The Everlasting Gospel

Having presented the evidence which shows that the historical

part of the Mormon Bible was supplied by the Spaulding

manuscript, we may now pay attention to other evidence, which

indicates that the entire conception of a revelation of golden

plates by an angel was not even original, and also that its

suggestor was Rigdon. This is a subject which has been overlooked

by investigators of the Mormon Bible.

That the idea of the revelation as described by Smith in his

autobiography was not original is shown by the fact that a

similar divine message, engraved on plates, was announced to have

been received from an angel nearly six hundred years before the

alleged visit of an angel to Smith. These original plates were

described as of copper, and the recipient was a monk named Cyril,

from whom their contents passed into the possession of the Abbot

Joachim, whose "Everlasting Gospel," founded thereon, was offered

to the church as supplanting the New Testament, just as the New

Testament had supplanted the Old, and caused so serious a schism

that Pope Alexander IV took the severest measures against it.*

* Draper's "Intellectual Development of Europe," Vol. II, Chap.

III. For an exhaustive essay on the "Everlasting Gospel," by

Renan, see Revue des Deux Mondes, June, 1866. For John of Parma's

part in the Gospel, see "Histoire Litteraire de la France"

(1842), Vol. XX, p. 24.

The evidence that the history of the "Everlasting Gospel" of the

thirteenth century supplied the idea of the Mormon Bible lies not

only in the resemblance between the celestial announcement of

both, but in the fact that both were declared to have the same

important purport--as a forerunner of the end of the world --and

that the name "Everlasting Gospel" was adopted and constantly

used in connection with their message by the original leaders in

the Mormon church.

If it is asked, How could Rigdon become acquainted with the story

of the original "Everlasting Gospel," the answer is that it was

just such subjects that would most attract his attention, and

that his studies had led him into directions where the story of

Cyril's plates would probably have been mentioned. He was a

student of every subject out of which he could evolve a sect,

from the time of his Pittsburg pastorate. Hepworth Dixon said,

"He knew the writings of Maham, Gates, and Boyle, writings in

which love and marriage are considered in relation to Gospel

liberty and the future life."* H. H. Bancroft, noting his

appointment as Professor of Church History in Nauvoo University,

speaks of him as "versed in history, belles-lettres, and

oratory."** Mrs. James A. Garfield told Mrs. Dickenson that

Rigdon taught her father Latin and Greek.*** David Whitmer, who

was so intimately acquainted with the early history of the

church, testified: "Rigdon was a thorough biblical scholar, a man

of fine education and a powerful orator."**** A writer,

describing Rigdon while the church was at Nauvoo, said, "There is

no divine in the West more learned in biblical literature and the

history of the world than he."***** All this indicates that a

knowledge of the earlier "Everlasting Gospel" was easily within

Rigdon's reach. We may even surmise the exact source of this

knowledge. Mosheim's "Ecclesiastical History, Ancient and Modern"

was at his disposal. Editions of it had appeared in London in

1765, 1768, 1774, 1782, 1790, 1806, 1810, and 1826, and among the

abridgments was one published in Philadelphia in 1812. In this

work he could have read as follows:--

"About the commencement of this [the thirteenth] century there

were handed about in Italy several pretended prophecies of the

famous Joachim, abbot of Sora in Calabria, whom the multitude

revered as a person divinely inspired, and equal to the most

illustrious prophets of ancient times. The greatest part of these

predictions were contained in a certain book entitled, 'The

Everlasting Gospel,' and which was also commonly called the Book

of Joachim. This Joachim, whether a real or fictitious person we

shall not pretend to determine, among many other future events,

foretold the destruction of the Church of Rome, whose corruptions

he censured with the greatest severity, and the promulgation of a

new and more perfect gospel in the age of the Holy Ghost, by a

set of poor and austere ministers, whom God was to raise up and

employ for that purpose."

* "Spiritual Wives," p. 62.

** "Utah," p. 146.

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

**** "Address to All Believers in Christ;" p. 35.

***** Letter in the New York Herald.

Here is a perfect outline of the scheme presented by the original

Mormons, with Joseph as the divinely inspired prophet, and an

"Everlasting Gospel," the gift of an angel, promulgated by poor

men like the travelling Mormon elders.

The original suggestion of an "Everlasting Gospel" is found in

Revelation xiv. 6 and 7:--

"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the

everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth,

and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, "Saying

with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour

of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and

earth, and the sea, and the fountains of water."** "Bisping

(after Gerlach) takes Rev. xiv. 6-11 to foretell that three great

events at the end of the last world-week are immediately to

precede Christ's second advent (1) the announcement of the

'eternal' Gospel to the whole world (Matt. xxiv. 14); (2)the Fall

of Babylon; (3)a warning to all who worship the beast.... Burger

says this vision can denote nothing but a last admonition and

summons to conversion shortly before the end."--Note in

"Commentary by Bishops and Other Clergy of the Anglican Church."

This was the angel of Cyril; this the announcement of those

"latter days" from which the Mormon church, on Rigdon's motion,

soon took its name.

That Rigdon's attention had been attracted to an "Everlasting

Gospel" is proved by the constant references made to it in

writings of which he had at least the supervision, from the very

beginning of the church. Thus, when he preached his first sermon

before a Mormon audience--on the occasion of his visit to Smith

at Palmyra in 1830--he took as his text a part of the version of

Revelation xiv. which he had put into the Mormon Bible (1 Nephi

xiii. 40), and in his sermon, as reported by Tucker, who heard

it, holding the Scriptures in one hand and the Mormon Bible in

the other, he said, "that they were inseparably necessary to

complete the everlasting gospel of the Saviour Jesus Christ." In

the account, in Smith's autobiography, of the first description

of the buried book given to Smith by the angel, its two features

are named separately, first, "an account of the former

inhabitants of this continent," and then "the fulness of the

Everlasting Gospel. "That Rigdon never lost sight of the

importance, in his view, of an "Everlasting Gospel" may be seen

from the following quotation from one of his articles in his

Pittsburg organ, the Messenger and Advocate, of June 15, 1845,

after his expulsion from Nauvoo: "It is a strict observance of

the principles of the fulness of the Everlasting Gospel of Jesus

Christ, as contained in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Book of

Covenants, which alone will insure a man an inheritance in the

kingdom of our God."

The importance attached to the "Everlasting Gospel" by the

founders of the church is seen further in the references to it in

the "Book of Doctrine and Covenants," which it is not necessary

to cite,* and further in a pamphlet by Elder Moses of New York

(1842), entitled "A Treatise on the Fulness of the Everlasting

Gospel, setting forth its First Principles, Promises, and

Blessings," in which he argued that the appearance of the angel

to Smith was in direct line with the Scriptural teaching, and

that the last days were near.

* For examples see Sec. 68, 1; Sec. 101, 22; Sec. 124, 88.

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