The Christian Advocate February 23, 1905

Editorial Letter

How Did Spaulding's Manuscript Reach Joseph Smith, Jr.?

VI


The Rev. J. J. Jackson, a minister in good standing in the East Ohio Conference, writes us under date of Feb. 11, from Cambridge, O., as follows:

Concerning the Solomon Spaulding authorship of a large part of the Book of Mormon I have had opportunity to know something. I once heard my father say more than once that he had heard Solomon Spaulding read from The Manuscript Found in his own father's house. I was on the Pine River Circuit of the Washington District of the Pittsburg Conference, West Elizabeth, Allegheny, Pa., and I was placed in charge of that work in 1864-66. My father came for a rather longer visit than usual. There was a small body of local Mormons in that place. While my father was with us I borrowed a copy of the Book of Mormon for him to compare it with his remembrance fully, as he wished to do; and he said that the Book of Mormon, with some alterations, and those by no means material, was identical with what he heard Mr. Spaulding read.

Mr. Jackson informs us that his father became a minister of the Pittsburg Conference only two years after the Book of Mormon was published.



It has been variously stated that Joseph Smith, Jr., stole this manuscript from the trunk that was at the house of William H. Sabine when he worked there, and that Sidney Rigdon stole it from Patterson's printing office. The latter presumption is much the stronger. The probability is very strong -- in fact, the testimony is almost conclusive -- that Sidney Rigdon had that manuscript in his possession for a long time.

Sidney Rigdon was born Feb. 19, 1793, in Piney Fork of Peters Creek, Saint Clair Township, Allegheny County, Pa. There is no doubt about this, as both the contemporary opponents of Mormonism and the sketch of Rigdon presented in Smith's autobiography agree. According to one Mormon account, Rigdon was licensed as a Baptist preacher fourteen years before becoming a Mormon. This would make the date 1816 [sic], which would coincide with the year in which Spaulding died, and Rigdon's own twenty-fourth year. Another account represents him as joining the Baptist Church May 31, 1817. This account states that he began to talk in public on religion soon after his admission to the Church, probably at first at his own instance, as there is no account of his being licensed.

In 1818 Rigdon took up his residence and began the study of divinity with the Rev. Andrew Clark, or Sharon, Pa., and the next year, in March, he was licensed as a Baptist preacher. In 1819 he moved to Warren, Trumbull County, O., and in July of that year took up his residence with the Rev. Adamson Bentley, and was there ordained a regular Baptist preacher. While there he met and in June, 1820, married the sister of Mrs. Bentley.

For some time he did not have a regular charge, but in November, 1821, he received a call from the First Baptist Church of Pittsburg, which he accepted, commencing his active duties there in 1822.

According to the Prophet Joseph Smith, Rigdon's pastorate ended in August, 1824, when he was expelled for doctrinal error. Another account fixes the date of his being deposed as Oct. 11, 1823; but there is no question anywhere as to the ground of his being deposed.

 

RIGDON  MEETS  GREAT  MEN

Twenty years before the publication of the Mormon Bible, namely, in 1809, Thomas Campbell, a native of the northern part of Ireland, a Presbyterian minister, published a declaration and address which was indorsed by his son, Alexander Campbell, who later became the leader of the movement which was practically the beginning of the now rapidly growing Church of the Disciples. They founded their first congregation in Washington County, Pa. As is well known, they were great orators and powerful debaters. Among their first important allies was a Scotchman named Walter Scott, a musician and school-teacher, who assisted in their publications and became a powerful evangelist. During a visit to Pittsburg in 1823 Scott made Rigdon's acquaintance, and a little later the congregation that Scott drew, or ministered to for a short time, was united with that of Rigdon, and very soon Rigdon was deposed. In Smith's autobiography in the sketch of Rigdon (probably written by himself) it is stated that "Rigdon was for some time much perplexed with the idea that the doctrines maintained by the First Baptist Church, Pittsburg, were not altogether in accordance with the Scriptures." He was much troubled, for he "could see no Church with which he could associate," consequently if he were to disavow the doctrine of the Church he would have no other way of making a living, except by manual labor, and he had a wife and three children to support." In point of fact, after he left the First Baptist Church he did work in Pittsburg for two years with his brother-in-law, Mr. Brooks, as a journeyman tanner. During that time he became entirely affiliated with Alexander Campbell and Walter Scott. The Church was organized, and Rigdon, while working as a journeyman tanner, secured the courthouse in Pittsburg in which to preach.

