Samuel F. Porter

Origin of the Book of Mormon
Chicago: Nat. Christian Assoc., 1890?

Spalding at Conneaut
Rigdon's textual theft
Rigdon's silent consent
Ohio & Missouri
Power of B. of M.

Transcriber's comments

1901 Atlanta Constitution Article   |   1901 Chicago Tribune Article
See also: various examples of  Sidney Rigdon in 19th century fiction








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The first edition of the Book of Mormon was made up mainly from a manuscript written by Rev. Solomon Spaulding, entitled "A Historical Romance." It gave a romantic account of the Cave Dwellers, and of the Mound Builders, and the wandering tribes that occupied the vast wild regions of America, who were thought by many to be the lost tribes of Israelites. And being a scholar in the languages, he gave Hebrew names to most of the races referred to. But he used the Greek word "Mormon" to designate that class of Indians who go out to war with horrid head-dresses, to frighten their enemies.

Mrs. Spaulding said, under oath, "That much of the history given in the first edition of the Book of Mormon

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was found in her husband's Historical Romance. His brother John Spaulding testifies the same, and Martha, John Spaulding's wife said "that the historical part of the Book of Mormon, she was sure, was the same as what she read and heard read so often from the manuscript of her brother-in-law." The following and many others testify, under oath, the same. Elder Lewis, William Thompson, Davis Dimock, Levi Lewis, Sophia Lewis and Alvah Hale.

While at Conneaut, Ohio, Rev. Solomon Spaulding is said to have opened a mound, and found skeletons, pottery and metals; and this, it is thought, inspired him to write the "Historical Romance." But he was a ready writer and left other manuscripts, as his poverty prevented their publication. One was taken to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) but was brought back by President J. Fairchild, and is now in the college library at Oberlin, Ohio. But the subject was altogether different from the Historical Romance. It appears that Spaulding took the latter to Pittsburg to the office of Patterson & Lambdin and requested them to print it. But having no money for the expense, it was "pigeon-holed" until 1816, when the Rev. S. Spaulding died.

Sidney Rigdon was a printer, employed in the office at Pittsburg while the manuscript was there. He evidently thought well of the "Historical Romance," and believed it would pay to print it. After a time

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he left the office, and began to labor as a Campbellite preacher. After Spaulding's death he returned to the printing office and inquired for his manuscript. It was found; then he requested possession of it. But Patterson & Co. said it was not theirs: they kept it simply for the owners. And Rigdon said: "S. Spaulding is dead, and I will be responsible to his heirs," and so he took it.

Sidney Rigdon is not to be judged too severely. There is no probability that he designed to introduce a new religion: the "Historical Romance" was simply historical. So he designed to create a sensation by printing it, and to make money by selling it. And no doubt he excused himself for taking it by the thought "If I don't use the manuscript in this way, it will never be anything but waste paper."

As there must be, as he thought, something mysterious about the book to excite the public and make it sell (Ap. No. 1), Rigdon unwisely called in the aid of Joseph Smith, jr., who was a fortune-teller and conjuror, who could find lost things by looking into a peek stone which he carried about in his pocket, and he used a divining 'rod' to show him where to dig for money in the hills. So, he agreed to become a partner with Rigdon in publishing the Book, by pretending to read it off from metallic plates with his peek stone.

Sidney Rigdon prepared it for printing by re-writing

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some small portions in several places. And being an earnest preacher, he added some pages of religious doctrine and practice. But, under what title should they send this volume out into the world? Having looked over all the names found in it, they chose the sonorous Greek word, "Mormon," having no knowledge of its meaning: A horrid image made to frighten children.

So Joseph Smith, Jr., took the manuscript and went with his wife, Emma, to Harmony, Pa., where his father-in-law, Isaac Hale, resided. And having engaged the school teacher to write for him during his vacation, Smith sat in a corner behind a curtain, and pretended to read from metallic plates with the peek stone, and the teacher wrote as he called it off, word for word. In this way the handwriting of Spaulding and the corrections of Rigdon disappeared, and the Book of Mormon was ready for the printer. But the teacher testified that at one time he heard paper rattle, and he looked in and saw Smith's belle-crowned hat between his knees with paper in it, and he was reading it off for him to write down. Isaac Hale thought it was all a farce, got up for evil purposes by falsehood and lying. He never became a Mormon.

