Smith, Willard C.
"In The Shadow of Solomon Spalding,"
Provo, UT: 1979.

I: Origins of the Spalding Theory
II: Weaknesses of the Theory
III: Strengths of the Theory
IV: The Rise of Opposing Views
V: Book of Mormon (complex text / simplistic text)

Transcriber's comments

Cowdrey book (1977)   |   L. Bush paper (1977)   |   Jackson book (1996)   |   Roper article (2005)

Entire contents copyright © 1979 by Willard C. Smith.
Digital reproduction with Author's permission (2011).

All web hyperlinks added by the Site Host, March 2011.

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The origin of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is shrouded in controversy. The Latter-day Saints believe that the motivation leading to the founding of their faith was influenced, in part, by extra-mortal activities. These activities included the first revealing of God and his Son to Joseph Smith, subsequent visitations, and the production of the Book of Mormon. Non-Mormons, by and large, have criticized and rejected this extra-mortal motivation, and have advanced ideas that were natural rather than supernatural. Since there is no way anyone can prove or disprove Joseph Smith's visions, the arguments have settled around the one tangible object that came from this early period, the Book of Mormon. It is the purpose of this essay to examine Book of Mormon criticism in general and particularly its relationship to the Spalding [1] theory.

Why must there be another essay on the Spalding theory? Back in 1977 Lester E. Bush compared the Spalding theory to a dead body that had been dug up and hoped for its speedy reburial. Curiously many non-Mormons and even several anti-Mormons expressed the same wish. One anti-Mormon writer went as far as to wish that the entire theory had never been created in the first place. Why this support? As a realistic alternative to the

1 To many individuals one of the least interesting aspects of the Spalding theory is the correct spelling of the proper nouns: The name Spalding appears either as Spaulding or Spalding depending on the source. Without question the correct spelling is Solomon Spalding since he was a descendant of Edward Spalding. Problems arose when everyone began "correcting" the spelling to Spaulding. This "corrected" spelling was reinforced with time and perhaps helped along by the publications of Dickinson, his grandniece. Today practically every major Mormon catalog arranges the material under Spaulding instead of its proper spelling. This essay will follow the spelling Spalding, except in direct quotations. Like Spalding, the name Hurlbut has alternate spellings: Hurlburt, Hulbert, Hurlbert, Hurlbut. The last spelling is the way he signed the back of the Hawaiian manuscript and is the way it will appear in this essay.

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supernatural origin of the Book of Mormon, the Spalding theory has been dead for years. As a standard to judge modern day alternative origins of the Book of Mormon, the Spalding theory is alive and feared by the anti-Mormons.

Why this fear? For years Mormons looked upon the Spalding theory merely as an attempt to upstage the Book of Mormon's divine origin. [2] After the mid-1880's, the theory became a sort of whipping boy, taking beatings from both Mormons and non-Mormons. The danger is that the Spalding theory was not just a non-Mormon alternative to angels and gold plates. It filled very definite needs and attempted to answer very definite questions about the unusual circumstances under which the Book of Mormon was produced. The problem to non-Mormons is that in order to answer those questions, the supporters of the Spalding theory rejected the position now accepted by the modern day Book of Mormon critics.

The Spalding theory had its origin in unanswered questions. on that foundation early Book of Mormon critics built a structure that was so huge and complex that it collapsed under its own weight. Other critics, non-Spalding in outlook, were amused at their colleagues' failure, but did not realize that the original foundation was solid. The non-Spalding critics, having seen everything and learning nothing, proceeded to build on the foundation that had been rejected earlier. Their structure was kept simple by the suspension of the proper rules of historical interpretation, hence has remained standing without cracking its foundation. Those critics who have

2 An example of this attitude may be found in an article in the Church News. "The Spalding theory has dominated secular explanations for the origin of the Book of Mormon well into the 20th century. But its popularity is based more on the conviction that comes from age and frequent repetition than any sound evidence." Dean C. Jessee, "'Spalding Theory' Re-examined" in Church News, August 20, 1977, p. 4.

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realized the potential danger of their position have responded only by pointing out the ruins of their predecessors. Two Mormons, Kirkham and Nibley, pointed this out, unfortunately neither one of them developed that theme.

Now is the time to go back and examine the Spalding theory to see how it undermines Book of Mormon criticism. To do this, one must first go back and examine the origins of the theory. In the origins one will find the questions and answers that led to the creation and wide acceptance of the theory. It will be shown next that the faults of the theory did not lay in its foundation, that is, in the original questions, but in the structure that was built on it. Thirdly, it will be demonstrated that the foundation of the theory was solid. The fourth part of the essay will examine the rise of the new class of critics, their total rejection of the Spalding theory, and the attempt to build a new theory. Finally, it will be shown why the foundation supporting the non-Spalding theory is extremely weak and why the structure built on it was purposely weakened. All five parts point back to the one central issue, the Spalding theory undermined all naturalistic origin theories of the Book of Mormon.


As one examines the origin and wide acceptance of the Spalding theory, one thing becomes increasingly clear: the non-Mormons could not accept Joseph Smith as the author of the

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Book of Mormon. This position is supported by the following points: First, when the Spalding theory appeared, it was the antithesis to all other origin views, because it positively declared that Joseph Smith could not have written the Book of Mormon. Second, the authors of the theory realized that they were presenting an antithesis and effectively defended their position. Third, there was a wide acceptance of the theory, even among those who had previously supported other positions. Finally, the foundation of the theory was defended in this early period against any attempt to modify it.

In 1831, the influential minister, Alexander Campbell, had attempted to identify the origin of the Book of Mormon by declaring, "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 moment that he is the sole author and proprietor of it." [3] In spite of this declaration, we find two men, only a few years later, advancing a theory opposed to Alexander Campbell's idea of Smith as "the sole author and proprietor" of the Book of Mormon. The main element of their theory turned the emphasis away from Joseph Smith and assigned the authorship of the Book of Mormon to another. What is most striking is that this theory, though very complicated, was accepted by practically all critics over the much simpler explanation advanced by Alexander Campbell.

The Spalding theory made its first appearance in 1834, first in a public lecture and then in the book Mormonism Unvailed (sic).

3 Alexander Campbell, Delusions: An Analysis of the Book of Mormon, (Boston: Benjamin H. Green, 1832). p. 13. The original article appeared in the Millennial Harbinger, 1831, pp. 85-96.

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Mormonism Unvailed was a first in many respects: it was the first major anti-Mormon work; it first presented much of the material that would be used later against the Mormons; and it first outlined the basic points of the Spalding theory. Two men were responsible for its conception, D.P. Hurlbut and E.D. Howe. Although D.P. Hurlbut did all of the research and a great deal of the writing, Mormonism Unvailed appeared over the name of E.D. Howe, the editor of the Painesville Telegraph. Hurlbut had lost a court battle with Joseph Smith in April of 1834 and did not want either his loss or background to cast any shadows on the book. [4]

It is evident that the authors of Mormonism Unvailed understood the basic problem confronting the critics as they admitted, "The extreme ignorance and apparent stupidity of this modern prophet, were, by his followers, looked upon as his greatest merit and as furnishing the most incontestible proof of his divine mission." [5] The problem was, how could one account for the production of the Book of Mormon when the person who was supposed to have written it was only a meagerly educated, backwoods country boy. Hurlbut's four month fling with Mormonism seems to have convinced him of the futility of arguing that Joseph Smith could have produced the Book of Mormon. Hurlbut and Howe cleverly turned the tables and agreed with the Latter-day Saints: "That the common advantages of education were denied to our prophet, or that they were much neglected, we believe to be a fact. His followers have told us, that he could not at the time he was 'chosen of the Lord' even write his own name." [6] Hurlbut and Howe did not stop here. They took pains to point out that

4 A brief account of Hurlbut's life and his relationship to the Mormons is in order. His parents named him Doctor Philastus Hurlbut because he was the seventh son in his family, and the seventh son, according to folklore, "would possess supernatural qualities that would make him a physician" (History of the Church I, 355, footnote). When he was older, people naturally mistook his first name as a title. At one time he was associated with the Methodists, but was expelled for "immoralities" (Whatever that means). On March 13, 1833 he was baptized into the LDS church. Five days later he was ordained an Elder by Sidney Rigdon and sent on a mission to Pennsylvania. While in Pennsylvania, Hurlbut so upset the members that the Conference took away his Elder's license. He returned to Kirtland and was reinstated, but before he returned to Pennsylvania, he propositioned a young female member of the church. A conference of High Priests tried him on 3 June 1833 on the charge of "unchristian conduct with women" and excommunicated him. Hurlbut appealed the decision to the High Council and on 21 June 1833, after a full confession, was restored to church membership. Members of the High Council had reason to doubt his sincerity when he was later reported to have boasted that he had deceived Joseph Smith's God. The Council cut him off from the Church on 23 June 1833. Hurlbut responded to his excommunication by delivering a series of anti-Mormon lectures and collecting statements made by Joseph Smith's neighbors questioning his behavior. Joseph Smith responded by calling the statements "works of the devil" and even reading them in church meetings. Sidney Rigdon also mounted a hot campaign against Hurlbut. At a time when violence against Mormons in Kirtland was mounting, Hurlbut foolishly responded to Rigdon's campaign by publicly threatening Joseph Smith's life. On 9 April 1834, Hurlbut was tried in a court of law, bound over to keep the peace for six months, and directed to pay the trial expenses.

5 E.D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (sic) (Painsville: Author, 1834), p. 12.

6 Howe, p. 12.

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Joseph Smith could not possibly have written the Book of Mormon with statements like:
The author, although evidently a man of learning, studied barrenness of style and expression without equal.

It is necessary that the reader should bear in mind that the imposter (Joseph Smith) is held out to be a very ignorant person, so much so, that he can write nothing excepted it be dictated to him, word by word, by the mouth of the Lord.

The real author, not withstanding his studied ignorance, was well acquainted with the classics. [7]

In addition to these statements, the two critics, consciously or unconsciously, provided an even greater contrast between the author of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. They first gave a brief review of the Mormon book (some seventy pages of the text are devoted to this) and showed that despite its shortcomings, it was produced by an educated man. To this book was contrasted Joseph Smith, the lazy, shiftless moneydigger, who sacrificed black sheep, gazed into peepstones, and was held in contempt by his neighbors.

Everything in Mormonism Unvailed was building up to the end where the authors were going to figuratively tear down the curtain that separated Joseph Smith from his scribes and thus reveal the truth that had "been so studiously vailed (sic) in secrecy." [8] At the beginning of the last chapter, the reader finally discovers the following:
We proposed in the commencement of this work to give to the world all the light of which we were in possession, as to the real and original author or
7 Howe , pp. 19, 20, 21.

8 Howe, p. ii.

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authors of the Book of Mormon. That there has been, from the beginning of the imposture, a more talented knave behind the curtain, is evident to our minds, at least; but whether he will ever be clearly, fully and positively unvailed (sic) and brought into open day-light, may of course be doubted. [9]

After this brief introduction, the structure of the Spalding theory was unfolded to the world. The main points of the theory state that a man named Solomon Spalding had written a story entitled "Manuscript Found." He had sent the manuscript to a Pittsburg publisher, but it was never returned. Sidney Rigdon, a former clergyman, somehow obtained the manuscript and transformed it into the Book of Mormon. Rigdon turned the manuscript over to Joseph Smith who used it while pretending to translate from angelic gold plates. After this presentation, Hurlbut and Howe triumphantly concluded their work with, "We therefore, must hold out Sidney Rigdon to the world as being the original 'author and proprietor' of the whole Mormon conspiracy, until further light is elicited upon the lost writings of Solomon Spalding." [10]

Exactly when and where the story of Solomon Spalding came to the attention of D.P. Hurlbut is unclear. One Mormon source says that after his excommunication, Hurlbut began delivering a series of anti-Mormon lectures beginning at Springfield, Pennsylvania. [11] It goes on to say that Hurlbut first heard of the "Manuscript Found" while lodging at Jackson, Pennsylvania. Before making any further inquiries, Hurlbut returned to Kirtland, told a non-Mormon audience about his

9 Howe, p. 278.

10 Howe, p. 290.

11 Benjamin Winchester, The Origin of the Spaulding Story (Philadelphia: Brown, Bicking, and Guilpert, 1840), pp. 7-9.

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suspicions, and accepted contributions toward his investigation. Hurlbut then traveled through Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York and collected eight statements linking the "Manuscript Found" to the Book of Mormon. All these statements were published in the last chapter of Mormonism Unvailed.

No matter what one might think of its authors, the Spalding theory was clever and fulfilled all the needs of the critics. The theory answered the question of how an ignorant farmboy could have produced a Book of Mormon. By screaming conspiracy, the theory appealed to the same people who accused the Masons and Catholics of hidden and subversive activities. By arguing that Joseph Smith was not the "brains" behind the whole scheme, a torrential rain of abuse could be heaped upon the head of the prophet without any critical inconsistency. The powerful effect of the Book of Mormon on its readers was another factor that led the nineteenth century ministers to accept the Spalding theory. Investigators of Mormonism were not taught a series of missionary lessons beginning with Joseph Smith's first vision. Contacts were given a copy of the Book of Mormon to study. A few days later the missionaries would return and discuss it. A brief examination of the early Mormon journals reveal the important impact that the Book of Mormon had in the conversion process. With thousands of men and women leaving their congregations to join the Mormons, the ministers knew that they were not dealing with just any book. Joseph Smith, in spite of all his attempts to educate himself,

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could not measure up to their expectations. It seemed reasonable to these educated men that the Book of Mormon was more likely the product of many men and not just Joseph Smith.

