William A. Lynn
The Story of the Mormons NY, 1902

Document: 1805-1835 RLDS historical information (excerpts)
Document #1: 1902 William A. Linn's comments (excerpts)

Source: Linn, William A.The story of the Mormons... NY, 1902; (reprinted 1963).

Note 1:  Linn's theory of the 13th century "Everlasting Gospel" movement in Europe having indirectly affected Sidney Rigdon's religious thoughts is an interesting one. It was responded to by B.H. Roberts in 1909. Roberts argued that Rigdon did not have access to published accounts of angelic messengers bringing new gospels on metalic plates, as theorized by Linn. Both Linn and Roberts missed seeing another interesting parallel in this history however, -- that the "Everlasting Gospel" movement indirectly resulted in the election of Peter Moroni (Morrone) to the papal office as Celestine V.

Note 2:  Although Linn goes to some lengths to show that the Book of Mormon could only have been produced by a disaffected Campbellite theologian of the late 1820s, he adds little new evidence for this assertion. His book is most noteworthy as being one of the last comprehensive histories of Mormonism which incorporated the Spalding authorship claims into its exposition, relying upon those claims as though they were established fact.

More extensive excerpts from this book are at the Mormon Classics web-site.




From The Date of their Origin to the Year 1901



New York

All rights reserved


[p. 50]
...It is now necessary to give attention to two subjects intimately connected with the origin of this book, viz., the use made of what is known as the "Spaulding manuscript," in supplying the historical part of the work, and Sidney Rigdon's share in its production.

The most careful student of the career of Joseph Smith, Jr., and of his family and his associates, up to the year 1827, will fail to find any ground for the belief that he alone, or simply with their assistance, was capable of composing the Book of Mormon... We must therefore... look for some directing hand behind the scene, which supplied the historical part and applied the theological. The "Spaulding manuscript" is believed to have furnished the basis of the historical part of the work.  

[p. 51] ... The title he chose for his book was "The Manuscript Found." He considered this work a great literary production, counted on being able to pay his debts from the proceeds of its sale, and was accustomed to read selections from the manuscript to his neighbors with evident pride. The impression that such a production would be likely to make on the author's neighbors in that frontier region and in those early days, when books were scarce and authors almost unknown, can with difficulty be realized now. Barrett Wendell, speaking of the days of Bryant's early work, says: "Ours was a new country . . . deeply and sensitively aware that it lacked a literature. Whoever produced writings which could be pronounced adorable was accordingly regarded by his fellow citizens as a public benefactor..."  

[p. 52]
...When the newly announced Mormon Bible began to be talked about in Ohio, there were immediate declarations in Spaulding's old neighborhood of a striking similarity between the Bible story and the story that Spaulding used to read to his acquaintances there...  

[p. 53]
... Rigdon himself, in a letter... under date of May 27, 1839, denied all knowledge of Spaulding, and declared that there was no printer named Patterson in Pittsburg during his residence there, although he knew a Robert Patterson who had owned a printing-office in that city. The larger part of his letter is a coarse attack on Hurlbut and also on E. D. Howe...  

[p. 55]
... The testimony of so many witnesses, so specific in its details, seems to prove the identity of Spaulding's story and the story running through the Mormon Bible. The late President James H. Fairchild of Oberlin, Ohio, whose pamphlet on the subject we shall next examine, admits that "if we could accept without misgiving the testimony of the eight witnesses brought forward in Howe's book, we should be obliged to accept the fact of another manuscript" (than the one which President Fairchild secured); but he thinks there is some doubt about the effect on the memory of these witnesses of the lapse of years and the reading of the new  

[p. 56]
Bible before they recalled the original story. It must be remembered, however, that this resemblance was recalled as soon as they heard the story of the new Bible, and there seems no ground on which to trace a theory that it was the Bible which originated in their minds the story ascribed to the manuscript.

The defenders of the Mormon Bible as an original work received great comfort some fifteen years ago by the announcement that the original manuscript of Spaulding's "Manuscript Found" had been discovered in the Sandwich Islands and brought to this country, and that its narrative bore no resemblance to the Bible story....

President Fairchild in a paper on this subject which has been published gives a description of this manuscript... which shows that it bears no resemblance to the Bible story. But the assumption that this proves that the Bible story is original fails immediately in view of the fact that Mr. Howe made no concealment of his possession of this second manuscript. Hurlbut was in Howe's service when he asked Mrs. Davison for an order for the manuscript, and he gave to Howe, as the result of his visit, the manuscript which Rice gave to President Fairchild. Howe in his book (p. 288) describes this manuscript substantially...  

