Solomon Spalding (February 20, 1761 – October 20, 1816) was the author of two related texts: an unfinished manuscript entitled Manuscript Story – Conneaut Creek, and an unpublished historical romance about the lost civilization of the mound builders of North America called Manuscript, Found. Whether these texts are distinct is disputed. After Spalding's death, a number of individuals suggested that Spalding's work was used as a source for the Book of Mormon, a scripture in the Latter Day Saint movement.
Spalding was born in Ashford, Connecticut. He was a member of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. In 1782, he entered Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, graduating with the class of 1785. In October 1787, he became an ordained Congregationalist preacher in Windham, Connecticut.
In 1795, Spalding married Matilda Sabin and opened a store with his brother Josiah in Cherry Valley, New York. In 1799, they moved the store to Richfield, New York. Around this time, Spalding bought a tract of land in and relocated to Conneaut, Ohio. While in Conneaut, Spalding began writing Manuscript, Found. In 1812, due to the disruptions of the War of 1812, Spalding moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1814, he moved to Amity, Pennsylvania, where he died two years later.
The Oberlin Manuscript
From 1809 to 1812, Spalding worked on a historical fiction about a Roman discovery of the Americas. An unfinished manuscript copy of this work exists, called the "The Oberlin Manuscript" or "Honolulu Manuscript". It is a historical romance "purporting to have been translated from the Latin, found on 24 rolls of parchment in a cave, on the banks of the Conneaut Creek". It tells of a Roman ship which discovers America.
The text of the Oberlin Manuscript was published by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS Church) in 1885, and by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) in 1886 and 1910 under the name Manuscript, Found. In Eber D. Howe's anti-Mormon book Mormonism Unvailed, family members and other witnesses claimed that the true title of the Oberlin Manuscript is actually Manuscript Story – Conneaut Creek, and that Spalding penned another manuscript titled Manuscript, Found which bore no resemblance to the Oberlin Manuscript.
Around 1812, Spalding allegedly completed a historical romance distinct from the Oberlin Manuscript which "purported to have been a record found buried in the earth". Spalding moved to Pittsburgh and reportedly took this manuscript to the publisher Patterson & Lambdin, but Spalding died in 1816 before the manuscript could be published.
Unlike the Oberlin Manuscript, there is, to date, no physical evidence of this second manuscript, so the details of this other manuscript are based off of testimonies originally published some twenty years later in Mormonism Unvailed.
Alleged contents of second manuscript
According to John Spalding, Solomon's brother, the plot of Manuscript, Found told "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, until 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. They buried their dead in large heaps, which caused the mounds so common in this country." Spalding gave this as an affidavit to be published in Eber D. Howe's anti-Mormon book Mormonism Unvailed.
Those who claim to have seen the second manuscript testified that it was written "in scripture style of writing" and recalled its repetitive usage of phrases like "and it came to pass" or "now it came to pass", as well as the repeated phrase "I Nephi".
Reliability of witness accounts of a second manuscript
Some modern scholars question the validity of the eyewitness accounts of this second manuscript. Fawn Brodie, in No Man Knows My History, dismissed the witness statements on grounds of witness tampering and false memory syndrome.
Theorized usage of Spalding's work in Book of Mormon
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, Spalding's brother John and seven other residents of Conneaut signed affidavits stating that Spalding had written a manuscript, portions of which were identical to the Book of Mormon. These statements were published in E. D. Howe's 1834 book Mormonism Unvailed, in which the theory was presented that the Book of Mormon was plagiarized from this manuscript. Several years later, Spalding's widow and daughter, other residents of Conneaut, and residents of Amity, Pennsylvania, also signed statements indicating that Spalding had authored a manuscript that was similar to the Book of Mormon.
"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."
In 1927, however, Professor Azariah S. Root, who had headed the library at Oberlin College, wrote a letter regarding the origins of the Spalding Manuscript and how it relates to the Book of Mormon. In it he states that the Spalding document to which he had access, The Oberlin Manuscript, "seems pretty clearly not to have been the manuscript from which the Book of Mormon was written". Since Root, nor anybody else, had possession Spalding's alleged second manuscript, he stated that The Oberlin Manuscript "does not seem to throw very much light" on the question of whether the second manuscript was used as a basis for the Book of Mormon.
- Also spelled Spaulding in some sources.
- Roper, Matthew. "The Mythical Manuscript Found" (PDF). The FARMS Review 17.2. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
- Persuitte, David (2000). Joseph Smith and the origins of the Book of Mormon (2 ed.). McFarland. p. 277. ISBN 978-0-7864-0826-9. Retrieved February 8, 2010.
- "Spaulding Manuscript - The Encyclopedia of Mormonism". eom.byu.edu. Retrieved 2016-09-21.
- Wayne Cowdrey, Howard Davis, and Arthur Vanick (2005). Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon?: The Spalding Enigma (Concordia Publishing House)
- Roper, Matthew (2005), "The Mythical 'Manuscript Found'", FARMS Review, Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute, 17 (2): 7–140, retrieved 2007-01-31.
|Wikisource has the text of a 1900 Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography article about Solomon Spalding.|
- Ask the Apologist : Solomon Spaulding and the Book of Mormon : website opposing Spalding authorship of the Book of Mormon
- Spalding Research Associates : website favoring Spalding authorship of the Book of Mormon.
- The Spalding Studies Site : website favoring Spalding authorship of the Book of Mormon
- The Spalding Enigma: The Fallacy of Repetition Continued? : website opposing Spalding authorship of the Book of Mormon
- Oberlin Spalding manuscript 1885 RLDS Church edition
- Oberlin Spalding manuscript 1886 and 1910 LDS Church editions
- Spalding biography in 1867 Dartmouth Alumni publication
- The FARMS Review of "Wayne Cowdrey, Howard Davis, and Arthur Vanick (2005). Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon?: The Spalding Enigma (Concordia Publishing House)"