Growth Of The Church

In order not to interrupt the story of the Mormons' experiences

in Ohio, leaving the first steps taken in Missouri to be treated

in connection with the regular course of events in that state, it

will be sufficient to say here that Cowdery, Pratt, and their two

companions continued their journey as far as the western border

of Missouri, in the winter of 1830 and 1831, making their

headquarters at Independence, Jackson County; that, on receipt of

their reports about that country, Smith and Rigdon, with others,

made a trip there in June, 1831, during which the corner-stones

of the City of Zion and the Temple were laid, and officers were

appointed to receive money for the purchase of the land for the

Saints, its division; etc. Smith and Rigdon returned to Kirtland

on August 27, 1831.

The growth of the church in Ohio was rapid. In two or three weeks

after the arrival of the four pioneer missionaries, 127 persons

had been baptized, and by the spring of 1831 the number of

converts had increased to 1000. Almost all the male converts were

honored with the title of elder. By a "revelation" dated February

9, 1831 (Sec. 42), all of these elders, except Smith and Rigdon,

were directed to "go forth in the power of my spirit, preaching

my Gospel, two by two, in my name, lifting up your voices as with

the voice of a trump. "This was the beginning of that extensive

system of proselyting which was soon extended to Europe, which

was so instrumental in augmenting the membership of the church in

its earlier days, and which is still carried on with the utmost

zeal and persistence. The early missionaries travelled north into

Canada and through almost all the states, causing alarm even in

New England by the success of their work. One man there, in 1832,

reprinted at his own expense Alexander Campbell's pamphlet

exposing the ridiculous features of the Mormon Bible, for

distribution as an offset to the arguments of the elders. Women

of means were among those who moved to Kirtland from

Massachusetts. In three years after Smith and Rigdon met in

Palmyra, Mormon congregations had been established in nearly all

the Northern and Middle states and in some of the Southern, with

baptisms of from 30 to 130 in a place.*

Smith had relaxed none of his determination to be the one head of

the church. As soon as he arrived in Kirtland he put forth a long

"revelation" (Sec. 43) which left Rigdon no doubt of the

prophet's intentions. It declared to the elders that "there is

none other [but Smith appointed unto you to receive commandments

and revelations until he be taken," and that "none else shall be

appointed unto his gift except it be through him. "Not only was

Smith's spiritual power thus intrenched, but his temporal welfare

was looked after. "And again I say unto you," continues this

mouthpiece of the Lord, "if ye desire the mysteries of the

Kingdom, provide for him food and raiment and whatsoever he

needeth to accomplish the work wherewith I have commanded him."

In the same month came another declaration, saying (Sec. 41 " is

meet that my servant Joseph Smith, Jr., should have a house

built, in which to live and translate" (the Scriptures). With a

streak of generosity it was added, "It is meet that my servant

Sidney Rigdon should live as seemeth him good."

*Turner's "Mormonism in all Ages," p. 38.

The iron hand with which Smith repressed Rigdon from the date of

their arrival in Ohio affords strong proof of Rigdon's complicity

in the Bible plot, and of Smith's realization of the fact that he

stood to his accomplice in the relation of a burglar to his mate,

where the burglar has both the boodle and the secret in his

possession. An illustration of this occurred during their first

trip to Missouri. Rigdon and Smith did not agree about the

desirability of western Missouri as a permanent abiding-place for

the church. The Rev. Ezra Booth, after leaving the Mormons,

contributed a series of letters on his experience with Smith to

the Ohio Star of Ravenna.* In the first of these he said: "On our

arrival in the western part of the state of Missouri we

discovered that prophecy and visions had failed, or rather had

proved false. This fact was so notorious that Mr. Rigdon himself

says that 'Joseph's vision was a bad thing.'" Smith nevertheless

directed Rigdon to write a description of that promised land,

and, when the production did not suit him, he represented the

Lord as censuring Rigdon in a "revelation" (Sec. 63):--

* Copied in Howe's "Mormonism Unveiled."

"And now behold, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, am not

pleased with my servant Sidney Rigdon; he exalteth himself in his

heart, and receiveth not counsel, but grieveth the spirit.

