Sidney Rigdon

The man who had more to do with founding the Mormon church than

Joseph Smith, Jr., even if we exclude any share in the production

of the Mormon Bible, and yet who is unknown even by name to most

persons to whom the names of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young are

familiar, was Sidney Rigdon. Elder John Hyde, Jr., was well

within the truth when he wrote: "The compiling genius of

Mormonism was Sidney Rigdon. Smith had boisterous impetuosity but

no foresight. Polygamy was not the result of his policy but of

his passions. Sidney gave point, direction, and apparent

consistency to the Mormon system of theology. He invented its

forms and the manner of its arguments.... Had it not been for the

accession of these two men [Rigdon and Parley P. Pratt] Smith

would have been lost, and his schemes frustrated and abandoned."*

* "Mormonism: Its Leaders and Designs" (1857). Hyde, an

Englishman, joined the Mormons in that country when a lad and

began to preach almost at once. He sailed for this country in

1853 and joined the brethren in Salt Lake City. Brigham Young's

rule upset his faith, and he abandoned the belief in 1854. Even

H. H. Bancroft concedes him to have been "an able and honest man,

sober and sincere."

Rigdon (according to the sketch of him presented in Smith's

autobiography,* which he doubtless wrote) was born in St. Clair

township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, on February 19, 1793.

His father was a farmer, and he lived on the farm, receiving only

a limited education, until he was twenty-six years old. He then

connected himself with the Baptist church, and received a license

to preach. Selecting Ohio as his field, he continued his work in

rural districts in that state until 1821, when he accepted a call

to a small Baptist church in Pittsburg.

* Millennial Star, Vol. XIV, Supt.

Twenty years before the publication of the Mormon Bible, Thomas

and Alexander Campbell, Scotchmen, had founded a congregation in

Washington County, Pennsylvania, out of which grew the religious

denomination known as Disciples of Christ, or Campbellites, whose

communicants in the United States numbered 871,017 in the year

1890. The fundamental principle of their teaching was that every

doctrine of belief, or maxim of duty, must rest upon the

authority of Scripture, expressed or implied, all human creeds

being rejected. The Campbells (who had been first Presbyterians

and then Baptists) were wonderful orators and convincing debaters

out of the pulpit, and they drew to themselves many of the most

eloquent exhorters in what was then the western border of the

United States. Among their allies was another Scotchman, Walter

Scott, a musician and schoolteacher by profession, who assisted

them in their newspaper work and became a noted evangelist in

their denomination. During a visit to Pittsburg in 1823, Scott

made Rigdon's acquaintance, and a little later the flocks to

which each preached were united. In August, 1824, Rigdon

announced his withdrawal from his church. Regarding his

withdrawal the sketch in Smith's autobiography says:--

"After he had been in that place [Pittsburg] some time, his mind

was troubled and much perplexed with the idea that the doctrines

maintained by that society were not altogether in accordance with

the Scriptures. This thing continued to agitate his mind more and

more, and his reflections on these occasions were particularly

trying; for, according to his view of the word of God, no other

church with whom he could associate, or that he was acquainted

with, was right; consequently, if he was to disavow the doctrine

of the church with whom he was then associated, he knew of no

other way of obtaining a living, except by manual labor, and at

that time he had a wife and three children to support."

For two years after he gave up his church connection he worked as

a journeyman tanner. This is all the information obtainable about

this part of his life. We next find him preaching at Bainbridge,

Ohio, as an undenominational exhorter, but following the general

views of the Campbells, advising his hearers to reject their

creeds and rest their belief solely on the Bible.

