Episode 29 – Doctor Philastus Hurlbut with Noah Lugeons

On this episode, we're joined by Noah Lugeons (Scathing Atheist, Skepticrat, God Awful Movies podcasts), to talk about Doctor Philastus Hurlbut, and the rise of the Spalding authorship theory for the Book of Mormon. It's a directed conversation, covering a specific timeline of Feb, 1833 – April, 1834, with a plethora of tangents and vitriole about religion and belief, as is customary with any show that Noah is on.

Be sure to check out the other shows Noah Lugeons contributes to at these links:




Show Links:

Website http://nakedmormonismpodcast.com
Twitter @NakedMormonism
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Naked-Mormonism/370003839816311
Patreon http://patreon.com/nakedmormonism
Outro music Jason Comeau http://aloststateofmind.com/

Content Links:

Dale Broadhurst "Hurlbut Chronology":


Amazon Book of Mormon Review:


Welcome to episode 29 of the Naked Mormonism Podcast, the serial Mormon history podcast. Today is March 3; I'm Bryce Blankenagel, and thank you for joining me.

Last historical episode was epic, yet cumbersome. We covered a lot of ground, and advanced the timeline through the majority of 1833. We started out in late 1832 by talking about the printing press that was being erected in Jackson County Missouri, also known as Mormon rapture ground zero, and discussed some of the propaganda that was coming out of said press. We talked about the School of the Prophets, aka the School of the Elders. A lot of new things came along once the School of the Prophets was up and running, namely, the lectures on faith, and the word of wisdom. The lectures on faith were just that, lectures that hashed out some of the more confusing part of Mormon doctrine, but we'll wait until David and I get there on MyBoM to dive into them. The word of wisdom is the name of the revelation given to Joe concerning the dietary restraints of the Mormons. We really spent a bit of time on it, trying to deconstruct everything in the Word of Wisdom, just to see how it reflects against current believing Mormon's diet today. Big surprise, there was very little correlation between what Mormons practice today, and what the revelation actually says.

In the last episode, I also made a personal decree. The book in the current Mormon canon titled the Doctrine and Covenants is a complete misnomer. The doctrine part, which is the lectures on faith, has been removed from the current day D&C, which forces me to call it the book of covenants. Just for clarification the Book of Commandments was the book of compiled revelations that was printed in 1833. Then, they added the lectures on faith, along with some new revelations, and it became the Doctrine and Covenants, which was printed in 1835. There have been a bunch of revisions to those revelations, and in 1921, they removed the lectures on faith, which was the doctrine part of Doctrine and Covenants. This means that the current day Doctrine and Covenants is merely the Book of Covenants, because they took the doctrine part out of it. In the future, if you hear me refer to the Book of Covenants, I'm not referring to the 1833 Book of Commandments, I'm referring to the current post 1921 Doctrine and Covenants, meaning we officially decreed Mormon holy canon to have a NaMo nickname, just like our favorite characters.

We also discussed the first, first vision account givin by Joseph. It was originally recounted in 1832, and seemed to be done in reaction to a schism that was happening in the church, which seemed to follow a pattern with Joe. It seems like there are times in Mormon history that power begins to slip away from Joe, and he has to do something in reaction, to hopefully retain that power. In July of 1832, Sidney Rigdon had told everybody that Joe lost the keys to the kingdom, yet Hingepin Rigdon still had the keys, obviously trying to strip power away from Joe. In reaction to this, Joe dictated and wrote this 1832 first vision account, with the help of Frederick G. Williams (Freddy Willey). There were a massive number of disparities between the story in 1832, as opposed to the current version that's taught today, which was published a decade later.

The final thing we talked about last historical episode was the battle for Zion. Tensions had been building up between the Mormons and the people living in Jackson County. The people had tried to evict the Mormons, by first trying to chase them out, then, get a restraining order against the Mormons, and after all that failed, they destroyed the printing press that was run by William Wines Phelps (Double-Dub), thus restricting the Mormon's ability to print their own propaganda, and heavily limiting the number of Books of Commandments that were in circulation.