A fine example of the Spalding theory's strength can be seen in its conversion of Alexander Campbell, who had previously contended that Joseph Smith was the sole author of the Book of Mormon. In 1831 Alexander Campbell, in reference to the Mormons, cried "Delusions," lamented the defection of Sidney Rigdon, and retold all kinds of unsavory little tales. Then after four years of silence he reprinted the title page of Mormonism Unvailed in the Millennial Harbinger. He commented, "Great labor, and care, and solicitude have been bestowed by its author upon the question of the 'Gold Bible' and the facts involved in the history of this most impudent and atheistical affair." [12] Anyone doubting the reason for or extent of Alexander Campbell's connection with the Spalding theory might examine the Millennial Harbinger of 1839. As an introduction to a statement of Matilda Davison, the widow of Solomon Spalding, he reprinted from the Boston Daily Advertiser the following:
It (the Spalding theory) accounts most satisfactorily for the existence of the book, a fact which heretofore it has been difficult to explain. It was difficult to imagine how a work containing so many indications of being the production of a cultivated mind, should be connected with a knavery so impudent and a superstition so gross as that which must have characterized the founders of this pretended religious sect. [13]

At the end of the article Campbell added, "Since reading

12 Alexander Campbell, "Mormonism Unveiled" in Millennial Harbinger, 1835, p. 44.

13 "The Mormon Bible," in Millennial Harbinger, 1839, p. 265. It is interesting to compare this to another article which made the same points. See "The Yankee Mahomet...," American Whig Review 13:554, June 1851.

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'Mormonism Unvailed' we have had but little doubt that Sidney Rigdon is the leading conjuror in this diabolical affair..." [14] Finally, Campbell added his voice to the mounting collection of statements and affidavits supporting the Spalding theory. He stated that Sidney Rigdon had alluded to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon two or three years before it was published. [15]

The fact that Alexander Campbell changed his mind as to the method in which the Book of Mormon was produced should not come as a surprise. The 1831 article which he wrote for the Millennial Harbinger was designed as a quick refutation of Mormonism. His ideas as to the authorship of the Book of Mormon were not conclusive because he had never met Joseph Smith nor could he be a judge of his abilities. As time passed Campbell learned more about the Latter-day Saints and the Book of Mormon. By 1844 he could correct the misconceptions of another disciple as to whether or not the Book of Mormon taught the doctrine of baptism for the remission of sins. [16] No doubt Campbell came to realize that the book had "many indications of being the product of a cultivated mind." In contrast, the Joseph Smith that Alexander Campbell knew of, to judge by what the Millennial Harbinger printed, was a mean, ignorant, blood-thirsty thief, hardly one to write about baptism for the remission of sins. [17] Alexander Campbell turned to the Spalding theory as the only reasonable explanation for this discrepancy.

With the conversion of Campbell complete by 1844, one can look in vain for alternatives to the Spalding theory during

14 "The Mormon Bible," p. 267.

15 Campbell, "Mistakes Touching the Book of Mormon," in Millennial Harbinger, 1844, pp. 38, 39.

16 Campbell, "Mistakes...," pp. 39, 40.

17 See articles entitled "Mormonism" taken from a New York pamphlet. "Mormonism Exposed" and running through the 1842-43 issues of the Millennial Harbinger as follows: 1842: 418-421, 460-464, 497-502, 538-543; 1843: 23-28, 152-157, 296-299, 346-351.

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the next forty years. Moreover. from 1834 to 1863 there were practically no changes made on Hurlbut and Howe's story. James Hunt's Mormonism was typical of the anti-Mormon literature of this period. When he got to the Book of Mormon, Mr. Hunt confessed his indebtedness to Mr. E.D. Howe and then simply copied whole sections of Mormonism Unvailed into his own book. The massive number of supporting statements would come after 1863. Until then the Spalding story would stay exactly the same. Only two men, in 1842 and 1843, would attempt to slightly modify the foundation of the theory. Their failure to do so seems to underline what was contemporarily thought of Joseph Smith's literary abilities and the complex structure of the Book of Mormon.

Early in 1843. Rev. Henry Caswall published his history of the Mormons. He said that Sidney Rigdon had not participated in the conspiracy. Instead he argued that Joseph Smith had obtained possession of the "Manuscript Found" sometime between 1823 and 1827 while working for stowell. [18] Rev. Caswall did not make this statement because he believed that Joseph Smith possessed a superior intellect. On the contrary. he described Joseph Smith as a knave and a clown. [19] Caswall's claim to fame centered around his brief interview with Joseph Smith. For this interview Rev. Caswall obtained and used a Greek psalter "to test the scholarship of the prophet." a test which Joseph Smith was supposed to have failed miserably. [20] Caswall's baboonish description of the prophet. his life. and his language did not help his Spalding ideas at all. The Dublin University Magazine

18 Henry Caswall, The Prophet of the Nineteenth Century (London: J.G.F. and J.Rivington, 1843, p. 30.

19 See his description in: Henry Caswall, The City of the Mormons (London: J.G.F. and J. Rivington, 1843), p. 35.

20 On page 5 of either the 1842 or 1843 edition of his The City of the Mormons Caswall definitely states that he was going "to test the scholarship of the prophet." For a very critical review of Caswall's changing Greek Psalter story see Hugh Nibley's "The Greek Psalter Mystery." in The Myth Makers, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, Inc., 1961), pp. 193-288.

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noted Caswall's ideas and labeled them as improbable since it was obvious that Joseph Smith's literary level was far below that of the Book of Mormon. [21] Apart from this, it is important to note that Caswall's idea about Rigdon's nonparticipation had been borrowed from Professor J.B. Turner.

Professor J.B. Turner did not like Joseph Smith, the Mormons, or the Book of Mormon; they were beneath him. When Professor Turner suggested that Joseph Smith could have handled the preparation of the Book of Mormon without Rigdon's help, he said that not to elevate Joseph Smith, but to debase the Book of Mormon. Turner went even further when he said there was no need for a Spalding Manuscript. [22] Turner's suggestions did not go unchallenged by other critics. Daniel P. Kidder, author of Mormonism and the Mormons, questioned Professor Turner's conclusions and commented:
It appears to us that Professor T. has involved himself in a species of self-contradiction, by maintaining that Joe Smith is the real and sole author of the Book of Mormon, while, at the same time, he proves the identity of that book with the Spalding manuscript, and supposes Joe to have possessed himself of the latter while in the employment of Mr. Stowell, in Chenango county, New York. The question at issue here is one of comparative unimportance.

We are, however, far from assenting to the position that unity, either of style or sentiment, prevails throughout the Mormon Bible. Those who had seen Spalding's Manuscript say that the religious parts of the Book of Mormon have been added. Now, these parts bear a distinctive character, (that of Campbellism,) which Smith was utterly unqualified to give them until after his connection with Rigdon. This shows that there was at least three parties to
21 "Mormonism" in Dublin University Magazine 21:293, March 1843.

22 J.B. Turner, Mormonism in All Ages (New York: Platt and Peters, 1842), pp. 212-221.

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the real authorship; and we think it would be sheer injustice not to put Oliver Cowdery, the schoolmaster, upon as good (literary) footing as his more ambitious pupil, Joseph Smith, Jr. [23]

The role of Joseph Smith as more than a minor character and the Book of Mormon as a realitively simple work were issues considered and rejected by most critics by 1843. Eyewitness accounts and statements from Smith's neighbors reinforced the image of a man who did not possess the talent necessary to create the Book of Mormon on his own. The most significant thing about Kidder's statement is the recognition of the complex style and structure of the Book of Mormon. The structure of the book is one reason why the Spalding theory had such an incredible hold on the critics of the nineteenth century. A complex book required an equally complex method of production.


Late in the year 1884, an event took place that would mark a turning point in Book of Mormon criticism. James Fairchild, the president of Oberlin College, paid a visit to L.L. Rice, a retired newspaperman, at his home in Honolulu. Rice had been very active in the antislavery movement and Fairchild was hoping that he would donate some of his papers to the college library. While looking through Rice's papers, they stumbled across a manuscript written by Solomon Spalding.

23 Daniel P. Kidder, Mormonism and the Mormons (New York: G. Lane and P.P. Sandford, 1842), p. 337.

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Rice was surprised. How did he obtain a Spalding manuscript? Forty-five years earlier, Rice and Philander Winchester, had purchased E.D. Howe's newspaper, the Painesville Telegraph. E.D. Howe claimed earlier that he had received from Hurlbut a Spalding manuscript, but thought that it had been destroyed in a fire. Evidently some of Howe's papers mixed in with Rice's.

The first announcement of this discovery was made in the January 1885 issue of the Bibliothea Sacra, published in Oberlin, Ohio. It took the form of a letter from James Fairchild which began, "The theory of the origin of the Book of Mormon in the traditional manuscript of Solomon Spalding will probably have to be relinquished." This announcement started a wild scramble to obtain possession of the manuscript and publish it. The Reorganized Church was the first to publish the manuscript in 1885 from a copy made by James Fairchild and Deseret News published a copy in 1886 prepared by L.L. Rice. [24]

At long last, the Mormons believed that the Spalding manuscript had been discovered and that this discovery marked the end of the theory. Most of the critics pooh-poohed the discovery and claimed that it proved nothing. Actually both sides were right, the discovery has marked the date in which the Spalding theory's popularity declined and it is true that the manuscript did not disprove the theory. If the Hawaiian manuscript did not disprove the theory, then exactly what was

24 Following their announcement, Fairchild and Rice received many requests and demands concerning the manuscript. Anti-Mormon writers, such as Howe, Deming, and Dickinson, asked to use the manuscript or to receive it for safe keeping. On the other hand, the Latter-day Saints suggested that they had a right to use the manuscript since it affected their belief in the Book of Mormon. Rice and Fairchild were understandably cautious with either side. Joseph F. Smith, by a stroke of good luck, arrived in Hawaii shortly after the announcement while trying to avoid arrest by federal officers for cohabitation. He was allowed to examine the manuscript on 1 May 1885 before it was sent to Oberlin College. After a period of negotiation, Smith was allowed to make a copy of L.L. Rice's copy of the manuscript for publication. Smith was told that he would have to publish everthing including crossed out words, which could be designated by italics. Fifty copies of the published word were sent to Fairchild and twenty-five to Rice. For the next two days Joseph F. Smith, his wife Juline, and several missionaries spent their time copying Rice's manuscript. Later, Rice changed his mind and allowed the printer to work directly off his manuscript instead of Smith's third-hand version. This policy was also followed by Fairchild, who prepared a version for the Reorganized Church. None of the published versions have been taken directly off the original. See: Joseph F. Smith, "The Manuscript Found," in the Improvement Era 3:241-249, 377-383, 451-457; Solomon Spaulding, The Manuscript Found (Lamoni, Iowa: Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 1885), pp. 3-11; Solomon Spaulding, Manuscript Story (Liverpool: Millennial Star, 1910), pp. iii, iv.

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its role in the decline of the theory? The Hawaiian manuscript simply added one more link to a growing chain of problems that made the structure of the Spalding theory less and less likely. The issues that really overburdened the theory included the problem of multiple manuscripts, the problem of writing styles, the problems with the statements, and the problem with motives.

The concept of multiple manuscripts was an element in the Spalding theory from the beginning. At the end of Mormonism Unvailed, Hurlbut attempted to tie up a few loose ends by describing an interview with Spalding's widow. [25] She was reported as recalling that her husband had indeed written a story entitled "Manuscript Found," but had no distinct knowledge of its contents. She said that the manuscript was sent to the printing office of Patterson and Lambdin, but was uncertain if it was ever returned. If, however, it had been returned, then it would have been left in a trunk she had in Otsego county, New York. Hurlbut then stated that he examined the trunk referred to by Spalding's widow and found only a single manuscript giving an account of a Roman ship blown off course and landing in America. But Hurlbut is quick to add that the same people who told him about the similarities between the Spalding and Mormon books also said that the manuscript in the trunk bore "no resemblance to the 'Manuscript Found.'" [26]

The idea that Spalding had written more than one story

25 Although Mormonism Unvailed leads one to believe that the interview was second hand, later statements seem to indicate that Hurlbut personally interviewed Mrs. Davison.

26 Howe, pp. 287, 288. Although none of Hurlbut's published statements provide evidence for a second round of interviews, one of his original statements did provide evidence for the possible existence of more than one manuscript. Aaron Wright is quoted as saying, "Spaulding had many other manuscript, which I expect to see when Smith translated his other plate." Howe, p. 284.

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about ancient migrations to America posed an important problem. The critics now had to determine how many manuscripts Spalding had written and what happened to all of them. Soon the manuscript count rose to ridiculous proportions. According to the original theory, Sidney Rigdon stole one manuscript when he was in Pittsburg. Then, according to Spalding's widow, D.P. Hurlbut had taken a manuscript from her trunk and never returned it. Then Spalding's neighbors began to claim that Joseph Smith had stolen a manuscript when he was employed by a Mr. W.H. Sabin. Furthermore, several critics reasoned, wasn't there an incident in the early production of the Book of Mormon in which 116 pages were lost and the whole section had to be rewritten? There had to be a fourth manuscript around some place to supply the new text. One critic pointed out that some witnesses described Spalding's manuscript in terms of only the "Nephite" portion of the Book of Mormon while other witnesses mentioned only the "Zarahemlite" portion. Conclusion: since the witnesses could not have been mistaken, there had to be a total of six Spalding manuscripts. [27] Not only did the critics have to determine the number of manuscripts, they had to explain why none of them were available for public examination. [28] The answer to the question of what happened to all of these manuscripts was easy. The Mormons somehow obtained every one. Thus, the "Mormon conspiracy" went beyond the "simple" plot of secretly transferring a stolen manuscript from hand to hand, from author to author,

27 Public Discussion of the Issues Between the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the Church of Christ (Disciples), (Lamoni Iowa: Herald Publishing House; 1913) pp.73-77 (hereafter called the Braden-Kelly Debate). This work provides a fine example of the absurd extremes to which the multiple manuscripts adherents went before 1885.

28 Robert Patterson, Who Wrote the Book of Mormon? (Philadelphia: L.H. Everts and Co., 1882), p. 14. Charles A. Shook, The True Origin of the Book of Mormon (Cincinnati: The Standard Publishing Co., 1914), pp. 177-180.

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and finally to pass it off as ancient scripture, to a much larger stage where its leaders also sought to obtain and destroy from two to six different manuscripts. And how did the Mormons perform this mission? Sidney Rigdon was always accused of stealing at least one manuscript. Joseph Smith, still playing the minor role, was sometimes accused of stealing one manuscript and sometimes not. In some versions, Parley P. Pratt even got to run off with a manuscript or two. But it is probably one of the great ironies of history that D.P. Hurlbut was constantly accused, after 1880, of stealing the rest of Spalding's manuscripts. [29] That is right, D.P. Hurlbut, the author of the Spalding theory, was accused of helping the same people he was trying to hurt. Why? This strange turn of events came partially as a result of statements made by Matilda Davison, Spalding's wife, and her daughter, Matilda McKinstry, and partially as a reaction against the multiple manuscript concept.