In June, 1826, Rigdon received a call to a Baptist church at

Mentor, Ohio, whose congregation he had pleased when he preached

the funeral sermon of his predecessor. His labors were not

confined, however, to this congregation. We find him acting as

the "stated" minister of a Disciples' church organized at Mantua,

Ohio, in 1827, preaching with Thomas Campbell at Shalersville,

Ohio, in 1828, and thus extending the influence he had acquired

as early as 1820, when Alexander Campbell called him "the great

orator of the Mahoning Association". In 1828 he visited his old

associate Scott, was further confirmed in his faith in the

Disciples' belief, and, taking his brother-in-law Bentley back

with him, they began revival work at Mentor, which led to the

conversion of more than fifty of their hearers. They held

services at Kirtland, Ohio, with equal success, and the story of

this awakening was the main subject of discussion in all the

neighborhood round about. The sketch of Rigdon in Smith's

autobiography closes with this tribute to his power as a

preacher: "The churches where he preached were no longer large

enough to contain the vast assemblies. No longer did he follow

the old beaten track, ...but dared to enter on new grounds,

...threw new light on the sacred volume, ...proved to a

demonstration the literal fulfilment of prophecy ...and the reign

of Christ with his Saints on the earth in the Millennium."

In tracing Rigdon's connection with Smith's enterprise, attention

must be carefully paid both to Rigdon's personal characteristics,

and to the resemblance between the doctrines he had taught in the

pulpit and those that appear in the Mormon Bible.

Rigdon's mental and religious temperament was just of the

character to be attracted by a novelty in religious belief. He,

with his brother-in-law, Adamson Bentley, visited Alexander

Campbell in 1821, and spent a whole night in religious

discussion. When they parted the next day, Rigdon declared that

"if he had within the last year promulgated one error, he had a

thousand," and Mr. Campbell, in his account of the interview,

remarked, "I found it expedient to caution them not to begin to

pull down anything they had builded until they had reviewed,

again and again, what they had heard; not even then rashly and

without much consideration."*

* Millennial Harbinger, 1848, p. 523.

A leading member of the church at Mantua has written, "Sidney

Rigdon preached for us, and, notwithstanding his extravagantly

wild freaks, he was held in high repute by many."*

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

Reserve," by A: S. Hayden (1876), p. 239.

An important church discussion occurred at Warren, Ohio, in 1828.

Following out the idea of the literal interpretation of the

Scriptures taught in the Disciples' church, Rigdon sprung on the

meeting an argument in favor of a community of goods, holding

that the apostles established this system at Jerusalem, and that

the modern church, which rested on their example, must follow

them. Alexander Campbell, who was present, at once controverted

this position, showing that the apostles, as narrated in Acts,

"sold their possessions" instead of combining them for a profit,

and citing Bible texts to prove that no "community system"

existed in the early church. This argument carried the meeting,

and Rigdon left the assemblage, embittered against Campbell

beyond forgiveness. To a brother in Warren, on his way home, he

declared, "I have done as much in this reformation as Campbell or

Scott, and yet they get all the honor of it. "This claim is set

forth specifically in the sketch of Rigdon in Smith's

autobiography. Referring to Rigdon and Alexander Campbell, this

statement is there made:--

"After they had separated from the different churches, these

gentlemen were on terms of the greatest friendship, and

frequently met together to discuss the subject of religion, being

yet undetermined respecting the principles of the doctrine of

Christ or what course to pursue. However, from this connection

sprung up a new church in the world, known by the name of

'Campbellites'; they call themselves 'Disciples.' The reason why

they were called Campbellites was in consequence of Mr.

Campbell's periodical, above mentioned [the Christian Baptist],

and it being the means through which they communicated their

sentiments to the world; other than this, Mr. Campbell was no

more the originator of the sect than Elder Rigdon."

