Statement by the Presbyterian Church

Presbyterians and Latter-day Saints

Presbyterians in many parts of the United States live in close proximity with Mormon neighbors. Historically, these contacts with one another have often involved mutual difficulties. Today Presbyterians are challenged to apply the learnings we are gaining about interfaith relations to our relationships with Latter-day Saints.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, like the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), declares allegiance to Jesus. Latter-day Saints and Presbyterians share use of the Bible as scripture, and members of both churches use common theological terms. Nevertheless, Mormonism is a new and emerging religious tradition distinct from the historic apostolic tradition of the Christian Church, of which Presbyterians are a part.

Latter-day Saints understand themselves to be separate from the continuous witness to Jesus Christ, from the apostles to the present, affirmed by churches of the "catholic" tradition.

Latter-day Saints and the historic churches view the canon of scriptures and interpret shared scriptures in radically different ways. They use the same words with dissimilar meanings. When the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speaks of the Trinity, Christ's death and resurrection, and salvation, the theology and practices related to these set it apart from the Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant churches. 

It is the practice of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to receive on profession of faith those coming directly from a Mormon background and to administer baptism. Presbyterians do not invite officials of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to administer the Lord's Supper.


The Reformed tradition believes that the canon of scripture is closed and the Bible is complete, although the Holy Spirit continues to lead the Church into deeper understandings of God's revelation. Reformed Christians test new understandings against the content of the central revelatory events recorded in the Bible. Latter-day Saints speak of receiving new revelations. Revelatory events not found in the Old and New Testaments are recounted in additional Mormon scriptures.


The historic apostolic creeds of the church remind Christians how difficult it is to speak about God. Reformed Christians have described the person of God as invisible, without body or passions. God's otherness is overcome in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Mormon teachings speak about God in literally anthropomorphic terms. Latter-day Saints understand that all souls live a premortal life as spirit children of Heavenly Father and say that humans may become gods, "as God is." They define themselves as monotheists since they give allegiance only to Heavenly Father, creator and ruler of this world.


For Latter-day Saints, salvation through Christ's atonement is a first step toward sanctification and exaltation an eternal progression that is in the hand of each person and family thus explaining the special importance of obedient living, marriage, or baptism for the dead. The Reformed tradition understands both the initiative and completion of the plan of salvation to rest on God's grace. Nothing is required but acceptance of God in Christ, from which a life of gratitude flows.

Presbyterian Banner February 12, 1879


In another column will be seen what there is much reason to believe is a true history of the origin of the Mormon Bible." It will be read with the closest attention.

Polygamy was not one of the original features of the delusion, but was afterwards engrafted upon it. And to this day the Mormon emissaries in Europe are careful to conceal their peculiar and distinct views with regard to marriage; otherwise they would prevent their success in obtaining new recruits almost altogether. It is only after their arrival in Utah that the greater part of deceived Europeans learn how purity, law and decency have been set aside in the matter of marriage, John Taylor, now President of the Mormon Church, when in France in 1853, although he then had no less than five wives, denied the existence of polygamy among the Mormons, and had a denial printed in pamphlet form in French and circulated in large numbers. Now this same John Taylor declares that the revelations concerning polygamy came directly from heaven; that is his religion, and neither Congress nor the Supreme Court of the United States which declared the act of 1862 forbidding polygamous marriages in the territories of the United States constitutional, will have no effect except to unite, confirm and strengthen Mormons in their faith. And it is well known that leading Mormons have taken additional wives since the decision of the Supreme Court was given. In direct contempt of the opinion of the court, John W. Young has married his fifth wife, James Welch his second wife and John White his third wife. At the same time Mormon women are beseiging the President and others in authority and Delegate Cannon and representatives of the Mormon Church are petitioning for amnesty and promising obedience to the law.

In view of the state of things it is not strange that a petition has been addressed to Congress by the anti-polygamists in Utah, praying that instead of rendering the law against polygamy more lenient, Congress would amend the act of 1862 by making living together in polygamy under the general reputation of marriage sufficient to constitute the offence, as otherwise the statyte will be practically inoperative. In this movement the law-observing and purity-loving people of Utah should have the co-operation of all opponents of the iniquitous institution, in all parts of the country. Thorough work should be made in delivering the people of the United States from the charge of tolerating a degrading system of concubinage. Too much confidence must not be placed in Congress, without watchfulness on the part of the people; its members ought to be made to feel that the public eye is always upon them, and they will be held to strict account for neglect of duty.



The recent decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, sustaining the constitutionality of the law of Congress, enacted in 1862, punishing bigamy in the Territories with fine and imprisonment, has attracted public attention anew to the most stupendous delusion of the nineteenth century. Thank God for the decision! It is a step in the right direction to crush out a system destructive of good morals, patriotism, the marriage relation and the principles of liberty.

