From Whence Came the Book of Mormon?
According to the Latter-Day Saints' official historical account, the Book of Mormon (BOM) was the work of ancient American Jewish prophets who wrote their inspired accounts on plates of gold. These plates were handed down from prophet to prophet until the last prophet, Moroni, hid the plates in a stone box beneath the ground in the 400s A.D.
In the early 1800s, Joseph Smith, was troubled by all the denominations around him. He wanted to know if he could discover the true church. He supposedly had a vision in which he saw two Persons - the Father and the Son, who told that he would be the one to help prepare the restoration of the original church. On September 21, 1823, Moroni appeared as an angel to Joseph Smith. He told Smith about the plates and showed him where they were located. The next day Smith went to the hill Cumorah where they were located and opened up the stone box to see the plates, but he was not allowed to take them. After four years, Smith was allowed to take the plates and scribes helped Smith as he dictated the translation.
There were three witnesses - Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris - who gave their testimonies that they had seen the golden plates. There were eight more eyewitnesses who also made the same claim that can be seen in the BOM preface. After finishing the translation, Moroni took the golden plates back with him into heaven. Martin Harris was the one responsible for the printing of the BOM since he put his farm on sale to cover the cost of the printing, which was published in 1830.
The BOM is primarily about Jews escaping the destruction of Jerusalem in 605-586 B.C. and journeying to America and this Jewish family eventually became two nations. One was a righteous nation, the Nephites, who were destroyed by the other nation, who were wicked, the Lamanites, who came to be known to us as the American Indians.
The Latter-Day Saints believe that this book is inspired of God. They claim that if you ask God with true intent in your heart as it teaches in Moroni 10:4,5, then the truth will be manifested to you. They would also ask the question to you: "Could mere men had written such a book?"
Christians must be ready to defend why they believe what they believe (1 Peter 3:15; Philippians 1:16). Why is it the case that we regard the Bible as the inspired word of God, but not the BOM? It makes it claim to be from God. Just because a book claims to be from God though does not mean it did come from God. There must be evidence that backs up the claim.
A Crash Course On Studying Historiography
There is within the study of historiography on how a person comes to know with certainty what is a historical fact. It is called t he argument to the best explanation. When a person undergoes a study of the events of the past, there is a specific set of criteria that will help a investigator know that which is a strong historical fact: (1) explanatory scope - the quantity of facts acc ounted for by the hypothesis, (2) explanatory power - the quality of facts accounted for by the hypothesis, (3) plausibility - the hypothesis must be implied to a greater degree and by a greater variety of accepted truths than other hypotheses, (4) less ad hoc - a hypothesis employs non-evidenced assumptions, and (5) illumination - a hypothesis provides a possible solution to other problems without confusing other areas that are held in confidence. Not all historical events can be held with the same degree of historical certainty such as the example that we have more evidence of the Civil War than we do have of the Trojan War because the Civil War is supported by stronger evidence.
I am going to present the argument that the Solomon Spalding and Sidney Rigdon hypothesis serves as the best explanation to understanding how the BOM came into existence. This hypothesis has a strong explanatory scope and power, plausibility, and illumination in showing how it originated. It will have some assumptions, yet the overwhelming evidence is stronger that it came from mere men rather than it came from God.
Introducing The True Author of The Book of Mormon - Solomon Spalding
Solomon Spalding was born in 1761 in Ashford, Connecticut. He fought in the Revolutionary War. In 17 85 and 1787, he graduated from Dartmouth College in receiving the degree of A.B. and A.M. In 1788, he became a preacher. He also made many attempts in business, but failed many times. He owed so much debt to his creditors that he needed to find a way to pa y them back. He turned to his hobby of writing. He wrote two major manuscripts. The first one was Manuscript Story - Conneaut Creek , which he worked on around 1808. He never completed it. It is located at Oberlin College. The second one was Manuscript Found , which he worked on from 1809-1816. He completed the manuscript, except for a preface, and wanted it published at R & J Patterson publishing firm in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1813-14. It was stated that the manuscript had been stolen and Spalding told some eyewitnesses that Sidney Rigdon had stolen the prepared manuscript. On October 20, 1816, Spalding passed away, not knowing what would become of his manuscript.
