Spalding–Rigdon theory of Book of Mormon authorship
The Spalding–Rigdon theory of Book of Mormon authorship is the theory that the Book of Mormon was plagiarized in part from an unpublished manuscript written by Solomon Spalding. This theory first appeared in print in the book Mormonism Unvailed [sic], published in 1834 by E.D. Howe. The theory claimed that the Spalding manuscript was at some point acquired by Sidney Rigdon, who used it in collusion with Joseph Smith, Jr. to produce the Book of Mormon. Although publicly stated that it was through reading the Book of Mormon that Rigdon joined the Latter Day Saint movement, Howe argued that the story was a later invention to cover the book's allegedly true origins.
Contemporary Mormon Apologetics state that the theory has been disproved and is discredited, and argue that "few historians —whether friendly or hostile to the truth claims of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — believe that the historical data support the Spalding manuscript hypothesis."
Theory relating the Spalding manuscript and the Book of Mormon
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While living in Conneaut, Ohio, in the early nineteenth century, Solomon Spalding (1761–1816) began writing a work of fiction about the lost civilization of the mound builders of North America. Spalding shared his story, entitled Manuscript Found with members of his family and some of his associates in Conneaut, as well as his friends in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Amity, Washington County, Pennsylvania, where he lived prior to his death. However, Manuscript Found was never published.
In 1832, Latter Day Saint missionaries Samuel H. Smith and Orson Hyde visited Conneaut, Ohio, and preached from the Book of Mormon. Nehemiah King, a resident of Conneaut who knew Spalding when he lived there, felt that the Mormon text resembled the story written by Spalding years before. In 1833, at the urging of Doctor Philastus Hurlbut, King, Spalding's widow, his brother John, and a number of other residents of Conneaut signed affidavits stating that Spalding had written a manuscript, portions of which were identical to the Book of Mormon.
One of the more confusing details to the story is that Spalding was constantly revising his manuscript. The book Manuscript Found has been located and published, and is used as evidence that the Spalding/Rigdon theory is false. However, another theory exists that this manuscript was revised and the non-extant revised document is that which was attested by Spalding's relatives and friends.
Origins of the theory
The theory that Sidney Rigdon was the true author of the Book of Mormon first appeared in print in an 1831 article by James Gordon Bennett, who had visited Palmyra/Manchester area and interviewed several residents. The full theory involving the Spalding manuscript first appeared in Eber D. Howe's 1834 book Mormonism Unvailed. Howe printed the collection of affidavits collected by Hurlbut. Hurlbut had heard of an unpublished romance novel by Solomon Spalding as he was touring Pennsylvania giving lectures against the Latter Day Saint church. Hurlbut concluded that the description of the story in the manuscript bore some resemblance to that of the Book of Mormon. A contemporary of Hurlbut's, Benjamin Winchester, states that Hurlbut "had learned that one Mr. Spaulding had written a romance, and the probability was, that it had, by some means, fallen into the hands of Sidney Rigdon, and that he had converted it into the Book of Mormon." Upon learning this, Hurlbut determined to obtain the manuscript. Hurlbut learned that Sidney Rigdon had once resided in Pittsburgh and that the manuscript had once been there, and subsequently "endeavoured to make the finding of the manuscript take place at Pittsburgh, and then infer, that S.R. [Sidney Rigdon] had copied it there."
Author Dan Vogel suggests that Hurlbut was not the originator of the Spalding-Rigdon theory, noting that Hurlbut pursued this in response to what he had heard about the manuscript and suggests that had Hurlbut been the inventor of the theory "he would not have made strenuous efforts to recover Spalding's manuscript."
Statements from Spalding's neighbors and relatives
Eight of the affidavits acquired by Hurlbut from Solomon Spalding's family and associates stated that there were similarities between the story and the Book of Mormon.
An example is the statement of Solomon Spalding's brother John, which declared that Spalding's manuscript "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." Spalding's widow told a similar story, and stated that "the names of Nephi and Lehi are yet fresh in my memory, as being the principal heroes of his tale."