[p. 57]
... If Howe had considered this manuscript of the least importance as invalidating the testimony showing the resemblance between the "Manuscript Found" and the Mormon Bible, he would have destroyed it (if he was the malignant falsifier the Mormons represented him to be), and not have first described it in his book, and then left it to be found by any future owner of his effects. Its rediscovery has been accepted...  

[p. 59]
The man who had more to do with founding the Mormon church than Joseph Smith, Jr.... was Sidney Rigdon. Elder John Hyde, Jr., was well within the truth when he wrote: "The compiling genius of Mormonism was Sidney Rigdon. Smith had boisterous impetuosity but no foresight. Polygamy was not the result of his policy but of his passions. Sidney gave point, direction, and apparent consistency to the Mormon system of theology. He invented its forms and the manner of its arguments....  

[p. 60]
... The fundamental principle of their [Campbellites'] teaching was that every doctrine of belief, or maxim of duty, must rest upon the authority of Scripture, expressed or implied, all human creeds being rejected. The Campbells (who had been first Presbyterians and then Baptists) were wonderful orators and convincing debaters out of the pulpit, and they drew to themselves many of the most eloquent exhorters in what was then the western border of the United States. Among their allies was another Scotchman, Walter Scott, a musician and school-teacher by profession, who assisted them in their newspaper work and became a noted evangelist in their denomination. During a visit to Pittsburg in 1823, Scott made Rigdon's acquaintance, and a little later the flocks to which each preached were united. In August, 1824, Rigdon announced his withdrawal from his church...

For two years after he gave up his church connection he worked as a journeyman tanner. This is all the information obtainable about this part of his life. We next find him preaching at Bainbridge, Ohio, as an undenominational exhorter, but following the general views of the Campbells, advising his hearers to reject their creeds and rest their belief solely on the Bible.

In June, 1826, Rigdon received a call to a Baptist church at Mentor, Ohio...  

[p. 61]
... [in] 1820, when Alexander Campbell called him [Rigdon] "the great orator of the Mahoning Association." In 1828 he visited his old associate Scott, was further confirmed in his faith in the Disciples' belief, and, taking his brother-in-law Bentley back with him, they began revival work at Mentor... "The churches where he preached were no longer large enough to contain the vast assemblies. No longer did he follow the old beaten track, but dared to enter on new grounds,... threw new light on the sacred volume, proved to a demonstration the literal fulfilment of prophecy and the reign of Christ with his Saints on the earth in the Millennium."

In tracing Rigdon's connection with Smith's enterprise, attention must be carefully paid both to Rigdon's personal characteristics, and to the resemblance between the doctrines he had taught in the pulpit and those that appear in the Mormon Bible.

Rigdon's mental and religious temperament was just of the character to be attracted by a novelty in religious belief....  

[p. 62]
... Rigdon's bitterness against the Campbells and his old church more than once manifested itself in his later writings. For instance, in an article in the Messenger and Advocate (Kirtland), of June, 1837, he said: "One thing has been done by the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. It has puked the Campbellites effectually; no emetic could have done so half as well.... The Book of Mormon has revealed the secrets of Campbellism and unfolded the end of the system." In this jealousy of the Campbells, and the discomfiture as a leader which he received at their hands, we find a sufficient object for Rigdon's desertion of his old church associations and desire to build up something, the discovery of which he could claim, and the government of which he could control.

To understand the strength of the argument that the doctrinal  

[p. 63]
teachings of the Mormon Bible were the work of a Disciples' preacher rather than of the ne'er-do-well Smith, it is only necessary to examine the teachings of the Disciples' church in Ohio at that time...

The literal interpretation of the Scriptures, on which the Mormon defenders of their faith so largely depend... was preached to so extreme a point by Ohio Disciples that Alexander Campbell had to combat them in his Millennial Harbinger. An outcome of this literal interpretation was a belief in a speedy millennium, another fundamental belief of the early Mormon church....