LDS Apologists' Rebuttals To The Spalding-Rigdon Theory
Many LDS apologists have made a few rebuttals to the Spalding-Rigdon hypothesis. The first rebuttal is that Rigdon was neither employed or connected with any print shop in Pittsburgh. Reynolds, an early LDS apologist stated: "Sidney Rigdon never was at Pittsburgh or any other place at the s ame time as Mr. Spaulding's manuscript was there and therefore he could not have seen or read it...." i The second rebuttal is that Rigdon was not in Pittsburgh until 1822 when he became the preacher of the First Baptist Church there. If it is the case that R igdon was not there from 1808-1816, then he would no longer remain a suspect for the theft. The third rebuttal is that Rigdon denies in a letter he wrote in a newspaper that he was never involved with any man named Solomon Spalding or his manuscript.
The Connection Between Solomon Spalding and Sidney Rigdon
There are converging lines of evidence to show that there was a connection between Spalding and Rigdon. Rebecca Johnston Eichbaum, who worked in the post office in Pittsburgh where Spalding received his mail, states: "My father, John Johnson, was postmaster at Pittsburgh for about eighteen years, from 1804 to 1822. My husband, William Eichbaum, succeeded him, and was postmaster for about eleven years, from 1822 to 1833. I was born August 25, 1792, and whe n I became old enough, I assisted my father in attending to the post-office, and became familiar with his duties. From 1811 to 1816 (emp. mine) , I was the regular clerk in the office, assorting, making up, dispatching, opening and distributing the mails. P ittsburgh was then a small town, and I was well acquainted with all the stated visitors at the office who called regularly for their mails. So meagre at that time were the mails that I could generally tell without looking whether or not there was anything for such persons, though I would usually look in order to satisfy them. I was married in 1815, and the next year my connection with the office ceased, except during the absences of my husband. I knew and distinctly remember Robert and Joseph Patterson, J H arrison Lambdin, Silas Engles, and Sidney Rigdon (emp. mine) , I remember Rev. Mr. Spaulding, but simply as one who occasionally called to inquire for letters. I remember there was an evident intimacy between Lambdin and Rigdon. They very often came to the office together. I particularly remember that they would thus come during the hour on Sabbath afternoon when the office was required to be open, and I remember feeling sure that Rev. Mr. Patterson knew nothing of this, or he would have put a stop to it." ii
In The Commonwealth , Vol. 1, No. 17, on July 23, 1816, a series of names of those who needed to come to claim their mail. Can you guess which two names are on it? Solomon Spalding and Sidney Rigdon, which would back up the testimony of Eichbaum.
On Dec. 1 4, 1878, Samuel Williams states: "Mr. Patterson stated to me that Mr. Spaulding brought the Manuscript to the Office and of course it came under the charge of Engles, and at or about that time Engles spoke to Mr. Patterson about it. That time must have bee n 1814 or 15. All of the old men of our Church knew about Rigdon hanging about that Printing Office, and whether he spent his time there in copying it or concocting his schemes while conversing with Engles and others, or at length procured the Manuscript b y purchase or otherwise, makes not the smallest difference. If it is true that Mrs. Spaulding had the Manuscript returned to her, then unless Mr. Spaulding had duplicate copies leaving one in the office, Rigdon must have copied it." iii
Joseph Miller, a res ident of Amity, Pennsylvania, was acquainted with Spalding during his last days and was nursing him in his illness. He states: "My recollection is that Spalding left a transcript of the manuscript with Patterson for publication. The publication was delayed until Spaulding could write a preface. In the meantime the manuscript was spirited away, and could not be found. Spaulding told me that Sidney Rigdon had taken it, or was suspected of taking it (emp. mine) . I recollect distinctly that Rigdon's name was me ntioned in connection with it." iv
John Winters boarded with Sidney Rigdon in his home for a period of time. "Rev. John Winter, MD, was one of the early ministers of the Baptist Church, laboring in Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio. During a portion of the time when Sidney Rigdon was pastor of the First Baptist Church in Pittsburgh, Dr. Winter was teaching a school in the same city and was well acquainted with Rigdon. Upon one occasion during this period, 1822-23, Dr. Winter was in Rigdon's study, when t he latter took from his desk a large manuscript, and said in substance, "A Presbyterian minister, Spaulding, whose health had failed, brought this to the printer to see if it would pay to publish it. It is a romance of the Bible. Dr. Winter did not read an y part of it, and paid no more attention to it until after The Book of Mormon appeared, when he heard that Mr. Spaulding's