Another Spalding Fragment

On 7 June 1841 Orson Hyde wrote to George J. Adams, giving his views on the Spalding theory: "I am confident that Mr. Rigdon never had access to the manuscript of Mr. Spaulding: but even allowing that he might (which my own thoughts will not allow for a moment) have seen the manuscript, he lacked the disposition to make the use of it which his enemies accuse him of; for all people know, who know any thing about Mr. Rigdon, and are willing to confess the truth, that he would conscientiously stand as far from such a base forgery, 'as Lot stood from Sodom in its evil day.'" (The Spalding Story, pp. 10-11.

Unfortunately for Mr. Hyde, there is clear and strong evidence that Rigdon did have access to Spalding's manuscript and made personal use of it. On May 1, 1843 the Nauvoo Times and Seasons began printing a biography of Sidney Rigdon. Scholars believe that Ridgon was himself the source of much of this biography and that he began dictating it, perhaps as early as 1838. By comparing a portion of this biography with passages from the Oberlin Spalding manuscript, it will become evident that Rigdon incorporated Spalding material into his autobiography.

Excerpts from the 1910 LDS edition of the Spalding manuscript are reproduced below. An early draft of the Sidney Rigdon biography can be found in Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith, vol. 1, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1989).

Spalding Manuscript Sidney Rigdon's Biography

(P. 74) Not content to represent facts as they existed -- & in their true colours -- monstrous stories were fabricated & put in circulation -- calculated to excite prejudice & rouse the resentment of the people against Elseon....

(P. 32) Baska was grave solemn and sedate -- reserved in his conversation -- but when he spoke wisdom proceded from his lips -- & all were astonished at his eloquence -- His fame spread rapidly thro, city & country -- & he was celibrated as a man of the most briliant & extraordinary Talents.

(Pp. 33-35) He never would converse long on trifling subjects -- had a wonderful facility to intermix some wise sayings & remarks & of turning with dignity & gracefulness the attention of the company to subjects that were important & interesting -- None could then withstand the energy of his reasoning -- & all were astonished at the inginuety of his arguments & the great knowledge & wisdom which he displayed -- His fame spread thro' the city & country & multitudes frequently assembled & importuned him to give them instruction -- Always cheerful to gratify the curiosity & comply with the reasonable requests of the multitude he entertained them by conversing with them familiarly -- & by exhibiting public Discourses -- All were charmed with his wisdom & eloquence -- & all united in pronouncing him to be the most extraordinary man in existence & generally believed that he held conversation with celestial beings -- & always acted under the influence of divine inspiration. -- The people were very liberal in their donations, which enabled him to support his family in affluence -- Having thus in a short time established a character superior with respect to wisdom & eloquence to any man who had ever appeared before him in the nation.... He still continued to associate among the people & was indefatigable in his labours to dispel their ignorance, correct their superstition & vices....

A great reformation had taken place in the morals & manners of the people.... But not willing to stop here the benevolent mind of the great Lobaska midetated a more important revolution -- now the propicious era had arived & the way was prepared for the introduction of that system of Theology which is comprised in the Sacred Roll -- In the first place he read & explained the whole system to the king & the chiefs of the nation, who cordially gave it their approbation & gave permission to propogate it among the people -- Under a pretence that this system was revealed to him in several interviews which he had been permitted to have with the second son of the great & good Being -- the people did not long hisitate, but received as sacred & divine truth every word which he taught them They forsook their old religion which was a confused medly of Idoletry & supersticious nonsence & embraced a religion more sublime & consistent -- & more fraught with sentiments which would promote the happiness of mankind in this world....

(Pp. 46-47) Thus within the term of twelve years from the arival of Lobaska at Tolanga, he had the satisfaction of beholding the great & benevolent objects which he had in view accomplished -- He still continued his useful Labours -- & was the great Oricle of both empires -- His advise & sentiments were taken upon all important subjects -- & no one ventured to controvert his opinions -- He lived to behold the successful experiment of his institutions -- & to see them acquire that strength & firmness as not easily to be overthrown. Having acquired that renown & glory which are beyond the reach of envy & which aspiring ambition would dispair of attaining -- at the age of Eighty, he bade an affectionate adue to two empires & left them to lament in tears his exit.

(Pp. 334-39) But being a stranger, and many reports being put in circulation, of a character calculated to lessen him in the estimation of the people and consequently destroy his influence. Some persons were even wicked enough to retail those slanderous reports which were promulgated, and endeavored to stir up persecution against him....

