Matthew B. Brown
Plates of Gold
American Fork, Ut.: Covenant Comm., 2005
ISBN: 1591563704

  Title page
  Appendix 4
  Appendix 4 notes


Copyright 2003 Matthew B. Brown
Because of copyright law restrictions, only limited "fair use" excerpts are presented here.

They Lie in Wait to Deceive II  |  Ask the Apologist  |  Sciotia Revisited: Spalding/BoM parallels
Matt Roper's "Mythical 'Manuscript Found'"  |  Cowdrey, et al.: The Spalding Enigma (2005)


The  Book  of  Mormon  Comes  Forth


Covenant Communications, Inc.

  Because of copyright law restrictions,
only limited "fair use" excerpts are presented here.

[ v ]


001  Introduction

003  Chapter 1: The Visitations of Moroni

027  Chapter 2: Preparation of a Prophet

043  Chapter 3: Opposition in Palmyra

059  Chapter 4: The Move to Harmony

079  Chapter 5: The Prophet's New Scribe

089  Chapter 6: The Move to Fayette

101  Chapter 7: The Book of Mormon Witnesses

123  Chapter 8: Publication and Confrontation

139  Chapter 9: The Book of Mormon Goes Forth

147  Appendix 1: The Stone Box and Its Contents

159  Appendix 2: The Translation Process

175  Appendix 3: The Publication Process

185  Appendix 4: The Spalding-Rigdon Theory

203  Selected Bibliography

213  Index

  Because of copyright law restrictions,
only limited "fair use" excerpts are presented here.

[ 185 ]

               APPENDIX 4               


Soon after Joseph Smith publicly announced that the Book of Mormon was an ancient and divinely-revealed scriptural text, people began to put forward a variety of theories about what they thought was its "true" origin. Alexander Campbell, for instance, wrote in February 1831: "I could swear that this book was written by one man. And as Joseph Smith is... called the author on the title page, I cannot doubt for a single moment that he is the sole author and proprietor of it.... [It is] certainly Smith's fabrication." 1 In the same month of the same year, however, it was reported in the Cleveland Advertiser that some people believed that Sidney Rigdon -- a recent convert to the Church -- was the person who actually wrote the Book of Mormon. 2

By 1833 a new version of the Rigdon theory began to take shape. On 3 June of that year, a man named Philatus Hurlbut was excommunicated from the Church for "unchristian conduct with women" while serving as a missionary. 3 He was granted an appeal on 21 June 1833, and after offering a liberal confession he was reinstated. 4 Two days later, however, he was excommunicated again because he boasted that he had "deceived Joseph Smith's God" in getting himself restored to Church membership. 5

Sometime after his second excommunication, Philastus joined forces with an Ohio anti-Mormon committee whose stated purpose was to "ascertain the real origin of the Book of Mormon." 6 Benjamin Johnson reports that while Hurlbut was serving as a missionary

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around the Jacksonville, Pennsylvania, area he had "learned of Solomon Spa[lding], who once lived in that vicinity, and had written a romance called 'Manuscript Found,' and out of this [Hurlbut] hoped to gain notoriety, obtain money, and work his spite upon the Mormons. So he gave notice to [the] enemies [of the Saints] that he had struck a lead to destroy Mormonism, and if they would come together he would tell them where 'Joe Smith' got his 'Mormon Bible.'" 7 The components of Hurlbut's theory regarding the origin of the Book of Mormon were that

the leading features of the "Gold Bible" were first conceived and concocted by one Solomon Spalding, while a resident of Conneaut, Ashtabula County, Ohio....

Solomon Spalding first wrote the leading incidents of the Book of Mormon [in a document called "Manuscript Found"], instead of its being found by the Smith family...

[T]he Book of Mormon is the joint production of Solomon Spalding and some other designing knave....

[Mlost of the names and leading incidents contained in the Mormon Bible, originated with Solomon Spalding....

[Jonathan H. Lambdin, a Pittsburg printer,] placed the "Manuscript Found," of Spalding, in the hands of [Sidney] Rigdon, to be embellished, altered, and added to, as he might think expedient....

When Lambdin died in 1826 Sidney Rigdon became the sole proprietor of the embellished and altered manuscript and he took it to Joseph Smith in order to "bring it before the world" because the Prophet had acquired a certain amount of "fame" and was skilled in the "arts of deception."...

[Thus,] Sidney Rigdon ... [was] the original "author and proprietor" of the whole Mormon conspiracy. 8

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Philastus claimed that his theory about Book of Mormon origins was supported by the written statements of people who had personally known Solomon Spalding 9 and had either heard the "Manuscript Found" document read to them by Spalding or had read it themselves about twenty years before. 10 Some of these people admitted that because of the substantial lapse in time between their acquaintance with the manuscript and their written statements their memories of the document's contents were not clear, 11 but they nevertheless recalled parallels between it and the "Gold Bible" after having recently read passages in the Book of Mormon. 12

The Ohio anti-Mormon committee dispatched Hurlbut to meet with Spalding's widow, and if possible, he was to acquire "Manuscript Found" so they could publish it and expose the "true" origin of the Book of Mormon. 13 Hurlbut located the widow (Matilda Davison) in Monson, Massachusetts, and was told by her that Spalding's manuscript was kept in a trunk at the Hartwick, New York, residence of Jerome Clark. Hurlbut was given written permission to retrieve the manuscript from the trunk after he promised Spalding's widow that after it had been published he would return it to her and she would receive half of the profits generated by its publication. 14

Spalding's daughter, Philastus Hurlbut, and a member of the Ohio anti-Mormon committee all publicly declared that the document Hurlbut retrieved from the trunk in Hartwick, New York, was Spalding's "Manuscript Found." 15 But when this document was shown to some of the people who had signed statements attesting to parallels between it and the Book of Mormon, they were unable to match their assertions with the document that was before them -- the parallels simply weren't there. 16 At this point the anti-Mormon committee decided against publishing this document 17 and they then theorized that there must be another "lost" Spalding manuscript somewhere that contained parallels to the Book of Mormon. 18

Solomon Spalding's manuscript was never returned to his widow in Monson, Massachusetts, but was stored somewhere in the Painesville, Ohio, print shop of Eber D. Howe. When Lewis L. Rice (an editor who worked with Howe in the Painesville Telegraph office) bought Howe's printing establishment in 1839 he unknowingly acquired the Spalding manuscript and eventually took it to Honolulu,

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Hawaii, when he moved there. Rice discovered the document in 1884 while he was searching through his collection of papers at the request of Oberlin College president James H. Fairchild. 19 When Rice, Fairchild, and several other people made an initial comparison between the Spalding manuscript and the Book of Mormon they "could detect no resemblance between the two, in general or detail." 20