widow recognized in it the writings of her husband. The authority for the above important statement is the Rev. A.G. Kirk, to whom Dr . Winter communicated it in a conversation at New Brighton, PA, in 1870-71. Dr. Winter died at Sharon, PA ... [November 5] 1878. Mr. Kirk conveyed this information to the present writer by letter, March 23, 1879." v Winter"s testimony is backed up by his daught er, Mary W. Irvin: "I have frequently heard my father speak of Rigdon having Spaulding's manuscript, and that he had gotten it from the printers to read it as curiosity; as such he showed it to my father; and that at that time Rigdon had no intention of ma king the use of it that he afterwards did; for father always said Rigdon helped Smith in his scheme by revising and making the Mormon Bible out of Rev. Spaulding's manuscript." vi
Amarilla Dunlap, a niece of Phoebe Rigdon, Sidney Rigdon's wife, who stayed with them in their cabin in Bainbridge, Ohio, stated: "When I was quite a child I visited Mr. Rigdon's family, He married my aunt. They at that time lived in Bainbridge, Ohio. During my visit Mr. Rigdon went to his bedroom and took from a trunk, which he k ept locked, a certain manuscript. He came out into the other room, and seated himself by the fireplace and commenced reading it. His wife at that moment came into the room and exclaimed "What! You're studying that thing again?" or something to that effect. She then added "I mean to burn that paper." He said "No, indeed, you will not. This will be a great thing some day." Whenever he was reading this he was so completely occupied that he seemed entirely unconscious of anything passing around him." vii
Harvey Baldwin, Jr., a resident of Bainbridge, stated: "Harvey Baldwin, of Aurora, Portage County, Ohio, says that over thirty years ago he heard his father say that he belonged to the Baptist Church in Bainbridge, Portage County, Ohio, when Sidney Rigdon preache d there, and that several times when he called to see Rigdon he found him in a room by himself, and that he each time hurriedly put away books and papers he had as though he did not wish him to see them." viii
George Wilber, a local schoolteacher near Bainb ridge, stated: "Wilber's statement, moreover, of the work and conduct of Rigdon that winter was corroborated by some of the neighbors in the school district. Rigdon did not preach that winter, but was almost constantly engaged upon a manuscript that he was writing or revising. Wilber noticed that towards the close of the term there was much more of it than there was the first time he saw it." ix
Dencey Adeline Thompson, the mother of O.P. Henry, who stayed with the Rigdons and it is stated about her: "We are in receipt of a letter from Mr. O. P. Henry, an Astoria subscriber, who says, in reference to an article in the Oregonian of recent date concerning the origin of the Mormon Bible, that his mother, who is yet alive, lived in the family of Sidney Rigdon for several years prior to her marriage in 1827; that there was in the family what is now called a "writing medium," also several others in adjacent places, and the Mormon Bible was written by two or three different persons by an automatic power which they be lieved was inspiration direct from God, the same as produced the original Jewish Bible and Christian New Testament." x
From 1812-1817, Rigdon worked as an apprentice tanner and lived near Pittsburgh. Later (1822-1825), Rigdon worked as a journeyman tanner i n Pittsburgh, and became co-owner of a tannery from 1823-1825. In Issac Craig's letter, dated Oct. 14, 1882, he states: " Rigdon had a small tannery on Penn street, near Hand, for the manufacture of book-binders sheep-skins, and supplying these to the offic e brought him in contact with Engles. This impression I obtained from John Sandersen, an old time butcher, who sold sheep pelts to Rigdon."
The tannery provided leather book bindings for a printer named Silas Engles. Silas Engles' print shop printed and as sembled books for a bookshop called R & J Patterson publishing firm, which was the same bookshop that Spalding desired to publish his manuscript. The owners were Robert and Joseph Patterson and their clerk was Harrison Lambdin. Eber Howe explains how Rigdo n got aquainted with the publishing firm: "We have been credibly informed that he [Rigdon] was on terms of intimacy with Lambdin, being seen frequently in his shop." xi
Why would Sidney Rigdon possibly steal a manuscript? An assumed hint may be seen in what Rigdon himself wrote: "Having received great light on the scriptures, he felt desirous to receive more, from whatever quarter it should come. This was his prevailing characteristic; and if any sentiment was advanced by any one, that was new, or tended to throw light on the scriptures, or the dealings of God with the children of men, it was always gladly received, and treasured up in his mind." xii He may have thought that this was an opportunity to turn a book that was about Jews journeying to America and p olish it off as an inspired book since he had a desire to see more "Scriptures" published.