The doctrines he advanced were new, but at the same time were elucidated with such clearness, and enforced with an eloquence altogether superior to what they had been accustomed to before, that those, whose sectarian prejudices were not too deeply rooted, who listened to the deep and searching discourses, which he delivered from time to time, could not fail of being greatly affected, and convinced that the principles he advanced were true, and in accordance with the scriptures.

Nor were his labors and success confined to that Township alone, but calls were made in every direction for him to preach, which he complied with as much as he possibly could, until his labors became very extensive and spread over a vast extent of country.

Wherever he went the same success attended his ministry, and he was every way received with kindness and welcomed by persons of all classes. Prejudice after prejudice gave way on every hand. Opposition after opposition was broken down, and bigotry was routed from its strong holds: The truths he advanced were received with gladness, and the doctrines he taught had a glorious ascendancy, wherever he had the opportunity of promulgating them.

His fame as an orator, and deep reasoner in the scriptures continued to spread far and wide, and he soon gained a popularity, and an elevation, which has fallen to the lot of but few; consequently thousands flocked to hear his eloquent discourses....

Not only did the writings of the new testament occupy his attention, but occasionally those of the antient prophets; particularly their prophesies which had reference to the present, and to the future, were brought up to review, and treated in a manner entirely new and deeply interesting. No longer did he follow the old beaten track which had been travelled for ages by the religious world; but he dared to enter upon new grounds; called in question the opinions of uninspired men, shewed the foolish ideas of many commentators on the sacred scriptures -- exposed their ignorance and contradictions -- threw new light on the sacred volume, particularly those prophesies which so deeply interested this generation, and which had been entirely overlooked, or mystified by the religious world -- cleared up scriptures which had heretofore appeared inexplicable, and delighted his astonished audience with things "new and old" -- proved to a demonstration the litteral fulfilment of prophesy, the gathering of Israel in the last days to their antient inheritances, with their ultimate splendour and glory. -- The situation of the world at the coming of the son of man. -- The judgments which Almighty God would pour out upon the ungodly prior to that event, and the reign of Christ with his saints on the earth in the millenium.

These important subjects could not fail to have their weight on the minds of his hearers, who clearly discerned the situation in which they were placed, by the sound and logical arguments which he adduced, and soon, numbers felt the importance of obeying, that form of doctrine, which had been delivered them, so that they might be accounted worthy to escape those things which were coming on the earth and many came forward desiring to be baptized for the remission of sins. He accordingly commenced to baptize, and like John of old, there flocked to him people from all the region round about, -- persons of all ranks and standings in society, -- the rich the poor, the noble and the brave, flocked to be baptized of him.

Nor was this desire confined to individuals or families, but whole societies, threw away their creeds and articles of faith, and became obedient to the faith he promulgated; and he soon had large and flourishing societies throughout that whole region of country.

He now was a welcome visitor wherever he travelled, his society was courted by the learned and intelligent, and the highest encomiums were bestowed upon him, for his biblical lore and his eloquence.

The work of the ministry engaged all his time and attention; he felt deeply for the salvation of his fellow man and for the attainment of which, he labored with unceasing diligence....

After he had labored in that vicinity some time and having received but little pecuniary aid; the members of the churches, which he had built up, held a meeting, to take into consideration his circumstances, and provide for his wants and place him in a situation suitable to the high and important office which he sustained in the church....

...He being held in the highest respect by that people, they entered the work with pleasure, and seemed to vie with each other in their labor of love, believing it a duty to make their beloved pastor and his family comfortable.

Rigdon and Lobaska

If Sidney Rigdon's references to Christianity are factored out of the comparison, the literary residue of similarities between his biographical sketch and that of the Baska/Lobaska character in Spalding's story is truly remarkable.

Not only are the narrative styles of these two accounts noticeably similar, but also the content of events and their specific details. Both Lobaska and Rigdon were superior in their eloquence, wisdom, and reasoning powers. The fame of both men spread far and wide, and many people gathered to listen to their eloquent discourses in astonishment. Both men taught new religious doctrines; their arguments cut through superstition and prejudice, and people forsook their old beliefs and embraced the new truths. Both men cared for the happiness and salvation of the people and were indefatigable in their missionary labors. Both men were held in high esteem, and the people contributed generously to the support of each man and his family.

