Yet More Spaulding Fiction
Brinkerhoff, in his disappointing and mean-spirited little book Mormonism - An Historical And Scriptural Analysis, is convinced of a Spaulding origin.
Solomon Spaulding, wrote a fictional historical novel called "MANUSCRIPT LOST" [actually titled Manuiscript Found] about the inhabitants the [sic] Americas...it was evidently stolen by one Sidney Rigdon, a fellow who used to loiter around the shop. It surfaced later, in a modified form under the title THE BOOK OF MORMON...
it appears that Smith and Rigdon spent considerable time together two years before Rigdon supposedly came into contact with Smith and Mormonism and was converted to it. The evidence is circumstantial, but it is so conclusive as to be irrefutable.
No evidence, irrefutable or otherwise, is produced by Brinkerhoff. Neither does he offer his evidence for changing the name of the manuscript. In Some Modern Faiths it is claimed, without supporting evidence, that
Solomon Spaulding [deposited his] imaginary history...with a printer [and] died, and the manuscript was left in the printer's office. The printer himself died in 1826. There was a compositor at the office, named Sidney Rigdon.
It is also stated that
These allegations were abusively denied by Rigdon.
Sanders in Cults And Isms claims that the Spaulding theory is correct adding the information that Spaulding died two days after leaving the manuscript at Patterson's. He also claims that,
Rigdon...frequented Patterson's shop.
If Sanders' information is accurate, it leaves little time for Baird's claim that Spaulding "suspicioned" that Rigdon had stolen it. It is fortunate for Rigdon's reputation that his history proves that he was neither thief, plagiarist or conspirator as regards either the Spaulding Manuscript, or the Book of Mormon. Spaulding wrote Manuscript Found about 1812. It has been said that he would amuse his neighbours by reading portions of it to them. Possibly their amusement provided him with the idea that it might be of interest to a wider public who would pay for the privilege of reading it. Consequently he sought to have it published. From New Salem, Ohio, where he wrote the work, he moved to Pittsburgh. Whilst in Pittsburgh he showed it to a printer called Patterson. Patterson retained the manuscript in order to read it and provide his opinion. Eventually he offered to print the book if Spaulding would agree to certain conditions and alterations. Spaulding would not agree to the conditions and took the manuscript back. Spaulding's widow confirms this to be so:
At length the manuscript was returned to its author, and soon after we removed to Amity, Washington County, Pennsylvania, etc., where Mr Spaulding deceased in 1816. The manuscript then fell into my hands and was carefully preserved.
Evidence from Spaulding's widow establishes that she maintained possession of the manuscript from prior to 1814 until she permitted Philastus Hurlburt to borrow it in 1834 (long after the Book of Mormon had been published). If Rigdon ever saw the Spaulding document it must have been prior to 1816. This date can be pushed back two more years. A contemporary of Spaulding's made the statement that
Spaulding left here [Conneaut, Ohio] in 1812, and I furnished him the means to carry him to Pittsburgh, where he said he would get the book printed and pay me.
Another interesting and significant statement by Lake reads:
A messenger was despatched to look up the widow of Spaulding, who was found residing in Massachusetts. From her we learned that Spaulding resided in Pittsburgh, about two years," etc.
This places Spaulding in Pittsburgh from 1812 to 1814. Therefore, if Rigdon had opportunity to read or steal the manuscript it must have been before 1814. But there are cogent rebutting reasons against this solution. In the first place Rigdon, who was 21 in 1814, was to be found at home on his father's farm and did not arrive in Pittsburgh until 1822 when the manuscript had been gone for 8 years. Add to this the fact that no one has come up with a single piece of evidence linking Rigdon with Joseph Smith until December of 1830, or with the production of the Book of Mormon which was undergoing printing from August 1829 until March 1830. Historical evidence for complicity in a plagiarised or counterfeit production of a book by Smith and Rigdon does not exist.
Enemies of Mormonism have besmirched the names of Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Oliver Cowdery and Parley P Pratt in this matter. Their inability to furnish substantiation must persuade honest not to heed their slanders. It was in response to such a slander that Sidney Rigdon wrote:
In your paper of the 18th instant, I see a letter signed by somebody calling herself Matilda Davison, pretending to give the origin of Mormonism, as she is pleased to call it, by relating moonshine story about a certain Solomon Spaulding, a creature with the knowledge of whose earthly existence I am entirely indebted to this production; for surely, until Philastus Hurlburt informed me that such a being lived, at some former period, I had not the most distant knowledge of his existence...it is only necessary to say, in relation to the whole story about Spaulding's writings being in the hands of Mr. Patterson, who was in Pittsburgh, and who is said to have kept a printing office, and my saying that I was concerned in the said office, etc., etc., is the most base of lies without even the shadow of truth.
That was Rigdon's measured response to the calumny which Matilda Davison's letter aimed at his character. There is a suspicion that Mrs Davison did not write the letter, and comparisons of its syntax suggest that this may be the case. It has been suggested that a Reverend Storrs forged it over her name, although he denied it. In his response Rigdon denies any knowledge of Solomon Spaulding and his literary creations, and any connection with the Patterson printing establishment in Pittsburgh. Oliver Cowdery had a word to say to those who claiming that he was dishonestly involved in any way.
I wrote with my own pen, the entire Book of Mormon (save a few pages), as it fell from the lips of the Prophet Joseph Smith, as he translated it by the gift and power of God by the means of the Urim and Thummim, or, as it is called by the book, Holy Interpreters. I beheld with my eyes and handled with my hands the gold plates from which it was transcribed. I also saw with my eyes and handled with my hands the Holy Interpreters. That book is true. Sidney Rigdon did not write it. Mr. Spaulding did not write it. I wrote it myself as it fell from the lips of the Prophet. It contains the everlasting gospel, and came forth to the children of men in fulfilment of the revelations of John, where he says he saw an angel come with the everlasting gospel to preach to every nation, kindred, tongue and people. It contains the principles of salvation; and if you, my hearers, will walk by its light and obey its precepts, you will be saved with an everlasting salvation in the kingdom of God on high.
Parley P. Pratt is another often cited as a conspirator with Smith in producing the Book of Mormon. His response to those who insist that Rigdon wrote the Book of Mormon was spirited:
Mr. Rigdon embraced the doctrine [Mormonism] through my instrumentality. I first presented the Book of Mormon to him. I stood upon the bank of the stream while he was baptized, and assisted to officiate in his ordination, and I myself was unacquainted with the system until some months after its organization, which was on the 6th of April 1830.
In the following chapters we take a closer look at conspiracy theories and principal actors, particularly at the prime suspect - Sidney Rigdon. Familiarity with this man's history removes any lingering doubts about his innocence.