Rigdon's bitterness against the Campbells and his old church more

than once manifested itself in his later writings. For instance,

in an article in the Messenger and Advocate (Kirtland), of June,

1837, he said: "One thing has been done by the coming forth of

the Book of Mormon. It has puked the Campbellites effectually; no

emetic could have done so half as well.... The Book of Mormon has

revealed the secrets of Campbellism and unfolded the end of the

system. "In this jealousy of the Campbells, and the discomfiture

as a leader which he received at their hands, we find a

sufficient object for Rigdon's desertion of his old church

associations and desire to build up something, the discovery of

which he could claim, and the government of which he could


To understand the strength of the argument that the doctrinal

teachings of the Mormon Bible were the work of a Disciples'

preacher rather than of the ne'er-do-well Smith, it is only

necessary to examine the teachings of the Disciples' church in

Ohio at that time. The investigator will be startled by the

resemblance between what was then taught to and believed by

Disciples' congregations and the leading beliefs of the Mormon

Bible. In the following examples of this the illustrations of

Disciples' beliefs and teachings are taken from Hayden's "Early

History of the Disciples' Church in the Western Reserve."

The literal interpretation of the Scriptures, on which the Mormon

defenders of their faith so largely depend,--as for explanations

of modern revelations, miracles, and signs,--was preached to so

extreme a point by Ohio Disciples that Alexander Campbell had to

combat them in his Millennial Harbinger. An outcome of this

literal interpretation was a belief in a speedy millennium,

another fundamental belief of the early Mormon church. "The hope

of the millennial glory," says Hayden, "was based on many

passages of the Holy Scriptures.... Millennial hymns were learned

and sung with a joyful fervor.... It is surprising even now, as

memory returns to gather up these interesting remains of that

mighty work, to recall the thorough and extensive knowledge which

the convert quickly obtained. Nebuchadnezzar's vision... many

portions of the Revelation were so thoroughly studied that they

became the staple of the common talk." Rigdon's old Pittsburg

friend, Scott, in his report as evangelist to the church

association at Warren in 1828, said: "Individuals eminently

skilled in the word of God, the history of the world, and the

progress of human improvements see reasons to expect great

changes, much greater than have yet occurred, and which shall

give to political society and to the church a different, a very

different, complexion from what many anticipate. The

millennium--the millennium described in the Scriptures--will

doubtless be a wonder, a terrible wonder, to all."

Disciples' preachers understood that they spoke directly for God,

just as Smith assumed to do in his "revelations." Referring to

the preaching of Rigdon and Bentley, after a visit to Scott in

March, 1828, Hayden says, "They spoke with authority, for the

word which they delivered was not theirs, but that of Jesus

Christ." The Disciples, like the Mormons, at that time looked for

the return of the Jews to Jerusalem. Scott* was an enthusiastic

preacher of this. "The fourteenth chapter of Zechariah," says

Hayden, "was brought forward in proof--all considered as

literal-- that the most marvellous and stupendous physical and

climatic changes were to be wrought in Palestine; and that Jesus

Christ the Messiah was to reign literally in Jerusalem, and in

Mount Zion, and before his ancients, gloriously."

* "In a letter to Dr. Richardson, written in 1830, he [Scott]

says the book of Elias Smith on the prophecies is the only

sensible work on that subject he had seen. He thinks this and

Crowley on the Apocalypse all the student of the Bible wants. He

strongly commends Smith's book to the doctor. This seems to be

the origin of millennial views among us. Rigdon, who always

caught and proclaimed the last word that fell from the lips of

Scott or Campbell, seized these views (about the millennium and

the Jews) and, with the wildness of his extravagant nature,

heralded them everywhere."--"Early History of the Disciples'

Church in the Western Reserve," p. 186.

Campbell taught that "creeds are but statements, with few

exceptions, of doctrinal opinion or speculators' views of

philosophical or dogmatic subjects, and tended to confusion,

disunion, and weakness." Orson Pratt, in his "Divine Authenticity

of the Book of Mormon," thus stated the early Mormon view on the

same subject: "If any man or council, without the aid of

immediate revelation, shall undertake to decide upon such

subjects, and prescribe 'articles of faith' or 'creeds' to govern

the belief or views of others, there will be thousands of

well-meaning people who will not have confidence in the

productions of these fallible men, and, therefore, frame creeds

of their own.... In this way contentions arise."

Finally, attention may be directed to the emphatic declarations

of the Disciples' doctrine of baptism in the Mormon Bible:--

"Ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name shall ye

baptize them.... And then shall ye immerse them in the water, and

come forth again out of the water."--3 Nephi Xi. 23, 26.