After the Missourians destroyed the Mormon printing press, tensions mounted, and it all came to a head. Over a few day period, there were a few scuffles, mobbings, tarring and feathers, and finally straight-up lashings and full-on gunfights. In reviewing the history of the battle, the account of John Goebbels Whitmer was drastically lacking, affording only a small paragraph to the battle. To get a much better first-hand account, we dabbled once again into the autobiography of Philo Dibble (Dibble Dabble) to really give us the gory details we wanted. Keep Dibble Dabble in mind, because he is a very influential, and active member in our timeline, and his autobiography is really quite magnificent. If you haven't checked it out yet, I would strongly recommend it, because I simply can't do it justice.

That closed out the historical portion of the last historical episode, and closes out the roundup for today, so let's get into the meat of this episode. Let's talk about Doctor Philastus Hurlbut, or as we know him, Doctor Phil. He officially entered our timeline last episode, was sent on a mission to preach the Book of Mormon, and upon his return, was promptly excommunicated from the church. This happened in June of 1833, and Doctor Phil's connections to the church don't conclude until mid 1834. That is our timeline and point of focus today, Doctor Phil and his life from early 1833 to mid 1834.

We've discussed Doctor Phil a little bit in the past, but it's worth rehashing his influence on the church, just to get a proper understanding of the state of affairs when he began his crusade against the church. For the majority of this episode, for the sake of argument and ease, I'm going to grant the Spalding authorship theory. Whether or not the Book of Mormon was taken from the writings of Solomon Spalding by Sidney Rigdon, it will be much easier this episode to presume that it was for today's episode. If you think the Spalding theory is all hogwash, I don't know if this episode will be terribly applicable to your own study of Mormon history, but that doesn't mean it isn't fun to work with, study, and create hypotheticals around. Also, the rise of the Spalding theory with the help of Doctor Phil was a very inftense PR shitstorm that Joe and the church had to deal with, and we love to talk about controversial things on this show.

In order to discuss Doctor Phil today, I'm bringing on a guest. He's the mastermind, as well as primary contributing writer, editor, and producer of some of the best shows in all of podcasting. You may know him from the Scathing Atheist, the Skepticrat, or even God Awful Movies, or you may have heard him on one of the dozens of other shows he's appeared on. If you haven't heard about him, you're truly missing out, because Noah Lugeons is a genuinely funny guy, with a venemous tongue and an unlimited font of ire for religion and god. I feel like he and his crew contribute a lot to the atheist/secular movement, and for that I thank him dearly. So, without further ado, welcome to the show Noah. . .

For our introduction here, long before Doctor Phil even knew about the Mormon church, there had been newspaper articles linking Rigdon and the Book of Mormon, supposing him as the author, so we have to keep in mind that Doctor Phil didn't just manufacture the Spalding theory out of his head, it was a rumor that was slowly gaining traction.


  • Joins church – goes preaching in large area including Conneaut, Ohio

  • Comes back from his mission with Orson Hyde as companion– excommunicated twice for "unchristian-like conduct with women". Previously kicked out of 4 other churches for similar charges

  • Re-fellowshipped and re-excommunicated three days later

  • Begins lecturing against Mormonism, probably raising awareness of Spalding authorship theory

  • Collects witness statements and lectures using them as evidence

  • Continues lecturing on anti-mormonism, gains sponsorship from an anti-mormon group headquartered in Mentor

  • Goes to Pittsburgh and interviews Robert Patterson about "Manuscript Found," claims he's unaware of any connection between Spalding's writings and the Book of Mormon

    • Robert Patterson was the owner of the Patterson Printing Press that supposedly had "Manuscript Found" when Spalding died in 1816. Patterson later issued a statement that he remembers seeing Manuscript Found, and thumbing through the first few pages, and finding it altogether not interesting, giving Silas Engles the responsibility of assuring finances for printing, and going to the rest of the work accompanied with printing a book
  • Finds out Spalding manuscripts are with Spalding's widow, Matilda Davison, in Boston, MA

  • Tracks her down, and finds out the manuscripts are actually with Jerome Clark in Hartwick, NY

  • Goes to Hartwick and collects some of Spalding's writing, including possibly a rough draft of "Manuscript Found"

  • DPH's lawyer, James A. Briggs, said that Hurlbut recovered a Spalding manuscript during this visit to Pittsburgh and that he later brought that document to Mentor, Ohio. 