Author Fawn Brodie expressed suspicion regarding these statements, claiming that the style of the statements was too similar and displayed too much uniformity. Brodie suggests that Hurlbut did a "little judicious prompting." However, an article published in the Hudson Ohio "Observer", (Masthead of Vlll:15 - June 12, 1834), tells a different story. In the article, the editor interviewed some of the Conneaut witnesses, who then told the editor the same thing that they told to Hurlbut, even though they had every opportunity to say anything they wished. The significance of the article is that it appeared shortly after Hurlbut's trial in April 1834 and around six months before Howe's book, "Mormonism Unvailed", was published, possibly undermining the claims that the witnesses had been coached by Hurlbut or that he had inaccurately reported their testimony.[original research?]
J. H. Beadle's version of the theory
In the book Life in Utah (1870) by J. H. Beadle, a version of the theory was presented with some additional details. Beadle states that in 1812 Rev. Spalding presented Manuscript Found to a bookseller named Patterson in Pittsburgh, wishing to have it published as a "historical romance, to account for the settlement of America", and proposing to write a fictional preface describing "its having been taken from plates dug up in Ohio." Patterson declined, as he "did not think the enterprise would pay." Beadle states that Rigdon was then at work in the office of Patterson, who died in 1826. Rev. Spalding had died of tuberculosis in 1816, and apparently the manuscript had not been returned, because the subsequent fate of that copy of the manuscript was said by Beadle to be unknown. According to Beadle, Rev. Spalding's widow "had another complete copy, but in the year 1825, while residing in Ontario Co., N. Y., next door to a man named Stroude, for whom Joe Smith was digging a well, that copy was also lost. Mrs. Spalding thinks it was stolen from her trunk." This latter detail appears to conflict with the statement in the following section that Hurlbut obtained his copy from Mrs. Spalding.[original research?]
Howe's response to the Spalding manuscript
Hurlbut obtained a manuscript through Spalding's widow, and showed it in public presentations in Kirtland, Ohio, in December 1833. Hurlbut then became embroiled in a legal dispute with Joseph Smith. Subsequently, Hurlbut delivered the documents he had collected to Howe. Howe was unable to find the alleged similarities with the Book of Mormon that were described in the statements and instead argued in Mormonism Unveiled (1834) that there must exist a second Spalding manuscript which was now lost. Howe concluded that Joseph Smith and Sidney Ridgon used the Spalding manuscript to produce the Book of Mormon for the purpose of making money.
Nineteenth century responses to the theory
In 1840, Benjamin Winchester, a Mormon defender who had been "deputed ... to hunt up the Hurlbut case," published a book rejecting the Spalding theory as "a sheer fabrication." Winchester attributed the creation of the entire story to Hurlbut.
Regarding Sidney Rigdon's alleged involvement, Rigdon's son John recounted an interview with his father in 1865:
My father, after I had finished saying what I have repeated above, looked at me a moment, raised his hand above his head and slowly said, with tears glistening in his eyes: "My son, I can swear before high heaven that what I have told you about the origin of [the Book of Mormon] is true. Your mother and sister, Mrs. Athalia Robinson, were present when that book was handed to me in Mentor, Ohio, and all I ever knew about the origin of [the Book of Mormon] was what Parley P. Pratt, Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith and the witnesses who claimed they saw the plates have told me, and in all of my intimacy with Joseph Smith he never told me but one story."
In 1884, a Spalding manuscript known as Manuscript Story was discovered and published, and the manuscript now resides at Oberlin College in Ohio. This manuscript appears to bear little resemblance to the Book of Mormon story, but some critics claim it contains parallels in theme and narrative. The second "lost" manuscript purported to exist by Howe has never been discovered.[original research?]
Mormon responses to the theory
In his paper titled "The Mythical "Manuscript Found," Matthew Roper concludes:
Whether one accepts the Spalding explanation or some other theory, one still has to explain not only if, but how Joseph Smith or any other candidate could write such a book, a point upon which critics have never agreed and probably never will agree. The Book of Mormon will always be an enigma for the unbeliever. The Latter-day Saint, of course, already has an explanation that nicely circumvents that puzzle. For those who are unwilling to believe Joseph Smith's explanation of the origin of the Book of Mormon but who still cannot see the ignorant Palmyra plowboy as responsible for its contents, some variation of the Spalding theory with its mythical "Manuscript Found" may be the best fiction they can contrive.