Several months after Philastus Hurlbut began to lecture on the Spalding-Rigdon theory Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon issued a brief, but formal response. In a First Presidency letter dated 9 January 1834 they said: "Philastus Hurlb[u]t, an apostate Elder from this Church, has been to the state of New York, and gathered up all the ridiculous stories that could be invented, and some affidavits respecting the character of Joseph [Smith] and the Smith family; and exhibited them to numerous congregations in Chagrin, Kirtland, Mentor, and Painesville; and he has fired the minds of the people with much indignation against Joseph and the Church." 21 But this was not the only time that these two men spoke out on this subject. In one Church publication, Joseph Smith made a connection between Hurlbut, Mormonism Unvailed, and "falsehood." 22 (Mormonism Unvailed [sic], the first anti-Mormon book, was ostensibly authored by Eber D. Howe, but much of the material for the book was provided by Hurlbut.) The Prophet also wrote in an epistle to some of the Saints in Jackson County, Missouri, that Hurlbut was "lying in a wonderful manner" in order to "spite" the Church. 23 Sidney Rigdon was less reserved. A letter that he sent to an Illinois newspaper not affiliated with the Church called the Spalding-Rigdon theory "a moonshine story" and a "batch of lies." 24 At one time Rigdon stood before a large gathering of people in Ohio and reportedly 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 account at the judgment day, that I never saw a sentence of the Book of

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Mormon, I never penned a sentence of the book, I never knew 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 is now in." 25

Parley P. Pratt verified that he was "a personal actor in the scenes which brought S[idney] Rigdon into an acquaintance with the 'Book of Mormon.'" He relates: "About the 15th of October, 1830, I took my journey, in company with Elder O[liver] Cowdery, and Peter Whitmer, to Ohio. We called on Elder S[idney] Rigdon, and then for the first time, his eyes beheld the 'Book of Mormon'; I, myself, had the happiness to present it to him in person. He was much surprised, and it was with much persuasion and argument, that he was prevailed on to read it, and after he had read it he had a great struggle of mind before he fully believed and embraced it." Then, "early in 1831, Mr. Rigdon having been ordained, under our hands, visited Elder J[oseph] Smith, Jr. in the state of New York, for the first time." 26 Other Latter-day Saints, such as David Whitmer, Emma Smith, William Smith, Katherine Smith, and George A. Smith confirmed that Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith did not know each other until after the Book of Mormon had been published. 27

The Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon (David Witmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris) were each granted the privilege of receiving a sure knowledge of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Each of them had also served as scribes while the manuscript of the book was being produced. Because they had acted in this capacity each one of them was able to testify that "while [Joseph] Smith was dictating the translation he had no manuscript, notes or other means of knowledge save the seerstone and the characters as shown on the Plates." 28 David Whitmer was even more specific in regard to the Spalding rumor. When he was asked, "Had Joseph Smith any manuscripts of any kind by him at the time of translating the Book of Mormon that he could read from? His answer was: 'No, sir. We did not know anything about the Spa[l]ding manuscript at that time.'" 29

Oliver Cowdery didn't think that Hurlbut's "tales" were even worthy of a mention in the official Church newspaper and had "no fear" that he would "overturn the truth" regarding the origin of the

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Book of Mormon. 30 Oliver knew the truth regarding this matter and he forthrightly affirmed, "I wrote, with my own pen, the entire Book of Mormon (save a few pages), as it fell from the lips of the Prophet Joseph Smith, as he translated it by the gift and power of God.... Sidney Rigdon did not write it. Mr. Spa[l]ding did not write it. I wrote it myself, as it fell from the lips of the Prophet." 31


1. Millennial Harbinger vol. 2, no. 2, 7 February 1831, 93, 95; emphasis in original. Joseph Smith was listed on the title page of the first printing of the Book of Mormon as the "Author and Proprietor." For further reading on the reason for this designation, see Miriam A. Smith and John W. Welch, "Joseph Smith: 'Author and Proprietor,'" in John W. Welch, ed., Re-exploring the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book; Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1992), 154-57. On the copyright document for the Book of Mormon -- which refers twice in the preprinted text to "authors and proprietors" -- Joseph Smith elected to claim his copyright as "author" even though in the description of the book that is also written on this document (from the Book of Mormon's title page) it clearly states that the text was derived from "an account written by the hand of Mormon upon plates" and the "interpretation" of the text was accomplished "by the gift and power of God."

2. See Cleveland Advertiser vol. 1, no. 5, 15 February 1831.

3. Brigham H. Roberts, ed., History of the Church, rev. ed., 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1932-1951), 1:352.

4. See ibid., 1:354.

5. Ibid., 1:355. Elder George A. Smith was present during Philastus Hurlbut's Church court and relates the following information about what happened. "The first Council I ever attended where the Prophet was present was at the trial of Doctor P[hilastus] Hurlb[u]t. This occurred in June, 1833. He had been cut off from the Church by the Bishop's Council, and a Council of twelve High Priests was organized to try the case on appeal. Hurlb[u]t did not deny the charge, but begged to be forgiven, made every promise that a man could make that he would from that day live a virtuous life. Finally the Council accepted of his confession, and agreed that he might on public confession be restored to the Church again.... As soon as this Council had made this decision

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upon Hurlb[u]t, Joseph arose and said to the Council, 'He is not honest, and what he has promised he will not fulfill; what he has confessed are not the thoughts and intents of his heart, and time will prove it.' Hurlb[u]t stated to the Branch in Thompson, Ohio that he had deceived Joseph Smith's God or the spirit by which he is actuated, 'I have proved that Council has no wisdom. I told them I was sorry; I confessed and they believed it to be an honest confession; I deceived the whole of them and made them restore me to the Church'" (George D. Watt, comp., Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. (London: E D. and S. W Richards and Sons, 1854-1886), 11:8). [reprinted from the Deseret News of Dec. 21, 1864.]

6. Painesville Telegraph, vol. 5, no. 33, 31 January 1834.

7. Benjamin F. Johnson, My Life's Review (Independence, Mo.: Zion's Printing and Publishing, 1947), 24-25. Hurlbut apparently first heard about Solomon Spalding's "Manuscript Found" from the Jackson family and others who had known Spalding personally. But when Hurlbut asked Mr. Jackson to sign an affidavit stating that there were similarities between Spalding's manuscript and the Book of Mormon he refused, insisting that "there was no agreement between them' and "express[ing] his indignation and contempt" for Hurlbut's "base and wicked project to deceive the public" (Benjamin Winchester, The Origin of the Spaulding Story [Philadelphia: Brown, Bicking, and Guilpert, 1840], 8-9).

Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, Ohio: Telegraph Press, 1834), 278, 287, 288, 289, 290. Joseph Smith stated in an 1835 newspaper article that Eber D. Howe was "the illegitimate author of 'Mormonism Unv[a]iled,'" while Philastus Hurlbut was "the legitimate author of the same." The Prophet explained that Howe was listed as the book's author "in order to give currency to the publication, as Mr. Hurib[u]t, about [the] time [of publication], was bound over to court, for threatening life" -- namely the Prophet's (Messenger and Advocate, vol. 2, no. 15, December 1835, 228). The Prophet wrote in another publication that Hurlbut "was author of a book which bears the name of E. D. Howe, but it was this said Hurib[u]t that was the author of it. But after the affair of Hurlb[u]t's wife and the pious old deacon, the persecutors [i.e., the Ohio anti-Mormon committee] thought it better to put some other name as author to their book than Hurib[u]t, so E. D. Howe substituted his name" (Elders'Journal, vol. 1, no. 4, August 1838, 59-60). George A. Smith tells the same story. Hurlbut "went to work and got up the 'Spaulding story' -- that famous yarn about the 'Manuscript Found.' When about to publish this lying fabrication, in several of his exciting speeches

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having threatened the life of Joseph Smith, he was required to give bonds, by the authorities of Ohio, to keep the peace. In consequence of this, the name of E. D. Howe was substituted as the author, who published it" Journal of Discourses, 7:113; see also 11:9-10). [reprinted from the Deseret News of Jan. 20, 1858 and Dec. 21, 1864.] Sidney Rigdon relates, "Before Hu[rlb[u]t got through, his conduct became so scandalous, that the company utterly refused to let his name go out with the lies which he had collected, and he and his associates had made; and they substituted the name of E. D. Howe" (Quincy Whig, vol. 2, no. 6, 8 June 1839). John C. Dowen notes, "Hurlbut sta[yed] at my house every three or four days for as many months. I read all of his manuscript.... Hurlbut let E. D. Howe, of Painesville, have his manuscript to publish" (Sworn statement, 2 January 1885, published in A. B. Deming Society, Naked Truths About Mormonism, vol. 2, no. 1, December 1988, 1).

9. There are alternate spellings for the name Spalding. This spelling has been determined to be the most accurate.

10. "Spalding had read to me more than twenty years before" (Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 282); "I read and heard read, more than 20 years ago" (ibid., 281); "I read and heard read from the writings of Spalding, more than twenty years ago" (ibid., 284); "more than twenty years before" (ibid., 285); "through the lapse of 22 years" (ibid., 287). Orson Hyde served as Philastus Hurlbut's missionary companion, and he made these insightful remarks: "In the spring of 1832 I preached in New Salem, Ohio; the place where Rev. Mr. Sp[a]lding resided at the time he wrote his romance, though he was not residing there at the time I preached there. I raised up a branch of the Church at that place, and baptized many of Mr. Sp[a]lding's old neighbors; but they never intimated to me that there was any similarity between the Book of Mormon and Mr. Sp[a]lding's romance; neither did I hear such an intimation from any quarter until the immoral Hu[r]lb[u]t, a long time after, in connection with some very pious ministers, such, perhaps, as Mr. Storrs and Mr. Austin, brought forth the idea. I then went to these neighbors of Mr. Sp[a]lding and inquired of them if they knew anything about his writing a romance; and if so, whether the romance was anything like the Book of Mormon. They said that Mr. Sp[a]lding wrote a book, and that they frequently heard him read the manuscript; but that anyone should say that it was like the Book of Mormon, was most surprising, and must be the last pitiful resort that the devil had" (Orson Hyde to George J. Adams, 7 June 1841, published in John E. Page, The Spaulding Story [Pittsburgh: Gospel Light Press, 1843], 11).

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11. "The lapse of time which has intervened, prevents my recollecting but few of the leading incidents of [Spalding's] writings" (Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 280c); "the general features of the story have passed from my memory" (ibid., 287).

12. "I have recently read the Book of Mormon" (ibid., 280); "I have read the Book of Mormon, which has brought fresh to my recollection" (ibid., 281); "Some months ago I borrowed the Golden Bible" (ibid., 282); "I have recently examined the Book of Mormon" (ibid., 283); "I obtained the [Book of Mormon], and on reading it..." (ibid., 285); "I have lately read the Book of Mormon" (ibid., 286); "The Mormon Bible I have partially examined" (ibid., 287).

13. "Mr. Howe, did you send Hurib[u]t to get The Manuscript Found? 'Yes, I did, and the idea was proposed to me by him"' (Ellen E. Dickinson, New Light on Mormonism [New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1885], 73).

14. See the Matilda Spalding (McKinstry) statement in Scribner's Monthly, vol. 20, no. 4, August 1880, 615; Matilda Spalding (Davison) statement in the Quincy Whig, vol. 2, no. 29, 16 November 1839; John A. McKinstry to James T. Cobb, 2 June 1879, Theodore A. Schroeder Papers, Special Collections, University of Wisconsin Library, Madison.

15. Evidence from Spalding's daughter that Philastus Hurlbut took possession of Solomon Spalding's "Manuscript Found":

Matilda Spalding (McMnstry): "[A] man named Hurlb[u]t came to my house at Monson [Massachusetts] to see my mother, who told us that he had been sent by a committee to procure the 'Manuscript Found' written by the Rev. Solomon Sp[a]lding, so as to compare it with the Mormon Bible. He presented a letter to my mother from my uncle, W[illiaml H. Sabine, of Onondaga Valley, in which he requested her to loan this manuscript to Hurlb[u]t, as he (my uncle) was desirous 'to uproot' (as he expressed it) 'this Mormon fraud.' Hurlb[u]t represented that... through the 'Manuscript Found' [he] wished to expose [Mormonism's] wickedness. My mother... reluctantly consented to his request. The old trunk, containing the desired 'Manuscript Found,' she had placed in the care of Mr. Jerome Clark of Hartwicks, [New York,] when she came to Monson, [Massachusetts] -- intending to send for it. On the repeated promise of Hurlb[u]t to return the manuscript to us, she gave him a letter to Mr. Clark to open the trunk and deliver it to him. We afterwards heard that he had received it from Mr. Clark at Hartwicks, [New York]" (Scribners Monthly, vol. 20, no. 4, August 1880, 615).

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16. Evidence from Philastus Hurlbut that he had possession of Solomon Spalding's "Manuscript Found":

"P[hilastus] Hurlb[u]t, 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.... 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 [of Mormon] was written some thirty years since by a respectable clergyman, now deceased, whose name we are not permitted to give [i.e., Solomon Spalding]. 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 [Sidney] Rigdon" (Wayne Sentinel, vol. 11, no. 14, 20 December 1833; emphasis added).

"Mr. Hurlb[u]t, did you get the manuscript from Mrs. Davison?... '[Y]es, I got one she gave me an order for.'... Did you get 'The Manuscript Found' at her order in Hartwick, New York from Jerome Clark? 'Yes, I got what they said was Spa[I]ding's manuscript"' (Dickinson, New Light on Mormonism, 65-66).