Before 1885, the widow and daughter of Solomon Spalding were actively courted by the critics. Since they were the closest to the writer of the "Manuscript Found," their statements were prized above all others. Accordingly, Mrs. Davison made a statement in May 1839 that was published in the Boston Recorder; [30] and Mrs. McKinstry dictated a very lengthy statement in April 1880 for Ellen E. Dickinson. [31]

Generally both statements made the following points: 1) Solomon Spalding, inspired by the discovery of artifacts in an Indian mound, wrote a story about ancient America.

29 Braden-Kelly Debate, p. 85. Ellen E. Dickinson, New Light on Mormonism (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1885), pp. 63-76. Patterson, p. 14.

30 Reprinted in Millennial Harbinger, 1839, pp. 265-267. Shook, p. 79-82.

31 First published in Scribner's Monthly 20:615, 616. See also Dickinson, pp. 237-240 or Shook, pp. 88-91.

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2) Both state that Spalding loaned his manuscript to Mr. Patterson. 3) After Spalding's death in 1816, Mr. Patterson returned the manuscript to the family and the daughter frequently examined it. 4) Hurlbut took the manuscript with the intention of exposing the Mormons, but he never published or returned it.

Since Hurlbut never published or returned the manuscript the Spaldings had loaned him, a few critics accused him of selling it to the Mormons for three or four hundred dollars. Other critics, so confused by the new twists and turns, could not decide whether or not to include Hurlbut in their version of the Mormon conspiracy. [32]

From 1880 to 1884 there also seems to have been a slight movement away from multiple manuscripts and toward a simplified theory. Even in a simplified form, the Spalding theory insisted that a manuscript had been passed among four pairs of hands and was written or added to by three to five different men, all without any obvious detection. The theory was already complicated, and two to six more manuscripts made it unreasonable.

Since family statements seemed to support a single manuscript and since it made the theory less complicated, for four years this concept was accepted or at least noticed by many critical works. [33]

Ellen E. Dickinson, a grandniece of Solomon Spalding, did more to develop and publish the single manuscript concept than anyone else. In two articles, written in 1880 and 1881 for Scribner's Monthly, [34] she argued that Spalding's manuscript

32 Thomas Gregg, The Prophet of Palmyra (New York: John B. Alden, 1890), pp. 413-416.

33 This does not mean that all critics accepted the single manuscript theory. There was so much confusion and so many different versions of the Spalding theory that there was no critical unity. Dickinson was the greatest advocate of the single manuscript theory between 1880 and 1885. Patterson gave notice to the single manuscript version in 1882, but it is unclear whether or not he believed in it. Dickinson was definitely not the first to present a single manuscript theory. As early as 1842, John A. Clark presented a single manuscript theory based on Mrs. Davison's testimony. Considering his sources, his concepts are identical to Dickinson's. See: John A. Clark, Gleanings by the Way (Philadelphia: W.J. and J.K. Simon, 1842, pp. 259-265. Also interesting is an unknown author who also took Mrs. Davison's testimony and arrived at the conclusion that there was only one manuscript. See: "Memoir of the Mormons" in Southern Literary Messenger 14:642 (November 1848).

34 Ellen E. Dickinson, "The Book of Mormon" in Scribner's Monthly 20:613-016; 22:946-948.

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had been sent to Mr. Patterson, a Pittsburg publisher, that he had returned it, and that Hurlbut had carried it off. To support her arguments she produced Mrs. Matilda McKinstry's testimony regarding the "Manuscript Found" and the statements of several people who examined Spalding's manuscript between 1818 and 1831, after it had been returned by Patterson and before it was taken by Hurlbut. Dickinson's supreme effort would take form in her book, New Light on Mormonism. Although the book was published a year after Spalding's manuscript had been discovered, she continued to argue that Hurlbut had run off with the only copy of the "Manuscript Found." The book's climax is a description of her interview with Hurlbut. Hurlbut was portrayed as nervous, confused, and evasive. To Ellen Dickinson Hurlbut's reaction was proof positive that he had taken the only Spalding manuscript and had sold it to the Mormons. To the Mormons, however, the interview presented an amusing example of how Hurlbut got caught in his own web by making conflicting statements. A statement made by Oscar Kellogg, who was present during the interview, was rich with double meaning. He said, "We carefully listened to every word said and watched Mr. Hurlburt's countenance and arrived at the same conclusion -- that Hurlburt knows more than he told." [35]

Dickinson's arguments and supporting statements revealed a weakness in the theory that the Latter-day Saints were quick to use to their advantage. Since 1834, the Mormons had continually denied that Spalding had anything to do with the production of the Book of Mormon. They believed in its

35 Dickinson, New Light, p. 245.

[ 20 ]

extra-mortal origin. By 1883, the Mormons had taken the information furnished by Dickinson and began arguing that if there was only one manuscript, and if that manuscript was taken by Hurlbut, then it stood to reason that it was the manuscript described in Mormonism Unvailed, which gave an account of a Roman ship landing in America. The Latter-day Saints went further and argued that the concept of multiple manuscripts was probably made up by Hurlbut and Howe only after they discovered that Spalding's story did not match the Book of Mormon [36]

The discovery of the Hawaiian manuscript could not have been better timed. So many works dealing with the Spalding theory had appeared by 1884, with their own twists and speculations, that the whole field was a mass of confusion. Practically every critic had his or her own idea of how many manuscripts existed and how they were transferred and to whom. Dickinson's claim that the evidence pointed to only one manuscript and that it was taken by Hurlbut was the only rallying point that the critics had. Rice and Fairchild's discovery destroyed this idea because the Hawaiian manuscript was the one that Hurlbut had taken from Mrs. Davison, written in the back of the manuscript was, "The writtings of Sollomon Spalding Proved by Aron Wright Oliver Smith John Miller and others The testimonies of the above Gentlemen are now in my possession D P Hurlbut (sic)." [37] Since the Hawaiian manuscript was nothing like the Book of Mormon, as far as the Mormons were concerned

36 For examples of this argument used before the discovery of the Hawaiian manuscript see: The Braden-Kelly Debate, pp. 116, 117; and George Reynolds, The Myth of the Manuscript Found (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Class, 1883), pp. 1-13.

37 The significance of this statement was well understood in 1885 when the manuscript was discovered. It was quoted nearly as often as the idea that the manuscript was not the Book of Mormon. The statement appears at the end of both published versions of the manuscript, but Rice's rendering is slightly different from Fairchild's spelling and punctuation. The version quoted follows Rice.

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the whole Spalding matter was closed. All they had to do was cite the evidence for the single manuscript ironically provided by an anti-Mormon writer.

At first it is unclear whether or not Dickinson realized what she had done. That she knew of the discovery of the manuscript before the publication of New Light on Mormonism is evidenced by a letter from the son of Mr. Rice in the appendix. [38] By May of 1885 she fired off a letter to Rice demanding the return of the manuscript to its rightful owner. [39] It is very clear that she reversed her position on the single manuscript concept by September of 1886. Instead of saying Hurlbut took one manuscript, she said that he took two, delivered one to Howe and the other to the Mormons. [40] Dickinson's evidence for a single manuscript, however, remains today the main barrier to a workable Spalding theory. [41]

One last comment on the multiple manuscript concept. Since the whole idea of the theory was to supply a text for people who could not provide for themselves, the number of manuscripts cannot be less than three. Why three? One to account for the Hawaiian manuscript, one to supply the main text of the Book of Mormon, and finally one to supply the material for the lost 116 pages of the first version. Those who take the position that only two manuscripts are needed completely forget about the lost 116 pages and how they were replaced in a short time by a text that was twice as long.

38 Dickinson, New Light, p. 265.

39 Smith, p. 247.

40 James H. Fairchild, "Manuscript of Solomon Spaulding and the Book of Mormon" in Tract No. 77, Western Reserve Historical Society (Cleveland, Ohio: Western Reserve Historical Society, 1886), p. 200. George Rutledge Gibson, "Origin of a Great Delusion" in New Princeton Review 2:210, 211 (September 1886).

41 A. T. Schroeder and Charles A. Shook each attempted to present a workable Spalding theory, each ran smack into the barrier erected by Dickinson, and each spent several pages trying to tear it down. See: A.T. Schroeder, The origin of The Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Salt Lake Ministerial Association, 1901), pp. 8-13. Shook, pp. 78-93. More recently, a work by Cowdrey, Davis, and Scales also choked over some of Dickinson's statements.

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Only a third manuscript could account for that replacement. Hence, one can see that the multiple manuscript concept is not one of the Spalding theory's assets. It tends to bog the theory down in complexity and make it less probable.

The discovery of the Hawaiian manuscript also reintroduced another problem. Not only would there be more than one manuscript, there would be more than one writing style. For years the critics had been telling the public what a scholar Solomon Spalding had been. His writing style was supposed to be identical to the Book of Mormon. Rev. Abner Jackson made the comment that Spalding "wrote it (the "Manuscript Found") in Bible style. 'And it came to pass' occurred so often that some called him 'Old Come-to-pass... when it (the Book of Mormon) was brought to Conneaut, and read in public, old Esquire wright heard it and exclaimed, 'Old Come-to-pass has come to life again!'" [42] The Hawaiian manuscript revealed none of these traits. The phrase "and it came to pass," which appears again and again in the Book of Mormon, never occurs in the manuscript. The writing style is very poor and to read the story more than once is a terrible ordeal. These differences did not go unnoticed by the non-Mormon community. George Gibson commented:
One would expect a graduate of Dartmouth to have some regard for the rules of syntax, orthography, and punctuation, but after making due allowance for changes in the language during the past sixty-five years, it must be confessed that this manuscript is sadly deficient in these respects. The story, too, is incomplete and very dull. These
42 Patterson, pp. 6-7.

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facts are circumstantial proof of its identity with the original manuscript submitted to the Pittsburg printer; for he said "Polish it up and finish it," showing that it was imperfect and unfinished. [43]

Eleven years later, another critic would say, "A twelve-year-old boy in any of our common schools can tell a better story and couch it in far better English." [44] The Mormons also capitalized on the differences between the two writing styles. Recently, one Mormon scholar contrasted the taking of wives as related in both works. [45] A portion of that comparison is reproduced below.
I propose that they (the women) should make their choice of husbands. The plan was instantly adopted. As the chois (sic) fell on the young women they held a consultation on the subject. & in a short time made know the result -- Droll Tom was rewarded for his benevolent proposal with one of the most sprightly rosy dames in the company. -- Three other of the most cheerful resolute mariners were chosen by the other boxhum Lasses -- The three young Ladies fixed their chaise on the Captain the mate & myself. The young Lady who chose me for a partner was possessed of every attractive charm of both body & mind -- We united heart & hand with the fairest prospect of enjoying every delight & satisfaction which are attendant on the connubial state.
The Manuscript Story

And it came to pass that I, Nephi; took one of the daughters of Ishmael to wife; and also, my brethren took of the daughters of Ishmael to wife; and also Zoram took the eldest daughter of Ishmael to wife.
The Book of Mormon

The contrasting styles provided further evidence that Spalding was not the author of the Book of Mormon.

Some critics dealt with this problem by suggesting that Spalding possessed the unusual ability to alter his writing style at will. They admitted that the first manuscript was

43 Gibson, p. 212.

44 Davis H. Bays, The Doctrine and Dogmas of Mormonism Examined and Refuted (St. Louis: Christian Publishing Company, 1897; pp. 24, 25.

45 Lester E. Bush, "The Spalding Theory Then and Now" in Dialogue; A Journal of Mormon Thought 10:40, 41 (Autumn 1977). Style comparisons between the two works were first done by Orson F. Whitney in his work The History of Utah, Vol. 1, (Salt Lake City: George Q. Cannon & Sons Co. 1892), pp. 51-54.

[ 24 ]

rather rough, but Spalding was supposed to have gone back and written all other manuscripts in Biblical style. [46] So now the theory had not only elements of multiple manuscripts, but multiple writing styles as well.

The multiplicity of manuscripts and writing styles were matched only by an equal number of supporting statements. To be exact, between 1833 and 1893 fifty-four statements were made which linked the contents of the "Manuscript Found" to the Book of Mormon. The individuals, who made these statements, came from various backgrounds. Some were members of the Spalding family; others were neighbors, friends, ministers, children of friends or neighbors, and one was even a newspaper editor. Taken as a whole, these statements appear formidable and many critics, even today, consider them absolute proof that the Book of Mormon is a fraud. It is only after a close examination of those statements and the time and conditions under which they were given that one can determine their accuracy.

First consider the period when they were made. If one breaks up the period of time between 1833 and 1893 into six units of approximately ten years each (the first unit is eleven years and all others are ten), the following can be observed. During the first unit of time, 1833-1843, nine statements were made. Eight of the statements appeared in Mormonism Unvailed. In the second period, 1844-1853, two statements were made, one by John Spalding and the other by Alexander Campbell. It appears that one statement was made in

46 The concept of multiple writing styles was original with Hurlbut and Howe, who had access to Spalding's manuscript and probably recognized the differences in style, see Howe, p. 288. The main emphasis on multiple writing styles came after 1885, see Gregg, p. 447, Schroeder, p. 5.

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1855 and only four appeared during the fourth unit. Thus the first four units of time account for about thirty percent of all the Spalding statements. Then in the fifth unit, 1974 to1883, eighteen statements were made. This number was surpassed only by the next ten year unit when twenty statements appeared. In other words, seventy percent of all Spalding statements appeared forty to sixty years after the theory was first proposed and fifty-eight years or more after the death of Solomon Spalding. Immediately, one must ask why it took so long for so many supporting statements to appear. What conditions existed between 1874 and 1893 that favored this sudden surge that did not for the previous forty years? [47]

It should come as no surprise that between 1873 and 1894 there was a national uproar over the Mormons. Much debate was given to the "Mormon Question" of enforced secularism, sponsored by the federal government, as opposed to the LDS theocracy. The debate centered so much on the practice of plural marriage that many came to believe that the doctrine was "The Question." The heat generated by this conflict was intense. Ministers raised petitions, sent them to Congress, and urged their representatives to pass measures restricting Mormon activities. [48] Newspapers screamed scandal and suffragettes supported the disfranchisement of women voters in Utah. In the Southern States, rowdies killed several Mormon missionaries and beat up many others. Politicians came very close to disfranchising all Mormons regardless of their individual practices. This period

47 See Appendix, "The Spalding Statements."

48 There are at least two examples of ministerial influence in Spalding statement making before and during the 1873-94 period. Mrs. Matilda Davison's Boston Recorder statement and S.F. Anderick's statement were each accompanied by notes from their pastors.

