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Only way to be saved

SNOW, Lorenzo. The only way to be saved. An explanation of the first principles of the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. By Lorenzo Snow, an American missionary. London: Printed by D. Chalmers, 26, John’s Row, St. Luke’s. 1841. 12 pp. 18.5 cm.

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On February 11, 1841, Lorenzo Snow took the train from Birmingham to London, and three days later he assumed the leadership of the London Conference which included the forty-six member London branch. For the next twenty months he would labor in London. During his first year there he would add more than a hundred new members and write the most widely published of all the nineteenth-century Mormon tracts, The Only Way to Be Saved.

Snow’s journal includes a copy of a letter to his parents, dated at London, November 11, 1841, in which he remarks:

I have sent you a tract which I have written and got published I have published four thousand copies. It is expected that another Edition will be wanted. Tho’ they have been out of the press only a week or two yet they have been mostly spoken for.

His journal also contains the entry: “The year 1842 wrote and published five thousand copies of a tract which I entitled ‘The Only Way to Be Saved’ and circulated this [in] the City and Conference.”

The Only Way to Be Saved follows Heber C. Kimball’s and Wilford Woodruff’s Word of the Lord to the Citizens of London in discussing Mormonism’s first principles: faith in Jesus Christ, repentance from sin, and baptism by immersion and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost by someone with authority from God. But Snow’s tract is the more carefully reasoned and persuasive tract, its arguments buttressed with many biblical proof-texts and examples. The Only Way to Be Saved marks a small shift away from polemic to a more apologetic form of writing. During the nineteenth century, it was reprinted in English at least twenty times and published in Armenian, Bengali, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, and Swedish.

Excerpted and edited from Peter Crawley, A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church. Volume One, 1830-1847. (Provo, Utah, Brigham Young University, Religious Studies Center, [1997]). Item 129, p. 174.

Used by permission of the author and the Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University.

Oration delivered by Mr. S. Rigdon

RIGDON, Sidney. Oration delivered by Mr. S. Rigdon, on the 4th of July, 1838. At Far West, Caldwell Country, Missouri. Far West. [Missouri], Printed at the Journal Office, 1838. 12 pp. 19 cm.

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The Fourth of July celebration at Far West in 1838 marked the beginning of the end of the Mormon colonies in Missouri. That morning, the Far West Saints, accompanied by Dimick Huntington’s band, marched in procession to the excavation for the new temple where the four corner stones were laid by the Church authorities. The crowd then moved to the speaker’s stand to hear Sidney Rigdon deliver the day’s oration. Subsequently Rigdon’s speech was printed in pamphlet form by the Mormon print shop in Far West, and according to Ebenezer Robinson, a hand in the Far West shop, a copy was supplied to the editor and reprinted in the Liberty, Missouri newspaper Far West.

Six years later Jedediah M. Grant asserted that Sidney Rigdon’s Fourth of July oration “was the main auxiliary that fanned into a flame the burning wrath of the mobocratic portion of the Missourians.” Putting the speech in print amplified its effect, for this allowed it to be read and reread, galvanizing the Mormons as well as the Missourians.

While Grant lays the responsibility for the oration squarely on Rigdon, it is clear that it must be more broadly shared. Robinson writes in his reminiscences that “Rigdon was not alone responsible for the sentiment expressed in his oration, as that was a carefully prepared document, previously written, and well understood by the First Presidency, but Elder Rigdon was the mouth piece to deliver it.” A notice in the August 1838 issue of the Elders’ Journal announces that the oration is available in pamphlet form and commends it to the Saints in languages echoing the oration: “for to be mobbed [sic] any more without taking vengeance, we will not.” This notice is signed Editor, who was Joseph Smith, but it may have been inserted by Rigdon who assisted in editing the Journal.

The bulk of the speech is inoffensive enough. Beginning with a statement of respect for and loyalty to American political institutions, it recounts the persecution endured by the Church, and it describes the temple about to be consecrated at Far West. Only in its closing moments does it become extreme. When a mob disturbs the Saints, it proclaims,

it shall be between us and them a war of extermination, for we will follow them, till the last drop of their blood is spilled, or else they have to exterminate us: for we will carry the seat of war to their own houses, and their own families, and one party or the other shall be utterly destroyed.

Excerpted and edited from Peter Crawley, A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church. Volume One, 1830-1847. (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, Religious Studies Center, [1997]). Item 49, p. 80-[81].

Used by permission of the author and the Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University.

Origin of the Spaulding story

WINCHESTER, Benjamin. The origin of the Spaulding story, concerning the Manuscript Found; with a short biography of Dr. P. Hulbert, the originator of the same; and some testimony adduced, showing it to be a sheer fabrication, so far as in connection with the Book of Mormon is concerned. By B. Winchester, minister of the gospel. Philadelphia: Brown, Bicking & Guilbert, Printers, 1840.24 pp. 20 cm.

