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).
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)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.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
Recent Defenses of the Book of Mormon