(with follow-up investigative questions from Wade Englund)


Statement #1: Quoted from J. H. Gilbert (citation #26)
"...Last evening I had about fifteen minutes' conversa-tion with Mr. Lorenzo Saunders of Reading, Hillsdale County, Michigan. He has been gone about thirty years [from the Palmyra area]. He was born south of our village in 1811, and was a near neighbor of the Smith family-- knew them all well; was in the habit of visit-ing the Smith boys; says he knows that Rigdon was hanging around Smith's for eighteen months prior to the publishing of the Mormon Bible...."

Statement #2: Quote from Wm. Kelley interview with Saunders (citation #28)
"The following interview was had with Lorenzo Saunders by Wm. H. Kelley [an RLDS bishop] at Mr. L. Saunders' house September 17, 1884 at the above named place; which was read to and signed by Mr. Saunders as being correct.
"Q. How old are you Mr. Saunders?
"A. I was born in Palmyra, Wayne Co. N. York June
7, 1811. . . .
"Q. Did you ever see Sidney Rigdon in the neighborhood where you lived previous to 1830?
"A. Yes. In March 1827. I went over to Joe Smith's to eat supper, and as I went over I saw, about twenty rods from the house, five or six men standing and talking. [O]ne was well dressed.
"Q. Did you know their names?
"A. Yes. It was Peter Ingersol, Samuel Lawrence, George Proper, the old man Rockwell, Father of Porter Rockwell, and the well dressed man. They stood ten rods from the road. When I got to the house Harrison [Smith] told me that it was Sidney Rigdon. i.e. the well dressed man.
"Q. Did you see him after that previous to 1830?
"A. Yes. I saw him in the fall just before Joseph went to Pennsylvania [Dec. 1827]. Peter Ingersol and I met him [Rigdon] in the Road between Palmyra and Inger-sols. I never saw him any more until he came to Palmy-ra to preach to Mormon Bible.
"Q. Are you acquainted with Maj. Gilbert of Palmyra?
"A. Yes. Four years ago I went to Palmyra to see my Brothers, and I met Gilbert. He wanted to know if I remembered seeing Sidney Rigdon in that neighborhood previous to 1830 when he come preaching the Mormon Bible. He said Abel Chase testified that he thought he saw Rigdon before that time, but was not certain. Says I to Gilbert[,] Sidney Rigdon was about Smiths before 1830 in my opinion. Gilbert asked if I would make affidavit that I saw Rigdon at Smiths before that time? I told him that I would think the matter over. After a while I think I told him I would. After I got home a while I received a letter from Cobb of Salt Lake. Gilbert wrote to Cobb and give him my address. I wrote to Cobb the next Spring. Gilbert wrote to me I think in Nov. after I returned home, asking why I did not answer Cobb's letter. While I was writing an answer to Cobbs first letter my house caught fire and burnt. Burnt up every thing I had and there was no insurance. Lost a thousand dollars. I was some time thinking the matter over before writing to Cobb and during that time my house burnt. It had been a long time since those transactions and it was difficult to fix dates. But I have it now so I can tell it right off. I have read the statements of Peter Ingersol and Samuel Lawrence. (signed) Lorenzo Saunders"

Statement #3: Quote from a statement made to G. Gregg (citation #30)
"Dear Sir. I received your note ready at hand and will try [to] answer the best I can and give all the infor-mation I can as respecting Mormonism and the first origin. . . . I saw Sidney Rigdon in the spring of 1827, about the middle of March. I went to Smiths to eat maple sugar, and I saw five or six men standing in a group and there was one among them better dressed than the rest and I asked Harrison Smith who he was and he said his name was Sidney Rigdon, a friend of Joseph's from Pennsylvania. I saw him in the Fall of 1827 on the road between where I lived and Palmyra, with Joseph. I was with a man by the name of Inger-soll.(29) They talked together and when he went on I asked Ingersoll who he was and he said it was Rigdon. Then in the summer of 1828 I saw him at Samuel Law-rence's just before harvest. I was cutting corn for Lawrence and went to dinner and he took dinner with us and when dinner was over they went into another room and I didn't see him again till he came to Palmyra to preach. . . .Yours with respect, From Lorenzo Saunders"

