Book of Mormon & Solomon Spaulding - 1952

Pittsburgh Press July 24, 1952

Book of Mormon

By William A, White
Press Staff Writer

Amity, Pa. -- Was the famous "Book of Mormon" written under another title by Rev. Solomon Spaulding, who died here in 1816? Innumerable arguments have failed to settle this question.

The story is that a printer in Pittsburgh copied a story written by Rev. Spaulding entitled "The Manuscript Found." And with the guidance of Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon religion, it reportedly was revised, called "The Book of Mormon" and published as the translation of inscribed gold plates dug from the earth near [sic] New York City.

Dr. Spaulding, graduate of Dartmouth, came here several years before his death. He was an antiquarian who traveled far to investigate Indian mounds and trace aborigines.

Style Resembled Old Testament

While living near Ashtabula, Ohio, he investigated mounds and found traces of forts there supposedly built by an extinct race and conceived the idea of a fictional sketch of this race. According to his widow, his object in writing it was to amuse himself and entertain his neighbors.

Written in a style resembling that of the Old Testament, he read the story to neighbors as it progressed. The report got abroad that he was writing from his deciphering of hieroglyphics on stone in the strange places he visited. Actually it was a fabulous historical romance stemming from his own imagination which he never intended to publish. An editor was permitted to read it and offered the minister a contract for publication.

Mrs. Spaulding, in a letter published in 1839, said her husband refused to permit its publication, but historians do not agree on this point. It was while the editor had the manuscript Sidney Rigdon, a printer, reportedly got possession of it long enough to copy it.

Book Published in 1830

About 1830 Joseph Smith founded the Mormon Church, claiming that he had received his "revelation" seven years before and had been "led" by an "angel" to the burial place of some inscribed golden plates. In 1827 he said the "records" were delivered to him and translated into "The Book of Mormon." The book was published in 1830 at Palmyra, N. Y. and not too long afterward Smith was joined by printer Rigdon in Kirtland, Ohio, where the first Mormon Temple was built.

Persons who heard Rev. Spaulding read chapters of his fiction tale claimed immediately [that] the "Book of Mormon" appeared to be what they had heard from Rev. Spaulding's lips, with some revisions.

According to the Minister's widow the original manuscript was sent to the Ohio town and compared paragraph by paragraph with the text of the "Book of Mormon" and it was identical except for "a few pious expressions and extracts from Sacred Scriptures," which had been inserted. The author was denounced as having "palmed it off on deluded fanatics as divine" and "should be exposed to the contempt and execration he so justly deserved."

Strangely, the Spaulding manuscript disappeared after that and some historians are of the opinion there never was such a manuscript, though they have no explanation for how the story of it became so widespread and so controversial.

Rev. Spaulding's burial place in the Lower Ten Mile Presbyterian Cemetery here is marked by a modern granite stone.

Note: The writer of the above article appears to have merely paraphrased the 1839 statement of Spalding's widow, carrying over from it certain allegations which require careful explanation, if they are to be advanced as part of the Spalding authorship claims (i. e. Rigdon being a printer, Spalding being "an antiquarian who traveled far," etc.). The writer appears to be unaware of the Spalding manuscript discovered in Hawaii and the subsequent attempts by LDS and RLDS leaders to describe that document as Mr. Spalding's only attempt at writing historical fiction. The above article is somewhat unusual in its promotion of the Solomon Spalding claims for Book of Mormon authorship as late as 1952. By that time most writers for the public press had followed the lead of Fawn M. Brodie and had dropped the "Spalding theory" from their telling of Mormon origins.