In both accounts mention is made of a "propicious era" or "millenium" in which religious hopes and expectations may come to fruition. Neither Spalding's Lobaska nor Sidney Rigdon presents himself as a divine messenger, and yet both men convey to a benighted people "truths" (or "truth") that is divine, and "received as sacred" or "received with gladness" by their respective converts. As their popularity increases, both men are called upon by multitudes of thousands, to deliver more public discourses -- and both Lobaska and Rigdon "comply" with this public outcry for further wisdom. In both accounts the reader is told of "sacred" writings, but the people's "ignorance" of sacred precepts is only overcome after Lobaska and Rigdon use their eloquence to instruct their audiences by bringing new light to the old religion.

Abbé D. Francesco Saverio Clavigero

It can easily be demonstrated that Solomon Spalding based his Baska/Lobaska character upon the reports of preColumbian Promethean teachers conveyed by Francesco Clavigero, in the early 1800s English translations of his famous History of Mexico. The would-be American author probably also had access to another version of these ancient American demigod stories, first published in English by Alexander von Humboldt, a couple of years before Solomon's 1816 demise. Spalding's fellow Dartmouth graduate, the Rev. Ethan Smith, made use of these same European sources to try and equate the Aztec Quetzalcoatl with the Prophet Moses, in the 1825 edition of his interesting volume, A View of the Hebrews (pp. 180-204).

Baron F. H. Alexander von Humboldt

Given these sources for Spalding's literary creation of a wonderful American law-giver and religion-founder, it might be thought that Sidney Rigdon merely copied from the same old books, overlapping Spalding's phraseology more or less by accident. However, a closer comparison of the 1843 Times and Seasons history indicates that Rigdon's "Spaldingish language" in that historical series is not limited to literary parallels with Baska/Lobaska.

Rigdon and other Spalding characters

Consider the following descriptions from the Oberlin Spalding manuscript:
To follow this Poet in the description which he gives of Elseon, to whom he attaches a countenance & figure superior to other mortals -- & qualities, which produced universal esteem & admiration.... (p.57)

Numapon... Being very fond of study & of the mechanical arts his mind was replenished with knowledge & he took great pleasure in promoting works of inginuity. He was famed for [great] wisdom & [subtelty] penetration of mind, was capable of forming great plans & of prossecuting them with vigor & perseverance. (p.82)

His countenance was bold & resolute -- & such was his gracefulness & elocution, when He spoke, that all eyes were fixed upon him & all ears were attention. (p.85)
The similarities between Rigdon's portrayal of himself as a victim of fabrications "put in circulation" "against him" and similar circumstances in the fictional story of Spalding's Elseon have already been cited (above).

How did Rigdon obtain his copy of Spalding?

The careful reader of the 1843 Times and Seasons history can discover numerous other literary parallels in examining Spalding's story. As Spalding researcher Ted Chandler once said, "There can be no doubt that Rigdon knowingly and intentionally patterned his biography after an account in Spalding's manuscript."

At the time that Rigdon's biography was being patched together with Spalding material, the only copy of a Spalding "Roman" manuscript story, then known to have existed, was lying forgotten among the discarded papers of Ohio publisher Eber D. Howe. The Spalding holograph today located in the Oberlin College Library would not have been available to Sidney Rigdon or Joseph Smith at any time after mid-December, 1833. This appears to prove that Sidney Rigdon obtained possession of another Spalding manuscript novel for his textual borrowings -- most likely a copy that Spalding had left at Patterson's publishing firm in Pittsburgh. Such a "second manuscript" of fictional Spalding writings has yet to be discovered: if it does exist, its contents need not closely duplicate those of the "Roman" story preserved at Oberlin. Even a generally similar Spalding tale might have served Rigdon's purposes, provided that it gave a glowing account of an ancient American religious reformer. Notice the overlap with Rigdon's biography contained in the Book of Mormon's account of Amulek:
Now these are the words that Amulek preached unto the people which was in the land of Ammonihah, saying: I am Amulek; I am the son of Giddonah, who was the son of Ishmael, who was a descendant of Aminadi: and it was that same Aminadi which interpreted the writing which was upon the wall of the temple, which was written by the finger of God. -- And Aminadi was a descendant of Nephi, who was the son of Lehi, who came out of the land of Jerusalem, who was a descendant of Manasseh, who was the son of Joseph, which was sold into Egypt by the hands of his brethren. And behold, I am also a man of no small reputation among all those who know me; yea, and behold, I have many kindred and friends, and I have also acquired much riches by the hand of my industry; nevertheless, after all this, I never have known much of the ways of the Lord, and his mysteries and marvellous power. I said I never had known much of these things; but behold, I mistake, for I have seen much of his mysteries and his marvellous power; yea, even in the preservation of the lives of this people; nevertheless, I did harden my heart, for I was called many times, and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know; therefore I went on unbelieving against God, in the wickedness of my heart, even until the fourth day of this seventh month, which is in the tenth year of the reign of our Judges. As I was a journeying to see a very near kindred, behold an angel of the Lord appeared unto me, and said, Amulek, return to thine own house, for thou shalt feed a prophet of the Lord; yea, a holy man , which art a chosen man of God; for he hath fasteth many days because of the sins of this people, and he is an hungered, and thou shalt receive him into thy house and feed him, and he shall bless thee and thy house; and the blessing of the Lord shall rest upon thee and thy house.