Statement #4: made by Saunders to the Justice of the Peace (citation #31)
"Statement of Lorenzo Saunders. SS: "Hillsdale County, State of Michigan.
"Lorenzo Saunders being duly sworn deposes and says: "That I reside in Reading, Hillsdale County, State of Michigan; that I was born in the town of Palmyra, Wayne County, State of New York, on June 7, A.D. 1811, and am now seventy-six years of age. That I lived in said town of Palmyra until I was forty-three of age. That I lived within one mile of Joseph Smith at the time said Joseph Smith claimed that he found the 'tablets' on which the 'Book of Mormon' was revealed. . . . That in March of 1827, on or about the 15th of said month I went to the home of Joseph Smith for the purpose of getting some maple sugar to eat, that when I arrived at the house of said Joseph Smith, I was met at the door by Harrison Smith, Jo's brother. That at a distance of ten or twelve rods from the house there were five men that were engaged in talking, four of whom I knew, the fifth one was better dressed than the rest of those whom I was acquainted with. I inquired of Harrison Smith who the stranger was? He informed me his name was Sidney Rigdon with whom I afterwards became acquainted with and found to be Sidney Rigdon. This was in March, A.D. 1827, the second spring after the death of my father. I was frequently at the house of Joseph Smith from 1827 to 1830. . . . That in the summer of 1830, I heard Sidney Rigdon preach a sermon on Mormonism. This was after the 'Book of Mormon' had been published, which took about three years from the time Joseph Smith claimed to have had his revelation. Lorenzo Saunders, "Subscribed and sworn to before me this 21st day of July, A.D. 1887. Linus S. Parmelee. Justice of the Peace of Reading, Michigan"

Investigative Questions:

(fatal questions are marked with an asterisk *)