In 1826 he retired to Bainbridge, O., and threr preached as an undenominational exhorter, "but following the general views of the Campbells," advising his hearers to reject their creeds and rest their belief solely on the Bible. Later Rigdon received a call to the Baptist church at Mentor, O., but also preached about in different places and was in excellent repute with Thomas Campbell and his son Alexander. Several years before this the latter had called Rigdon "the great orator of the Mahoning Association." In 1828 he visited Scott, became thoroughly confirmed in the Disciples' faith, associated himself with his brother-in-law Bentley, and at once began revival work at Mentor, where fifty were converted; his reputation grew and in all parts of Ohio vast crowds followed him.

But it was impossible for him to keep the peace, At a convention in Warren, O., in 1828 [sic - 1830?], Rigdon advocated a community of goods. Alexander Campbell, who was present, answered him and carried the meeting, and Rigdon left the assemblage. A person who traveled with him, [a] citizen of Warren, said that Rigdon remarked in his anger, "I have done as much in this reformation as Campbell or Scott, and yet they get all the honor of it." Whether or not that was said, in Smith's autobiography the claim is made that he was as much the founder of the Church of the Disciples as the other two.

It is there stated that they were called Campbellites because of Mr. Campbell's periodical, it being the means through which they communicated their sentiments to the world. "Other than this Mr. Campbell was no more the originator of the sect than Elder Rigdon."

In that day quite a number of the Disciples were fanatical to such an extent that Alexander Campbell had to rebuke them, which he did in the paper he published known as the Millennial Harbinger.

 

REMINISCENCES  OF  RIGDON  AS  A  REGULAR  BAPTIST

Dr. Winters, in the course of an historical notice of the First Baptist Church of Pittsburg, says: "When Holland Sumner dealt with Rigdon for his bad teachings, and said to him, 'Brother Rigdon, you never got into a Baptist church without relating your Christian experiences,' Rigdon replied, 'When I joined the church at Peters Creek, I knew I would not be admitted without an experience, so I made up one to suit the purpose.' * * * This I have just copied," says Dr. Winter, "from an old memorandum as taken from Sumner's himself." This would seem to agree with what the Rev. Samuel Williams says in his Mormonism Exposed, that Rigdon "professed to experience a change of heart when a young man and proposed to join the church under the care of Elder David Phillips, but there was so much miracle about his conversion and so much parade about his profession that the pious and discerning pastor entertained serious doubts at the time in regard yo the genuineness of the work." However, they did accept him and he soon began to endeavor to supplant the minister. Father Phillips in that early day, owing to Rigdon's duplicity, "declared his belief that as long as he (Sidney Rigdon) should live he would be a curse to the Church of Christ."

 

EVIDENCE  THAT  SIDNEY  RIGDON  HAD  THAT  MANUSCRIPT
IN  HIS  HANDS  FOR  A  LONG  TIME

1. John Miller, who knew Spaulding at Amity, bailed him out of jail when he was confined for debt, and when he died made his coffin for him and helped to lay him in his grave, states that "Spaulding told him there was a man named Sidney Rigdon about the office (of Patterson, etc.), and they thought he had stolen it," that is, the manuscript.