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has been appropriately termed the "Mormon Crusade," so is it any wonder that seventy percent of all Spalding statements appeared at this time?

The time factor alone relegates most of the statements to a state of secondary sources. Some of the statements, especially Redick McKee's testimonies of 1869 and 1886, are almost tertiary in nature. Apart from the existing prejudices, consider also the influence of forty or more years on the testimonies. Is it possible that after repeating the same old story about Solomon Spalding and his lost manuscript for years that people actually came to believe it to be a fact? Is it possible that people re-examined conversations or activities held long before, and no matter how harmless they might have been at the time, now interpreted them as being connected to the Spalding conspiracy? Consider, first of all, the testimony of Alexander Campbell.

In 1831, Campbell ascribed Rigdon's defection to Mormonism as a consequence of character defect. [49] More than ten years later, after having received a little prompting from a fellow worker, Campbell was ready to swear that Rigdon had spoken of gold plates and Indian origins two to three years before the Book of Mormon published. [50] What an impressive conversation it must have been, it took 16 to 17 years to recall it. Examine also Mrs. Amos Dunlap's 1879 testimony. She said that when she was "quite a child," she saw Rigdon working on a manuscript. [51] She did not identify its contents, but by 1879 everyone knew that the manuscript must have been the "Manuscript Found."

Consider also the possibility that testimonies were dressed

49 Alexander Campbell, "Sidney Rigdon" in Millennial Harbinger, 1831, pp. 100, 101.

50 Alexander Campbell, "Mistakes...," p. 39.

51 Patterson, p. 12.

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up over a period of time. The four testimonies of Joseph Miller, given between May 1869 and February 1882, provide the best example. One will immediately notice that his statements get more and more specific as time goes on. In 1869, he could only express a belief "that Joseph Smith, by some means, got possession of Spaulding's 'Manuscript.'" By 1879 Miller would swear that Spalding's last words to him declared that Rigdon had stolen his manuscript. Miller revealed much about himself when he declared, "The longer I live the more firmly I am convinced that Spaulding's M.S. was appropriated and largely used in getting up the Book of Mormon." [52] There are other examples of story development. In 1867, Tucker was content to talk about a mysterious stranger who visited Joseph Smith late at night and suggested that it was Sidney Rigdon. [53] This was followed up in the 1880's when the testimonies of Isaac Butts, W.A. Lille, and Mrs. Eaton practically made Sidney Rigdon a regular fixture of Palmyra. [54]

Five of the statements, those made by Gilbert, Hiram Lake, Kirk, and two from Irving, are based on hearsay and can hardly be accepted as admissible evidence. In addition, there is at least one false testimony and possibly two others. Fawn Brodie has pointed out that Jeffries' testimony of 1884 contains names and dates that do not agree with known events. [55] W. Lang's testimony of November 1881 and Alderman's of 1884 might also fall into this category.

In the end, this mass of later testimony did not prove beneficial to the theory. They tried to tie the theory down to

52 All four testimonies of Joseph Miller have been conveniently collected in Wayne L. Cowdrey, Howard A. Davis; and Donald R. Scales: Who Really wrote The Book of Mormon? (Santa Ana, California: Vision House Publishers, 1977), pp. 67-74.

53 Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise and Progress of Mormonism (New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1867), p. 121.

54 Arthur B. Deming, Naked Truths About Mormonism, Vol. 1 no. 1, p. 2; no. 2, p. 3 (1888). Braden-Kelly Debate, p. 46.

55 Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1975), pp. 452, 453.

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too many specifics until everything was turned into a tangled mess of conflicting dates and concepts. For example, Hurlbut and Howe freely admitted that Rigdon did not live in Pittsburg until 1823 or 1824. These new witnesses claimed that he was in Pittsburg by 1816 and that he actually worked in Patterson's print shop. For a while everyone was content to work with the multiple manuscript concept, then along came Dickinson with all her single manuscript testimonies. Taken all together the statements compounded the problem of complexity instead of relieving it. Schroeder, Shook and others would be very selective of what testimony they used or discarded. Little footnotes would appear at the bottom of their works saying things like, "He (or She) was mistaken," or "They really did not mean to say that."

What then of the early statements that appeared in Hurlbut and Howe's book? Surely those testimonies did not suffer from the same problems as the later ones. The problem with the original statements is that they are too much alike and, as the French historian Marc Bloch once commented, "criticism oscillates between two extremes: the similarity which vindicates and that which discredits." [56] The probability that the eight witnesses, who had heard Spalding read his manuscript seventeen to eighteen years before, could recall the same things in almost the same phrases is too high to be reasonable. In these eight short testimonies the repetition is astonishing: five recalled the names Nephi and Lehi, five spoke of wars, five said that Spalding's story was written to

56 Marc Bloch, The Historian's Craft, (New York: Vintage Books, 1953), p. 115.

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account for the mounds and numerous antiquities, five stated that the Book of Mormon was the Spalding manuscript except for the religious parts, four stated the historical part of the Book of Mormon came from Spalding, four said that the story was about the lost ten tribes, three commented on the phrase "and it came to pass," and four stated that Spalding hoped his story would eventually be accepted as a legitimate history of ancient America. With all its many characters, plots, and descriptions why did the witnesses only associate the Spalding manuscript with the very first and last parts of the Book of Mormon? Why was there no mention of the Almas or the Korihors? Where was the variation? Why did they recall almost the same things in almost the same phrases? These questions led Fawn Brodie to suggest that Hurlbut had engaged in a little prompting. [57] One must also remember that there was a superficial likeness between the Book of Mormon and the Hawaiian manuscript. Elements such as people from the Mediterranean crossing over to ancient America, Indian civilizations, strange names, and war stories were common to both. [58] After having been told briefly about the Book of Mormon's contents, one can almost hear John Spalding say something like, "Why that sounds just like a story my brother wrote years ago." [59]

Motivation is the last problem of the Spalding theory. Either there was a lack of motivation on the part of Sidney Rigdon or there was the wrong kind on the part of D.P. Hurlbut. The role of Sidney Rigdon in the Spalding theory has always been a stumbling block. Rigdon was looked upon as the logical

57 Brodie, pp. 446, 447.

58 Gibson pointed out many superficial similarities, see Gibson, pp. 212-214. Likewise many Spalding critics have compiled lists of similarities. For one such list see Shook, pp. 155-166.

59 A similar opinion was expressed by James Fairchild, see Fairchild, p. 198.

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author of the Book of Mormon. He was educated, well versed in scripture, and much more suited to the task than Joseph Smith. The theory completely failed to assign any motives to Rigdon. Imagine, the individual who was supposed to have created the Book of Mormon was never the leader of the Mormon church, instead he played only secondary roles. In the mid 1840's, when Rigdon was excommunicated from the church, he had an excellent chance to get revenge by proclaiming his role in the creation of the Book of Mormon. Many critics expected that he would and one went as far as to fabricate a testimony to that effect. [60] Through his dying day, however, Rigdon maintained that the first time he ever saw a Book of Mormon was more than six months after its publication. [61]

Another flaw existed in the Rigdon authorship theory. When it came time, in the theory, to throw Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon together before 1831 there was an embarrassed silence. Just when or how they stumbled into each other, exactly how they planned it, or by what means they communicated was left a mystery. The only thing the supporters of the theory could do was speculate. [62] No evidence was forthcoming, so the gap between Rigdon and Smith was never successfully bridged. The last thing to consider is Hurlbut and his manner of research. In the first place, Hurlbut had an axe to grind. His early experiences with Mormonism and his excommunication had left him humiliated and bitter. It is very clear that Hurlbut had already made up his mind about the Spalding theory before he had seen a scrap of evidence. He had presented a

60 Wilhelm Wyl, Mormon Portraits, Joseph Smith the Prophet, His Family and His Friends (Salt Lake City: Tribune Printing and Publishing Co., 1886), p. 241.

61 John W. Rigdon, "Life of Sidney Rigdon" (unpublished manuscript), pp. 188-195. Cited in History of The Church I:122, 123.

62 There were practically as many versions of how Rigdon and Smith were supposed to get together as there were Spalding stories. All versions were created without evidence. Many suggested that Joseph Smith"s reputation as a money digger was so widespread that Rigdon was attracted to him. Why Rigdon would want to use a money digger to be his prophet was never explained. Even the most recent Spalding work by Cowdrey, Davis, and Scales left this area untouched.

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rough draft of his theory before the Kirtland "Anti-Mormon Society" before he even began his investigation. On top of his prejudices, there seems to be evidence that Hurlbut tampered with the testimonies. All in all, his work does not inspire confidence.

In summary, the structure of the Spalding theory was weakened by its complexity of manuscripts, styles, and incidents until it strained credibility. The discovery of the Hawaiian manuscript only added to that strain. Thus the Spalding theory's attraction, a complex explanation for an equally complex book, was also its chief defect.


In his excellent blow by blow account of the Spalding theory, Lester E. Bush suggested that the extensive statement collecting in the 1880's was responsible for the survival of the theory past 1884. [63] There is a great deal of truth in this. In 1919, A. Theodore Schroeder was still justifying his position by those "historical evidences." [64] There was also an amount of convenience attached to this ready made theory that did away with the problem of formulating another. Although statements and convenience were important elements, the real strengths of the Spalding theory lay in its foundation and not in its structure. That foundation, which stated that Joseph Smith could not have written the Book of Mormon, was most amazing since it involved an alliance with LDS thought. It

63 Bush, p. 50.

64 A. Theodore Schroeder, "Authorship of the Book of Mormon" in American Journal of Psychology 30:66.

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had the ability to use the same evidences cited by the Latter-day saints as proof of the Book of Mormon's divinity. This foundation was based on the uneducated condition of Joseph Smith, the massive and complex amount of material found in the Book of Mormon, and the short time it took to produce the whole work.

Joseph Smith's inability to compose a Book of Mormon was the main factor in the origin and wide acceptance of the Spalding theory. This view was accepted by both the Mormons and their critics. The Latter-day Saints argued that since Joseph Smith was so unlearned, he must have received it from an extra-mortal source. "Not true," countered the critics. Joseph Smith did not necessarily have to receive it from a divine source, a worldly source such as the "Manuscript Found" would have done just as well. Even though this position was nothing more than a standoff, [65] those who accepted the Spalding theory came to depend on this issue more and more, especially to answer objections from their own ranks. Charles Shook countered the Latter-day Saint argument that Joseph Smith was too unlearned to write the Book of Mormon with:
But turning now to the real part which Smith played in the imposture, we find it would require more than a young man of his age and education, and of that time, was able to perform. His sole work was, first, to play the prophet, and secondly, to read off to Cowdery, from behind the sheet, "syllable by syllable and word by word," what Rigdon had already written down. And this he did, according to Whitmer, in a most bungling manner, having to spell some of the words out, letter by letter. [66]
65 Harry M. Beardsley, Joseph Smith and His Mormon Empire (New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1931), p. 79.

66 Shook, p. 117.

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Shook was not the only one who played up the uneducated Joseph Smith. Thomas Gregg started with this theme in his book, The Prophet of Palmyra. [67] After the 1880's, when several critics began to accept alternate ideas, the adherents of the Spalding theory fell back on this argument as their first defense. A. Theodore Schroeder based his rebuttal of Walter F. Prince's essay on the concept of Joseph Smith's illiteracy. [68] Likewise, George Arbaugh, in his book Revelation in Mormonism, never lets us forget that "Smith was incapable of writing the Book of Mormon. All that he and Rigdon together could do was to insert their own ideas into it, and they muddled it pretty badly doing that." [69]

The role of Sidney Rigdon was a part of this issue. Joseph Smith's contemporaries continually emphasized his inability to write anything approaching the Book of Mormon by playing down his role, and in turn, elevating Rigdon to that of author. In spite of several early attempts to remove him from the theory, Rigdon remained an indispensible part of the structure.

In sharp contrast to the issue of Joseph Smith's inability to produce a Book of Mormon was the complexity and the massiveness of the book. It is difficult to sum up in a few words exactly what is meant by the complex nature of the Book of Mormon. In order to illustrate this concept, Hugh Nibley once suggested that a reader select any number between 20 and 30 and then note the kind of information contained on the pages that were multiples of that number. Nibley declared

67 Gregg, pp. 1-5.

68 Schroeder, "Authorship...," pp. 66-72.

69 George Arbaugh, Revelation in Mormonism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1932), pp. 20, 39.

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that the reader would soon find himself confronted with a massive amount of information in areas such as historical narratives, doctrinal messages, scriptural translations and commentaries, literary constructions, odd customs, natural disasters, political and legal theory, economic structures, and so forth. Nibley suggested that the reader consider the problems associated with processing that information and then remember that it is all packed into a compact, unemcumbered, consistent book. [70]

Much of the information found in the Book of Mormon was noticed and discussed by non-Mormons in works ranging from legal reviews to the run-of-the-mill anti-Mormon tract. Dr. Walter R. Martin, who has described himself as a strong supporter of the Spalding theory, admitted in one of his works that it was a "difficult task to evaluate the complex structure of the Book of Mormon," instead he urged his readers to consider his bibliography for further studies. [71] In 1889, Perry Benjamin Pierce put his finger squarely on this issue in an article written for the American Anthropologist.
The Book of Mormon was printed in 1830. Joseph Smith, Jr. Was at the time twenty-four years of age. He was, according to some authorities, unable to read or write; by others it is asserted that while able to read and write to some extent he did so with difficulty. By no authority is it contended that he was in any respect more than very poorly educated. And yet, in this publication, we have a work of the greatest anthropological, ethnological, and archeological interest, struck off in one complete, full, perfect act, at the hands of an uneducated, uncultivated, country boor of equivocal reputation and low origin. [72]
70 Hugh Nibley, Since Cumorah, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1973), pp. 156-159.