"In a letter written to J. E. Gaston in 1842, Mrs. Dav[i]son says that shortly after Hurlbut left Munson [Massachusetts] with the order from her to get the manuscript of the 'Manuscript Found' from the trunk at Mr. Clarles at Hartwicke, N[ew] Y[ork], she received a letter from Hurlbut, in which he told her that he had obtained from the trunk what he had come for, the manuscript of 'Manuscript Found"' (Clark Braden, Braden-Kelley Debate [St. Louis: Clark Braden, 1884], 95-96).

John C. Dowen: "I heard... P[hilastus] Hurlbut... deliver his first lecture... on the origin of the Book of Mormon. He said he had been in New York and Pennsylvania and had obtained a copy of Sp[allding's Manuscript Found. He read selections from it.... Hurlbut sta[yed] at my house every three or four days for as many months. I read all of his manuscript, including Sp[allding's Manuscript Found" (Sworn statement, 2 January 1885, published in A. B. Deming Society, Naked Truths About Mormonism, vol. 2, no. 1, December 1988, 1).

V. I. Pickdew: "Hurib[u]t ... stated in my hearing at a public meeting... that he had obtained MSS [F]ound, it was in Sp[a]lding's handwriting" (Statement, 6 September 1884, published in the Independent Patriot, vol. 6, no. 31, 25 June 1891).

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Alexander Phelps: "Heard Hurlb[u]t lecture on... [the] origin of Mormonism. He showed the audience a copy of MSS [F]ound which he obtained in New York, and read from it" (Statement, 1 November 1884, published in the Independent Patriot, vol. 6, no. 32, 2 July 1891).

William R. Hine: "I heard Hurlbut lecture in... Kirtland. He said he would, and he did prove that the 'Book of Mormon' was founded on a fiction called 'Manuscript Found,' written by Solomon Spa[l]ding.... Hurlbut had a copy of Spaulding's 'Manuscript Found' with him" (Undated statement, published in Arthur B. Deming, Naked Truths About Mormonism, vol. 1, no. 1, January 1888, 2; emphasis in original).

C. Morse: "Was present and heard Hurib[ult lecture in a church. He said he had obtained Mss[.] [Found someplace in New York. Said he held it in his hands, and held it up before the audience, and read portions of it" (Undated sworn statement, published in the Independent Patriot, vol. 6, no. 31, 25 June 1891).

Jacob Sherman: "Myself and wife attended Hurlbut's lecture on Mormonism.... He said he had been to New York and obtained a copy of the fiction written by Solomon Spa[I]ding called 'Manuscript Found.' He read from it" (Sworn statement, 24 February 1885, published in Arthur B. Deming, Naked Truths About Mormonism, vol. 1, no. 2, April 1888, 3).

Charles Grover: "I heard D. P. Hurlbut lecture on the origin of the 'Book of Mormon' in the Willoughby town hall in 1833 or 1834. He said that the object of his lecture was to show that the 'Book of Mormon' was founded on a fiction written by Solomon Spa[l]ding at Conneaut, O[hio], in the early part of the century, which he called 'Manuscript Found.' He said he had been to Pittsburgh, P[ennsylvania] and learned that Sidney Rigdon had stolen it from the printing office where it was left to be printed. He had obtained another copy from which he read selections" (Sworn statement, 5 March 1885, published in Arthur B. Deming, Naked Truths About Mormonism, vol. 1, no. 2, April 1888, 3).

Evidence from a member of the Ohio anti-Mormon committee that Philastus Hurlbut had possession of Solomon Spalding's 'Manuscript Found":

James A. Briggs: "In the winter of 1833-34, a self-constituted committee of citizens of Willoughby, Mentor, and Painesville met a number of times at the house of the late Mr. Warren Corning, of Mentor, to investigate the Mormon humbug. At one of the meetings we had before us the original manuscript of the Rev. Solomon Sp[a]lding.... It was entitled... 'The Manuscript

196                                     MATTHEW  B.  BROWN                                      

Found.'... From this work of the Rev. Mr. Sp[a]lding the Mormon Bible was constructed. I do not think there can be any doubt of this. It was the opinion of the committee after comparing the Mormon Bible with the manuscript. The style of composition, the names, etc., were the same" (James A. Briggs to John Codman, letter, March 1875, in International Review, vol. II, no. 3, September 1881, 222).

James A. Briggs: "In the winter of 1833-34 several gentlemen in Willoughby, Painesville, and Mentor formed themselves into a committee to inquire into the origin of the Mormon Bible. Of the members of the committee in Willoughby were Judge Allen, Dr. and Samuel Wilson, Jonathon Lapham, and myself.... They employed a man by the name of Hu[r]lbut, who was once a Mormon, to help in the investigation.... We compared ['The Manuscript Found'] with the Mormon Bible, and the names and language and style of the Bible were so like the manuscript that all were convinced that the 'Mormon Bible' was made out of this manuscript of Spalding. A number of letters were received from those who had known Mr. Spalding, and from all the facts obtained tended to convince the committee that Sidney Rigdon, when he lived in Pittsburgh, copied 'The Manuscript Found' and from it made the Mormon Bible" (James A. Briggs, letter, 19 January 1884, in Cleveland Leader, vol. 37, January 1884).

James A. Briggs: "In the winter of 1833-34, a self-constituted committee, consisting of Judge Allen, Dr. Card, Samuel Wilson, Judge Latham, W. Corning and myself, met at Mr. Corning's house, in Mentor, now known as the Garfield Farm, to investigate Mormonism and the origin of the Mormon Bible. Dr. D. P. Hurlbut... was employed to look up testimony. He was present with the committee and had Sp[a]lding's original manuscript with him. We compared it, chapter by chapter, with the Mormon Bible. It was written in the same style; many of the names were the same, and we came to the conclusion, from all the testimony before us, that the Rev. Sidney Rigdon, the eloquent Mormon preacher, made the Mormon Bible from this manuscript. Of this the committee had no doubt whatever... In 1879, Dr. Hurlbut was living at Gibbsonburgh, Ohio. In a letter to Mr. Patterson, of Pittsburg, he says: 'I gave the manuscript with all my other documents connected with Mormonism to Mr. Howe.' Mr. Rice was the successor of Mr. Howe in The Telegraph [office], and this accounts for his possession of the '[M]anuscript [F]ound' at this late day in an island in the Pacific Ocean [i.e., Hawaii]" (Letter to the editor, 29 January 1886, in New York Tribune, 31 January 1886).