2. In the History of Washington County, Pa., written by Patterson [sic], under the caption, "Who Wrote the Book of Mormon?" it is stated that as early as 1832, when Mormonism was attracting general public attention, and two years previous to the publication of Howe's Mormonism Unveiled (in which Mr. Spaulding's story was first made known), the Rev. Cephus Dodd, a Presbyterian minister of Amity and a practicing physician of that place as well, took Mr. George M. French, a respectable citizen of Amity, to Spaulding's grave, and there "expressed a positive belief that Sidney Rigdon was the agent who had transformed Spaulding's manuscript into the Book of Mormon." Mr. French, who is the witness on this point, fixes the date by its proximity to his removal to Amity. In a discussion of this subject by A. T. Schroeder, a lawyer of Salt Lake City, who has collated much of the evidence, it is considered very important because of its implications, which are that Dodd had an opportunity to compare Spaulding's literary production and the Book of Mormon, and his conclusion is that Rigdon was the connecting link in the plagiarism.

3. Proceeding with the evidence I find that the Rev. John Winter, M. D., survived until 1878. The circumstances under which Rigdon showed him the manuscript are these: During the year 1722-23, while Dr. Winter was in Pittsburg as a school teacher, on one occasion he was in Rigdon's study when the latter took from his desk a large manuscript and said in substance that a Presbyterian minister named Spaulding, whose health had failed, brought it to a printer to see if it would not pay to publish it. Said Rigdon, "It is a romance of the Bible,"

Dr. Winter did not read the manuscript nor give the matter any further thought until the Book of Mormon appeared.

The first authority for Dr. Winter's statement is the Rev. A. G. Kirk, to whom Dr. Winter communicated it in conversation at New Brighton, Pa., in 1870-71. The second authority is the Rev. J. A. Bonsall, a son-in-law of Dr. Winter, and at one time pastor of the Baptist Church at Rochester, Pa. The third authority is Mrs. Mary W. Irvine, a daughter of Dr. Winter. She was living in 1881 at Sharon, Pa., and her statement is this: "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 a curiosity." This is found in the work entitled Who Wrote the Book of Mormon?

Rigdon denied that he ever had anything to do with Patterson's printing office, and wrote, "If I were to say that I ever heard of the Rev. Solomon Spaulding and his hopeful wife until Dr. P. Hurlburt wrote his lie about me, I should be a liar like unto themselves." Rigdon's denials were: fist, the story about Spaulding's writings being in the hands of Patterson; second, that during his residence in Pittsburg there was a man named Patterson who had a printing office; and third, that he was in any way connected with Patterson's printing establishment.

4. But the business mutations of Patterson have been thoroughly looked up. In 1812 he was in the book business in the firm of Patterson and Hopkins. In their employment there was a boy fourteen years of age named J. Harrison Lambdin. On Jan 1, 1818, when this boy had become twenty years of age, he became a partner in the firm of Patterson & Lambdin. Patterson had in his employ Silas Engles as foreman printer and superintendent
 

[p. 289]
of the printing business. The latter decided on the propriety or otherwise of publishing manuscripts. Patterson & Lambdin had under their control the bookstore on Fourth Street, a book bindery, and printing office (not newspaper, but job office under the name of Bulter & Lambdin), and a steam paper mill on the Allegheny under the name of R. &. J. Patterson. Paterson & Lambdin continued in business until 1823. Lambdin died Aug. 1, 1825, in his twenty-seventh year. Engles died July 17, 1827, in his forty-sixth year. In some cases Rigdon's statements were denials of certain erroneous statements of his oponents, but the evidence that he was extremely intimate with Lambdin is conclusive.

5. The following evidence shows in what way people are recording their transactions without knowing it. About twenty-five years ago Mrs. R. J. Eichbaum gave the following testimony:

"My father, John Johnston, was postmaster of Pittsburg 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 Aug. 25, 1792, and when I became old enough I assisted my father in attending to the post-office, and became familiar with its duties. From 1811 to 1816 I was the regular clerk in the office, assorting, making up, dispatching, opening, and distributing the mails. Pittsburg 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 meager 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. Harrison Lambdin, Silas Engles, and Sidney Rigdon. 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. I do not know what position, if any, Rigdon filled in Patterson's store or printing-office, but am well assured he was frequently, if not constantly, there for a large part of the time when I was clerk in the post-office. I recall Mr. Engles saying that "Rigdon was always hanging around the printing-office." He was connected with the tannery before he became a preacher, though he may have continued the business whilst preaching.