71 Walter R. Martin, Kingdom of the Cults (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1965), p. 157.

72 Perry B. Pierce, "The Origin of the Book of Mormon" in American Anthropologist (New series, 1899) 1:678.

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This combination of complex text and slight education led many, including Pierce, to believe that the origin of the Book of Mormon was to be found among the lost writings of Solomon Spalding.

An example of the complex structure of the Book of Mormon are the variations of writing style. These variations in writing style were attributed by both Mormon and non-Mormon to multiple authorship. The Mormons claimed that the variations came from the many different prophets that contributed to the work. The non-Mormons believed otherwise. As previously noted, Daniel P. Kidder defended the multiple authorship of the Book of Mormon to J.B. Turner because Kidder was "far from assenting to the position that unity of style or sentiment, prevails throughout the Mormon Bible." He then pointed out how the Spalding theory accounted for the variations of style and sentiment. [73] George Arbaugh also attempted to explain the variations in style by assigning certain parts of the Book of Mormon to different writers. For example, Arbaugh assigned the theological and Biblical portions to Rigdon, the historical passages and the places where the phrase "it came to pass" occurred frequently were supposed to be by Spalding, and last, but not least, Smith was allowed to add a few passages that were either prophetic or anti-Masonic. [74] Multiple authorship was the only way of explaining the style variations and, therefore, was an important element in the Spalding theory.

There was one last element that led several critics to look

73 Kidder, p. 337.

74 Arbaugh, p. 21.

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favorably upon the Spalding theory. This issue surrounded the amount of time taken to dictate the contents of the Book of Mormon to Oliver Cowdery. Joseph Smith was supposed to be translating from the gold plates and calling out the text to Oliver Cowdery, who wrote it down in longhand. Although the exact amount of time is unknown, it has been estimated that it took between sixty-five and ninety days to produce the text for 572 printed pages of the first edition. [75] The critics argued that the only way this could have been accomplished was if Joseph Smith had worked from an already prepared manuscript. That at least one individual had argued this point before 1884 can be seen from George Reynolds' The Myth of the Manuscript Found. Reynolds began his chapter on "Time occupied in Translating the Book of Mormon" with this:
Objection has been made to the divinity of the Book of Mormon on the ground that the account given in the publications of the Church, of the time occupied in the work of translation is far too short for the accomplishment of such a labor, and consequently it must have been copied or transcribed from some work in the English language, most probably from Spaulding's "Manuscript Found." [76]

Not all supporters of the Spalding theory have picked up this issue, but several have brushed across it. An article in Christianity Today, supporting the Spalding theory, alluded to this idea. [77] Arbaugh also touched on this issue, indicating that the dictation to scribe was just for appearances and with the coming of Oliver Cowdery, who had already been prepared by Rigdon, the "translation" could go much faster. [78]

75 Paul R. Cheeseman, The Keystone of Mormonism (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1973), pp. 51-55. Francis W. Kirkham, A New Witness For Christ in America, Vol. 1 (Salt Lake City: Utah Printing Co., 1960),
pp. 220-227.

76 Reynolds, p. 71. Pierce also recognized this issue, Pierce, p. 685.

77 Edward Plowman, "Who Really wrote the Book of Mormon?" Christianity Today, 8 July 1977, p. 32.

78 Arbaugh. pp. 38-41.

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Finally, Gordon H. Fraser, in his mistitled work What Does the Book of Mormon Teach?, based his strongest evidence for the Spalding theory on this time factor. [79] The tremendous speed at which the Book of Mormon was produced seemed to indicate the presence of a manuscript to work from; so once again, there seemed to be a strong point in favor of the "Manuscript Found" or some other available text.

Taken all together, the unlearned state of Joseph Smith, the complex structure of the Book of Mormon, and the time factor, added up to the real strengths of the Spalding theory. Note however, that these strengths made up the foundation of the theory and not the structure. Their nature is obvious since they pointed out the necessity for a prepared work without proving the Spalding manuscript was that work. The "Manuscript Found" filled the need by default. When the structure of the Spalding theory collapsed under its own complexity of manuscripts, styles, and incidents, the new critics rejected the foundation as well. It was this rejection that ultimately led to the undermining of all Book of Mormon criticism.


After 1886, the critics searched for a point of stability. From this period arose two distinct and opposing points of view about the origin of the Book of Mormon. One side continued to believe that Joseph Smith lacked the necessary skills and ability to produce the Book of Mormon and so adhered to the

79 Gordon H. Fraser, What Does the Book of Mormon Teach? (Chicago: Moody Press, 1964), p. 103.

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Spalding theory. The other point of view recognized the weaknesses of the Spalding theory's structure. Lacking any suitable alternatives that might incorporate the same foundation as the "Manuscript Found," they scrapped everything connected to the theory. The supporters of the second view reacted to the complicated tangles that were a part of the Spalding theory by creating a very simplified position. They maintained that Joseph Smith had the skills, the ability, and the background necessary for the creation of the Book of Mormon.

These opposing views resulted in a conflict between the critics that could almost be called the battle of the appendices. [80] This conflict can be examined in many different lights. It can be seen as a conflict over the structures of each theory, whether or not Joseph Smith was skilled enough to write the Book of Mormon by himself, or as a battle between an overly simplified and an extremely complicated one. The Spalding supporters fell back on the foundation of their theory and pointed out that any other view could not possibly account for the extraordinary conditions under which the Book of Mormon was produced. The other side, in turn, took great delight in pointing out each of the Spalding theory's weaknesses, but did this without compromising the theory's foundation. In the end, neither side won, because all they did was point out each others' weaknesses.

Reviewers may quibble over the date of the first rejection of the Spalding theory, after the Hawaiian discovery, in

80 One can almost trace the drift of argument through the appendices of just three major works. I. Woodbridge Riley's criticism of the Spalding Rigdon theory in his work The Founder of Mormonism takes nearly thirty pages of his third appendix. George Arbaugh's criticism of Riley takes place in the first and second appendix of his Revelation in Mormonism. Fawn M. Brodie attacked the Spalding theory in Appendix B of her book, No Man Knows My History.

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favor of a Joseph Smith creation. One could go back to 1886 [81] to find such an opinion, but it was not widely accepted until well after the turn of the century. still it is interesting to examine the opinions of one of those early rejectors, Davis H. Bays. Bays' book, The Doctrines and Dogmas of Mormonism, was published in 1897. calling the Spalding theory a failure and rejecting the role of Sidney Rigdon, Bays concentrated on Oliver Cowdery and contended that Cowdery was present during most of the early important events of the church, such as the translation of the plates, restoration of the priesthood, and the organization of the church. Rigdon was not present at any of these events. Bays, therefore, reasoned that it was Oliver Cowdery and not Sidney Rigdon who created the Book of Mormon. [82] Even though he rejected the Spalding theory, Bays still believed that Joseph Smith could not have created it all by himself.

Bays' opinions did not come to much; some harsh and taunting words were exchanged between him and Charles Shook, but that was all. [83] His views failed because he forgot that Cowdery was not a participant at the beginning of the production. Although his ideas were faulty, Bays actually came the closest to capturing all of the Spalding theory's strengths. With the rejection of his ideas went all hope of ever using those strengths in a non-Spalding framework.

The total rejection of the foundation and structure of the Spalding theory finally came in 1902 with the publication

81 A sole rejection of the Spalding theory in favor of a Joseph Smith-author theory occurred in September 1886 in the New Princeton Review. See Gibson, p. 215. Such rejections were unusual, for even James Fairchild suggested in March 1886 that it was impossible to prove or disprove the Spalding theory.

82 Bays, pp. 24, 25.

83 See comments in Shook, pp. 178-180.

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of I. Woodbridge Riley's The Founder of Mormonism. This work opened a new phase of criticism because it centered the production of the Book of Mormon on Joseph Smith and emphasized the idea that his environment provided all the sources for it. Much has already been made of Riley's charge of a streak of epilepsy and mental disorders running through the Smith family. Even Riley was not willing to attribute the Book of Mormon to an epileptic fit because he claimed that Joseph Smith probably underwent a spontaneous cure around the age of twenty-one or twenty-three. [84] He felt, however, that the Book of Mormon was produced under unconscious conditions. Riley believed that when Joseph Smith stared into whatever crystals he had, he lapsed into a hypnotic-like state and dictated what he thought were heavenly revelations while in truth he was unconsciously drawing from his own imagination and background.

To support the Joseph Smith-author theory Riley argued that six percent of the Book of Mormon was drawn from the Bible. He claimed the Book of Mormon echoed the popular notions of the nineteenth century about the Hebraic origins of the Indians and their beliefs. Warnings against secret combinations were taken as evidence of anti-Masonism, and all the references to the Great and Abominable Church were immediately seized upon as a reflection of the anti-Catholic attitudes of the day.

To drive his point home, Riley pointed out the similarities between the Book of Mormon's Vision of the Tree of Life and a dream received by Joseph Smith's father in 1811. The dream had been recalled and recorded in Mother Smith's autobiography

84 I. Woodbridge Riley. The Founder of Mormonism (London: William Henemann, 1903), pp. 74, 366.

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of 1845. In addition, he made comparisons between the Westminster Confession of Faith and I Nephi 15.

Riley could easily accept this notion of unconscious production, because he felt that the Book of Mormon was chaotic. According to Riley, "A volume that took at least two years to exogitate, plus two years to write, should manifest some logical development. Such is not the fact..." Elsewhere he stated, "The four chief marks of the Book of Mormon are a redundant style, fragmentary information, a fanciful archeology, and an unsystematic theology." [85]

The theology of the Book of Mormon was exasperating to Riley. It preached Calvinism, yet rejected Calvinism; it expounded Presbyterian principles, but was not Presbyterian; it was Baptist in spirit, but not in fact; it used Methodism, but "was more practical than theoretical." In short it was all of these theologies, but really none of them. [86] Riley could only grumble:
without entering the penumbra of minor creeds, some idea has been gained of 'the confusion and strife among the different denominations' in Joseph Smith's fifteenth year. It is now ten years later and he has done little to reconcile the differences; instead he has but transferred to paper his own obfustication... [87]

If the theology of the Book of Mormon posed a problem for Riley it was not because it was unsystematic. He assumed that Joseph Smith had lifted the contents of the Book of Mormon from his environment; and when the book did not make any sense in that context, then Riley labeled it the product

85 Riley. pp. 141, 168.

86 Riley, pp. 141-147.

87 Riley, p. 148.

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of an illogical mind.

A case in point: Riley was positive that he had found a cut and dried example of nineteenth century attitudes toward Deism in the story of Korihor. He pointed out that Korihor expounded a few Deistic principles and was treated as an atheist. Since Deism was considered akin to atheism in the nineteenth century by many Americans, Riley felt that he had discovered a solid example of environmental influence; however, in the footnotes Riley admitted that the chief priest's counterargument against Korihor included a few "Deistic" points.

Rather than admit that Deism countered with Deism denied atheism and wreck his own argument, Riley simply pointed this problem out as another example of Joseph's "lack of Logic." [88] It never occurred to Riley that the section had nothing to do with Deism or the writings of Tome Paine and that the principles discussed were common to all ages and not just to the nineteenth century.

By arguing that the Book of Mormon was not the product of an educated mind, Riley rejected the Spalding theory's strengths. As far as he was concerned the Book of Mormon was a haphazard work thrown together in the unconscious mind of a backwoods illiterate. Riley's ideas worked on paper. They were based on the delicate relationship of an illiterate farmboy producing an equally unenlightening work over a long period of time. The argument would be supported by nineteenth century influences, such as Father Smith's 1811 dream and the Westminster Confession.

88 Riley. pp. 168.

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Riley's ideas would fall to pieces if it could be shown that the Book of Mormon was an organized and complex text and that his examples of nineteenth century influences were unjustified.

I. Woodbridge Riley's work was followed, in 1917, by Walter Prince's "Psychological Tests for the Authorship of the Book of Mormon," which was published in the American Journal of Psychology. Walter Prince tried to show that the proper names found in the Book of Mormon were reflections of Joseph Smith's environment. He approached this task in a number of ways. All proper names with the letters MOR or MOR were supposed to be unconscious reflections of the kidnapping and murder of William Morgan by the Masons in 1827. All proper names with the letters ANT were supposed to reflect the anti-Masonic party of the area. Mathoni and Mathonihah were actually the word Mason as produced by the "psychic censor." Emma Hale, Joseph Smith's wife, became Helaman and the town of Harmony became Himni, the son of Mosiah.

While all of this was taken very seriously by the supporters of Riley, it was too much for A. Theodore Schroeder to swallow. He prepared a sharp reply that was published a little over a year later. Schroeder, a Spalding advocate, continued to stress the inability of Joseph Smith to produce the Book of Mormon. Unimpressed by Prince's work, he went far to ridicule his tests.
A person with different predisposition might have found some evidence that Smith went into the Mormon scheme purely from a desire to get a little easy money. A person eager to justify such a theory by

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"rigorous psychologic tests" might not choose the Masonic-Morgon complex to explain the frequency of the name Mormon and numerous others of the similar component sounds. From the money-complex point of view it might look like MORe MONey. It seems just as likely that this explains the fact that out of forty names beginning with M, 25 begin with Mor. [89]

Schroeder was not about to accept the results of Prince's examination because it was a test in reverse. Joseph Smith was the given answer and the test had to confirm it. Schroeder claimed the names in the Book of Mormon had their foundation in the classics and only an educated mind would have access to material like that. His review concluded with barbs sharp enough to show how serious the Spalding -- non-Spalding split had become.
I believe that even this brief criticism of Dr. Prince's "application of rigorous psychologic tests" to the problem of authorship of the Book of Mormon shows his method to be so defective as to leave his conclusions wholly valueless. He reasons around in a circle, in a fine mystical or archaic fashion. Perhaps he should secure the services of a psychoanalyst for his self understanding before he attempts to use psychology as a tool to explain others. Then he will not be tempted to construct special pleas in support of personal whims. [90]

Schroeder's attack on Walter Prince was followed by George Bartholomew Arbaugh's criticism of Riley. George Arbaugh was interested in presenting an uncluttered version of the Spalding theory and Riley was a slight nuisance. Judging by what he wrote about The Founder of Mormonism it is doubtful that Arbaugh fully understood Riley's point of view. He tended

89 Schroeder, "Authorship...," pp. 68, 69. An amusing sidelight to this statement is that many critics actually took Schroeder seriously and immediately began suggesting that Joseph Smith was suffering from a MORe MONey complex.

