to the Prophet, "Brother Joseph, we want you to clear us from blame, for we formed the ring by your request. You told us to wrestle, and now Brother Rigdon is bringing us to account for it."
 William E. McLellin to James T. Cobb, Independence, Missouri, 14 August 1880, cited in LDS Church News, 8 December 1985, 10.
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the sword from Rigdon's hand, then caught him by the shoulder, and said: "Now old man, you must go out, or I will throw you down." Rigdon was as large a man as the Prophet, but not so tall. The prospect of a tussel between the Prophet and the mouthpiece of the Prophet was fun for all but Rigdon, who pulled back like a crawfish, but the resistance was useless, the Prophet dragged him from the ring, bareheaded, and tore Rigdon's fine pulpit coat from the collar to the waist; then he turned to the men and said: "Go in, boys, and have your fun. You shall never have it to say that I got you into any trouble that I did not get you out of."
Another recollection comes from Howard Coray, one of Joseph's scribes in Nauvoo.
I had heard it remarked that Joseph Smith was Sidney Rigdon's cat's paw: soon after he returned from the East he came to see Joseph, and the thought went through my mind: now I will see, who the cats paw is. -- well, I did see; after passing the usual compliments, Rigdon said to Joseph: -- "When I was preaching in Philadelphia after I had finished my discourse a man stepped up to me and desired me to explain something in John's Revelation, mentioning at the same time what it was) -- "Well, I could not do it, how is it Joseph?" Joseph cited him at once right off hand to a passage in Ezekiel and something in some other book of the old Testament, saying that
 John D. Lee, Mormonism Unveiled? (St. Louis: Moffatt, 1881), 76-78.
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they explained all about it." I thought to myself, that don't look much like Joseph being a cats paw. 
Spalding theorists want to see Rigdon as the source of inspiration behind the doctrines and teachings of Joseph Smith. Some who observed the Prophet's interactions with others on a daily basis, however, had difficulty reconciling that picture with what they saw and heard. While Rigdon was a talented preacher, Joseph seemed to be his superior. Philo Dibble was present with about a dozen others when Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon received and described a vision of the heavens and the three degrees of glory in 1832 (D&C 76). "There were other men in the room, perhaps twelve, among whom I was one during a part of the time -- probably two-thirds of the time. I saw the glory and felt the power, but did not see the vision." Dibble observed a significant difference between Joseph and Sidney. "Not a sound nor motion [was] made by anyone but Joseph and Sidney, and it seemed to me that they never moved a joint or limb during the time I was there, which I think was over an hour, and to the end of the vision. Joseph sat firmly and calmly all the time in the midst of a magnificent glory, but Sidney sat limp and pale, apparently as limber as a rag, observing which, Joseph remarked smilingly, 'Sidney is not as used to it as I am.'" 
Cowdrey, Davis, and Vanick mention a statement attributed to Walter Sidney Rigdon, a grandchild of Sidney, from an interview published by J. H. Beadle in 1888. Walter Rigdon is reported by Beadle to have "talked with old Sidney hundreds of times about the 'scheme of the Golden Bible,'"  and is also reported to have claimed that his
 Howard Coray MS #1, cited in Dean Jessee, "Howard Coray's Recollections of Joseph Smith," BYU Studies 17/3 (1977): 343.
 Philo Dibble, "Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith," Juvenile Instructor 27/10 (1892): 303-4.
 John H. Beadle, "The Golden Bible," Salt Lake Tribune, 15 April 1888. The authors blithely note that Beadle "was the author of the 1870 book Life in Utah." Actually, the full title of Beadle's book was Life in Utah; Or, The Mysteries and Crimes of Mormonism, and it went through at least six editions from 1870 to 1904. He also published Brigham's Destroying Angel; Being the Life, Confession, and Startling Disclosures of the Notorious Bill Hickman, The Danite Chief of Utah. "One feels certain that Beadle did some retouching of the Hickman manuscript, if he did no more than that. There are phrases in the Hickman confessions that
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father and other members of the family knew that the Book of Mormon was derived from the Spalding manuscript, but refused to talk about it while their father was alive (p. 354). But the Beadle interview is inconsistent with the testimony of other family members and friends, who consistently affirmed that Rigdon disclaimed any involvement with the production of the Book of Mormon.
