The Christian Advocate February 16, 1905

Editorial Letter

The Real Author of the Book of Mormon


To answer inquiries I state that the first of these letters appeared in THE CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE for Jan. 19 and is an account of Joseph Smith, Jr.'s parents and their family, of his marriage and the "peek-stone" with which he claimed to discover "ores, "buried treasure," etc., and his idle, shiftless, prevaricating character and habits, with testimony to the same.

The second letter describes the "Golden Bible" he claimed to find, gives instances of his perfidity, the account of his discovery and interviews with angels, and the submission of alleged facsimiles and translations of the plates to the celebrated Professor Charles Anthon, of Columbia College, this city. It contains a long letter in which Professor Anthon brands the "Bible" as a fraud, and unanswerable proofs of the truth of his conclusion. After various "revelations to Smith" are detailed the letter gives an account of the publication of the Book of Mormon.

The third letter summarizes the contents of the Book of Mormon and analyzes the testimony of the three men who claimed to have seen the plates. Also the testimony of "Mother" Smith.

The letter of last week gives the testimony of Nelson Moon (now living) to his mother's communications to him of her life in the same house with the Smiths; the testimony of the Rev. A. F. Morey (now living) to his residence in these scenes as a minister fifty years ago, and his inquiries of the survivors of those towns where Smith spent his youth and where he lived when he "set up for a prophet;" also the testimony of John D. Bills, with whom I corresponded within a few years, who knew Smith well and saw the translation, the testimony of the sister-in-law of Martin Harris, one of the witnesses, and closed with an account of SOLOMON SPAULDING, alleged to be the author of a manuscript which Smith plagiarized, altered, and added to, the result being the Book of Mormon.



The last letter left the widow Spaulding and their only child, a daughter, living with Mrs. Spaulding's brother, Mr. William H. Sabine, of Onondaga Valley, N. Y.

1. Later Mrs. Spaulding went to her father's house. There in 1820 she married a Mr. Davison, and the old trunk was sent to her new home at Hartwick, Otsego County, N. Y. The daughter was married to Mr. McKinstry in 1828, and after leaving Hartwicj Mrs. Spaulding made her home with her daughter at Monson, Mass., the greater part of the time until her death in 1844.

2. When the Mormon Bible began to be talked about in Ohio there were declarations in Spaulding's old neighborhood of the striking similarity between the Bible story and that which Spaulding used to read. Eight of Spaulding's acquaintances in Ohio gave under affidavit their recollections of the Manuscript Found. Spaulding's brother John testified that he had heard many passages of the manuscript read, and in describing it said:

It was an historical romance of the first settlers of America, endeavoring to show that the American 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, till they arrived in America, under the command of Nephi and Lehi. They afterwards had quarrels and contentions, and separated into two distinct nations, one of which he denominated Nephites, and the other Lamanites. Cruel and bloody wars ensued, in which great multitudes were slain. *  *  *  I have recently read the Book of Mormon, and to my great surprise I find nearly the same historical matter, names, etc. as they were in my brother's writings. I well remember that he wrote in the old style, and commenced about every sentence with "and it came to pass," or "now it came to pass," the same as in the Book of Mormon, and 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.

Mrs. John Spaulding testified to the same effect.

Mr. Spaulding's business partner, Henry Lake, testified that Spaulding read the manuscript to him many hours. Lake said:

One time, when he was reading to me the tragic account of Laban, I pointed out to him what I considered an inconsistency, which he promised to correct; but by referring to the Book of Mormon, I find to my surprise that it stands there just as he read it to me then. *  *  *  I well recollect telling Mr. Spalding, that the so frequent use of the words "and it came to pass," etc. rendered it ridiculous.

John N. Miller, an employee of Spaulding and a boarder in his family for several months, testified that Spaulding had written more than one book or pamphlet, that he had often heard him read The Manuscript Found, and testifies thus: "I have recently examined the Book of Mormon, and find in it the writings of Solomon Spaulding, from beginning to end, but mixed up with scripture and other religious matter, which I did not meet with in The Manuscript Found."

Joseph Miller of Amity, Pa., a man of standing in that community, made a statement, published in the Pittsburg Telegraph, Feb. 6, 1879. He said that he heard Spaulding read to him most of The Manuscript Found, and had read the Mormon Bible in late years to compare the two: also he remembered perfectly the account of the battle described in the Book of Alma, in which the soldiers of one army had placed a red mark on their foreheads to distinguish them from their enemies. Redick McKee, who lived in Amity, in a letter to the Washington (Pa) Reporter, April 21, 1869, stated that he heard him read from his manuscript.