Disciples' preachers understood that they spoke directly for God, just as Smith assumed to do in his "revelations." Referring to the preaching of Rigdon and Bentley, after a visit to Scott in March, 1828, Hayden says, "They spoke with authority, for the word which they delivered was not theirs, but that of Jesus Christ." The Disciples, like the Mormons, at that time looked for the return  

[p. 64]
of the Jews to Jerusalem.... and that Jesus Christ the Messiah was to reign literally in Jerusalem...

Campbell taught that "creeds are but statements, with few exceptions, of doctrinal opinion or speculators' views of philosophical or dogmatic subjects, and tended to confusion, disunion, and weakness." Orson Pratt... thus stated the early Mormon view on the same subject: "If any man or council, without the aid of immediate revelation, shall undertake to decide upon such subjects, and prescribe 'articles of faith' or 'creeds' to govern the belief or views of others, there will be thousands of well-meaning people who will not have confidence in the productions of these fallible men, and, therefore, frame creeds of their own.... In this way contentions arise."

Finally, attention may be directed to the emphatic declarations of the Disciples' doctrine of baptism in the Mormon Bible...  

[p. 65]
... [either Joseph] Smith, in writing his doctrinal views, hit on the Disciples' tenets by chance... or... some Disciple, learned in the church, supplied these doctrines to him. Advancing another step in the examination of Rigdon's connection with the scheme, we find that even the idea of a new Bible was common belief among the Ohio Disciples who listened to Scott's teaching. Describing Scott's preaching in the winter of 1827-1828, Hayden says: --

"He contended ably for the restoration of the true, original apostolic order which would restore to the church the ancient gospel as preached by the apostles. The interest became an excitement; . . . the air was thick with rumors of a 'new religion,' a 'new Bible."

Next we may cite two witnesses to show that Rigdon had a knowledge of Smith's Bible in advance of its publication...  

[p. 66]
... Having thus established the identity of the story running through the Spaulding manuscript and the historical part of the Mormon Bible, the agreement of the doctrinal part of the latter with what was taught at the time by Rigdon and his fellow-workers in Ohio, and Rigdon's previous knowledge of the coming book, we are brought to the query, How did the Spaulding manuscript become incorporated in the Mormon Bible?

It could have been so incorporated in two ways: either by coming into the possession of Rigdon and being by him copied and placed in Smith's hands for "translation," with the theological parts added; or by coming into possession of Smith... and being shown by him to Rigdon. Every aspect of this matter has been discussed by Mormon and non-Mormon writers, and it can only be said that definite proof is lacking...  

[p. 67]
... In a historical inquiry of this kind, it is more important establish the fact that a certain thing was done than to prove just how or when it was done. The entire narrative of the steps leading up to the announcement of a new Bible, including Smith's first introduction to the use of a "peek-stone" and his original employment of it, the changes made in the original version of the announcement to him of buried plates, and the final production of a book, partly historical and partly theological, shows that there was behind Smith some directing mind, and the only one of his associates in the first few years of the church's history who could have done the work required was Sidney Rigdon.  

[p. 68]
... President Fairchild, in his paper on the Spaulding manuscript already referred to, while admitting that "it is perhaps impossible at this day to prove or disprove the Spaulding theory," finds an argument against the assumption that Rigdon supplied the doctrinal part of the new Bible, in the view that "a man as self-reliant and smart as Rigdon, with a superabundant gift of tongue and every form of utterance, would never have accepted the servile task" of mere interpolation; "there could have been no motive to it." This only shows that President Fairchild wrote without knowledge of the whole subject, with ignorance of the motives which did exist for Rigdon's conduct, and without means of acquainting himself with Rigdon's history during his association with Smith. Some of his motives we have already ascertained. We shall find that, almost from the beginning of their removal to Ohio, Smith held him in a subjection which can be explained only on the theory that Rigdon, the prominent churchman, had placed himself completely in the power of the unprincipled Smith...

President Fairchild's argument that "several of the original leaders of the fanaticism must have been adequate to the task" of supplying the doctrinal part of the book, only furnishes additional proof of his ignorance of early Mormon history, and his further assumption that "it is difficult -- almost impossible -- to believe that the religious sentiments of the Book of Mormon were wrought into interpolation" brings him into direct conflict, as we shall see, with Professor Whitsitt [see pp. 92-93], a much better equipped student of the subject. If it should be questioned whether a man of Rigdon's church connection would deliberately plan such a fraudulent scheme as the production of the Mormon Bible, the inquiry may be easily satisfied. One of the first tasks which Smith and Rigdon undertook, as soon as Rigdon openly joined Smith in New York State,  

[p. 69]
was the preparation of what they called a new translation of the Scriptures. This work was undertaken in' conformity with a "revelation" to Smith and Rigdon, dated December, 1830... This work was at first kept as a great secret...