The Spalding Enigma protests that Rigdon never made any attempt to respond to the Spalding theory in print until 1839 (pp. 109-13). They claim that this is because he must have had something to hide. However, although there may not be any printed accounts of such a response, some who lived in Kirtland remembered public rebuttals to claims linking him with the origin of the Book of Mormon. Phineas, Hiel, and Mary D. Bronson recalled:
In the spring of 1833 or 1834, at the house of Samuel Baker, near New Portage, Medina county, Ohio, we, whose signatures are affixed, did hear Elder Sidney Rigdon, in the presence of a large congregation, say he had been informed that some in the neighborhood had accused him of being the instigator of the Book of Mormon. Standing in the door-way, there being many standing in the door-yard, he, holding up the Book of Mormon, said, "I testify in the presence of this congregation, and before God and all the Holy Angels up yonder, (pointing towards heaven), before whom I expect to give an account at the judgment day, that I never saw a sentence of the Book of Mormon, I never penned a sentence of the Book of Mormon, I never knew that there was such a book in existence as the Book of Mormon, until it was presented to me by Parley P. Pratt, in the form that it now is." 
are typically Beadle. This may or may not mean an inaccurate confession, but it does mean some friendly editorial assistance, if not ghost-writing, and probably a market orientation." Leonard J. Arrington, "Kate Field and J. H. Beadle: Manipulators of the Mormon Past," lecture given at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, 31 March 1971, 17 n. 53.
 Statement by Phineas Bronson, Hiel Bronson, and Mary D. Bronson, in Rudolph Etzenhouser, From Palmyra, New York, 1830, to Independence, Missouri, 1894 (Independence, MO: Ensign Publishing House, 1894), 388.
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David Whitmer also remembered that Rigdon frequently responded to these charges. According to an interview published in the Chicago Times on 14 October 1881, "Mr Whitmer emphatically asserts that he has heard Rigdon, in the pulpit and in private conversations, declare that the Spaulding story, that he had used a book called 'The Manuscript Found' for the purpose of preparing the 'Book of Mormon,' was as false as were many other [charges] that were then being made against the infant church, and he assures me that the story is as untruthful as it is ridiculous." 
Others who visited Rigdon following his excommunication in 1844 also note that he always affirmed that he had nothing to do with the origin of the Book of Mormon. One visitor at Rigdon's home in Friendship, New York, in 1867 described the former church leader as a "grand looking old man, large and portly," who exuded a manner of "intellectual importance" and was "an intellectual giant of a certain type," "a man of extraordinary spiritual aspirations," yet "lacking in the elements of a great leader." He reported, "Mr. Rigdon still felt bad towards President Young, whom he accused of supplanting him and by his shrewdness depriving him of his rights as the lawful successor to Joseph Smith." He then asked, "Elder Rigdon, it is reputed that you wrote the Book of Mormon; did you or did you not?" To which he replied, "I did not write the Book of Mormon. It is the revelations of Jesus Christ."  In an interview with A. W. Cowles published in 1869, Rigdon "solemnly affirm[ed]" that when Oliver Cowdery and others gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon in late 1830 it "was his first personal knowledge of Joe Smith and the Mormons." 
Several members of Rigdon's family who were present when Mormon missionaries first contacted Rigdon in Mentor, Ohio, also provided supporting testimony. In a sworn statement made in 1904, Athalia Robinson, Rigdon's oldest daughter, said that both she "and
 Chicago Times correspondent interview, 14 October 1881, Richmond, Missouri, Chicago Times, 17 October 1881, in David Whitmer Interviews: A Restoration Witness, ed. Lyndon W. Cook (Orem, UT: Grandin Book, 1991), 77.
 "Abram Hatch," in Orson F. Whitney, History of Utah (Salt Lake City: Cannon & Sons, 1904), 4:167, emphasis in original.
 Moore's Rural New Yorker 20/4 (23 January 1869).
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her mother were present when the book was presented which was a bound volume. Her father stated and she is positive it was the first time he ever saw the book and that he was not the author of it and had nothing to do with its production. This was the first time he had ever heard of Joseph Smith." 