90 Schroeder, "Authorship...," p. 69.

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to make the same mistakes as other critics and assumed that Riley thought the Book of Mormon was a product of Smith family mental disorders. There were a few concepts, such as nineteenth century influences, that he would agree with, as long as those influences were not confined to Joseph Smith. If those influences were not confined only to Joseph Smith, then Arbaugh's Spalding ideas would be weakened. It was with this understanding that Arbaugh attacked the 1811 dream of Father Smith as a source for the Tree of Life Vision.

Arbaugh found ample grounds to question the validity of the 1811 dream as a source for the Tree of Life Vision. The reason was this: The Book of Mormon was published in 1830 and Mother Smith's biographical work, in which the 1811 dream was recorded, was written in 1845. The question that should have been asked was how was Lucy's recalling of a thirty-five year old dream affected by the story of the Tree of Life. Arbaugh offered the following evidences to show that the recalling of the dream was influenced by later events:
The two small children in Smith's vision can have no possible meaning but the two sons in Lehi's vision are there of necessity. Their rebellion and sin is fundamental in the Nephi te story and had to be pictured by their refusal to come to the tree of life. Lucy changes the reason for absence from sin to immaturity and instead of leaving them unsaved happily brings her whole brood to the tree. Second, the use of Babylon is due to later Mormon influence. The doctrine of Catholic apostasy and the use of these passages from Revelation condemning "Babylon" became popular after 1820 rather than before 1811... In 1834 "Saints" was inserted in the name of the church, borrowed from the perfectionist movement. This came to be used by

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Mormons as their peculiar designation. It was natural for Lucy to use it when she wrote this vision. But it would have been strange indeed for her husband to have used it twenty years before the founding of the church. A fourth evidence is that this whole last part, condemnatory of those who oppose the saints. could scarcely have part of the supposed vision. The opening quarter of the century was marked by interdenominational friendship and unity. [91]

It was Arbaugh's belief that Lucy Smith fabricated her husband's dream or patterned a minor dream on the Tree of Life vision. With the exception of a jibe here and there, in the text or footnotes, Arbaugh reserved his main criticism of Riley for his appendices. There he questioned Riley's psychological tests and repeated much of what Schroeder had said.

In spite of the good show put on by the Spalding supporters, other writers, such as Harry M. Beardsley (Joseph Smith and His Mormon Empire) and James Black (New Forms of Old Faith), more or less supported the ideas of Riley over those of Schroeder and Arbaugh. [92] During the 1930's and 1940's the Spalding theory lost a lot of ground. It was too big, too awkward to work with. But Riley would not provide the pattern for present day non-Spalding criticism. For that pattern one must look to Fawn Brodie. Before going on, a brief word concerning Fawn Brodie's work is in order. Most Latter-day Saints have condemned her as an anti-Mormon. This condemnation is incorrect unless one is willing to call every

91 Arbaugh, p. 22.

92 James Black, New Forms of the Old Faith (Toronto and New York: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd., 1948), pp. 240-261.

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secular interpretation of Mormonism as anti-Mormon. Her book, No Man Knows My History, was a good biography of Joseph Smith. Unfortunately, from the Mormon point of view, she rejected any supernatural motivation. She felt that Joseph Smith's prophetic role was a matter of evolution not revelation. This interpretation naturally resulted in the loss of her LDS membership and left her book to be alternately praised or condemned depending on the reviewer's theology. This reviewer takes no exception with her biography except where it deals with the Book of Mormon. Here Fawn Brodie's manipulation of the evidence is both ingenious and suspicious.

The writing of the Book of Mormon played a key part in her interpretation of the rise of Joseph Smith to the role of a prophet. While dealing with that evolution, Mrs. Brodie understood the implications of the Spalding theory better than most historians and handled it very carefully. Whereas Riley believed in the unconscious production of the Book of Mormon, Fawn Brodie argued that it was produced under fully conscious conditions. Riley rejected outright at least two of the Spalding theory's strengths, the complex nature and the time factor. Brodie rejected all three, giving only lip service to the complex nature and the time factor and discarding outright the idea of the unlettered prophet. For the sake of saying it, she stated that the Book of Mormon was not absurd or formless, contending that its structure showed "elaborate design." [93] She basically accepted the time factor, using it

93 Brodie, p. 69.

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as evidence of Joseph's developing skills. [94]

Fawn Brodie's main fault was not in attempting to incorporate the issues that supported the Spalding theory, but in failing to address the problems at all. Whereas previous writers had not been able to credit Joseph Smith with writing the Book of Mormon because he lacked the ability, Fawn Brodie reversed the issue and accepted the difficulty of producing the book as evidence of his brilliance. She did so without attempting to show the origins of this sudden talent or why the former interpretations of Joseph Smith's incomptence did not hold. In short, she offered a new interpretation without evidence.

To support this point of view, Fawn Brodie misrepresented the position of the early critics. She claimed that his detractors were "unwilling to credit Joseph Smith with either learning or talent" and so advanced the Spalding theory to upstage Smith's position. [95] Then she claimed that Alexander Campbell believed that Joseph and not Sidney Rigdon was the author of the Book of Mormon. [96] As has been previously shown, Alexander Campbell was unqualified to give such an opinion; and he was also a firm believer in the Spalding theory. Campbell accused Sidney Rigdon of being involved; two books in Brodie's bibliography contain portions of that accusation. The real problem was not that Joseph Smith's contemporaries were "unwilling" to grant him the abilities necessary to write scripture, they were "unable" to.

94 Brodie, p. 61, 62.

95 Brodie, p. 68.

96 Brodie. p. 69, 70, 455, 456.

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The problem of authorship was further compounded by Joseph Smith's prophetic evolution. It might seem reasonable for Joseph Smith evolve from treasure hunter to peep-stone peeker to prophet of the Almighty. It made no sense for Joseph Smith to evolve from an 1822 money digger, ready to sacrifice barnyard fowl and black sheep, to stone peeking defendant in an 1826 trial, to a genius dictating the contents of a massive, well-structured book in 1829. The irony of all of this was that the early Spalding supporters cited Joseph Smith's early money digging adventures as evidence that he lacked the wit to author the Book of Mormon.

Fawn Brodie could not honestly get around this problem of contents as opposed to Smith's abilities. She described something and called it the Book of Mormon, while in fact it bore only a faint resemblance to the real thing. Mrs. Brodie offered the public a Book of Mormon that was all plot and no substance.

Fawn Brodie argued that Joseph Smith's environment provided all the sources. Once again anti-Masonism and anti-Catholicism were considered to be themes found in the book. She cited the 1811 dream as a source for the Tree of Life Vision and stated that reverse borrowing was unlikely because Lucy probably told and retold it over the years. [97] Of course, Mrs. Brodie failed to offer any evidence that it was told and retold before 1845 and failed to answer any of Arbaugh's objections. She suggested that Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews

97 Brodie, p. 59, footnote.

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offered the inspiration needed to write the Book of Mormon. Her opinion was based on an unpublished parallel made between the two books by the Mormon scholar and General Authority B.H. Roberts. In many ways Fawn Brodie used Riley's sources without Riley's method of production. One important thing to note is that her review of' the Book of Mormon was oversimplified. This oversimplification will be dealt with later since it was accepted by nearly all non-Spalding critics after her.

After Fawn Brodie's brilliant performance, all efforts by pro-Spalding critics were second rate. In 1958, James D. Bales halfheartedly drew up a list, possibly inspired by early parallel works, of seventy-five comparisons between the Hawaiian manuscript and the Book of Mormon. [98] It was halfhearted because Bales felt that it was not important to delve into the book's origin only to determine if it came from God. His comparisons included such spectacular things as "both mention milk," "both refer to great cities," "both believe in an evil spirit," and "both mention Jesus Christ." The only problem is that other books, like Ben-Hur, mention milk, cities, evil spirits, and Jesus Christ. Gordon Fraser, in 1964, succeeded only in showing how little he knew about the Book of Mormon's contents. He accepted the Spalding theory only because of the time factor. [99] Walter R. Martin's books, published in 1962 and 1965, added nothing to the argument except lengthy quotes from Bales. [100]

During June 1977, three "researchers," Wayne Cowdrey,

98 James D. Bales, The Book of Mormon? (Rosemead, California: The Manney Company, 1958), pp. 138-147.

99 Fraser, pp. 102-109.

100 Martin, pp. 168-170.

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Howard Davis, and Donald Scales, made a startling announcement. [101] They claimed to have evidence showing that portions of the original Book of Mormon manuscript were in the handwriting of Solomon Spalding. Their claims, backed by the preliminary reports of three handwriting experts, were heralded by both Christianity Today and Time magazine. [102] Dr. Walter Martin prefaced their book with the comment that its impact would be almost incalculable. Dr. Martin's comments proved to be prophetic because even before the book came off the presses, everyone began having second thoughts about the "researchers'" claims. [103]

Although the "researchers" picked a portion of the original Book of Mormon manuscript whose scribe had not been positively identified, the handwriting of that particular section corresponded to the handwriting of a later Mormon document. [104]

The later document, the 1831 manuscript copy of the fifty-sixth section of the Doctrine and Covenents, mentions persons, places, and doctrines that were important to the Latter-day Saints, but would have been meaningless when Spalding was alive fifteen years earlier. Cowdery, Davis, and Scales' response to this revelation was total silence. Not a single word even hinted at this problem, although they knew about it long enough before their book came off the presses to respond to Dean Jessee's critique of their claims in an appendix.

The solid front of handwriting experts began to crumble. Before issuing a final report based on the examination of the

101 Los Angeles Times, June 25, 1977. Reprinted in Salt Lake Tribune, June 26, 1977, p. A-11.

102 Plowman, "Who Really wrote...," pp. 32-34. "Mormon Mystery" in Time, July 11, 1977, p. 69.

103 Edward E. Plowman. "Mormon Manuscript Claims: Another Look" in Christianity Today, 21 October 1977, pp. 38-39. Time magazine finally admitted that the charge had fizzled in their article "Mormonism," 7 August 1978, p. 56.

104 LDS response and publication of species of handwriting from these documents can be found in Jesse, pp. 3-5.

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original documents, one analyst, Henry Silver, bowed out claiming that his position had been misrepresented. His doctor advised against further travel, and Mr. Silver left stating that he was "fed up" and "didn't want any part of it." [105] The second handwriting analyst, William Kaye, turned in a final report favorable to the "researchers." [106] The third expert, Howard Doulder, issued a report unfavorable to the "researchers." [107] The result was hardly characteristic of an exact science. While the final count was actually one positive, one negative, and one abstention, Cowdrey, Davis, and Scales published all reports prior to the examination of' the original manuscripts and the two submitted afterwards to give their claims an appearance of five positive responses and one negative response. [108]

Outside of these two problems the real failings of Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon? was that after two years of investigation these three young men did nothing to capitalize on the actual strengths of the Spalding theory. It is doubtful that they even knew what the strengths were. There was not a word about Joseph Smith's inability to write the book, not a breath about the time factor, and not even a hint about the complex structure of the book matching the structure of the theory. They complained about Brodie's rough handling of the Spalding theory, but did not use their own published statement of Alexander Campbell to counter her. One could view the work of Cowdrey, Davis, and Scales as the natural result of the

105 Salt Lake Tribune, 9 July 1977.

106 Salt Lake Tribune, 9 September 1977.

107 Los Angeles Times, 24 September 1977.

108 Cowdrey, pp. 177-187.

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Spalding movement after the 1930's. Obviously they did not understand the significance of the theory so they just parroted what could be found in half a dozen books.

Why was the Spalding theory overshadowed by the Joseph Smith -- author concept? The Spalding theory was so big, so complex that it was unmanageable, and the Joseph Smith -- author theory was so simple that many critics wondered why it had not been used before. Everyone forgot that the Spalding theory was not created to upstage the Book of Mormon but to face the issues raised about its origin. Those issues asked how a poorly educated boy created a complex literary work in such a short period of time. The Joseph Smith -- author theory hedged on those points. The time factor was rarely raised by the non-Spalding critics. The new theory attempted to raise Joseph Smith to the level of a doubtful genius. Doubtful because geniuses are usually accredited with more imagination than digging for Captain Kidd's buried treasure. Finally, these critics had to play down the actual contents of the Book of Mormon to make its creation by Joseph Smith seem reasonable.

Perhaps one reason that the non-Spalding critics played down the actual contents is due to the size of the text. The size of the Book of Mormon is tremendous; the first edition ran 588 pages and the 1920 editions total 522 pages in double columns. Most modern critics do not have the time or the

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inclination of Rev. M.T. Lamb who devoted 344 pages to his criticism of the Book of Mormon in 1886. [109] Today, one is subjected to a series of reviews running in length from O'Dea's 18 pages [110] to the Tanners' 46 page hysteria. [111]

The length of these reviews naturally limits the critics' analysis. The Tanners claim to have compromised about 450 verses. While this number may seem a lot, 450 verses comprises less than seven percent of the entire Book of Mormon. Ninety-three percent of the text is barely touched. The disturbing thing about these reviews is that the contents are unvarying. They all concentrate on the same things but leave about ninety percent untouched. Then in a solemn chorus these critics all proclaim Joseph Smith the sole author of the Book of Mormon.


By and large non-Mormons have yet to make a substantial contribution to the study of the Book of Mormon. Not because they reject the supernatural origin of the book, rather because they oversimplified its contents in order to make the Joseph Smith -- author theory plausible. This oversimplified view resulted in the suspension of the proper methods of historical interpretation by accepting methods that would be rejected under any other circumstances.