In 1832, LDS missionaries, Orson Hyde and Samuel H. Smith, delivered a sermon on the BOM at a schoolhouse in Conneaut, Ohio (another place where Spalding lived while working on his manuscript). Nehemiah King, an old friend of Solomon Spalding's, recognized it as Spalding's manuscript, Manuscript Found . There were friends, co-workers, and relatives of Spalding who agreed with King. The affadavits of the relatives, co-w orkers, and friends of Spalding were recorded in a book called Mormonism Unveiled in 1834.
John Spalding (Solomon's brother) stated: "Solomon Spalding was born in Ashford, Conn., in 1761...In the year 1809 he removed to Conneaut, in Ohio. The year following, I removed to Ohio, and found him engaged in building a forge. I made him a visit (in Pittsburgh) in about three years after, and found that he had failed, and was considerably involved in debt. He then told he had been writing a book, which he intended to have printed, the avails of which he thought would enable him to pay all debts. The book was entitled Manuscript Found, of which he read to me many passages. It was a historical romance of the first settlers of America, and endeavored to show that the Ame rican Indians are the descendants of the Jews, or the lost tribes. It gave a detailed account of their journey from Jerusalem, by land and sea, until they arrived in America, under the command of Lehi and Nephi. They afterwards had quarrels and contentions , and separated into two distinct nations, one of which he denominated Nephites, the other Lamanites. Cruel and bloody wars ensued, in, which great multitudes were slain. They buried their dead in large heaps which caused the mounds, so common in this coun try. Their arts, sciences and civilization were all brought into view, in order to account for all the curious antiquities found in various parts of North and South America. I have recently read the Book of Mormon and to my great surprise I find it nearly the same historical matter, names, & c., as they were in my brother's writings. I well remember that he wrote in the old style, and commenced almost every sentence with, "And it came to pass," or "Now it came to pass," the same as in The Book of Mormon, an d according to the best of my recollection and belief, it is the same as my brother Solomon wrote, with the exception of the religious matter. By what means it has fallen into the hands of Joseph Smith, Jr., I am unable to determine." xiii
There were seven more Conneaut witnesses - Martha Spalding, Henry Lake, John Miller, Aaron Wright, Oliver Smith, Nahum Howard, and Artemas Cunningham, who give their testimonies in the book, Mormonism Unveiled , that the BOM was related to Spalding's Manuscript Found . Here are some of the details they give: (1) the title of the book - Manuscript Found [three witnesses], (2) the genre of the book - a historical novel [7 witnesses], (3) first settlers of America [6 witnesses], (4) American Indians are the descendants of the Je ws [3 witnesses], (5) the Jews' journey from Jerusalem [6 witnesses], (6) Nephi and Lehi are the main characters [5 witnesses], (7) quarrels and contentions [4 witnesses], (8) the separation into two nations [2 witnesses], (9) bloody wars [5 witnesses], (1 0) arts, sciences, and civilization [3 witnesses], (11) the frequent phrase - "And it came to pass" [4 witnesses], (12) No religious material [6 witnesses], (13) related to the forts and mounds of America [5 witnesses], (14) wrote in the old, obselete styl e (Elizabethean English) [3 witnesses], (15) judgments came upon the old world - reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. [1 witness], (16) the account of Laban [1 witness], (17) humorous passages [1 witness], (18) Moroni [1 witness], and (19) "I, Nephi" [1 witness]. These details fit the exact description of what is now known as the Book of Mormon.
The historical evidence gives us some strong inclinations that Sidney Rigdon was responsible for the theft and turned it into the BOM thus far. Rig don denies this though. He stated: "I testify in the presence of this congregation, and before God and all the Holy Angels up yonder, (pointing toward heaven), before whom I expect to give account at the judgment day, that I never saw a sentence of the Boo k of Mormon, I never penned a sentence of the Book of Mormon, I never knew that there was such a book in existence as the Book of Mormon, until it was presented to me by Parley P. Pratt, in the form that it now is." xiv
What is truly embarrassing about this matter is that Sidney Rigdon's grandson, Walter Sidney Rigdon, exposes the fraud. It stated: EDITOR TRIBUNE: - In the intervals of my literary labors here I have many talks with men who were in Utah at a very early day, and occasionally with original Morm ons or their sons.... [M]y chance talks with one of these are so agreeable that I report him briefly for you. Mr. Walter Sidney Rigdon is a citizen of Carrolton, Cattaraugus County, N. Y., and a grandson of Sidney Rigdon, the partner of Joe Smith. He talked with old Sidney hundreds of times about the "scheme of the Golden Bible," and his father still has many of the old Sidney's documents. "Grandfather was a religious crank," says Mr. Rigdon, "till he lost money by it. He started in as a Baptist preacher, and had a very fine congregation for those days, in Pittsburgh. There was no reason at all for his leaving, except that he got ‘cracked.' At that time he had no ideas of making money. Indeed, while he was with the Mormons, his chances to make money were good enough for most men; but he came out of it about as poor as he went in. [Mr.] Beadle, the reporter: - "But how did he change first?"
