THE TEACHINGS OF
EXAMINED IN THE LIGHT OF
THE BIBLE AND HISTORY
THE TRUE ORIGIN OF
THE BOOK OF MORMON
(Note: the documents below are as they were originally written. However, we do not accept the assignment to any mortal being of the reverence due only to God, Psalm 111v9)
(Explanatory additions to the original texts are shown in italics)
Before and during the days of Joseph Smith, many people believed that the inhabitants of America were the ten lost tribes of Israel. Several books had been published before the appearance of the Book of Mormon, which contained this idea. So when Sydney Rigdon brought him a manuscript that dealt with the arrival in America of some Jewish emigrants, & their life and battle on American soil, Smith decided to publish it as if the work was his. But who was the author of the manuscript, and how did it get into Rigdon's hands? A book written by three authors - one of whom is a descendant of Oliver Cowdery - tells how Rigdon obtained this manuscript: "Rigdon, who was then nineteen years old, traveled to Pittsburgh, and lived there intermittently for the next four years (1812-1816) [...] During this period, he became very close to J H Lambdin, who, by coincidence, worked as a printer at the printing press of R. and J. Patterson, the same workshop where (Solomon) Spaulding had taken his manuscript. Between 1812 and 1814, the time Spaulding lived in Pittsburgh, he took his manuscript to the workshop and left it there, and then, leaving a copy of the manuscript in the workshop, moved to Amity in 1814. Recalling Rigdon's fondness for history and his 'visionary' tendencies, it is easy to understand how he could have been enthusiastic about Spaulding's novel, which certainly he could have seen through Lambdin.
After Spaulding moved to Amity, his manuscript disappeared from Patterson Printing, and Spaulding told Mr. Dodd and Rev. Joseph Miller that he suspected Rigdon of the theft. Spaulding died in 1816, and the following year Rigdon was accepted as a member of the First Baptist Church, near Library, his hometown. According to Patterson, his conversion was artificial. He was ordained during 1818 or 1819, and in 1820 he married Phoebe Brooks. Two years later, on January 28, 1822, Rigdon became a minister at the First Baptist Church in Pittsburgh, and it was during this time that he showed Spaulding's manuscript to Dr. Winter. Unfortunately, Rigdon's Baptist ministry was short lived, and he was excommunicated on 11 February 1823 for teaching irregular doctrine. Some said that he was very bitter about that action. Circumstantial evidence seems to indicate that it was in a period immediately after this when Sydney Rigdon and Joseph Smith met. From the Baptists, Rigdon changed to the 'Disciples of Christ' (the Campbellites) and preached to them until shortly before his 'conversion' to Mormonism, in 1830. There is conclusive testimony showing that until that date Rigdon still possessed the Spaulding manuscript, that Rigdon knew Joseph Smith, and that in one of his many visits to New York, he gave the contents of the manuscript to Smith and his friends, who made some modifications to the text and subsequently published it as The Book of Mormon." (Wayne L. Cowdery, Howard A. Davis, and Donald R. Scales, 'Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon?'). Spaulding's manuscript never re-appeared, but his family and friends, who knew its content, testified in affidavits that the entire historical plot of the Book of Mormon was taken from Spaulding's second novel, 'The Found Manuscript'.
One of the most interesting and concise testimonies was that of Dr. Cephas Dodd, Spaulding's doctor in the last years of his life. These comments were written on June 5, 1831 in the pages of his copy of the Book of Mormon: "I am convinced by the facts that my late patient, Solomon Spaulding, told me that this work (the Book of Mormon) was made from the writings of Spaulding, probably by Sydney Rigdon, of whom Spaulding suspected that he stole his manuscript from the publishing house where he (Spaulding) had taken him; and I am prepared to testify that Spaulding told me that his work was entitled 'The Manuscript Found in the Mountains of Mormon, or the Unburied Annals of the Nephites'. From his description of its content, I fully believe that this Book of Mormon is principally and perversely copied from it. June 5, 1831. Cephas Dodd." Apparently, Smith maintained all or a great part of the terminology that appeared in Spaulding's second novel 'The Found Manuscript', and all or almost all the characters created by Spaulding's imagination, since his family and friends, when they had the opportunity to leaf through the Book of Mormon, immediately detected Spaulding's work, as recorded in sworn statements before a notary. In addition to the apocryphal books, which appeared in the (original) King James Version of the Bible, in English, Spaulding must have had access to sixteenth-century books and documents, such as the historical works of Don Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxóchitl, the Popol Vuh, and others, since there are notorious parallels between such works and the Book of Mormon. For example, these ancient works speak of three separate groups of people who came from the east to colonize America, as recounted in the Book of Mormon.
But Joseph Smith's manuscript consisted not only of Spaulding's literary work, but also of material taken from Ethan Smith's book 'A View of the Hebrews', which was first published in 1823 - and expanded in a second edition in 1825 - in Poultney, Rutland County, Vermont State, near Windsor County, Vermont, where the Smith family lived. The Mormon historian, BH Roberts - one of the foremost scholars the Mormon Church ever had - read the book 'A View of the Hebrews', and was so impressed by the many coincidences between this book and the Book of Mormon, he prepared a manuscript in which he presented these parallels. After his death, his son delivered copies of these parallels to some Mormon intellectuals. Years later, in 1985, the complete manuscript about Dr. Roberts's analysis of Ethan Smith's book was published, with permission from his family, by the University of Illinois Press under the title 'Studies of the Book of Mormon'. In his analysis, he expressed comments like these: "In light of this evidence ('A View of the Hebrews'), there is no doubt that Joseph Smith the prophet possessed a creative and vividly strong imagination, an imagination that - one could rightly say - [...] It would be possible for him to create a book like the Book of Mormon ... There is a lot of internal evidence in the book itself to support such an idea [...] Could a Book of Mormon researcher be blamed if he were to decide that Ethan Smith's book, with his suggestion regarding the division of the Israelites into two peoples, with his suggestion about "tremendous wars" between them, and about the savages who defeated the civilized division, was the source that drove the creation of these same main things in the Book of Mormon?" (pp. 152, 154, 192).
more pages to come in this series