The Smith family, especially the mother of Joe, was imbued with the Wingate superstition, and he was strongly inclined to the supernatural. Vide ( Ap. No. 2.) And from the way in which he was brought up he was

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easily disposed to assume almost miraculous powers.

"He began to tell fortunes and where lost things were. This he did for a money consideration. The temptation was very strong to assume the miraculous, and inspiration. Why should he not be a Prophet and I have the honor and the reward: -- So he said that he was inspired to find the metallic plates, and also how to use (read) them.

Moreover, S. Spaulding having written his manuscript to some extent in the earlier English, which is sometimes called "Bible style," it opened the way for Smith to use expressions many times, such as, "And it came to pass," "Verily, verily, I say unto you," and "Lo! and behold," and many others.

When questioned by those who read the book, "Where did you find the plates from which you wrote this?" he took them to the hill where he had dug for money and declared that he found them there. But no metallic plates were there, and none were ever seen until Smith prepared and sent some at the request of the editor of one of the great daily papers of New York city. The editor, after a careful examination, reported "that the plates were of a yellow substance, mostly brass; and that there were scratches on them, but no letters, nor words, nor language." And this was what Smith named later, "The Golden Bible."

But the first edition is called, The Book of Mormon, and not the Mormon Bible. And if they had known

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the meaning of "Mormon," they never would have used that word on the title page. But having begun at first with it, they could not get rid of it. Smith having gained a dozen proselytes or so at Palmyra, N. Y., proposed that they should adopt the settlement plan of living in one community. Two well-to-do men among them concluded to consult Sidney Rigdon, who was preaching at that time in Ohio. So they set out, and Smith went with them.

In the evening after their arrival as they were eating supper, Joe Smith spoke of the miraculous finding of the plates, and the new revelation which they contained. Sidney Rigdon answered, "You are an infamous liar!" But Smith waived the matter, and got his disciples off to bed. Then he and Rigdon sat up and discussed things all night, and in the morning the subject was settled between them, and Smith had his own way. It would seem that financial reasons led Rigdon to yield a silent consent. And from this dirty hole of falsehood and lying, Smith took out his Golden Bible and assumed for himself the high office of a Prophet of God.

But there is a terrible denunciation of his crime in Rev. XXII:18, 19: "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book. If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. And if any man shall take away from the words of the

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book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part zzz1'1 >out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."

Forgery or using, without permission, the name of our fellow being is a great crime. But to forge the name of our heavenly Father to merely human writings is a blasphemy too great for human language to express. And Joseph Smith, Jr., and Brigham Young, and all the leaders of this ungodly heresy, are consigned by the Almighty Father to the society of the Devil and his helpers: and their supporters and followers are on the road to the same place.

In the first propagation of Mormonism the settlement plan gave Smith much influence, and gathered to him many followers. This settlement scheme adopted many of the principles of communism, and was very attractive to the "do nothings" of the backwoods of America. They acknowledged Joseph Smith, Jr., to be a Prophet of the Lord, and his frequent additions to the book of Mormon as Divinely inspired. The first practical experiment of socialism was tried at Kirtland, Ohio, where Sidney Rigdon was preaching when Smith arrived with his company of Mormons.

The township was mostly uncleared forest, or newly occupied farms, but little improved, and it was considered a good place to begin their settlement. And Joseph Smith assumed to be the prophet and inspired

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manager of the community. He affirmed that this was "A New Dispensation," and that "he and his followers were 'Latter Day Saints.'" So he governed everything in a most arbitrary way, in the name of the Lord, assisted by frequent pretended revelations. All money not in use must be put in the Prophet's hands, and the land must be divided among the Saints. It was said that more than half the land in Kirtland township was held by them, and the Prophet started the Bank of Kirtland with the money. In order to make their position permanent, the Prophet concluded that there must be a Temple in Zion. So they built a huge, square, tall edifice, without a tower or any other ornament, and it remained unfinished on the inside. On the opposite side of the road stood the Kirtland Inn, commonly called a tavern, and Joseph Smith the Prophet was the landlord, abiding most of the time in the bar-room.