The professed object of the translation was to restore the Scriptures to their original purity and beauty, the Mormon Bible declaring that "many plain and precious parts" had been taken from them. The real object, however, was to add to the sacred writings a prediction of Joseph Smith's coming as a prophet, which would increase his authority and support the pretensions of the new Bible. That this was Rigdon's scheme is apparent from the fact that it was announced as soon as he visited Smith, and was carried on under his direction, and that the manuscript translation was all in his handwriting....  

[p. 70]
... No one will question that a Rigdon who would palm off such a fraudulent work as this upon the men who looked to him as a religious teacher would hesitate to suggest to Smith the scheme for a new Bible....  

[p. 71]
... We may anticipate the course of our narrative in order to show how much confirmation of Rigdon's connection with the whole Mormon scheme is furnished by the circumstances attending the first open announcement of his acceptance of the Mormon literature and faith. We are first introduced to Parley P. Pratt, sometime tin peddler, and a lay preacher to rural congregations in Ohio when occasion offered. Pratt in his autobiography tells of the joy with which he heard Rigdon preach, at his home in Ohio, doctrines of repentance and baptism which were the "ancient gospel" that he (Pratt) had "discovered years before, but could find no one to minister in"; of a society for worship which he and others organized; of his decision, acting under the influence of the Gospel and prophecies "as they had been opened to him," to abandon the home he had built up, and to set out on a mission "for the Gospel's sake"; and of a trip to New York State, where he was shown the Mormon Bible. "As I read," he says, "the spirit of the Lord was upon me, and I knew and comprehended that the book was true."

Pratt was at once commissioned, "by revelation and the laying on of hands," to preach the new Gospel, and was sent, also by "revelation" (Sec. 32, "Doctrine and Covenants"), along with  

[p. 72]
... Pratt and Cowdery went direct to Rigdon's house in Mentor, where they stayed a week... In Smith's autobiography it is stated that Rigdon's visitors presented the Mormon Bible to him as a revelation from God, and what followed is thus described: -- "This being the first time he had ever heard of or seen the Book of Mormon..."

... we find a clergyman [Rigdon] who was a fellow-worker with men like Campbell and Scott expressing only "considerable doubt" of the inspiration of a book presented to him as a new Bible, "readily consenting" to the use of his church by the sponsors for this book, and, at the close of their arguments, warning his people against rejecting it too readily "lest they resist the truth"! Unless all these are misstatements, there seems to be little necessity of further proof that Rigdon was prepared in advance for the reception of the Mormon Bible.  

[p. 73]
... two days later, Rigdon himself received an angel's visit, and the next Sunday, with his wife, was baptized into the new faith....  

[p. 74]
Having presented the evidence which shows that the historical part of the Mormon Bible was supplied by the Spaulding manuscript, we may now pay attention to other evidence, which indicates that the entire conception of a revelation of golden plates by an angel was not even original, and also that its suggester was Rigdon. This is a subject which has been overlooked by investigators of the Mormon Bible.

That the idea of the revelation as described by Smith in his autobiography was not original is shown by the fact that a similar divine message, engraved on plates, was announced to have been received from an angel nearly six hundred years before the alleged visit of an angel to Smith. These original plates were described as of copper, and the recipient was a monk named Cyril, from whom their contents passed into the possession of the Abbot Joachim, whose "Everlasting Gospel," founded thereon, was offered to the church as supplanting the New Testament, just as the New Testament had supplanted the Old, and caused so serious a schism that Pope Alexander IV took the severest measures against it.

The evidence that the history of the "Everlasting Gospel" of the thirteenth century supplied the idea of the Mormon Bible lies not only in the resemblance between the celestial announcement of both, but in the fact that both were declared to have the same important purport -- as a forerunner of the end of the world.-- and that the name "Everlasting Gospel" was adopted and constantly used in connection with their message by the original leaders in the Mormon church.  