  • Goes to Palmyra and Manchester and collects statements from neighbors of the Smith family, asking about their experiences with the Smiths

  • Wayne Sentinel publishes "The Mormonites" article, regarding the claims of the Spalding theory and the crusade Hurlbut was on

  • Arrives in Kirtland on Dec 18, 1833 and meets with anti-Mormon committee to discuss his findings. Also, without permission schedules a lecture about his findings in the methodist church, located on the next lot north of where the Kirtland Mormon temple was being built

    • Next day he delivers lecture talking about Mormonism

      • J.C. Dowen, a Justice of the Peace in Mentor said this about Hurlbut and Joe:

"I heard Dr. P. Hurlbut, who had been a Mormon preacher, preach a good sermon, and then deliver his first lecture in the Methodist Church in Kirtland, Ohio, on the origin of the Book of Mormon. He said he had been in New York and Pennsylvania and had obtained a copy of Spaulding's Manuscript Found. He read selection[s] from it, then the same from the Book of Mormon. He said the historical part of it was the same as Spaulding's Manuscript Found. He read numerous affidavits from parties in N.Y. and Penn. showing the disreputable character of the Mormon Smith Family.

Hurlbut staid at my house every three or four days for as many months. I read all of his manuscript, including Spaulding's Manuscript Found, and compared it with the Book of Mormon, the historical part of which is the same as Spaulding's Manuscript Found, which is about the size of the papyrus Jo had with his Egyptian mummies. Hurlbut said he would kill Jo Smith. He meant he would kill Mormonism. The Mormons urged me to issue a writ against him. I did, as recorded in my Docket, Dec. 27, 1833, on complaint of Joseph Smith, warrant returnable to William Holbrook, Esq., at Painesville, Ohio. He was brought to trial, and over 50 [15?] witnesses were called. The trial lasted several days, and he was bound over to appear at the Court of Common Pleas at Chardon. Hurlbut let E. D. Howe, of Painesville, have his manuscript to publish. I should not be surprised if Howe sold Spaulding's Manuscript Found to the Mormons. There was all kinds of iniquity practiced at that time."

"I knew, but have forgotten, the names of Joe Smith's two spiritual wives in Kirtland. He claimed to receive revelations to lie with certain women, and had accomplished his purpose by the aid of a favorite woman. I had excellent opportunities of judging the character of Mormons and studied them closely. The Smiths were a coarse, ignorant, rough set, I doubt if God ever made a meaner man than the Prophet Joe Smith. Joe Smith's sister once said to me, "How much better we live since we became Mormons."

  • 2 days later, 20 Dec, Wayne Sentinel published "Mormon Mystery Developed," which was basically the highlights of Hurlbut's lecture, proposing a skeleton version of the Spalding theory

  • Hurlbut's Lawyer, James A. Briggs, filed a complaint against Joe for assault and battery, and an arrest warrant was issued by writ of the Painesville Justice of the Peace, William Holbrook

  • Joe filed a complaint against Hurlbut by writ of John Dowen, Justice of the Peace in Kirtland, returnable before William Holbrook

    • By filing his complaint so soon after Hurlbut filed his, Joe managed to have them both heard at the same time, in front of the same Justice, probably trying to make it more fair
  • Wesley Hurlbut (unkown relation to Doctor Philastus Hurlbut) excommunicated from the church