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Textual evidence that the Oberlin College manuscript is, in fact, Solomon Spalding's "Manuscript Found":

There is one piece of compelling evidence that the Oberlin Manuscript discovered by Lewis L. Rice in 1884 is indeed Solomon Spalding's "Manuscript Found." Matilda Davison (Solomon Spalding's widow) and Artemas Cunningham (one of the Mormonism Unvailed "witnesses") report that "Manuscript Found" "purported to have been a record found buried in the earth, or in a cave" (Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 286). "It claimed... to have been recovered from the earth, and, assumed the title of 'Manuscript Found'" (Boston Recorder, vol. 24, no. 16, 19 April 1839; emphasis in original). The Oberlin Manuscript specifically states at its outset that its contents were derived from "manuscripts" that were "found" in a "cave" (Rex C. Reeve Jr., ed., Manuscript Found: The Complete Original "Spaulding" Manuscript [Provo, Utah: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1996], 1).

16. See Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 288.

17. Spalding's widow received a letter from a member of the anti-Mormon committee informing her that her late husband's manuscript "did not read as they expected," and they therefore had decided against publishing it (Quincy Whig, vol. 2, no. 29, 16 November 1839; reprinted in Times and Seasons, vol. 1, no. 3, January 1840, 47).

18. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 290.

19. See Ebenezer Robinson, autobiography, L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 57.

20. New York Observer, 5 February 1885.

21. History of the Church, 1:475; emphasis added.

22. Messenger and Advocate, vol. 2, no. 3, December 1835, 228.

23. Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, rev. ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2002), 311.

24. Quincy Whig, vol. 2, no. 6, 8 June 1839. This lengthy letter is notable for how many times it refers to the Spalding-Rigdon theory as a lie.

25. Phineas Bronson, Hiel Bronson, and Mary Bronson to Joseph Smith III, 14 March 1872, Princeville, Illinois.

In 1865 Sidney Rigdon's son, John W. Rigdon, interviewed his father in regard to the origin of the Book of Mormon. John said to his father:

"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

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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 will soon pass away, and I wish to know if Joseph Smith, in your intimacy with him for fourteen years, has not said something to you that led you to believe he obtained that book in some other way than what he had told you. Give me all you know about it, that I may know the truth."

My father, after I had finished saying what I have repeated above, looked at me a moment, raised his hand above his head and slowly said, with tears glistening in his eyes: "My son, I can swear before high heaven that what I have told you about the origin of that book is true. Your mother and sister, Mrs. Athalia Robinson, were present when that book was handed to me in Mentor, Ohio, and all I ever knew about the origin of that book was what Parley P. Pratt, Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith and the witnesses who claimed they saw the plates have told me, and in all of my intimacy with Joseph Smith he never told me but one story, and that was that he found it engraved upon gold plates in a hill near Palmyra, New York, and that an angel had appeared to him and directed him where to find it; and I have never, to you or to anyone else, told but the one story, and that I now repeat to you." I believed him, and now believe he told me the truth. He also said to me afterward that Mormonism was true, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and this world would find it out some day.

After my father's death, my mother, who survived him several years was in the enjoyment of good health up to the time of her last sickness, she being eighty-six years old. A short time before her death I had a conversation with her about the origin of the Book of Mormon and wanted to know what she remembered about its being presented to my father. She said to me in that conversation that what my father had told me was true, about the book being presented to him, for she was present at the time and knew that was the first time he ever saw it, and that the stories told about my father writing the Book of Mormon were not true." (Brigham H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1930], 1:233-35.)   [reprinted from 1905 YMMIA Manual #9, pp. 485-486]

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David Whitmer emphatically affirmed that he "heard [Sidney] Rigdon, in the pulpit and in private conversations, declare that the Sp[a]lding 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 [Whitmer] assures [his interviewer] that the story is as untruthful as it is ridiculous" (Chicago Times, 17 October 1881).

26. Parley P Pratt, Mormonism Unveiled, 2nd ed. (New York: Orson Pratt and Elijah Fordham, 1838), 40, 41, 42; emphasis in original. In an interview with Elmira College President A. W Cowles, Sidney Rigdon "solemnly affirm[ed]" that when he received a copy of the Book of Mormon from Oliver Cowdery and his missionary companions in late 1830, it "was his first personal knowledge of Joe Smith and the Mormons" (Moore's Rural New Yorker, vol. 20, no. 4, 23 January 1869; emphasis added).

An article in the Church's official newspaper states that when Parley P. Pratt, Ziba Peterson, Oliver Cowdery, and Peter Whitmer Jr. presented Sidney Rigdon with a copy of the Book of Mormon, it was "thefirst time he had ever heard of or seen" it. The missionaries told him that "it was a revelation from God," but Sydney "felt very much prejudiced at the assertion" and said that he had "considerable doubt" with regard to their claim. Rigdon declined to debate the missionaries about the divine origin of the Book of Mormon but promised to read it and give it "a full investigation." Rigdon pondered on the things that he had heard from the missionaries and the things that he had read in the book and prayed to God for direction. After two weeks he became "fully convinced of the truth of the work"' because he received "a revelation from Jesus Christ, which was made known to him in a remarkable manner" (Times and Seasons, vol. 4, no. 19, 15 August 1843, 289-90; emphasis added). This particular revelation is described in an early newspaper account. Sidney, it is said, decided that "he must 'receive a testimony from God.' In order to [obtain] this, he labored as he was directed by his Preceptor [teacher, instructor, tutor], almost incessantly and earnestly in praying, till at length, his mind was wrapped up in a vision; and to use his own language, 'to my astonishment I saw the different orders of professing Christians passing before my eyes, with their hearts exposed to view, and they were as corrupt as corruption itself. That society to which I belonged also passed before my eyes, and to my astonishment, it was as corrupt as the others. Last of all that little man [Parley P. Pratt] who brought me the Book of Mormon, passed before my eyes with his heart open, and it was as pure as an

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angel: and this was a testimony from God, that the Book of Mormon was a divine revelation"' (Ohio Star, vol. 2, no. 49, 8 December 1831).

27. David Whitmer: "Neither Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris or myself ever met Sidney Rigdon until after the Book of Mormon was in print. I know this of my own personal knowledge, being with Joseph Smith, in Seneca County, N[ewl Y[ork], in the winter of 1830, when Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge came from Kirtland, Ohio, to see Joseph Smith, and where Rigdon and Partridge saw Joseph Smith for the first time in their lives. The Sp[a]lding manuscript story is a myth" (David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ [Richmond, Mo.: David Whitmer, 18871, 11; emphasis added).

Joseph Smith III: Emma Smith "informs me that... she never saw, or knew any Sidney Rigdon until long after the Book of Mormon was translated, and she thinks, published.... [She] further states that she knew the Pratts before she knew Rigdon, and it is quite positive that Joseph Smith became acquainted with him through the Pratts, one or both (i.e., Parley and Orson].... [She] is certain of the fact, that acquaintance with them preceded acquaintance ... with S[idney] Rigdon" Joseph Smith III to James T Cobb, 14 February 1879, Joseph Smith III Letterbook, no. 2, p. 6, Community of Christ Archives, Independence, Mo.).