The most obvious oversimplification involves the Tree of Life Vision. This incident is covered in seven chapters of

109 M.T. Lamb, The Golden Bible (New York: Ward and Drummond, 1886). The work was later issued as The Mormons and Their Bible (Philadelphia: Griffith and Rowland Press, 1901). Judging from the second edition of this book, Lamb was a firm believer in the Spalding theory.

110 Thomas P. O'Dea, The Mormons (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1957), pp. 22-40.

111 Jerald and Sandra Tanner, "The Book of Mormon" in Mormonism -- Shadow or Reality? (Salt Lake City: Modern Microfilm Company, 1972), pp. 50-96.

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the 1920 edition of the Book of Mormon. Since the Tree of Life is an image which appears all over the world, it is not difficult to compare the available outside material to the chapters appearing in the Book of Mormon. Even a superficial study is enough to convince anyone that the author of the Book of Mormon was very familiar with the multiple elements that existed in the symbol of the Tree of Life. Those elements include the tree of imagination, the tree of nourishment, the tree of sacrifice, the tree of knowledge, and the tree of history. It is unlikely that Joseph Smith would have had access to this information. How do the critics approach the vision? They take portions of one chapter and explain it by the method of reverse borrowing, in other words they put the effect before the cause.

The problem of oversimplification also appears when individuals attempt to label the Book of Mormon as a modern work, because concepts found in the text also existed in the nineteenth century. The problem is that the concepts are universal and existed in practically every century. Take, for example, the much cited "Masonic Influences" found in the Book of Mormon. Nowhere in the Book of Mormon is the name Mason used. There are, however, descriptions of secret organizations which mention the use of signs and passwords. Critics pounced on those descriptions and pronounced them Masonic as though nineteenth century Masons made up the only organization in the history of mankind that had secret organizations,

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signs, and passwords. These descriptions could equally be applied to practically any subversive group in any century of recorded history.

Another example of poor conceptual dating involved the Westminster Confession. In 1902, Riley drew attention to parallel concepts found in the Westminster Confession, prepared during 1643-1647, and the Book of Mormon. Riley took 1 Nephi 15, extracted portions of one verse, another, and another, and put them altogether in a new order. [112] Next to this mutilated version of 1 Nephi 15, he placed carefully selected portions of the thirty-second and thirty-third chapters of the Westminster confession. Since both of the selections now appeared to talk about the final judgment, Riley argued that the Book of Mormon came, in part, from the Westminster Confession. [113] This line of reasoning failed because Riley actually created something new in order to make his comparisons. 1 Nephi 15 became more Riley's creation than Nephi's.

Much later, Sandra and Jerald Tanner introduced a new twist to the Westminster problem. Since the thirty-second chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith refers to the state of the soul between death and resurrection, they drew a series of parallels between that portion and Alma 40 in the Book of Mormon. [114] The only problem is that the concept of an intermediate judgment, as described by both texts, is neither original to the nineteenth century or to any century. Hasting's Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, several Catholic encyclopedias,

112 Riley's version of 1 Nephi 15 was made up of highly edited portions of the following verses in this order: v. 31, 29, 35, 30, 32, 33, 35.

113 Riley, pp. 132-133.

114 Tanner, pp. 68-69.

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and even the widely published Ethiopian Book of Enoch all show that the same points the Tanners enumerated existed well before the Christian Era. [115]

If the critics wanted to show that the Book of Mormon was a nineteenth century document, then they should have found at least one concept unique only to that time frame. Conceivably one could take the evidence they cited and argue that an eighteenth or seventeenth century man could have prepared portions and only portions of the Book of Mormon.

Attempts to show that the Book of Mormon is a modern creation because it appears to have borrowed material from the New Testament are interesting, but unimpressive. In the first place, this argument still does not prove that Joseph Smith was the sole author of the Book of Mormon (or for that matter any other nineteenth century man) and it may indicate just the opposite. The complex relationship between the Bible and the Book of Mormon has never been fully described by the critics, who are content to believe that it is simply a case of one borrowing from the other. The type of material incorporated into the Book of Mormon, the significant changes made in many of the verses, the accompanying commentary, and the massive quantity of material are all strong arguments for the hand of an experienced Biblical scholar. In contrast, Joseph Smith did not begin his own detailed study of the Bible with Rigdon until several years after the Book of Mormon was published.

Secondly, no one today is going to argue that the concepts found in the New Testament were original only to the Christian

115 Richard Laurance, Translator, The Book of Enoch the Prophet (London: Kegan Paul, Trench and Co., 1883), pp. 26-30. J.A. MacCulloch, "Eshatology" in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol. 5 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1925), pp. 373-391. J.A. McHugh, "Judgement, Divine" in The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 8 (New York: Rovert Appleton Company, 1910), pp. 549-553. J. H. wright, "Judgment, Divine" in New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 8 (New York, St. Louis, San Franscisco, Toronto, London, and Sydney: McGraw Hill Book Company, 1967), pp. 30-40.

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Era. Since the Enlightenment, men have shown that many of Jesus' teachings were expounded by other men before his birth. More recently, the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls have re-emphasized the fact that many "Christian" concepts and practices predated even Jesus of Nazareth. One team of critics tried to show that the Book of Mormon simply borrowed material straight out of the New Testament by producing alist of 210 Book of Mormon verses that have Biblical parallels. At face value the list looks very impressive except that ten of those verses are included in Gasters' list of "Biblical quotations and parallels" found in the Dead Sea scrolls. [116] Furthermore, just skimming through the remaining 200 verses with a good concordance, one can find that more than half of them have Old Testament parallels. Once again the critics have cited evidence that is not closed to the nineteenth century or, for that matter, any period of time as proof that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon.

on the other hand, is there evidence that Joseph Smith was not the sole author of the Book of Mormon? The answer to this question is yes. In the first place, the style of the Book of Mormon follows the particular characteristics of a language of which Joseph Smith had no formal knowledge. Over the years, the critics complained loudly about the book's style, which they characterized as a pale imitation of the Bible. Only within the last twenty years have individuals begun to thoroughly analyze the style of the Book of Mormon. In 1960, E. Craig Bramwell prepared a master's thesis on

116 Compare the list of New Testament Parallels in Tanner's Mormonism -- Shadow or Reality? to Theodore H. Gaster, The Dead Sea Scriptures, second edition (Garden City, New York: Anchor Books, 1964), pp. 412-420.

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Hebrew idioms found in the first 133 pages of the Book of Mormon. His work contained one chapter on Grammer and Language, two chapters on the Hebrew Genius of Expression, and another on lexical idioms and cultural connotations. Bramwell discovered that the Book of Mormon contained an unusually high number of Hebrew idioms. In his chapter on Grammer and Language, he cited nineteen categories with 434 examples. The categories included the compound subject, which is considered poor English grammar but correct Hebrew, and the cognitive accusative, in which the verb and object are derived from the same root and produce a repetition of the same sound such as "we dreamed a dream." Ten examples of the compound subject and twenty of the cognitive accusative were cited. [117]

Melvin D. Pack followed up Bramwell's work by examining possible lexical Hebraisms in the last 389 pages of the Book of Mormon. Pack defined lexical Hebraisms as "any word or Phrase which appeared to be a literal rendering of a Hebrew lexicographic mode of speech, in that English had a usage or connotation which was not normal; whereas, if translated literally into Hebrew it would represent standard usage." [118] Pack excluded from his study Biblical verses which appeared in the Book of Mormon in their entirety, in part quotation, or in paraphrase. From the remainder he cited 146 categories with 756 examples. In order to determine if these lexical Hebraisms were used frequently in nineteenth century religious writings, Pack examined the Popular Lectures and Addresses of

117 E. Craig Bramwell, "Hebrew Idioms in the Small Plates of Nephi" (Provo, Utah: Unpublished BYU Master's Thesis, 1960), pp. 16-49.

118 Melvin Deloy Pack, "Possible Lexical Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon" (Provo, Utah: Unpublished BYU Master's Thesis, 1973), p. 221.

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Alexander Campbell and applied the same test. In the writings of Alexander Campbell, Pack found thirty-one categories of lexical Hebraisms and fifty-one examples. Only thirteen categories were shared by the two books. The ratio between the Book of Mormon and Popular Lectures of all examples was higher than 14:1.

Bramwell and Pack's theses convincingly showed that the author of the Book of Mormon had to be very familiar with the Hebrew language. Joseph Smith does not qualify in this respect. His first formal study of Hebrew would take place in Kirtland, Ohio, six years after the Book of Mormon was published.

In conjunction with this problem of language was a curious attempt by Fawn Brodie to give to Joseph Smith special knowledge which he did not possess. Concerning the construction of the names found in the Book of Mormon, Brodie said, "But since in the Old Testament no names begin with the letters F, Q, V, W, X, or Y, he (Joseph Smith) was careful not include any in his manuscript." [119] This speculation is interesting, but who even knew about the construction or significance of the Book of Mormon names until Thomas Brookbank discussed it in 1910? [120] Is it common knowledge that the lack of the letters F, Q, V, W, X, or Y are significant in the construction of semantic names? Brodie would have simplified matters greatly if she had stated from which sources Joseph Smith could have obtained this information. Instead she naively suggested that the secrets of the Hebrew tongue are all easily obtained from an English translation of the Bible.

119 Brodie, p. 73.

120 Thomas W. Brookbank, "Hebrew Idioms and Analogies in the Book of Mormon" in Improvement Era 13:339-341.

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An interesting fumble made by some critics is to claim that the phrase "Alpha and Omega" which appears in the Book of Mormon has a Greek origin. The phrase Alpha and Omega is borrowed from the Hebrew idiom "from aleph to tau" (the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet). This fact has been pointed out by Adam Clarke in his Biblical Commentary for Revelations 1:8. Here again is evidence that the real author of the Book of Mormon had a background in the Hebrew language.

Finally the elaborate structure of the Book of Mormon provides evidence that Joseph Smith did not create it. How elaborate is its structure? The "plot" is spectacular. It consists of records passed down through succeeding generations and describes their problems, solutions, and failures.

The doctrinal reach of the Book of Mormon is breathtaking. In his study of four Book of Mormon prophets, David Earl Perry isolated 324 doctrinal expositions. [121] Each doctrine is not completely expounded before another is taken up. Doctrines are scattered, like pieces of a jigsaw, throughout the test and what one prophet does not explain is covered by another. The book slowly reveals each doctrine until all the pieces fit together in a brilliant original picture.

The number of prophecies found in the text add to its complexity. Ross W. Warner isolated 61 prophecies relating to the time period after the close of the story. [122] No one has yet listed the number and fulfillment of prophecies that related only to the book's time period.

There are basic cultural descriptions of three civilizations

121 David Earl Perry, "The Relevance and Effectiveness of Four Book of Mormon Prophets and Their Teaching" (Provo, Utah: Unpublished BYU Master's Thesis, 1974), pp. 301-331.

122 Ross W. Warner, "A Study of Problems Relative to the Fulfillment of Selected Prophecies in the Book of Mormon" (Provo, Utah: unpublished BYU Master's Thesis, 1961).

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with such things as their governments, conflicts, ideologies, and changes over time. How would a book like this be put together? Only in one way -- with a lot of time, planning, outlining, drafting, and revising.

Is this complex method the way the non-Spalding critics believe Joseph Smith created the Book of Mormon? No, because there is no evidence supporting an outline, draft, or revision of the Book of Mormon by Joseph Smith. All the evidence points to a single clean draft dictated by Joseph Smith across a curtain to his scribe. Any revisions in the text appear to have taken place after the publication of the first edition. Fawn Brodie knew that there was no evidence supporting a developing text and portrayed Joseph Smith plunging into a story "that would have given the most experienced novelist pause." [123]

In this simplistic point of view, Smith was supposed to have made it all up as he went along. One almost feels that Brodie went on to describe the Book of Mormon in terms of what it should have been, not what it actually is. It is not surprising that she perpetually made one mistake after another in regard to the book's contents. She had Joseph Smith make up the Jaredite story near the end of the Book of Mormon at the last minute to support diffusion theories. In truth, the Jaredites had been introduced around the book's first quarter. [124] Brodie called the doctrine only a potpourri, [125] and it would have been if it had really been created off the top of someone's head. In a classic example of misinterpretation, she placed

123 Brodie, p. 49.

124 Book of Mormon, (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1976), pp. 131, 151 (Omni 21, 22; Mosiah 8:8-12).

125 Brodie, p. 70.

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too much emphasis on B. H. Roberts' "Parallel."

B.H. Roberts' "Parallel" between Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon is an unusual document. Non-Mormons have claimed that it was suppressed for "obvious reasons" or that it was a "secret list," whatever that means, or that it shows that Roberts had lost his faith in Mormonism. Actually none of these views are correct. On the contrary, the critics fell into the trap of interpreting a document in isolation.

In August 1921, a Logan druggist, William E. Ritter, forwarded to James E. Talmage a list of objections to the Book of Mormon by a Mr. Couch of Washington D.C. The matter was turned over to a committee made up of Ivins, Talmage, Widtsoe and Roberts. B.H. Roberts responded to the task by expanding the study of Book of Mormon anachronisms and in January 1922 he delivered an oral presentation on the subject to the Mormon General Authorities. Apostle Richard R. Lyman objected to further study of the problems, but B.H. Roberts defended his position in a letter to President Heber J. Grant in March 1922. In this letter Roberts argued that since they all believed in the divine origin of the Book of Mormon there was nothing wrong in examining possible objections to it; besides, to be forewarned was to be forearmed. Evidently Roberts received approval from the First Presidency to continue his study. He began to write a report for the President of the Church later the same month. [126]

126 Letters cited in this paragraph and the next two paragraphs can be found in the B.H. Roberts' Papers, Archives and Manuscripts, Harold B. Lee Library, Provo, Utah.