Cowdrey, Davis, and Vanick are aware that "Rigdon denied having anything to do with the Spalding Enigma on several occasions" but dismiss these denials as subterfuge since they believe that they have shown Rigdon to be dishonest about his past and about Hurlbut (p. 353). However, their claim for Rigdon's dishonesty on these matters appears to be exaggerated, if not unfounded. They also suggest that "Rigdon had simply come to believe his own lies, though one must concede the possibility that he truly did live in fear of reprisals from the agents of those whose secrets he kept" (p. 353). They cite no evidence that Rigdon himself lived in such a state but mention later rumors suggesting that a son-in-law, George W. Robinson, who had left the church in Nauvoo, may have feared for his life. The rumor comes from an elderly grandchild of Sidney Rigdon who reportedly told Noel B. Croft that Athalia Robinson told her that her husband George Robinson had been part of a plot to kill Joseph Smith and replace him with Rigdon, who could then be easily controlled by others. According to other local rumors, George Robinson went "so far as to have a bullet-proof room constructed for him in his bank and heavy bars placed over some of the lower windows of his home" (p. 353). This rumored paranoia is supposed to show that Sidney Rigdon and his children were so afraid of possible vengeance from unnamed and undocumented agents of the dead Spalding conspirators that they made statements affirming that Rigdon said he had nothing to do with the origin of the Book of Mormon.
E. L. Kelley and W. H. Kelley interviewed Rigdon's daughter Nancy Rigdon Ellis in 1884. Nancy was eight years old at the time her father joined the church. According to E. L. Kelley,
She says she was eight years of age at the time that the preachers of the Latter Day Saints first came to her father's in Mentor,
 Athalia Robinson, notarized statement, 26 May 1904.
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Ohio; and has a full remembrance of it because of the contest which soon arose between her father and Pratt and Cowdery, over the Book of Mormon. She says:
That same year she was interviewed by a reporter for the Pittsburgh Leader. In an article that had previously appeared in that newspaper, a Reverend Coovert had repeated the allegation that Rigdon had stolen the Spalding manuscript from Patterson's printing office. Her response was then published in that paper on 18 May 1884:
I have never had the honor of seeing this so-called Reverend Coovert, who of late had been so free in his use of dead men's names, but I understand he parts his hair in the middle of his head, a fact which, from what I have heard and read of him, is no surprise to me. Now, while I most emphatically decline to be drawn into any controversy over that story of Coovert, which, if there was any foundation for it, I can not, for the life of me, see why it was allowed to remain quiet for years after all the actors are laid in their graves. Yet I will say this, that my father, who had the respect of all who knew him, and at a time when he had but little hope of living from one day to another, said to the clergymen around him, of which there was a number belonging to various denominations. These were his words: "As I expect to die and meet my Maker,
 Saints Herald 31 (1884): 339, reprinted in The History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Independence, MO: Herald House, 1967), 4:451-52.
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I know nothing about where the manuscript of the Mormon bible came from." 
Perhaps the most poignant account was written by John Wycliff Rigdon, a son, who interviewed his father in 1865. John had visited the Latter-day Saints in Utah and had not been favorably impressed.
I concluded I would make an investigation for my own satisfaction and find out, if I could, if he had all these years been deceiving his family and the world, by telling that which was not true, and I was in earnest about it. If Sidney Rigdon, my father, had thrown his life away by telling a falsehood and bringing sorrow and disgrace upon his family, I wanted to know it and was determined to find out the facts, no matter what the consequences might be. I reached home in the fall of 1865, found my father in good health and (he) was very much pleased to see me. As he had not heard anything from me for some time, he was afraid that I had been killed by the Indians. Shortly after I had arrived home, I went to my father's room; he was there and alone, and now was the time for me to commence my inquiries in regard to the origin of the Book of Mormon, and as to the truth of the Mormon religion. I told him what I had seen in Salt Lake City, and I said to him that what I had seen in Salt Lake had not impressed me very favorably toward the Mormon church, and as to the origin of the Book of Mormon I had some doubts. You have been charged with writing that book and giving it to Joseph Smith to introduce to the world. You have always told me one story; that you never saw the book until it was presented to you by Parley P. Pratt and Oliver Cowdery; and all you ever knew of the origin of that book was what they told you and what Joseph Smith and the witnesses who claimed to have seen the plates had told you. Is this true? If so, all right; if it is not, you owe it to me and to your family to tell it. You are an old man and you
 Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:234-35.
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There is simply no good reason to view Sidney Rigdon as a conspirator behind the scenes to produce the Book of Mormon, but there are good reasons to reject the suggestion.