"I know that it is solemn mockery before God that ye should

baptize little children.... He that supposeth that little

children need baptism is in the gall of bitterness and in the

bond of iniquity; for he hath neither faith, hope, nor charity;

wherefore, should he be cut off while in the thought, he must go

down to hell. For awful is the wickedness to suppose that God

saveth one child because of baptism, and the other must perish

because he hath no baptism."--Moroni viii. 9, xc, 15.

There are but three conclusions possible from all this: that the

Mormon Bible was a work of inspiration, and that the agreement of

its doctrines with Disciples' belief only proves the correctness

of the latter; that Smith, in writing his doctrinal views, hit on

the Disciples' tenets by chance (he had had no opportunity

whatever to study them); or, finally, that some Disciple, learned

in the church, supplied these doctrines to him.

Advancing another step in the examination of Rigdon's connection

with the scheme, we find that even the idea of a new Bible was

common belief among the Ohio Disciples who listened to Scott's

teaching. Describing Scott's preaching in the winter of

1827-1828, Hayden says:--

"He contended ably for the restoration of the true, original

apostolic order which would restore to the church the ancient

gospel as preached by the apostles. The interest became an

excitement; ...the air was thick with rumors of a 'new religion,'

a 'new Bible.'"

Next we may cite two witnesses to show that Rigdon had a

knowledge of Smith's Bible in advance of its publication. His

brother-in-law, Bentley, in a letter to Walter Scott dated

January 22, 1841, said, "I know that Sidney Rigdon told me there

was a book coming out, the manuscript of which had been found

engraved on gold plates, as much as two years before the Mormon

book made its appearance or had been heard of by me."*

* Millennial Harbinger, 1844, p. 39. The Rev. Alexander Campbell

testified that this conversation took place in his presence.

One of the elders of the Disciples' church was Darwin Atwater, a

farmer, who afterward occupied the pulpit, and of whom Hayden

says, "The uniformity of his life, his undeviating devotion, his

high and consistent manliness and superiority of judgment, gave

him an undisputed preeminence in the church." In a letter to

Hayden, dated April 26, 1873, Mr. Atwater said of Rigdon: "For a

few months before his professed conversion to Mormonism it was

noticed that his wild extravagant propensities had been more

marked. That he knew before the coming of the Book of Mormon is

to me certain from what he said during the first of his visits at

my father's, some years before. He gave a wonderful description

of the mounds and other antiquities found in some parts of

America, and said that they must have been made by the

aborigines. He said there was a book to be published containing

an account of those things. He spoke of these in his eloquent,

enthusiastic style, as being a thing most extraordinary. Though a

youth then, I took him to task for expending so much enthusiasm

on such a subject instead of things of the Gospel. In all my

intercourse with him afterward he never spoke of antiquities, or

of the wonderful book that should give account of them, till the

Book of Mormon really was published. He must have thought I was

not the man to reveal that to."*

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

Reserve," p. 239.

Dr. Storm Rosa, a leading physician of Ohio, in, a letter to the

Rev. John Hall of Ashtabula, written in 1841, said: "In the early

part of the year 1830 I was in company with Sidney Rigdon, and

rode with him on horseback for a few miles.... He remarked to me

that it was time for a new religion to spring up; that mankind

were all right and ready for it."*

* "Gleanings by the Way," p. 315.

Having thus established the identity of the story running through

the Spaulding manuscript and the historical part of the Mormon

Bible, the agreement of the doctrinal part of the latter with

what was taught at the time by Rigdon and his fellow-workers in

Ohio, and Rigdon's previous knowledge of the coming book, we are

brought to the query: How did the Spaulding manuscript become

incorporated in the Mormon Bible?