  • Hurlbut went back to Conneaut to show people his copy of "Manuscript Story – Conneaut Creek," and ask people if it's the manuscript they remember seeing, or hearing Spalding read while writing "Manuscript Found"

    • A number of people who had given testimonies about the similarities between the "Book of Mormon," and "Manuscript Found," said that "Manuscript Story – Conneaut Creek" was a Spalding writing, but not the one they were referring to, lending credibility to the possibility that "Manuscript Story – Connaut Creek" was merely a rough draft, or prototype of "Manuscript Found"
  • Benjamin F. Norris, non-Mormon from Perry, wrote his brother from Painesville about the Kirtland Mormons, saying: "There is a large society of them about two miles from this place. Rigdon & Smith reside her[e]. They have established a printing press. Rigdon & Smith are the founders of mormonism. It is said that the inhabitants have threatened mobing them. They are now arming themselves with instruments of war such as guns sords dirks spontoons Ec Smith has four or five armed men to gard him every night they say they are not going to be drove away as they ware at missory they will fights for their rights. Smith has sworn the peace against a man named Hurbert who has ben engaged for about three months in tra[c]ing the origin of the book of mormon. He [has] returned and was [jailed?] yesterday... His work will be published in a few weeks giving the true origin of the book of Mormon."

  • Jan 11, Joe calls for all the debts of the United Firm to be forgiven: "would be given the "means sufficient to discharge every debt that the Firm owns, in due season, that the church may not be brought into disrepute, and the saints be afflicted by the hands of their enemies" -- also, that the Court in Painesville would help them "prevail" in the case of Hurlbut, "who has threatened his (Smith's) life..." By this time, Joseph Smith's lawyer, Benjamin Bissell, had managed to get Hurlbut's complaint against Smith and Smith's complaint against Hurlbut combined into a single hearing before Painesville Justice of the Peace William Holbrook.

  • Hurlbut is brought to the stand 3 times from 4 Jan, to 13 Jan. Finally after 3 full days of testimony, on 15 Jan, the verdict came in "that the complainant had reason to fear" that Hurlbut "would beat wound or kill him or injure his property." The Court required Hurlbut to "enter into a recognizance to keep the peace generally and especially towards the complainant." Hurlbut was also ordered "to appear before the [Geauga Co.] Court of Common Pleas on the first day" of the next term of that Court, to be held at Chardon on March 31."

  • 1 Feb (Sat)
    DPH traded Spalding's "Roman story" manuscript and the statements he had collected in 1833 to Eber D. Howe in return for $50 and a promised 500 (400?) copies of the book after publication. Printing of the book was delayed for several months while Dr. Storm Rosa edited DPH's text, adding selections from old newspaper articles and other materials collected for the work. 

  • April 9th Ohio v. Dr. P. Hurlbut case reached the court of common pleas at Chardon, Judge Moses Birchard presided. Leman Copley, cousin(?) of Daniel Copleytestified against Joseph Smith. DPH was found guilty. His surities paid a $200 bond in his behalf and he and agreed to keep the peace for six months.

And that's it for our discussion about Doctor Philastus Hurlbut, or as we know him, Doctor Phil. He was obviously an influential and controversial character in Mormon history, and his actions served to draw a lot of people out of the church, and arguably still does today through the information in Mormonism Unvailed. We owe a large debt of gratitude to Doctor Phil for his tireless efforts, and the endless amount of frustration he must have experienced in trying to nail Joe down on fraud charges, only to be found guilty of intent to assault the prophet. This seems to be a recurring theme, Joe wins. Joe seemed to win in so many instances where somebody had him dead to rights in a legal sense. Joe squirmed and weaseled his way out of 3 court proceedings before this time, and finally when he goes to court on charges that he and Hurlbut had filed against each other for assault, Joe still won somehow. You have to admire his tenacity, and ability to work the system in his favor. Just wait until next historical episode, when he puts together a fucking army and marches them from Kirtland, to Jackson County in response to the saints being thrown out. He even finds a great white lamanite skeleton during the march.

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