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ConclusionWhether one accepts the Spalding explanation or some other theory, one still has to explain not only if, but how Joseph Smith or any other candidate could write such a book, a point upon which critics have never agreed and probably never will agree. The Book of Mormon will always be an enigma for the unbeliever. The Latter-day Saint, of course, already has an explanation that nicely circumvents that puzzle.
 Sally Parker to John Kempton, 26 August 1838, Family and Church History Department Archives.
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For those who are unwilling to believe Joseph Smith's explanation of the origin of the Book of Mormon but who still cannot see the ignorant Palmyra plowboy as responsible for its contents, some variation of the Spalding theory with its mythical "Manuscript Found" may be the best fiction they can contrive. 
AppendixA more complete bibliography on Cowdery would include Richard L. Anderson, "Reuben Miller, Recorder of Oliver Cowdery's Reaffirmations," BYU Studies 8/3 (1968): 277-93; Anderson, "Oliver Cowdery's Non-Mormon Reputation," Improvement Era, August 1968, 18-26; Anderson, "The Scribe as Witness: 'New Evidence from Modern Witnesses,'" Improvement Era, January 1969, 53-59; Anderson, "The Second Witness of Priesthood Restoration," Improvement Era, September 1968, 15-24; Anderson, "The Second Witness of Priesthood Succession," Improvement Era, November 1968, 14-20; Anderson, "The Impact of the First Preaching in Ohio," BYU Studies 11 (Summer 1971): 474-96; Anderson, "Oliver Cowdery, Esq.: His Non-Church Decade," in To the Glory of God: Mormon Essays on Great Issues, ed. Truman G. Madsen and Charles D. Tate (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1972), 199-216; Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981), 37-65, 151-91; Anderson, "The Credibility of the Book of Mormon Translators," in Book of Mormon Authorship: New Light on Ancient Origins, ed. Noel B. Reynolds (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1982), 213-37; Anderson, "The Mature Joseph Smith and Treasure Seeking," BYU Studies 24/4 (1984): 521-32; Anderson, "Did Oliver Cowdery, one of the three special Book of Mormon witnesses, express doubt about his testimony?" I Have a Question, Ensign (April 1987): 23-25; Anderson, "Cowdery, Oliver," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1:335-40; Scott H. Faulring, "The Book of Mormon: A Blueprint for Organizing the Church," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 7/1 (1998): 60-69; Faulring, "The Return of Oliver
 See, for example, Peterson, "Not So Easily Dismissed," in this number of the Review, pages xxxv-xliv.
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Cowdery," in The Disciple as Witness: Essays on Latter-day Saint History and Doctrine in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, ed. Stephen D. Ricks, Donald W. Parry, and Andrew H. Hedges (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2000), 117-73; John W. Welch, "Oliver Cowdery's 1835 Response to Alexander Campbell's 1831 'Delusions,'" in Disciple as Witness, 435-58; Larry E. Morris, "Oliver Cowdery's Vermont Years and the Origins of Mormonism," BYU Studies 39/1 (2000): 106-29; Morris, "'The Private Character of the Man Who Bore That Testimony': Oliver Cowdery and His Critics," FARMS Review 15/1 (2003): 311-51. Much important information can also be found in John W. Welch, ed., with Erick B. Carlson, Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations, 1820-1844 (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press and Deseret Book, 2005). In addition to the above, a multivolume work by Richard Anderson and Scott Faulring that will publish all known documents relating to Oliver Cowdery has been in preparation for over a decade and is expected to appear in the near future. A preliminary copy of this work, entitled Witness of the Second Elder: The Documentary History of Oliver Cowdery, was completed in 1999 and has been on file since then in the FARMS Library.
The failure of Cowdrey, Davis, and Vanick to engage serious scholarship on Cowdery is apparent in their discussion of the so-called Wood Scrape episode in Middletown, Vermont (pp. 213-14). As Anderson and Morris demonstrate, there is little historical foundation for attempts to link the Cowderys and the Smiths to the event. Anderson, "The Mature Joseph Smith and Treasure Seeking," 521-32; Morris, "Oliver Cowdery's Vermont Years and the Origins of Mormonism," 113-18.
Elder Roper and the "Manuscript Myths"
The on-line FARMS Review provides the following information for its readers:
Matthew P. Roper, who has an MS from Brigham Young University, is a resident scholar at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at Brigham Young University.... [he has] a (M.S. in Sociology, Brigham Young University) and is currentlu a research assistant for the Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Studies.