The Spalding Theory of Book of Mormon
My guests, Wayne L. Cowdrey, Howard A. Davis and Arthur Vanick, are authors of Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon? The Spalding Enigma. The authors argue for the view that Solomon Spalding, who died in 1816 wrote two manuscripts about the inhabitants of ancient America, one from 1809 to 1812 and another from c.1812 to c.1814.
The second was acquired by Sidney Rigdon from a printing office in Pittsburg, where he was allegedly working, and then spent some 18 months meeting with Joseph Smith in Palmyra 1827-1829 where religious material was added to Spaldings story/history and published as the Book of Mormon. This has been the most popular theory among non-Mormons throughout most of Mormon history. For about the last 70 years, the theory has been discarded by most, including a number of prominent anti-Mormon advocates. This book is an attempt to resurrect the theory.
I presented some of many points which I think demonstrate to the rational mind that the theory is bogus. The authors countered with expanations and arguments which they think establish beyond doubt that Spalding was the author of the Book of Mormon.The following synopsis was written just following this radio discussion.
Mr. Hale said he was skeptical of reminiscences provided by persons as late as 50 years after the publication of the Book of Mormon. He stated that the Spalding/Rigdon theory is entirely based upon alleged memories. There are no pre-1830 sources which described Solomon Spalding's literary production or Sidney Rigdon's acquaintance with the Joseph Smith, Sr. family living in western New York.
Mr. Hale said that testimony of early neighbors of the Smith family should have included specific points later brought up by Lorenzo Saunders, if those points were common knowledge. The fact that Howe did not include statements that the Smiths' neighbors knew of Rigdon's frequent visits from 1827-1830 or rumors of Rigdon impregnating Catherine Smith seems to devastate the credibility of Saunders alleged memories on this particular point. Mr. Hale said he did not believe that such a story was in circulation at an early date.
Mr. Hale gave three reasons for finding Bennett's 1831 article unbelieveable. Bennett's inability to provide the name of a visitor from Ohio beyond "Henry Rangdon or Ringdon or some such word" is inconsistent with Bennett's claim that he was privy to Rangdon's suggestion that the Smith's turn their "their digging concern into a religious plot." He did not know his name, but did know of his secret suggestion to the Smiths.
Bennett, six times, called this man an "ex-preacher" or "ex-parson" from Ohio, during a time when substantial evidence establishes that Sidney Rigdon was not only an extremely active preacher, establishing nine new congregations in 1828, but was, in fact, the most famous preacher in northern Ohio. Bennett, or some unamed source, seems to have purloined a suggestion already circulating that "the first idea of a 'Book' was doubtless suggested to the Smiths by one Walters, a juggling fortune-teller" replacing Walters with Rangdon/Ringdon/Rigdon.
Further, Bennett asserts that this "Ohio man" was so "famous" for his "particular felicity in finding out the spots of ground where money is hid," and who had "much experience in money digging" that his fame had found its way 200 miles from Ohio to upstate New York. When Rigdon became a Mormon in December 1830, he was vigorously opposed by Campbell, Scott, Bentley (his brother-in-law), along with other mininsters, including 3 cousins and another brother-in-law who had all become Disciple Ministers. However, none of these, nor others who knew Rigdon well, even in their opposition, suggested any knowledge of Rigdon's money digging fame, which Bennett alleged stretched to up-state New York.
Mr. Hale noted that in November and December of 1833 Hurlbut interviewed or contacted at least 83 of Joseph Smith's neighbors, and Howe published 23 of their statements. None indicate any knowledge of Sidney Rigdon's presence in the neighborhood in 1827-1830. Mr. Hale finds it inconceiveable that, given Howe's interest in connecting Sidney Rigdon with the production of the Book of Mormon, he would not have published such statements if he had such. Further, the alleged memories of Saunder's, Gilbert, Chase, Lillie, Anderick and Tucker, 40 to 60 years later claim many neighbors knew of frequent visits by Sidney Rigdon to the Smiths from 1827-1830, some claiming to have been informed by the Smiths themselves and even alleging a "story was around the neighborhood that Catherine Smith was pregnant by Rigdon." Yet, none of 83 Smith neighbors provide any recollection of such in 1833. It seems obvious that the late alleged recollections rather reflect knowledge of developing myths to which they added their own embellishments.
Mr. Hale said that he believed that Solomon Spalding only wrote one fictional story about ancient America. There were some striking, but superficial, similarities. Spalding claims that while walking near the Conneaught River, he noticed a flat stone. He raised the stone to find an artificial cave in which he found a box. Upon opening the box he found an ancient record. He translated only a portion of the record. Spalding presented himself not as the author, but as the translator of a manuscript written by a man, who with others, came to America by boat, long before Columbus. This manuscript tells of the customs, government, religion and the wars of ancient American nations now extinct. It is filled with strange names of people and places. When some Spalding neighbors were introduced to the Book of Mormon, it was suggested that it sounded like the Spalding story "Manuscript Found" which they had heard or read 20-25 years earlier. Their introduction to the Book of Mormon resulted in considerable embellishment and addition to their naturally faded memory resulting in the insertion of BoM-specific names and narrative information into their public statements. There are no known earlier statements or descriptions of a Spalding manuscript with any specific Book of Mormon names or details.