William Smith: The Book of Mormon "was not written from the Sp[a]lding romance. That story is false. Some say this romance was stolen by Sidney Rigdon while at Pittsburg. This is false. Sidney Rigdon knew nothing about it. He never saw or heard tell of the Book of Mormon until it was presented to him by P[arleyl P Pratt and others. He was never at my father's house to see my brother until after the book was published" (Saints' Herald, vol. 31, no. 40, 4 October 1884, 643-44).

Katherine Smith: "[Prior to the latter part of the year A.D. 1830, there was no person who visited with, or was an acquaintance of, or called upon the [Smith] family, or any member thereof to my knowledge, by the name of Sidney Rigdon; nor was such person known to the family, or any member thereof, to my knowledge, until the last part of the year A.D. 1830, or the first part of the year 1831, and some time after the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ, by Joseph Smith, Jr., and several months after the publication of the Book of Mormon" (Sworn statement, 15 April 1881, published in Francis W. Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ in America [Independence, Mo.: Zion's Printing and Publishing, 1942], 1:315-16).

George A. Smith: "[I]t is very well known that there had no connection ever existed between these parties" Journal of Discourses, 11:9).

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28. Chicago Times, 17 October 1881. This source specifically states that each of the Three Witnesses made this declaration. In connection with this statement is one made by Emma Smith to her son. She said, "the larger part of [the translation] was done in her presence, and where she could see and know what was being done; that during no part of it... did Joseph Smith have any [manuscripts] or book of any kind from which to read, or dictate, except the metallic plates" Joseph Smith III to James T. Cobb, 14 February 1879).

29. Saints' Herald, vol. 29, no. 12, 15 June 1882; emphasis added. David Whitmer also "States that Elder Sidney Rigdon was not known to the Elders of the Church until long after the Book of Mormon was issued; and that of his knowledge Elder Rigdon had nothing to do with the manuscript of the Book of Mormon; that he was familiar with Joseph Smith, the methods of translation, and the circumstances connected with it and the publishing of the book, and from this acquaintance knows that the Spa[l]ding manuscript story is false and without a shadow of truth in it" (Saints' Herald vol. 29, no. 9, 1 May 1882).

"In regard to the statement that Sidney Rigdon had purloined the work of one Spa[I]ding, a Presbyterian preacher, who had written a romance entitied 'The Manuscript Found,' Mr. Whitmer says there is no foundation for such an assertion. The 'Book of Mormon' was translated in the summer of 1829, and printed that winter at Palmyra, N[ew] Y[ork] and was in circulation before Sidney Rigdon knew anything concerning the Church of Christ, as it was known then. His attention was especially brought to it by the appearance at his church, near Kirtland, O[hio], in the fall of 1830, of Parley Pratt and Oliver Cowdery, he being at the time a Reformed or Christian preacher, they having been sent west by the Church in New York during that summer as evangelists, and they carried with them the printed book, thefirst time that he knew such a thing was in existence" (Chicago Times, 17 October 1881; emphasis added).

"Father Whitmer, who was present very frequently during the writing of [the Book of Mormon] manuscript, affirms that Joseph Smith had no book or manuscript before him from which he could have read as is asserted by some that he did, he (Whitmer) having every opportunity to know whether Smith had Solomon Spa[l]ding's or any other person's romance to read from.... [T]he supposition that the Rev. Solomon Spa[l]ding wrote the Book of Mormon is absurd and 'a weak invention of the enemy'" (St. Louis Republican, 16 July 1884).

30. Evening and Morning Star, vol. 2, no. 19, April 1834, 150.

31. Reuben Miller Journal, 21 October 1848, Historical Department Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, published in Deseret News, 13 April 1859.

(remainder of text not transcribed)

Transcriber's Comments

Matthew B. Brown's "Spalding" Appendix

Historian Matthew B. Brown begins his Appendix 4 ("The Spalding-Rigdon Theory") with the observation that various people advanced various "theories" explaining the origin of the Book of Mormon, "Soon after Joseph Smith publicly announced" it to be "ancient" and "scriptural." Brown does not provide details of how this message was "publicly announced," but presumably the printing of the books title-page in the Palmyra Wayne Sentinel on June 26, 1829 furthered the mass publicity here referred to. Smith's professions concerning the antiquity and scriptural nature of the text were soon challenged, when on Aug. 11, 1829 Jonathan A. Hadley published the following in his Palmyra Freeman:

The greatest piece of superstition that has ever come within the sphere of our knowledge is one which has for sometime past, and still occupies the attention of a few superstitious and bigoted individuals of this quarter. It is generally known and spoken of as the "Golden Bible." Its proselytes give the following account of it:  In the fall of 1827, a person by the name of Joseph Smith, of Manchester, Ontario county, reported that he had been visited in a dream by the spirit of the Almighty, and informed that in a certain hill in that town, was deposited this Golden Bible, containing an ancient record of a divine nature and origin.... Its language and doctrines are said to be far superior to those of the Book of Life!!!

Now it appears not a little strange that there should have been deposited in this western world, and in the secluded town of Manchester, too, a record of this description, and still more so, that a person like Smith (very illiterate) should have been gifted by inspiration to read and interpret it.... The public should not be imposed upon by this work, pronounced as it is, by its proselytes, to be superior in style, and more advantageous to mankind, than the Holy Bible!

While Editor Hadley offered no explanation of the book's authorship, his publication of Joseph Smith's profound ignorance provided the implicit conclusion that the book was not written by Mr. Smith (nor by the previously unheard of ancient Nephites). Indeed, the earliest Mormons reinforced the first element of this double conclusion, by their spreading the news that Smith was obviously incapable of such authorship. Thus it was that the residents of Smith's home region, as well as the first Mormon converts, did not advance the notion that the purported "translator" of the Book of Mormon could have also been its "author" in any literal sense. That innovation would, instead, be first advanced by a reader who knew practically nothing about Smith's abilities or history.