[p. 75]
If it is asked, How could Rigdon become acquainted with the story of the original "Everlasting Gospel," the answer is that it was just such subjects that would most attract his attention, and that his studies had led him into directions where the story of Cyril's plates would probably have been mentioned. He was a student of every subject out of which he could evolve a, sect, from the time of his Pittsburg pastorate.... We may even surmise the exact source of this knowledge. Mosheim's "Ecclesiastical History, Ancient and Modern" was at his disposal....  

[p. 76]
Here is a perfect outline of the scheme presented by the original Mormons, with Joseph as the divinely inspired prophet, and an "Everlasting Gospel," the gift of an angel, promulgated by poor men like the travelling Mormon elders....

That Rigdon's attention had been attracted to an "Everlasting Gospel" is proved by the constant references made to it in writings of which he had at least the supervision, from the very beginning of the church...

Note: For B. H. Roberts' reply to Linn's Chapter IX, see Roberts 1909.

[p. 89]
The Mormon Bible, both in a literary and a theological sense, is just such a production as would be expected to result from handing over to Smith and his fellow- "translators" a mass of Spaulding's material and new doctrinal matter for collation and copying...  

[p. 90]
... The historical narrative that runs through the book is so disjointedly arranged, mixed up with doctrinal parts, and repeated, that it is not easy to unravel it....  

[p. 92]
... Professor Whitsitt, of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky, in his article on Mormonism in "The Concise Dictionary of Religious Knowledge, and Gazetteer" (New York, 1891), divides the Mormon Bible into three sections, viz.: the first thirteen books, presented as the works of Mormon; the Book of Ether, with which Mormon had no connection; and the fifteenth book, "which was  

[p. 93]
sent forth by the editor under the name of Moroni." He thus explains his view of the "editing " that was done in the preparation of the work for publication: --

"The editor undertook to rewrite and recast the whole of the abridgment (of Nephi's previous history), but his industry failed him at the close of the Book of Omni. The first six books that he had rewritten were given the names of the small plates. The book called the 'Words of Mormon' in the original work stood at the beginning, as a sort of preface to the entire abridgment of Mormon; but when the editor had rewritten the first six books, he felt that these were properly his own performance, and the 'Words of Mormon' were assigned a position just in front of the Book of Mosiah, when the abstract of Mormon took its real commencement...

"The question may now be raised as to who was the editor of the Book of Mormon. In its theological positions and coloring the Book of Mormon is a volume of Disciple theology (this does not include the later polygamous doctrine and other gross Mormon errors). This conclusion is capable of demonstration beyond any reasonable question. Let notice also be taken of the fact that the Book of Mormon bears traces of two several redactions. It contains, in the first redaction, that type of doctrine which the Disciples held and proclaimed prior to November 18, 1827, when they had not yet formally embraced what is commonly considered to be the tenet of baptismal remission. It also contains the type of doctrine which the Disciples have been defending since November 18, 1827, under the name of the ancient Gospel, of which the tenet of so-called baptismal remission is a leading feature. All authorities agree that Mr. Smith obtained possession of the work on September 22, 1827, a period of nearly two months before the Disciples concluded to embrace this tenet. The editor felt that the Book of Mormon would be sadly incomplete if this notion were not included. Accordingly, he found means to communicate with Mr. Smith, and, regaining possession of certain portions of the manuscript, to insert the new item.... Rigdon was the only Disciple minister who vigorously and continuously demanded that his brethren should adopt the additional points that have been indicated."

[p. 98]
... Alexander Campbell, noting the mixture of doctrines in the book, says, "He (the author) decides all the great controversies (discussed in New York in the last ten years), infant baptism, the Trinity, regeneration, repentance, justification, the fall of man, the atonement, transubstantiation, fasting, penance, church government, the call to the ministry; the general resurrection, eternal punishment, who may baptize, and even the questions of Free-masonry, republican government and the rights of man."

Such is the book which is accepted to this day as an inspired work by the thousands of persons who constitute the Mormon church. This acceptance has always been rightfully recognized as fundamentally necessary to the Mormon faith. Orson Pratt declared, "The nature of the message in the Book of Mormon is such that, if true, none can be saved who reject it, and, if false, none can be saved who receive it." Brigham Young told the Conference at Nauvoo in October, 1844, that "Every spirit that confesses that Joseph Smith is a prophet, that he lived and died a prophet, and that the Book of Mormon is true, is of God, and every spirit that does not is of Anti-Christ." There is no modification of this view in the Mormon church of to-day.


Transcriber's Comments

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