  1. *Contrary to what is claimed in the Enigma, at least three of the alleged sightings of Rigdon by Saunders occurred on dates where, according to the Rigdon and Smith chronologies, these men were either noted to have been elsewhere, or, given their known location close to the dates in question, they could not both have physically been where Saunders claimed them to be--i.e. allegedly at Palmyra on March 15th of 1827 (see Rigdon/Smith time-line), the fall of the same year (just before Joseph Smith went to Pennsylvania in December--see ibid. time-line), as well as the 18 months Rigdon was supposedly at the Smith's prior to the Book of Mormon being published (from the fall of 1828 to the Spring of 1830--see ibid. time-line)? And, there is some question whether the alleged sighting in summer of 1828 fits a gap in the Rigdon/Smith timelines (corn is typically cut towards the end of August and first of September). Yet, the Enigma authors went on to knowingly and falsely claim that "for in every instance without exception, where a witness or witnesses have claimed that Rigdon and Smith were together, a gap in Rigdon's chronology occurs which allows sufficient time for him to have visited New York. " As they have said, "every liar slips up somewhere (see Enigma p. 490), and it appears that both Saunders and the Enigma authors slipped up here.
  2. *Several of Saunders' statements directly contradict each other. For example, in his second statement, following his comments about the alleged encounter in the fall of 1827, he states, "I never saw him (Rigdon) any more until he came to Palmyra to preach the Mormon Bible" (Which would have been about December of 1830). However, he must have forgotten what he had claimed 4 years earlier, "Rigdon was hanging around Smith's for eighteen months prior to the publishing of the Mormon Bible" (making it the fall of 1828 to the spring of 1830). And, he must have forgotten 5 months later, when he gave his third statement: "in the summer of 1828 I saw him at Samuel Lawrence's"--though he did mention again that "he didn't see him (Rigdon) until he came to Palmyra to preach" (December of 1830). This, then, was contradicted by his forth statement, made about a year and a half later: "That in the summer of 1830, I heard Sidney Rigdon preach a sermon on Mormonism."
  3. *Beyond coincidence, the statement Saunders made that was immediately recorded by Gilbert, and then sent in a letter to Cobb, and which preceded Saunders' reading of the Ingersol and Lawrence's statements, makes no mention of the circumstance in which either Ingersol and Lawrence were allegedly involved (contained in latter statements), but only mentions Rigdon "hanging around Smith's for eighteen months prior to the publishing of the Mormon Bible"--i.e. from the fall of 1828 to Spring of 1830, an event that was not even mentioned, but contradicted (see below). Clearly, Saunders' got some of his "memory" of the events for his second through forth statements from either Ingersol and Lawrence?
  4. Saunder's statement was made after 52 years of silence on the matter (the alleged events took place in 1827, and the first of four recorded statements from Saunders was made in 1879), and at a time when Gilbert, a purported friend of Saunders, and Cobb, a reporter from SLC, were attempting to make the pre-1830 Rigdon/Smith connection so as to under-gird a major weakness in the Spalding theory.
  5. How is it that, according to Saunders' second statement, he allegedly inquired after the "strangers" name in March of 1827, and then he needed to inquire after the same "strangers" name in the fall of the same year? If Saunders allegedly forget the name of the "stranger" after just six or so months, how is it that he is able to then remember the name after 52 years?
  6. How is it that on certain details, Saunders' memory appears to have increased in clarity and specificity over time and with each telling? (In his second statement Saunders noted the date of his first encounter with Rigdon as "in March". In his third statement, he said "about the middle of March," and in his fourth statement, he said, "In March, on or about the 15th." In his second and third statements, Saunders said he saw "five or six" men standing or talking outside of the Smith's home in March of 1827, where as in his forth statement he only mentioned "five".)
  7. Could it have anything to do with what Saunders' said in his signed statement to Kelley in 1884 (the second of his statements): "I was some time thinking the matter over before writing to Cobb. . .It had been a long time since those transactions and it was difficult to fix dates. But I have it now so I can tell it right off. I have read the statements of Peter Ingersol and Samuel Lawrence"? Isn't it probable that Saunders' got his memory of the events from Ingersol and/or Lawrence? (Even more interesting still, upon further investigation, it was found that the only extant record of relevant statements made by Peter Ingersol, do not mention the alleged visits by Rigdon--see: ingersol.htm --forthcoming)
  8. Saunders was at first apparently reluctant and unsure in the matter, but after persistent nudging, finally relented in giving his affidavit some 8 years after it was first requested. According to Saunders' second statement regarding his first, instead of coming forward under his own volition, Gilbert approached him with the question about Rigdon and Smith, and even appeared to have prodded him on by explaining that, "Abel Chase testified that he thought he saw Rigdon before that time (1830), but was not certain." After eliciting a cursory, though favorable, response, Gilbert appeared to press Saunders to make an affidavit, which Saunders said he would think about, and later believes he agreed to do. Gilbert then had Cobb write to Saunders on the matter, and then after several months had passed, he wrote to Saunders, himself, to ask why he had not responded to Cobb. Saunders explained about wanting to think on the matter, as well as the problem he had with his house burning down. The affidavit, as it turns out, was finally taken in 1887, 8 years after Gilbert first made the request.
  9. Is the reliability of the Rigdon portion of these statements deminished by the fact that for 27 years following the alleged events (until 1854), Saunders continued to live but a mile from the Smith residence, in the vicinity of Palmyra, N.Y., during which time Hurlburt, Howe, and other Spalding theorists had canvassed the area (particularly the neighbors of the Smiths) for information regarding the Spalding manuscript and the pre-1830 Smith/Rigdon connection, and yet we find no mention from any of these sources of Saunder's alleged Rigdon sightings? (It should be noted that Gilbert, who recorded the first of Saunders' statements, also lived in the Palmyra area during that time, and was a friend of Saunders. Why did Gilbert wait until 1879 to approach Saunders on the subject? Or, why is it that 52 years later, after moving away from Palmyra, that Saunders decides to disclose this information?)
  10. What are the odds that you or I, at the age of 68, would suddenly recall a chance sighting, at the age of 16, of someone we didn't know, who happened to be at our friend's house--let alone remember the name of that person, and the date that it occurred on? Even at the much younger age of 48, I couldn't for the life of me tell you what happened on March 15th of my 16th year, or what "strangers" I may have met during that year.
  11. Or, as Dale Broadhurst asks, "Is there any chance at all that Lorenzo may have conflated pre-1830 and post-1830 memories here?
  12. Are there extant copies of Peter Ingersol and Samuel Lawrence's statements so as to allow for a comparison between what they say, and what Saunders says? As pointed out earlier, upon further investigation, the statement from Ingersol quoted in Howe's book makes no mention of Rigdon. The question is then begged as to why not?
  13. In this same statement (the second), Saunders mentions that "George Proper and the old man Rockwell, Father of Porter Rockwell" were also alleged to have been in the company of Ingersol and Lawrence and Rigdon outside the Smith home in March 1827. Are there extant statements from these two men as well? If not, why not?
  14. Where can I read the full statement from Gilbert to Cobb (Saunder's 1st statement)? Is it in Wymetal, pg 231, and Shook, Flake #7697? Will the authors of the Enigma make the full statement available?

Dale Broadhurst is currently compiling a historical reconstruction of the Saunders claims using the Cadillac, Michigan "News", some letters of Wm. H. Kelley, and some of Lorenzo's dad's papers from the Ontario County Clerks office. When he has completed this effort, and has made his findings available, there may yet be other questions to ask or revisions to make with the current questions.

According to the Mormon Studies web site (at http://www.mormonstudies.com/history1.htm ), "In a letter to Thomas Gregg in June 1881, Gilbert wrote: "The long paragraph in relation to Mr. Cobb and Lorenzo Saunders is a mixed mess of truth and falsehood. When I asked Mr. S. if he knew whether Rigdon was hanging around Smith previous to the publication of the M. B. [Mormon Bible], he said, 'Yes, at least eighteen months before.' There was no hesitancy about it; and this is what I told Kelly. You can see how he reported the matter."


Last updated 1/28/01