Wherefore his writing is not acceptable unto the Lord; and he

shall make another, and if the Lord receiveth it not, behold he

standeth no longer in the office which I have appointed him."

That the proud-minded, educated preacher, who refused to allow

Campbell to claim the foundership of the Disciples' church,

should take such a rebuke and threat of dismissal in silence from

Joe Smith of Palmyra, and continue under his leadership,

certainly indicates some wonderful hold that the prophet had upon


While the travelling elders were doing successful work in adding

new converts to the fold, there was beginning to manifest itself

at Kirtland that "apostasy" which lost the church so many members

of influence, and was continued in Missouri so far that Mayor

Grant said, in Salt Lake City, in 1856, that "one-half at least

of the Yankee members of this church have apostatized."* The

secession of men like Booth and Ryder, and their public exposure

of Smith's methods, coupled with rumors of immoral practices in

the fold, were followed by the tarring and feathering of Smith

and Rigdon on the night of Saturday, March 25, 1832. The story of

this outrage is told in Smith's autobiography, and the details

there given may be in the main accepted.

* Journal of Discourses, Vol. III, p. 201.

Smith and his wife were living at the house of a farmer named

Johnson in Hiram township, while he and Rigdon were translating

the Scriptures. Mrs. Smith had taken two infant twins to bring

up, and on the night in question she and her husband were taking

turns sitting up with these babies, who were just recovering from

the measles. While Smith was sleeping, his wife heard a tapping

on the window, but gave it no attention. The mob, believing that

all within were asleep, then burst in the door, seized Smith as

he lay partly dressed on a trundle bed, and rushed him out of

doors, his wife crying "murder." Smith struggled as best he

could, but they carried him around the house, choking him until

he became unconscious. Some thirty yards from the house he saw

Rigdon, "stretched out on the ground, whither they had dragged

him by the heels." When they had carried Smith some thirty yards

farther, some of the mob meantime asking, "Ain't ye going to kill

him?" a council was held and some one asked, "Simmons, where's

the tarbucket?" When the bucket was brought up they tried to

force the "tarpaddle" into Smith's mouth, and also, he says, to

force a phial between his teeth. He adds:

"All my clothes were torn off me except my shirt collar, and one

man fell on me and scratched my body with his nails like a mad

cat. They then left me, and I attempted to rise, but fell again.

I pulled the tar away from my lips, etc., so that I could breathe

more freely, and after a while I began to recover, and raised

myself up, when I saw two lights. I made my way toward one of

them, and found it was father Johnson's. When I had come to the

door I was naked, and the tar made me look as though I had been

covered with blood; and when my wife saw me she thought I was all

smashed to pieces, and fainted. During the affray abroad, the

sisters of the neighborhood collected at my room. I called for a

blanket; they threw me one and shut the door; I wrapped it around

me and went in.... My friends spent the night in scraping and

removing the tar and washing and cleansing my body, so that by

morning I was ready to be clothed again.... With my flesh all

scarified and defaced, I preached [that morning] to the

congregation as usual, and in the afternoon of the same day

baptized three individuals."

Rigdon's treatment is described as still more severe. He was not

only dragged over the ground by the heels, but was well covered

with tar and feathers; and when Smith called on him the next day

he found him delirious, and calling for a razor with which to

kill his wife.

All Mormon accounts of this, as well as later persecutions,

attempt to make the ground of attack hostility to the Mormon

religious beliefs, presenting them entirely in the light of

outrages on liberty of opinion. Symonds Ryder (whom Smith accuses

of being one of the mob), says that the attack had this origin:

The people of Hiram had the reputation of being very receptive

and liberal in their religious views. The Mormons therefore

preached to them, and seemed in a fair way to win a decided

success, when the leaders made their first trip to Missouri.

Papers which they left behind outlining the internal system of

the new church fell into the hands of some of the converts, and

revealed to them the horrid fact that a plot was laid to take

their property from them and place it under the control of Smith,

the Prophet.... Some who had been the dupes of this deception

determined not to let it pass with impunity; and, accordingly, a

company was formed of citizens from Shalersville, Garretsville,

and Hiram, and took Smith and Rigdon from their beds and tarred

and feathered them."*

* Hayden's "Early History of the Disciples' Church in the Western

Reserve," p. 221.