This shows clearly that Rigdon had access to the manuscript.

 

RIGDON'S  PREVIOUS  KNOWLEDGE  OF  THE  MORMON  BIBLE

6. The Rev. Adamson Bentley, as previously stated in this letter, a brother-in-law of Sidney Rigdon, Jan. 22, 1842, wrote to Walter Scott, who was the man who led Rigdon into the Church of the Disciples, "I know that Sidney told me that there was a book coming out, the manuscript of which had been found engraved on gold plates, as much as two years before the Mormon Book made its appearance or had been heard of by me." This statement was published in the Millennial Harbinger for 1844, with the following editorial note from the Rev. Alexander Campbell:

The conversation alluded to in brother Bentley's letter of 1841, was in my presence as well as in his, and my recollection of it led me some two or three years ago to interrogate brother Bentley touching his recollections of it, which accord with mine in every particular, except the year in which it occurred -- he placing it in the summer of 1827 -- I, in the summer of 1826 -- Rigdon at the time observing that in the plates dug up in New York there was an account not only of the Aborigines of this country but also it was stated that the Christian religion had been preached in this country during the first century just as we were preaching it on the Western Reserve.

These statements were published thirty-two years before Rigdon's death and were not publicly denied by him.

7. Mrs. Amos Dunlap, a niece of Mrs. Rigdon, in December, 1879, furnished this testimony:

When I was quite a child I visited Mr. Rigdon's family. He married my aunt. They at that time lived in Bainbridge, O. (1826-27) During my visit Mr. Rigdon went to his bedroom and took from a trunk which he kept 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

8. Testimony of the Rev. D. Atwater, made three years before Rigdon's death:

Soon after this the great Mormon defection came on us (the Disciples). Sidney Rigdon preached for us, and notwithstanding his extravagantly wild freaks he was held in high repute by many. For a few months before his professed conversion to Mormonism, it was noticed that his wild, extravagant propensities had been more marked. That he knew before of the coming of the Book of Mormon is to me certain from what he said (during) the first of his visits at my father's some years before. He gave a wonderful description of the mounds and other antiquities found in some parts of America, and said that they must have been made by the aborigines. He said there was a book to be published containing an account of those things. He spoke of these, in his eloquent, enthusiastic style, as being a thing most extraordinary. Though a youth then, I took him to task for expending so much enthusiasm on such a subject, instead of things of the gospel.

9. Dr. S. Rosa, under date of Painesville, O., June 3, 1841, wrote:

In the early part of the year 1830, when the Book of Mormon appeared (and in November of which year Rigdon was converted, A. T. S.), either in May or June, I was in company with Sidney Rigdon, and rode with him on horseback a few miles. Our conversation was principally upon the subject of religion, as he was at that time a very popular preacher of the denomination calling themselves "Disciples" or Campbellites.

He remarked to me that it was time for a new religion to spring up; that mankind were all rife and ready for it. I thought he alluded to the Campbellite doctrine.

He said it would not be long before something would make its appearance; he also said that he thought of leaving for Pennsylvania, and should be absent for some months. I asked him how long. He said it would depend upon circumstances. I began to think a little strange of his remarks, as he was a minister of the gospel.

I left Ohio that fall and went to the state of New York, to visit my friends who lived in Waterloo, not far from the mine of golden Bibles. In November I was informed that my old neighbor, E. Partridge, and the Rev. Sidney Rigdon were in Waterloo, and that they both had become the dupes of Joe Smith's necromancies. It then occurred to me that Rigdon's new religion had made its appearance, and when I became informed of the Spaulding manuscript, I was confirmed in the opinion that Rigdon was at least accessory, if not the principal, in getting up this farce.