The Rev. Abner Judson [sic - Jackson?], of Canton, O., wrote for the Washington County (Pa) Historical Society, under date of Dec. 20, 1880, an account of his recollections of the Spaulding manuscript, and it was printed in the Washington Reporter of the following January. He testifies that Spaulding read a large part of his manuscript to Mr. Judson's [sic] father, before the author moved to Pittsburg, and he (the son), being confined to the house with a lameness, heard the reading and the accompanying conversations. This was written in Bible style; "and it came to pass" occurred so often that some called him (Spaulding) "Old Come-to-pass." When the Book of Mormon was brought to Conneaut and read there in the pulpit, old Squire Wright heard it and exclaimed, "'Old Come-to-pass' has come to life again."



About twenty years ago the Mormons published a statement that the original manuscript of Spaulding's Manuscript Found had been discovered in the Sandwich Islands and brought to this country, and that its narrative bore no resemnlance to the (Joe Smith) Bible.

The history of this is that E. D. Howe, who had a printing establishment at Painesville, O., and had this manuscript, sold the establishment to L. L. Rice, who was an antislavery editor there for many years. Rice afterward moved to the Sandwich Islands. While Rice was there President Fairchild, of Oberlin, asked him to look over his old papers to see if he could not find some antislavery matter that would be of value to the Oberlin College Library. There he found an old manuscript, having these words written upon it: "The Writings of Solomon Dpaulding, Proved by Aaron Wright, Oliver Smith, John N. Miller, and others. The testimonies of the above gentlemen are now in my possession."

President Fairchild said in the New York Observer of Feb, 5, 1885, that "the theory of the origin of the Book of Mormon in the traditional manuscript of Solomon Spaulding will probably have to be relinquished. * * * Mr. Rice, myself, and others compared it with the Book of Mormon, and could detect no resemblance between the two in general detail. Some other explanation of the origin of the Book of Mormon must be found, if an explanation is required." This gave the Mormons great joy.

What happened to diminish that joy is the next strand of the tangled skein which we are to straighten.

The manuscript at Oberlin, as described by President Fairchild, is "A romance purporting to have been translated from the Latin found on twenty-four rolls of parchment in a cave on the banks of Conneaut Creek, but written in a modern style and giving a fabulous account of a ship's being driven upon the American coast while proceeding from Rome to Britain a short time previous to the Christian era, this country then being inhabited by the Indians."

It is certain that in Pittsburg Spaulding submitted his manuscript, which was a simple blocking out of a story rather than a full story, to Robert Patterson, then engaged in the publishing business in Pittsburg. He returned the manuscript to Spaulding, with the advice to "polish it up and finish it," and that if he so did he would make money out of it.

After living in Pittsburg two years, as previously stated, the Spauldings moved to Amity, Washington County, Pa. Here the story was "polished and finished," and Spaulding again went to Pittsburg in the hope of securing the publication.



Spaulding's widow and daughter asserted that at one time Patterson advised Spaulding "to make out a title-page and a preface." Mrs. Spaulding states that "this request was never complied with, but for reasons which were unknown to her." Aaron Wright also testified to long conversations with Spaulding and to listening to him while reading from his manuscript. Oliver Smith stated that Spaulding boarded with him for six months in Conneaut, and that all his liesure hours were occupied in writing an historical novel founded upon the first settlers of this country. That he read and heard more than one hundred pages, but as he recollected there was no religious matter introduced. Nahum Howard testified that he often conversed with him in his own house, and also at the house of Spaulding; that once in conversation he (Howard) expressed surprise at not having any account of the inhabitants once in this country who erected the old forts and mines [sic - mounds?]; whereupon Spaulding told him that he was writing a history of that race of people, and afterward showed him his writings, from which he read. Atremas Cunningham testified that in the month of October 1811, he went to Conneaut to secure a debt due him from Solomon Spaulding. He proceeds:

I tarried with him nearly two days, for the purpose of accomplishing my object, which I was finally unable to do. I found him destitute of the means of paying his debts. His only hope of ever paying his debts appeared to be upon the sale of a book which he had been writing. He endeavored to convince me from the nature and character of the work that it would meet with a ready sale. Before showing me his manuscripts, he went into a verbal relation of its outlines, saying that it was a fabulous or romantic history of the first settlement of this country, and as it purported to have been a record found buried in the earth, or in a cave, he had adopted the ancient or Scripture style of writing.