The facts in regard to the origin of the Book of Mormon have been frequently published. They were detailed by the present writer in his "History of Washington County," published in 1870. Briefly they are as follows:

Rev. Solomon Spaulding, a graduate of Dartmouth College, became a resident of New Salem (sometimes called Conneaut), in Ashtabula County, O., in the early part of the present century. Here he was compelled by the state of his health to desist from active labors. To occupy his hours of leisure, he amused himself by writing a historical romance, containing a record of the wanderings and the varied fortunes of the race that reared the mounds so numerous throughout the West, and many of which were to se seen in the vicinity of his residence. This was about the year 1812. The romance, purporting to be written by one of the lost race and to have been recovered from the earth, was entitled the "Manuscript Found." Mr. Spaulding, as his work progressed, frequently read it to his neighbors, many of whom became interested in it and familiar with the events and names recorded. From New Salem Mr. Spaulding removed to Pittsburgh and deposited his manuscript in the printing office of Mr. Patterson for examination, with a view to publication. It is supposed that Sidney Rigdon, one of the originators of the Mormon delusion, had come across this manuscript whilst in the office, became acquainted with its contents, and possibly made or obtained a copy of it. After some time the manuscript was returned to Mr. Spaulding, who soon after removed to Amity, Washington County, Pa., where he died in 1816. About 1830 the Book of Mormon appeared; a Mormon preacher visited New Salem and in a public meeting read copious extracts from the book, which were immediately recognized by the older inhabitants present as the identical work of Mr. Spaulding; and his brother, being present, arose on the spot and with tears expressed his sorrow that the work of his sainted brother should be used for so shocking a purpose. The inhabitants of New Salem held a meeting and deputed one of their number, Dr. Hurlbut, to repair to Monson, Mass., where Mr. Spaulding's widow (who had married a Mr. Davidson) resided, to obtain the original manuscript for comparison with the Mormon Bible. This was in 1834. Mrs. Davidson afterwards wrote a full statement of the facts, of which the above is but an outline. This statement (given in full in the "Hist. of Wash. Co." pp. 91-93, was published in 1839, and elicited from Mr. Rigdon the year a published denial of all knowledge on his part of Mr. Spaulding's manuscript. In connection with Mrs. Davidson's statement, a letter from Joseph Miller, Sr., dated March 26, 1869, is given in the "History above referred to. Mr. Miller (still living at Amity, being 88 years of age) was well acquainted with Mr. Spaulding, waited on him in his last illness and assisted at his burial. Mr. Miller had heard Mr. Spaulding read portions of his novel entitled the "Manuscript Found," and afterwards on hearing the Book of Mormon read, recollected several passages as the same he had heard Mr. Spaulding read. One passage he remembers distinctly, where the Amalekites had marked themselves with red on the foreheads to distinguish them from the Nephites. The singularity had fixed it in his memory.

To the testimony of which the above is a brief sketch, the following facts may be added as not devoid of interest in connection with the history of this colossal fraud:

Mr. McKinstry, a son of the late Dr. McKinstry of Monson, Mass., and the grandson of Rev. S. Spaulding, says that his grandmother came East from Ohio to live with her daughter at Monson many years ago, bringing the manuscript of his grandfather's romance with her. Before her death a plausible young man from Boston came to see and get the Spaulding writing. It was a time of considerable excitement concerning the Mormons, and he claimed to represent some Christian people who wanted to expose Mormonism. He therefore begged the loan of the manuscript for publication. Much against the wishes of Mrs. Dr. McKinstry, the daughter of Mrs. Spaulding (now Davidson) she consented to let her husband's unpublished romance be taken away. Nothing was ever heard of it again, and the family have always considered that the bland young gentleman was an agent of Brigham Young to destroy this convincing evidence that Joe Smith's Mormon Bible was of very earthly origin.

The widow of Mr. Spaulding and her daughter, Mrs. Dr. McKinstry, had compared the Mormon Bible with the romance of the "Manuscript Found," and stated that they were essentially the same -- that the similarity was so overwhelming as to leave no doubt on their minds but that Joe Smith or Sidney Rigdon had copied it in full and made out of it bodily, the divine revelation -- as a special revelation from God on plates of gold engraven by his own hand -- and that after being translated they were taken back to heaven.