The foregoing was published in book form thirty-four years before Rigdon's death.

It is also charged that Rigdon during the incubaton period of Mormonism between 1827 and 1830 preached new matters of doctrine, which were afterward found to be inculcated in the Mormon Bible.

10. In following the ramifications of this labyrinth we come upon names widely known at this day. Scribner's Magazine for 1881 contains an article by Mrs. Ellen E. Dickenson, in which she reports a conversation with General and Mrs, Garfield, at Mentor, O., in 1889, in which Mrs. Garfield says her father told her that Rigdon in his youth lived in that neighborhood and made mysterious journeys to Pittsburg. She also quotes a statement by Mrs. Garfield's father, Z. Rudolph, that "during the winter previous to the appearance of the Book of Mormon Rigdon was in the habit of spending weeks away from his home, going no one knew where.     J. M. B.


Note 1: The Rev. John Jay Jackson, whose letter appears at the beginning of the above article, was the son of the same Rev. Abner Jackson whom the article writer calls "Abner Judson," in his article of Feb. 16th. John Jay Jackson was born Aug. 27, 1827 in Erie Co., Pennsylvania. However, since the Erie courthouse burned down twice in the early decades of the 19th century, official records of his birth are missing and John's name has not always been included in genealogical compilations of the extended family of his grandfather, Lyman Jackson. See Rev. J. J. Jackson's memorial, written by J. M. Carr and published on pp. 415-16 of the 1911 issue of the Official Record: East Ohio Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Rev. Jackson passed away, at the home of his son, Prof. Homer W. Jackson, of State College, Pennsylvania, on July 1, 1911.

Note 2: John's recollection of having heard his father (ABner Jackson) state that "he had heard Solomon Spaulding read from The Manuscript Found in his own father's house," is an important piece of evidence. It is perhaps the earliest dateable reference to a member of Lyman Jackson's family having acknowledged Lyman's old neighbor and friend, Solomon Spalding, visiting in the Jackson home (in what is now Albion, Erie Co., Pennsylvania), and during that visit reading from a manuscript of Spalding's own fictional writings. Abner Jackson's first known statement on this matter was not published until Jan. 7, 1881. In that printed account, Abner Jackson says: "Spaulding... about the beginning of the year 1812, commenced to write his famous romance called by him 'The Manuscript Found.' This romance, Mr. Spaulding brought with him on a visit to my father, a short time before he moved from Conneaut to Pittsburgh."

Note 3: John also says, that while he was living in "West Elizabeth, Allegheny, Pa.," during the mid-1860s, his father (Abner) came for a visit, and at that time consulted the Book of Mormon, "to compare it with his remembrance" of the fictional writings which Solomon Spalding had shared with the Lyman Jackson family in 1812. According to John, his father then stated "that the Book of Mormon, with some alterations, and those by no means material, was identical with what he heard Mr. Spaulding read." This account essentially corresponds with what Abner Jackson said in his published statement: "The most singular part of the whole matter is, that it [the Book of Mormon] follows the Romance so closely, with this difference: the first claims to be a romance; the second claims to be a revelation of God, a new Bible!" Abner Jackson, of course, was directing his attention to the textual similarities he observed in Spalding's writings and in the Book of Mormon -- he apparently did not state exactly what the differences were that he observed, or in what portions of the Mormon holy book such ostensible "alterations" might be found -- or who might have inserted the changes. Thus, for example, Abner may have seen "singular" parallels in every part of the Book of Mormon, save for the II Nephi section, or the Ether section. Without the incorporation of this sort of detail, it is difficult for the modern reader to ascertain just what Rev. Jackson meant, when he said that the "alterations" were "by no means material." Various other reports indicate that Solomon Spalding continued to revise or re-write his pseudo-history of the ancient Americans, even after he relocated in Pennsylvania near the end of 1812. Thus, what he had prepared for the press prior to his death in Pennsylvania, in 1816, may have contained substantial "alterations" of the material he shared with the Jackson family, late in 1812.

 

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