"Well, he tried to understand the prophecies, and the man who does that is sure to go crazy. He studied the prophets and ba ptism, and of course he got ‘rattled.' Daniel and Ezekiel and Revelations will ‘rattle' any man who gives in his whole mind to ‘em - at any rate they did him, and he joined Alexander Campbell. Campbell then believed that the end of the world was nigh - his Millennial Harbinger shows that they ‘rattled' all who listened to him in Ohio and other places; then grandfather got disgusted and decided on a new deal. He ‘found' Joe Smith and they had a great many talks together before they brought out the plates. No ne of us ever doubted that they got the whole thing up; but father always maintained that grandfather helped get up the original Spaulding book. At any rate he got a copy very early and schemed on some way to make it useful. Although the family knew these facts, they refused to talk on the subject while grandfather lived. In fact, he and they took on [a] huge disgust at the whole subject..." "I only report that part of Mr. Rigdon's talk which shows the history of the "Golden Bible," as accepted in the family. Of course, if Sidney Rigdon had wanted the world to believe the Smith story of the plates, he would have told them so. But, though the family do not care to ventilate it, he evidently taught them to treat the whole thing as a fraud (emp. mine) ." xv
This is a sample of the historical accounts that relate to the Solomon Spalding and Sidney Rigdon hypothesis that serves as the best explanation as to where the Book of Mormon originated. Let us be certain as to why we know as Christians why it is the case that other books that claim to be inspired besides the Bible are frauds and need to be shown that they are impostures that will lead many lost souls of millions to hell. Let us defend the truth, the Bible, which is the only revelation God gave to man.
[NOTE: This author did a series of nine videos entitled "Origin of the Book of Mormon" that go into more details than on this article that can be found at: http://churchatcentral.org/studio.html under "Word From The Lord". Thanks also goes out to Craig C riddle for his research into this area that can be found at http://www.sidneyrigdon.com .
i Reynolds, George. The Myth of Manuscript Found (1883), Salt Lake City: The Juvenile Instructor, 23.
ii History of Washington County Pennsylvania With Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men Edited By Boyd Crumrine. Illustrated Philad elphia: L.H. Everts & Corinthians 1882, 433.
iii Dec. 14, 1878. Samuel Williams Letter. Theodore Albert Schroeder Papers: Box 2, folder 1. Wisconsin State Historical Society Library, Madison, WI Partial Catalog: Theordore A. Schroeder Papers.
iv Pittsburgh Telegraph, February 6, 1879, p. 1, "The Book of Mormon."
v History of Washington County Pennsylvania With Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men Edited By Boyd Crumrine. Illustrated Philadelphia: L.H. Everts & Corinthians 1882, 434.
vi History of Washington County Pennsylvania With Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men Edited By Boyd Crumrine. Illustrated Philadelphia: L.H. Everts & Corinthians 1882, 434.
vii History of Washington County Pennsylvania Wi th Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men Edited By Boyd Crumrine. Illustrated Philadelphia: L.H. Everts & Corinthians 1882, 434.
viii Arthur Deming, Naked Truths of Mormonism , 1888.
ix Cleveland Leader, March 14, 1886: Vol. 39, no. 73
x The New Northwest , September 9, 1880, Vol. 10, No. 1. "The Mormon Bible."
xi Howe, Eber. Mormonism Unveiled (Painesville Ohio: Telegraph Press, 1834), 289.
xii Times and Seasons, Vol. 4, No. 19, Aug. 15, 1843, 140.
xiii Howe, Eber. Mormonism Unveiled (Painesville, Ohio: Telegraph Press, 1834), 278-279.
xiv Signed 14 Mark 1872 affidavit of Phineas Bronson, Hiel Bronson, Mary D. Bronson, in R. Etzenhouser, From Palmyra, New York, 1830 to Independence, Missouri, 1894(Indep endence, MO: Ensign Publishing House, 1894), 387-88.
xv Salt Lake Tribune , 1888, Vol. 34, No. 155, April 15, 1888. " Sidney Rigdon's Grandson Says Their Family Understood it to be a Fraud."
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