Cunningham. testifying concerning the Mormon Bible, says:

I have partially examined the Mormon Bible, and am fully of the opinion that Solomon Spaulding had written its outlines before he left Conneaut.

Several of these witnesses compared the Book of Mormon with the second manuscript, the rewriting of which was done by Spaulding after he left Conneaut. The story , rewritten and entitled, The Manuscript Found, was by Spaulding a second time left with the publisher, and this manuscript is the one from which the Book of Mormon was largely made up.

The old manuscript was shown to several of the foregoing witnesses, who recognized it as Spaulding's, he having told them that he altered his first lan of writing by going farther back with dates and writing in the old Scripture style, in order that it might appear more ancient. They say that it bears no resemblance to The Manuscript Found.

President Fairchild, of Oberlin, who had given the Mormons such satisfaction by stating that there was no resemblance between the two in general detail, ten years later certified only that the Oberlin manuscript is not the original of the Book of Mormon; and still later wrote the following:

With regard to the manuscript of Mr. Spaulding now in the library of Oberlin College, I have never stated and know of no one who can state, that it is the only manuscript which Spaulding wrote, or that it is certainly the one which has been supposed to be the original of the Book of Mormon. The discovery of this MS. does not prove that there may not have been another, which became the basis of the Book of Mormon. The use which has been made of statements emanating from me as implying the contrary of the above is entirely unwarranted.

The foregoing selections from the testimony of different witnesses are sufficient to prove that there were two manuscripts; that the first manuscript was sufficient to give some persons who heard of the Book of Mormon the idea that there was an identity between the Book of Mormon and Spaulding's first manuscript, but that upon the whole it could not be considered to be like it; and that certain [persons?] who saw only that that manuscript heard remarks from Mr. Spaulding as to his further plans, and doubtless mingled their recollections of the first manuscript with their recollections of his remarks and explanations. They are also sufficient to prove beyond doubt that there was a second manuscript and that second fully written out manuscript was the basis of the Book of Mormon.

In later years Spaulding's only daughter, Mrs. McKinstry, previously mentioned, stated that when she was living with W. H. Sabine the effects which they had taken there "included an old trunk, in which my mother had placed all my father's writings which had been preserved. I perfectly remember the appearance of this trunk, and of looking at its contents. There were sermons and other papers, and I saw a manuscript, about an inch thick, closely written, tied with some of the stories my father had written for me, one of which he called 'The Frogs of Wyndham.' On the outside of this manuscript were written the words, 'Manuscript Found.' I did not read it, but looked through it and had it in my hands many times, and saw the names I had heard at Conneaut, when my father read it to his friends."

If that was the first manuscript it is clear that Mrs. McKinstry was mistaken, for she thought it was the second; and her mother supported her in that view, for she says that before leaving Pittsburg for Amity her husband's manuscript was returned by the publishers; but she did not appear to remember that it was submitted a second time, and speaks of it thus: "The manuscript then, after Mr. Spaulding's death in 1816, fell into my hands, and was preserved carefully. It has frequently been examined by my daughter, Mrs. McKinstry, of Monson, Mass., with whom I now reside, and by other friends." The only things that appear to be settled by the testimony of Mrs. McKinstry -- who was only eleven years of age when with her mother she went off to live with her uncle, W. H. Sabine, taking the old trunk, and who gave her final testimony when she was about seventy-four years of age -- and that of her mother, and the weight of the other testimony, are that there were two manuscripts, and that the second, greatly enlarged and improved, was the basis of the Book of Mormon.     J. M. B.

Note: While the writer of the above article knew of Oberlin College President James H. Fairchild's developed views on the Spalding authorship question, he was evidently unaware that Lewis L. Rice (the friend of Fairchild's in whose possession the Oberlin manuscript rested for so many years), also became more mature in his opinions regarding the Spalding authorship claims. For Mr. Rice's final conclusions on the subject, see his letter of March 4, 1886, as published in the Honolulu Daily Bulletin of Mar. 11, 1886.