C. “For the Register and Observer.” Christian Register and Boston Observer (Boston) 18, no. 971 (11 May 1839).
An acute observer of men and morals cannot avoid regarding the many speculative creeds—hastily adopted and earnestly defended, by a small portion of our countrymen,—with an anxiety nearly approaching to horror. Among these which have been most successfully promulgated, and most eagerly received, Mormonism stands preeminent. I cannot say, how strong a foundation it may find in either nature or revelation for its self constructed fabric; but a late correspondent of the Morning Post, describes the mormons as a people quiet, industrious, and conscientious—surrounded by a bigoted populace, and the victims of its oppressive persecution. Their violated purity, their tainted honor, and their desecrated altars, have excited the pity and the sympathy of many of our citizens, and this circumstance renders it still more necessary, than it has hitherto been, that the origin of the Mormon Bible, the enigma of the age, should be satisfactorily explained. It is necessary both for the satisfaction and support of the Christian, and for the temporal well being and prosperity of the Mormons themselves. A letter appeared in your paper of yesterday, purporting to be a relation of facts connected with the origin of this singular volume, and as such it merits the consideration of every rational being. It is not my purpose, to carefully review this paper, or to ask what motives could have induced an individual to deceive the public in this matter. I am anxious that the truth or falsehood of this document, signed by Matilda Davison, should be proved, and as it involves a question of both political and religious moment, I would ask two or three questions, which as it seems to me, may be easily answered. In the first place, the document bears upon its face, marks of authenticity which it might appear indelicate and imprudent to doubt. It is written with modesty and by a female—it is attested by two individuals, one a minister of the Gospel, the other the preceptor of youth—and it was communicated to the Recorder for publication by the Rev. Mr. Stow of Holliston.
To commence—Mrs Davison’s letter states that the ‘Manuscript Found’ as it is termed, a work composed by her first husband, the Rev. Solomon Spaulding in New Salem, was after their removal to Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, an object of curiosity and interest, to every individual connected with the printing office of his friend, Mr. Patterson, who had borrowed it of Spaulding. Now if Sidney Rigdon, who according to Mrs. Davison’s letter, was at this time connected with the office, had afterwards become one of the founders and most zealous advocates of a new sect, who recognised as revelation, a work so nearly resembling ‘The Manuscript Found,’ as the Mormon Bible is said to be,—the circumstances would to say the least have warranted suspicion, and it would not have been strange, had some individual been sufficiently on the alert, to detect the artifice.
‘The artifice was detected, and what further objections have you to raise?’ exclaims some yawning and credulous reader.—Can that be said to have been proved, in 1834, which it is left to the present day to authenticate? According to Mrs Davison, a copy of the Mormon Bible was carried to New Salem in this year, to the very place, where the ‘Manuscript Found’ was written and read to the neighbors by her husband, and here of course it could not fail to be recognised as the identical composition of the Rev. Mr. Spaulding. The excitement in New Salem, then became so great that the towns-people had a meeting and deputed Dr. Hurlbut, one of their number, to repair to Monson, Massachusetts, where Mrs Davison resided, and procure from her the original
‘Manuscript Found,’ that it might be compared with the Mormon Bible! Dr. Hurlbut carried with him a petition, signed by several inhabitants of New Salem, whose names are mentioned, and who were well known to Mrs D. and here the narrative concludes! The writer does not tell us, whether the manuscript was sent to New Salem—whether it was compared with the Mormon Bible, what was the result of that comparison, or where it may now be found, and in what manner these facts can be proved, other than by her attested statements! Perhaps, all this was done; if so, if the ‘Manuscript Found’ was compared with the Mormon Bible, if that comparison resulted in the proof that the latter was a mere copy of the ‘Manuscript’ with the ‘aditions of a few pious expressions, and extracts from the Sacred Scriptures,’ why were not the public immediately undeceived through the medium of the press—why was not an excitement created, such as is usually created in the like cases, in this country, and the Mormons themselves satisfied in regard to it? And again, what became of the manuscript? It had just been proved to be an important document, and it surely could not have been wantonly destroyed? if still in existence can it not be produced to corroborate the statements of Mrs Davison? Again, some one may object that this might have been done and I never have heard of it, that the press might have rung with the matter, and I never have been startled by the re-echo—but if it had been made public, as it should have been, why have men been wondering for years, whence the Mormon Book originated, and why have the Mormons steadily continued to increase in numbers, in spite of the exposure of the duplicity of their founders? why are they increasing to this day, till they have formed a simple community, whose religious rites differing from these of their neighbors have excited the passion and the spiritual zeal of the Christian crusaders of the 19th century, and caused them to dip that sword in the blood of the harmless—I cannot call them innocent—which our Savior commanded his apostles to sheath? I wish these questions might be answered, I ask them with perfect simplicity of purpose and a guileless heart, as much for my own satisfaction, as for that of others—and hope I have written nothing opposed to Christian and benevolent criticism, nothing which could offend the author of that letter herself.
As it is—her letter, closing as abruptly as I have stated, can serve no purpose but that of rousing a few dormant minds like my own, and exciting the curiosity of the people for a few days. Whatever claims a divine origin ought to be an object of interest to the humblest Christian—and I conclude my article, hoping than I have not been an unwelcome intruder upon your patience.