Origin of Mormonism


Atkinson’s Evening Post

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“Origin of Mormonism.” Atkinson’s Evening Post, and Philadelphia Saturday News (Philadelphia) 18 (25 May 1839).

From the New York Observer.


The Book of Mormon, or the “Golden Bible,” it would seem, is the production of the Rev. Solomon Spaulding, a graduate of Dartmouth College, and formerly pastor of a Presbyterian Church on the Western Reserve in Ohio. While suffering under disease, to please himself and his friends, he wrote an imaginary history of the mysterious race of men who built the ancient mounds and other works of art, which are scattered so profusely over the valley of the Mississippi. His manuscript, falling into the hands of wicked and designing men, has been perverted into the means of building up the new sect of lunatics who are making so much noise in the West. The Rev. John Storr, of Hollistown, Mass. learning that the widow of Mr. Spaulding (now Mrs. Davison, having, since Mr. S.’s death, married a second husband, was still living at Monson, Mass. and could testify of this fact addressed her a letter, and obtained the following narrative, which we copy from the Boston Recorder of last week.

As this book has excited much attention and has been put up by a certain new sect, in the place of the sacred Scriptures, I deem it a duty which I owe to the public to state what I know touching its origin. That its claim to a divine origin is wholly unfounded needs no proof to a mind unperverted by the grossest delusions. That any sane person should rank it higher than any other merely human composition, is a matter of the greater astonishment; yet it is received as divine by some who dwell in enlightened New England, and even by those who have sustained the character of devoted Christians. Learning recently, that Mormonism has found its way into a church in Massachusetts, and has impregnated some of its members with it gross delusion, so that excommunication has become necessary, I am determined to delay no longer doing what I can to strip the mask from this monster of sin, and to lay open this pit of abominations.

Rev. Solomon Spaulding, to whom I was united in marriage in early life, was a graduate of Dartmouth College, and was distinguished for a lively imagination and a great fondness for history. A the time of our marriage, he resided in Cherry Valley, N. Y.―From this place we moved to New Salem, Ashtabula county, Ohio; sometimes called Conneaut, as it is situated upon Conneaut Creek. Shortly after our removal to this place, his health sunk, and he was laid aside from active labors. In the town of New Salem, there are numerous mounds and forts, supposed by many to be the dilapitated dwellings and fortifications of a race now extinct. These ancient relics arrest the attention of the new settlers and become objects of research for the curious.

Numerous implements were found, and other articles evincing great skill in the arts. Mr. Spaulding, being an educated man and passionately fond of history, took a lively interest in these developments of antiquity; and in order to beguile the hours of retirement and furnish employment for his lively imagination, he conceived the idea of giving an historical sketch of that long lost race.―Their extreme antiquity of course would lead him to write in the most ancient style, and as the Old Testament is the most ancient book in the world, he imitated its style as near as possible. His sole object in writing this historical romance was to amuse himself and his neighbors. This was about the year 1812.―Hull’s surrender at Detroit occurred near the same time, and I recollect the date was well from that circumstance. As he progressed in his narrative, the neighbors would come in from time to time to hear portions read, and a great interest in the work was excited among them. It claimed to have been written by one of the lost nation, and to haven been recovered from the earth and, assumed the title of “Manuscript Found.” The neighbors would often inquire how Mr. S. progressed in deciphering “the manuscript,” and when he had a sufficient portion prepared he would inform them, and they would assemble to hear it read. He was enabled from his acquaintance with the classics and ancient history, to introduce many singular names, which were particularly noticed by the people and could be easily recognised by them―Mr. Solomon Spaulding had a brother, Mr. John Spaulding, residing in the place at the time, who was perfectly familiar with this work and repeatedly heard the whole of it read.

From New Salem, he removed to Pittsburg, Pa.―Here Mr. S. found an acquaintance and friend in the person of Mr. Patterson, an editor of a newspaper.―He exhibited his manuscript to Mr. P. who was very much pleased with it, and borrowed it for perusal. He retained it a long time and informed Mr. S. that if he would make out a title page and preface, he would publish it and it might be a source of profit. This Mr. S. refused to do for reasons which I cannot now state.

Sidney Rigdon, who has figured so largely in the history of the Mormons, was at this time connected with the printing office of Mr. Patterson as is well known in that region, and as Rigdon himself has frequently stated. Here he had ample opportunity to become acquainted with Mr. Spaulding’s manuscript, and to copy it if he chose. It was a matter of notoriety and interest to all, who were connected with the printing establishment. At length the manuscript was returned to its author, and soon after we removed to Amity, Washington county, Pa. where Mr. S. died in 1816. The manuscript then fell into my hands and was carefully preserved. It has frequently been examined by my daughter, Mrs. McKenstry, of Monson, Mass. with whom I now reside, and by other friends. After the “Book of Mormon” came out, a copy of it was taken to New Salem, the place of Mr. Spaulding’s residence, and the place where the “Manuscript Found” was written. A woman preacher appointed a meeting there, and in the meeting read and repeated copious extracts from the “Book of Mormon.” The historical part was immediately recognised by all the older inhabitants, as the identical work of Mr. S. in which they had been so deeply interested years before. Mr. John Spaulding was present, who is an eminently pious man, and recognised perfectly the work of his brother. He was amazed and afflicted, that it should have been perverted to so wicked a purpose.

His grief found vent in a flood of tears, and he arose on the spot and expressed in the meeting his deep sorrow and regret, that the writings of his sainted brother should be used for a purpose so vile and shocking. The excitement in New Salem became so great, that the inhabitants had a meeting, and deputed Dr. Philastus Hulburt, one of their number, to repair to this place and obtain from me the original manuscript of Mr. Spaulding, for the purpose of comparing it with the Mormon Bible, to satisfy their own minds and to prevent their friends from embracing an error so delusive. This was in the year 1834. Dr. Hurlburt brought with him an introduction and request signed by Messrs. Lake, Aaron Wright and others, with all of whom I was acquainted, as they were my neighbors when I resided in New Salem.

I am sure that nothing could grieve my husband more, were he living, than the use which has been made of his work. The air of antiquity which was thrown about the composition, doubtless suggested the idea of converting it to purposes of delusion.―Thus an historical romance, with the addition of a few pious expressions and extracts from the sacred Scriptures converted into a new Bible, and palmed off upon a company of poor deluded fanatics, as divine.

I have given the previous brief narration, that this work of deception and wickedness may be searched to the foundation, and its author exposed to the contempt and execration he se justly deserves.

The Rev. Dr. Ely; pastor of the Congregational Church in Monson, and D. R. Austin, principal of the Monson Academy, have given their certificate that Mrs. D. is “a woman of irreproachable character, and an humble Christian, and that her testimony is worthy of implicit confidence.”

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