And it came to pass that I obeyed the voice of the angel, and returned towards my house. And as I was a going thither, I found the man which the angel said unto me, Thou shalt receive into thy house; and behold it was this same man which hath been speaking unto you concerning the things of God. -- And the angel said unto me, He is a holy man; wherefore I know he is a holy man, because it was said by an angel of God. And again: I know that the things whereof he hath testified are true; for behold, I say unto you, that as the Lord liveth, even so he hath sent his angel to make these things manifest unto me; and this he hath done while this Alma hath dwelt at my house; for behold, he hath blessed mine home, he hath blessed me, and my woman, and my children, and my father, and my kinsfolks; yea, even all my kindred hath he blessed, and the blessings of the Lord hath rested upon us according to the words which he spake. And now when Amulek had spoken these words, the people began to be astonished, seeing there was more than one witness which testifieth of the things whereof they were accused, and also of the things which was to come, according to the spirit of prophecy which was in them...   (1830 Alma, pp. 248-249)
A question some readers might wish to ask at this point, is exactly how could Sidney Rigdon have interacted with pre-existing texts, in order to compile his own accounts of personal history and other narratives? It must be admitted that the basic chronology of the Times and Seasons biographical sketch reports actual events from Rigdon's life in Ohio during the late 1820s. He could not have lived out his experiences to conform with a pattern already drafted by the late Solomon Spalding -- he could have only used Spaldingish language to flesh out and embellish his life as a frontier preacher. Sidney, whose missionary successes in the last part of the 1820s were largely due to his copying Elder Walter Scott's conversion methods, could thus compensate for his personal inadequacies and failings, by a judicious insertion of Spalding's fanciful rhetoric into the Rigdon biography. Spalding, an often-repeated failure in his own life, appears to have developed exactly the sort of compensating story-telling devices that suited Rigdon's emotional needs.

Sidney Rigdon probably also made use of Spalding's dubious literary achievements, in order to portray other persons (real or fictional) in overblown, larger-than-life narrations. The account of the Book of Alma's "Amulek" (reproduced above) need not be read as a disguised autobiography of Solomon Spalding or Sidney Rigdon, so much as it provides an example of fancifully re-written incidents from one (both?) of these writer's lives. If Rigdon can be credited with authoring much of the Book of Mormon, embellished episodes from his personal experiences may be found mixed with Spalding's fictional accounts. If Rigdon can be credited with authoring the Times and Seasons chapter (containing information that could only have come from Sidney himself), embellishments from Spalding's fictional accounts may there be found mixed with Rigdon's personal past.

After using Spalding material to pad his Times and Seasons biography, Rigdon shamelessly claimed that he knew nothing about Solomon Spalding or his manuscript stories. Despite his need to bolster his self-confidence in relating his problematic past in Ohio, Sidney Rigdon must have been supremely confident that no one would ever discover evidence to unmask his literary deception. However, the words of his own biography convict him of plagiarizing writings from the pen of Solomon Spalding.

The skeptical reader may remain unconvinced of Sidney Rigdon's textual borrowings, based upon the evidence so far provided. On Page 2, Dale R. Broadhurst presents additional evidence for a Spalding influence upon the Times and Seasons history (which was devoted more to Joseph Smith's story than it was to Sidney Rigdon's).

For further evidence of parallels between the work of Solomon Spalding and Joseph Smith, see the following:

Book of Mormon Authorship
Spalding Authorship Items
Spalding Notes
Recent Defenses of the Book of Mormon