Daniel C. Peterson contends that there is little or no evidence supporting the Spalding theory and that extensive evidence, including "very sophisticated statistical analysis," renders it "deeply improbable and only desperate necessity would ever have given rise to it in the first place. But the Spalding theory nonetheless limps on in certain circles." 
Peterson also argues that the Spalding theory must be placed in the larger historical context of the advent of Mormonism, asserting that
Even so, it doesn't even begin to explain the Witnesses, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and a host of other matters.
Computer analyses of authorship of The Book of Mormon have resulted in conflicting results and dueling assertions about which methodologies yield the most reliable analyses.
Early wordprint or computer studies demonstrated the Spalding-Rigdon theory to have little support from such analysis. A 1980 study done by John Hilton with non-LDS colleagues at Berkeley concluded that the probability of Spalding having been the (sole) author of book of Nephi was less than 7.29 x 10−28 and less than 3 x 10−11 for Alma.
A 2008 Stanford study (Jockers et al., 2008) of the text of the Book of Mormon compared to writings of possible authors of the text shows a high probability that the authors of the book were Spalding, Rigdon, and Oliver Cowdery; concluding that "our analysis supports the theory that the Book of Mormon was written by multiple, nineteenth-century authors, and more specifically, we find strong support for the Spalding-Rigdon theory of authorship. In all the data, we find Rigdon as a unifying force. His signal dominates the book, and where other candidates are more probable, Rigdon is often hiding in the shadows". This study did not include Joseph Smith as one of the possible authors, arguing that because of Smith's use of scribes and co-authors, no texts can be presently identified with a surety as having been written by Smith. Later scholars argue that this is a significant problem, demonstrating that a "naive application of NSC methodology" led to "misleading results" by Jockers et al because they had used a closed set of 7 authors for their study. Another study (Schaalje et al., 2009) showed that an open set of candidate authors "produced dramatically different results from a closed-set NSC analysis."
The Jockers study found a strong Spalding signal in Mosiah, Alma, the first part of Helaman, and Ether. The Spalding signal was weak in those parts of the Book of Mormon likely produced after the lost pages incident (1 Nephi, 2 Nephi, some of the middle part of 3 Nephi, Moroni). They found the Rigdon signal distributed throughout the Book of Mormon (except for the known Isaiah chapters), and a weak Pratt signal in 1 Nephi. They also found a strong Cowdery signal in mid-Alma and weaker Cowdery signals in locations that contain content similar to Ethan Smith's "View of the Hebrews".
The Stanford group, in the peer-reviewed publication in the Journal of Literary and Linguistic Computing, reviewed the (non-peer reviewed) Hilton study and pointed out numerous flaws in it.
They (Jockers et al., 2008) found that the Book of Alma is a mixture of Rigdon, Cowdery, and Spalding. The Hilton study does not indicate what text they used for Alma. If one lumps all the signals for Rigdon, Cowdery, and Spalding together, one is left with a corrupt signal that does not match Spalding.
The Schaalje peer-reviewed study also published in the Journal of Literary and Linguistic Computing critiqued the methodology used by Jockers et al. in their 2008 study by noting numerous problems, including the closed set analysis that forced the choosing of a winner while excluding the possibility that an author outside the closed set could be selected. By using Jocker's methodology to analyze the (known) authorship of the Federalist Papers by including and excluding Alexander Hamilton as a candidate author, Jocker’s methodology picked Rigdon when Hamilton was excluded. Using Schaalje’s open set method, Schaalje's method picked "none of the above" when Hamilton was excluded. When Hamilton was included, both Jockers and Schaalje's method correctly picked Hamilton.
- Matthew Roper, and Paul Fields. "The Historical Case against Sidney Rigdon's Authorship of the Book of Mormon". Maxwell Institute, Brigham Young University. Retrieved 28 April 2012.