It could have been so incorporated in two ways: either by coming

into the possession of Rigdon and being by him copied and placed

in Smith's hands for "translation," with the theological parts

added;* or by coming into possession of Smith in his wanderings

around the neighborhood of Hartwick, and being shown by him to

Rigdon. Every aspect of this matter has been discussed by Mormon

and non-Mormon writers, and it can only be said that definite

proof is lacking. Mormon disputants set forth that Spaulding

moved from Pittsburg to Amity in 1814, and that Rigdon's first

visit to Pittsburg occurred in 1822. On the other hand, evidence

is offered that Rigdon was a "hanger around" Patterson's

printing-office, where Spaulding offered his manuscript, before

the year 1816, and the Rev. John Winter, M.D., who taught school

in Pittsburg when Rigdon preached there, and knew him well,

recalled that Rigdon showed him a large manuscript which he said

a Presbyterian minister named Spaulding had brought to the city

for publication. Dr. Winter's daughter wrote to Robert Patterson

on April 5, 1881: "I have frequently heard my father speak of

Rigdon having Spaulding's manuscript, and that he had gotten it

from the printers to read it as a curiosity; as such he showed it

to father, and at that time Rigdon had no intention of making the

use of it that he afterward did." Mrs. Ellen E. Dickenson, in a

report of a talk with General and Mrs. Garfield on the subject at

Mentor, Ohio, in 1880, reports Mrs. Garfield as saying "that her

father told her that Rigdon in his youth lived in that

neighborhood, and made mysterious journeys to Pittsburg."*** She

also quotes a statement by Mrs. Garfield's** father, Z. Rudolph,

"that during the winter previous to the appearance of the Book of

Mormon, Rigdon was in the habit of spending weeks away from his

home, going no one knew where."**** Tucker says that in the

summer of 1827 "a mysterious stranger appears at Smith's

residence, and holds private interviews with the far-famed

money-digger.... It was observed by some of Smith's nearest

neighbors that his visits were frequently repeated." Again, when

the persons interested in the publication of the Bible were so

alarmed by the abstraction of pages of the translation by Mrs.

Harris, "the reappearance of the mysterious stranger at Smith's

was," he says, "the subject of inquiry and conjecture by

observers from whom was withheld all explanation of his identity

or purpose."*****

* "Rigdon has not been in full fellowship with Smith for more

than a year. He has been in his turn cast aside by Joe to make

room for some new dupe or knave who, perhaps, has come with more

money. He has never been deceived by Joe. I have no doubt that

Rigdon was the originator of the system, and, fearing for its

success, put Joe forward as a sort of fool in the play."--Letter

from a resident near Nauvoo, quoted in the postscript to

Caswall's "City of the Mormons". (1843)

** For a collection of evidence on this subject, see Patterson's

"Who Wrote the Mormon Bible?"

**(Scribner's Magazine, October, 1881.

*** "New Light on Mormonism," p. 252.

***** "Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism," pp. 28, 46.

In a historical inquiry of this kind, it is more important to

establish the fact that a certain thing WAS DONE than to prove

just HOW or WHEN it was done. The entire narrative of the steps

leading up to the announcement of a new Bible, including Smith's

first introduction to the use of a "peek-stone" and his original

employment of it, the changes made in the original version of the

announcement to him of buried plates, and the final production of

a book, partly historical and partly theological, shows that

there was behind Smith some directing mind, and the only one of

his associates in the first few years of the church's history who

could have done the work required was Sidney Rigdon.

