Wayne Cowdrey &
Who Really Wrote The Book of Mormon?
(YouTube.com video clips)
Chautauqua, NY: Snowshoe Doc. Films, 2006
(Posted on-line, December 17, 2007)
Part 1 (10 minutes, 51 seconds)
Part 2 (4 minutes, 53 seconds)
Transcribed Excerpts and Comments
Co-authors Arthur Vanick and Wayne Cowdrey discuss their 558-page, 2005 book:
Did an "angel of God" in the late 1820s really give 18-year-old con artist Joseph Smith the Mormon bible, as he claimed? Or was the book really derived from Solomon Spalding's romantic fantasy novel called Manuscript Found?
Did Baptist/Campbellite preacher Sidney Rigdon steal the recently deceased Spalding's book from the Pennsylvania print shop? Did Rigdon hook up with Oliver Cowdrey and Joseph Smith Jr. and after their 3-year rewrite, publish the book in 1830?
Sherril Vanick, Art Vanick and Wayne Cowdrey (2006)
Excerpts and Transcriber's Comments
00:07 -- (Mrs. Vanick *): "Why did you write the book, 'Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon?'?"
00:10 -- (Art Vanick): "Well, for me -- I looked at the book that Howard and Wayne and another individual wrote, that goes back to the late '70s, and I just felt that the story wasn't complete yet."
"And so I went to Wayne and Howard in the early '90s, and I said, 'Guys, you know, I think we need to do anither book, and really need to research -- you know -- Did Spalding really have the connections to the Book of Mormon?' And so in 1993 we started it up again."
00:47 -- (Wayne Cowdrey): "With me it was more of a combination of factors involved in that instance. One was having a family member involved -- mixed up in this. Naturally that sparked a lot of our curiosity. [What] we kept lining up and focusing on, was the decade of the 1820s..."
Comments: * The name "Sherril Vanick" is displayed on-screen at 4:10 in part two of the video clips: that appears to include a spelling error -- On the Cowdery/Cowdrey family connection, see William Moore's "Curious Ancestry of Wayne L. Cowdrey" on-line article (which provides details on Wayne's ancestral family, etc.)
01:24 -- (Art Vanick): "The histories (the personal histories) of Sidney Rigdon, and Oliver Cowdery, and Joseph Smith -- they are so vague for that same time period. You know, it really made us wonder what was the [LDS] Church hiding."
"Because every official and even unofficial biographies we found on these three gentlemen... [contained] nothing of substance [for the 1820s]..."
Comment: Many extensive biographies have been written for Joseph Smith, Jr., and a few for Sidney Rigdon, but published details regarding these persons' activities during the mid-1820s remain scanty, and probably somewhat unreliable. Even less has been published concerning the pre-Mormon life of Oliver Cowdery -- see the 2006 book, Oliver Cowdery: Scribe, Elder, Witness for a compilation of the most recent LDS scholarship on the subject. Given modern methods and the various resources, available today, it would now be possible for a biographer to compile a "substantial" history for Elder Sidney Rigdon.
03:14, 03:48 -- (Art Vanick): "Solomon Spalding... turned to writing... he had an interest on the American Indians... over his lifetime he came up with many writings... poems, short stories, and, finally, a pair of manuscripts -- the first one (which was called 'Manuscript Story'), which he got into about 130 pages worth. But he could see that it just wasn't really going anywhere, so he eventually dropped that, and turned to his second manuscript -- 'Manuscript Found..."
Comment 1: It is unlikely that any of Solomon Spalding's fictional writings ever bore the title of "Manuscript Story." He nowhere mentions such a title in his extant writings and no such story name occurs in his handwriting on any container, contents sheet, etc. for the one preserved Spalding novel. The title "Manuscript Story" cannot be traced directly to Solomon Spalding, nor to any person who knew him. Continued reference to this unverified, purported title (except for the 1885/1886 published texts) seems to be both unwarranted and confusing. The name is so similar to the often mentioned "Manuscript Found," that some misguided readers have concluded they must be one in the same.
Comment 2: It is by no means certain that Solomon Spalding "dropped" his preserved Roman story, and then compiled the celebrated "Manuscript Found" (said to greatly resemble parts of the Book of Mormon). A more probable sequence of writing, would have Spalding making an initial draft of the Roman story in 1811-12 (as described by his brother in 1855), and then returning to the task of re-drafting the unfinished story during his residence in Pennsylvania. The Roman story manuscript contains a page dated 1813, a fictionalized re-telling of a mishap, which occurred during an attack upon an Ohio fort, after Spalding's residence in Ohio, and evidence of Spalding's reliance upon preColumbian Indian lore, not published in English until 1814. In another part of the Roman story, Spalding re-tells the tale of a Persian Emperor (Perozes I) becoming entrapped with his army in an enemy's camouflaged canal. While the American writer might have copied the fanciful account from the classical histories of Procopius of Caesarea, he probably lifted the "stratagem" from Sect. 17 of Menasseh ben Israel's 1650 Hope of Israel, a tract dealing with the "ten lost tribes." Most likely the extant Roman story was re-written in Pennsylvania, in about 1815, after Solomon Spalding had researched the "lost tribes" of Israel and had substantially completed his "Manuscript Found." Several pages in the Roman story holograph retain orthographic artifacts indicating just such a re-writing by its author.