The Kirtland settlement does not appear to have been a financial success, for the bank broke and entailed an almost total loss on all concerned. And very many of the settlers left their homes and land and went away without anything they could call their own and without paying their honest debts to their neighbors, whom they called Gentiles. The disposition to take for themselves what belonged to people not Mormons (Gentiles) was growing stronger and stronger. And when they began to gather in a settlement in

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Missouri, it was not an outbreak of religious persecution that met them, but the citizens there were greatly exasperated because the Saints took and held all the stray sheep and cattle and hogs that came in their way. And whatever they paid for it was done by them as far as possible in broken, or counterfeit bank notes, and this was the cause of their being driven from Missouri by force. But some of the large land speculators in Illinois thought it was done simply for the sake of persecution, so they gave them some land and sold them what they wanted more. Thus a new settlement was begun, and it was christened by their Hebrew teacher, Nauvoo, i. e., New City. And here Mormonism was fully developed, with its horns and hoofs.

The people of Illinois treated them with kindness and hospitality, and there was a rapid gathering of the "Saints" into the wide territory which they held, and a season of financial prosperity came. The Mormon Temple and secret endowment house was built, the Nauvoo Legion, a military body, was drilled an hour or so every Saturday afternoon, and the Danites, a semi-secret police, was organized. It is evident that Joseph Smith was early trained in the secrecy system of Freemasonry. And assuming the authority of a prophet of the Most High, he governed the "Latter Day Saints" by his own arbitrary will, in a secret endowment house, a lodge which the Saints continue to this day.

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Here, polygamy, with all its brutal lusts, was fully introduced, and the horrible murder of apostate Mormons was secretly practiced, under the name of "Blood atonement" for the salvation of their souls. The taking and using of unguarded property and stray domestic animals by the Saints became so common that the inhabitants of the surrounding counties of Illinois became exceedingly irritated. A farmer living perhaps a mile away went into the community, for his stray cow, and caught sight of it not far off. A Mormon met him and said: "What do you want here?" "I want my cow out yonder." "You have no cow here," he said, "and you'd better get out of this, or the Danites will be after you." And sure enough the Danites met him and bruised him and drove him out with their clubs, and he lost his cow.

The next time a man went on this errand into the settlement of Nauvoo he took a company of his neighbors with him, and as there were only two or three Danites at hand, they failed to retain the stray stock. After that then all the Danites were called out to defend their territory from time to time, and to hold possession of all the stray animals. But the citizens became too numerous for the Danites, and Smith, the Prophet, called out the Nauvoo Legion. Then the militia of the three next counties came out armed to protect the lives and property of the law-abiding citizens against the theft and murder of the Latter Day

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Saints: And this was war! So Mr. Frank M. [sic - Thomas?] Ford, the Governor of Illinois, interfered, using the military forces of the State to make matters quiet, and restore peace among them.

And he put the Prophet and a few Mormon leaders into the jail at Carthage to prevent a collision and to protect them from the violence of the enraged citizens But a hundred or more infuriated men disguised themselves and broke open the jail and shot Smith, the false prophet, and his brother Hyram, as they were escaping through a window. And the Mormons proclaimed it everywhere that this was the result of religious persecution, and not caused by the theft and violence of the Latter Day Saints. Then Brigham Young assumed the office of infallible Prophet and sole Governor of the Community of Mormons. And he led them armed over the prairies and plains to Salt Lake or Utah, in a valley of the Rocky Mountains.


It was through the influence of the Book of Mormon that Joseph Smith was received as a veritable prophet of God. Without this he would have remained ever a conjurer and a fortune teller. He declared it was laid away in the hills, on golden plates, and handed down through the ages to him; and that he was inspired to dig them up and to translate them with his stone for the instruction and edification of the Latter

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Day Saints. And his followers believed him, and were called Mormons, after the name of the book.

Thus having committed the blasphemous crime of forging the name of the Almighty to a false revelation, he was prepared to disregard any religious precept of God's Word, or any moral obligation to the human family. And he assumed the part of an infallible prophet of God, and the absolute ruler and dictator of all his followers.

As soon as a convert was made, he was invited to join the settlement and to live on the communistic plan, believing and obeying every order of the church and taking part in it all. It is this underlying power that upholds the whole Mormon edifice, with all its foul heathenism. Their catechism asks: "Are there more Gods than one?" Answer: "Yes, many. God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted Man. Adam is our Father and our God, the only God we have to do with. There is no other God in heaven but that God who has flesh and bones.'" Joe Smith says: "Jesus Christ and the Father are two persons in the same sense that John and Peter are two persons." And the priesthood affirm that "Jesus was married at the feast in Cana of Galilee." And they say that "there is no doubt that Mary Magdalen and Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, were his wives."