President Fairchild, in his paper on the Spaulding manuscript

already referred to, while admitting that "it is perhaps

impossible at this day to prove or disprove the Spaulding

theory," finds any argument against the assumption that Rigdon

supplied the doctrinal part of the new Bible, in the view that "a

man as self-reliant and smart as Rigdon, with a superabundant

gift of tongue and every form of utterance, would never have

accepted the servile task of mere interpolation; "there could

have been no motive to it." This only shows that President

Fairchild wrote without knowledge of the whole subject, with

ignorance of the motives which did exist for Rigdon's conduct,

and without means of acquainting himself with Rigdon's history

during his association with Smith. Some of his motives we have

already ascertained: We shall find that, almost from the

beginning of their removal to Ohio, Smith held him in a

subjection which can be explained only on the theory that Rigdon,

the prominent churchman, had placed himself completely in the

power of the unprincipled Smith, and that, instead of exhibiting

self-reliance, he accepted insult after insult until, just before

Smith's death, he was practically without influence in the

church; and when the time came to elect Smith's successor, he was

turned out-of-doors by Brigham Young with the taunting words,

"Brother Sidney says he will tell our secrets, but I would say, `

'O don't, Brother Sidney! Don't tell our secrets--O don't.' But

if he tells our secrets we will tell his. Tit for tat! President

Fairchild's argument that several of the original leaders of the

fanaticism must have been "adequate to the task" of supplying the

doctrinal part of the book, only furnishes additional proof of

his ignorance of early Mormon history, and his further assumption

that "it is difficult--almost impossible--to believe that the

religious sentiments of the Book of Mormon were wrought into

interpolation" brings him into direct conflict, as we shall see,

with Professor Whitsitt,* amuch better equipped student of the


* Post, pp. 92. 93.

If it should be questioned whether a man of Rigdon's church

connection would deliberately plan such a fraudulent scheme as

the production of the Mormon Bible, the inquiry may be easily

satisfied. One of the first tasks which Smith and Rigdon

undertook, as soon as Rigdon openly joined Smith in New York

State, was the preparation of what they called a new translation

of the Scriptures. This work was undertaken in conformity with a

"revelation" to Smith and Rigdon, dated December, 1830 (Sec. 35,

"Doctrine and Covenants") in which Sidney was told, "And a

commandment I give unto thee, that thou shalt write for him; and

the Scriptures shall be given, even as they are in mine own

bosom, to the salvation of mine own elect. The "translating" was

completed in Ohio, and the manuscript, according to Smith, "was

sealed up, no more to be opened till it arrived in Zion."* This

work was at first kept as a great secret, and Smith and Rigdon

moved to the house of a resident of Hiram township, Portage

County, Ohio, thirty miles from Kirtland, in September, 1831, to

carry it on; but the secret soon got out. The preface to the

edition of the book published at Plano, Illinois, in 1867, under

the title, "The Holy Scriptures translated and corrected by the

Spirit of Revelation, by Joseph Smith, Jr., the Seer," says that

the manuscript remained in the hands of the prophet's widow from

the time of his death until 1866, when it was delivered to a

committee of the Reorganized Mormon conference for publication.

Some of its chapters were known to Mormon readers earlier, since

Corrill gives the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew in his

historical sketch, which was dated 1839.

* Millenial Star, Vol. XIV, p. 361.

The professed object of the translation was to restore the

Scriptures to their original purity and beauty, the Mormon Bible

declaring that "many plain and precious parts" had been taken

from them. The real object, however, was to add to the sacred

writings a prediction of Joseph Smith's coming as a prophet,

which would increase his authority and support the pretensions of

the new Bible. That this was Rigdon's scheme is apparent from the

fact that it was announced as soon as he visited Smith, and was

carried on under his direction, and that the manuscript

translation was all in his handwriting.*

* Wyl's "Mormon Portraits," p.124.

Extended parts of the translation do not differ at all from the

King James version, and many of the changes are verbal and

inconsequential. Rigdon's object appears in the changes made in

the fiftieth chapter of Genesis, and the twenty-ninth chapter of

Isaiah. In the King James version the fiftieth chapter of Genesis

contains twenty-six verses, and ends with the words, "So Joseph

died, being an hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him,

and he was put in a coffin in Eygpt." In the Smith-Rigdon version

this chapter contains thirty-eight verses, the addition

representing Joseph as telling his brethren that a branch of his

people shall be carried into a far country and that a seer shall

be given to them, "and that seer will I bless, and they that seek

to destroy him shall be confounded; for this promise I give unto

you; for I will remember you from generation to generation; and

his name shall be called Joseph. And he shall have judgment, and

shall write the word of the Lord."