Mr. Hale argued that Solomon Spalding, according to the authors' theory (p. 27) produced a second fictional story regarding the ancient inhabitants of the Americas in Pittsburg 1812-1814. Following Hurlbut's retrieval of Spalding's Roman story with parallels to the Book of Mormon too superficial to argue for some connection, a new claim was made - two stories by Spalding on the subject of pre-Columbus America. The new claim, not supported by the 8 original statements, alleged that Spalding altered his first plan of writing and commenced writing a Ten Lost Tribes story. According to this new scenario, the Roman Story was first and the Ten Tribes story second. A beginning draft of an unrelated letter in the Roman story on page 132 of the 171 page manuscript acknowledges the receipt of 2 letters "jun 1812." This establishes that the last 35 pages of the Roman manuscript were written after June 1812. Spalding moved to Pittsburg four months later in October 1812. This supports the authors' dating of the Ten Tribes manuscript to 1812-1814, if such were ever written -- How, then, could Oliver Smith testify that he had read BoM-specific information in a Spalding MS as early as 1809, when the Spalding manuscript with BoM-specific information was not written until 1812-1814 in Pittsburg?
Mr. Hale argued that since 1833 statements for the claims of Spalding authorship state that the lost "Ten Tribes" began a journey from Jerusalem to the New World, that the claims were unbelieveable -- that Spalding would never have brought the ten tribes forth from Jerusalem. Before being carried away to Assyria, never again to return, they were the Northern Kingdom and were never residents of Jerusalem. Spalding had studied divinity at Dartmouth College and was a licensed Congregational minister for 8-10 years. He certainly would not have defied the common knowledge among even amateur Bible students that the lost Ten Tribes, or a small group of them, would have begun their journey to America from Jerusalem which had never been their place of residence. Further, the Book of Mormon specifically declares that the Ten Tribes were elsewhere. What seems obvious is that the 8 Spalding neighbors were working in reverse. A number of early 1830 newspapers reported the common false perception that the Book Mormon was about the Ten Tribes or their descendants in America. Operating from this assumption demanded that Spalding's neighbors, to establish a precise parallel, ascribe to Spalding's story the common false perception that the Book of Mormon was about the Ten Tribes coming to America from Jerusalem. They presumably looked at the first few pages of the Book of Mormon where they would have encountered Lehi, Nephi, Moroni and Laban. The second sentence of the first page of the 1830 Book of Mormon identifies Lehi's place of departure as Jerusalem. Their knowing, or unknowing, amalgation of these facts and perceptions seems to be the more likely source of their allege memories.
Mr. Hale doubted Aron Wright's ability to identify the Roman manuscript shown to him by Hurlbut based upon the handwriting, having seen Spalding's handwriting more than 20 years earlier. Modern investigators are on record as disagreeing over which old specimens of handwriting can actually be traced back to Spalding's pen. Hale, however, does believe the manuscript shown to Wright was an authentic Spalding in his handwriting. [I was sidetracked on this point. It is of nominal significance.]
Mr. Hale said that the allegation that the title is "Manuscript Story--Conneaut Creek" is more probably someone's description than Spalding's chosen title. This line is on a sheet of paper in which the manuscript was wrapped. None of the handwriting on the wrapper was Spalding's. Mr. Hale observed this fact based upon his comparison of the faint, but unmistakable, style of the 2 penciled "Cs" in "Manuscript Story--Conneaut Creek" on the wrapper, with the remarkably different style of capital "Cs" written by Spalding throughout his manuscript. The authors' claim (p. 81) that "the writing on the wrapper gives every appearance of being Solomon Spalding's own" is clearly wrong. From the first chapter's description of Spalding's finding of the manuscript by prying up a stone, going into a cave, opening a box and finding 28 sheets of parchment which he translated from Latin, the title, "Manuscript Found," would certainly be fitting and the penciled line is not relevant.
Mr. Hale discounted Mrs. Eichbaum's reminiscence, because it was first written down at a late date (1879) and because Howe's book quotes a Mr. Patterson as saying he did not know about Spalding's MS. The discussion did include an 1842 Robert Patterson statement in Samuel Williams' pamphlet, nor the later reminiscence provided by Elder William Small.
Mr. Hale was certain that Sidney Rigdon visited Pittsburgh as a young man. His response to the appearance of Rigdon's name in published Pittsburgh letter lists, was that the printing of such a list showed that the recipient had NOT picked up any such letters waiting for him -- thus tending to demonstrate that he had NOT frequented the Pittsburgh Post Office to the extent Eichbaum claimed in her statement.
Mr. Hale doubts the value of Arthur B. Deming's published statements because the witnesses were very old, and separated from the events by some sixty years and Deming offered to pay contributors to his newspaper for their submission of negative statements. Mr. Hale read Deming's offer in his first issue of Naked Truths about Mormonism to pay a "fair price" for negative material "regarding the origin and early history of Mormonism" "if used." It seems impossible not to find suspect this form of alleged memory, often contradictory and frequently compound hearsay.