Rev. Campbell's Red Herring

Passing by the early opinions of Palmyra area residents (that Smith could not have been an author), the writer of this Appendix makes mention of the 1831 published opinion of the Rev. Alexander Campbell, of Bethany, Virginia: "I could swear that this book was written by one man. And as Joseph Smith is... called the author on the title page, I cannot doubt for a single moment that he is the sole author and proprietor of it.... [It is] certainly Smith's fabrication." Mr. Brown provides no insight into how Rev. Campbell arrived at this exclusionary opinion, but by tracing Brown's citation back to Campbell's "Delusions" article of February, 1831 the modern reader can soon locate Campbell's purported reasoning:

Smith, its real author, as ignorant and impudent a knave as ever wrote a book... wrote on the plates of Nephi, in his book of Mormon, every error and almost every truth discussed in New York for the last ten years. He decides all the great controversies; -- infant baptism, ordination, the trinity, regeneration, repentance, justification, the fall of man, the atonement, transubstantiation, fasting, penance, church government, religious experience, the call to the ministry, the general resurrection, eternal punishment, who may baptize, and even the question of free-masonry, republican government, and the rights of man.... He prophesied of all these topics, and of the apostacy, and infallibly decided, by his authority, every question. How easy to prophecy of the past or of the present time... But he is better skilled in the controversies in New York than in the geography or history of Judea....

The book professes to be written at intervals and by different persons during the long period of 1020 years. And yet for uniformity of style, 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 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 that he is the sole author and proprietor of it.

These are but as one drop out of a bucket compared with the amount of Smithisms in this book. It is patched up and cemented with "And it came to pass" -- "I sayeth unto you" -- "Ye saith unto him" -- and all the King James' haths, dids and doths; in the lowest imitation of the common version; and is, without exaggeration, the meanest book in the English language....

In other words, Campbell based his conclusion of a Smith authorship upon two major factors: (1) The text if full of literary blundering and ignorance, which better represent the theological "controversies" of modern times than they do a true knowledge of ancient times; and, (2) The text (though said to be the product of many writers) betrays a "uniformity of style," which indicates that it was composed by a single writer.

But neither of these two discoveries necessarily mandate a Smith authorship for the Book of Mormon. Rev. Campbell evidently reached [u]that[/u] deduction from the fact that Smith is listed as an "author" on the book's title-page, and from the fact that, in 1831, the supposedly ancient text included mentions of "every error and almost every truth discussed in New York for the last ten years." The title-page's identification of Smith is easily passed over, in consideration of the book's own announcements of antiquity and divinity. That leaves only Campbell's observation regarding "New York," but here again the association of the text with the Empire State can be easily passed over. The social, political and theological errors and truths Campbell found in the pages of the 1830 Book of Mormon were in no way unique to the state of New York. Even with the inclusion of 1820s anti-masonry (which arose in New York, but soon spread to Ohio, Pennsylvania, etc.), the 19th century "controversies" Campbell discovered in the book were in no way unique to Joseph Smith's region: if anything, much of the text's Christian primitivism and calls for churchly restorationism can be more closely assocated with Campbell's own 1820s religious "Reform," than with ideas and events then current in "New York."

Why did Alexander Campbell seek to misdirect his readers' attention to western New York, where Joseph Smith lived? One possible answer is that Campbell was at that time very reluctant to disclose that a substantial number of his own "Reformed Baptist" associates were even then converting to the "Mormonite" ranks. By concentrating his focus on Smith and New York, Campbell was temporarily able to decouple the recent defections of Sidney Rigdon, Parley P. Pratt, and other notable Western Reserve Reformed Baptists over to Joseph Smith's new sect. At the beginning of 1831 this wave of religious defections was still in process and Rev. Campbell was not yet certain whether his overzealous former friends in Ohio were permanantly lost to the new sect. In another article, published at the same time, Campbell was willing to attribute the recent "apostasy" of Sidney Rigdon, his chief lieutenant in lakeshore Ohio, to "a peculiar mental and corporeal malady, to which he has been subject for some years." Without mentioning the fact that Rigdon had taken with him numerous other Reformed Baptists into Smith's new church, Rev. Campbell expressed that his "only hope" was that the defection was due to Rigdon's mental instability. In other words -- perhaps Sidney Rigdon would recover from his "malady" and return to Campbell's own group, bring back some or all of the other defectors with him.

If this was Campbell's hope at the beginning of 1831, it was a vain expectation. Nevertheless, Alexander Campbell had good reason to distance his own incipient sect from the Mormonites and their "Gold Bible." Even if none of the northern Ohio apostates ever came back into the Reformed Baptist fold, it was in no way to Campbell's advantage to advertise their conversion to a rival restorationist group. Nor would it have benefitted Campbell's cause in 1831, had he pointed out similarities between the Mormonites and his own associates (who were then sometimes called "Campbellites" or "Disciples"). Had Campbell taken the time to identify bits and pieces of his own teachings in the Book of Mormon, the probable public reaction would have a negative one, leaving Campbell with the reputation of having inadvertantly fostered the Mormonite religion. Also, Campbell was probably aware that some people in Ohio were already beginning to point the finger of blame for the creation of the Book of Mormon to Sidney Rigdon. Since Rigdon had long been a close confederate and assistant in Campbell's own Reform, his identifying the apostate Rigdon as the probable bridge between Campbellism and Mormonism would have been especially repugnant to the famous religious leader.

Rigdon's Reputation

Moving quickly past Campbell's pontificating from afar, the writer of this Appendix points out that "that some people believed that Sidney Rigdon -- a recent convert to the Church -- was the person who actually wrote the Book of Mormon." As an example of this fact Mr. Brown cites the Cleveland Advertiser of Feb. 15, 1831, where the editor opines:

Rigdon was formerly a disciple of Campbell's and who it is said was sent out to make proselytes, but is probable he thought he should find it more advantageous to operate on his own capital, and therefore wrote, as it is believed the Book of Mormon...

Unfortunately the journalist does not explain exactly who "believed" that Sidney Rigdon would do such a thing. The fraudulent fabrication of holy writ was a serious accusation for anyone to lay at Rigdon's dootstep -- whether the accusor was a Bible believer or an infidel. That Rigdon was so quickly pointed to (in this and in subsequent reports in the press) as the probable purpetratorof such a fraud, indicates that his reputation for righteousness and honesty was not strong among some of his contemporaries. In 1831 Cleveland was yet a small village and the newspapermen living there were no doubt familiar with the notable residents of nearby Mentor and Kirtland, where Sidney Rigdon had been living. Thus the opinion expressed in the Cleveland Advertiser probably came from one or more of Rigdon's own acquaintances. Rigdon's coreligionist, Elder Parley P. Pratt, recalled in 1838: "Early in 1831, Mr. Rigdon having been ordained, under our hands, visited elder J. Smith, Jr., in the state of New-York, for the first time; and from that time forth, rumor began to circulate, that he (Rigdon) was the author of the Book of Mormon." Pratt says nothing about the circulators of that "rumor" trying to discredit Joseph Smith as the probable true author of the Book of Mormon; Pratt merely says that Sidney Rigdon's December, 1830 journey to visit "Elder" Joseph Smith, Jr. in New York coincided with such rumors being set afloat. These "rumors" evidently grew out of various persons' knowledge or suspicions of an early secret cooperation between Smith and Rigdon. As Pratt points out, "The Spaulding story never was dreamed of until several years afterwards, when it appeared in Mormonism Unveiled." Pratt does not disclose whether Rigdon ever met with "J. Smith" before the latter became an "elder."