The twenty-ninth chapter of Isaiah is similarly expanded from

twenty-four short to thirty-two long verses. Verses eleven and

twelve of the King James version read:--

"And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book

that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying,

Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed.

"And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying,

Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned."

The Smith-Rigdon version expands this as follows:-- "11. And it

shall come to pass, that the Lord God shall bring forth unto you

the words of a book; and they shall be the words of them which

have slumbered.

"12. And behold, the book shall be sealed; and in the book shall

be a revelation from God, from the beginning of the world to the

ending thereof.

"13. Wherefore, because of the things which are sealed up, the

things which are sealed shall not be delivered in the day of the

wickedness and abominations of the people. Wherefore, the book

shall be kept from them.

"14. But the book shall be delivered unto a man, and he shall

deliver the words of the book, which are the words of those who

have slumbered in the dust; and he shall deliver these words unto

another, but the words that are sealed he shall not deliver,

neither shall he deliver the book.

"15. For the book shall be sealed by the power of God, and the

revelation which was sealed shall be kept in the book until the

own due time of the Lord, that they may come forth; for, behold,

they reveal all things from the foundation of the world unto the

end thereof."

No one will question that a Rigdon who would palm off such a

fraudulent work as this upon the men who looked to him as a

religious teacher would hesitate to suggest to Smith the scheme

for a new Bible. During the work of translation, as we learn from

Smith's autobiography, the translators saw a wonderful vision, in

which they "beheld the glory of the Son on the right hand of the

Father," and holy angels, and the glory of the worlds,

terrestrial and celestial. Soon after this they received an

explanation from heaven of some obscure texts in Revelation.

Thus, the sea of glass (iv. 6) "is the earth in its sanctified,

immortal, and eternal state"; by the little book which was eaten

by John (chapter x) "we are to understand that it was a mission

and an ordinance for him to gather the tribes of Israel."

It may be added that this translation is discarded by the modern

Mormon church in Utah. The Deseret Evening News, the church organ

at Salt Lake City, said on February 21, 1900:--

"The translation of the Bible, referred to by our correspondents,

has not been adopted by this church as authoritative. It is

understood that the Prophet Joseph intended before its

publication to subject the manuscript to an entire examination,

for such revision as might be deemed necessary. Be that as it

may, the work has not been published under the auspices of this

church, and is, therefore, not held out as a guide. For the

present, the version of the scriptures commonly known as King

James's translation is used, and the living oracles are the

expounders of the written word."

We may anticipate the course of our narrative in order to show

how much confirmation of Rigdon's connection with the whole

Mormon scheme is furnished by the circumstances attending the

first open announcement of his acceptance of the Mormon

literature and faith. We are first introduced to Parley P. Pratt,

sometime tin peddler, and a lay preacher to rural congregations

in Ohio when occasion offered. Pratt in his autobiography tells

of the joy with which he heard Rigdon preach, at his home in

Ohio, doctrines of repentance and baptism which were the "ancient

gospel" that he (Pratt) had "discovered years before, but could

find no one to minister in"; of a society for worship which he

and others organized; of his decision, acting under the influence

of the Gospel and prophecies "as they had been opened to him," to

abandon the home he had built up, and to set out on a mission

"for the Gospel's sake"; and of a trip to New York State, where

he was shown the Mormon Bible. "As I read," he says, "the spirit

of the Lord was upon me, and I knew and comprehended that the

book was true."

Pratt was at once commissioned, "by revelation and the laying on

of hands," to preach the new Gospel, and was sent, also by

"revelation" (Sec. 32, "Doctrine and Covenants"), along with

Cowdery, Z. Peterson, and Peter Whitmer, Jr., "into the

wilderness among the Lamanites." Pratt and Cowdery went direct to

Rigdon's house in Mentor, where they stayed a week. Pratt's own

account says: "We called on Mr. Rigdon, my former friend and

instructor in the Reformed Baptist Society. He received us

cordially, and entertained us with hospitality."*

* "Autobiography of P. P. Pratt," p. 49.

