Mormonism and the Spaulding Manuscript. -- By: James H. Fairchild

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 043:169 (Jan 1886)
Article: Mormonism and the Spaulding Manuscript.
Author: James H. Fairchild


Mormonism and the Spaulding Manuscript.

James H. Fairchild.

Mrs. Ellen E. Dickinson, in her recent work entitled New Light on Mormonism, introduces herself as a grand-niece of Solomon Spaulding, who wrote “the romance called The Manuscript Found, from which the Book of Mormon was formulated.” Her leading purpose seems to be to show that the Book of Mormon had its literary origin in an historical romance written by Solomon Spaulding, but never published by him, and

never intended to serve the purpose to which it has been perverted. The volume doubtless derives its title from the effort to establish this theory of the origin of the Book of Mormon, although it contains other matter connected with the history of Mormonism and the character of its doctrines. The book is vigorously and clearly written, and makes a strong impression of the wickedness of this great delusion of modern times.

The author clearly distinguishes between the Mormonism of Utah, as established by Brigham Young, and that of the Josephites, led by Joseph Smith, Jr., who indignantly repudiate polygamy and regard the system maintained in Utah as a great apostasy; yet she maintains that Joseph Smith, the father, received a revelation at Nauvoo encouraging polygamy, and had made a beginning in its practice. The proof of this is in the fact that Brigham Young, some years afterward, set forth such a revelation, claiming that Smith received it in 1843, but did not publish it. The Josephites deny this utterly, and charge the revelation as an imposture of Young.

There seems little in common between the two bodies of Mormons, except that they both hold the Book of Mormon as a revelation and Joseph Smith as a prophet. But the Book of Mormon contains no new system of religion, and could not of itself have given rise to the organized iniquity which prevails in Utah. It was only as the Book of Mormon was supplemented by further pretended revelations invented by shrewd and unscrupulous men that the mischief grew. It may be claimed, not unreasonably, that the credulity and superstition which could accept the Book of Mormon as a revelation made ultimate Mormonism possible.

The question chiefly discussed in Mrs. Dickinson’s little volume, whether the Book of Mormon originated in a manuscript of Solomon Spaulding, is interesting, but by no means of special importance. The book is not so wonderful that it could not have been produced by Joseph Smith or Sidney Rigdon, or some other of the shrewd and unscrupulous, but uncultivated, leaders of the delusion. There is no occasion to go far to find its origin. It might be satisfactory to trace it to a definite source in the Spaulding manuscript, but Mormonism, as it exis...

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