It is evident that the Mormon Prophets take much

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the same position towards the Bible and Gospel of Christ as Thomas Paine and Robert Ingersoll did; and the priesthood, to gain their ends, will tell the truth, and then deny it, when convenient, as they have so often done.

Whosoever desires eternal life let him beware! Whosoever would have the sun of truth to shine all this free, enlightened land, let him put on the armor of light and fight, the true gospel fight, for Christ and humanity.


No. 1. In the winter of 1830 or 1831 the author of this tract taught school some four miles from where Joe Smith and his people were living. This was in Manchester township, Ontario county, N. Y. It was a common saying that he could tell where lost things were because he put them there.

No. 2. Again, in 1835, the author, passing through Kirtland, O., stopped at the inn across the road from the temple and found Joseph Smith, the landlord, in the bar-room.

Mr. E. D. Howe, editor of the Painesville Telegraph, in 1835 published a work entitled, "Mormonism Unveiled." It is found now in the Western Reserve Historical Society's library in Cleveland, O. There are others. They show conclusively that the whole Mormon revelation is a pretense and a fraud.

No. 3. There are a good many books that have been

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published exposing Mormonism since Brigham Young's Hegeira to Salt Lake. Most of them are by Mormons who have become disgusted with the impurity and falsehood of Mormonism and have given up the whole system. Brigham Young's 19th wife was one of them and Mrs. Stenhouse, an English lady whose husband was a leading Apostle for a time. But they gave up the whole Mormon system, and she published a large volume which lays bare the abominations and the pretentions of the Latter Day Saints.


Joe Smith did all he could to cover up the S. Spaulding manuscript: He soon published a revised edition called the Mormon Bible, which has been enlarged and added to many times since 1831 when the writer first read the Book of Mormon. This has mostly disappeared. and the Mormon Bible greatly changed, but always dated 1830 A. D., has taken its place.


Transcriber's Comments

Rev. Samuel Fuller Porter (1813-1911)

Rev. Porter's Origin of the Book of Mormon

The Tract

The exact date for the publication of "Origin of the Book of Mormon" has not yet been determined. It appears to be a product of Rev. Porter's religious interests at the end of the 19th century. Its publication may have been as late as 1899-1900. The booklet can hardly be called historical reporting, and it probably should be classified under the broad identifier of "Mormon fiction." The supposed pre-1830 interaction between Rigdon and Smith is especially fanciful. The modern reader should be warned that there was no "editor of one of the great daily papers of New York city" who supposedly examined Smith's metal plates. Nor did Spalding's widow (Mrs. Davison) ever provide testimony "under oath" regarding her late husband's writings.

Rev. Porter's tract -- although entertaining -- was as much "a pretense and a fraud" as he claimed the Book of Mormon to be. Serious investigators of Mormon origins would do well to avoid consulting productions of this sort.

Biographical Sketch

Samuel Fuller Porter was born on September 17, 1813, in Whitestown, New York. He was the son of Elias and Lucy Ballard Porter, and both of his parents were devout Presbyterians. After receiving a public school education, Porter attended and graduated from the Oneida Institute. After Oneida, he began working as a reformer, showing particular interest in the temperance, anti-masonic, and anti-slavery movements. Soon thereafter, Samuel Porter experienced a call to ministry and went to Lane Theological Seminary, where he studied for two years. He left Lane in 1834 with the other Lane "rebels" and came to study at Oberlin in late 1835.

Porter graduated from the Oberlin Theological Seminary in 1836 in the school's first graduating class. He was ordained as a minister in Oswego, New York, during the same year. In 1836, when Porter was sent to preach in Lodi, Ohio, he met Loiusa H. Burr. They married on July 4, 1836. They had no children, but Samuel’s nephew Seth James Porter would also come to Oberlin. Seth James Porter was a student at Oberlin in 1860 and soon enlisted to fight in the Civil War. He died on June 26, 1862 near Corinth, Mississippi. Louisa Porter died in 1886.

From 1843 to 1857 Samuel Porter preached in Kingswood, New York. He later worked under a Christian commission during the Civil War as a volunteer chaplain, often preaching to freed-persons in hospitals. He also worked to establish churches and Sunday schools on the Northern frontier and preached among churches in the South during winters. He preached under the appointment [c. 1880-1899] by the National Christian Association as a Missionary College Agent. Throughout his life he published numerous tracts, including a volume of more than 100 pages on the "Coming of Christ." After retirement he made his home in Oberlin, where he lived out his last days. He died on April 8, 1911.

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