In Smith's autobiography it is stated that Rigdon's visitors

presented the Mormon Bible to him as a revelation from God, and

what followed is thus described:--

"This being the first time he had ever heard of or seen the Book

of Mormon, he felt very much prejudiced at the assertion, and

replied that 'he had one Bible which he believed was a revelation

from God, and with which he pretended to have some acquaintance;

but with respect to the book they had presented him, he must say

HE HAD SOME CONSIDERABLE DOUBT' Upon which they expressed a

desire to investigate the subject and argue the matter; but he

replied, 'No, young gentlemen, you must not argue with me on the

subject. But I will read your book, and see what claim it has

upon my faith, and will endeavor to ascertain whether it be a

revelation from God or not'. After some further conversation on

the subject, they expressed a desire to lay the subject before

the people, and requested the privilege of preaching in Elder

Rigdon's church, TO WHICH HE READILY CONSENTED. The appointment

was accordingly published, and a large and respectable

congregation assembled. Oliver Cowdery and Parley P. Pratt

severally addressed the meeting. At the conclusion Elder Rigdon

arose and stated to the congregation that the information they

that evening had received was of an extraordinary character, and

certainly demanded their most serious consideration; and, as the

apostle advised his brethren 'to prove all things and hold fast

that which is good,' so he would exhort his brethren to do

likewise, and give the matter a careful investigation, and NOT



* Millennial Star, Vol. XIV, p. 47.

Accepting this as a correct report of what occurred (and we may

consider it from Rigdon's pen), we find a clergyman who was a

fellow-worker with men like Campbell and Scott expressing only

"considerable doubt" of the inspiration of a book presented to

him as a new Bible, "readily consenting" to the use of his church

by the sponsors for this book, and, at the close of their

arguments, warning his people against rejecting it too readily

"lest they resist the truth"! Unless all these are misstatements,

there seems to be little necessity of further proof that Rigdon

was prepared in advance for the reception of the Mormon Bible.

After this came the announcement of the conversion and baptism by

the Mormon missionaries of a "family" of seventeen persons living

in some sort of a "community" system, between Mentor and

Kirtland. Rigdon, who had merely explained to his neighbors that

his visitors were "on a curious mission," expressed disapproval

of this at first, and took Cowdery to task for asserting that his

own conversion to the new belief was due to a visit from an

angel. But, two days later, Rigdon himself received an angel's

visit, and the next Sunday, with his wife, was baptized into the

new faith.

Rigdon, of course, had to answer many inquiries on his return to

Ohio from a visit to Smith which soon followed his conversion,

but his policy was indignant reticence whenever pressed to any

decisive point. To an old acquaintance who, after talking the

matter over with him at his house, remarked that the Koran of

Mohammed stood on as good evidence as the Bible of Smith, Rigdon

replied: "Sir, you have insulted me in my own house. I command

silence. If people come to see us and cannot treat us civilly,

they can walk out of the door as soon as they please."* Thomas

Campbell sent a long letter to Rigdon under date of February 4,

1831, in which he addressed him as "for many years not only a

courteous and benevolent friend, but a beloved brother and

fellow-laborer in the Gospel--but alas! how changed, how fallen."

Accepting a recent offer of Rigdon in one of his sermons to give

his reasons for his new belief, Mr. Campbell offered to meet him

in public discussion, even outlining the argument he would offer,

under nine headings, that Rigdon might be prepared to refute it,

proposing to take his stand on the sufficiency of the Holy

Scriptures, Smith's bad character, the absurdities of the Mormon

Bible and of the alleged miraculous "gifts," and the objections

to the "common property" plan and the rebaptizing of believers.

Rigdon, after glancing over a few lines of this letter, threw it

into the fire unanswered.**

* "Mormonism Unveiled," p. 112.

** Ibid., p. 116-123.

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