This manifestation of hostility to the leaders of the new church

was only a more pronounced form of that which showed itself

against Smith before he left New York State. When a man of his

character and previous history assumes the right to baptize and

administer the sacrament, he is certain to arouse the animosity,

not only of orthodox church members, but of members of the

community who are lax in their church duties. Goldsmith

illustrates this kind of feeling when, in "She Stoops to

Conquer," he makes one of the "several shabby fellows with punch

and tobacco" in the alehouse say, "I loves to hear him, the

squire sing, bekeays he never gives us nothing that's low," and

another responds, "O, damn anything that's low." The AntiMormon

feeling was intensified and broadened by the aggressiveness with

which the Mormons sought for converts in the orthodox flocks.

Beliefs radically different from those accepted by any of the

orthodox denominations have escaped hostile opposition in this

country, even when they have outraged generally accepted social

customs. The Harmonists, in a body of 600, emigrated to

Pennsylvania to escape the persecution to which they were

subjected in Germany, purchased 5000 acres of land and organized

a town; moved later to Indiana, where they purchased 25,000

acres; and ten years afterward returned to Pennsylvania, and

bought 5000 acres in another place,--all the time holding to

their belief in a community of goods and a speedy coming of

Christ, as well as the duty of practicing celibacy,--without

exciting their neighbors or arousing their enmity. The

Wallingford Community in Connecticut, and the Oneida Community in

New York State, practised free love among themselves without

persecution, until their organizations died from natural causes.

The leaders in these and other independent sects were clean men

within their own rules, honest in their dealings with their

neighbors, never seeking political power, and never pressing

their opinions upon outsiders. An old resident of Wallingford

writes to me, "The Community were, in a way, very generally

respected for their high standard of integrity in all their

business transactions."

As we follow the career of the Mormons from Ohio to Missouri, and

thence to Illinois, we shall read their own testimony about the

character of their leading men, and about their view of the

rights of others in each of their neighborhoods. When Horace

Greeley asked Brigham Young in Salt Lake City for an explanation

of the "persecutions" of the Mormons, his reply was that there

was "no other explanation than is afforded by the crucifixion of

Christ and the kindred treatment of God's ministers, prophets,

and saints in all ages"; which led Greeley to observe that, while

a new sect is always decried and traduced,--naming the Baptists,

Quakers, Methodists, and Universalists,--he could not remember

"that either of them was ever generally represented and regarded

by the other sects of their early days as thieves, robbers, and


* "Overland Journey," p. 214.

Another attempt by Rigdon to assert his independence of Smith

occurred while the latter was still at Mr. Johnson's house and

Rigdon was in Kirtland. The fullest account of this is found in

Mother Smith's "History," pp. 204-206. She says that Rigdon came

in late to a prayer-meeting, much agitated, and, instead of

taking the platform, paced backward and forward on the floor.

Joseph's father told him they would like to hear a discourse from

him, but he replied, "The keys of the Kingdom are rent from the

church, and there shall not be a prayer put up in this house this

day." This caused considerable excitement, and Smith's brother

Hyrum left the house, saying, "I'll put a stop to this fuss

pretty quick," and, mounting a horse, set out for Johnson's and

brought the prophet back with him. On his arrival, a meeting of

the brethren was held, and Joseph declared to them, "I myself

hold the keys of this Last Dispensation, and will forever hold

them, both in time and eternity, so set your hearts at rest upon

that point. All is right." The next day Rigdon was tried before a

council for having "lied in the name of the Lord," and was

"delivered over to the buffetings of Satan," and deprived of his

license, Smith telling him that "the less priesthood he had, the

better it would be for him." Rigdon, Mrs. Smith says, according

to his own account, "was dragged out of bed by the devil three

times in one night by the heels," and, while she does not accept

this literally, she declares that "his contrition was as great as

a man could well live through." After awhile he got another


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