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The Spaulding Rigdon theory of the origin of the Book of Mormon was the offspring of Eber D. Howe and Doctor Philastus Hurlbut (or Hulbert or Hurlburt). Not a physician, Doctor was Hurlbut’s Christian name, bestowed in consequence of his being a seventh son. In June 1833 he was excommunicated from the Church, and immediately he set out to lecture against the Latter day Saints. A few months later he was touring Pennsylvania when he heard of an unpublished historical novel written by Solomon Spaulding, a graduate of Dartmouth College and an ex preacher, which seemed to bear some resemblance to the Book of Mormon. Spaulding had written his novel during 1809-12, and after his death in 1816 it had remained in the possession of his family. Hurlbut quickly grasped its potential for an anti Mormon expose and went to Kirtland and advertised what he had learned.

Some of the local anti Mormons contributed funds toward his effort, and Hurlbut traveled to Conneaut, Ohio, where he gathered a series of affidavits from Spaulding’s acquaintances attesting to certain similarities between the novel and the Book of Mormon. Next he approached Spaulding’s widow, Matilda Davison, in Massachusetts and offered her half the profits for the rights to publish Spaulding’s manuscript. Mrs. Davison could only recall that Spaulding had a “great variety” of papers stored in a farmhouse in New York, but she gave him permission to examine them and take whatever might be of use to him. To his dismay, Hurlbut found a single manuscript, a turgid romance obviously unrelated to the Book of Mormon. Returning to Ohio, he sold the Spaulding manuscript, the affidavits of Spaulding’s friends, and a group of uncomplimentary affidavits from Joseph Smith’s Palmyra neighbors, to Eber D. Howe, editor of the Painesville Telegraph. Howe used the affidavits in his book Mormonism Unveiled [sic] (Painesville, 1834). As the Spaulding manuscript was useless to him, it lay in his files unprinted. In its place, Mormonism Unveiled advanced the theory that there was a second Spaulding manuscript which Sidney Rigdon transformed into the Book of Mormon while he was living in Pittsburgh during the period 1822B26.

When it first appeared, Mormonism Unveiled seems to have had little impact, and the Mormons all but ignored it. La Roy Sunderland’s serial article in Zion’s Watchman mentions the Spaulding Rigdon theory, and this brought a passing response from Parley Pratt in his Mormonism Unveiled: Zion’s Watchman Unmasked. What popularized the theory was a letter purportedly written by Matilda Davison, first published in the Boston Recorder of April 19, 1839, and reprinted in numerous newspapers and magazines throughout the United States and Great Britain. This letter drew Winchester into the fray.

Parley Pratt seems to have been unaware of Origin of the Spaulding Story when he wrote his Reply to C. S. Bush in July 1840, and Winchester apparently was unaware of Pratt’s tract when he wrote his pamphlet. Most likely, therefore, Winchester published Origin of the Spaulding Story before he left for England in July and after Parley Pratt sailed for England in March 1840.

The Spaulding Rigdon theory had two fundamental weaknesses: there was little evidence a second manuscript existed and no evidence that Rigdon had had contact with any Spaulding work. Drawing on both the Davison letter and Mormonism Unveiled, Winchester attacks the theory at these two points. His biographical sketch of Hurlbut-much of whose recent history he seems to have known firsthand-adds a patina of unsavoriness to the whole affair. As a final stroke, he reprints a letter from John Haven reporting his son Jesse’s interview with Matilda Davison which revealed that her letter was actually composed by a clergyman D. R. Austin from notes he took during a conversation with her. Haven’s letter first appeared in the Quincy Whig of November 16, 1839, and was reprinted in the Times and Seasons of January 1840. Winchester adds Parley Pratt’s account of his introducing Sidney Rigdon to Mormonism, taken from Mormonism Unveiled: Zion’s Watchman Unmasked.

The Spaulding manuscript remained in the files of the Painesville Telegraph until it was brought to light in 1855 by L. L. Rice, who, in the winter of 1839-40, had purchased the Telegraph along with its files. In 1855 the RLDS Church published the manuscript under the title The “Manuscript Found” or “Manuscript Story,” and the LDS Church published it a year later. The original manuscript is now at Oberlin College. George J. Adams published a second edition in Bedford, England in June 1841 under the title Plain Facts, Shewing the Origin of the Spaulding Story.

Excerpted and edited from Peter Crawley, A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church. Volume One, 1830-1847. (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, Religious Studies Center, [1997]). Item 77, p. 118-21

Used by permission of the author and the Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University.