The writing sequence may prove to be imprortant to future researchers. If Solomon Spalding had been writing on a story about the "lost tribes," before he ever moved to Ohio, that information may help explain his reported cooperation with the Rev. Ethan Smith on the "lost tribes" topic, as well as an alleged Spalding manuscript on "the journeyings of the ten lost tribes of Israel to America," formerly preserved in Middleton, Vermont, (very near Ethan Smith's early residence in adjacent Poultney).
04:58 -- (Wayne Cowdrey): "...[Spalding] changed his style to the Biblical writing..."
05:07 -- (Art Vanick): "One of his favorite phrases was 'come to pass,' and he used it so much that he was nicknamed by his family and friends, 'Old Come to Pass'..."
Comments: Here the two authors strangely pass up an opportunity to point out the frequent use of "Come/came to pass" in the Book of Mormon. It is not unreasonable to speculate that the writer of those repeating passages might have himself been called (in derision) by that monotonous phrase -- however, there is no evidence that Spalding's "family" called him by such a nickname. The original source for this allegation was the Rev. Abner Jackson. It was repeated by Spalding's neighbor at Amity (Joseph Miller) under circumstances which suggest that the second published source probably relied upon the prior Jackson account. While it is possible that some people did refer to Solomon Spalding as "Old Come to Pass," the available documentation for such a conclusion remains sparse.
05:19 -- (Mrs. Vanick): "How was that connected with the Book of Mormon? You're telling us about Solomon Spalding."
05:29 -- (Art Vanick): "He wrote it, to provide a legacy (financial legacy) for his family..."
06:47 -- (Art Vanick): "It is our belief that Sidney Rigdon, at one time (whether either before Spalding passed away, or not), he got a hold of Spalding's manuscript and became extremely interested in it, and over the course of years, got together with Oliver Cowdery, who then brought him to his cousin, Joseph Smith, and then the three of them, over a period of about three or four years, basically edited and added things to Spalding's manuscript, until it turned into what we now know as the Book of Mormon..."
Comments: While it does appear probable that Sidney Rigdon crossed paths with Joseph Smith, Jr. during the mid-1820s, no conclusive evidence has yet been uncovered to demonstrate that Oliver Cowdery "got together" with Sidney Rigdon, and subsequently "brought him to his cousin, Joseph Smith." A more likely scenerio would have the visionary Baptist Rigdon (after reading accounts of remarkable spiritual manifestations near Palmyra, NY), making an 1824-25 investigative journey to the Manchester area, and there encountering the young Joseph Smith at (or near) the Manchester, NY Baptist Church. Smith reportedly attended services with that congregation occasionally, and he was known to some of its Baptist members during his days as a village seer. Smith himself was reported to have visited with Rigdon, in or near Bainbridge, Geauga Co., Ohio a few months later. Although it is possible that Oliver Cowdery was secretly involved with Smith and/or Rigdon, before 1829, Cowdery need not have served as an intermediary in their becoming acquainted.
Video Clip Part 2
02:19 -- (Mrs. Vanick): "What are you, Art Vanick, Wayne Cowdery, and your third author, Howard Davis, trying to accomplish with this book?"
02:28 -- (Wayne Cowdrey): "Well, I would say it has been a lang, hard road (as I said before), but we're trying to get at the truth and we're trying to make it available more publically, to the masses. Uh, because over the (unfortunately) -- over the last 150 years Mormonism is growing, and the people really need to know what they're dealing with."
02:53 -- (Art Vanick): "Yeah, you know, we want to provide the information that we have in here: it's our goal to provide people with a very valuable and strong resource -- because the Mormons are very good at putting forth their message. They're trying to say that their book -- the Book of Mormon -- is another testament of Jesus Christ."
"We're saying, 'no!' -- it is a plagiarism of a manuscript that was written by a man who was trying to provide a financial legacy for his family before he died; a man who wrote this manuscript to be nothing more than a romantic history of the American Indian. He did not mean it to be plagiarized, transformed, edited into some sort of false religion: which is what has happened to his book..."
Comment: Solomon Spalding's one extant piece of fiction (his Roman story) contains a detailed account of the design and implementation of a false religion, founded by a certain "Lobaska." What, exactly, the final draft of the "Manuscript Found" contained in the way of religious commentary or parody, remains unknown. While it does not seem plausible that Spalding actually laid the unique theological foundations of Mormonism, there is reason to believe that he would have approved of fabricating a new religion, if such a contrived sect imposed public morality upon an unruly populace. Were Solomon Spalding alive today, his disagreements with Mormon tenets might not center upon any falsified "testament of Jesus Christ," nor upon the fact that his own writings had been "transformed" into latter day scripture. Perhaps Mr. Spalding's real dismay would come as a result of his perceptions of human avarice and anti-democratic ambition within the leadership of that contrived religion -- at least such sentiments can be easily discerned in both his preserved fiction and his private correspondence.
Final comment: Even short video clips such as these two examples, can require a great deal of preparation and editing. The topic discussed in these clips is an interesting one, and this initial video addition to the "Spalding theory" marks what may be a fruitful beginning in a new media format for Spalding/Rigdon exposition. Hopefully future projects of this sort will be bolstered with higher production values and inclusion of previously unreported findings, conclusions, etc.