Further Early 1830s Developments

Mr. Brown, having given brief examples of the Smith-as-author theory and the Rigdon-as-author throry, next skips forward to 1833, to relate "a new version of the Rigdon theory," which involved coupling the Solomon Spalding authorship claims with the earlier theory of Rigdon's pre-1830 involvement with the creation of the Book of Mormon. However, in making this skip across several months in the early development of Mormonism, the writer misses an opportunity to describe the further development of the Rigdon theory, as well as the origin of the Spalding claims. One significant developmemt that Brown leaves out of his historical summary was the 1831 report from the Palmyra, New York area, linking Rigdon to Smith at an early date. Written as a two-part article, featured in the Morning Courier and New York Enquirer, on August 31, 1831, traveling journalist James G. Bennett's communication stated that an Ohio man who "had been a preacher of almost every religion -- a teacher of all sorts of morals," whose name was "Henry Rangdon or Ringdon,"... traveled to western New York and "appeared among them [Joseph Smith's money-digging family and associates]," when "a splendid excavation was begun in a long narrow hill, between Manchester and Palmyra." Bennett went on to paraphrase his Palmyra area sources as relating, that the "Ex-Preacher from Ohio, thought of turning their digging concern into a religious plot," and that "There is no doubt but the ex-parson from Ohio is the author of the book which was recently printed and published in Palmyra and passes for the new Bible."

Had Bennett's report been published before Sidney Rigdon's admitted December, 1830 visit with Joseph Smith in western New York, it would have been news of great importance, relating to a clandestine origin of Mormonism. Coming as it did, [i]after[/i] Rigdon made that late 1830 journey, the accuracy of Bennett's reporting will perhaps forever remain in doubt. Did his sources mistakenly back-date Rigdon's 1830 appearance in Palmyra to an earlier time? Did those same sources confuse Sidney Rigdon with some other mysterious visitor (such as "Walters the Magician") who exercised an early influence upon Smith and his disreputable comrades? All that can be said with any certainty is that there must have been a few people living in Smith's neighborhood, who as early as mid-1831 were more willing to credit the writing to the "Ex-Preacher from Ohio" than to the local band of treasure seekers and the young Joseph Smith. Bennett's report was obviously inaccurate in several of its representation, but it serves to corroborate Parley P. Pratt's recollection of the "rumor" at that time "began to circulate," crediting Sidney Rigdon as "the author of the Book of Mormon." A few months before his trip to western New York, Rigdon and his Mentor, Ohio congregation were excommunicated from the regional Baptist association. Not long after that Rigdon had a falling out with Alexander Campbell and practically took his own closest admirers (sometimes called "Rigdonites") out of Campbell's Reformed Baptist movement. Finally, according to the 1884 recollections of his old neighbor, Reuben P. Harmon, shortly before Rigdon embraced Mormonism, "He said he had been mistaken all his life-long, and he quit preaching and went into Mr. Morely's field and went to plowing. Worked at common labor for some time, until he took up the Latter Day Saint doctrine... I heard him make the remark that he never expected to speak in public again." Thus, around the time that Rigdon made his late 1830 journey to New York, he might have been accurately described as an "ex-preacher."

The appendix writer's neglecting to mention the 1831 Bennett articles is a minor oversight, in comparison with his failure to give a proper account of the origin of the Spalding authorship claims for the Book of Mormon. Two years later, Matthew P. Roper did a somewhat better job of this in his lengthy article, "The Mythical 'Manuscript Found.'" Roper was by then aware of the 2000 CD-ROM edition of Wayne L. Cowdery, Howard A. Davis and Arthur Vanick's The Spalding Enigma: Who Really Wrote The Book of Mormon? An important early document, first published in that CD book (and soon thereafter reproduced on-line) was Aron Wright's Dec. 31, 1833 draft letter to the Geauga County anti-Mormon group which sponsored D. P. Hurlbut's 1833 investigation of Book of Mormon origins. Either Matthew B. Brown was unaware of this document at the time his 2003 book was published, or perhaps he was unsure of its authenticity and decided against mentioning it to the readers of his Appendix 4. In either case, he missed an opportunity to chart out the beginnings of the Spalding authorship claims, prior to the involvement. Another potentially useful source missed by Brown (but again noticed by Roper) was a Jan 16, 1878 Deseret News article penned by the Mormon Battalion historian, Elder Daniel Tyler. Having passed over the various available source materials which might have been useful in reporting the original context of the Spalding authorship claims, The appendix writer made the unfortunate choice of taking them onto what he calls the "Rigdon theory."

The probable origin of the Spalding-Rigdon theory, which united the Spalding authorship claims with previously voiced speculation regarding Sidney Rigdon's role in the creation of the Book of Mormon, came with a "press release" given by D. P. Hurlbut to the Palmyra Wayne Sentinel during the middle of 1833. To his credit, Mr. Brown does make use of this early source, correctly citing its Dec. 20, 1833 publication date. Although the article did not mention Solomon Spalding by name, it did allude to him as "a respectable clergyman, now deceased." To this implicit identification of Solomon Spalding being the writer of "The original manuscript of the Book," Hurlbut added his conclusion, that "The pretended religious character of the work has been superadded by some more modern hand -- believed to be the notorious Rigdon." Here, then, was the first known announcement of the theory that the Book of Mormon had been produced by a combination of literary efforts by the deceased Solomon Spalding coupled (at a later date) with those of Mr. Rigdon. According to Hurlbut's press relewase, "These particulars have been derived by Dr. Hurlbert from the widow of the author of the original manuscript." In other words, the press release gave its readers the impression that Spalding's widow was the innovator who first advanced the Spalding-Rigdon authorship theory. Is there any possibility that D. P. Hurlbut gave an accurate statement in this regard? The evidence remains spotty and circumstantial, but taking several early sources into account, it seems that Mr. and Mrs. Spalding at least knew who Sidney Rigdon was (even if they did not know the young man personally), well before Solomon Spalding's death in 1816.

Precisely when and where the Spalding-Rigdon authorship theory originated remains obscure. It is reasonable to assume that D. P. Hurlbut had at least heard some rumors of Rigdon's possible involvement, prior to his late 1833 meeting with Spalding's widow. Leaving that matter for better resolution at some future date, the current transcriber will continue the remainder of these comments in the form of a critique of Mr. Brown's errors and omissions. This method of addressing the contents his 2003 Appendix 4 should not be taken as a hostile rebuttal of the writer's generally readable and informative summary of the theory, but rather as a means by which Brown's contribution can be addressed and more accurately communicated to Mormon and non-Mormon readers alike.

Errors, Omissions and Oddities

(under construction)

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