The Springfield (Mass.) Republican gives its testimony in these words: The story of how the Rev. Mr, Spaulding came to prepare his romance, which Mr McKinstry remembers as a child to have seen, is very interesting. Mr. Spaulding was out of the active ministry in Ohio, and employed his leisure moments in weaving a romance. It was at the time when the Mound Builders were creating wild excitement and interest -- the implements of cookery and war being unearthed showing the existence of a forgotten race. This furnished the inspiration for the chronicles of the story writen. He entitled the production the "Manuscript Found," the idea being that the romance written by Mr. Spaulding was dug up out of one of the mounds in the region. It was a history of Ancient America, not all written at once, but as leisure and fancy occurred to him, Mr. Spaulding would add to it. His writing was no secret in the neighborhood. In that then frontier region, with few opportunities for literary enjoyment. Rev. Mr. Spaulding was prevailed upon to read to his neighbors. It was written in Bible phraseology and made as quaintly old as possible, so as to carry out the idea of its alleged mound origin.

I might add in this connection that Joe Smith was born on Vermont in 1805, and his friends claim that when he was fifteen years of age he was informed by an angel in a vision of the apostacy of the Primitive church. On September 22, 1827 he received from the hands of a messenger from the Lord the golden plates containing the ancient history of this continent, written by various prophets and concealed by Morni [sic] in the year 420. He was informed that he was the chosen instrument to restore God's church to its former purity and holiness. Accordingly he proceeded to translate the golden plates and the church was organized in 1830.

Three witnesses, viz: Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Martin Harris, testify that an angel of God came down from heaven and he brought and laid before our eyes that we beheld and saw the plates and the engraving thereon;" and I may add, to complete the imposture, that Joe Smith exhibited these plates to Christian Whitmer, Jacob Whitmer, Peter Whitmer, Jr., John Whitmer, Hiram Page, Joseph Smith, Sr., Hiram Smith and Samuel H. Smith, and that they "had the appearance of gold and the engraving was of curious eorkmanship and was handled by their own hands."

We can readily account for the reason why the Whitmers and the Smiths are the principal witnesses -- because the book itself says that "Morni, a son of Mormon, was authorized to show the plates unto those who shall assist to bring forth this work and unto three shall they be shown (viz: Cowdery, Whitmer and Harris) by the power of God wherefore they shall know of a surety that these things are true."

Such is the stupendous fraud and imposture which has been imposed not only on the American people, but upon foreign countries to which emissaries have gone, bringing back ignorant people by the ship load to become American citizens.

Note 1: Alfred Creigh's article in the Banner was quickly reprinted in the Feb. 14th issue of his home-town paper, the Washington Reporter. For Alfred Creigh's earlier account of the Spalding claims for Book of Mormon authorship see pp. 89-93 of his 1870 History of Washington County, Pennsylvania.

Note 2: The John A. McKinstry statement in the Springfield Republican, referred by Mr. Creigh is known by its reprint in the New Haven Connecticut Palladium of Sep. 3, 1877. The same reprint was also carried by the Syracuse Journal on that same date. Creigh's paraphrase of the McKinstry statement changes the original wording considerably. Also, it should be noted here that the 1877 McKinstry statement conflates the two separate visits of D. P. Hurlbut (in 1833) and Jesse Haven (in 1839) into a single, somewhat jumbled account.

Note 3: Rev. Robert Patterson, Jr., the secondary "editor and proprietor" of the Banner Robert Patterson, Jr., was at least marginally involved in investigations of the Spalding claims as early as November of 1878, when the Rev. Samuel Williams contacted Patterson about his father's contact with Spalding in Pittsburgh c. 1812-1816. Through Williams Patterson soon came into contact with the highly motivated Spalding claims researcher, James T. Cobb of Salt Lake City and much of Cobb's enthusiasm for this line of research seems to have quickly rubbed off onto Patterson. Whether Patterson solicited the Feb. 12, 1879 article from Creigh, or whether it was Creigh who first approached Patterson on that matter remains unknown. At the very least the interests of both Creigh and Patterson regarding the Spalding authorship claims appear to have converged early in 1879. For a contemporary letter by Patterson on this subject, see the Commercial-Gazette of Feb. 17, 1879. From this point forward it was Robert Patterson, Jr. who carried forward most of the new research on the Spalding authorship claims (at least he was the primary researcher of this subject in western Pennsylvania in the early 1880s). For example, in August of 1879 Patterson was inspired to seek out and interview the aging D. P. Hurlbut at Gibsonburg, Ohio and obtain a statement from him (printed in the Leader in Feb. 1880 ) regarding the man's involvement in the 1833 effort to recover the writings of Solomon Spalding. It was probably his frustrations and subsequent realizations, developing out of his failed effort to obtain useful information from Hurlbut that motivated Patterson to continue and expand his search for the facts underlying the old Spalding claims.