- Bennett, James Gordon (31 Aug. 1831), "Mormonism—Religious Fanaticism—Church and State Party", New York Courier and Enquirer 7 (562) in Arrington, Leonard J. (1970), "James Gordon Bennett's 1831 Report on 'The Mormonites'", BYU Studies 10 (3).
- Spaulding 1996
- Winchester 1840, p. 9
- Winchester 1840, p. 11
- Vogel 1998, p. 15
- Roper 2005
- Howe 1834, p. 279
- Brodie 1971, pp. 446–47
- Beadle 1870
- Beadle 1870, pp. 30–1
- Testimony of Benjamin Winchester, Nov. 27, 1900; accessed at http://www.solomonspalding.com/docs/1900winc.htm[better source needed]
- Winchester 1840, p. Title page
- Reeve 1996
- Norwood, L. Ara. "Book of Mormon Authorship: A Closer Look". Maxwell Institute, Brigham Young University. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
- Roper, Matthew. "The Mythical "Manuscript Found"". Maxwell Institute, Brigham Young University. Retrieved 28 April 2012.
- Peterson, Daniel. "Joseph Smith's account of the Restoration is difficult to counter". Deseret News. Retrieved 28 April 2012.
- For a history of such studies from the perspective of an LDS group, see the article on Book of Mormon Wordprint Studies at the FAIR wiki.
- John L. Hilton, "On Verifying Wordprint Studies: Book of Mormon Authorship", Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins, edited by Noel B. Reynolds, (Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1997), Chapter 9.
- Jockers et al., Reassessing authorship of the Book of Mormon using delta and nearest shrunken centroid classification, Literary and Linguistic Computing, December, 2008
- Schaalje, G. Bruce, Paul J. Fields, Matthew Roper, Gregory L. Snow. Extended nearest shrunken centroid classification: A new method for open-set authorship attribution of texts of varying sizes.Literary and Linguistic Computing,to appear, http://llc.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2011/01/18/llc.fqq029.full
- "Rebuttal to Jockers". Retrieved 28 April 2012.
- Beadle, J H (1870), Life in Utah or the Mysteries and Crimes of Mormonism, being an expose' of the Secret rites and ceremonies of the Latter Day Saints, with a full and authentic history of polygamy and the Mormon sect from its origin to the present time, Phildelaphia, PA: National Publishing Company.
- Brodie, Fawn M (1971), No Man Knows My History, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, ISBN 0-679-73054-0.
- Cowdrey, Wayne (2005). Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon?. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House. ISBN 0-7586-0527-7..
- Howe, Eber D (1834), Mormonism Unvailed, Painesville, Ohio: Telegraph Press.
- Roper, Matthew (2005), "The Mythical "Manuscript Found"", FARMS Review (Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute) 17 (2): 7–140, retrieved 2007-01-31.
- Spaulding, Solomon (1996), Reeve, Rex C, ed., Manuscript Found: The Complete Original "Spaulding" Manuscript, Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, ISBN 1-57008-297-9.
- Winchester, Benjamin (1834), The origin of the Spalding story, concerning the Manuscript Found; with a short biography of Dr. P. Hulbert, the originator of the same; and some testimony adduced, showing it to be a sheer fabrication, so far as in connection with the Book of Mormon is concerned. By B. Winchester, minister of the gospel, Philadelphia: Brown, Bicking & Guilbert, Printers.
- Vogel, Dan (1998), Early Mormon Documents (Vol. 2), Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, ISBN 1-56085-093-0.
- Cowdrey, Davis, Vanick research on Spalding-Rigdon theory
- Spalding Studies
- Craig Criddle's analysis of Spalding-Rigdon connections
- Spalding's "Manuscript Story" and parallels
- A fragment comparing Sidney Rigdon's biography with a known passage from Solomon Spalding
- An article criticizing the Spalding-Rigdon theory
- LDS Church historian Bruce D. Blumell response to Spalding-Rigdon theory
- Book of Mormon Authorship: A Closer Look