[ 64 ]

In the report Roberts addressed the problems raised by Mr. Couch and took the part of the devil's advocate. Roberts' arguments were so persuasive that several critics labeled them as proof that B.H. Roberts had lost his faith in the Book of Mormon. On the contrary, there is plenty of evidence that Roberts could argue both sides of a question without losing his faith. Consider the following story told by J. Golden Kimball, of the First Council of the Seventy:
The first time I ever saw Elder Roberts was either in Cincinnati or St. Louis. He had been chosen as president of the Southern states Mission to succeed John Morgan. I left for Chattanooga, Tennessee, with twenty-seven elders assigned to the Southern States... The elders preached, and talked, and sang, and advertised loudly their calling as preachers. I kept still for once in my life; I hardly opened my mouth. I saw a gentleman get on the train. I can visualize that man now. I didn't know who he was. He knew we were a band of Mormon elders. The elders soon commenced a discussion and argument with the stranger, and before he got through they were in grave doubt about their message of salvation. He gave them a training that they never forgot. That man proved to be President B.H. Roberts. [127]

There appears to be a fear among Book of Mormon critics that B.H. Roberts did not seriously accept or believe in the problems he raised. Good reason exists to believe that Roberts had not accepted the problems even before he began his March report. In February 1922, Roberts sent a lengthy letter to William Ritter, the druggist who began the whole affair, answering each of the objections raised by Mr. Couch. Ritter responded warmly to Roberts' message later the same month.

B.H. Roberts' study was interrupted in 1922 when he was

127 J. Golden Kimball, Conference Report, October 6, 1933, pp. 42-43.

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called to be the President of the Eastern states Mission. Richard R. Lyman's attitudes toward Book of Mormon problems changed by 1927. At Lyman's request B.H. Roberts sent to him a summary of his report which Roberts entitled "A Parallel."

Roberts continued to study these problems over the next five years until he felt confident that Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews in no way could be accurately compared to the Book of Mormon. Truman Madsen said that it was because later South American discoveries seemed to support the Book of Mormon while they also invalidated Smith's View. [128] Hugh Nibley has also pointed out that the parallel concepts found in the View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon are universal and not limited to those two works. [129] The other objections listed by Roberts fall down as soon as one begins to limit the land area occupied by the Book of Mormon civilizations; a fact grudging conceded by critic Wesley P. Walters. [130]

While considering the "Parallel" it is also important to consider B.H. Roberts' published works on the Book of Mormon. Between 1903 and 1905, Roberts prepared a very detailed treatise on the Book of Mormon for the senior classes of the young Men's Mutual Improvement Association. This material was gathered by Roberts and published as the last two volumes of his New Witnesses For God series. This two volume work of one thousand plus pages was divided up into parts describing the value of the book, a review of its discovery and contents, and answering objections to it. More than half of the work was devoted to an examination

128 Truman Madsen, "B.H. Roberts and the Book of Mormon" in Brigham young University Studies 19, 441, 442 (Summer 1979).

129 Hugh Nibley, "Mixed voices -- The Comparative Method" in The Improvement Era 62:744-747, 759, 848, 854, 856 (October-November 1959).

130 Wesley P. Walters, "The origin of the Book of Mormon" in The Journal of Pastoral Practice 3:127. Wesley P. Walters also noted the problems involved with the acceptance of a limited Book of Mormon geography and citing a Church News editorial, he suggested the problems were insurmountable. Walters made four mistakes in his analysis of the situation. First, he considered Roberts' study the last word in Book of Mormon studies. This is not true; Book of Mormon studies have come a long ways since Roberts death half a century ago. Second, Walters made the mistake of saying the geography of the Book of Mormon is not limited because of statements made by Joseph Smith. What Walters did not note was that Joseph Smith's ideas about Book of Mormon geography were not closed but changed with time. Third, He stated that the New York Hill Cumorah cannot fit within the framework of a limited geography. Actually some of the biggest names in Book of Mormon studies have created models which include both a limited geography and a New York Hill Cumorah. See Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, second edition, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1976), pp. 357-365. John L. Sorenson, "An Ancient American Setting for The Book of Mormon," (Provo, Utah: John L. Sorenson, 1980), pp. 1/1-1/44. Sidney B. Sperry, Book of Mormon Compendium, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1968), pp. 447-452. Finally, Walters suggested there is official Mormon Church opposition to a limited Book of Mormon geography by referring to a Church News editorial (see Church News, July 29, 1978, p. 16). Actually this obscure editorial made two points; it criticized the identification of specific Book of Mormon sites and it followed official Church policy of labeling all Book of Mormon geography "speculation." Remarks concerning the Hill Cumorah arose from those points and did not necessarily reject a limited geography.

[ 66 ]

of the book's evidences, internal and external, with an emphasis on the complexity of the work. At the end of this section, Roberts provided a summary of eleven points. In no way does the "Parallel" compromise those eleven points since the summary emphasizes the book's complexity and the "Parallel" does not. Most interesting is Roberts' discussion of counter theories of origin. Before anyone begins accusing Roberts of' believing in the Joseph Smith - author theory, they should examine his treatment of Alexander Campbell and I. Woodbridge Riley.

In one simple sweep Fawn Brodie stated that all the ideas found in the Book of Mormon were circulating in Smith's neighborhood. An unknown reviewer for the Nation took Riley to task in 1902 for trying to treat a complex work like the Book of Mormon so simply. [131] Unfortunately Fawn Brodie failed to learn the same lesson for she still refers to the "extensive research of scholars" [132] without recognizing how limited their studies really are.

Does this mean that Joseph Smith contributed nothing to the contents of the Book of Mormon? The answer is no. While the extent of Joseph Smith's contribution may never be fully determined, there is one thing that is known for sure. Joseph Smith did contribute the language of his environment to the contents of the book. Joseph Smith admitted as much when he claimed to be the translator of the Book of Mormon. As translator, Smith did not compose the Book of Mormon, only rendered it in a form that others in his neighborhood could understand.

131 "Founder of Mormonism" in The Nation 75:350-351 (October 30, 1902).

132 Fawn Brodie, "Joseph Smith: The First Mormon," in Pacific Historical Review 48:130 (February 1979).

[ 67 ]

This view has been indirectly supported by the findings of several critics who have shown that phrases and words appearing in the Book of Mormon also appeared in newspapers and books that were accessible to Joseph Smith.

Where does this leave Book of Mormon criticism? The score card could be briefly summarized in the following way: The Spalding theory was developed in response to the problems of authorship and retained partially because it offered answers to the problems of Joseph Smith's abilities, complexity of the book, and time of construction. The theory was discarded because its structure was too complex to be realistic. In its place came a simplistic theory that purposely played down or ignored the problems of ability, complexity, and time. This second theory arose in spite of the fact that this view had been proposed and rejected at the time of Joseph Smith.

This does not mean that all is well in Zion. There are many unanswered questions that are a part of Book of Mormon studies. Any LOS scholar will admit as much. This generation and succeeding generations of Mormons will have to come to grips with those problems. To this end, the critics perform an important service. They have forced the Latter-day Saints to evaluate their interpretations. The irony of this situation is that the Book of Mormon critics are now out of date and out of touch. The last Book of Mormon critic who even remotely kept up with the literature was Charles Shook. For more than sixty years, the critics have gotten farther and farther behind. Today the critics insist on using a fifty year old

[ 68 ]

document (the Parallel) which has been scrutinized by so many LDS scholars that it is no longer seen as a threat. The critics have failed to come to grips with new secondary sources. One pair of critics, in a single paragraph, incorrectly labeled Nibley's studies as archaeology and dismissed them without further argument. Instead of offering any new arguments, the critics have become fixed in their position. They cannot move forward because of the limitations of their theory and they cannot move backward because most of them burned their bridges. The moment it is pointed out that the Book of Mormon is a highly structured work, the critics go to pieces. All they can handle is a simplistic Book of Mormon. It is impossible for them to know the book until they change the Joseph Smith -- author theory.

What is the future of the Joseph Smith -- author theory? It is anyone's guess. The theory will probably dominate Book of Mormon for the next few decades. If one may be allowed to do a little crystal gazing, then the popularity of this view will probably decline only after the gap between Joseph Smith's abilities and the vast amount of material found in the Book of Mormon is made more obvious. When that decline comes, the critics will find themselves in a hard place for they demolished the only solid ground they could have fallen back upon -- Spalding. It is amusing to think that in the end the least dangerous thing that ever happened to the Book of Mormon was a critic. One can almost imagine the real author of the Book of Mormon laughing at his future critics for he boldly composed a

[ 69 ]

prophecy which he, no doubt, adopted from the Psalms:
And every nation which shall war against thee, O house of Israel, shall be turned one against another and they shall fall into the pit which they digged to ensnare the people of the Lord. [133]


133 Book of Mormon, p. 47, (1 Nephi 22:14). Compare to psalms 57:6; 9:15; 119:85.

[ 70-82 ]


(All endnotes have been reformatted as footnotes for this e-text.)

[ 83 ]


[ 84 ]



John Spalding
Howe, 278

Martha Spalding
Howe, 280

John Miller
Howe, 282

Henry Lake
Howe, 281

Aaron Wright
Howe, 284

Oliver Smith
Howe, 284

Nahum Howard
Howe, 285

Artemas Cunningham
Howe, 285

Matilda Davison
Boston Recorder

Alexander Campbell
Mill. Harb., 39

John Spalding
Am. Review, 554

Josiah Spalding
Spalding, 160-161

[ 85 ]



P. Tucker
Tucker, 121

Joseph Miller
Creigh, 429

Redick McKee
April, 1869
Wash. Reporter

D. Atwater
April 26, 1873
Patterson, 13

R. J. Eichbaum
Feb. 6, 1879
Patterson, 10

Joseph Miller
Feb. 6, 1879
Pitts. Telegraph

A. G. Kirk
Mar. 23, 1879
Patterson, 11

A. D. Chase
May 2, 1879
Wyl, 230

J. H. Gilbert
Oct. 14, 1879
Wyl, 231

A. B. Dunlap
Dec. 7, 1879
Patterson, 12

M. S. McKinstry
April 3, 1880
Scribners, 20:615

Ann Redfield
June 17, 1880
Scribners 22:946

Abner Jackson
Dec. 20, 1880
Wash. Reporter

Hiram Lake
Scribners 22:947

Mary Irvine
April 1881
Patterson, 11
  1874-1883, cont.

W. Lang
Nov. 5, 1881
Cowdrey, 146-7

R. Patterson
Dickinson, 252

Joseph Miller
Jan. 20, 1882
Shook, 253-3

Rev. Bonsall
Patterson, 11

Z. Rudolph
Patterson, 12

Henry Lake
Sept. 1833
Dickinson, 243

Cephas Dodd
--- 1831 (?)
Cowdrey, 74

[ 86 ]



R.W. Alderman
Deming, 1:3

Eri M. Dille
B-K, 46

A. R. Eaton
B-K, 46

Almon Green
B-K, 46

J. Jeffery
Feb. 1884
Wyl, 241

John Rudolph
B-K, 45

W.A. Lille
March 7, 1885
Deming, 2:3

K.A.E. Bell
May 6, 1885
Deming, 1:3

S. Munson
Cowdrey, 120

Redick McKee
Jan. 1886
Cowdrey, 78

M. S. McKinstry
Nov. 1886
Cowdrey, 158
  1884-1893, cont.

S.F. Anderick
June 24, 1887
Deming 1:2

L. Saunders
July 21, 1887
Deming, 1:2

Isaac Butts
1884 (?)
Deming, 1:2

Stephen Hart
Deming, 2:3

M. W. Irvine
Cowdrey, 106

Redick McKee
Cowdrey, 79-85

S.F. Whitney
Deming, 1:3

D. Hendrix
--- 1887 (?)
Cowdrey, 135-139

[ 87 ]



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Brookbank, Thomas W. "Hebrew Idioms and Analogies in the Book of Mormon." Improvement Era 13:339-341.

Bush, Lester E. "The Spalding Theory Then and Now." Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 10:40-69 (Autumn 1977).

Card, Orson Scott. "Spaulding Again?" The Ensign 7:94,95 (September 1977).

Campbell, Alexander. "Mistakes Touching the Book of Mormon." Millennial Harbinger, 1844, pp. 38-42.

Campbell, Alexander. "The Mormon Bible." Millennial Harbinger, 1839, pp. 265-268.

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Note: all web hyperlinks added by the Site Host, March 2011.

Transcriber's Comments

Willard Smith's 1979 Spalding Paper

The unpublished 1979 paper composed by Willard C. Smith stands as a proper afterword to the late 1970s media uproar surrounding an abortive attempt to resurrect the old Spalding-Rigdon authorship claims for the Latter Day Saints' Book of Mormon. Chronologically "In the Shadow of Solomon Spalding" fits neatly between Lester E. Bursh, Jr.'s 1977 The Spalding Theory Then and Now and Rex C. Reeve's 1996 Introduction to Kent P. Jackson's The Manuscript Found. Although all three papers are packed with references to obscure historical sources relating to Solomon Spalding, Sidney Rigdon and Book of Mormon origins, none of them cite any major, previously unpublished items pertaining to the authorship theory.

Additional source candidates for inclusion a comprehensive Spalding-Rigdon bibliography are far too numerous for a summary here. Following the publication of Art Vanick's 2005 Spalding Enigma, there has been quite literally a flood of new source discoveries -- few of which appear to have made much of an impression upon students of early Mormon history. A number of these "new" sources have been copied to the web and (along with many of the "old" sources) linked for quick reference throughout the digital version of this paper. These link insertions were added with the consent of the original author, but they do not necessarily correspond to his choices for the most relevant historical citations.

A few of these "old" sources were known to a few scholars at least as far back as the days of Dale Morgan and Fawn Brodie -- but, for one reason or another, seem to have escaped their critical attention. Foremost in this category of reference materials would be the 1914 donation to the New York Public Library, made by Mrs. Hiram Lake of Conneaut, Ohio. A tangentially related document, long available in the Conneaut Public Library, is the 1813-1817 docket book of Conneaut witness Judge Aron Wright. Various libraries in northeastern Ohio have on their shelves numerous other documents relating to Solomon Spalding, the "Conneaut witnesses," D. P. Hurlbut and Kirtland era Mormonism in general. For example, the Hudson, Ohio Public Library has on file the Hudson Observer of June 12, 1834, featuring a very early article on the Conneaut witnesses.

Moving on to a later period in Mormon history, Sidney Rigdon's rebuttal of the Spalding authorship claims was often cited in the 20th century history books, but without its proper publication date and location (in the June 8, 1839 issue of the Quincy Whig, (with an interesting follow-up printed on June 29, 1839).

As time and resources permit, a list of additional, rarely cited "theory" sources will be added here...

(under construction)

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